Hello! I’ve been playing a Pathfinder campaign lately, and decided to write it up. Here you will find the entire write up, as opposed to the individual posts as we play them and I write them. I hope you enjoy.
*Note: This picks up part way in the second chapter of the campaign, when the players go to Magnimar, shortly after finishing most of the Sandpoint intro arc and clearing out Foxglove Manor. Spoilers abound.
Session breaks are indicated by a line, like this:
Putting the Dead to Rest
A weary band of adventurers rode in to the gates of Sandpoint as the lowering sun lit the sky with fire. The red light highlighted the dried blood and sunken eyes of the party. Foxglove Manor and the caverns below had presented an ordeal not only of steel and spell fire, but also of the mind. A barbarous orc, a dusty jacketed man, a druid, his bonded gorilla, and a rogue bristling with tiny hilts retreated to their lodgings at the Rusty Dragon to rest. A paladin strode off to his rooms at the Savah’s armory. Guards went to alert the sheriff that the bedraggled Heroes of Sandpoint were back, all alive, but looking worse for the wear they had endured.
The paladin arrived first in the Dragon’s dining room some time after sunset. Sherriff Hemlock was already there, anxiously waiting for the others to rise from rest or prayers. Not long after the paladin settle in to wait with Hemlock the rest of the band made their way downstairs. Food and drink were brought, and after a few silent minutes of eating and drinking, the Sherriff could no longer wait.
“The manor… is it safe? Have you brought the murders to an end?”
Oggrash looked up from his meal. He started to nod, then cocked his bald head to the side. After a moment of thought he spoke.
“Well… it would seem so. That house is full of evil. We found Aldern Foxglove, and he is no longer alive. Or dead. Or whatever he is, he won’t be moving any time soon. But this went further back than Aldern. I think the local farms should be safe from him.”
Hemlock seemed to shed a weight off his shoulders as he listened, the dense cloud of apprehension over him diminishing slightly. He gestured to a pair of watchmen who were hanging back. They shifted and prepared to leave.
Raoul, a hulking pile of muscle covered in an arming doublet and generally affable righteous zeal rose and called out to the watchmen.
“Guards, please, wait a moment! Aldern may be departed, but that house is still evil. Our greatest challenge came not from Lord Foxglove and his foul beasts, but the very magic of the house itself. Oggrash here nearly killed himself by some witchery. Tell me, do you think his sort would take a knife to his own throat?”
The guards looked from the paladin to the massive, shirtless half-orc. Oggrash was a large and brutish creature even more imposing than the paladin. He sat head, if not shoulders, above most men in the Inn’s dining room. While not entirely a stereotype of the barbaric eastern steppes, his small tusks were obvious and the necklace of trophies and scars he carried certainly silently spoke to a life of violence. Half-orcs also tended to retained the stubborn pride and rage of their cruel heritage. Theoverall impression was a man more likely to be doing the assaulting than being caught out the victim. He stared levelly at the watchmen as he drank.
“You cannot walk alone in that house,” warned the half-orc, “You need to travel in pairs or triplets and watch each other. We only made it out alive through care and a bit of luck.”
A quiet, thoughtful man in simple, well-worn leathers and traveling clothes spoke up.
“There are haunted magics in the house itself, and a foul infestation of mold in the walls and basement. This mold affects the mind. Each room in the house itself bears an enchantment or sorcery that will test your men.”
Hemlock gestured his men back.
“Thank you Garus, knowing that mold is more than an annoyance will probably save a few lives when we go to search the house.” Hemlock looked to the party, “Forgive me for asking more of you today, but could you all help us create a map of the house, and explain what happened to you? Perhaps we can clear the house and solve this whole mess.”
Garus nodded his consent. With that Hemlock called for the guards to bring parchment and quills, and as the party finished their meal a map of Foxglove Manor was created. Raoul told Hemlock of his meeting with the local priests before he had arrived at the Rusty Dragon. Between the guards, the priests, and perhaps a healthy measure of oil and fire, the land could be cleansed.
By the time the meal and map were done, Hemlock had pledged horses to the party for the upcoming trip to Magnimar the group was about to embark on. Clues in the Manor lead to another Foxglove Estate, this one a townhouse in the City of Monuments. Along with the horses, Hemlock promised to send an official account of the “Heroes of Sandpoint” to the City Watch in order to help continue the investigation into the mysterious Seven behind the goblin attacks and now apparently the madness of Aldern Foxglove.
On the Road
The trip to Magnimar was uneventful. Oggrash, Raoul and Vinder were riding together down the road along the coast. Garus and Ted had stayed behind to tend to a few things before leaving town, and would join at the Lost Coast Road Gate in Magnimar. Oggrash in particular was less taciturn than usual. His voyage from Kaer Maga in the Cinderlands to the great Arcadian Ocean to the west, started two years ago, was almost at an end.
“So what brings a big ball of rage like you all the way out here?” Raoul asked as the horses trotted along the road. Oggrash looked off to the shore for a moment.
“I’m from the east. The Cinderlands. Mother is Shoanti, my tribe’s shaman. Father, well,” Ogg jutted out his lower jaw, highlighting the protruding tusks that were his lower canines, “mother and father did last long. She won, he died in the dust. My people, they feared me well enough, but enough didn’t respect me. So I decided to leave. The ocean seemed like a nice change. We haves seas of dust and grass in the steppes, but not this.”
Ogg gestured out to the vast shore and ocean beyond the road.
“And you? You’re not from here. The accent gives you away,” Oggrash said to Raoul.
“Ah ha! No fooling you. No, I am from Cheliax!” the paladin said brightly.
“As in the Infernal Cheliax, Empire of Asmodeus, oh valorous and honorable servant of Iomedae the Just?” asked Oggrash, one eyebrow raised.
“Well, you can see why I would leave! You’re not the only one whose people don’t respect you. Mine just wanted to put me on a pyre or use me as payment for some diabolist’s contract!” exclaimed Raoul, perhaps a bit more lightheartedly than Oggrash would have expected.
“I guess that makes sense,” mused Oggrash. He turned to look back at the coast as they road.
The House of Deja-Fu
Upon arriving in Magnimar via the northern gate to the Lost Coast Road the party quickly secured lodgings in the nearest inn and bedded down to prepare searching for Foxglove’s townhome.
When day broke, Garus and Ted had still not arrived, so Vinder, Oggrash and Raoul set out to find the Foxglove Townhouse. Shortly after the party left the inn Raoul spied a city watchmen hurriedly striding down a road and accosted him.
“Sir, a moment! We are looking for a particular residence, of the Foxglove Family! Can you tell us where we might find it?”
The watchmen halted abruptly, somewhat incredulous, and seethed at Raoul, “Do I look like a tour guide? Did you notice that I am moving quickly? As in, towards something that needs a watchman. I’m here to keep this city safe, not play host to tin cans that can’t read maps! “
With that the watchman hurried down the street and around a corner.
“Hmmph, could have been a bit more polite about it,” said Raoul with mild disdain. He started out again down the street. Vinder and Ogg shared a glance and followed along. After a few blocks, Raoul located a second watchman who was not in any apparent rush to do anything. This particular watchmen was settled in at street corner, almost appearing to be rooted in place like a statue. He was rather rotund, with an almost absurd mustache and stood stock still except of a slow swivel of his head. His eye observing the carriages and passersby laconically.
“Sir!” Raoul said as he came up to the watchman, who raised an eyebrow and regarded him blankly.
“My good sir, could you possibly help us in locating a house?”
The watchmen glanced aside, confused momentarily, then back at Raoul, “Not really in m’line of work, but I might be able to help.”
“We are looking for the Foxglove Family townhome. The same Foxgloves who hold a manor up on the Lost Coast.”
“Well, let’s see. Not too sure, but if you head south, should be in the knobby neighborhood. If you get to the Drunkard’s Lament, you‘ve gone too far,” he spoke slowly. After a pause he added, “Or at least far enough for something else, I’d wager.”
“Thank you, kind sir,” Raoul said cheerfully. The trio began down the street in the direction the watchmen had indicated.
The neighborhood did noticeably shift after a few blocks, into something entirely “knobby” as the watchman had put it. Shops and walk-ups transitioned to proper townhomes with walled courtyards and tasteful stonework facades. Nothing in particular stood out. When the next block revealed a large building complete with a sign bearing a tankard and what appeared to be a signing, or possibly crying, crowd, the group turned around to look more closely at the houses they had passed.
After half a block of back-tracking, one three-story house, upon closer inspection, seemed to have had the windows boarded up from the inside. Vinder produced the pair of keys from Foxglove Manor, glanced up and down the street, saw nothing suspicious, and unlocked the door.
