Rise of the Runelords - Ninja Island

The Skinsaw Murders 5.9 - Chasing the Skinsaw

4707 Lamashan 31, Starday, Evening

Naos, Magnimar
Aldern Foxglove’s Townhouse

Griz stood with an apple in his left hand, a glass of water in his right, and his mouth hanging open as “Aldern’s” face writhed and transformed before him. Although he was somewhat suspicious that the person before him, as well as his two companions, weren’t who they claimed to be, he wasn’t prepared for the horrible reality of what they really were – shape-changers. And, having spent the afternoon in conversation with the shape-changers had put him at ease – even if these were not bona fide, he didn’t expect to be attacked.

But, the truth was that his life, as well as that of Naeric and Faheem, were being threatened. The faces of “Aldern”, “Iesha”, and “Julith” writhed unsettlingly, the features melted to an amorphous crimson mass. Sharp nails grew from their hands. Before they could act to defend themselves, Naeric and Griz were grappled by Julith and Iesha. The flesh of the creatures holding them felt strange – tough, almost scaly, yet mutable and pliant. The attackers were strong, and the heroes were unable to slip from the tight grip. Worse still, where they were being gripped, something burrowed into their skin causing mists of blood to spray.

Aldern attempted to take hold of Faheem in a similar way, but the elf slipped past the imposter. Using his druidic magic to gather and freeze the moisture in the air, he directed a blast of ice shards at Aldern and Iesha. Distracted by her wounds, Iesha let loose her grip on Griz. He darted for the back door, but as he opened it, a crimson leathery hand slammed it back shut. Aldern smiled tauntingly as he reached for the halfling, “Not so fast, Angel.” As Griz struggled in Aldern’s grasp, he saw Naeric keel over from the loss of blood. “Faheem, flee!” he called.

“Ho!” said Faheem, as the other two closed in on him, “You can’t suck blood from a fart, can you?” Calling on primal forces of nature, he transformed into an air elemental, a being composed entirely of living wind. He flew past the shape-changers and out an open window, scanning the streets for Mordecai and Fuego.

Naeric and Griz, weakened by the loss of blood, succumbed to their wounds. As blackness descended, they saw three figures enter the room, their faces misshapen patchworks, each with a bulbous eye and a horrifying grimace.

The Streets of Naos

After hours of searching, Faheem finally found Fuego and Mordecai. He flew near them, as Mordecai said, “I’m not looking forward to telling Griz I let that guy get killed.”

“I feel you, my friend,” thought Faheem, still in the form of an air elemental. He looked at the food and drink they were carrying as they ate, walked, and talked. “I think I will have some fun with these two.” He flew between and around them, causing gusts of wind to blow.

Fuego wrapped his cloak around him. “The wind here is strong. This reminds me of home, on the Storval Plateau. Have you ever been there?”

“Yeah, I have," answered Mordecai, "but there wasn’t much for a band of entertainers.” The wind picked up more, splashing his coffee on his light tunic. “Damn this wind!”

Faheem transformed and approached his friends. Mordecai noticed the look of mischief on his face, and playfully punched him on the arm. “Faheem, it was you, I should have known!”

Fuego slapped the elf on the back. “How did it go with Foxglove? We were just heading back to meet up with you and the others. We learned some very interesting details,” Fuego puffed his chest proudly, “and it looks like I am going to be invited to become a Brother of the Seven.”

“Oh yeah, I almost forgot. It was a disaster! Naeric and Griz are dead. Or maybe taken prisoner. Foxglove ambushed us, with his wife and Julith!”

“OH NO HE DIDN’T!” Fuego roared. “When I get my hands on his aristocratic neck I’m going to break it. Let’s go!”

“Hold on!” Mordecai put his hand on Fuego’s arm. “We make haste, but stay calm. Faheem, what exactly happened?” As they briskly walked towards Foxglove’s townhouse, Faheem relayed the entire afternoon, and they described what they had encountered to Faheem.

“Their faces were writhing? Where they dark crimson? Kind of scaly?” Faheem answered affirmatively. “Sounds like Ugothol. There’s a bunch living in the swamps to the east of here. They get hired as assassins and spies. This is not good. They can perfectly mimic anyone, and there’s no way to tell them from the real deal.”

“It looked like they were draining their blood. They grabbed Griz and Naeric, and their bodies were almost melding into them, and little sprays of blood were misting out.”

“Yeah, that’s how they feed.”

They stopped as they arrived at Foxglove’s street. A sizeable crowd had formed; apparently they were curious onlookers to the earlier scene of violence. The elf, tiefling, and Shoanti were attracting attention, so they backed away and discussed options.

“I can change into a fart again,” offered Faheem.

Mordecai cast invisibility. “That won’t be necessary, thanks anyway," he said. "I’ll go eavesdrop and stay in communication by whispering through my message spell. Stay here, and don’t draw attention to yourselves.”

Mordecai made his way through the crowd, occasionally jostling someone or making a slight sound, but never enough to raise any notice of his presence. He approached the townhouse through the hedge gate. In the small garden, the Ugothol pretending to be Aldern Foxglove, Iesha Foxglove, and Julith were speaking with officers from Arvensoar. They were each recounting a version of earlier events far different from that which Faheem had relayed. Mordecai stepped further into the garden to hear what was being said.

“I know the halfling from when I visited Sandpoint, back in Rova,” stated Foxglove, “and we developed something of a friendship. Really, it was more that I agreed to be a mentor to Finton. But, it seems he has allowed it to grow into something of a violent obsession. … Well, yes, I have referred to him as ‘my angel’, in playful affection. He has been like a younger brother or a nephew to me. Why, I even sent gifts for he and his friends to help them in their adventures. … Oh, you didn’t hear about the incident at the Swallowtail Festival? Well, the goblins scaled the town walls and attacked, and I rallied Finton and his friends to provide assistance to the defense of the town. The town guard is less than professional there. Finton and I fought back to back, he was very brave. I dare say that it was my tutelage which gave a start to his career as an adventurer. But, it’s a shame, because apparently I was mistaken. Yes, apparently he has turned instead to banditry. … Yes, well, today he was here with his friends, paying a visit to my lovely wife and our ward Julith. When I arrived they had already been here awhile. We spoke for a little bit … As we were preparing for dinner,” Aldern put his head down and put his hand to his face, “… well, I am only glad that I was able to protect Iesha and to Julith from harm.”

Julith and Iesha, for their parts, played perhaps the greatest role. Sobbing and hysterical, it was difficult to understand them. Yet, all three told the same basic story – a gang of bandits led by Griz charmed their way into the townhouse and were held off only by Aldern’s combat expertise.

“Please,” prayed Mordecai, to every god and goddess he could think of, “do not let Naeric and Griz have been killed.” His prayer seemed to have been heard and answered, but not in a manner that he would have hoped for. Loud footsteps from inside the townhouse announced a heavily armored presence which exited the townhouse and entered the garden to speak with Arvensoar officers and the “victims”. The imposing form was dressed in full plate armor, with a spiked helm and an imposing skull on the breast. “Crap, a hellknight,” Mordecai thought. “Macatus?” But it was impossible to tell with the armor on. And, when the figure spoke through the helm, the voice was distorted, by design, to make the figure more intimidating.

The hellknight addressed the others. “Officers, the suspects have been taken into custody and will be brought before a magistrate for arraignment tomorrow.”

“Good news,” Mordecai whispered to Fuego and Faheem. “They’re alive. But they’ve been arrested.”

“Foxglove has alleged,” the hellknight continued, "that another companion of the suspects, an elf druid, was also an assailant. He should be arrested. He is a druid of considerable skill and should be considered dangerous. I am also aware of two other companions, a tiefling bard and a Shoanti, who are persons of interest and who should be questioned.”

“… and there’s bad news. The guard is looking for us. You especially Faheem. Make your way to the Shadow. I’ll meet you at shrine of Sarenrae after I check the inside of the house.” Mordecai quickly made his way inside. The house was illuminated by various magical devices of good quality. The kitchen was trashed. Furniture was damaged, shattered glass was scattered throughout, and large pools of water stood on the floor. Mordecai examined the blood sprays on the wall, and noted that these were consistent with blood spraying as a light mist, not with combat as Foxglove had described. “Hopefully a magistrate will consider this evidence,” he thought. In the upstairs bedroom, he spotted a mantle over the fireplace with the motif of two lion’s heads. It itched a memory but he was unable to recall the significance in the short time he had before his invisibility spell wore out. He made a mental note to return later, and made his way down to the Shadow.

The Shadow

Faheem led Mordecai and Fuego through the Shadow to the shrine of Sarenrae that he and Naeric had visited the day.

“How do you know your way around here so well, Faheem?”, asked Fuego.

“I just follow my nose,” replied Faheem, somewhat cryptically. “Here we are." He approached the shrine, and called out in a loud voice, "Ho, Zadendi!”

Mordecai nudged Fuego and pointed to a light that was shining above the shrine – a miniature sun burning lightly (it was night after all). “There’s Faheem’s nose, I think.”

Zadendi, the young red haired priestess of Sarenrae stepped out of the small shrine. Her raiment was somewhat disheveled, as if she had been sleeping. After a moment, she recognized Faheem, and said quickly, “Come in! I’m sorry, I’m terrible with names, can you remind me? Right, Faheem. You can’t be wandering down here! A Sczarni of some influence was murdered tonight. He was found with something carved on his chest. Word on the street is that an elf druid had a medallion with that same symbol. One of the bosses has offered a sizeable sum for anyone who can find you, he wants to have a ‘meeting’ with you."

“Nobody’s seen that symbol," stated Mordecai, uncertainly. He turned to Faheem, "Why are they looking for you. You didn’t show it to anybody?”

“Oh, I may have flashed it once or twice yesterday at the Friendly Merchant. I was trying to be a cool kid in town.”

Mordecai looked aghast, “Really?”

“My bad,” Faheem shrugged as he walked in. “Zadendi, can we stay here tonight?” He explained about the incident in Naos, emphasizing the danger that Naeric was facing. Zadendi didn’t have any knowledge or influence to assist them with their troubles in Naos, but agreed that they could stay at the shrine. She laid out mats and a simple meal.

As they ate, she shared with them a story of how Sarenrae befriended the lizards by warming the rocks for them. She then asked for the others to share stories with her. Faheem told of how he lost faith after seeing so many of his people killed in the City of Emerald Rains. Mordecai told an endearing story of how his adopted father, the leader of a troop of performers, gave his father’s lute to Mordecai because he had no children, but the lute was lost, and now Mordecai was looking for it. Fuego shared stories from his travels as a fur trader throughout Varisia, and although he was always on the hunt for profits, he never stooped to the unfair tactics of the bigger consortium.

4707 Neth 1, Sunday morning

Night passed, and the miniature sun brightened as the real sun rose. Through the fog rolling in from the ocean it was still possible to see the giant pillars of the Irespan reaching above as well as the old, leaning clock-tower. Morning preparations finished, the trio bid farewell to Zadendi and headed back to Naos. They had determined to try to meet with Lord Deverin, as they could think of no other ally with influence who might be able to help them.

At Lord Deverin’s manor, a servant opened the door. Recognizing them from their previous visit, he said, “Welcome gentlemen. Lord Deverin is in a meeting now. Please enter.”

Mordecai thanked the servant and implored, “Please let Lord Deverin know that we need to speak with him, but please be discreet. Please, this is urgent.”

The servant returned shortly, “Lord Deverin will meet with you now. Please follow me.” He guided them through the halls to a set of double doors. He placed his hands on the handles, and took a deep breath. “As I mentioned, Lord Deverin is in a meeting with a hellknight. Dreadful fellow. He certainly gives me the chills.”

Mordecai moved quickly forward and reached out to stop the servant from opening the door. “Hold on!” he whispered. “Does the hellknight know we’re here?”

“I discretely advised Lord Deverin you were here, per your request, and he instructed me that you were to join the meeting. I am not privy to what he may have advised the hellknight of after I was dismissed.”

“Crap.” Fuego bit his lip, and looked at the others, then back to the servant. “We can’t go in there. Can you ask Lord Deverin to come out?”

The servant thought a moment. “This is very unorthodox, Lord Deverin told me specifically… please wait here.” The servant entered the room once more. Mordecai heard him whisper something, then heard Lord Deverin speak with a weak voice. “A moment please, Malilictor. I believe you will be interested in speaking with the guests that have arrived. They seem perhaps, unnerved with the thought of meeting you.”

“I understand perfectly,” said the familiar voice of Malilictor Macatus, the hellknight that they had met the previous day.

Lord Deverin came into the hallway. He looked a shadow of himself from when they first met him just two day previously. He leaned on his servant and was wheezing for breath.

“Lord Deverin, I am sorry that your illness seems to be taking a turn for the worse,” Mordecai recalled that Lord Deverin had been dealing for some time with illness that no cleric of the many deities in Magnimar had been able to cure. “We need your counsel.”

“I imagine so. Gentlemen, I am pleased to see you. I have been meeting with Malilictor Macatus, who has given me disturbing news. I hope you can shed some light on this. Won’t you please join us?”

“Lord Deverin,” beseeched Mordecai, “please, we can’t meet with him. We’ve come here for your counsel, but we can’t meet with him.”

“I understand your hesitation. A meeting with a hellknight, especially in these circumstances, is not a pleasant proposition. However, the Malilictor is only seeking to investigate and uncover the truth of matters. I have known you only shortly, but I consider myself a reasonable judge of character. My niece’s reports that Griz is an individual of the highest integrity rings true to me, from my interactions with him. I give little credence to the accusations that are levied against Griz. I counsel you to explain your position, and to do so here and now.”

