Rise of the Runelords

City of Secrets
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 7

Sunday, 12 Neth, 4733

Having captured some of the bandits who ambushed them, the party questions the leader of this gang, which call themselves the “Wrecking Maggots.” Lea demands to know how he knew her her. The bandit leader says that he’d been warned off attacking a Iomedaean paladin with violet eyes and a penchant for dressing in black.

He explains that there’s a whole information network that bandits rely on for tips on which caravans to hit and which to avoid. That was also where they got the tip to chain up the dryad tree. He isn’t able to name names, but says the best info can be found at the Blue Bunyip tavern. Zavian and Marcus recognize it as the one the party found a deed for in Foxglove Manor.

After forcing the Wrecking Maggots to tell the poor merchant they waylaid where they dumped his cheaper items, the bandits are chained up and marched down towards Magnimar. The party meets a patrol of Magnimarian guards led by Captain Kassadei, who go off to hunt down the bandits who escaped. The guards tell them to take the prisoners to the Arvensoar.

The adventurers arrive at the Free City of Magnimar around midday, impressed with its splendor. They drop the bandits off at the great fortress tower of the Arvensoar and offer their assistance in dealing with the “Star Killer.” An appointment with the Watch Captain is set for later in the day. Marcus sells the bandits’ armor to pay for the waylaid merchants’ losses, while Zavian equips the Nualia vivicar with the bandit leader’s masterwork bastard sword.

Zavian then leads the party to one of the nicer restaurants in the Naos District, the Ruby Arrow, for lunch. They manage to find a table at the busy but refined restaurant and settle in to a fine meal. Marcus covers Duli’s tab.

Midway through lunch, however, the manager informs Zavian that he must leave the restaurant because he is on the list of unwanted customers. Zavian departs, saying that he had been acting charitably in visiting a Leonte establishment. Marcus, Duli, and Astrid leave with him, while Lea, Amelia, Ameiko, and Shalelu remain.

Zavian takes his group down to the Lowcleft District to visit his family’s restaurant, the King and Axe, whose sign features a smiling monarch being beheaded. The place is rowdier, with a lively band, dancing girls, and a clientele ranging from working class folks to bohemian types. Zavian is attended to by a busty barmaid named Iriel, who quickly clears out his favorite booth. While the others order the simpler fare available, Zavian asks for Iriel to retrieve his expensive wine from its hiding place.

At the Ruby Arrow, Lea and Ameiko make small talk and discuss their plans for the rest of the day. Ameiko is going to investigate the Kaijitsu villa, which her father left vacant for a number of years, and begin making inquiries about hiring new glassworkers. Ameiko admits that she isn’t eager to take on the responsibilities of being “Lady Kaijitsu,” but not doing so would tip the balance of power among the Four Families of Sandpoint towards the hated House Scarnetti. She’s not about to let that happen. Shalelu, meanwhile, is discomfited by the city environment, but she has business there and plans to stick by Ameiko’s side to ensure the bard doesn’t get into any more trouble.

Back at the King and Axe, Zavian finally goes to check in with his father Avos, who is hard at work in the kitchen. Avos is overjoyed to see his lad and summons his wife Rina so that they can catch up. The two Desante parents are impressed at Zavian’s accomplishments with the vivicarum spell and suggest that if the whole Abadar thing doesn’t work out, he could turn to the Golemworks.

Rina also asks about the Nualia girl he mentioned, noting that the two aasimars seem to have a lot in common. Zavian awkwardly agrees and shows off the Nualia vivicar. He also asks if they have any clue as to why he was kicked out of the Ruby Arrow. Avos says that Arikon Leonte still has hard feelings after the marriage proposal between Zavian and Jula fell through. Zavian also suspects that Arikon might still have sour grapes about the land deal the two families disputed. The cleric introduces his parents to his friends and secures rooms for the party that night.

After lunch, the Rune Wardens reunite at the Arvensoar, where they meet with Captain Acacia Urania. Lea relays that they dealt with a similar killer in Sandpoint and believe there is a connection with the “Star Killer.” Sheriff Belor had praised the Rune Wardens highly, so Captain Acacia is willing to deputize them for a week to investigate the killings. The City Watch is stretched thin by the bandit raids and the military tensions with Korvosa, so she needs all the help she can get. The adventurers also offer to help with the bandit problem, since they have a tip that information is being traded at the Blue Bunyip.