Beyond was a shaded, dilapidated courtyard. This might once have been a charming garden with a fountain, but neglect had left it overgrown. Vines had clogged the open space above the courtyard and the fountained had turned green with algae. The paths were still walkable, but soon would be lost to bushes and flowers gone rampant.
There were three doors besides the one to the street. One door on a room attached to the wall to the street opened into a storage room filled with nails, boards and some tools. Opposite the courtyard from the street entrance was the main double door of the townhome. To the right, a small passage along the side of the townhome led to what appeared to be a service door. None of the doors in the courtyard were locked.
Vinder investigated the front double doors, detected nothing unusual, and stepped into the house. It was dark, the boarded windows on the walls blocking almost all the light. Oggrash and Vinder could both see, but Raoul lacked the gift of darkvision. After a moment Vinder seemed to notice the paladin struggling with the darkness, his heavy armor bouncing off furniture. A quick gesture and a few muttered phrases set Raoul’s shield alight with a magical glow. Raoul glanced around.
“There is definitely something evil here. I can feel it,” the paladin told the others. He was feeling the tell-tale itch that meant something foul was near.
The first floor was appointed as befit a townhome in this posh neighborhood, but all signs pointed to a long abandoned house. Dust and disuse had left the rooms musty. As the group came to the second floor the scene repeated itself. While the trio were searching, Vinder heard what sounded like silverware and glasses clinking above. He held up a hand to wave at Ogg and Raoul when a voice floated down the stairs.
“Come on up, we know you are here. There is plenty of food!”
The three looked at each other. Ogg, then Raoul, and then Vinder walked up the stairs warily. As they turned the landing and cautiously walked up to the top of the stairs, they saw a hallway opening onto a wide room. The room took up the back half of the house, with the hallway running from the room, past the stairs, and towards the street-ward side of the house. Inside the open room was a dining table, chairs askew. At the table sat Aldern and Iesha Foxglove. In the far back corner of the room Sherriff Hemlock appeared to be bound and gagged, struggling against his bonds.
Oggrash walked into the hall and up to the point where the main dining room took over. Raoul started slowly moving to the far wall of the hallway past Oggrash, towards the far corner where Hemlock sat. Vinder remained coiled at the top of the stairs, and stealthily readied a spell. Iesha and Aldern stood, smiling. Iesha gestured expansively to the table, while Aldern beckoned the group to sit in the chairs.
As Raoul continued his slow walk around the perimeter of the hall and into the dining room Oggrash stepped closer to the table, but did not sit. He held his great sword in one hand, and regarded the two seemingly alive persons in front of him. Oggrash was fairly certain that Aldern had been slain the afternoon before in Foxglove Manor, and Iesha should be a ghost haunting Aldern’s former home. Hemlock was last seen at the Rusty Dragon less than a day ago.
While Oggrash was trying to decide just how to approach the silent Foxgloves family, Vinder heard a noise towards the street. The hallway led to a doorway, which appeared to open slightly. He released the spell he had readied, sending a magical message to his companions.
“Something is beyond the door behind you, trying to close it now.”
With another quick word and hidden gesture Vinder closed the door. There was no lock to latch, but at least they would not be caught completely off guard.
Oggrash spoke to the Foxgloves, “This… is odd. Unless I am seriously mistaken, you should be dead.”
The Foxgloves stared at Oggrash, and their expressions melted from amused invitations to snarls of rage. Hemlock burst free of his bonds and leapt towards Raoul as the paladin lunged toward the supposed sheriff. The door at the end of the hallway was thrown open and Garus swarmed forward towards Vinder. Aldern dodge around the table to flank Vinder on the other side, while Iesha moved to engage Raoul. As they moved, the creatures imitating the Foxgloves, Hemlock and Garus morphed into hairless, leathery creatures. Their faces dissolved into featureless whorls of flesh and slits where eyes and mouths would be.
The two creatures surrounding Vinder tried to strike out with swords, but missed as Vinder dodged. As he ducked the second sword swing, Vinder tapped into his inner reserves of arcane power and rent the air before him, stepping through and appearing in the far corner of the room opposite Raoul and his pair of faceless assailants. As soon as he stopped moving he targeted Aldern with a scorching ray and unleashed flames over the creature. Oggrash let loose his rage and his form began to blur as he slashed at the singed Aldern. Raoul and the two aberrations he was engaged with began trading blows. Raoul’s sword struck true, but the creatures were unable to penetrate his armor.
The Aldern-thing and Garus-thing refocused on Oggrash. They landed blows, but the raging half-orc seemed immune to the blows from their swords and continued hacking with his greatsword. Under Vinder’s magical onslaught of fire the Aldern-thing fell to the ground, burned and twitching. Oggrash cleaved the Garus-thing through the shoulder and across the chest. It too fell to the ground, blood soaking into the floor. Raoul dispatched the Hemlock creature, but before he could turn to Iesha’s gruesome double the leathery beast fled to the stairs in an attempt to escape.
Oggrash lunged and vaulted over the banister down the stairs, blocking the creature, but failed to connect with his blade in the tight space. The monster responded by grabbing Oggrash, bear hugging the half-orc, then slamming him to the stairs. As it lay atop Oggrash a slit in the creature’s face split open and a tongue like tentacle lashed out. The tentacle buried itself in the flesh of Ogg’s shoulder, sucking at his blood and sapping some of his resilience.
Vinder quickly summoned a splash of grease, coating Ogg and causing the creature’s grip to falter. Ogg seized the opportunity, ripping the tongue from his shoulder and pinning the creature to the stairs. Vinder and Raoul joined in, with Vinder pulling rope from his pack. Raoul and Vinder managed to bind the creature while Oggrash struggled to keep it pinned down.
After the fight Oggrash dragged the snarling creature up to the landing while Vinder and Raoul investigated the rest of the top floor. To the right side of the hall was a bathroom with an ornate iron tub. To the left was a study, followed by a large bedroom. The three rejoined in the hallway where Ogg was finishing off a curing potion to restore some of the damage he had suffered. Raoul laid a hand on the fatigued bloodrager and Oggrash felt his fatigue lift. He nodded thanks to the paladin.
“Study and bedroom, bathroom,” noted Vinder, pointing out each room.
“I think we need to get some information from this beast,” said Raoul while glancing disgustedly at the writhing creature.
“You said there is a bathtub?” asked Ogg. He lifted the creature and walked down the hall. Vinder pointed to the door on the right. Ogg carried the beast inside and threw it down into the tub.
“Who sent you?” Oggrash asked the creature, glowering into the tub with his sword poised as If to strike.
The faceless monstrosity snarled in a strange tongue and thrashed angrily. Raoul punched the beast in the head. It spat out another unintelligible phrase and seemed to grin from the largest slit on its’ face. Vinder cast another spell, and the snarls formed oddly coherent words.
“It’s not worth telling you anything!” grunted the beast, “You are all dead anyway you stupid fools. Nothing I say will change that.”
“This is getting us nowhere,” Ogg grunted. He pulled the creature up by its’ bonds, grabbed the creature’s warped hand and roughly pulled a finger across the edge of the tub. Ogg brought the edge of his sword down across the finger, severing the digit cleanly. The creature howled in rage and pain as Ogg released it back into the deep tub, and spat another insult at the half-orc.
“Ha! You think that matters?! She would do far worse!”
Vinder sighed impatiently and made another gesture while muttering some arcane words. The scent of hot iron and burning flesh began to fill the room, along with the sound of pinging metal. The beast in the tub began to squirm.
“You can die how you choose. Anything to tell us now?” Vinder asked impassively.
“You’ll all die before her children! There is nothing to stop her!” screeched the creature as it struggled in the tub.
Vinder gestured again and the sounds and smells grew thick in the room. The creature was surrounded by a haze of heat coming off the tub. It started screeching as the heat started to burn leathery flesh. Oggrash brought the hilt of his sword down hard on the creature’s head, silencing it. He walked out of the room and the rest followed.
Oggrash and Raoul began moving the bodies to the side of the hall while Vinder looked around. Behind the table strewn with plates and wine glasses was a fireplace and upon it were two ornate lion head statues in brass. Vinder ran his hands around the statues looking for traps or magic, but none appeared present. Inside the mouth of one lion he noticed a keyhole. He drew out the second, ornate key from the Manor. The top of the key was an ornate lion’s head. He inserted the key and turned. The lock opened with a click, and revealed lined compartment containing a flat wooden box and a hefty pouch that jingled when he lifted it. Vinder smiled appreciatively, then placed the box and purse on the table.