“I would prefer to deal without him, I believe he has ill judgments towards the tiefling race. I imagine towards Shoanti as well. And, as for Faheem, he is a wanted man.”

“I see. Well, Faheem has been accused of a serious crime. However, I believe Macatus is a fair man. Speak truthfully to him. He will listen and consider what you say.”

“We don’t want to meet with him, we would rather just present our case directly to the magistrate.”

“Again, I counsel you to meet with Macatus and present whatever evidence you have to him. It will be Macatus and the officers of the Arvensoar presenting evidence at the arraignment of your friends. As civilians you will not be involved in those proceedings.”

Mordecai, Faheem, and Fuego had a brief debate on whether or not to put their trust in the law “We have alibis,” said Fuego.

“Alibis are not the issue. Faheem will likely be arrested.”

“We’ll see about that. I can always turn into a fart and fly away.”

“What other choice do we have?” asked Fuego, making some tactical considerations. “This isn’t Sandpoint. The Arvensoar is a fortress!”

Lord Deverin spoke up, “Again, I counsel you to meet with Macatus.” Wheels within wheels were spinning in Magnimar, and who knew them better than Lord Deverin? Reluctantly, they agreed.

Lord Deverin followed them into a conference room. Malilictor Macatus sat on one side of a long table. His spiked helmet rested on a pad on the table, next to a pot of tea and a tray of fruit. Through the window lower Magnimar was visible. Macatus stood when they entered, and one of his eyebrows raised as he looked at the three heroes.

“I said we would speak again, tiefling. I hope you and the Shoanti are not involved in this crime. You, elf, are now in my custody. If you resist, I will strike you down. You will be brought before a magistrate to be arraigned along with the co-accused. If it is determined that there is sufficient evidence for you to face trial, you will spend time in the Hells, the prison below Magnimar. But first, please sit. I have some questions.”

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The Skinsaw Murders 5.8 - Chasing the Skinsaw

4707 Lamashan 31, Starday, Afternoon
Naos, Magnimar

Aldern Foxglove’s Townhouse

Griz, Naeric, and Faheem made their way through Naos, towards Aldern Foxglove’s townhouse. By coincidence, it happened to be quite close to the Lost Coast Road Gate, where they had first entered Magnimar. Merchants sold trinkets, weapons, magical items, food, clothing, exotic animals – indeed, it seemed that anything that anything they could desire was available for sale in Naos. The streets were lively, clean, and well guarded with the comforting presence of patrols of friendly members of the Avensoar. This comforting feeling, however, was disrupted when they passed an imposing stone building from which hung a banner displaying a sunburst formed of thick nails https://pathfinderwiki.com/wiki/File:OrderOfTheNail.jpg. Underneath the standard was a wooden sign, apparently recently installed, inscribed with the words “Savagery must be quelled, in the land, home, and mind.”

“The Order of the Nail,” observed Naeric, “brings its own … dark vision of law and order. When last I was here, the Dawnflower shined in the darkest reaches of Magnimar, but no longer. Now, that … bastardized standard casts a shadow over all of Magnimar, not just the Underbridge. What is the Order’s purpose here?”

The trio made their way into a little residential street. Three-story townhouses snuggled up to each other, each lot divided from the other by a tasteful hedge. They were well-kept, but not opulent. Artful gates led into each property. One of the gates bore a sign reading ‘Foxglove’.

“It would appear that we have arrived,” said Griz. He considered the townhouse, and pointed to the ground floor windows, which were boarded up. “I thought Ironbriar said they had confirmed Foxglove was … that there’s nothing going on. I guess he doesn’t know that the house was boarded up.”

“He said it was his agents who investigated,” clarified Naeric, “What about Lord Deverin. Didn’t he say he had recently dined with Foxglove?”

“Yeah, but that was at the Osprey Club I believe.”

“If it has been abandoned,” asked Faheem, “is it worth even trying to knock on the door? Let’s just go around back or break in.”

“Griz, this is strange,” said Naeric, “This does not comport with what Justice Ironbriar told us. We will need to think about finding evidence to bring him a stronger case.”

“Agreed.” Griz pondered the situation, and thought out loud, “I could infiltrate…” However, even though this was not a main street, people were walking by occasionally, so Griz
tried the gate, finding it was unlocked. Still, no one was in view inside, because of the boards on the windows.

Faheem pushed for infiltration, “Why don’t you disguise yourself and try to sneak in, so anyone passing by …”

Naeric interrupted him, “Just knock on the door.” All three went through the gate, up the path through the tended garden, and up a few stairs to the front door. Birds chirped in the garden behind them. “Let’s just play this cool,” said Griz to the others, “I’ll just introduce you. Don’t let on that we have any suspicions or concerns. We want to determine whether this is really Foxglove or some kind of imposter.”

As Griz reached up to knock on the door, Faheem said something to give him pause. “What do my elven eyes see? Is it normal that the door would also be boarded up?” He pointed to marks in the door frame where nails had been recently removed.

“I guess,” responded Griz, “if they were going to be away for a long time. Or there was a storm? It looks like the boards have been on the windows for over a month, based on the weathering.”

“Are you sure we shouldn’t just sneak in?”

“Faheem, why do you want to sneak in, when you can just knock,” responded Naeric, exasperated.

Griz knocked, and in a moment they heard a woman’s voice from the other side of the door, “Just a moment! Who is it?”

“It’s Aldern Foxglove’s friends from Sandpoint.”

The sound of a lock being unbolted sounded, and before them was a woman they recognized only from a painting. Tall, with curly long black hair, wearing a find dress, was a full-figured beauty. Iesha Foxglove. She looked first at the two elves, then down at Griz. “Aldern’s friends from Sandpoint? Oh, you must be the Angel! Aldern’s told me so much about you! Come in!”

As they entered they heard another voice from inside. “Iesha, who is it?” From down the stairs appeared Julith, the young lady from Sandpoint who had been sent to Magnimar for her protection from Grayst Sevilla. “Griz, Naeric, Faheem! You’re in Magnimar! Thank you soooo much setting me up here! Iesha, these are the ones who helped me, and did so much for Sandpoint!” The ladies explained that Aldern was out at the moment doing “men’s work”, and sat the three adventurers in the front sitting room, which was dark due to the windows being boarded up. Naeric illuminated the room with Sarenrae’s light.

As the women fussed over biscuits and tea for their guests, Griz asked “Why are the windows boarded up?”

Iesha, looking a bit perplexed by the question, responded, “Oh, we hardly noticed, and we’ve been so busy, we haven’t had a chance to take them down.”

“Why were they up in the first place?”

“Oh, we were travelling.”

“I see,” said Naeric, “When were you travelling, when was this?”

“Well, last year, Aldern allowed me and my people stay at his manor during a fierce storm. During that time, we fell in love and married. We came back some months ago, and Aldern had to go travelling again, in order to do more work on the manor. Now we’re back in Magnimar, trying to do more preparations for our next trip to the manor.”

“How was your stay there? Was it comfortable?”

“Oh, no no, it was filthy…”

“There was nothing suspicious or weird?”

“It’s old and leaky, and needs a lot of work.”

Naeric finished his tea and stood. “May I use the washroom?”

“Will you please show him, Julith?”

Naeric followed Julith upstairs. Thanking her, he closed the door to the small lavatory. He listened for a moment, and not hearing Julith depart, he used the sound of relieving himself to cover the casting of a detect magic spell. The magic would allow him to determine any magic auras around the home (even through the walls and doors, and on the floors above and below), unless they were protected by a sheet of lead or some other means. Look around, up, and down, through the walls and floors, he saw no magical auras out of the ordinary, other than minor enchantments one would expect in a modern household (for example, conjuration magic to call forth small water elementals to clean the chamber pot after use or to allow for running water, or enchantment for various lights throughout the home).

Naeric washed his hands and exited the washroom, where Julith was waiting for him. “Let’s join the others,” she said. Naeric followed her back into the sitting room, where he heard Griz explaining to Iesha about where they had been and what they had been up to.

“Julith,” exclaimed Iesha, “Griz was just explaining that they have been deputized and are investigating murders that happened in Sandpoint. They think the murderer is connected to someone here!”

“Well, maybe,” continued Griz, “We have captured the murderer. It turns out that he was a ghoul, a vicious undead creature. It seems that the strain of the transformation into this beast the shattered his mind and split his personality. This added to confusion because it seemed like there were multiple murderers.” Griz specifically did not mention that they had been to the Misgivings.

Iesha and Julith looked at Griz, with shocked expressions on their faces, which turned into coy smiles. “Griz, who is it that you suspect is connected to the murderer?”

“Well, I can’t really say. We don’t want word to get around…”

“Oh, you must tell me! Surely, as Aldern’s friend, you can tell us. I mean, what if we’re in danger from someone we know?”

Griz looked down, uncomfortably. Finally, he said, “I can’t tell you. It would be a breach of professional conduct. As I’ve said, we’re officers of the law, and we must keep these matters confidential.”

“Please Grizzy, you can tell us,” Julith persisted, “I want to know, it’s so boring here.” She stood up, walked behind him, and began massaging his shoulders. She bent down, and in a flirtations whisper said, “You know that I will keep a secret, just like I did in Sandpoint…”

As Griz’s face turned beet red, Faheem looked at Naeric, silently imploring him to intercede. “Perhaps this topic will be best discussed once Mr. Foxglove returns. In the meantime, perhaps we can partake in some … other activity. I can share with you the tale of how Sarenrae, before she was the Dawnflower, led the heavenly hosts in the charge against the Rough Beast and dealt him the great blow that led to his chaining.”

Griz cleared his throat and pulled some cards out of his sack. “Or we can play a game.” Julith leant over and whispered something to Iesha. They both giggled, then Julith reached over to shuffle the cards, and began to deal them out.

The Osprey Club

Mordecai and Fuego spent a few hours shopping for something appropriate to wear to the Osprey Club. For Mordecai, this wasn’t such a challenge. But the Shoanti bloodrager rankled at fussing over fine silky clothes – besides, it was difficult to find something that would fit his large frame. After finishing this task, they chatted as they headed to the Osprey Club. “Fuego, that hellknight gives me the creeps. They’re bad news. He’s got it out for me.” Mordecai stopped and looked at Fuego. “Keep my back.”

Fuego looked for a moment at Mordecai, then burst out laughing, “Alright! I got you!”

The Osprey Club was a freestanding round building straddling Naos and the Capital District. The outside of the building was immaculately adorned with sculpture and landscaping. Mordecai and Fuego approached the front door by way of a driveway. On the driveway was parked a carriage from which an elderly couple was exiting. As they approached the front entrance, they a pair of well dressed doormen ordered them to halt. With folded arms, one of the doormen denied them entrance “Excuse me sir, this is a members only club. Hold on,” he said, as Mordecai started to protest. He bowed as the elderly couple walked passed and placed a coin in his hand. “Welcome to the Osprey Club Mr. and Mrs. Johns.” He turned back to Mordecai. “I’m sorry sir, you’ll have to go somewhere else.”

Mordecai smiled. “You misunderstand my good man, we are guests of Xanesha.” The doormen looked at each other and laughed. “I’m sure you are sir. In any case, we cannot allow you in.”

Fuego pulled the invitation from his pocket. He smoothed out the crumpled letter and handed it to the doorman. “Go get Xanesha. Right away,” he snarled.

The doorman stepped up to Fuego, and locked eyes with him. He took the crumpled card from Fuego and took a look at it. He handed it to his associate, and without breaking the stare he said, “Go in and check this out.”

“What’s your name, Friend?” asked Mordecai, with emphasis on the last word. “Oh, I miss the simplicity of dealing with Jubrayl,” he thought.

“My name’s not your business,” he answered, without looking. After a few minutes, the other doorman returned and stated, “Our apologies.” To the other he said, “It’s legitimate. Mr. Scott said to let them in.”

The first doorman stepped back from Fuego, with eyes still locked. “My apologies, Friends. Welcome to the Osprey Club. You will need to check your weapons.” He looked at Mordecai. “And magic is not allowed.”

Fuego and Mordecai entered, checked their weapons, and were greeted by a well-dressed gentleman who introduced himself as Mr. William Scott. He shook their hands and led them towards a table where two other men sat – one a gentleman and the other dressed more plainly. “My associate mentioned he had met a Shoanti of means. I have business connections in town. Please join our meal. Everything is on our tab. Enjoy anything you want.” As they sat a waiter approached to take their requests. Fuego, in a loud voice, ordered two steaks and a lobster, Dom Perion, and “a flagon of your finest ale from the Two Knight Brewery in Sandpoint. Mordecai made himself comfortable and ordered a filling but relatively moderate meal.

Mr. Scott made introductions. “This is Mr. Smith, a banker, and Mr. Niall, an entrepreneur who owns a warehouse at the docks.” They talked a little bit about the economy of Magnimar, and Mr. Niall explained the warehouse business. “Magnimar is a large port city, with minimal duties for imports and thus competing well with Korvosa, but without the problems of Riddleport. Ships came from around the world, regularly from Cheliax, and even farther east all the way from Tien.”

Mr. Niall looked at Mordecai and Fuego. “Sirs, please tell us, what is your business? It is unusual to see … if I may be frank … a well mannered Shoanti in Magnimar.”

Fuego looked to Mordecai, at a loss for words. Mordecai simply smiled at him and said, “I’ll let Fuego talk, he’s the moneymaker!”

Fuego cleared his throat, “Well, by trade we’re entrepreneurs, but by hobby we’re adventurers seeking glory and fortune. I’m looking for any business prospects. Any way that I can make money. I have a lot of gold sitting around, I love gold but I would love to have more!” He turned to Mr. Niall. “Do you do any business ‘off the books’? I understand that’s much more profitable.”

