Rise of the Runelords

Runewell Reckoning
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 6

Sunday, 29 Lamashan – Wealday, 8 Neth, 4733

Astrid asks Dace about her father and about the land of Isandria. He tells her how Isandria is located in what Magnimar calls the Churlwood. The capital is hidden under layers of illusion, causing the realm to be known as the hidden kingdom. Humans have increasingly encroached on the territory. Astrid’s father, King Thalion, has taken a tolerant approach but a faction called the Highborn wants to purge the land of humans.

Dace asks Astrid about her life in the village, trying to discern her standing. Astrid explains that she lived a simple life with her mother. She knew Prince Eldrin as a friend and only learned he was her half-brother from her dying mother after the giant attack. Dace explains that he and a war band of Ranger Guard under the Prince’s command were hunting the giants. They were in the Sandpoint area when Dace was attacked by the Sandpoint Devil. Astrid promises him that they will destroy the beast, but for now he should be safe at the Rusty Dragon. He admits that while his flesh has healed, his mind is still scarred.

In his spare time, Marcus continues to chaperon Shayliss Vinder as she visits people in town, shops, and pulls him into a quiet corner for some discreet private time. One day, Shayliss asks Marcus if he could train her to be better at defending herself. She doesn’t want to end up like Katrine, who had an ax but couldn’t overcome the ghast.

Testing her abilities, he learns that she can turn pretty much anything into a weapon and throw things with unerring accuracy. Marcus begins to train her with throwing daggers. He also takes the time to continue bonding with her father Ven Vinder, who shares stories of his days in the underground fighting rings of Varisia.

Zavian researches deep into spellcrafting, and enlists Nualia’s aid in his experiments as he finalizes the vivicarum spell.

Meanwhile, Gorvi’s streetsweeps join in the efforts to takein the harvest, as do Lt. Belvar’s soldiers. Working together, the fields are harvested.

Oathday, 9 Neth, 4733

On Market Door day, Amelia takes everyone out for hot buns. Mayor Deverin delivers a speech celebrating the town’s perseverance during the recent troubles.

Wanting to wrap up a loose end, the Rune Wardens investigate the runewell beneath Sandpoint. Zavian brings Nualia with them, hoping the experience could be beneficial. Nualia reveals that she was inducted into Lamashtu’s faith in the ruins by the quasit demon Quasit. Hoping to trigger more visions, Zavian and Nualia jointly lower Marcus’ ranseur into the runewell.

They see a strange Thassilonian man talking with Erylium. He speaks in Abyssal, which Nualia translates. Over the course of his ranting he curses both Alaznist and Karzoug, pledges his true loyalty to Lamashtu, bemoans the doom of Thassilon and expresses hope that he can ride out the disaster. He marches out of the room, glowing runes trailing his footsteps.

The vision shifts time and place. They see young Nualia confronting her lover with her pregnancy. He shoves to the ground, calls her a slut, and says he is skipping town.

The vision shifts again. They see an ash-smeared, wild-eyed Nualia return to the caverns to knock down the walled up entrance to the catacomb in a frenzy.

The vision shifts again. They see a composed and zealous Nualia emerge with a symbol of Lamashtu and the goddess’ mark on her belly.

The vision brings them back to the chamber, Nualia is compelled to try to reach into the runewell with her demonic hand. Zavian tries to stop her and they both fall into the freezing water.

Back in the real world, Nualia’s eyes glow with the runewell’s light and she goes berzerk, attacking everyone in reach except for Zavian with her demonic hand, until knocked unconscious.

Zavian carries her away from the well, manacles her, and then draws blood from her demon arm. Casting the blood into the well summons forth one of the pale-skinned monstrosities, which the party quickly kills. They repeat this process, draining the well down until it is empty.

Zavian tries to use magic to penetrate the deeper chambers, but the preservative spells on the stones resist his attempts. So instead, he draws stone from the sea cave to serve as a plug to fill up the runewell.

Zavian speaks with Nualia after she is returned to her cell. He’s disappointed that she hasn’t let go of Lamashtu, but apologizes for placing her in a difficult situation. He tells her the party will be leaving for a short trip to Magnimar.

Zavian then returns to the Valdemar estate, where he uses the remainder of Nualia’s blood to create the first vivicar. The entity resembles Nualia, but with a more angelic appearance (including ornamental wings), and a curious attitude. Seeing that goodness remains in Nualia is heartening to the aasimar.

Fireday, 10 Neth, 4733

Coming down for breakfast, Lea receives a sending from Knight-Captain Laori Vaus, who congratulates her on the haunted house escapades and says that Ser Chammady of Korvosa will be arriving within a week to help cleanse Foxglove Manor. This puts the paladin’s mind at ease.

Marcus bids Shayliss farewell for the time being, and suggests she show her new skills to her father in hopes of getting more freedom to move around.

They set out south with Shalelu and Ameiko. Shalelu rides out ahead, scouting and commenting on local landmarks, while Ameiko rides with Lea. That night, they arrive at an old Varisian camp, where they encounter a grizzled old man named Berwin.

He told them he was traveling north from Magnimar to go stay with his niece in Galduria. Amelia noticed he was wearing a pair of battered Korvosan army boots, and Lea struck up a conversation with him about the old city.

Berwin warned that tensions were mounting between Magnimar and Korvosa, that there was talk of giants on the move in the wilderness, and that the mysterious “Star-Killer” was terrorizing Magnimar. He feared that something very bad was coming, likely a war, and wanted to steer clear of the major targets.

Berwin refused any help from the party and was gone the next morning.

Lea was surprised to hear that the situation between Magnimar and Korvosa had deteriorated so badly. Ameiko expressed hope that the old man was exaggerating, but neither of them was convinced.

After a light meal, the party bedded down in their tents: Lea and Ameiko sharing one, Amelia and Marcus each claiming an individual tent, and the rest sharing the large tent, while Shalelu tranced out under the stars.

Starday, 11 Neth, 4733

The next morning is cold and windy, and they travel south with their spirits dampened. Shalelu is increasingly concerned by the lack of traffic on the road. She finds tracks in the woods that seem like those of multiple bandit bands. When the elf takes them to a sacred glade to spend the night, they find the guardian dryad tree bound in cold iron chains.

Once freed, the dryad explains that she was trapped by the bandits. The different raiding groups seem to be guided by a hidden hand, since they aren’t fighting each other. the dryad also reveals that a group of giants and a band of Isandrian elves passed by, too, a few weeks ago.

The party camps by the tree that night and the tents are lashed with rain throughout the night.

Sunday, 12 Neth, 4733

The next morning, the sodden party returns to the road. In a forested area a few hours from Magnimar, they come across a distress merchant. One of his horses is dead, his cart axle is broken, and he was robbed of his entire cargo of pewter dinnerware.

Marcus and Lea dismount to help repair the cart, but Shalelu grows antsy, warning that this might be another bandit trap. Shalelu, Ameiko, Zavian, and Astrid notice figures moving through the trees on either side of the road. Zavian rides over to the merchant and demands to know if this is a trap. The man is shocked and terrified as the bandits attack.

Arrows streak out of the trees, one of them piercing Lea and another grazing Zavian. Astrid replies with an arrow of her own, striking true. Amelia moves to the edge of the forest and hurls glitterdust into the midst of one group of bandits, blinding three of them. Four ruffians emerge from the trees and try to pull Ameiko off of Prince. She fends them off and then tumbles free of the horse to flee to Lea’s side.

Lea imbues her earthbreaker with the divine fire of Iomedae, places herself in front of Ameiko and threatens the bandits to flee. Zavian uses stoneshape to warp the ground beneath the feet of three of the ruffians on the road, and Marcus kills two with burning hands. The vivicar moves to engage them.

The bandits recognize Lea and insist that this is all a misunderstanding. “You shot me with an arrow!” “You killed like three of our guys. That makes us even!”