Raoul and Oggrash joined Vinder at the table. Vinder poured out the purse. A quick count showed some two hundred pieces of platinum. With a low whistle and a glance around the table, he put the coins back in the purse. Oggrash picked up one of the wine glasses, raised it in salute, and emptied the glass. Vinder continued to the wooden box. Once opened the box revealed a ledger book and a stack of papers. Vinder rifled through the papers.
“Just legal documents and the like, nothing interesting,” he said. There was a burst of sound and a shriek from the bathroom, then silence. The group looked up from the table to watch for a moment. The hall remained empty, and no further sounds emanated from the room. They turned back to the table and the ledger book. Vinder starting flipping through pages, quickly scanning the entries. On the last few pages he slowed down.
“Well. Interesting. Looks like Aldern was paying someone called “B.7” two hundred gold a week for “Iesha’s Trip to Absalom”. He was dropping payment Oathday at midnight at a place called the “Seven’s Sawmill”. Pretty sure Iesha is deader than those things,” Vinder said, waving vaguely to the dead creatures in the hall as he read.
“More clues,” grunted Ogg as he got up and walked to look into the bathroom, “Dead,” he said after looking through the door.
“Nice to have the oppressive burn of evil out of my head. Well, let’s get this place cleaned up so we have a place to stay!” beamed Raoul.
Oggrash and Vinder stared at the paladin, disbelieving what they heard. The house was still dimly lit. The scent of blood was heavy in the air. Light coming off Raoul’s shield was casting ghastly shadows across the charred corpses and blood in the formerly tasteful third floor of the house. Bloody footprints covered the floor from the stairs, across the dining room and hallway and into the bathroom.
“You want to stay here? Where these creatures knew we were coming, set a trap, and tried to kill us?” asked Oggrash in a deadpan voice.
“Sure. At least here we know they are coming for us,” said Raoul, full of confidence.
“I think that is a horrible idea,” said Vinder flatly, “The rest of the group have no idea where we are, and whoever these things are working for could come and kill us off in our sleep. No one would even know. I’m going back to the Inn. Ogg needs rest from that… sucking. And I need to gather my energies for whatever is coming next. And we need to share this ledger with Garus and Ted, and figure out what to do next.”
“Well, fine. Shame though. This could be a real nice house with a little clean-up and after we take those boards off the windows…”
On the Road
Garus was preparing to leave Sandpoint and begin the ride to Magnimar. He’d decided to wait a day after Raoul, Vinder and Oggrash left. Partly this was to spend some time in wild spaces around Sandpoint rooting out any remnants of the ghouls from Aldern Foxglove, but mostly it was to get away from the overly optimistic paladin and the dour half-orc. They were good companions in a fight, but a bit tedious around town. Garus was not overly fond of most creatures that walked on two legs. The implications of Foxglove Manor pointed toward a longer journey with a group, so a day off was a welcome opportunity for the druid to find the patience to deal with people once he got to Magnimar.
After a day spent roaming the nearby farmlands and dealing with the occasional stray ghoul, Garus spent the night in the Tickwood, east of Sandpoint. The druid had returned to the outskirts of Sandpoint and was saddling his horse in preparation to head south-west on the Lost Coast Road when a large, slightly green tinged man in a dusty traveling coat rounded the corner of stable and made for Garus himself. Garus sighed and wondered how much use another half-orc had in his life. He tried to ignore the man as he approached.
“Would you be Garus, Garus Volarius?” called the man cheerfully.
“No. I’m someone else,” grunted Garus as he prepared to step up into the saddle.
“Seems odd that there would be two druids with enormous gorillas in Sandpoint at once,” chuckled the man in the duster jacket. “I’m Patrick Nyborn, and I’m pleased to meet you. I don’t suppose you have a few moments?”
“Sorry, but I have to ride for Magnimar. Some people are probably wondering where I have been,” excused Garus as he lifted himself up into the saddle and waved to Grodd. Grodd, an imposing mass of gorilla some ten feet from ground to hunched head, was half submerged in a pile of hay. He shrugged upwards shaking hay off and lumbered towards Garus.
“How fortuitous!” clapped Patrick. “I’m headed to Magnimar as well! And here is my mount.”
A stable hand appeared from the corner Patrick had rounded and handed the half-orc the reins of a saddled, packed, and groomed horse. Garus closed his eyes for a moment, willing the half-orc to disappear. It didn’t work, and Garus reopened them as Patrick continued speaking.
“I’ve got a message from Ted Korvaski, too. He said he is spending some time here, trying to find out anything else he can about his late brother. Sounds like that was a rough fight you all had up at Thistletop.”
“Steve didn’t have a bad fight. He walked into a trap,” Garus quipped. “Lost his head to it.”
Garus heeled his mount forward and began riding at the fastest pace he thought the horse could take and make it Magnimar by nightfall. Grodd fell in beside him. Perhaps he could lose this new annoyance? Patrick hurried to mount his own horse, rather clumsily, and fought the animal for the first half hour of the trip as he slowly caught up with Garus.
“So much for a peaceful ride,” thought Garus as Patrick began to open his mouth to speak again.
Back at the Gates
Garus and his newest “friend” Patrick arrived at the plaza before the House of Lords in the Alabaster District as afternoon was ending. Patrick had no end of questions about the events of the last. When not asking questions, the half-orc revealed his back story at length. The ear-worn druid spied Raoul, Vinder and Oggrash approaching an Inn on the south side of the crossroads and hurried to meet them. Or get away from Patrick. Or foist him on the others at least.
Raoul saw them coming and waved, and the five adventurers, some dusty, some bloody, entered the inn. Over dinner Vinder, Ogg and the paladin told Garus and the rapt Patrick what they had found in Foxglove’s townhome earlier that day. Patrick explained that he had been passing through Sandpoint on his way back to Magnimar from Windsong Abbey, and had become fascinated by the stories of the “Heroes” that had come through.
It turned out Patrick had been trying to reconnect with his faith, or any faith, while up at the abbey. He had spent some time studying Lamashtu before deciding against choosing that particular deity. The news of goblins, ghasts, ghouls and such seemed struck a chord, though, and he had hoped to find the heroes and see if he could offer any assistance. Aside from being a rather faithless pilgrim, Patrick was also a sorcerer and figured the claws and blades of the Heroes of Sandpoint might need some help, especially after the wizard traveling with them had left.
As the dinner stretched into a healthy number of drinks, a messenger arrived in the bar and found Vinder. A letter was delivered and after a few moments perusing it Vinder announced a matter had come up regarding an oath he had sworn to the goddess Desna. He would need to leave for a day or two, but would return to find the group as soon as he could. Patrick noted that he lived in the south of Magnimar, and offered his home as a place to contact the group. Raoul noticed the slight hesitation the sorcerer showed when giving his address to Vinder, and suggested the whole party, Patrick included, spend another night or two at their current location. After Vinder left the night wore down, until finally each party member founds themselves turning in for the night.
Under the Guardians
The sun rose, and Raoul woke. He went down to the common room of the inn. As he ate his breakfast, the rest of the party slowly filtered in. It turned out each person had a few things they’d rather do that leap straight into investigating the Seven’s Sawmill. So the party split, each going their own way into Magnimar, and they would reconvene that evening and head to the sawmill the next day.
Before spending perhaps his last night in the Alabaster District, Raoul decided to talk a walk around the southeast side of Magnimar and investigate the shrines rumored to provide blessings from the gods. He walked the streets rather aimlessly, but felt drawn to the neighborhood of Naos to the southwest of the opulent Alabaster, eventually walking into a large square inside the southern wall of the city. Signs along the way indicated this was the Twins’ Gate.
The reason for the name became apparent as he cleared the final corner approach the vast square. Two enormous statues, The Guardians, depicted a pair of men standing with burning staves raised and touching over the gate itself. The statues were probably some two hundred feet tall from toe to stave-tip. A crowd milled below the looming statues and an assortment of priests, clerics and other holy persons appeared to be walking among the crowd giving prayers, healing, or other services to those in the crowd. One of the healers looked up and appeared to recognize Raoul as he looked over the plaza.
“Raoul! It’s Tira, Tira Ronnova,” the woman called out as she walked over, “How have you been?”
“Oh, can’t complain. How have you been?”
She sighed and glanced back at the crowd, “The church keeps me busy,” she said with a tired smile. “I’ve heard rumors of murders around the city lately, they sound similar to what we heard was going on up in Sandpoint. Do you know anything about that?”
Raoul quickly recounted the events of the past few days, and Tira turned he head to side slightly as she asked, “Father Xantos told us about some Heroes. I don’t suppose you are one of the Heroes of Sandpoint we’ve heard about?”
“I’m afraid I am,” chuckled the paladin.