“Sir, we keep our hands out of such risky ventures, as they attract unwanted attention from the individuals already in that market who will protect their market, as well as running foul of the law.” Fuego stared at him.

Mr. Scott laughed, “I can see you’re keen to make profit any way you can.”

“Well, I am just looking for any angle,” he replied. “But, I respect a man of integrity.” He looked down at the rolled up painting that they had salvaged from the Misgivings. “We come upon great treasures in our adventures!” Fuego, with great animation, began recounting his recent combat against the giant hermit crab and his excitement at the golden helm which was the prize. When he began to discuss the recent murders in and around Sandpoint, Mordecai interrupted him. “Do you deal in art? We ran across a painting and we’re looking for a purchaser.” Mordecai unrolled and displayed the painting.

The gathered men examined the gory painting, which displayed a bullfight in which aurochs had struck down dozens of men. “Looks like a scene from the Matador’s Lodge, down in Lowcleft,” commented Mr. Smith. “I know nothing of art, but Mr. Johns over there is a collector.” They called Mr. Johns over. He examined the painting and declared, “That’s an Andosalu. Throwdown in Swynetown, if I know my art. Which I do. Where did you get this?”

Before Fuego could answer, Mordecai replied “It was a bequest to one of our associates from a friend of his, who met an untimely demise.”

“It’s for sale you say? I’ll offer … 300 sails for this, which is a fair sum. Subject, of course, to verification that it is authentic.”

Mordecai looked askance at Mr. Smith. He knew, from Hayliss Korvaski in Sandpoint, that it was likely worth twice that much. It was obvious that Mr. Smith was lowballing him. He took a deep breath, cracked his knuckles, and summoned up as much indignation as he could. “300 sails?! Are you trying to insult us? That painting was … is … all that our associate has left of his friend, cut down in the prime of life. And, as you yourself know, it is a genuine Andosalu! We certainly would not be willing to part with it for less than … I think 900 gold sails would be a fair price.” Mr. Smith smiled, and launched into his counter-offer.

Fuego looked back to the table as Mordecai and Mr. Smith haggled over the price of the painting. “Mr. Scott, I understand that there are potential business opportunities. I imagine that Mr. Niall and Mr. Smith are other investors?”

“That’s correct.”

Mr. Smith spoke up, “And how much of a commitment would you be looking for?”

“We are looking for large investors. Those with the ability to invest at least 1000 gold sails.”

“That’s reasonable. What’s the return on investment for that?”

“I would not be able to make any formal offer at this point. However,” Mr. Scott spoke slowly and deliberately as he sipped a glass of wine. “You may have heard of the Brothers of the Seven.” He continued as he saw the others nodding affirmatively. “I represent their interests here. The Brothers are an old and exclusive organization. Traditionally, membership was reserved only for a single member of the seven founding families. However, in these modern times the Brothers are seeking to expand their membership, which leads us to the real purpose of this meeting. Yes, we are looking for investors of means, but more than that, we are seeking gentlemen of sufficient … temperament who may make good Brothers. There benefits of membership will be immediately felt as direct profit, as well as on a longer term basis through the influence of your fellow Brothers. The Brothers feel that those able to make the minimum investment will have at least met one threshold required for membership.”

“I see. I am very interested in any possibility of membership. It sounds quite … profitable.” Fuego looked around, and Niall and Smith nodded affirmatively.

“Very well,” said Scott, “I will prepare formal offers for you. I invite you to join us at a formal meeting of the Brothers this coming Wealday after dinner at the following address.” He passed out cards, which provided a name “Seven’s Sawmill”.

Fuego sat back, smiling to himself. He imagined the profits that were going to accrue from the investments of his wealth. He would be able to gather more wealth in future adventures and it would grow and … “Fuego!” Mordecai poked him and broke him from his reverie. “You’re daydreaming! Look, whatever Scott’s end game is, it certainly isn’t a fundraising and membership drive.”

Fuego looked at Scott, then back at Mordecai. “I wouldn’t worry about Scott,” he whispered, “I could easily crush his hand.”

“I’m sure you could. Look, when he leaves, I’m going to follow him. I’ll use my hat of disguise so he won’t know he’s being tailed. Stay close, in case I run into trouble, but not too close.”

Mordecai and Fuego remained at the club for the balance of the afternoon, making small talk plus networking with well connected citizens of Magnimar. Finally, when Scott announced that he would be on his way, Mordecai ducked into a washroom to and disguised himself as Magnimarian gentleman. He tailed Scott down the large ramp along the Seacleft from Naos to the Dockway District. As he walked, he gazed upon the Irespan. “Where did the bridge originally go to?”, he thought to himself.

Mordecai followed Scott to a building in a working class area, where he observed a meeting. During the meeting, Mordecai changed his disguise to better fit in. After this meeting, as twilight was falling, Scott headed to the Underbridge. He walked deliberately until he came across two where he meets two individuals standing on the street corner. To Moredecai, they looked like thugs, perhaps Sczarni or drug dealers. They talked for a few minutes, shook hands, then entered an alley. Mordecai cast invisibility upon himself, then magically whispered to Fuego, “I’m going invisible, into that alley, stay here.” He followed the group into the alley, and in the twilight it looked as if, following behind the two other men, Scott’s face had transformed in a horrifying manner. One of his eyes was bulbous, he had a grimacing snarl, and the skin was patchwork. As Mordecai watched, Scott pulled a hidden war razor and the other pulled a mask, similar to Scott’s and placed it over his face. His companion, surprised and confused, was unprepared when the other man put his hand over his mouth and held him as Scott began to cut him on his chest. “Hold him,” said Scott. To the victim, he said, “You will make a fine offering. Always hungry for more wealth, no illicit substance was taboo. Anything could be bought from you. Today that all ends. What future acts would you have done for good or for ill? No one will ever know, for now they will be devoured by Father Skinsaw.” Scott expertly sliced at the man’s chest, with a minimum of splashing of blood, and the man’s struggled as Scott continued, “The Skinsaw ritual has marked your deeds and you for Gray Father. You were chosen and marked for your greed!” Then Scott slit the man’s throat.

“Good work brother,” said Scott to the other man, “setting up the ruse telling this greedy fool that a rich merchant wanted to purchase flayleaf. Take his belongings, make it look as if it were a robbery. Fare thee well until Wealday.” Mordecai did nothing to stop the murder, but he continued to follow Scott. After they left the alley, Fuego slipped in and examined the body, then caught up to his friend. “It was very competently done. No clues were left behind. That was a Sihedron rune,” he whispered. They followed Scott back to Naos, where they observed Scott go home. He kissed his wife, played with his kids, pet his dog, then sat down for dinner.

As Fuego and Mordecai headed back to the inn to meet their friends, Mordecai confessed, “I’m not looking forward to admitting to Griz that I let that guy get killed.”

Foxglove townhouse
When Aldern Foxglove returned, he greeted Griz enthusiastically. Griz introduced him to the others. Foxglove explained to Iesha and Julith, “This is my Angel! He saved me from the goblins.”

“And your dog,” Griz added.

Foxglove looked confused, then after a moment corrected himself, “Yes, he saved my dog too!”

Iesha explained that Griz had promised to tell who they suspected of helping with the Sandpoint murders, after Griz repeated his story to Foxglove about what had happened in Sandpoint during the past weeks. Foxglove asked persistently about their plans and suspicions. Finally Griz revealed his suspicions about Brothers of the Seven.

The group headed to the kitchen. Iesha and Foxglove insists they stay for dinner. In kitchen, while having drinks and preparing food, Foxglove’s faces shifts in a horrifying way, becomes featureless, writhing blob. “You’ve come too close to the Brothers of the Seven, now you must die!”

View
The Skinsaw Murders 5.7 - Chasing the Skinsaw

4707 Lamashan 31, Starday, early Morning
Kaijitsu manor, Magnimar

Fuego felt the cold shadow of the nightmare’s claw gripping his throat, strangling the light from him. Stoking the flames with in, he roared with fire and fury, and ripped Bruthazmus’s hand away. Gripping his greataxe, he pressed his attack, striking blow after blow which would have felled mortal foes, but which struck ineffectually against the fleshy dreamstuff of Bruthazmus’s tattered clothing. Looking over his shoulder at the crying dream child Ameiko, he took a step back, and said the word to signal to Bevaluu, the priest of Desna, that she should wake him: “Benadryl Cumbersnuggle!” He came to consciousness as Bevaluu shook him. Looking around, Ameiko was not in the room with him. “Hurry, help me wake them!” He and Bevaluu shook the others but were having difficulty as they were deeply sleeping.

Faheem and Naeric looked on in horror as Fuego struggled in vain against Bruthazmus. Caught up in the dream, they could not understand the words he mumbled before he faded from their sight, even though they itched at something they should have remembered! Fuego quickly faded from their thoughts as a figment of dream as they fought to protect the terrified child cowering in the corner. A purifying beam of searing light, supported by blessings and healing from Faheem, shot directly from Naeric to Bruthazmus, who closed on the elves, eyes narrowed in menace. The elves began to feel the earth shake, and their consciousness faded then reformed – they were laying down – the room had become quiet. Fuego was present, and another woman? Where was Ameiko? As they had faded they saw her, sobbing, running into a closet, as Bruthazmus floated towards her… Disoriented, Faheem took the sihedron rune from under his robes, and listened for any voice coming from it, relieved that he heard nothing.

Griz and Mordecai also came to, both similarly disoriented. “I was in a dark space,” said Griz to Mordecai, “pure black with nothing to distinguish the ground from the walls or the sky.”

“That was the dark edge of the plane of shadow,” explained Bevaluu, “which borders the material plane and the palne of dreams. A nightmare such as Bruthazmus can traverse such a realm and travel between the material plane and the dream plane or move quickly within those planes.” Griz and Mordecai surprised by the unfamiliar voice, drew their weapons and faced the priestess, ready to fight.

“Stay your swords, friends.” Fuego chuckled as he stepped in front of the halfling and the tiefling. Mordecai, looking wistful, snapped his fingers “Fuego! My apologies! I became lost in the dream! I tried to transform into a … balor, but I became distracted. There was a feast, with friends, music … people were bringing in exotic animals in cages…” He stood and walked to the walls, touching them. He muttered to himself, “Are these real?”

Bevaluu spoke up, “I have seen enough. I have gathered enough information. I know what you must do to defeat it.”

“But, priestess,” Fuego interrupted, “We couldn’t save Ameiko!”

“Fuego, child of flame, man of action, of course you can save Ameiko.” Bevaluu reached up to put her hands on Fuego’s shoulders. “You can wake her every night to stop her nightmares, but until the creature is destroyed, he will continue to stalk her dreams. If you wake her, she won’t be able to sleep. That will cause its own problems. Stopping her nightmare was not the intent of your incursion last night. It is your long-term goal.” She looked at the others, who continued to show signs of disorientation. “Fuego, listen closely, Bruthazmus is a creature of evil. You will need weapons of silver or that have been aligned as good in order to harm him.
“Can we manifest these in the dream?”

“As you go deeper into dream,” answered Bevaluu, “it will be easier to manifest your will, but it will harder to remain lucid. However, stronger the manifestation you attempt, the more difficult it will be. Fuego, it would have been simpler if you had manifested a simple flaming axe, instead of a vorpal axe. Similarly, if Griz had attempted to have manifest a single ally, instead of scores, he may have been successful, and if Mordecai had not attempted to transform into such a more powerful form as a balor demon. You are not experienced dreamers. What you attempted was beyond your skill.”

“So, if we buy silver weapons, we can take them into dream with us?”

“I wouldn’t rely on it.”

“Then we can manifest them, so long as we maintain our lucidity? How can we do so?”

“Bolster your wisdom. Any simple spell or technique for doing so could work. There’s one other aspect of defeating Bruthazmus. It will not be enough to simply destroy him in dream. He is a creature of that plane and will simply re-manifest. Bruthazmus does exist in dream, but he is also connected to the material plane. You’ll need to sever this connection. You will need to defeat or subdue him in dream. I will create for you a caduceus (kəˈdjuːʃəs) rod. It has much power related to sleep and dreams. I will infuse it with a ritual which prepared specifically to sever the connection of Bruthazmus between dream and the material plane. You will need to defeat him then drag him out of dream into the material world and defeat him here. Utilize the ritual stored in the rod. This will prevent him from fleeing into dream, and you will be able to destroy his physical body.”

“Drag him out of dream?”

“Grab him, manifest your will, and wake up.”

“When we pull him out of dream, where will he be?”

“You misunderstand. He is a nightmare. He exists in dreams. He manifests in the material plane, as you would enter or exit a building. Unlike you, who while dreaming manifests a dream self, he is not a creature in Varisia dreaming.”

“Will he have the same vulnerabilities in dream and out of dream? To silver and good aligned weapons?”

“I believe so, yes.”

“You won’t be with us?”

“No, I wouldn’t be able to communicate with you as you will need to enter deeper dream. Furthermore, soon I leave for a pilgrimage to commune with the Song of Spheres.”

“I understand, thank you priestess.”

Bevaluu bid Fuego and the others farewell. As she tied her black trimmed white robe with a brightly colored silk belt, a number of trinkets and charms attached to the robe shimmered and sparkled in the moonlight. Before parting, she prayed shortly before each of Fuego’s still disoriented friends, promptly putting causing them to sleep. “I trust they will wake more lucid after having a restful sleep.” She placed her hand on Fuego’s chest, then tucked her star knife into her belt, placed her silk cap on her head, and said with a wink, “You have sweet dreams, bloodrager.”

