Rise of the Runelords

Retaking Fort Rannick, pt. 3 (Turning the Tide)
Neth 27, 4707

Dorella Kreeg, a horrific ogre sorceress with a dented skull, enspells Ragnar immediately after he quaffs his healing potions, and the poor Ulfen stands immobile and helpless. However, Zendo succeeds in impaling Jolly Kreeg with his rapier, after the chubby ogre rolled into the Wall of Fire after the bard’s Hideous Laughter. Corvus finishes him off with magical missiles, and the bard turns his attention to Gragravan Kreeg, who faces off the bard with hands and mouth smeared with blood.

Gellius calls down the flaming wrath of Gozreh upon the ogres, burning many of them trapped in the sharp obsidian and rubble, and killing one of the lesser Kreegs. HIkage, greatly recovered , strikes down the grotesque Minktuck Kreeg, slamming the deformed brute with his fists and striking several of the rotting minks affixed to the Kreeg’s jaws free from their places.

Sensing their desperate position, Dorella casts a bolt of lightning which strikes Gellius and Zendo, narrowly missing the deft Hikage. The attractive, red-haired sorceress, who the group believes to be the mysterious Lucretia, attempts to send Gellius into the same deep slumber that felled Vale Temros, but the druid’s will is too strong. As the massive, intimidating leader of the ogres, Jaagrath Kreeg, blunders around in a rage, blinded by the firefall created by Corvus, Hikage strikes dead another Ogre. Gellius blinds Gragravan Kreeg with a deftly created ball of mud, allowing the bard to move to safety away from the violent ogre.

Corvus summons a Stinking Cloud of poisonous fumes. The fumes not only incapacitate many of the ogres, as well as Lucretia, but also block the vision of the enemy casters in the fort, and foil Jaagrath’s keen sense of smell. As the ogres frantically try to exit the poisonous, blinding mist, the wizard also dispels the spell paralyzing Ragnar.

Gragravan Kreeg, enraged at Gellius’s insulting spell, hooks the druid with his ogre hook, and nearly kills the druid, but Zendo quickly rushes to his aid, though it takes some time to heal the badly wounded man back to consciousness. Kayven, hiding in safety in the fort, has not been idle and emerges from a trap door in the parapets to menace Corvus with his sword.

Ragnar, finally able to act again, charges the imposing scion of the Kreegs and slices him apart in a series of sweeping slashes, killing ‘Pappy’ Kreeg in a single, violent clash. Hikage, sensing an opportunity, smites down Dorella Kreeg as she emerges, coughing, from the fort. Corvus and Gellius burn and freeze, respectively, an ogre to death each, as Ragnar, his ire fully roused, doesn’t pause after felling Jaagrath and steps swiftly to Lucretia. The sorceress is much faster than she looks, and dodges several of the Ulfen’s blows until a lucky strike cuts her very deeply.

HIkage is engaged with Silas “Hookmaw” Kreeg and can’t fully focus on Lucretia as her form wavers and shifts. He strikes down the Ogre as the bloodied Lucretia transforms her lower half into a huge serpent and laughs bitterly. “Mokmurian would love to meet all of you,” she says, slyly, before vanishing from sight, evidently teleporting away from the battle.

Only now fully realizing his peril, Kayven retreats from the parapet to attempt to escape Fort Rannick. However, his retreat is cut off by a vengeful Hikage. The monk offers to accept Kayven’s surrender, but the treasonous rogue replies that he knows how the Black Arrows punish treachery, and a possible death is preferable to a certain one. Hikage grimly nods and begins to administer a beating to the wiry ranger. Corvus flies through the fort and sees Kayven reeling. He quickly sends the traitor into unconsciousness through a flurry of magic missles.

Having retaken Fort Rannick, Zendo, Gellius, and Ragnar quickly search the beleaguered bastion searching for any survivors or hiding enemies. Vale viciously and violently finishes off any unconcious ogres with blows from his axes, while Corvus flies to the south gate to summon Shalelu Andosana and Jakardros Sovark.

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Retaking Fort Rannick. Pt. 2, Fire and Ice (and lightning, and magma)
Neth 27, 4707

The heroes and Vale rush through the armory, attempting to outpace the shocker lizards. The lizards give pursuit, but are thankfully unable to generate another lethal shock while chasing the men. When the heroes scramble to the right for the secret passage behind the New Barracks, the alarmed lizards careen to the left, towards their nesting sites.