“Well, I see you’ve mastered keeping a low profile. How long have you been in Magnimar?”
“Just a day or two.”
“Seems you brought the murders with you then. I’d love to chat longer, but I can’t now,” she joked, nodding to the crowds. “Did you come here for the blessings of the Guardians?”
“I was trying to find all these shrines people keep mentioning.”
“Well, you’ll not find the Guardians very useful if you looking for more places to swing that sword of yours. There is a shrine that’ll help you get the jump on any foes though. I can’t recall the name, and I know it takes some effort to receive the blessing. Seek that one, if you have the time. Good luck!”
With a wave Tira turned and walked back into the crowd. Raoul left, continuing his walk amongst the monuments of Magnimar.
Wine and Water
Oggrash set out after breakfast on the final leg of a long journey. He had left the Cinderlands in the far east with the goal of reaching the ocean on the western edge of Varisia. After two years of taking odd jobs, hunting, and camping along the Yondabakari River he was about to end his journey at the edge of the Steaming Sea and the Arcadian Ocean beyond. He just had to get through the bright marble avenues of the Alabaster district to get there.
The innkeeper informed Ogg that he simply had to walk out the door, turn north, and walk down the avenue until he reached Fort Indros on the tip of the Fogwall Cliffs. It was only a mile of city street walking. His progress down the main road was uneventful. A shirtless half orc with a greatsword, tattoos, and a necklace of body parts drew a fair amount of attention in this place, but that attention was limited to curious stares from the bold and avoidance by the fearful. He had covered about two thirds of the distance to the Fort when a well dressed man, maybe in his mid-thirties, stepped up directly in front of Oggrash.
“Hello! Name’s Renkin. You seem like a rather industrious sort. I’ve got a proposition for you,” he said.
Oggrash looked at the man, then in the direction of the sea. Coin was always worthwhile. Hopefully this would be quick. “Ok. I’ll hear you out.”
“Fantastic! Say, how about we get out of the street,” Renkin said and he glanced around. “Ah! There, across the street, let me buy you a glass of wine.”
Renking quickly walked across the street and waited. Ogg came up to the door while Renkin stepped inside. As Ogg followed he saw the bartender startle and draw breath to shout Ogg away, but Renkin smoothly interjected.
“Everything is fabulous! Charles, two glasses of that wonderful Andoran red from… Ostenso was it? Or Augustana? That’s the one!”
The bartender cocked an eyebrow and went to find the bottle. Renkin led Ogg to a table in the corner of the café and pulled out a notebook. A waiter intercepted the pair before they sat and hastily brushed down Ogg’s pants and laid a clean tablecloth over the chair he was about to sit in. As Renkin sat he began writing notes in the little book. He had a very expensive fountain pen, quite a luxury over quills and ink pots. Oggrash tried to read surreptitiously, but could only make out what looked like “North Gate” and possibly a list of names. Renkin began to speak.
“Here we are! It’s a fantastic cafe! I took note of you and your friends entering by the Gate. I try to keep tabs on folks coming into town as I often have need of people interested in less… dainty… work than you find up here,” Renkin gestured out the window at the street lined with high end shops and well-dressed upper class persons. The wine was delivered and Renkin took an appreciative sip.
“I need a package delivered, a bit of a ways out of town. Perhaps a day or so by horse.” Renkin paused and checked his notebook. “Yes, I believe you have horses. The job is simple. I need you, or you and your friends, to deliver a parcel to particular place.”
Oggrash considered this and said, “You said “My type”. Is this a dangerous delivery?”
“Not as such, no. I just need jobs like this done from time to time, and I prefer to hire people who look like they’ll get it done.”
“Has anyone failed to complete one of these delivery jobs for you?”
“No. I hope that speaks to my ability to find qualified individuals,” said Renkin with a smile as he sipped a bit more wine.
“Well you know I have some companions. We have pressing matters that brought us to Magnimar. Is there a time frame for this job?”
Renkin considered for a moment. “Not as such, sooner is better than later. But I can wait a few days for you to consider. The fee will change depending on the day of completion, however. Tell you what, you talk with friends. Here is my card, you can contact me at the address. It is a few blocks from here, give or take.”
“How much does this job pay?” asked Ogg as he took the card.
“Well, that depends on when you take the job, and when you finish it. But we’re talking about thousands of gold pieces if you complete the task. Oh, Jake, Jake!”
Renkin leapt up from his seat as a man entered the café. Renkin was about to leave and turned back as he left, “You know where to find me, I look forward to prosperous relationship!”
With that Renkin was off to the bar and the man called Jake. Ogg sat at the table and inspected the card. It had an address and Renkin’s name on it. He tucked the card into his purse, looked out the window, and took mouthful of wine. It was quite delicious. Oggrash watched the passersby as he drained the glass over a few minutes, and then left the café.
About half an hour later Oggrash was standing before a low wall that separated the walk in front of Fort Indros from the cliffs below. It was a good two hundred feet down to the crashing surf. The sun lit the sea and cliffs beautifully. This was no sea of grass or dust. Fort Indros sat atop a small peninsula jutting northwards from the city proper. To the west Oggrash clearly saw Magnimar as it appeared from the sea.
He stood at the northeastern tip of the city. The Alabaster district stretched back southward, the Fogwall Cliffs leading almost due south on the east side of the district, gleaming marble and stone halting at the precipitous drop. The cliffs also continued south of the little peninsula curving from south to west until they were abruptly swallowed up by the ruins of a titanic basalt bridge that burst from the tops of the cliffs and soared northwest out over towering pylons. The pylons rose up some two hundred and fifty feet to meet the bottom of the bridge. The bridge itself was intact for about five hundred feet, still sitting on two pairs of the great pylons. Beyond that the bridge had collapsed into wave-beaten rubble. Three more pairs of pylons lead out into the sea, each in varying degrees of collapse, but still tall and proud given their apparent age.
West of the bridge the cliffs continued and turned south, cutting across the city and creating an upper and lower Magnimar to the east and west, respectively. Underneath the great bridge there appeared to be a slum which filled cove beach on the near side, with small docks leading into the shady underside of the bridge itself. Southwest of the bridge the slums turned into a massive port in a small bay some three hundred feet or so across. The city continued west below the cliffs to the Yondabakari river. A small island covered in mills sat in the mouth of the river, and a slum sat west of the island. A pair of stone bridges connected the east and west sides of the island to the mainland.
The entire city was encased within a large wall, with gates at the Lost Coast Road to the east, underneath two enormous statues of mean bearing stave in the middle of the city above the cliffs in the southern wall in Naos, a large gate to the west in the lower city, and a dilapidated gate in the slums to the far west. Throughout the city towering statues, towers, and temples peppered the mass of buildings. It was noder wonder Magnimar was known as the city of monuments.
Oggrash sat on the wall, looked out to sea and contemplated for a long time. The journey here had been long, but it appeared another journey was beginning. He listened to the wind and the waves and the sounds of the largest city he had ever seen.
After a time he swung down off the wall. A few abortive attempts at conversation later he was able to learn the name of the great bridge: the Irespan. It seemed the young noble he managed to get talking would never think of venturing there of his own accord. But he nervously noted that a man like Oggrash might find it more bearable. Oggrash was not able to hold the young man’s conversation long enough to learn more. As afternoon began to settle in, he began the walk back to the inn on the plaza of the House of Lords.
The Seven’s Sawmill
After the group reconvened at dinner it was decided that they would spend the night and depart for the Seven’s Sawmill the next morning.
Morning came. With Vinder still off on his mysterious and sudden errand, the party of Raoul, Garus, Oggrash and the newcomer Patrick left the Alabaster district and walked west through Naos and skirted the Capital District to the northwest, taking the road down the cliffs to the Dockway. Then west through the docks into Beacon’s Point and on to Kyver’s Islet, the island between the slums of Ordellia to the west of the Yondabakari and Beacon’s Point to the northeast and The Keystone to the southeast. The sawmill sat jutting out form the southwest corner of Kyver’s Islet.
The building sat on huge wooden pilings going down into the riverbed, A boardwalk extended from the path to the mill out over the river on the north side of the building and wrapped around to the western side. On the eastern side a stairway led down do a door on the building a few feet above the high tide line. The building was old, nondescript. It was noisy with the sound of waterwheels churning inside and the sounds of lumber being cut and processed.
Garus shifted into a the shape a great wild cat, nearly as large as his gorilla companion Grodd. The cat, gorilla, and Oggrash walked out across the boardwalk to the a door facing the river. Raoul stayed near the top of the stairs to the lower door. Patrick hedged his bets, moving to the corner of the boardwalk where he could see the entire group. As the group looked around Patrick raised his hand and a large black raven flew down from the sky and landed on the sorcerer’s arm.