Fuego carried his snoring companions to their rooms. As he prepared to sleep, he thought on the night’s events, and came to a decision. He quietly left his room and entered the second floor hallway. In the moonlight, he was able to see the two Tien servants, skulking in shadows, terrified of disobeying Ameiko’s direction but obviously overcome by curiosity. He pointed at the servants and ordered in a gruff voice, “I need you to bring me something.” The servants, unable to understand the common tongue of Taldane (Tien being the common tongue in the far east), looked up to him with a mixture of fear and subservience. Finally, through pantomime, he was able to communicate what he wanted, and with many bows and, what he assumed were statements made to appease him, handed him a package containing what he was looking for.

.

4707 Lamashan 31, Starday, Morning

In the morning, a breakfast of soup, rice, and fish was waiting for the heroes in the kitchen. Fuego, up before the others, waited as they joined him one by one. He heard Mordecai whistling before he saw him, and greeted the tiefling. Mordecai considered the meal before him, and said with a laugh, “This is not what I had dreamt about, but beggers can’t be choosers!” Mordecai gestured to an envelope on the table. “What’s that?”

“It’s a letter to Ameiko, I’ve invited her to join us in the dream quest to destroy Bruthazmus.”

Mordecai put down his bowl of soup, and reached for the letter. “Do you mind?” Fuego shook his head, and Mordecai read the letter as the others joined the meal. “It’s good. Straight and too the point. I would expect nothing less from you my friend. Just make sure it doesn’t get intercepted.” He put the letter back in the envelope.

“What’s fine,” asked Griz.

“Fuego wrote to Ameiko, inviting her to join us.” Glancing up, he saw the servants, attempting to stay out of sight. “How will we explain this,” he laughed.

Griz, frowning, opened the envelope, “I thought Shoanti can’t write…” As he read the letter, Fuego explained to the group what they would have to do, as relayed by Bevaluu earlier.

“So,” said Naeric, “We need to sever the connection between dream and the material world.”

Griz put down the letter and said “Don’t bother her. She’s messed up. She’s not going to be able to do anything. She’s stuck in her nightmare state at this point.”

Fuego’s eyes lit up “This will empower her. Help heal her. As she plunges the knife into Bruthazmus’s heart, she will let out a cry, ‘Die bitch!’, and whatever hold that monster has on her will be destroyed. Mordecai, you’re close to her. What do you think?”

“We might as well. She’ll probably be there anyway.”

“We have a meeting with the judge leading the investigations this morning,” interrupted Faheem, “and perhaps we should prepare for that rather than debate the sending of a letter.” The heroes gathered their belongings. As they left, Fuego posted the letter to Sandpoint.

The Avensoar was easy to find, as it was visible from virtually any point of Magnimar (except, of course the Shadow). Rising hundreds of feet above the Seacleft, the Avensoar was a tower built into the cliff with its base in both Naos and Lowcleft below. In the grounds of the tower, the Magnimar town guard trained, performing marches and drills. The flag of Magnimar flew proudly high above the tower.

The heroes presented themselves and were escorted inside, where Lord Deverin, appearing, exhausted, waited for him. The party thread their way through the sprawling complex to a large conference room, where three officers of the guard were seated. Introductions were made by Lord Deverin, and the officers expressed concern about his health.

After a few minutes, a tall elf dressed in black robes and red collar, the trappings of a judge, entered with a number of attendants. The elf had long black hair and pale skin – more so than most elves. The elf stood and introduced himself, “I am Justice Ironbriar. I understand you are individuals from Sandpoint and you have information you wish to share. Thank you for your patience, we need only wait for Captain Macatus, as our esteemed Lord Mayor has directed that the Order of the Nail be involved with this investigation.” When the gathered officers as well as Lord Deverin heard the name, a shudder went through the room. “Well, speak of the devil,” Ironriar turned to the door as a heavily armored individual entered.

Dressed in black full plate armor adorned with a skull on the front, the figure removed his spiked helm, revealing a stern scarred face, with a military style crew cut. “Captain Macatus, thank you for joining us. Please have a seat.” Ironbriar sat and led a discussion of the ongoing problem of the killings in the city of Magnimar and the terror prevalent in the city. “Who will be next? That is the question on everyone’s minds? Is there a pattern? Well, these heroes of Sandpoint have dealt with a similar set of killings as we are facing here. And, they have been able to put a stop to it there."

Griz presented the facts as had been uncovered by the heroes, backing up, when possible, with the documents and letters gathered over the course of their investigation. (However, no mention was made of the Sihedron medallion worn by Faheem, the information from Foxglove that Xanesha had instructed him to retrieve diseased rats for her, or the invitation to meet Xanesha).

Ironbriar reviewed the letters related to killings. “Thank you. I understand that there were a number of murders and mutilations. I also understand that you captured some … thing … an undead creature in the guise of Lord Foxglove. I can tell you that our agents have investigated Lord Foxglove since receiving the information yesterday through Lord Deverin that he may have been involved and we are satisfied that the creature in your custody is no doubt an imposter.”

He reviewed the letter to Aldern Foxglove from Xanesha, and raised an eyebrow. “ ‘Xanesha, mistress of the Seven’ – The information you have casting suspicion on the Brothers of Seven must surely be fabricated. It is incredible to the point of being preposterous. The Brothers of Seven is an old and established fraternal order of this community. This … Xanesha must surely be seeking to misdirect by casting blame away from her or by using the name to give herself more credibility.” He looked towards the other officers. “Have any of you come across someone named Xanesha in your investigations?”

Looking at each other somewhat sheepishly, a nearly universal negative was the response, until Captain Macatus spoke up. “I know of Xanesha. She is not what she seems, a foul outsider from beyond. She has many men and women of Magnimar in her clutches. An abomination that should be destroyed!"

Ironbriar regarded Macatus, “Has she committed crimes, Captain?”

“None that I can prove, but she is an abomination! You know that my men and I are specially trained at rooting out and destroying chaotic outsiders and abominations such as her!” As he spoke, he looked at Mordecai, who felt a chill go through his spine. “Where are you from originally, tiefling?”

“I … I’m from, uh, around, uh, Varisia. I’ve travelled a lot… I’m a bard…” Mordecai sputtered.

The hellknight stood and walked towards Mordecai, “Where are you from, originally?”

“Captain!” Justice Ironbriar interrupted, as Macatus continued towards the visibly shaken tiefling. “Captain! We appreciate that the Order has sent a contingent to maintain order in Magnimar. However, this is not Cheliax. Proof of crimes is required. Individuals are not … eliminated based merely on distaste for their race or point of origin. Certainly not on innuendo such as ‘outsider’ or ‘abomination’.”

Captain scowled, and locked eyes with Mordecai, before returning to his seat.

Ironbriar reviewed the notes provided by Griz. "Who are these three individuals? ‘Your Lordship’, ‘The Hurter’, and … ‘The Skinsaw Man’?”

“Aldern Foxglove went insane,” responded Griz, “and his personality has been split into those three individuals! You can see from the writing, they refer to …”

Ironriar interrupted Griz, “Yes, well, it appears that these were written by three obviously deranged individuals. What makes you so certain that these are bona fide?”

“Aldern Foxglove has transformed into a ghoul and is locked in the prison at Sandpoint citadel. He knows details about me … about our relationship … that no imposter could know.”

“What sort of details?”

“Personal details?”

Mordecai spoke up, “Just tell him Griz, you were lovers! He was your sugar daddy.”

“I see,” said Ironbriar, with a wry smile. “Perhaps these individuals were familiar with you and your … relationship. Perhaps they wished to mimic Lord Foxglove. Perhaps he has enemies who wish to cast blame on him, or an admirer who wishes to step in his shoes. However, as I have said, our agents have confirmed that he has been in Magnimar during the period in which you say you did battle with him. Perhaps if we can retain these notes, we can compare to a sample of Lord Foxglove?”

Griz stood up, furious, “Look, you wanted to meet with us. But if you’re not going to have an open mind, I don’t see the point in trying to cooperate with your investigation or allowing you to retain personal letters that were addressed to me!”

“Sir,” countered Ironbriar, “I agreed to a meeting with you at the request of Lord Deverin; a request that was conveyed on behalf of you. I merely tell you the facts as our investigation has determined them. That they do not lead to the same conclusions you have made does not imply a closed mind. I must emphasize that we will need to retain the notes in your possession. If you do not agree to this, I will simply order them seized as evidence in an ongoing investigation.”

In response, Fuego offered, "We will copy them for you.”

“I am sure,” replied Ironbriar, looking disdainfully at Fuego, “that my trained agents will be able to handle be better than a Shoanti … barbarian.”

Mordecai interjected “Please take them to copy, with your bond and that of Magnimar and the Avensoar, that they will be returned to us by nightfall.”

Ironbriar considered this and agreed. “Thank you sir Tiefling, your proposal is acceptable.”

Griz, relentless in pursuit of his quarry, returned to the issue of the identity of the murderer. “Justice Ironbriar, you say that your agents determined that Aldern Foxglove was in Magnimar at the time we say we captured him. What is your proof? What is his alibi for his whereabouts?”

Justice Ironbriar locked eyes with Griz, and said slowly, “You presume to make demands of me?”

“We need proof!”

“What is your business here, exactly? You obviously have come from Sandpoint seeking something. But it is not to enforce the laws of Magnimar. You have no jurisdiction here. This is Sandpoint. I do appreciate that you have brought a murderer in Sandpoint to justice. But, you are not deputies of Magnimar. This not Riddleport, Korvosa, or Cheliax. We follow the rule of law and by that we ensure the freedom of individuals from arbitrary deprivations of life and property. You have presented the evidence and it will be considered as part of our investigation. If it is found that Lord Foxglove is involved with something untoward, due process of law will be applied. But, you are in no position to demand details of the investigation into these horrible murders.”

Griz considered silently, then finally answered, “Will it be a problem if we speak with Foxglove?”

“As long as you do nothing unlawful. You may certainly have a lunch with your … friend. However, do not harass or molest any person in Magnimar. If you discover evidence of crimes, bring them to the attention of the authorities and they will be dealt with appropriately. This matter is being investigated. Do not interfere with the investigation. DO not take matters into your own hands.” Ironbriar stood and gathered his documents. He gestured to his attendants, and as he prepared to leave he said “I suggest that you conclude your business here and return to Sandpoint where you can continue to be of service of the good people of that town. Thank you and good day.”

Griz was not content to let this matter go. “Justice Ironbriar, if we find that Foxglove, or anyone else, is involved in these murders, we will not stand idly by. "

Ironbriar stopped and turned around. “You have captured the individual responsible for the Sandpoint murders. Be sure that the whoever is responsible for the murders in Magnimar will be is brought to justice, and after trial, if he is founds guilty, he will be imprisoned in the Hells and will likely never again see the light of day. Again, I caution you not to take matters into your own hands.”

“We would prefer to collaborate with the Avensoar,” Griz pushed back, “but we will act on our own if need be.”

“Very well,” said Ironbriar with tight lips as he walked out the door.

An officer spoke with Naeric to obtain the names and contact information of the heroes, and provided information about how to retrieve the documents later that day. As the room cleared, Captain Macatus stood up, and said in a strong voice across the room “We will speak later, tiefling.” He donned his spiked helmet and left the room. Mordecai twitched.

“Why is he so interested in you?” Faheem put his hand on Mordecai’s shoulder.

Mordecai took a deep breath. “Maybe he’s suspicious of any Tiefling who isn’t in Cheliax. Many tieflings flee bondage.” As they left the Avensoar, Mordecai explained to the others about the Hellknights. “They’re a sort of paladin, dedicated to enforcing law at any cost. The armor they wear is the prize for surviving the test to become a hellknight – they must defeat a demon. They are really prevalent in Cheliax, and, while they’re not particularly evil, neither are they good. You don’t want to cross them and it’s not good that he’s taken an interest in me.”

Outside the Avensoar, the heroes considered their next steps. Mordecai insisted that he believe that Ironbriar, although misguided and bull-headed, was on the level. “I observed him during our meeting and I sensed no deception.”

“I think Mordecai and I should take advantage of the offer to introduce me to Xanesha,” added Fuego, “I think it was strange that they had never heard of her. And, I’m very curious about her true nature, given what the hellknight said.”

“True, true,” said Faheem, and he pointed out, “yet, be careful. We were warned not to interfere with the investigation and to return to Sandpoint.”

“Even so,” Griz responded, “I want to meet with ‘Aldern Foxglove’ and see him for myself. I think if anyone can determine if this is truly Foxglove, it would be me. As Ironbriar said, there’s no law against me visiting a friend.”

The heroes bid each other good luck as they went off in two separate directions.

View
The Skinsaw Murders 5.6 - Chasing the Skinsaw

4707 Lamashan 30, Early Evening
The Serpent’s Run, Magnimar

The heroes left Lord Deverin’s home and made their way through Magnimar’s capital district towards the wealthy Alabaster district. After attending the nights event at the Serpent’s Run, they planned to confront Bruthazmus. They passed by the Osprey Club, where people outside in fancy clothes were waiting. They passed the Cenotaph, one of the main monuments in town. As they headed west, the streets became even cleaner and clearer. In general, lower classes weren’t welcome in that section of the city, as was made clear by the cordons set up by the town guard to funnel the “common folk” from lower Magnimar directly to the Serpent’s Run and ensure that none wandered where they were not meant to wander.

When they reached the Serpent’s Run, Fuego heard his name called out by Sergeant Flynn, a large muscular man with short cropped sandy blonde hair and a goatee. Standing with him were a half dozen men and women dressed in clean but inauspicious garb – guardsmen and guardswomen off duty and enjoying an evening at the Serpent’s Run away from the Avensoar. Sergeant Flynn was the man who had been on guard when the heroes entered town earlier that day, and made introductions to his brothers and sisters in arms, “This is the famous Fuego, the great Shoanti warrior that we heard songs about today at the Lost Coast gate."