The bandits attempt to flee, but Astrid and Lea give chase. Astrid heads of the group of bandits trying to help their blind fellows escape, while Lea rides down the bandit leader. The five captives are hauled back to the road for interrogation.

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Stories, Songs and Secrets
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 5

Toilday, 24 Lamashan, 4733

The party battles the hundreds of undead ravens that have gathered in the charred ruins outside Foxglove Manor. Amelia begins the battle by glitter-bombing the birds, blinding one entire flock, while Marcus follows up with a devastating lightning bolt. Zavian’s holy fury, Lea’s divinely charged earthbreaker, and Astrid’s whirling blades make short work of the rest, but not before Dace suffers a psychotic episode and attacks Amelia. The bard is forced to charm him into calming down.

That night, a will-o’-wisp nearly lures Astrid into a patch of quicksand, but she evades trap long enough for Amelia to find her in the fog and convince her to return to camp.

Wealday, 25 Lamashan, 4733

The next morning, Marcus is cheered by the return of his familiar, Ash, and the adventurers march back up the Lost Coast Road to Sandpoint, arriving as the sun is setting.

They deliver Iesha’s body to the cathedral and check up on the status of the ghoul fever victims, who Father Zantus is tending to with help from other local clerics. Zavian consults with Zantus about putting the dead to rest.

Marcus, meanwhile, checks up on Duli, paying her for her services. He asks if she is willing to continue as a retainer. From there, he goes to visit Shayliss, catching her as she is closing up the family’s general store. She is holding up well, but isn’t allowed to leave the shop without a chaperon.

Marcus then clumsily asks if she thinks of him as another fling, or if her feelings run deeper. Shayliss takes a moment mull this over, before ultimately giving a “what the hell” shrug and agreeing that this is more than a simple affair. Marcus then promises to chat with her father. She tells him he’s gone to see Das Korvut and warns Marcus that her father has a strong right, but is slow on his feet.

The young half-elf finds Das Korvut and Ven Vinder commiserating over a bottle of homemade grog. Ven is still grieving his daughter Katrine Vinder and Das is bemoaning the fate of his son Simon, who he claims to have glimpsed in his dreams. Marcus puts the old blacksmith to bed and then speaks with Ven, who was visiting to commission a set of bars for the doors and windows of the general store.

Marcus tells Ven that his daughter has been avenged, and then offers to be a chaperon for Shayliss so that she can get out more. Ven agrees, on the condition that he bring the girl back before sundown.

While Marcus sorts out his personal life, the rest of the party meets with Sheriff Belor and Mayor Kendra Deverin to bring them up to speed on events. Lea informs them that a paladin from Korvosa should be on her way to cleanse the Foxglove Manor, but that still leaves the problem of bringing in the harvest after so many farmers died. Zavian suggests hiring Gorvi and his dung sweepers to lend a hand.

After the meeting is over, Zavian takes up an offer to stay with House Valdemar as an honored guest at their manor. He has a late dinner with the family, who ask about his adventures as well as the finer points of Abadarian faith.

The remaining Rune Wardens retire to the Rusty Dragon Inn, where Ameiko greets Lea with a peck on the cheek. Astrid gets Dace set up in a room and convinces him to stay there and rest.

Oathday, 26 Lamashan, 4733

The following morning, the town is awoken by the blaring of trumpets as Lt. Belvar Korrinas and his soldiers return, accompanied by Shalelu Andosana. Belvar brags about raiding all of the outlying goblin settlements to send a message to the little monsters to never bother Sandpoint again.

Lea, irked at being awakened by this grandstanding, tells Belvar to visit some of the farms in the hinterlands and maybe get a clue. Belvar is flustered at having missed out on something important. Shalelu rolls her eyes and follows Lea back into the Rusty Dragon—after collecting her payment.

The elf catches up with the adventurers about recent events. Shalelu is impressed by their tangling with the Sandpoint Devil and warns of its dangerous fire breath which does not heal. She offers to ask around for information about the creature.

Lea confesses that the recent experience with the ghouls has left her feeling like a leaf caught in a windstorm. Ameiko says that sometimes all one can do is ride the storm out and then see where they land. The innkeeper says that she is still working on putting the Glassworks’ finances in order, and will be making a trip down to Magnimar to attend to matters there.

Since the party is planning to head that way as well, Lea offers to serve as an escort and Ameiko admits she could never turn down an offer from such a gallant knight and her skilled companions. Amelia acknowledges that it would be great to do a duet once in a while, “if only you could sing” she adds obliviously.

Ameiko sharply suggests that the half-elf bard take her talents to Cyrdak Drokkus at the sandpoint Theater. Lea arranges with Ameiko to arrange for a letter to be discreetly conveyed to Knight-Captain Laori Vaus in Korvosa.

Over at Das Korvut’s house, the blacksmith convinces Marcus to investigate Chopper’s Isle, though only on the condition that Das lay off the bottle. Before he settles into the smithy, Das also gives Marcus a letter that arrived for him. It’s from his mother, Clairian Arrowsong, letting him know that she and his father will be returning by Winter Week, after doing a job at Hollow Mountain.

Meanwhile, Zavian makes his way to the Sandpoint Garrison to speak with Nualia, who is still locked up in a straitjacket in the jail. Zavian explains that she has a great deal of importance to him as a fellow aasimar. He tries to persuade her that Lamashtu simply sought to use and control her. He insists that her true destiny lies beyond the jail cell.

Nualia perks up at that and asks how Zavian intends to get her out. He insists that she was not in her right mind when attacking the town and plans to ask the Mayor and Sheriff belor to place her under his care.

At this, Nualia rises and reveals that she has shorn herself free of the straitjacket. With her demonic left hand, she produces a key that was buried in her food, once which would unlock her cell door. She says it has all the traces of one of Tsuto’s half-cocked plans—she has a key, but no other means of escape and no information on where to escape to. She’d rather put her trust in Zavian’s ability to release her than in Tsuto’s schemes. She hands the key to Zavian.

After leaving the jail, Zavian officially requests that Nualia be placed under his stewardship. For now, though, she will remain in her cell.

Starday, 28 Lamashan, 4733

A few days after the conversation with Das Korvut, Marcus convinces the party to help him investigate Chopper’s Isle. Amelia scales the cliff face of the tidal island to affix a rope. The party ascends to the island and make their way to the burned out shell of the cabin once occupied by the Chopper. Astrid notice’s some week-old hoof prints seared into the ground—traces of the Sandpoint Devil.

Picking through the ash-strewn hut, the party finds a stone slab serving as a trapdoor to Thassilonian ruins below. In the dungeon, they find a wooden statue of the demon lord Pazuzu, who name must not be spoken. They also hear a faint whimpering from the shadows, but can find no one there.

Searching the ruins, they encounter a grim specter of the Chopper, which Lea sears away with holy light. They also find a grisly trophy room where they come across the Chopper’s journal, revealing that he had been having visions compelling him to act on his deep-rooted grudges. In the very bottom of the ruins, they find the bones of Simon Korvut.

Zavian uses speak with dead to interrogate the bones, learning that the Chopper had tried to make Simon his apprentice, but went to far in his lessons. The party returns the bones of Simon to Das Korvut and the boy is laid to rest.

Sunday, 29 Lamashan – Oathday, 9 Neth, 4733

In the intervening two weeks, Zavian successfully arranges the sale of loot from the party’s recent adventures. Amelia, meanwhile, gets in touch with Cyrdak Drokkus, who is eager to stage a performance of her three songs of Thistletop with visual accompaniment. He invites Zavian, Astrid, and Lea to reenact their battles on stage, but the adventurers demure.

Lea also avoids the performance in order to placate Ameiko, who has some sort of grudge against Cyrdak (“He knows what he did.”) Nonetheless, the performance is a grand success.