Captain Acacia reminds them that as deputies, they represent the City of Magnimar and must take care to faithfully uphold the city’s laws. While Zavian, with his knowledge of the law, can advise the party, the Captain suggests that they consult Justice Ironbriar and the Justice Court for more complex cases. Lea recalls that Ironbriar sent the mercenary Viorian Dekanti to escort Tsuto Kaijitsu down to stand trial and asks if the half-elf arrived safely. Acacia admits she had not heard of his arrival, which she finds disconcerting. The captain promises to check the records.

After receiving their badges as deputy constables, the Rune Wardens split up to take care of business in town. Marcus tracks down the dwarven smith, Urin, who forged the masterwork bastard sword they recovered from the leader of the Wrecking Maggots. The half-elf chats with Urin about dwarven smithing techniques and where to find the best metalworkers in the city.

Lea pays a visit to the Temple of Iomedae, where she updates Chaplain Tira Ronnova on the events in Sandpoint and her request that Ser Chammady of Korvosa come to cleanse the Foxglove manor. The chaplain is impressed with what Lea has accomplished and believes its clear the goddess has plans in store for her.

After that, Lea visits with Ameiko and Shalelu at the Kaijitsu villa, which has fallen in disrepair after years of neglect. Lea brings them up to speed on events, and worries about the fact that the guard captain had recognized her as a Korvosan. Ameiko suggests going shopping later to get her a whole new look. After helping them clean up the place a bit, Lea bunks down on the floor with Ameiko while Shalelu trances on the roof.

The rest of the Rune Wardens take advantage of the free rooms at the King and Axe, although the rowdiness of the common room does make it a little hard to sleep.

Moonday, 13 Neth, 4733

The next morning, the Rune Wardens reassemble at the Kaijitsu manor and take breakfast. Ameiko explains that her business in Magnimar is going well so far. She’s not excited to be “Lady Kaijitsu,” but she won’t walk away from her responsibilities because that will tip the balance of power towards the Scarnetti family.

While Ameiko and Shalelu go off to continue their errands, the adventurers proceed to investigate the Foxglove townhouse in the Naos District. The windows on the bottom floor of the townhouse are boarded over. Marcus casts spiderclimb on himself and ascends to the third floor balcony. Inside, he finds the master bedroom with a bed covered in a thin film of dust, suggesting it hadn’t been used in weeks. He casts invisibility on himself and continues investigating.

Down below, Lea knocks on the front door. A serving man asks them what their business is at Lord Foxglove’s home, they tell him that Aldern is dead. He insists that this is not the case and heads upstairs to fetch Lord and Lady Foxglove.

Upstairs, Marcus finds a trapdoor in the bedroom, and pries it open. Down below, he sees the seemingly very much alive Aldern and Iesha Foxglove standing in a room, staring blankly. The servant enters and summons them to meet their old friends below. The couple suddenly brighten and dead downstairs. Once they are gone, Marcus drops down into what appears to be a study of some kind.

Below, the party is shocked to see the two Foxgloves alive. The nobles invite them to a homemade breakfast. When questioned, Aldern says that after the boar hunt, he returned to Magnimar to wait for Iesha to return from her trip to Absalom. The adventurers offer more probing questions to try to suss out what is going on.

Finally, Amelia simply accuses them of being impostors. She hurls a blast of glitterdust at them, blinding Iesha. Aldern draws his sword and rushes towards her, but Astrid and Zavian bar the way.

The servant, meanwhile, rushes towards Lea and seizes hold of her with fearsome strength. Her spiked armor pierces the man’s flesh, but the wounds heal almor immediately. The servant leans in and his face warps, his lips stretching into a sharpened proboscis that jabs into her and begins draining her blood. “Aldern” seizes hold of Zavian and does the same.

The blinded “Iesha” runs into the wall and falls over.

Lea recognizes the monsters as blood-drinking shapeshifters called faceless stalkers. The adventurers counterattack, but the creatures prove resilient to attacks from swords. While tangled up with the “servant,” Lea has trouble using her earthbreaker and struggles to break free.

Marcus, meanwhile, rushes down to perch at the height of the staircase and unleashes burning hands. The scorched and blinded “Iesha” rushes up the stairs, pushing past his ranseur. Downstairs, Lea frees herself and brings down one of the attackers, while Zavian and Astrid kill another of the monsters.