As they passed through the “common” gate (as opposed to the gate which would allow spectators into the high cost private seating high upon the ring of the Serpent’s Run arena, they viewed the events scheduled for the evening and those coming up. Tonight would be highland games – feats of strength – and racing. The off duty officers pointed to an announcement for an upcoming gladiatorial combat show, excitedly discussing the promise of blood, dismemberment, and death.

They group of heroes and officers entered the common area of the Serpent’s Run. The Serpent’s Run itself was an oval shaped structure rising about twenty meters to the sky, with box seating throughout the structure allowing those who paid the exorbitant price a fine view of the events in the center. Everyone else – the “common” folk – stood and formed a crowded ring around the pit area in the middle where the events took place. Two large screens on either side of the arena allowed the spectators to view the events using some sort of magic to project the images on the screen as they were happening.

In the center were many competitors, including two large groups. The first, a group of Shoanti, and the second, a group of dwarves. Both were dressed in outlandish outfits with bright and colorful colors. Both groups shouted insults and threats as they performed feats of strength – lifting heavy objects, carrying objects, throwing objects.

Fuego, the Shoanti bloodrager, gathered lots of attention from the other spectators in the audience. He allowed them to touch his large muscles, and some said disparaging things (for example, that he should be down in the coliseum, rather than causing trouble in town). Fuego boasted about his feats – up to and including slaying gods in the Varisian hinterlands. He explained that he had gathered this group of adventurers and allowed them to have a small portion of treasure that he collected from his adventures. Once, he bragged, they even found a gold helmet that was a meter across – a grown man could have hidden inside. He bought rounds of drinks for everyone and during the course of the evening spent a small fortune – over 50 golden sails (https://pathfinderwiki.com/wiki/List_of_currencies#Varisia). He bought a bottle of top shelf “Hellfire” from Cheliax, which he and Mordecai, due to their backgrounds, were easily able to swallow, unlike Faheem and Naeric earlier in the day.

As the evening progressed, Fuego, through his boasting and generosity, had gathered a large crowd around himself. A gentleman dressed in fine clothes, approached Mordecai. “Sir, your friend appears to have done well for himself. Perhaps he would be interested in making an investment.” The gentleman handed him a card. “You can use this card as an invitation to the Osprey Club, where your friend can make the acquaintance of my principal. Thank you for your time.” Mordecai looked at the card and read “Brotherhood of the Seven” and below this was signed “Xanesha, Mistress of the Seven.”

Over the course of the night, the races were rousing and brutal. A chariot race ended in a collision, with the mangled bodies of the horses and the drivers carried away to the cheers of the crowd. Apparently, the crowd loved competition, but loved violence even more.

4707 Lamashan 30, late evening
Kaijitsu Manor, Magnimar

Having bid farewell to their new friends and made their way Kaijitsu manor in Naos on the eastern side of upper Magnimar, Mordecai disguised himself as Ameiko using magic. He used the key which had been stolen by Griz earlier to himself and his friends in through the front door. Before him stood a long hallway leading down the length of the building to a dining room and kitchen. Beyond that, the manor grounds stood at the edge of the Seacleft, the cliff dividing upper Magnimar in the west from lower Magnimar to the east. A sitting room stood to the right, and stairs led to a basement below and to bedrooms above. Griz noted that he hallway had been spruced up since his visit earlier.

Mordecai, using magic to speak in Tien, called out in a haughty voice. The elderly couple who were the only remaining servants rushed out and bowed, speaking frantically, “Lady Ameiko, is it really you? We saw your father today. Bad omen. Is it really you? My lady, we are so happy you are safe. Blessings are upon us! What can it mean? My lady is it really you? Is this a test of the Master’s spirit? Is he angry? Is it really you? May I touch you to ensure you are real, please let this humble servant touch you.”

“Begone! My guests will stay here tonight, and for some time. Do not bother them, no matter what you hear.” Mordecai dismissed the servants, who ran off, one gathering linens to make up rooms for the guests, the other to prepare food and drink.

Two of the party members headed to lower Magnimar to rouse Bevaluu, the priestess of Desna. Meeting her at the grounds of the Cynosure tower, gazing at the stars. She gathered some supplies for the ritual ahead and followed them back to the manor.

Gathered back in Ameiko’s room at the manor, Bevaluu explained that they would need to lure the nightmare creature with a spirit candle. “I will be awake and meditating, viewing your collective dream. Try to remain lucid. You will need to confront the monster, with courage. I cannot say exactly how long or what you need to do with exactitude. You will be asleep and will not be able to hear me. I will not be able to provide you any assistance. Try to remain lucid – by focusing your will, you may be able to alter the very dream stuff and create your own reality. But remember, you will be in the natural realm of this monster, so beware.”

From Ameiko’s second story window, they were able to see the Irespan to the north and the moon reflected in the water as they drifted off to sleep. Bevalu performed the ritual and lit the spirit candle. They implanted a code word in their minds – “Benedrill Cumbersnuggle” – for when they were ready to be awakened from the dream’s grasp.

They “woke”, finding themselves alone in a place resembling Ameiko’s room. It was disorienting, misty, quiet. A fog hung in the air. Beams of moonlight pierced the fog and bathed in a ghostly blueish glow.

Griz yawned, and scratched his face. He had to pee. He walked out the door, into the swirling mist. He felt like he was going to explode as he wandered down the hall, looking for a washroom. Naeric and Mordecai followed after him, and looked down the hallway outside Ameiko’s room, but the fog thickened to the point where not even Naeric’s elven eye or Mordecai’s darkvision could penetrate it.

Faheem and Fuego stayed back. Fuego mediated on manifesting a powerful weapon and armor, in preparation to face Bruthazmus. Faheem felt the sihedron amulet he wore around his neck, and considered whether it might be connected to this realm. He drew it and examined it. He felt the amulet searching for something. From the amulet, he heard a commanding voice in his head. “What is this place? Who are you? Tell me your name?” Faheem focused his will to resist the commands and withstood the call.

Naeric and Mordecai followed Griz down the long, long hall. They heard him mumbling about relieving himself, but no matter how they hurried after him, they could not catch up to him. Mordecai became swept into the dream state and wandered into a kitchen, seeking a snack. As Griz continued forward, an all too familiar shape emerged from the fog. It was Bruthazamus, transformed into a nightmare by the Mother of Monsters herself. The bugbear held his longbow with his one good hand, and the other, a shifting shadow reached out towards the halfling. Bruthazmus was wearing rags, which shifted and moved around in an unnatural manner. He moved towards Griz, not walking bur rather floating through the air. “Ha ha ha little one, I find you here alone. I shall toy with you as I have toyed with your friend!” Shocked into lucidity by the sight of the nightmare that he had sought out, Griz took a breath to calm himself and thought “I’m not alone … I’m not alone.” This, however, proved more difficult than Griz realized as the nightmare closed in to attack.

Naeric, finding himself suddenly alone, heard through the fog the sound of Bruthazmus taunting Griz and rushed forward. He came through the fog, and saw the shadowy eyes and distorted face of Bruthazmus, as he attacked Griz, who appeared to be cowering. Naeric considered channeling positive energy but realized that it would not have any effect as Brutazmus was not undead. He looked at the nightmarish bugbear, and pleaded “What is it that you want, Bruthazmus?” The response was a contemptuous laugh “I want to remove your flesh. I want to see your pain. I want to see what you’re really made of. I want to see what is inside.” Naeric, hoping to relieve Griz from Bruthazmus’s attack, taunted him: “Then come for me, monster!”, and fled down the hall, back in the direction that he came from. Bruthazmus gave chase, firing arrows at the elf cleric. Griz, imagining that he was surrounded by dream copies of himself, fired at the form of Bruthazmus as he floated into the mist in the direction of Naeric. “I’ll be back for you little one!”

Meanwhile, Faheem and Fuego, in Ameiko’s “room”, heard a child crying. Fuego abandoned his attempt to manifest arms and searched the room for the child’s cry. He followed the sound under the bed, which was cavernous and dark. A pair of eyes glittered under the bed, and he heard the child’s crying. Trying to lift the bed, it was too heavy, as if the darkness was gripping the bed. He considered crawling into the cavernous darkness under the bed, but rather decided to loft his greataxe, and bringing it down he sundered the bed in two with a burst of flame. Darkness came pouring out of the crack where the axe split the bed as if a dam of ink had burst, and from the midst of the blackness Fuego heard a girl’s scream. “Mommy! Daddy! Tsuto! James!”

“It’s Ameiko!” Fuego cried out. Faheem cast spells to bolster Fuego as he grasped the two sides of the bed and with a grunt, heaved the two halves apart. He reached his hand into the darkness and feeling the dream-child Ameiko’s tiny hand, grasped her. The darkness, grasping at her like tar, did not want to her go, but Fuego focused his will and his strength and and pulled her out of the black void into the moonlight.

At this moment, Naeric stumbled into the room, wounded by arrows in his torso and limbs. As Bruthazmus floated in, firing arrows at the elf, Naeric attempted to summon a light to blind Bruthazmus, but it simply had no effect – it was as water on a duck’s back. Faheem considered whether Naeric’s wounds would actually affect his body in the material plane, and calmly stepped forward, calling upon the wisdom of the owl to bolster and protect himself and his allies.

Meanwhile, Mordecai had found the kitchen, and was feasting with friends old and new, from Magnimar, Sandpoint, and Cheliax. He gorged himself on pies and chickens. He gave a toasted and sang and enjoyed the raucous party. After some time, he came to lucidity, and remembered the peril that he and his friends faced. Focusing his will, he attempted to craft his dream and transform himself into one of the lords of hell, a mighty Balor demon, but to no avail.

Griz, no longer in danger, lost his lucidity. He noticed a black space open in the wall. Fascinated by it, he stepped into the space and noted that there was solid ground beneath him, but nothing he could see. Turning around, he observed the outline of the door with the moonlight shrouded misty hallway, but, walking to the other side of the door, saw nothing. He lit a torch, trying to see the edge of the blackness, but saw nothing.

Meanwhile, Bruthazmus floated forward through the doorway. Seeing Fuego holding Ameiko, he scowled and floated forward in challenge. Fuego, blood boiling, cried out and charged the monster, but the fleshy dreamstuff of Bruthazmus’s clothing protected him. Bruthazmus counter-attacked, grievously wounding Fuego. The elven druid bolstered the bloodrager with protecting and healing spells. However, the nightmare was not without his own protections, as the wounds that were inflicted upon him healed before the eyes of the heroes. The elves saw the bloodrager reach the tipping point, attacking with no regard for his own safety or losing awareness of the nature of the dream, and they gave each other a knowing glance, as they knew they were in great peril. Naeric formed the very stuff of dream into the searing light of Sarenrae, and stepped up to face the menace before him.

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The Skinsaw Murders 5.5 - Chasing the Skinsaw

4707 Lamashan 30, Afternoon
The Underbridge, Magnimar

As Naeric left Zadendi at the shrine of Sarenrae, he told Faheem about how she had made him feel a bit uncomfortable. “Why don’t you invite her to join us at the Friendly Merchant? Perhaps she has some influence down here? She likes you? Just play on it. ‘Hey Miss Dandy, you want a brandy?’” Naeric considered it. “I suppose she could be useful…”
Zadendi accepted the offer after thinking for a moment. “This will be an opportunity to spread light together.” They made their way through the shanty town of the Underbridge. People were literally living in boxes, some people looking menacing but not starting any trouble with the three elves.

They arrived at a large building at the edge of the water under the bridge with a dock attached. People were unloading goods … it didn’t seem like any kind of official “longshoreman” work… they got the sense that there was some smuggling going on. As they approached, a shout was heard from inside the building and a man staggered out the door and with another man stumbling after him. The two men struggled in the street. Faheem, thinking “I must balance their anger”, stepped forward, saying, “Good friends, what is this altercation about?” Naeric eyed the combatants and, not recognizing them, stood back with his arms folded across his chest, thinking, “I’ll just let the dust settle”. The men ignored Faheem’s attempts to calm them down. Zadendi looked at Naeric, and touching his arm, said, “Brother, let’s do something.” Her holy vestments glow as she stepped into the middle of the combat, trying to stop the fight. One of the combatants pulled out a knife and drunkenly stabbed at his rival, accidentally stabbing Zadendi as she got in the middle. As Zadendi fell to the ground, Faheem stood up, and raising his hands to the air, started gathering storm clouds above him. The Shadow grew darker, as clouds drew up under the bridge, crackling with energy.

Naeric approached the man holding the knife, who brandished it. “Stay away! I don’t need none of your preaching! I have something to settle with this guy!” He turned back and swiped at the other man, who was slashed and bleeding profusely.

Faheem threatened, “Stop immediately or I’ll burn you to a crisp.”

The swaggering man countered “Go back and play in the woods, elf!”

Naeric stepped up, using the full weight of his authority as a servant of the Dawnflower. “I ask you to settle this conflict in a civilized manner, and the light of Sarenrae will shine on you. You’ll never be able to find a path of peace if you continue in this manner.”

The man, humbled, put his knife down. “Elf… I don’t know what path you’re talking about … but you come here with your fancy light, and it will be dark again once you leave.” Turning to the other man, he spit “Rip me off again, and there will be more of that.”

Zadendi healed herself and advised the others that she would take the wounded man to the shrine to care for him. Faheem dismissed the storm clouds that the gathering crowd had been staring at. As they dissipated, they could once again see the top of the bridge and the pilings, as well as the teetering old clock tower with the angel statue on top.