Exiting from the secret passage, the men find themselves behind the blazing structure of the New Barracks. Howls of pain and anger issue from the walls, and the ogres fighting frantically to escape shudder the wooden walls. Seeing the ogres from the Courtyard milling about in confusion, HIkage rushes from the safety of the hiding place to boldly confront the monsters. However, as he boldly moves to engage the nearest ogre, a horrible specimen with misshapen knees and red pustules covering his face and hands, the ogre deftly slices the monk grievously with his vicious, jagged hook. “Nobody jumps ”/characters/karly-lop-kreeg" class=“wiki-content-link”>Karly-Lop Kreeg" Though Hikage seeks to batter down the defenses of the brute, Karly-Lop swings back his ogre hook, a grisly necklace of women’s hands swaying as he does so. The ogre hook swings harmlessly over Hikage’s head, but the monster swiftly reverses the swing and cracks the stout haft against Hikage’s forehead, and the monk drops as if poleaxed.

The other heroes rush out to assist as Gellius swoops down in the form of an eagle. Ragnar charges another of the ogres, and, weathering a vicious beating from his club, slices the ogre apart. Vale charges a huge, fat brute with a grossly enlarged head and rump. The obese lummox, laughing cheerily, defies the ranger’s attempts to strike a vital organ amidst all the blubber, and impales the solemn ranger, chuckling “More meat for Jolly!” Zendo tries to inspire his comrades, but even his stirring exhortations are weak in the face of the ogre’s fury.

Corvus unleashes a massive ball of fire, deftly protecting his friends with his master of the flames, which burns many of the ogres and kills several. Then, exhibiting an uncommon bravery, he rushes forward and blasts through the doors of the fort with a bolt of lightning, kiling or injuring several other ogres. However, his bravery does not come without a cost, as one of the ogres only slightly singed by his assault charges the young wizard and nearly clubs him senseless.

Gellius resumes his human form and calls down a rain of stones from the water-logged clouds, but his druidic powers have waned from the storm and only a light, but painful, hail of rocks pelts the ogres.

Sensing his untenable position, Corvus quickly magicks himself from the fight to the relative safety of a nearby battlement, before summoning a blazing wall of flames between the enraged ogres and his comrades. The wall of fire gives the men some respite, and Zendo and Gellius quickly heal their allies (or themselves) as Ragnar quaffs potions of healings. Corvus doesn’t allow himself a moment of relaxation, and summons a blinding firefall from the wall of fire, burning even the ogres within the fort, and blinding many of them as well, though he deftly protects his friends. Jolly Kreeg fails to find the humor in the Hideous Laughter inflicted on him by Zendo, as the fat ogre falls into the wall of fire and rolls around laughing uncontrollably as he burns.

No sooner than the wall of fire has given the men a brief respite, that protection is removed. An ogre sorceress within the fort dispells Corvus’s evocation, and another female spellcaster, suspected to be Lucretia, sends Vale into a magical slumber no sooner than he regains his feet after being healed.

Gellius responds to these new threats by transforming the ground of the fort’s entryway into burning obsidian, damaging and entangling the ogres within. A massive, blinded brute of an ogre forces himself forwards through the pain and glassy rock. The druid doesn’t hesitate in his magical onslaught and summons a blinding storm of snow and ice. Not only do the unnatural flurries shield the men from the gaze (and spells) of those within, but the massive chunks of ice slamming from the skies fell several ogres.

Bloodied but unbowed, the men fight desperately for their lives and the control of the fort.

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Retaking Fort Rannick. Pt. 1, the Druiding
Neth 27, 4707

The Lost Coast Avengers, having journeyed back to Turtleback Ferry in the rain, go to the temple of Erastil to talk to the mayor and the Black Arrows. Maelin Shreed is shaken when Jakardros and the other rangers tell him what happened to Fort Rannick. The heroes and the Black Rangers reassure the mayor that the ogres will be driven from Fort Rannick and the fort retaken. Vale, being second in command of the Black Arrows, and familiar with the layout of the fort, draws a detailed map of the fort and its interior. Jakardros offers many helpful suggestions about the secret entrances and passages within the fort, as well as the areas of the fort that have fallen into disrepair. The Black Arrows, having fought against the ogres for years, inform the men about the Kreeg family of ogres and the dangerous Ogre Hooks that powerful ogres often have forged from the weapons of their fallen foes. Kayven seems scared and intimidated by the prospect of assaulting the fort and suggests that the town should contact Magnimar for soldiers and reinforcements. Instead, the group develops plans based on the map and the layout of Fort Rannick, discussing them only in the safety of the church, with the Mayor and the Black Arrows.