“Check it out Korba. See if there is anything useful you can learn,” the half-orc said, and helped launch the familiar up into the sky. Patrick relaxed and let his sense merge into his familiar. Korba was a smart raven, imbued with some of her master’s intelligence and healthy dose of free will. She wheeled around the mill and noticed nothing out of the ordinary. At the top of the mill there was a rookery, however. She sensed Patrick’s command to check more closely and flew down to land outside the iron-caged wooden structure. Three ravens sat strangely still inside.
“Caged friends! I help?” cawed Korba in the language of ravens.
“Seeds! Food! Good seeds!” one of the birds replied.
Korba shuffled to the door and found it unlocked. She pecked and grasped at the handle and was able to pry the door open enough to hop into the caged space. She hoped back out and bumped the bucket of seed outside to the door, then knocked the bucket over, spilling seed into the cage. The ravens stirred and hoped over to peck at the pile of spilled seeds.
“Come out! You free!” Korba squawked. The ravens made no move to leave the cage. “No leave prison?”
“Elf bad. Cage better. No leave. Stay. Eat,” replied the birds.
Patrick sensed the conversation, as it was, through the bond he shared with Korba. He bid her to stay above and keep an eye on the ravens and anyone who might approach the mill, or leave it.
Raoul decided for a direct approach and walked down the stairwell. Patrick gestured to Ogg and Garus and then went to follow Raoul. The paladin banged loudly on the door, and it was opened by a millworker. When Raoul made to step in the worker shifted to block to the door frame.
“I’m sorry. The mill is not open for business. If you would like to make an order, or see the facilities you must speak to our management,” the worker said with dull politeness.
“Ah, who would I need to speak with to make such and order?’ queried the paladin.
“Please take it up with the Seven. If you write a letter stating your intended business I would be happy to deliver it. Please leave it in the box by the door,” the millworker said, then stepped back and shut the door.
On the far side of the mill, Garus had grown impatient. He banged on the door a few times with his paws. The sound of footsteps on stairs was audible over the din of the waterwheels. Grodd smashed one meaty fist into the doors and burst into the room beyond. Oggrash made a gesture and a magical shield appeared around his body, then he walked in after Grodd and Garus.
Below, Patrick heard the door break and hastily cast a spell on Raoul. The paladin swelled in size by a few feet, magic increasing his size and strength to match that of Grodd. Patrick quickly tossed off another spell imbuing the paladin with accuracy, skill and resilience.
At the cages Korba saw an elf rush to the birds and quickly hid until the man left. As he retreated through a trapdoor in the roof one of the birds flew to the north. Korba followed, cawing at the ravens to cease. The raven cawed back, “No stop! Elf Mad! Go lady!”
Korba pushed a questioning feeling to Patrick, who told her to follow the bird, then return.
Raoul shoved open the lower door in time to see a man dressed in something like a perverse jester’s outfit dash into the paladin’s path. The pants were striped brown and black. A red cloak or tunic with long strips tapering almost to the ground covered the man, and was embossed with gold symbols and decorative plates. Over the man’s head was a leather mask with one hideously distorted eye and leering teeth. Spots of dried blood were visible all over the costume. The creature held a vicious war razor in one hand.
The room itself was the entire lower level of the sawmill. A narrow walkway wrapped around the perimeter. To the north were the four great waterwheels, churning with the river below. Mechanisms filling the room to the south were presumably the gears, pulleys and other apparatus that transferred the power of the rushing water to the floors above. There was no apparent way to reach the upper floors besides attempting to climb the pulleys. As Raoul tried to enter he was hit with a wave of pain, and felt needles pricks and small slices across his body beneath his armor.
Raoul drew his sword out. As the blade left the scabbard crackling flames of holy fire engulfed the steel. The paladin swung the blazing weapon down into the cultist jester and the man was sliced and burned from face to mid belly. He fell in a smoldering heap of blood and smoke, bouncing off the pulleys and mechanical assemblage inside the door. The dying man was dragged down through the assembly and fell between the mechanisms and the waterwheels into the Yondabakari rushing below the mill. A second cultist-jester on the far side of the room leapt onto one of the water wheels and disappeared into the mist.
Above, on the ground level floor, Garus, Oggrash and Grodd entered a silent room. This room was also the size of the entire sawmill. Stairs led up the north wall. Beyond the stairs was a low wall to the east from behind which sawdust spilled. To the south were four bays filled with machinery. Two wagons filled the rest of the room. A hole in the ceiling beside the stairs gave access, filled with ropes and slings, to the floor above. The trio ran up the stairs to a landing surrounding the hoists, and took up positions around the door on the landing to the first floor of the building.
Garus pounced through the door after the others were in position and saw a clutch of cultists all near the entrance. The druid, in the form a majestic predatory cat of enormous size, lashed out at the nearest cultist with his claws and eviscerated the foe. The room Garus had entered was dominated by stacks of split lumber, firewood, and finished products for shipment. There were four openings in the ceiling and two chutes of winches along the west wall for raising and lower timber and wood. Grodd followed in, biting one of the cultists, but failed to bring him down as the cultist wrenched free of the gorilla. Ogg pushed in after the others and loosed his greatsword but missed a third cultist and the jester shifted away. Oggrash’s sword bit into the floor and stuck in the wood.
The remaining two cultists weaved around Garus, trying to strike the beastial druid. On drew a thin line of blood across the cat’s shoulder, but the other missed. Garus retaliated, lunging and closing his jaws around the second cultist’s neck, snapping it like a twig. Before dropping the dead man Garus turned and raked the third and final cultist, mangling the man’s face and neck. Oggrash heaved his sword out of the wood and returned to the stairwell. Garus had torn through the room in whirlwind of claws and blood. Sounds came from above and the druid and gorilla followed Oggrash upstairs to the second story.
Down below Raoul saw there were no more foes to smite and hurried back out to the stairwell and around the ground floor, hoping to catch up with his friends. Patrick glanced around, made to follow Raoul, then turned and unleash rays of scorching fire from his hands into the pulleys and mechanisms. The machinery burned, tore, and melted. As Patrick followed Raoul back around the building the mechanical sounds of the mill died down. Screams were heard above, aside the steady creaking of the waterwheels and the rush of the river.
Raoul went into the ground floor room and stopped as Patrick began to climb the stairs towards the sounds of fighting above.
“There is something evil here,” said the paladin.
Raoul walked slowly forward, and a pair of cultists sprang from hiding places behind the carts, attempting to ambush the paladin. The sorcerer and paladin were faster, however. As one cultist charged Raoul, the armored paladin swung his flaming sword mightily and buried it deep into the side of the cultist’s chest. The second cultist rushed across the room but was hit full in the face and chest by another pair of scorching rays from Patrick. Both cultists were dead almost instantly. The victors continued up the stairs.
Above, Oggrash, Garus and Grodd had reached the door on the second floor landing. Oggrash was on the stairs, Grodd near the door, and Garus had vaulted the open gap filled with ropes and slings. Five cultists appeared as if form the wood itself. One burst out of a side door, three appeared from the room to the south, and one appeared climbing up the ropes in the shaft. Grodd plucked the climber off the rope and smashed his masked head into the wall with a wet crunch, dropping the body. Garus clawed one of the cultists near the door, but failed to kill him. Oggrash bellowed in fury, letting his rage course out, and cleaved the cultist coming up the stair, maiming the man’s arm.
The cultists continued unleashing their magical infliction on the trio on the second story landing, drawing minor cuts, bruises and injuries across them. By this time Patrick had made his way up the stairs and caught the cultist facing Ogg with another searing ray of fire, laying the man out burned and twitching. Grodd barreled from the landing, through the doors and into the room beyond, taking a pair of cultists with him. Garus, engaged on the landing, succeeded in killing another cultist by tooth and claw.
Ogg and Patrick followed the ball of Grodd and cultists into the log splitting room beyond. Two large log splitters and saws were arrayed in the middle of the room, and the winches and pulley shafts ended here. The machinery had ceased moving after Patrick’s fiery signal that work was done for the day. One cultist escaped from Grodd as the great beast pummeled the other to pulp. Patrick hit the escapee with searing fire, and Oggrash charged in, hacking down the burning man with his greatsword. The bloodrager calmed, breathing heavily as he pulled his sword out of the dying man. Raoul, who had finally caught up with the group, laid his hands on the fatigued half-orc and the rage sighed and straightened.