The Friendly Merchant itself was a dive, not dissimilar to the Fatman’s Feedbag. The customers were rough, and the musicians seemed out of their elements – drunken customers were booing and throwing things at them. Naeric recognized an elf named Siov Castameel. Siov was dressed in a tacky silk shirt and wearing a many rings and necklaces, the jewels of which Naeric suspected were not genuine. Naeric knew Siov as a petty criminal who had his hands in many different pies. Castameel saw Naeric and a grimace crossed his face. “Naeric of the Dawnflower. This is not a pleasant sight. To what do I owe this displeasure?”

“I’m not here to cause any trouble, I just want to make things better.”

“You can do that by removing yourself from my premises.”

“Look, I’m not the person I used to be. I’ve come to the light of Sarenrae.”

“Yeah, I know that. I don’t need your light here. How is it going to make me any money? Either buy a drink or get out.”

“Siov, I can talk with the Lord-Mayor and … "

Siov began mocking Naeric: “Hey, everyone, we have a friend of the Lord-Mayor here!”
People started heckling “Oh, great, tell him to send some of that fancy steak down from the Seacleft, I’m sure he could spare a few … tons!”

“I’ll tell you what,” Siov offered, “as a welcome to the Friendly Merchant, since you’re friends with the Lord-Mayor, I will pour you a glass of my finest Hellfire brandy imported from Cheliax, and I will only charge you the price for a friend of the Lord-Mayor…" He poured two glasses and said, with a smirk on his lips, “That will be ten gold pieces each, please!”

Faheem grabbed his glass, and said “How about we make a friendly wager. If I can take this in one shot, I get it for free?”

Sion laughed and clapped “Certainly my friend, and if you can’t, you can buy a round for your … couple dozen friends in the bar!”

Faheem started casting a purification spell, but Castameel stayed him “Oh no, no magic, you drink it as it is.” The people in the bar started getting rowdy “Drink drink!” they chanted. Naeric considered drying to palm the drink, but with everyone looking at him, he just paid ten gold to Castameel who rolled his eyes, then turned to Faheem. “What’s your name, friend?”

Faheem introduced himself and Castameel introduced him to the rest of the bar as Faheem began drinking. His eyes watered and sweat came out of his face as he swallowed the entire drink, then slammed the drink down. He belched a little flame, as Castameel shook his hand. “Naeric, this is why I don’t like you. You’re just no fun. Faheem, I don’t know why you hang out with this loser, but since you are, Naeric maybe you could learn a thing or two…”

“Well, I think everyone should have a cleric around…” Faheem muttered. He turned to Castameel, “So, Siov, let’s pretend that I want to put a tattoo on the chest of someone who’s not living anymore, who would I have to talk to?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, see this rune here? I have this thing where I want to put this on people who aren’t alive…”

“Blackfingers help me! Put that away!”

“Have you seen that before?”

“Uh, where did you get that?”

“That’s my business, and your business is that you can earn money if you can help me find someone who can help me with these … issues…”

“Look, I don’t know what your issues are, but I’m surprised that you’re flashing that thing around.”

“Well, I’m only showing it to you.” Faheem put the Sihedron medallion back under his tunic. Siov looked around, and being satisfied that no one was eavesdropping on their conversation, he asked for clarification. “What exactly is it that you’re looking for? Someone to carve that onto a dead body? Be straight with me.”

“Actually, I’m not trying to carve this into someone, I’m looking for the person who did such a thing.”

“I just want to talk about some people who have been disappeared,” added Naeric
Siov interrupted him. “No, no, no, lets not talking about that… People who disappear do so for a reason and asking questions about that is a good way to make yourself disappear.” The trio sat in silence for a few minutes. Despite his initial misgivings, Siov’s curiosity eventually got the better of him. “Just to be clear, that wasn’t you who’s been carving that symbol into people?”

“That wasn’t us.”

“I don’t know who it was, but I do know that a Sczarni boss was found with that carved into him. You should be careful with that symbol, or people are going to come looking for you.”

“Who, Sczarni bosses? Where can I find them?”

“I don’t think you want to talk to them.”

“Look, I know they’re a tough crowd, but I want to get in touch with them. Maybe you can spread the word that I want to speak with them. Maybe they can leave me a message at the Celwynvian Charge.” The Celwynivian Charge was a gift to the people of Magnimar from Faheem’s people. When it was sent twenty years ago, it was a small stone seed. Following the instructions of the elves, the seed was planted in a park in Lowcleft, where over the years it grew into a large exotic stone tree which flowered every year. It was meant to be a symbol of burgeoning trade between the people of Magnimar and of Celwynvian – however, the siege of the City of Emeralds by dark forces, which forced Faheem out of his home, had quashed all hope of trade for the foreseeable future.

Siov considered. “Maybe if one wants to get in touch with you, you’ll be speaking with them."

Faheem thought to drop the only name he knew. “We’re friends with Jubrayl Vhiski, you know.”
Castameel glared at him and laughed “Vhiski? From the boonies? Sandpoop, isn’t it? What do I care about Sandpoop? Is that where you’re from?”

“I pass through there from time to time….”

“Look, I don’t think you know what you’re trying to get yourself into. You seem like a nice elf from Celwynvian, but again I warn you against asking questions, or you may find yourself having a meetings that don’t go the way you want them to.”

The conversation with Siov petered off and Faheem and Naeric spent the next few hours at the Friendly Merchant speaking and drinking with the customers. Naeric continued to ask direct questions about the murders and heard rumors of a walking scarecrow seen around the Underbridge. “I saw it with my own eyes. It was ten feet tall and held a sickle, and it smelled like rotting meat!” “It had four arms and cut someone in half.” “I heard from my sister, she saw it too!” Others disputed the stories, “You were drunk!”
While Naeric asked questions, Faheem caroused and placed wagers on a macabre pool of when the bridge and the Clock Tower would collapse, and how many people would die in the collapses. "Well, your friend the Lord-Mayor ain’t spending the money to take them down safely so we may as well try to get some fun out of it!”

4707 Lamashan 30, Afternoon
Magnimar, Naos

Meanwhile, Griz, Mordecai, and Fuego headed back to Naos to scope out the Kaijitsu manor. The gates to the grounds of the manor were closed, and no servants were in sight. It was a busy day in Naos with people walking by enjoying the fall afternoon. Mordecai, using magic, disguised himself as Lonjiku Kaijitsu. As Griz and Fuego stood off to the distance, Mordecai called out for someone to let him in. A couple of elderly servants cracked the door open to look, and when they saw “Lonjiku”, obvious fear and shock fell on their faces, and they whispered to each other as they quickly closed the door. Mordecai realized that word of Lonjiku’s death must have reached Magnimar, and changed his disguise to Ameiko. He whispered to Fuego and Griz, “Hells, of course they knew he already died. They must have thought they saw a ghost. I probably scared the crap out of those servants.”

Griz decided to sneak in through the gate and as he was squeezing through some bushes, was noticed by a passerby, who called out “Sir, what are you doing at the Kaijitsu manor.” He began calling for the guards. Griz silently cursed to himself as he hid himself in one of the many overgrown bushes at the manor grounds. It was obvious that the place was run down. The grounds were overgrown, the manor itself needed new paint and repairs.

Town guard came to investigate, and people pointed to Fuego. They immediately approached Fuego in an aggressive manner “Sir, what are you doing here. There’s been a disturbance here. What is your business here?”

“I was coming to visit my good friend Ameiko, I know her from Sandpoint.”

Scoffing, the guard said “Ameiko Kaijitsu!? She’s no friend of a Shoanti scum such as yourself. Come with us sir, we need to take you to the Avensoar.” As they came closer, Mordecai, still disguised as Ameiko, approached, and the guard immediately took on a conciliatory tone. “Lady Kaijitsu, we’re sorry that this ruffian was bothering you. We’ll have him taken out of here and you won’t see him again.”

Mordecai corrected the guard “No, he’s my friend from Sandpoint,” and assured the guard that Fuego was in fact “her” bodyguard, and that there was no halfling burglaring the manor.

Griz easily snuck into a back door of the manor, where he was able to scout the place to get a quick layout. The manor itself was longer front to back than it was wide. It was three stories with a basement. A long hall led from the front door to the back of the manor. Upstairs were rooms that were used by the Kaijitsu’s when they stayed in Magnimar, but as it had not been in use for many months and not kept up well, it was in poor condition. Griz was able to find a set of keys in the study, and on the second floor he found what appeared to be Ameiko’s room used when she stayed here (she grew up in Sandpoint and never lived here full time). The two elderly servants were scrambling around the house frantically trying to get the place ready. While they were speaking in Tien, the Kaijitsu’s native tongue, it was fairly clear that they were expecting important company, perhaps expecting that their lord had come back from the dead.

4707 Lamashan 30, Evening
Manor of the Simple Lord, Magnimar

The heroes met back at Lord Deverin’s (the Simple Lord) home. They had a number of leads to look into: Aldern Foxglove’s home, Pug’s contraptions, the guards who wanted to meet them at the Serpent’s run, and the Osprey Club. But first, they discussed what they had learned with Lord Deverin. They had shared with him the list of potential victims for the Sihedron ritual that Xanesha had provided Aldern Foxglove, but which Aldern had not destroyed as ordered. On the list were the victims that had been murdered by Foxglove (crossed off), as well as other citizens of Sandpoint that the heroes were familiar with and names that they weren’t familiar with. One of the names was Haldmeer Grobas – the Lord Mayor of Magnimar, as well as others that Lord Deverin recognized as influential individuals of Magnimar – merchants, nobles, adventurers, and politicians, as well as thieves and criminals. Lord Deverin was shocked to see the Lord-Mayor’s name and while he felt that the Lord-Mayor looked after his own interests as much or more as the interests of the city, he did not wish for a murder to be committed. Having shared this information with his contacts, he had gathered their interest and set up a meeting with none other than one of the Justice’s of the high court – a Justice Ironbriar, who was charged with coordinating the investigation of the murders. Lord Deverin was able to confirm that the victims had been mutilated with some sort of star rune, and while he couldn’t speak for whether they were all “greedy” or not, he was able to confirm that many were successful merchants or otherwise well to do members of the community.

“Another curious thing, you mentioned the name of a woman … Xanesha? And you mentioned the young lady … Nualia? I asked around and discovered that there is a woman named Xanesha, she comes from the east somewhere. She apparently is some sort of dilettante who makes the social circles. In any case, apparently she took a young lady named Nualia under her wing about four years ago.” The heroes reviewed Nualia’s journal and discovered the following entries, approximately four years old:

Abadius 25, 4703 – I’ve been in Magnimar for over a month, living in the Shadow under the bridge. I heard rumors that they think I burnt to death in the fire. Also, it sounds like Atsuii Kaijitsu fell off her balcony, apparently around the same time that they killed my baby. Her brains smashed all over a rock. Ha ha ha ha. FUCK THAT BITCH. Serves her right! And apparently there’s someone they call Chopper who is doing good work slicing up everyone in Sandpoint, and they are right scared. Right now I really want to find HIM, that craven turd who abandoned me and cut his heart out LIKE HE CUT OUT MINE!

Sarenith 3, 4703 – I enlisted a group of Norgorber worshippers here – they call him Father Skinsaw – to help me find Delek. I burnt his heart but now I just feel … let down. I have to finish what I started in Sandpoint. I took one of these Skinsaw men as my lover, and I can feel his seed growing in me. I hope the Mother will bless this child as truly frightening.

Erastus 15, 4703 – The leader of the Skinsaw Cult is a woman named Xanesha. She is ruthless and cunning, and tells me that I am a kindred spirit. She gave me a “Sihedron medallion.” It’s some kind of Thasillonian artifact, and I can sense the power in it, filling me with vigor. She told me that I have a larger part to play and that my dreams were a map to my destiny. So, I am returning to Sandpoint, where the Mother first came to my dreams.

Naeric identified Norgorber as “the Gray Master” – a god common to thieves – but he wasn’t familiar with his guise as “Father Skinsaw”. However, they were all too familiar with “the Skinsaw Man”, one of the personalities of Aldern Foxglove. Faheem fingered the Sihedron medallion that he had recovered from Nualia after they defeated her.

Lord Deverin confirmed the meeting with Justice Ironbriar would take place the next day, and confirmed that Mordecai would be able to play at the Triodeia and that he would be able to take them as guests to the Osprey Club. He also mentioned to Mordecai that there was another tiefling in Magnimar – a resident sculptor of erotic macabre sculptures. The tiefling – an androgynous individual named Ayavah, had a shop in the Shadow.
The heroes headed out, having determined to meet the town guards at the Serpent’s Run, and then arrange for a confrontation with Bruthazmus in the Kaijitsu manor, then meet with Justice Ironbriar the next day.

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The Skinsaw Murders 5.4 - Chasing the Skinsaw

4707 Lamashan, early afternoon
Naos, Magnimar

Griz, Mordecai, Fuego, Naeric, and Faheem sipped tea with Hobart Deverin in his sitting room. His humility and generosity to the common folk of Magnimar had earned him the derisive term “Simple Lord” amongst the other nobility of Magnimar, but he took the title with pride. Lord Deverin looked unhealthy, and after a fit of coughing, addressed the gathered party. “Thank you for paying me the honor of a visit. I have word from my niece Kendra that you have done many great services for Sandpoint in the past months, and they are in your debt many times over.” Griz, all business as usual, attempted to get right into the meat of the matter “My lord, we have put a stop to a series of murders in Sandpoint and we believe they are connected to Magnimar, we wish to seek* your assistance with …” Lord Deverin cut him off with a gentle wave, “All in good time my friend. First, please tell me about yourselves.”