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Misgivings
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 4

Toilday, 24 Lamashan, 4733

The Rune Wardens arrive at Foxglove Manor, a crooked, sagging building that looks as if it wants to hurl itself off the seaside cliff on which it is perched. A short distance from the manor is the burned out shell of another building, near a large crumbling well. As the adventurers pass by the ruins, a couple sickly-looking ravens clumsily fly off. Otherwise, the landscape around the manor is devoid of anything other than twisted nettles and other weeds.

The party marches up to the front door and Zavian peers inside the grime-encrusted windows. He spies a hulking feline shape crouched down in the central foyer and warns the others. Amelia attempts to pick the lock on the door, but her fumbling only makes it worse—especially after Dace reminds her that they retrieved the groundskeeper’s key back at the Hambley Farm.

Lea batters down the door to reveal a room lined with moldering trophies of boars, bears, stags, and other creatures. The centerpiece is a monster that Marcus recognizes as one of the fabled manticores. Intrigued, he walks inside to inspect it and catches whiff of burning flesh.

Misgivings__s_.jpg

Seeing no immediate danger, the adventurers begin to fan out inside the first floor of the house. Zavian and Marcus follow a side door to a dance hall with a ruined piano. When Marcus touches the keys, he is swept into a vision of dancing with a beautiful Varisian woman whose throat bruises and skin rots away in his arms. He emerges from the vision worn and fatigued. Zavian destroys the piano, while Lea suspects that Marcus is exaggerating the experience.

Elsewhere, Amelia and Astrid notice a strange moldy stain half-hidden by a throw rug. Peeling the rug back, Amelia sees that the stain is in the shape of a spiral staircase leading down—a staircase made of hundred of tiny bones.

As Marcus passes back through the foyer, the smell of burning flesh returns and the manticore appears to burst into flames. Now bearing a woman’s face, it lunges at him, singeing the wizard. Lea witnesses the attack and the party now proceeds more cautiously.

Beyond the trophy room is a dining area with what would have been a beautiful view of the Lost Coast, which is spoiled by three floor to ceiling stained glass windows depicting a treant, a roc, a kraken, and a sphinx, all being drawn into a smoking, seven-sided box.

Lea investigates the adjacent library, accompanied by a wary Marcus. The paladin spies evidence of a struggle: a knocked over chair, a loose scarf, and a bloodstained, heavy bookend. The scarf flickers to life as Lea inspects it, leaping from her hands to start strangling Marcus. The wizard is afflicted with another vision, this time of Aldern Foxglove strangling him with the scarf. After a moment, the cloth falls to the floor inert.

The party continues to explore the first floor. They avoid a room where the dust on the floor is mysteriously stirring. Zavian discovers a diseased rat in a bath tub, and kills it. Finding little else of interest, they decide to head upstairs.

There, they come across a gallery full of portraits of several generations of Foxgloves. The room quickly goes cold, however, and the various portraits quickly change to depict their subjects in various forms of death (except for Aldern’s two sisters). The portrait of Vorel Foxglove erupts with fungus that sweeps across the room before vanishing a moment later.

Elsewhere, the party comes across a portrait that was turned to face the wall, depicting a Varisian woman named Iesha Foxglove. Looking at the portrait, Astrid is suddenly filled with hatred of other women and rounds on Lea, but the rage fades a moment later.

The adventurers continue up to the third floor, where they overhear a woman sobbing. They rush towards the noise and burst in on an attic loft where the undead Iesha is paralyzed with horror in front of a reflection of herself. She ignores their inquiries and they decide to block her few of the mirror. This frees her from her reverie, and she loudly swears vengeance on Aldern before charging past the party.

The Rune Wardens race after her as she descends to the ground floor, reveals the spiral stain on the floor, and then tears open the floor with her bare hands. She leaps into the darkness and the adventurers follow.

They land in a tiled basement, where a huge hole has been hacked in the floor. Amelia has a vision of Aldern chipping away at the floor with a pick axe, muttering “For you. All for you.”

The hole has revealed a set of stairs carved into the bedrock, leading down to a cave complex. As the adventurers struggle to keep up with Iesha’s revenant, they are set upon by a pack of ghouls. The ghouls manage to slow them down, but can’t defeat the party.

The cave complex opens onto a large, funnel shaped chamber that slopes down into a chasm that drops 50 feet to the sea below. At the far end of the chamber is a reinforced door which Iesha is pounding on, but reaching her across the slick, slanted stone could be difficult.

Zavian flies across to affix a guide rope for the others, but is set upon by a band of goblin ghasts who were lurking on the ceiling. Zavian manages to slip away from them, swooping back to the rest of the party to grab Lea and then carries her over to the ghasts. Lea calls upon Iomedae’s grace to sear the undead.

The adventurers slowly thin out the ghasts’ ranks. Marcus slips trying to move closer, but is grabbed by Zavian with his free hand. Lea hurls the last of the goblin ghasts into the chasm.

The party regroups in time for Iesha to burst through the door into the room beyond. Aldern, now transformed into a powerful ghoul, awaits them. He falls to his knees and begs for forgiveness as his wife approaches, but she isn’t having it.

As the two undead Foxgloves begin to spar, the adventurers rush to join in. Astrid charges forward, followed by Lea. Zavian, meanwhile, spies a disturbing human outline in the cancerous fungus growing on the far wall. He has a sudden vision of Vorel Foxglove drinking a potion in triumph only to be wracked with pain and collapse into a mass of fungal tumors.

Aldern, having dubbed himself the Skinsaw Man, puts on a mask made of human flesh and takes the appearance of Amelia. Marcus casts enlarge person on himself, hoping to reach over the battle. Iesha ultimately seizes hold of the ghoul lord and Astrid drives her sword through his head.

Moments later, Marcus’ enlarge spell takes effect, overlapping with his mirror image spell to fill the room with three giant, frustrated wizards protected by floating shields.

After Aldern dies for a second time, Iesha begins to fade fast. The party questions her, learning that Aldern killed her in a fit of jealousy while she was chatting with a carpenter. She asks that they take her body from the cursed house. She blames the curse on the human shape in the fungus.

Investigating the infestation, the adventurers conclude it will take powerful divine magic to permanently cleanse the house of the necromantic taint, the last residue of Vorel Foxglove’s failed ascent to lichdom. Lea intends to reach out to contacts in Korvosa to get the job done. In the meantime, Marcus hits the fungal figure with burning hands.

Searching the room, they find Aldern’s obsessive collection of disturbing drawings of Amelia, as well as small personal effects stolen from her. Mixed in with the mess is a letter from Xanesha, “Mistress of the Seven,” instructing Aldern on the Sihedron ritual to perform on a select list of victims. The letter is addressed to Aldern’s Magnimar townhouse.

Carrying Iesha’s body with them, the party loots the remaining unexplored rooms of the house and then exits into the dusk. Outside, they discover that hundreds, perhaps thousands of sickly-looking ravens have perched on the ruined out building, their eyes fixed on the party.

Marcus is pretty sure none of them are Ash.

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Harvest of Death
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 3

Moonday, 23 Lamashan, 4733

The party searches the rest of the asylum. They encounter Blind Sedge and crazy old man Wald, as well as a wererat named Pidget. They finally find Dace, the elven patient, who is certain that he is being hunted by the Sandpoint Devil.

Dace recognizes Astrid as the sister to Prince Eldrin. He was with the prince’s warband, tracking giants to the Sandpoint area. Dace was ambushed by the Sandpoint Devil while on a scouting mission. He managed to escape, but the Devil took his pack, which includes a map to the rendezvous point near Magnimar.

The party settles in for the night, with Duli and Astrid standing watch outside in the rain. Eventually, they notice the horses becoming unsettled. They realize that something large and hoofed has landed on the roof of the sanatarium. Astrid calls out a warning and the party slowly rouses themselves.