The group heard movement above, on the top floor of the sawmill. They readied themselves and cautiously went up the stairs. The top floor was a large room with a few small closets or offices around the edges. The stairwell opened up to the northwest corner of the room, with the access shaft separating a small walkway on the west wall from the east and south of the room. South of the shaft the walkway turned east, a wall with a door to the south and the access shaft to the north. The rest of the room was great workshop strewn with woodworking tools and deep sawdust. Four cultists stood in the middle of the room. An old elf, dressed in a more elaborate version of the jester costume stood near the back.
His tunic was red and gold, and shared the long, tail like decorations, but his tails were starched and pressed and flew off like buttresses on a cathedral. Instead of trailing to the floor, his tunic ended in more tapered flourishes mid-thigh. A purple and white striped skirt hung below, edged with decorated ribbon or possibly prayer shawls. His features were hidden behind a leather mask made of single long piece of tanned human flesh, roughly stitched into a concentric spiral and covered in strange markings. A stern, deep voice came from the behind the mask.
“The heroes of Sandpoint appear to be more of nuisance than expected, it seems.”
None of the heroes said a word. Raoul moved to the space between the wall and shaft, with the others behind him. Garus curled as if to pounce.
“Such silence for so many.”
Raoul ducked his shield and smirked at the masked man.
“Hmm. You have vanquished a fair amount of evil. And had your journey continued past this point, you would have encountered even more. Attack!”
The four cultists spread out and approached to attack Raoul. Raoul prepared to engage the closest cultist, but the man in the mask gestured and spoke, and Raoul was rooted to the spot, paralyzed. Patrick loosed two more rays of fire at the masked man, but both splashed against the wall behind the dark haired man as he ducked. Garus summoned a great orb of water in the north of the room and sent it bowling through the line of cultists at the masked, blowing sawdust into the air as the orb traveled. The cultists dodge and weaved, and their leader was able to sidestep it in time to avoid getting engulfed by the ball of fluid. Oggrash screamed in rage and lunged past Raoul, hacking into the nearest cultist with blind fury.
Raoul’s magical prison yielded to his will, and the paladin sung his sword at another cultist, but missed. The leader of the cultists gestured again and the great orb of water in the south of the room dissolved into the air. The cultists unleashed a barrage of their magical infliction, opening even more minor wounds and cuts on the party. Though not powerful, these constant blasts of evil energy were starting to tax Patrick and Raoul. Their clothes showed myriad tiny blood stains leaking through.
The cultist Oggrash had attacked hit back, drawing blood. Patrick refocused his burning rays on two of the cultists, but missed, flustered by the waves of injury he was enduring. Garus abandoned a magical approach and leapt over the gap to the far side of the room, tackling and clawing a cultists and he landed. Ogg, enraged by the endless assault of gestures and invisible pain, wadedinto a pair of cultists and piles of sawdust. One swing of his greatsword rent off the arm of one cultist, and on the backswing the half-orc slashed across the neck of a second. Sprays of blood and sawdust coated him and he searched for another target. Raoul smashed his shield into a third cultist near the stairs, knocking him down and then delivering the coup-de-grace with his longsword.
As his minions fall, the leader muttered an incantation behind his mask and three maggots made of mud appeared. The abominations wriggled forward baring tooth ringed maws. “Those are not creatures of the light!” Raoul shouted as he felt the unholy presences appear. Two of the creatures tried to bite Oggrash and Raoul, but missed. The landing cleared, Grodd leapt over to the far side, near Oggrash, and smashed one of the maggots under a great clawed fist. Patrick loosed a volley of magic missiles into the third maggot near Grodd to the east of the room and Garus surged forward and sunk his fangs into the mud grub. It squirmed, then stilled in Garus’ jaws as the cat’s claws torn open the last cultist.
Ogg brought his sword down on the first grub, splitting it in two. As Grodd lifted his paw off the second, surprised to see it still struggling, Ogg tried to slash it, but missed as the maggot wriggled. The masked men stepped forward and unleashed an even more powerful blast of painful affliction, searing the nerves of everyone in the room. Raoul, looking pale, ducked behind the short wall and dragged a potion off his belt, pouring the liquid into his mouth as fast as he could drink. A bleeding and pained Patrick loosed another flight of missiles at the last remaining grub and it sizzled, unmoving.
Garus crouched down and then pounced across the room, clawing and biting and snarling as he hit the masked man. The two went down in a roll, and Garus ended up on his feet behind the masked man, who had also managed to recover his footing, turned about. Neither had taken a blow in the tussle. Oggrash seized the moment of misdirection and charged with a curse, impaling the masked man in the back. The force of the blow carried Ogg’s sword through the man’s back and out his chest, lifting him slightly off the floor. The man looked down, saw the blade, and sighed wetly. Oggrash lowered the man to his feet, then braced his foot against the elf’s lower back and drew out the blade. The elf staggered as the open wound released gouts of blood into the sawdust, then fell over sideways as he died.
Back from the Mill
The sounds of the mill had stopped, aside from the creaking of the great water wheels below. On the top floor of the now corpse-ridden building the party stood over a dead elf and his deceased henchmen. Raoul walked over to the bleeding corpse, laying his hand on Oggrash as he passed to relieve the orc from his rage-induced fatigue. After pulling off the twisted spiral flesh mask the dead elf wore, the paladin was able to see the face of the man who had been hell-bent on the party’s death.
“I think this guy might have been important around here. I think his name might be Ironbriar? Justice Ironbriar sounds familiar…”
Patrick’s eyes widened a bit as he heard Raoul speak. The sorcerer stepped close enough to verify that the dead elf was in fact one of the Justices of Magnimar. While Patrick considered what the killing of a Justice might entail for his future Oggrash walked into the office in the back of the room.
Inside the walls were covered with the tanned and stretched faces of numerous people, thirteen once Ogg finished counting. Just the skin of the faces, each in a particularly disquieting grimace or silent scream of pain. The rest of the room was mundane, squalid even. A scratchy blanket covered a cot. The only items of note were a ledger, some valuable looking old books, and a spellbook with an ornate cover depicting two snakes, one red and one green. Ogg flipped through it, recognizing many languages across the pages. Garus joined Oggrash in the room and began reading through the ledger.
“Looks like this was that Ironbriar. He was getting payments from someone called the “Red Mantis”, for “Vorel’s Legacy,” said the druid. “Looks like they wanted to get ahold of that mold from Foxglove Manor. Doesn’t look like Ironbriar ever managed to get any from Aldern before we showed up.”
In the corner of the room a ladder led up to the roof. Oggrash climbed up to find the rookery, empty now. The remaining crows had fled. After gathering the books form Ironbriar’s room the party slowly made their way back through the dusty, blood caked mill. Grodd picked up the strange masks and the war razors off each still cultist. As they came to the door Garus walked up to Grodd. With a few arcane gestures the weapon laden gorilla shrank into a tiny statue of himself. Garus pocketed the beast and the group left.
Korba returned to Patrick and the two shared their thoughts for a moment.
“She followed the bird to a clock tower under the Irespan, to the north. Seems like that might be our next stop,” the sorcerer told the others. “She didn’t get close enough to figure out anything about what’s going on inside.”
“Oy, you lot!” shouted a mill worker, passing by the smoking and strangely still mill the group had just left. “What’s going on here?”
“Nothing to worry about, sir, you might as well be on your way. Nothing at all happening here, we were just looking to secure some business!” beamed Raoul to the worker.
“Yeah, coz everyone working down here wears armor and looks like they spent a shift in the local abattoir!” quipped the worker as he slowed to stare at the group. The gang looked themselves up and down. There was an undue amount of blood to be seen for a friendly meeting of wood suppliers and millers. Ogg stepped forward, drawing himself up.
“We’ll be seeing the city watch soon enough,” he growled.
”But you’re probably best off not telling anyone you saw anything. Let the guards deal with whatever comes next today.”
“Yeah, sure, well, yeah,” the worker stammered as he backed off. “Just doin’ my civic duty and whatnot. Best be on to my shift.”
As the millworker hurried away Oggrash walked to the riverbank and began splashing water on his chest and pants, trying to remove the worst of the sawdust and blood that was forming disgusting cakes on his person. The others joined him. After a few minutes serving propriety, the group set off to the north, heading for the Arvensoar.
Magnimar’s upper and lower cities were split by a great cliff that ran from the edge of the Irespan south to the middle of the wall separating the town from country. The Arvensoar was a towering obelisk jutting from the base of the cliff, up the cliffside, and on into the air above the city. Inside the great tower were stairs and lifts connecting the upper and lower city. Also housed in the tower, keeping a watchful eye of the traffic on the stairs and lifts, was the seat of Magnimar’s City Watch. The party, now dry from their walk up from the river, were waiting in a chamber for the arrival of Acacia Uriana, the Captain of Magnimar’s Guards. The door to the antechamber opened, and fierce woman in chainmail over a blue tunic strode in.