One by one, the heroes introduced themselves:

  • Griz, the halfling, armed with a bow and dressed in natural colors, explained that he had grown up in the halfling community in the southern district of Magnimar known as Ordellia, but had left many years ago.
    Fuego, the Shoanti warrior dressed in light armor and armed with a great axe, explained that he had descended the giant stairs from the Storval Plateau and headed south in search of adventure and glory.
  • Naeric, half elf and cleric of Sarenrae, dressed in simple traveler’s clothes underneath which the sun of Sarenrae glowed, explained that he had grown up on the streets of the Underbridge, and had found the light of Sarenrae, narrowly avoiding being dragged into the dredges of crime and corruption.
  • Faheem, the elven druid, explained that he was a refugee from Celwynvian, the city of Emeralds, besieged by dark forces.
  • Finally, Mordecai, dressed in fine clothing but magically disguised as a human, introduced himself as a performer and asked Lord Deverin if he could possibly arrange for him to perform at the Triodeia, a famous opera house near the northern gates of the city. As Lord Deverin spoke to Mordecai, he asked probingly “Mordecai, are you from Cheliax by any chance?” When Mordecai denied it, Lord Deverin pushed, pointing out that Mordecai is a Chelaxian name…

Lord Deverin stood with the group before the south facing window, which overlooked the Seacleft, the sheer cliff which divided the eastern and western halves of the city. Looking out, they could see the community of Ordellia to the south, across the Yondabakari River. Closer, they could see the streets of Lowcleft, empty now but surely to fill up with revelers as night falls, and the suburbs and temples of Keystone. To the south, at the edge of town rising above the Seacleft, was the Arvensoar, home to the town guard. And, to the north, rising above the infamous Shadow, was the titanic ruined bridge known only as the Giant’s Bridge – an ancient remnant of the Thassalonian civilization, no one knew where this titanic bridge once would have led to. It ran from the Sea Cleft out into the ocean, and collapsed after a short while.

“Now, please tell me how I can help you…” When the heroes explained about Aldern Foxglove and the murders, he expressed surprise, as he had loaned Aldern 2000 gold pieces in the past three days, and had dined with Foxglove and his wife. Lord Deverin even confirmed that a young lady from Sandpoint was lodging with the Foxgloves. Lord Deverin confirmed that murders were also taking place in Magnimar, and while he could not confirm that the victims were all “greedy”, he had heard that they the bodies had been mutilated with some sort of glyph or rune. Lord Deverin finished listening to the story, and promised to connect the heroes to whomever was investigating these murders. He also promised to use his connections to assist the heroes to enter the exclusive Osprey Club (where they wished to sell some paintings) and for Mordecai to be able to perform at the prestigious Triodeia Opera House. He gave one final word: “Magnimar is a free city. We do not have stringent laws intended merely to give guard reason to harass and bully the citizens. At the same time, Magnimar is not Riddleport. This is not a lawless pirate town wherein adventurers can commit assaults and burglaries without consequences. Please govern yourselves.”
The heroes headed down the causeway from Naos to lower Magnimar and split up to make contact with the clerics who might guide them. Naeric and Faheem headed under the bridge to the Shadow, where Naeric sought the old shrine of Sarenrae. The Shadow was a run down place, a home of despair and destitute in Magnimar. Naeric turned down the familiar alley, walking past refuse and waste, and was surprised to discover that the shrine was swept clean, with bright banners displaying Sarenrae’s symbol hung on the walls. Naeric was surprised because, the last he had heard, the shrine had been abandoned since the previous cleric of Sarenrae had been murdered. A crimson haired half-elf dressed in sensible street-smart breeches and tunic with a gold sash emblematic of the Dawnflower. She introduced herself as Zadendi and greeted Naeric warmly. Yes, she had heard of violence but not of any targeted or serial killings. As they spoke, she implored Naeric to spend time with her at the shrine, to bring light to the undercity – however, she was a bit too… friendly … for Naeric, and as she caressed his arm, he backed away, making excuses. She encouraged him to ask questions at the Friendly Merchant – a public house of ill repute that Naeric was familiar with – and to come visit with her.

Griz, Mordecai, and Fuego met with Annamentus Jivorus, the cleric of Pharasma, who told them that word had come of the infestation of ghouls in Varisia, and while he was not strong enough to dispel evil at Magnimar Estate, inquisitors of Pharasma had been sent for from Korvosa to the east, and would arrive in a matter of months. However, there was nothing that he could do at this time.

Greater luck at Desna’s church – the Cynosure Tower (so named in honor of Desna’s palace in the firmament). They met the Varisian priestess, Bevaluu Zimantiu, in the open-air courtyard of the temple. Bevaluu looked up into the daytime sky and told them that she would be able to provide a scroll of dispel evil. Further, she listened carefully to the tale of Bruthazmus, and advised them that it was clear to her that Bruthazmus, but mutilating his own hand to escape, and found favor of the mother of Monsters and been transformed into a creature of nightmare, not truly in the material plane or the dream plane. It would need to have the connection severed, but until she was able to see the creature, she did not know precisely how to do so. Unfortunately, none of the heroes had anything belonging to Ameiko, so without such an item, they would need to bring her to Bevaluu. Or, alternatively, if they could convince the normally taciturn servants at the Kaijitsu residence in Magnimar, a ceremony could be conducted there.

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The Skinsaw Murders 2.2 - The Thing in the Attic

4707 Lamashan 21, evening
Habe’s Sanitorium, near the Ashen Rise

The heroes gathered in main room of the Saintly Haven of Respite, locally known as Habe’s sanatorium. The room contained three long tables with benches, doors leading to other rooms, and small barred windows peeking outside into the night. The room was clean, antispetic, and walls were painted white. Organized neatly were piles of cloth and sewing equipment. The heroes sat down while the tiefling orderlies went upstairs to gather Sevilla. Director Habe, a middle aged man, fidgeted nervously. “So, this is a very unusual circumstance. It is late and you can speak with the patient for a few moments, but he needs rest.” He further explained that the sewing equipment was to give the patients a task and to learn skills … the non-violent ones of course. Patient rooms are upstairs, he explained, while the basement was merely storage.

The heroes heard the clang of the heavy lock upstairs as the orderlies came down with their charge. The man was hunched over, his arms trapped by a straightjacket. His hair was stringy and his skin pale and gangrenous. He muttered as they led him to the chair, and he looked down. He could be Sevilla… but what could have happened to the cocky, strong Varisian assassin in the past two days to have brought him to this state. Naeric whispered to Mordecai “It looks like he’s suffering from ghoul fever…” Mordecai moved towards the orderlies and struck up a conversation in Infernal as Faheem, Griz, and Fuego started to question the patient. He was non-responsive, muttering about “razors”, “too many teeth”, and that “the Skinsaw Man is coming”.

The orderlies, Gurnak and Gortus, two tieflings, knew Mordecai from Magnimar, and they immediately started ribbing him with off-color insults and comments about his mother. “Mordecai, still queer? Still … strumming your lute?” to which the other replied “Hey, he’s a big star in Sandpoint now.” Mordecai pressed them for information about Sevilla, and they confirm what the Sheriff stated – that he was brought in a few days ago, quite deranged, and he’s just muttered about blood and razors and the “harvest” for the past few days. They looked past Mordecai as Sevilla suddenly noticed the halfling ranger, and slowly said his name. "Grrrriizzzzz….He said. He said you would visit me. His Lordship. The one that unmade me said so. He has a place for you. A precious place. I’m so jealous. He has a message for you. He made me remember it. I hope I haven’t forgotten. His Lordship wouldn’t approve if I forgot. Let me see… let… me… see…He said that if you came to his Misgivings, that if you joined his Pack, he would end his harvest in your honor.”

As he spoke, one of the orderlies nudged Mordecai “Hey, did he call your little Pansy friend Griz? Gortus, show him what you found in one eye’s pocket…” the other Tiefling pulled a crumpled piece of parchment. Mordecai unfolded the note and read. “Griz… I’ve found three for you, just as we discussed…” The note was signed “Hurter”.

The orderlies gave a start as Sevilla crumpled to the ground, withing and moaning, and foaming at the mouth. Griz, Naeric, and Fuego gathered round while Habe shouted “Do something!” Sevilla suddenly stood up, tore his restraints and lunged at Griz shouting, “Why did His Lordship pick youuuuu and not meeeee!?” Fuego stepped in the way to push the deranged man back, but Sevilla slipped by and struck at Griz’s throat, with a strike and force that would have killed the halfling if it had landed. Naeric called a blessing of Sarenrae, and a ray of flame shot towards Sevilla, but his aim was off and the ray merely left a black mark on the wall. The orderlies chuckled at how the mark looked like “a butt” as they grappled Sevilla with the help of Fuego and Mordecai. “Why me Sevilla? What does he want with me?” Griz called. As the four carried Sevilla up the stairs, Griz heard him screaming “He said you saved him! You saved him and his doggyyyyy.” The orderlies, Fuego, and Mordecai carried Sevilla past a man looking out of a cell calling “Tommy, is that you, let’s go tend to the crops” and another cell where they heard what merely sounded like scratching and the squeaky whine of an animal. They tossed Sevilla into his cell and headed back, and the orderlies banged the door of the squeaky sound on the way down “Pidgett, shut up” which only made the squeaky whine more intense.

Meanwhile, Habe profusely apologized, declaring he had no ideas that Sevilla would attack them and imploring then to keep the matter silent. Naeric speaking up indignantly, declared “The man is suffering from ghoul fever, he needs divine healing”.

Habe was incredulous “Impossible! Why, if he had a fever I would have him treated, especially one so virulent as ghoul fever. No, he is merely suffering shock and needs rest. Now please give me your word to keep this unfortunate incident quiet, then be on your way”.

Griz, Naeric, and Faheem weren’t so easily put off. They continued to argue even as their companions returned with the orderlies. “We must insist, Director Habe! There has been a recent outbreak of ghoul activity, and it is plain that Sevilla is Infected. Give us access to him to perform a remove disease spell, or we will return after obtaining authority from the Sheriff to force your cooperation.”

Habe looked at Naeric speechless, stuttering “Y-y-you’ll g-go to the sh-sh-sheriff you s-s-say?” His demeanor changed from fear to resolve, and he calmly stated, “Very well then, I will reveal all. Please have a seat and I will be back in a moment. Gortus, Gurnak, please make our guests comfortable and bring them some food and drink if they wish.” Habe rushed past to the door leading to the basement, and it quietly clicked closed behind him. The orderlies told the heroes to sit while they brought out cheese and meat, as well as wine and water. Faheem announced that as he didn’t trust them, he wouldn’t eat. “Suit yourself!” said Gortus, as he took a bite out of a sausage and threw the other half to Gurnak, who couldn’t resist… “Thanks for sharing your wiener bro!” The two burst out laughing.

Mordecai rolled his eyes, and discretely made his way to a nook of the room where he would not be seen, and using magic made himself invisible. He made his way to the basement door and discovered it was locked. He picked the simple lock and descended the stairs. He heard Habe whispering frantically. “…and hurry, they are intent on bringing Sandpoint’s sheriff back here and the will be terrible for both of us, Caizarlu. I’ll set the rat on them, you gather your… your…”

“My children,” An raspy voice finished the sentence. Mordecai continued descending the staircase and confirmed his hunch that this wasn’t mere storage in the basement. Lined up against a wall of the crudely excavated basement were a half dozen shovels. On two tables in the middle of the room were two lumps covered by bloody sheets. From the shape and size of the lumps, and the dissection tools nearby, Mordecai deduced that he had stumbling on a necromancers lair. An old man with a bald head, large eyes, and dressed in a dark robe, walked toward a closet and rested his hand on the knob. “You’ve really blown it Habe. We’ll address your screw-ups later. Now get out of my laboratory!”

Mordecai, who had been listening from the stairwell, pressed himself against the wall as Habe walked up the stairs past him. "Caizarlu… " He pondered. “I’ve heard Jubryal mention the name before. Something about the Gallowed, a notorious group of Sczarni that meddled with necromancy. And this Caizarlu had run off with a fortune in Sczarni gems… But back to the present…” Mordecai watched as Caizarlu cast a number of protection spells, first a glowing aura surrounded him, then a half dozen mirror images popped up. Mordecai crept up the stairwell, and using his whisper spell, sent a warning to his allies. “There’s a necromancer down here. The man is getting ready for battle.” Mordecai, still invisible, stood at the top of the stairwell, and opened the door as he cast his own empowering spell.

At the main room, the heroes, distracted by the antics of the tiefling orderlies, were startled to see Habe suddenly open the door, then rush up to the next floor. “I’ll be back momentarily my friends!” Soon after, Moredecai’s whispered warning reached then, and they too began preparing for a conflict. Naeric prepared a ritual of consecration, making the ground and him hallowed to Sarenrae and hostile to any undead which might enter. Surprised, Gortus drew his sword and ordered the cleric to cease his spellcasting.

Meanwhile, Gurnak, hearing Mordecai’s casting, went to the open door to investigate. “Mordecai, you little Pansy, where are you?” Mordecai looked down to the base of stairwell where the necromancer was coaxing someone or something to come forward, and the shuffling and moaning sounds he heard manifested as a half dozen walking dead started up the stairs toward him. “Crap!” He popped out of the door and slammed it shut and frantically whispered to Gurnak." Help me keep this door shut, you don’t know what kind of nasty business your boss has been up to!" Gurnak, confused by the disembodied voice and the general chaos, just did what he was told.

As Griz readied his bow, Fuego cast a shield spell, and Faheem began to call forth lightning from the sky, Caizarlu’s walking dead began pounding on the door. Naeric and Gurnak were still in a standoff, and from the upstairs, the sounds of someone running down the stairs as the deranged voice of Sevilla cried out “Grizzzzzz… His Lordship is calling for youuuuu!”