Duli tries to drive off with the cart and horses, but stops short as a a frightened farmer appears out of the darkness, shouting that something is right behind him. The farmer is being chased by a pack of ghoul dogs who menace the party and their horses. Astrid and Lea charge into the rain to battle them.

However, a terrible crash from the other side of the sanatarium draws Zavian’s attention, as he sees the Sandpoint Devil attacking dace through a hole it has burned in the wall of the building. Zavian rushes over to confront it, summoning up an earth elemental to assist him. Amelia identifies the creature as demonic and most likely the progeny of Lamashtu.

The Sandpoint Devil lets out an awful, piercing shriek that drives terror into the hearts of Zavian, Marcus, Duli, and the horses who flee the scene. The monster takes flight, but Lea taunts it into attacking her. It lands and strikes her with its hooves and fangs. She hits it across the mouth with her earthbreaker, knocking teeth loose. The Sandpoint Devil takes wing and flees the area, much to Lea and Astrid’s frustration.

Marcus and Duli gather up the horses while the party debates what to do next. The farmer, Maester Grump, tells of how strange things have been stalking the countryside at night. he and a group of others went to the old Hambley place to investigate, where they were set upon by ghouls. Grump was the only survivor.

Toilday, 24 Lamashan, 4733

The party spends the night in the asylum. The following morning, they send Ash back to Sandpoint to alert the Watch. They decide to press on to the Hambley farm and the Foxglove Manor to try to get to the bottom of the murders. They leave Grump and the asylum patients, as well as the captive Habe, Caizarlu and tieflings, at Habe’s Sanitarium. To help keep watch over them, Zavian uses a scroll of animate dead to raise one of the bodies in the cellar as a zombie—much to Lea’s irritation.

They set out south and west to the Hambley farm, with Duli, Dace and Grayst riding in Marcus’ wagon. They find the farm surrounded by fields of tall crops that hem in the narrow farmers’ paths. Rather than risk the wagon getting caught, Marcus has Duli turn around while the rest of the party continues on foot.

They discover that many of the scarecrows looming over the fields contain people (or what used to be people). The first scarecrow they cut down attacks them,but Marcus uses command undead to bind it to his will. The ghoul was a farmer named by Aler Gosfre, who was bitten and left to “ripen” in the field. He leads them to the two surviving scarecrows, a middle-aged farm couple sick with ghoul fever. After applying first aid, Zavian’s fleet feet carry them back to Marcus’ wagon.

Aler then leads them to the farm house and barn where the free-ranging ghouls lurk. Marcus spiderclimbs up the side of the barn and peers inside. He lures the ghouls towards him, so that they are vulnerable to blasts of positive energy from Zavian and Lea. Marcus then unleashes burning hands on the survivors. Astrid then charges into the barn to finish off the ghouls.

Meanwhile, a one-eared ghast bursts forth from the farm house. Aler, obeying Marcus’ command, attacks him but the more powerful undead tears the lesser creature apart. Zavian charges towards the ghast, but its foul stench throws him off balance. Lea lands a powerful blow, and Marcus follows it up with magic missile, while Amelia uses her bardic powers to inspire courage. Dace suffers a breakdown and flees into the field.

The ghast retreats into the farmhouse, where he is finally dispatched. The monster falls beside a decaying corpse marked with the Sihedron rune. Inspecting the bodies, the party notes that none of the ghouls have the rune. The ghast they identify as Rogors Craesby, the groundskeeper of Foxglove Manor. He has a key bearing the Foxglove sigil.

The adventurers then systematically march through the fields, destroying the remaining ghoul scarecrows. They then decide to follow the Foxglove river down to the sea to investigate the manor that seems to be at the heart of of the ghoulish uprising.

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The Bond
Rise of the Runelords Interlude

Moonday, 23 Lamashan, 4733

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It was a cold night, even indoors and out of the storm. Ordinarily the rain drumming against the narrow windows would offer comfortable white noise, but Ecclesia’s current surroundings gave her little ease. The recent string of murders around Sandpoint had left her on edge, and their recent discovery at the asylum did little to improve her mood.

Was nothing as it seemed? How could the town and Magnimar be so blind as to be unaware of the abuses that took place here?!

She seethed as she stretched out on the hard wooden floor. Sleep didn’t come easy that night, but the day’s exertion finally overwhelmed her…

Her eyes open to the sight of a clear blue sky. A warm, summer breeze carries the scent of familiar flowers her way. The grass is long yet soft, providing the perfect bedding for a summer afternoon nap, as she had done countless times before during her childhood in Harse.

But as Ecclesia sits up, her surroundings change. The warmth is gone, as is the soft grass and the scent of flowers. In its place, the cold stone floor of a dungeon, the stench of death and decay intermingling with fresh blood.

Her blood, she realizes.

Before she can think of why, she feels the baleful gaze of Malfeshnekor bearing down at her once more The fiend lives! She struggles to pull herself up, groping futilely for her weapon. Her hands scrabble against empty stone, finding nothing.

The fiend rakes its claws into her unarmored flesh, the pain burning into limbs as she stumbles away. Another swipe from Malfeshnekor sends her back on the ground, her head slamming against the floor. Her vision blurs. As the talon rises up for a killing blow, Ecclesia closes her eyes and crosses her arms to block the attack, but the death blow never arrives. The pain vanishes.

Ecclesia opens her eyes once more and finds herself returned to the field surrounded by flowers. A light shines directly overhead, growing brighter and brighter until she can hardly bear to look on it. As the light nears, streams of words in a foreign tongue spill forth; intonation rising and falling with the summer breeze. While the words are unknown, the voice sounds familiar. It is warm and reassuring, like that of an old friend. She cannot discern the voice, nor can she gaze into the light to make out the figure within. She closes her eyes and listens intently to the voice.

Concentrate, she tells herself, focus on the warmth, the rhythm as Laori taught you. Its truth will be revealed…

“And so you can do it, blessed child,” the voice’s words ring crystal clear in her ears, " I was beginning to think a mistake was made."

Ecclesia opens her eyes to see a golden silhouette, with hand outstretched.

“Who are you?” Ecclesia asks softly, letting it help her up, “How do you know me?”

“A friend, a helper, a constant companion in our service to The Mighty Inheritor, Light of the Sword, the Lady of Valor herself, " the spirit answers," But you already know this, as I have come to your side once before."

Ecclesia scrambles to think of an instance that would give credence to the spirits’ words. Before her mind could settle on a moment the spirit spoke once more.

“You and your Abadarian friend called me to be your shield of faith against Malfeshnekor, and I answered. Early, but I answered. Highly unusual, but these are unusual time,” The spirit explains. There is a timeless wisdom to its voice. “Varisia faces great peril, and will need champions to take on evils unseen for ten thousand years. You and your friends are proving to be those who will answer the call. Yet you doubt yourself, and have lost your way.”

“I haven’t lost my way, " Ecclesia protests, “it’s just that…all of this, gave me a moment of pause.”

“Not quite what you imagined, I’m sure, " the spirit replies.“You’ve been through a lot in a short order of time and much has been demanded of you. It is a burden all in Iomedae’s service share, some more than others. It is why you failed against Malfeshnekor a second time. Your heart was not in the fight, which is why you could not find your weapon.”

“I still need to learn the weight of my sword,” Ecclesia says despondently. " The evils around me seem to appear from everywhere, I feel as but a leaf in a windstorm."

“Then continue to be the leaf,” the spirit responds, “and ride out the wind; tumbled and tossed about but never wavering, always adapting. Remember that only you can live up to your code, and you cannot impose your morals on others; lest you become a tyrant.”

Ecclesia furrows her brow as she ponders the spirit’s words, which sounds familiar yet foreign to her, like a favorite old story that she can’t quite recall. The world around her has this quality as well, what once felt like home suddenly looks older, stranger yet still familiar.