“Didn’t take you lot long to cause some trouble, did it?” Captain Uriana quipped as she halted before the party. “You’ve been here maybe a week? I mean honestly. I knew Hemlock said you were direct, but burning down the oldest mill in the city? Well, what have you got to say?”
Garus stepped up and spoke, “We found evidence pointing to some rather grizzly cultists, ma’am.”
“Oh, cultists, sure. You know, this city is lousy with gods and cults. Some people think the whole place was built over some evil demi-urge’s sandbox. You don’t see my men torching every shop with an elf or an effigy in it do you?”
“Ma’am, this cult was led by Justice Ironbriar. He is dead.” Garus said in a low voice.
Uriana straightened up, as if a cord attached to her spine had just been pulled taught. The room grew very tense as the assortment of aides and other watchmen suddenly lost interest in what they were doing. Uriana sighed, and motioned to a guard by the door, who closed the entrance firmly. The room seemed to relax slightly as Uriana gestured the group to a desk to one side of the room.
“Well then. Who knows about this?” asked the Captain.
Raoul spoke. “A few mill workers saw us on the way out, and the mill is not really a going concern anymore.”
“I’ll have to tell the Lord Mayor. We need to keep this quiet. The death of a Justice, and in such circumstances makes things… difficult. Do you understand this?”
The group nodded as Captain Uriana kept speaking.
“Do you have proof?”
Oggrash produced the various tomes gleaned from Ironbriar’s room, and Garus produced a few of the Masks, including Ironbriar’s tanned spiral of flesh.
“We are planning to investigate the clocktower under the Irespan tomorrow,” Oggrash said. “It seems Ironbriar was involved with someone there.”
Uriana leafed through the books and considered her options. She looked back up to the group and spoke in a level tone.
“Well, at least you seem to have proof for this bloody quest you seem hell bent on bring from Sandpoint. I’ll send a few guards to check out that clock tower. We’ll have someone keep an eye on you after you leave, too. That’s as much for my protection as yours.”
The meat of the conversation was over, but formalities remained. The group gave their statements to a taciturn Sargent then departed the Arvensoar with a pair of guards following at a plausibly deniable distance. Raoul suggested the group visit his old acquaintance Tira at the temple. Everyone received the general blessing of welcome healing, while Raoul took a moment to pray and converse with Tira. Eventually they ended up back at their inn, settling into a meal and drinks.
As the evening wound down, a man holding himself like a guard but dressed as a commoner came in and slowly worked his way toward the group’s table, eventually sitting nonchalantly on one of the benches the group had staked claim to.
“No need to draw any attention, I’m from the Guard,” he said as he sipped a mug a shrugged off the skeptical looks from Garus and Oggrash. “Just came to tell you the facts and the fictions. That clock tower is a right nasty bit of building. It’s a shabby deathtrap. No one goes in our out during the day, but sometimes a fool gets it into his head to try and climb it. Usually ends up with them falling off at some point and making a mess. And that’s all that we know for sure.”
“Some good rumors for scaring the weak-kneed though. One lady told us there is a snake woman living in the tower, which sounds like bullshit. Another guy said there was a scarecrow man inside, and I’ve got no fucking clue what that is about. Well, enjoy your drinks!”
The totally-not-a-guardsman lifted his mug in cheers, stood, and continued ambling around the inn.
The Shadow Clock
The next morning the party gathered and prepared to head to the Underbridge. A guardsman found the group and informed them that no activity had been seen overnight. After locating an alchemist the party purchased some potions to prepare for the excepted fight to come and made their way down the cliffs to the base of the Irespan.
The Shadow Clock stood in the shadow of the great bridge. Where the supporting pylons of the Irespan were ancient yet strong, the Shadow Clock appeared young but crippled. The structure rose from the shanty town up into the shadows, reaching to within tens of feet of the bottom of the bridge. The tower was made of an amalgam of limestone blocks, with wood and metal supports holding the rickety tower up in an improbable lean. Scaffolding surrounded various parts of the exterior. The clock itself was motionless, stuck at a permanent three o’clock. At the top of the tower a crumbling angel sat, leaning dangerously towards the edge as if to dive down into the street below.
The party arrived at the door to the decrepit tower. Vinder scanned the main door and found no traps. Garus and Grodd went in first, followed by Raoul, then Oggrash, and finally Vinder. Beyond the door the entire ground floor of the tower was a single room with no ceiling. Starting in the far northwest corner a flight of rotting wooden stairs lead up into darkness above. The interior was a hollow shaft, with four massive bronze bells hanging as dark silhouettes against their moorings far above. The northern and eastern walls were home to six collapsing offices. A single wagon sat in the in front of the old offices.
Grodd sniffed the air, and caught the smell of many work animals. Under the layers of horse and donkey the odor of something almost human lingered. Garus, sensing this, picked up a small stone, cast a light spell upon it, and tossed the pebble into the darkness under the stairs to the northwest. The light the stone cast was bent back oddly, as if some spell or charm was covering the space under the stairwell. Raoul stepped forward and saw a large misshapen monster lurking in the corner.
The creature was an amalgamation of human, horse and cow flesh stitched together into the form of a fat man. Covering the creature were clumps of straw and rotting rags of clothing. Hanging form the scarecrow-golem’s belt were three bloated and decayed human heads that almost looked like ripe pumpkins. In one great paw the beast held a wicked over-sized scythe. A deep, broken voice moaned out of the beast.
“Why you come here? She no happy!”
Oggrash quickly cast a spell that caused multiple flickering versions of himself to appear, overlaying his form as he tensed to fight.
“Who isn’t happy?’” asked the paladin.
“SHE no happy! Leave NOW!” roared the golem.
“Is it evil?” whispered Vinder, who had come up behind the paladin.
“Oh, yeah,” drolled Raoul.
“Kill it,” stated Vinder.
Raoul charged directly into the golem, drawing his sword and driving home a heavy blow into the stitched flesh and rags. Garus quickly cast a strength enhancing spell upon himself. Vinder braced and launched a scorching ray of fire into to corner, but the golem shuffled to the side as Vinder loosed the spell, and the searing flames crashed into the stones in the corner.
“I NO LIKE FIRE!” bellowed the beast as Oggrash charged in. The half-orc swing too fast as the golem screamed, and his sword flew through empty air.
“NO LIKE TIN MAN!” growled the golem, sweeping it’s’ scythe at Raoul. The scythe glanced off the paladin’s heavy armor as the paladin stood his ground, failing to draw blood. Raoul took advantage of the miss, lunging in and striking with his sword again.
Grodd lumbered forward, clawing and biting at the golem. The gorilla’s claws found flesh, but seems to have little effect on the beast. The golem had been backed into the corner and surround by the half-orc, the paladin and the gorilla. Garus moved closer to prevent a break through the line, and wracked his brain to recognize the creature.
“It must be a flesh golem! Be wary, they can going into a rage!” the druid called forward. Oggrash grunted.
Vinder loosed another ray of fire, hitting the golem and seeming to slow it, but failing to harm much beyond the dazed expression the creature displayed.
“I’ll give you some rage! ARRRRRRGGGH!” cried Ogg as he let his own berserk rage loose, blood magic swelling his muscles and increasing his speed. The bloodrager channeled and focused his fury into his great sword, causing it to glowing with eerie light, and Oggrash swung wildly. The swing found flesh, then bone, then air. The great stroke cleaved the golem in twain from shoulder to hip, and the bisected beast fell to the floor with a pair of fleshy thuds. Oggrash stood panting over the corpse, letting his rage subside as the dying golem twitched in the straw and dirt.
Vinder walked up to the body and grabbed a shimmering cloak.
“Wouldn’t have expected one of these on a golem. Cloak of Elven Kind, good for hiding!” quipped the arcanist as he shook the cloak and slid it over his shoulders.
Garus searched the large room as Oggrash calmed himself. The druid found a moldy satchel full of gold and silver coins in the rubble. The others meet at the foot of the great stairwell wrapping the wall of the clock tower, and as Ogg and Garus joined them the group headed up.
Vinder lead the way, testing each step as he went. At the first corner the a few boards crumbled and feel down onto the corpse below. Vinder prepared a feather fall spell. Vinder moved ahead and the group spaced out as they continued to climb the north wall. Raoul was trying to walk carefully, but as he reached the middle of the stairs, his armor and weight were too much for the stairs and his foot plunged through. The paladin caught himself on the rickety stair that was before him. Ogg moved down to the heavily armored paladin and gingerly helped him up. As they settled on the stairs, the wood beneath them creaked again. Oggrash looked up to Vinder apprehensively and gestured to the smaller man to continue up along the wall.