“Iesha” rushes over to the front window on the second floor and deftly lands on the ground. This provokes a startled squawk from Ash: “What the hell is that!”

This prompts Astrid to burst outside and hurl her double-bladed sword Echo at the monster, cutting it in half.

The adventurers proceed to scour the house. Using a key they recovered from the Foxglove manor, they are able to access a hidden cache of platinum coins that also contains the deed to the manor house. The deed reveals that the “Brothers of the Seven” funded 1/3 of the cost of the manor, with the Seven Sawmill as collateral. A ledger, meanwhile, shows that starting several months ago, Aldern began paying large sums of money to “B7” to pay for “Iesha’s trip to Absalom.” Peering closer, they find another cache behind the first one, which has Korvosan platinum coins and another deed to the Blue Bunyip, this one with somewhat different details.

The Rune Wardens turn the crime scene over to the City Watch, who explain that faceless stalkers will occasionally slink out of the Mushfens to infiltrate the city. But it’s rare for them to strike in the Naos District.

The party’s next stop is to investigate the Blue Bunyip, a single story stone building with a thatch roof. Despite being located in the Naos district, there’s a seedy air to the tavern. They learn that the bar is allegedly owned by a dwarf named Brodi. Learning that the dwarf will be coming by for lunch, the Rune Wardens decide to hang around to meet him. Except for Lea, who decides to return to the Kaijitsu Manor.

At the tavern, Zavian and Amelia ask around. Amelia learns that Brodi owns several properties around the city, and travels from one to the other, holding court. The Blue Bunyip is frequented by adventurers and other, shadier types. It’s likely a front of some kind. Brodi’s owned the place for a couple years. Zavian also learns about the Seven’s Sawmill, that it is located on Kyver’s Isle, a major industrial area of the city in the Ordellia District. Amelia also asks about a good seamstress and is directed to the Bazaar of Sails.

When Brodi finally makes an entrance, accompanied by three Varisian bodyguards, the adventurers realize the dwarf shares some family resemblance to Duli. Amelia blurts this out, which immediately puts Brodi on edge. Marcus explains that he is employing Duli as a guard.

The party confronts Brodi about the tavern deed, which he insists is a fake. He also points out that deeds aren’t bearer bonds, and points out that the document they have states that Aldern foxglove is the tavern owner. Brodi brushes off claims about his tavern being a meeting place for bandits, saying that he doesn’t eavesdrop on his clientele. They eventually head down to the Hall of Lords to settle the dispute over the deed with the city clerks. On the way, Marcus has Ash fly off to ask Duli about her brother. The raven reports back that she said he was a “bad seed” and the party shouldn’t trust him.

At the Hall of Lords, the clerk confirms that the party’s deeds are fakes. Brodi tells them that they are all banned from the Blue Bunyip—with one exception. He recognizes Amelia and tells her that she is welcome. Zavian begins examining the two fake deeds, noting that there are differences between them and begins to suspect they might contain coded messages.

Meanwhile, Lea makes her way towards the Kaijitsu villa with a spring in her step. However, she soon realizes that she is being trailed by a trio of men. She leads them into a dead end alleyway and confronts them. They use bolas and halberds to knock her on her feet and soon she is grappling with them on the muddy ground while they try to club her into unconsciousness.

A door in the alleyway opens and a beautiful, well-dressed red haired woman steps out and immediately begins shrieking for the guards while throwing mud at the attackers. Lea gets to her feet and bashes two of them into unconsciousness. Hefting her earthbreaker, she glares at the third man.

“Don’t make me chase you,” she says.

He looks down at his companions on the ground, then says “I’m going to make you chase me.”

Lea pursues him through the city and spies a shortcut that lets her get cut off his escape. After tackling him, she halls him back to the alley where the guards are taking the others into custody. The kidnapper explains that they were bounty hunters hired to capture either her or Amelia. They were employed by a halfing named Elirie down at the Jester and Cask by the docks.

Lea thanks the red-haired woman for intervening. She introduces herself as Mira Ortani, an actress from the distant land of Brevoy. She invites Lea to come see her show at the Triodea, The Inconstant Nymph. She also warns the paladin to be wary traveling the streets from here on out.

A little worse for wear, Lea arrives at the Kaijitsu villa, which Ameiko is still getting into order.

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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.

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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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