“It looks like you’ll be needed once more. We’ll speak again soon, blessed child. I am with you in this fight, and in the ones to come. You need only call out to me from here.” The spirit gestures toward her heart.

“Wait! I still have more questions! I don’t even know your name!” Ecclesia protests.

“I hold many names, many titles from ages past and across the planes,” the spirit replies.“The one I give you is a personal one: Ell-hayzar. Remember it well, and together we will cast out the darkness.”

The spirit stretches out its hand towards Ecclesia once more, its light dimming to reveal its form: a hauntingly beautiful humanoid creature with amethyst colored eyes, like Ecclesia’s, and soft, golden tinted skin. Ell-hayzar’s wings are white like snow, contrasting with its long, crimson red hair. Ell-hayzar’s countenance reminds Ecclesia her own, and the visions of lost Thassilon, but before she could speculate further a different voice booms overhead, calling out to her…

“Lea! Get up, we’re being attacked!” Zavian shouted, shaking her, his glowing blue eyes intensely fixed upon her. As soon as her eyes fluttered, he pulls her upright while he calls out to the others.

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Asylum Seekers
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 2

Moonday, 23 Lamashan, 4733

 Amelia makes her way to the garrison and encounters an angry group of mostly Varisian protestors. She learns that the mob has gathered because the fortune teller Madame Mvashti has foretold an avalanche of destruction raining down on the town, a doom which Nualia heralded. The frightened locals hope that by getting rid of Nualia they can prevent this disaster.

Inside, the party finishes questioning Ibor Thorn. Lea and Zavian trade words with Nualia, then Lea promises the Vinder family that they will track down the killer. Marcus avoids interacting with them. Outside, Amelia convinces the crowd that hurting Nualia will accomplish nothing.

The rest of the party emerges and Lea insists that there was no murder. The adventurers decide to consult with Madame Mvashti. Marcus is curious if she could learn more from his ranseur. She lives in a fine old house in town, which is decorated with innumerable charms, wards, and tokens.

Mvashti communes with the ranseur and then performs a harrow reading. She believes that 5 years ago, the well underneath Sandpoint flared to life, releasing a burst of wrathful energy that took hold in the souls of three people already nursing great anger in their hearts—the three points of light seen at Kaijitsu Manor, Chopper's Isle, and the old chapel. But Mvashti warns that the well flared up because of an even greater, more distant ripple of magical energy, one which portends doom for Sandpoint, Varisia, and even Golarion itself. She then invites them to breakfast.

Amelia finally has the opportunity to inspect the note with her name on it that was pinned to Banny Harker's body. She suspects it might be connected to Aldern Foxglove, but "he is a bit too much of a coward to do that." Lea and Astrid wonder if it might be someone else from Amelia's past, though she can't think of any likely suspects.

Lea suggests returning to the barracks to speak with Nualia again, something Zavian is eager to do. Based on Madame Mvashti's reading, the paladin describes how the surge of wrathful energy could have pushed the aasimar over the edge. Nualia insists that she simply saw the light of Lamashtu's truth.

She recounts her sad story of being isolated from the rest of the town because of her celestial looks, while being raised by a strict and unfeeling  father who planned to send her to a Desnan convent when she came of age. As a young woman, she was courted by a Varisian named Delek, seemingly the only one who would treat her as a normal person. They held their trysts in the smugglers' tunnels below town, but when she became pregnant Delek called her a slut and skipped town.

Locked up in the chapel by her father and forced to pray nightly to Desna for forgiveness, Nualia fell into a coma after giving birth to a monstrous, stillborn child. In her dreams, Lamashtu spoke to her and she listened.

When she woke, she had the strength to forge her own path to rid herself of her celestial taint. She burned down the chapel, then fled south to Magnimar where she fell in with the Skinsaw Cult, a band of murderers who helped her find and kill Delek. The mysterious leader of the cult, a dark haired Varisian woman, gave her the Sihedron medallion as a parting gift when Nualia returned north to deal with Sandpoint.

Nualia denies any knowledge of the current murder spree or the purpose of carving the Sihedron rune onto victims.

Zavian lingers behind after the rest of the party leaves, urging Nualia to seek redemption for the crimes she committed in Lamashtu's name. He tries to establish a connection with her based on their shared celestial heritage. Time will tell if succeeded.

Marcus, meanwhile, visits the Sandpoint General Store to check in on Shayliss and her mother. He tries to build a rapport with Solsta, and ends up selling her a club for self defense.

The adventurers ponder their leads regarding the killing and pool their knowledge of ghouls. They realize that ghoul fever is contagious and that the sole surviving victim of the other murder might be infected. They decide to make haste for Habe's Sanitorium.

It takes several hours by horse and cart to reach the facility, which lies at the base of a rocky outcropping called the Ashen Rise. It is a cold and rainy trip through a fairly empty countryside before they arrive at the facility.

The adventurers are forced to talk their way inside, as Dr. Erin Habe and his tiefling staff are very reluctant to welcome visitors. Habe finally consents to having the victim, Grayst Sevilla, brought down from his room for a brief conversation.

Grayst is in the very late stages of ghoul fever and seems barely able to stand—until he spies Amelia. He relays a message from His Lordship, who promises to end the "harvest" if she will join him at his "Misgivings." Grayst then lunges at Amelia and has to be knocked out.

The party starts to question Habe's treatment of the man, while Habe demands that they swear silence on what they have seen. Finally, the doctor rushes over to pound on the basement door, calling for help, while his tiefling orderlies attack the party. A squad of zombies soon shambles out of the basement, followed by the necromancer Caizarlu.

Caizarlu casts a stinking cloud spell in the room, but suffers an arcane mishap and is teleported into the center of the party, where he is swiftly laid low. With the wizard captured, his undead destroyed, and Habe unconsciously, the party decides to spend the night at the madhouse.

Marcus recognizes Grayst's comments about the Misgivings as referring to the old Foxglove Manor south of Sandpoint, long abandoned and said to be haunted. The adventurers figure that will be their next stop.

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Murder Most Foul
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 1

Starday, 14 Lamashan, 4733

The adventurers present the head of Malfeshnekor to the bound Nualia. Lea and Zavian urge her to abandon her following of Lamashtu, now that all that she has worked for has turned to ruin. Nualia, however, simply demands that they stop talking.

The party investigates the last unexplored section of the Thistletop dungeon, where a monster is said to lurk. This area is a cave that opens out onto the cliff overlooking the sea. Zavian spies something moving along the roof and warns the others.

A tentamort emerges, attacking first Zavian and then Astrid with its tentacles. It breaks its stinger against Astrid’s armor and she brings it down.

Investigating the area, the adventurers find the bodies of several goblins and look some valuables from a dead goblin hero. Amelia recalls that tentamorts lay eggs in the bodies of their victims, so Marcus burns the bodies.

Marcus then uses his floating disk spell to retrieve the enormous gold helmet from the chamber below. They manage to guide the disk through the Nettlewood and back to the cart, which Duli has been watching over, along with the horses. The dwarf says that she saw several fleeing goblins, who steering clear of her. The night before, something large and fearful flew overhead, spooking the horses.

An autumn storm has rolled in and the adventurers are forced to trudge back to Sandpoint in a cold drizzle. Along the way, Shalelu compliments Astrid on her goblin-killing skills and asks after her Isandari sword. It turns out that Shalelu rescued a wounded and delirious Isandari elf a few months ago and took him back to Sandpoint. The elf doesn’t match the description of Astrid’s brother, but it is a lead to follow up on.

Back in town, the party is greeted by Sheriff Belor and the Magnimarian Lieutenant Belvar. Though disappointed that the goblins appear to have been routed, Belvar pledges to launch reprisal raids against the remaining tribes with the platoon he brought up from the city.