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The Skinsaw Murders 0.1 - Prelude

Griz, Naeric, and Mordecai have destroyed Nualia’s cult of Lamashtu and scattered the unified goblin tribes. Nualia, and most of her minions, including Tsuto Kaijitsu, Orik, and Lyrie, have been slain. The bugbear Bruthazmus, locked in battle with Shalelu Andulosa, has not been heard from and is presumed dead. While the five goblin tribes and the wrathspawn that Nualia had collected still run loose in the hinterlands, Sandpoint is safe from the organized devastation that was planned for it.

James Bacca was killed in the battle with Nualia, and Ameiko Kaijitsu – having lost her is missing – quite literally. She was being drowned by a giant crab and through some magic disappeared, and has not reappeared. A Shoanti bloodrager named Fuego has joined the group.

Meanwhile, in the Sandpoint hinterlands…

Faheem has made his way south from the chaos and struggle of the war with dark forces over the Emerald City of Celwynvian. He has seen much sorrow and something has called him to the human lands. Here, he has found that he can do good doing odd jobs for farmers. As a druid, proficient in the ways of nature and growth the farmers of the surrounding hinterlands were especially interested in his crafts. Faheem rid their fields of weeds in mere hours, what would have been days of work for them. He also taught them the advantage of multiple cropping and planting certain herbs that would ward their crops from vermin or birds. Where the occasion arose, he mended their smaller wounds or healed them of minor diseases. For poisons, Faheem could only delay their effect and encouraged them to seek a healer in Sandpoint. Faheem was often payed in kind, stocking up on his provisions. Occasionally a few gold coins where handed to him, but mostly he earned a warm meal, a cozy bed for the night and some stories to tell.

Faheem also helped the farmers rebuild if they had been attacked by goblins. He heard that goblin attacks had been increasing over the past few months but had died down recently. The past few days however, he saw that some of the farms in the southern region of the hinterlands had been attacked by something different than goblins. Goblin raids tended to leave burnt farms and and survivors burying their murdered loved ones and livestock. But here, the farms were not burned, and there were no survivors, or even bodies. Rather, just chunks of flesh as if the farmers had been torn to shreds, and a foul rotten smell.

On a chilly fall afternoon as Faheem sojourned from the southern hinterlands north, s Plateau, he came across a bugbear bound to a tree. By his dress and demeanor, Faheem suspected he was a ranger, who had perhaps been waylaid and captured by bandits.

Faheem camouflaged himself in the undergrowth, scouting for any possible set-up or ambush. The brute, easily seven feet tall and over 150 kg, was bound with his arms wrapped around the tree. His wrists were bloody from where he had rubbed them raw trying to escape. While he was devoid of weapons (other than his powerful arms and perhaps his teeth), a full pack lay near him. Faheem’s instincts told him that something was odd. If it was bandits, why would they leave his sack? Goblins would typically be working with the largest of their kind, unless they had turned on it… Faheem prepared his entangle spell as he approached the bugbear.

The bugbear noticed Faheem and stopped working the bindings . He looked the elf up and down, and, despite his dry mouth, hocked a nasty spit towards him. To Faheem’s surprise, the bugbear addressed him in Elvish. “Little shit, apprentice to big shit, I assume.” Faheem returned the scrutiny. It was obvious that the creature was covered in small bruises and wounds. Whoever had bested him had done so with agility rather than strength … or was perhaps a sadist.

Half questioning, half concluding, Faheem responded, “Are you the one we have to thank for this carnage around here? Was there more to it than pure bloodlust and hunger?” While asking, Faheem simultaneously took control of the branches and roots of the tree and twisted them in a way causing discomfort and pain to the bugbear, who cried out in pain. “Arrgghhh… Your friends … they killed that witch… and her wrathspawn are now out of control… Arrggh…. Don’t leave me like this… give me a weapon … let me die as a warrior!”

Faheem considered what the bugbear said. “Witches and wrathspawn you say? Nobody deserves to die on a tree’s bark, and neither does the tree deserve to be spoiled by your rotting corpse. I will let these branches entangle you while I cut you loose from your shackles. Once I am gone these branches loosed and set you free. I will also leave some food. As a weapon, you will need to get by with this club made from hardened root. From there on you have to take care of yourself.” Faheem cast a plant growth spell as he described, left some food and water, then began to walk away. Before leaving sight of the bugbear, Faheem, still bewildered, turned and asked, “Where did you learn to speak in the tongue of the elves?” Bruthazmus spit again… “Fighting your shit bitch friend, Shalelu.”

Still no more illuminated than before, Faheem continued on his way. He knew of no Shalelu, but it was a fairly common elvish name. It would perhaps be natural for the bugbear to assume that he would be her friend, as elves we not too common in these parts. Still, to harbor so enough animosity towards another to even learn her language… He believed that that while the bugbear could have been connected to the earlier goblin raids, he certainly wasn’t connected with the more recent massacres in the south. There was not that foul rotting smell around him. And, he had never heard of wrathspawn.

Faheem continued his duties and a few days later, an elf, dressed in camouflage and walking lightly through the bushes as only a fellow druid could, appeared on his tail, bearing down on him with a javelin. He noticed her other hand, gripping a staff, was missing two fingers. “You, halt! Why did you release my prisoner! Answer for yourself!”

Faheem considered the elf’s demand. Prisoner? She must mean that bugbear. “I didn’t free him,” answered Faheem, “as much as I put his destiny back in his hands. His ways are bound to rage and revenge, so you can hardly speak of freedom. I could tell from his smell, that he was not involved in the recent massacres to the south. And even on the off chance he might have been involved in prior raids on the farmers, I consider his death would help my cause more, if it was fighting this unknown menace, than if he was left rotting on a tree. Now, would you consider lowering your weapon and let us talk on even ground?” The elf lowered her javelin, but continued to glower at Faheem. He continued, “May I ask? Why would one keep such creature as prisoner?”

“I am a guardian of this area. We had clashed many times, and my career as a ranger was …” she held up her hand, showing her missing fingers, “… cut short when he captured me. Some allies helped me escape, and with their help we crushed his tribe, and the cult of the Mother of Beasts that he was a part of. He was weakened in the battle and I was able to capture him. After you freed him, I recaptured him and then sought you out. I intend to bring him back to Sandpoint to face justice. Will you help me escort him back?”

“I see you have intention to restore balance. I apologize for misjudging the situation. Helping you escort the bugbear back to Sandpoint might be the least I can do to make it up to you.” Faheem eyed her staff and the mangled hand which gripped it. “I see that while your former calling was cut short, a new one has taken root and grown. I can not change what happened to your hand, but I can offer you more insight into a druid’s life. Let me start by telling you my story.”

The elves quietly introduced themselves and exchanged stories as they passed through the forest, but the discussion was cut short as they came through the undergrowth to a gruesome sight. A bloody manacle dangled, with pieces of bugbear flesh and fingers laying bloody on the ground. Scavenging raccoons watched from the side. Faheem felt a strong unholy presence surrounding the scene, which the animals obviously wished to avoid. Shalelu, more attuned to the physical than the spiritual, approached the carnage, oblivious to the unholy presence. She examined the flesh and searched for tracks, muttering “He … chewed his own hand off … that much is obvious… but he has disappeared, without a trace.” She looked to Faheem, baffled.

Faheem spoke to her, “Can you feel it? Focus. Can you feel the cold surrounding the place? See how the plants retreat from the soil. See how the animals react to this place. You don’t even need to talk to them. Can you feel their distress?”

Shalelu focused and picked up on it. “Yes! I know this … it’s the same unholy presence that surrounded Nualia. It’s the Mother of Monsters.” After some time passed hours, the unholy aura begins to fade.

Over the next few days, Shalelu joined Faheem on his work for the farmers, learning druidcraft from him as they made their way to Sandpoint. She relentlessly searched for any trace of the bugbear’s passing, but no sign turned up. Eventually, the bugbear would need to be hunted down again, but for now it seemed that he escaped.

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Wheels within Wheels

In the meantime … the heroes have destroyed Erylium and her army of wrathspawn. They returned to Sandpoint.

Ameiko had reunited with Tsuto, who explained that he had been under the control of Nualia. Nualia sought to become a demon, and intended to burn Sandpoint as a sacrifice to curry the favor of Lamashtu, the mother of monsters. Tsuto explained that the goblins tribes were being unified by Nuallia and that it was the Sczarni who were working with Nualia to destroy the town. Ameiko concurred that the Sczarnia were a plague on the town.

The heroes attempted to infiltrate and confront the Sczarni, leading to the death of a number of ne’er-do-wells and assaults on the heroes. Finally, a meeting was arranged with Jubryal Vhiski, a Varisian elder and local boss of the Sczarni. Vhiski insisted that, as a businessman – yes, a dangerous businessman – he had no motive to work with goblins. He would protect his business from anyone who threatened it, whether Goblin, Human, Halfling, or Tiefling. The heroes and Vhiski parted ways as friends, of a sort. Vhiski suggested that the heroes consider the source of the false information about the Sczarni.

In confronting Tsuto, he fled, leaving behind incriminating evidence. When this was shown to Ameiko, she was filled with rage and vowed to “beat my little brother’s ass.” However, as the heroes gathered to find and capture Tsuto, an explosion rocked the town and the imprisoned goblins were freed from the militia prison. For hours the heroes helped the militia take control of the town.

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The Dark Queen

Mordecai followed the trail of blood left behind by the castrated Goblin. He stumbled upon a black stone altar, where the trail of blood ended in a spray. Behind the altar was a an engraved figure in the wall. Mordecai recognized the beast from the description of Rhogars vision.
statue.jpg
A fiendish jackals head upon the form of a woman with ebon wings and scaly claw feet. Mordecai waved his hand over the inlay copper in his lute and murmured arcane words and pointed to his party and gently described what he saw. Griz and Rhogar quickly moved to the scene. Griz as always, silent and deadly. Rhogar nearly tripped and fell into the room. James Bacca, remained behind to inspect the statue in the hall.

On the Black stone altar was a pool of filthy, oil muddled water. Behind the alter, the team found an adventurers pack filled, with rope, fingers, coin sack and potions. Everything a filthy goblin would need. It was determined the sack belonged to Koruvus the castrated mongrel. The party suspects he may have been transformed into another form here at the alter. Mordecai again intoned magic words and with focused movements over his lute, determined that the potions were of () and that the altar was essence of transmutation. Griz collected as much of the filthy water as he could, leaving behind just a tiny bit.

James Bacca, standing in front of the statue, was addressed by a deep haggard voice of a female, followed by a foul, foul stench. She addressed herself as queen and demanded that James Bacca bow before her as a loyal servant should do. James Bacca bowed and asked that she reveal her form. The dark queen materialized and insisted that James Bacca improve his form so that he could help summon more of the [creature]s to take over the town. James Bacca acted quickly and told the dark queen that he was going to summon his friends to help build the army. She insisted he go and find his friends and disappeared.

James Bacca joined his friends in the altar room and explained his confrontation. The team pushed on into the next room. here they found the bodies of three of the soldiers. They had carved into their chests the star symbol/rune.
Ruin_star.jpg
In the center of the room was a pool of water with a circle of skulls mounted on spikes in the center. At the top of the landing was a triangular pool of orange, bubbling, viscous liquid. The temperature seemed to drastically drop around the triangular pool. Griz grabbed a skull from the pool of water and dropped it into the orange liquid. Nothing happened. James Bacca dragged a dead soldier to the orange pool and dipped his hand in it. Still nothing. Searching the adjacent rooms the party found a bunch of ancient junk that may be important to a historian. James Bacca took a vial of the orange liquid. He found that if it weren’t for the cold resistance inherited from his blood line, his hands would be retching in pain. James poured the liquid onto the floor just to have two of the translucent skinned creatures and a disfigured goblin appear. It was Koruvus and he looked as though he had gone through a bad transmutation. Limbs were growing out of places they shouldn’t.
koruvus.jpg
Then the queen materialized, hovering over the circle of skulls. “You fools! You musn’t desecrate the waters of Lamatsu! You must bow before your queen! Bow!” The party bowed to appease the queen. She led them to the altar to transform them into something that can summon the rune creatures. Upon reaching the altar the queen sees that the waters of transmutation are all but gone. There is enough left for one adventurer. “choose who will be transformed or I shall choose for you!”

Mordecai cast a spell [don’t remember which one] on their enemies and convinced them to wait in the next room, giving the party some “privacy” to make their decision and a chance to escape. Griz and Mordecai moved to leave, but James Bacca’s insatiable curiosity got the better of him. He followed Erillium’s party, and not wanting to leave his friend to the wolves, Rhogar followed. [Some details missing here.] Battle became inevitable. Korvus grabbed James Bacca and ?? grabbed ??, attempting to drag them to the alter. [someone else was grabbed but can’t remember who. When did James Bacca grab Erillium the first time??]. Battle ensued with Erillium summoning additional minions: a dire rat, a mud demon, and two more wrath creatures. Erillium bit Mordecai twice, injecting him with her foul breath and rendering him severely sluggish. Despite these challenges, Moredecai cart wheeled into battle and drew the enemy’s blows, giving James Bacca a chance to escape…[I really don’t remember the sequence of this combat very well.]. Amazingly, the heroes surpassed long odds and defeated Erillium’s minions, including Korvus. Erillium disappeared and fled into the room with the orange summoning pool. The party followed Erillium into the summoning chamber and blocked her in for a time. She darted past James Bacca standing guard at the door, the party followed, and she almost escaped again, but her loathing led her to make one more attempt at killing James Bacca, giving him the opportunity to grab her and stuff her in a sack. Having subdued Erillium, the party explored more of the underground temple. They discovered a prison area and encountered an undead abomination, a vampiric head with bat-like wings. Leaving the remainder of the temple unexplored, the party returned to the surface to consult their contacts in the town regarding Erillium and the underground temple.

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