Garus looked up and down the stairs, then shouted “Hold!”, and jumped down to the floor below. The druid walked to the center of the room, and positioned himself directly below the four great bells above. Closing his eyes, the druid stilled himself. At first it appeared as if nothing was happening. Then slowly Garus started to meld into the ground. His boots grew and gnarled like tree roots. His arms raised, lengthening, twisting and growing into branches. The druid’s whole body elongated and turned to wood. After a minute or two Garus had morphed entirely into a tree, with stubby braches jutting out around the trunk almost exactly like a spiraling staircase.
Vinder jumped out and grabbed a branch, pulling himself onto the makeshift stairs.
“Didn’t know druids did interior carpentry!” he chuckled as he started to climb.
Oggrash and Raoul found a set of thicker branches that brushed the stairs and worked their way onto the Garus-tree. After a few minutes of much less treacherous climbing the party pushed through the canopy of the Garus-tree and found themselves on the rafters holding the four silent bells. One of the bells seemed to be loosely rigged, a trap the druid had let them climb past. A hole in the wall of the tower led to more rickety stairs, this time on the outside of the dilapidated tower. As the three made their way onto the platform by the hole Garus morphed back, branches first wrapping around the bell’s rafter like great vines, then roots and trunk shrinking back into the more humanoid form the druid was born into. Finally, as the tree was almost entirely Garus shaped again, it pulled itself onto the platform in the corner, and Garus completed the reversal.
Raoul began climbing the exterior stairs. The view was terrifying. Only a haphazard collection of planks tenuously anchored to stone separated the paladin from a hundred foot fall to the slums below. The dark underside of the Irespawn loomed heavy overhead. As Raoul rounded the stairs with the party in tow, he felt the familiar ache of evil in his head once again. Grodd grunted lowly, smell the stench of faceless stalkers lurking somewhere nearby. After completing a quarter-turn of the stairs, the group was faced with the choice of more stairs to the rooftop and hole in the side of the tower leading to darkness.
The group gathered in the small wooden room the size of a large closet or storeroom. A single door lead into the top of the clocktower and a small wooden cage holding a single raven sat in the storeroom. Vinder took a place by the hole to the stairs, Raoul stood firmly in the center of the room, and Oggrash and Garus opened the door and pressed into the room beyond. Three leathery faceless stalkers were waiting.
Ogg let the rage flow through his blood again and charged the nearest abomination. His sword struck true, hitting the stalker in the shoulder and lodging deep into the torso. The walker gaped stupidly as it fell to the floor. Grodd followed in behind the druid and bloodrager. The gorilla lunged at the second stalker, but failed to hit as the creature twisted away to charge Ogg. Ogg dodged the stalker in turn. Raoul moved into the inner room, guarding the exit to prevent anyone from coming in our out. Vinder, standing by the fractured wall, heard noise from below. He moved through the storage room towards the sound of fighting, casting an alarm on the inner door as he passed the paladin. Garus moved up to the stalker that had failed to hit Oggrash and landed a strike on the leathery foe. The creature struck back but missed the druid.
The magical alarm went off as a fourth stalker burst into the room and barreled into Raoul. It swung a sword at the paladin and hit, but it glanced harmlessly off Raoul’s armor. Oggrash, still raging, cut down the stalker facing Garus with a mighty slash across the monster’s back, severing muscle and spine. Grodd again pummeled bit the stalker on Raoul, drawing blood as it tried to avoid the gorilla. Garus moved across the room, shifting into the form of a great cat, attacking the last of the original three stalkers. The faceless one fell to the floor as Garus dug claws into its’ chest and clamped his feline jaw down over the stalkers face, cracking bone.
Vinder planted his feet and sent a torrent of magical missiles into the stalker facing Grodd and Raoul, and the paladin viciously hacked into the creature’s leg. Staggering, the stalkers tried to flee to the stairs. It made it to the door, but the damage to its leg and the disorientation of the missiles caused it to stumble as it hit the stairs. The abomination pitched forward and flew off the edge it the open air beyond. An unintelligible screech fell away, then abruptly silenced with a wet smacking sound.
The group looked around the room they had just coated in blood. The fight had taken place within the workings of the clock itself. On the south wall mass of broken and abused machinery sat behind the backside of the clock face. On the sides of the room great gears sat motionless, rusted fast. The stairs and supports up to this point had been hasty, poorly built repairs, but this room had a solid floor. Vinder and Garus briefly looked for any clues to the room’s current use, but found nothing. The party headed back to the stairs to finish the ascent and find whatever was waiting for them at the top.
As Vinder and Oggrash ventured back onto the last flight of stairs, the sunlight weakly filtering in some the sides of the bridge was cut off by a browing layer of dark clouds. A black wraith with horns drifted out of the clouds and began circling the tower at a range of some hundred feet or so. The creature emitted a screeching keen as it passed. Vinder and Ogg both immediately recognized it as a demon of the Goddess Lamashtu, Mother of Monsters. The creatures circled, but did not approach, and the heroes climbed the final stairs to a small landing just below the tilting angel statue.
The rooftop landing was a small circular area atop the conical roof of the tower, surrounding the onyx angel. The platform was perhaps ten feet across at the widest point between the statue’s deteriorating supports and the edge of the roof. As the group caught their breath, each prepared himself, magically or otherwise, to fight the circling demon. The creature was slowly spiraling in towards the rooftop.
After a few moments, Raoul walked counterclockwise around the statue, and saw a bizarre snake-like creature with the torso and head of a woman. She was covered in some combination of scales and armor above the waist. Her face was obscured by mask with fanning points radiating above her long, jet black hair. In her hands was a trident. In the sunken eyes of the mask there was sickly green glow where her eyes would have been.
The snake-woman struck at Raoul with lightning speed, slithering across the small space and badly bruising the paladin through his armor. Garus signaled to Grodd and the two both heaved against the statue of the angel, trying to push the stone icon over and onto the snake-lady. Grodd lost his footing on the grimy roof and staggered, rocking the statue but failing to knock it over. The demon slowly circled ever closer.
Vinder stepped forward to get a clear line of sight, drew a wand, and loosed a volley of magic missiles into the demon as it swooped past. As the missiles found their mark, the demon contorted and then disappeared. It had been an illusion.
Oggrash charged into the snake-woman, greatsword arcing, but missed as the woman contorted to the side and laughed. Raoul hacked into the woman’s serptine body, silence the laugh with a screech of pain and rage.
“You fools have no idea what you are doing!” she cried as she drew back form the paladin’s holy sword and swung her trident at Oggrash. The tines hit, drawing two great bloody gashes across the half-orc’s chest. Just as Ogg reeled back from the blow the statue gave an ominous creak and Grodd and Garus pushed it over onto the snake-woman. She dodged the falling hulk by an inch, bunch had to close with the bloodrager and paladin to do so. She now had no space to fall back. The toppled angel neatly blocked the walkway behind the frustrated woman.
Vinder, now cut off from the fight by supports and the fallen angel, quickly opened a dimensional door and popped up out near the stairs. He lined up to face the snake-woman and let fly a lance of lighting. The attack was dodge, discharged into the statue behind the serpent. Raoul and Oggrash both attacked with a flurry of blows, but only the bloodrager managed to hit with an off-balance swing. The snake woman chanted, and both her closest attackers dropped unconscious to the roof.
Garus began chanting while Grodd leapt to the fallen half orc and slapped him across the face waking him. As his eyes opened Oggrash saw the druid summon a great ball of ball of water and hurl it towards the snake, but the orb missed. Ogg attempted cast a spell morphing his greatsword into a magical whipie and pull the snake-woman down, but the woman was able to resist the magical affect. In retribution he woman stuck Oggrash again with two rapid blows of her trident.
With the snake-woman trapped between the group and the fallen statue, everyone but Vinder piled in to swing, strike, claw and bite at the woman. She artfully twisted and dodged most of the blow, buy the cat-formed Garus was able to land a few deep claw wounds across her long, sinuous body. Utterly pinned, the snake woman ach chanted a spell off and this time Vinder dropped to the wooden boards. Grodd stepped back and cuff the arcanist, waking him from the magical sleep. Vinder began pulling a patch of his makeshift robe.
With a roar Oggrash raised his greatword high. As the woman came out of her chanting trance, she dried to dodge. Instead of sliding back, the woma bounced off the fallen statue and back into the arc of the bloodrager’s blade. He struck true, hacking into her sholder in one stroke, then pulling back the blade and thrusting it deep into the her chest. The green light in her mask’s eye flickered and faded, and the whole of the woman’s snake tail twitch, the went slack. The fight was over.