Belor explains that their trip back to Sandpoint had been delayed when they were diverted to hunt down bandits. Belor believes that the increased bandit activity near Magnimar is due to a rumored highwayman’s guild called the “Rushlight Society,” though Belvar dismisses it as an urban legend.

Belor takes Nualia into custody, and Zavian reminds him of the arrangement with Tsuto about how she is to be treated.

Marcus pays Duli for her service, with a hefty bonus, and asks to extend her contract. He then returns to the home of Das Korvut, who has been into the drink again to deal with his nightmares.

At the Rusty Dragon, the rest of the party interrupts a story by Ser Jasper Korvaski. After the grimy adventurers have cleaned up with a hot bath, Lea shares some stories of the fight with Malfeshnekor and catches up with Ameiko.

Sunday, 15 Lamashan, 4733

The next day, Malfeshnekor’s head is mounted on a pike over the Sandpoint gates.

Astrid goes to speak with Father Zantus, who explains that the wounded elf, Dace, was traumatized by his experience. After tending to the man’s wounds, Zantus sent him to Erin Habe’s sanitarium in the countryside to recover.

Marcus and Lea visit with Brodert Quink to discuss the Thassilonians. Quink suspects that the ruins in Thistletop were connected to the Runelord of Greed, who practiced transmutation magic. Quink also explained that the medallion they recovered bears the Sihedron rune, the seven-pointed star representing the seven schools of rune magic that was the chief sigil of Thassilon.

The sage also inspects the giant helmet and estimates that it was intended for someone who would be a “giant among giants.” The helmet is marked with the rune of greed. After taking some sketches and rubbings, Marcus ultimately sells the helmet to Titus Scarnetti, head of one of the Four Families.

In between his crafting projects, Marcus is also visited by Shayliss, who is eager to continue their liaisons. However, she insists that they be discrete, so as not to incur her father’s wrath.

Amelia entertains the regulars at the Rusty Dragon with three songs she has composed about the Thistletop fight: a jaunty tune about Astrid’s skill at killing goblins, a song about the death of Ripnugget, and a ballad about the defeat of Malfeshnekor.

Flush with gold after their raid on Thistletop, the adventurers spend a fair bit of time shopping for new gear. Zavian also takes time to commune with Abadar on the appropriate date to schedule the upcoming Market Door festival. Lea spends more time with Ameiko, sharing stories of adventure.

The quiet times come to an end, however, in the early dawn hours of 23 Lamashan, when a distraught Shayliss turns up, pounding on Marcus’ door.

Moonday, 23 Lamashan, 4733

She stammers out that her sister Katrine is dead, as is her sister’s boyfriend Banny Harker, and her father Ven has been arrested. Marcus assures her that the adventurers will get to the bottom of this and leaves her in the care of Ameiko while the party heads out.

They are greeted by Sheriff Belor, who brings them up to speed. Katrine and Banny Harker were murdered in the Sandpoint Sawmill, and the bodies discovered by Harker’s co-worker Ibor Thorn. Harker’s body had been mutilated, with a Sihedron rune carved into his chest. Belor took Katrine’s father Ven into custody, as he is the only one in town with a grudge against Harker, but the sheriff is confident Ven is innocent.

Most troubling, this was not the first murder in the region. Two days before, three known con men from the town of Galduria had been found dead in a barn south of Sandpoint, likewise mutilated and carved with the Sihedron rune. The three crooks had brought along a Varisian thug as a bodyguard. He survived, but had been driven mad, and has been given over to Erin Habe’s sanitarium for treatment.

Belor wants the party’s assistance to discretely investigate the crime, in order to avoid a repeat of the Late Unpleasantness. He also warns that the killer seems to have a connection to one of them. A note was found at the lumber mill pinned to Harker’s body and addressed to Amelia (who was still inside, consoling Shayliss).

Freshly deputized, the party ventured to the lumber mill to inspect the crime scene. The place stinks, as if a dead animal had been left to rot there for days. Lea recognizes it as the odor of a ghast, a powerful form of ghoul. Examining the tracks in the sawdust, Zavian figures out that the barefoot ghast attacked Harker and was interrupted by Katrine, who hit the creature with a hatchet before being shoved into the log splitter. Her mangled remains lie below. Marcus retrieved a strange gold coin from her body.

Harker’s body has been mutilated, with much of the skin stripped from his face and his jaw removed. A Sihedron symbol is carved onto his chest. Some of the wounds on his body were from ghast claws, but most were due to a razor-sharp knife.

The party then went to question Ibor. Under pressure from Lea and Zavian, the sawmill worker says he had left early so that Harker could rendezvous with Shayliss. He discovered the bodies the next morning. Ibor admits that he known that Harker was embezzling money from the sawmill. The mill is owned by Scarnetti family, known for their ruthlessness and rumored connection to the Sczarni mafia. Ibor fears that the Scarnetti’s put out a hit on Ibor for stealing from them.

The Scarnettis are not known for arcane or divine magical abilities, leaving adventurers wondering if they were involved in a crime committed by a ghast.

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Malfeshnekor
Burnt Offerings, Part 7

Starday, 14 Lamashan, 4733

In the Thistletop dungeon, the party considers their next move. They ask Orik about the goblin chieftain Ripnugget and learn that he wears a cheap crown. Zavian uses locate object to identify the crown’s location.

Rather than take the main stairs up, the adventurers decide to return in the direction they can, from the secondary stairwell. The rooms beyond they discover have been rigged with traps, which they warily make their way past and into the courtyard.

Outside is a bonfire, with bored-looking goblins milling about on the ground and up in the two towers of the fort. Astrid fights with the goblin infantry in the southeast corner, while Lea engages with the mounted goblins to the southwest. Marcus, Zavian, and Amelia hang back to support. The horse locked in the shed is agitated by the sound of fighting.

Goblins in the two watch towers fire arrows down onto the party. The adventurers realize that they can use the smoke of the bonfire for concealment, and that the eastern tower only has line of sight on half the courtyard.

Ripnugget arrives not too long after, riding his lizard and accompanied by three war chanters. The goblin chief charges into battle, slashing at Lea and then badly wounding Marcus, who falls to the ground unconscious.

Ripnugget trades barbs with Lea as he rides his giant gecko Stickfoot across the yard and up onto the stockade wall. Amelia, meanwhile, brings down the warchanters with a well-placed sleep spell.

Zavian summons a spider to try to distract the war chief. This proves successful at distracting the goblin’s giant gecko mount, which stubbornly tries to eat the spider and tumbles to the ground.

Marcus, having been revived, blasts Ripnugget and his mount with fire, bringing the gecko down. Across the yard, Astrid struggles to prevent the surviving goblins from reviving the sleeping warchanters, while arrows pepper down from the guard towers. Lea finishes off the warchanters, then ducks inside to avoid the goblin snipers.

Ripnugget staggers to his feet, struggling to evade Zavian’s hammer blows as he tries to flee back into the fort. Amelia uses ghost sound to startle the goblin chief into thinking the horse had broken out of the shed. Confused, Ripnugget stumbles into the bonfire at the center of the courtyard, and is finally laid low by Zavian.

Astrid and Marcus countersnipe the remaining goblins in the towers and the party takes stock of the scene.

Lea releases the penned up horse and manages to calm and feed it. They leave the creature in the care of Shalelu and proceed to loot the bodies and the fort. The goblin corpses, they burn.

After picking the fort clean, the adventurers descend back into the depths of the dungeon below to continue their exploration. At the top of their list is the gold pillar carved to look like a pile of gold coins. Close examination reveals that the gold is merely an illusion. They do discover two hidden coin slots, and after feeding them gold, the pillar rises up to reveal a hidden chamber with three doors.

The first door leads to a throne room where a ghostly figure of the same man with the book and glaive whose visage has been repeated on every statue in the dungeon is speaking in a loop. Marcus translates the Thassilonian—it appears to be some sort of final message message, which the man pledges to destroy “Alaznist.” Based on the name on the fake coins in the pillar, the party suspects this figure is Karzoug the Claimer.

The next room contains several cages with strangely warped humanoid skeletons, as well as a set of masterwork surgical tools and a strange seven pointed star made of metal that they deduce is the the key to the third and final door, made of stone.

The chamber beyond is illuminated by a large, burning bed of coals at its center. Marcus and Zavian detect multiple magic auras, including illusion, coming from the center of the room. They move in to investigate, but as they draw near the fire they suddenly wink out of view from their companions.

At the same time, a terrifying shape appears charging towards them, a snarling monster the size of an ox. The rest of the adventurers here only roars and shouts until a bloodied Marcus staggers backwards, casting shield on himself and warning of the hidden monster.

Astrid and Lea press forward to attack and soon disappear from Amelia’s view. They come across the monster and Astrid finds that her blades cannot overcome the foul strength that propels it. Lea, meanwhile, smites it with the wrath of her goddess. Unable to see anything, Amelia calls out to the party to inspire them to feats of courage.

The monster counterattacks and savagely wounds the paladin. The party wavers, trying to decide between fight or flight. Fortune smiles on Lea as her earthbreaker slips past the creature’s guard and smashes into its ribs. She falls back with the others, as they notice that the seemingly unstoppable fiend now seems badly weakened. Where they had been about to retreat, they now decide to press the attack.

But the monster, which they are now certain is Malfeshnekor, still has fight in it. The beast charges forward, its eyes blazing with hate for the paladin that wounded it, while its ribs are already beginning to knit back together.

As the fiend bears down on them, Marcus readies his ranseur while Zavian lays a reassuring hand on Lea’s shoulder.

“Our faith is our shield,” the cleric reminds her, his eyes blazing blue.

Bolstered by his words, she can feel the grace of Iomedae and the resoluteness of Abadar fall upon her. A glow spreads from her holy symbol until her entire armor blazes with holy light as Malfeshnekor’s claws rake uselessly against it.

The fiend’s fury can find no purchase and the adventurers press the attack. Astrid slips around the monster to set up a flank with Lea, who land her hammer down on the beast’s head. Malfeshnekor, is no more.

They retrieve its head as a trophy, and also acquire an ancient ring of force shield hidden in an alcove of the chamber. After patching up their wounds as best they can, the party decides to continue exploring the dungeon level.

They enter an ancient crypt with another statue of man with the glaive and book. here, they are assailed by several vengeful wraiths. The spirits start to sap the strength form their bodies and can only be harmed by magic. Zavian blesses Astrid’s dual sword and the party rallies to put the spirits to rest.

Afterwards, they discover a secret passage that leads what may have once been a great treasure vault. the walls are decorated with images of indescribable wealth, as well as a picture of a city in the shadow of a mountain carved to look like the face of the man in the statues. Half the room appears to have collapsed and been flooded, but in the water they can still see sparkling treasure.

Marcus enlarges himself and wades out into the water to retrieve an enormous gold helmet, only to find that it is serving as the lair of a giant hermit crab. Already weakened from previous fights, the wizard beats a hasty retreat, but is not fast enough. The crab leaves him bleeding an unconscious on the shore before it too is dispatched.

While Zavian and Lea tend to Marcus, Astrid and Amelia strip out of their armor and go diving for treasure in the waters below. The adventurers then decide to return to the upper level and rest.

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Lamashtu's Chosen
Burnt Offerings, Part 6

Fireday, 13 Lamashan, 4733

Having infiltrated the goblin fort on the island of Thistletop, the party descends into the ruins below. The narrow staircase leads them into the war room where the next, massive raid on Sandpoint is being planned. The raid is scheduled for just two weeks away, but depends on the release from the “whispering beast” below.

The adventurers are interrupted by the wizard Lyrie, who cries out for aid. They rush to stop her, but get tangled up in their own enthusiastic efforts. Unable to participate in the crowded fight, Amelia bars the entrance to the chamber. A wounded Lyrie tries to flee, but she is dazed by Amelia and knocked unconscious. The adventurers bind her up and debate what to do with her. Eventually, Amelia slits her throat, while Marcus kills her cat familiar. Zavian puts away his golden bolt.

The ruckus attracts the bugbear mercenary Bruthazmus, who pounds on the barred door, then grunts and abandons it. With Astrid in the lead, the adventurers investigate. Unfortunately, Bruthazmus and six goblin spearwives are waiting for them in an ambush. Astrid gets a mouthful of flail as the bugbear brags that he will add her pointy ears to her necklace.

Lea advances into the room to confront the bugbear and Astrid strikes back, while Zavian buffs the party and then shifts backward. Marcus attacks the spearwives. But it is Amelia who tips the balance, disabling Bruthazmus with a sleep spell.

The adventurers quickly cut their way through the remaining goblins. One of the goblin wives attempts to flee and bumps into Orik. The fighter takes in the carnage and quickly surrenders.

After quizzing Orik, they decide to take the secret passage down to confront Nualia. They come across statues of what they presume to be a different Runelord, a man carrying a glaive. Amelia manages to disable a nasty trap on two of the statues. The party then comes across a strange pillar designed as if it were made from a stack of gold coins. Rather than invetigate further, they choose to do an about face and go after Nualia.

The deranged aasimar is waiting for them in a chamber lit by flaming skulls, accompanied by a pair of goblins and two hideous yeth hounds. Lea tries to reason with Nualia, playing on her relationship with Tsuto and the possibility she is possessed. Zavian demands that she face justice. Nualia dismisses both of them and commands her yeth hounds to attack. The hound’s terrifying bays send Orik and Nualia’s goblin attendants fleeing, but the adventurers stand fast.

One of the yeth hounds takes flight to harry Astrid and Marcus, while Lea and Zavian charge Nualia. Amelia hangs back to provide support with her magic. Nualia moves in to attack with her bastard sword and clawed hand, while her yeth hound companion trips Lea.

The fighting is fierce and savage. But Ash’s return heralds the arrival of Shalelu, who bolsters the adventurers as they press the attack. Zavian and Lea knock Nualia unconscious, while her hounds are brought down one by one. When the fighting is done, they strip Nualia of her weapons and armor and bind her up with manacles.

Reuniting with Orik upstairs, the party decides to rest in the mercenary bedrooms for the night, setting Orik, Shalelu, and Astrid to stand watch in shifts. The following day, the adventurers leave Nualia tied up under the watchful eye of Orik while they investigate the chapel to Lamashtu. The yeth hounds inside put up a fierce fight, their baying sending Zavian and Shalelu into a panic. However, the hounds are eventually brought to heel and the party profanes the chapel.

They then decide whether to explore the ruins further, or return to the surface to confront Nualia’s last co-conspirator, the goblin chieftain Ripnugget.

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Attack on Thistletop
Burnt Offerings, Part 5

Fireday, 6 Lamashan – Oathday, 12 Lamashan, 4733

After their adventure in the catacombs below Sandpoint, the adventurers prepare to launch an all out attack on Thistletop. They commission Das Korvut to prepare some of his finest armor and make other purchases in town. During their preparations, the annual harvest festival takes place. Amelia buys a set of wooden puppets during the celebration, while Astrid participates in the festivities. Lea patrols the streets, noting that even during the party there is a sense of unease lingering over the city. Residents are quietly fortifying their houses, and people check their surroundings every time a dog barks. Marcus’ arms business is booming, and he hires on a young dwarven warrior named Duli to help guard his cart. Practicing the ranseur with Astrid, Marcus turns his old quarterstaff over to Shayliss to serve as protection while he’s out of town. Despite the heightened sense of alert, there is little call for Zavian’s clerical services that week.

As they are making final preparations for departure, Shalelu returns to the town and quickly makes a beeline for the Rusty Dragon, where she has a long private chat with Ameiko. Afterwards, the elven ranger thanks the adventurers for rescuing her friend and thwarting the evil that lurked within the town walls. Shalelu describes her own findings out in the wilderness: the planned attack on Sandpoint will include not only the five local tribes, but even goblins as far away as the Fogscar Mountains.

She’s learned that the ringleaders are based on Thistletop and she had returned to alert the party and seek their aid in tracking down a goblin with information on the island fort, it seems the party is far ahead of her on that score. The elf offers to either accompany them on the attack, or stay behind to keep a watchful eye on town. The adventurers ultimately invite her to join them, recognizing that they will need a tracker to guide them through the Nettlewood to Thistletop.

Fireday, 13 Lamashan, 4733

They take their horses and Marcus’ wagon north along the Lost Coast Way. They chat with Shalelu a bit about city vs. country life, in which she and Zavian disagree. Shalelu explains that while she patrols around the Sandpoint area and considers it the closest thing to home these days, she ranges much farther across Varisia, including to her hometown of Crying Leaf in the Mierani Forest. Lea asks if she visits Korvosan territory, but she says she avoids it so as not to cross the Shoanti.

As they proceed north, Shalelu points out the paupers’ graves, a site that tends to attract ghouls. When Lea asks how to prevent this, she explains that the ground not only needs to be hallowed, but also regularly guarded.

Attack_on_Thistletop_01_-_Riding_to_Nettlewood.jpg

They arrive at the Nettlewood, which is tangled with briars. They leave the wagon and the horses with Duli and enter on foot. Shalelu leads them through the forest, searching for goblin footpaths, a process that takes several hours. Zavian and Lea stumble into a goblinberry bush, but suffer no ill-effects beyond some aches in their joints. The elf finally leads them to a goblin nest inside a huge thicket of briars that rise to treetop height.

The party discusses whether to approach the fort on Thistletop via the bridge on the other side of the nest, or by sailing out to the island. The decide to clear out the goblin warren first and then investigate the sea approach.

Attack_on_Thistletop_02_-_In_the_Goblin_Tunnels.jpg

The goblin tunnels through the wood are low and narrow, forcing them to move stooped over. Shalelu is especially unhappy with this and looks distinctly uncomfortable and unsettle to be in such a confined space. They hear a strange, booming call echoing through the briars to their right, which the elf ranger identifies as a bunyip, a monster that’s sort of a combination of shark and seal. To their left, they can hear the sound of a large group of goblins talking and arguing.

The adventurers decide to draw the goblins towards the sound of the bunyip by using Amelia’s ghost sound spell to mimic dog barks. The trick works and the goblins rush past, intent on defeating the dogs to prove their worth to Chief Ripnugget. While Astrid keeps watch, the party investigates the goblins’ nesting area, finding little of interest.

Astrid, meanwhile, sees the goblins fan out searching for the dogs. Several goblins go off to fetch their own goblin dogs. The adventurers gather together to try to lure the goblins into a trap, but they make too much noise getting into position. As the goblins turn towards the sound of intruders, Astrid finds herself hiding alone in the shadows amongst a gaggle of goblins. Zavian steps forward to begin preaching the word of Abadar, enthralling most of the little monsters, though several resist the distraction and heckle him back that they prefer Nualia’s sermons.

The arrival of the goblin druid Gogmurt, however, complicates everything. He commands the briars to entangle the party, leaving the majority of them bunched up at the entrance to the chamber while Astrid and Lea stand out in the open. The entanglement also distracts Zavian from his preaching, breaking his enthrall spell.

Lea, recognizing that Gogmurt and the other goblins are from different tribes, sows enough dissension that the druid walks off in a huff, leaving the fight to the dozen goblin warriors. Most of them charge the paladin, while several goblin dog riders attempt to push Astrid into the hole.

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Shalelu thins the goblins’ numbers with her arrows, taking some pressure off of Lea. Zavian and Marcus, still hunched over to present a lower profile to goblin arrows, move forward to assist the paladin with morningstar and ranseur. Astrid, meanwhile, successfully resists the attempts to throw her in the hole, and instead it is one of the goblin dog riders who takes the tumble. Amelia attempts to put a band of goblins to sleep, but only manages to knock out a single rider.

One hammer fall at a time, Lea clears away the remaining goblins around her, calling up the Inheritor’s grace to sustain her from their dogslicers. As the threat of goblin arrows diminishes, Zavian and Marcus rise to their full height to finish off their foe. While the party mops up stragglers, Lea goes dashing after a riderless goblin dog, bringing it down with a well-thrown dagger.

However, the isolated paladin is vulnerable to ambush by Gogmurt. The druid’s firepelt cougar temperamentally refuses to assist, but even so the goblin is able to sear Lea badly with a burning scimitar. Zavian rushes to her aid, while Shaelu takes up a position with her bow. Wounded, Gogmurt attempts to retreat but is cut off. Near-death, the goblin druid begs for mercy.

The adventurers drag him back over to the howling hole, where he blurts out information on the political situation in the Thistletop goblin trip. Once a top adviser to Warchief Ripnugget, Gogmurt was pushed aside when the chieftain made an alliance with Nualia against the druid’s advice. Gogmurt believes that Ripnugget has become infatuated with Nualia, despite the fact that Gogmurt has seen the aasimar and Tsuto “going at it like donkey rats” in the Nettlewood.

Gogmurt also describes the three others Nualia brought to Thistletop—the bugbear Bruthazmus, a human man dressed in metal, and an angry dark-skinned woman who burns goblins that get in her way. Gogmurt asks the heroes to get rid of these interlopers. If they do, he can promise that his tribe will never bother Sandpoint again. The adventurers consider this offer, but Shalelu warns that goblins simply lack the attention spn to keep any promise they make.

The party then questions Gogmurt about the fort itself. The only entrance the goblins use is the bridge, which is trapped if more than three longshanks cross it at a time. The trap can be disabled at the opposite end of the bridge. However, Ripnugget has been warned that adventurers are in the area, and his guards aren’t likely to let anyone cross the bridge. The party decides to force Gogmurt to cross the bridge and disable the trap, threatening that Shalelu will shoot him if he tries anything funny. The goblin reluctantly moves out onto the bridge, where he is spotted by goblin lookouts and killed in a hail of arrows. The lookouts cheer at their victory.

With the sun starting to sink low on the horizon, the adventurers then work up a different plan. Shalelu will harry the goblins at the bridge entrance to keep them distracted. The party will set up a fake campsite in the hopes that this plus Shalelu will lure the goblins out for an attack. Meanwhile, the rest of the party will head down to the beach to summon up a swan boat and then circle around to the back of the island. There, Amelia will scale the cliffs and attack a grappling hook the rest of the party can use.

It is night by the time the adventurers reach the top of the island, the darkest helping to obscure their approach. They send Ash to inform Shalelu of their success and ask her to step up her attack in order to keep the goblins distracted. The elf ranger does so, and the party makes their way over the stockade wall into the fort’s courtyard. They kill some sleeping goblin dogs. They also find a strange outbuilding with a battered door the goblins appear to have hastily nailed shut. The two dead goblins lying in front, their heads crushed in, suggest that whatever is beyond the door is something the goblins don’t want to get out. They decide to leave the building alone for now.

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The party cautiously enters the wooden building to the north of the courtyard. Inside, they find an empty meeting room and what appears to be a latrine. Zavian recognizes that it isn’t up to code and couldn’t possibly function as a latrine for long. Investigating, Amelia and Astrid find a secret door that reveals a treasure chest with a huge padlock. Amelia disables a nasty trap on the chest and picks the lock. Inside they find a small treasure trove in goods and gear.

The last door they investigate is a set of stone stairs leading down into the dark. The adventurers decide to press deeper into the ruins below, where they expect to find Nualia and her followers.

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