It is decided to scout out the Fort from afar, but the general plan is to have Gellius fly to the Aerie, accompanied by Ragnar and two others he can carry, if necessary. There, Gellius will use his lightning to smite the Guard Tower, which has fallen into disrepair, and the New Barracks, which are a firetrap, if either contains ogres. Otherwise, he will use his lightning to call down death upon the ogres in the courtyard.

Using this as a distraction (!), the others will make for the secret entrance to the fort behind the waterfall nearby. This secret passage leads into the Black Arrow’s secret armory, and branches into several passages. One leads past the crypt of the rangers (no longer used) and exits on the north side of the fort. Another leads from the armory to a secret door behind the New Barracks, close to the main gate. A third forks from the armory downward into a winding series of natural caverns, and thence to a secret entrance to the dungeon of the fort.

This warren of tunnels is inhabited by shocker lizards, which are normally inoffensive unless spooked (or their nests are disturbed). The rangers normally use smudge sticks of burning Bitterbark wood to corral the lizards, who don’t seem to like the smell, if necessary. The plan will be to enter the secret caverns and make our way into the fort, meeting up with Gellius (and the others, if they accompany him) inside (or near) the fort. The mayor, worried about his townsfolk, asks the men to try to prevent the retreat of the ogres, as he fears that their wrath would be directed at Turtleback Ferry. The heroes decide that archers like Shalelu, Jakardros, and Kayven could conceal themselves outside the fort and pick off any retreating ogres with a hail of arrows, hopefully.

Between the bard, druid, and Mayor Shreed, everyone is healed almost entirely.

That night, Hikage notices a patron in the Bottoms Up with the same Sihedron tattoo as Kayven. He accuses the man, and scares him. The man goes outside to talk and sheepishly admits that his wife doesn’t know that he didn’t quit gambling. He is one of the Paradise’s ‘special guests’, but doesn’t know anything about any ‘secret society’. He was glad that he wasn’t on the Paradise that night, but just appears to be another innocent dupe.

The next morning, Kayven has disappeared, with all of his gear. The Black Arrows are ashamed and sorrowful that the boy’s courage has failed, but the heroes are more suspicious. The rangers prepare their spells, as do Corvus and Gellius. Corvus selects a broad array of spells to support the plans for the siege, and Gellius prepares many spells, some offensive, with others to help in taking the Fort from the ogres. The rangers select spells to slow down and delay any retreating ogres, making them easier prey for arrows.

They trek up the Skull River road, tying off their horses well away from the fort to avoid alerting the ogres. Sneaking up through the underbrush, the men can see the Fort. Despite the weathered condition of the walls, the fort still looks strong, though the east gate appears to be almost shattered, as this was where the ogre assault occurred. It is hard to see much Ogre activity behind the walls, but smoke is rising from the cookhouse, and even over the rain and lightning, deep ogre voices can be heard.

Gellius draws on the power of nature and transforms into a crow, blending seamlessly into the flocks of carrion birds drawn to the carnage. He is able to scout much more thoroughly behind the walls this way, as his sleek black form draws little attention. Not only are ogres posted in the Guard Tower, they are also arguing inside the old barracks. Four ogres guard the South Gate, but the weakened east gate is guarded only by a lone, inattentive ogre. However, the shoddy condition of the gate is a ruse! Behind the weakened doors the ogres have heaped up a great pile of refuse, making the entrance almost impassable. Fortunately, Gellius has foiled this trap. He also sees the tiny grate which allows water to enter the fort, but the courtyard pool is befouled with a dead body, as is the waterfall pool outside the gates, which is strewn with the bodies of dead rangers, horses, and giant eagles. The druid also scouts out the eagle aerie, finding the ledge below it a safe place for spellcasters or archers. The narrow trail leading to the aerie has collapsed into a pile of rubble, as noted by Vale, and has not been cleared, so the ogres would have a great deal of difficulty approaching from that direction.

Gellius flies back and reports his findings while still in the form of a crow. The storm brewing will boost the power of his own lightning, so it is decided that he will take the aerie alone, allowing the archers to guard against retreating ogres from the cover of the woods. Gellius flies to the aerie and begins to unleash the fury of the storm upon the Kreegs. His first bolt of lightning smashes into the old guard tower and shatters the rock. The ogres inside tumble to their deaths in a crushing collapse of stone and wood.

This alarms the ogres in the courtyard, and many rush to the tower to see what has happened. The others use this distraction to run for the waterfall, as the ogres guarding the south gate have turned to investigate the commotion to their north. Gellius takes the opportunity to smite on of them from on high for this error. The ogres, who cannot see the druid from their vantage point, panic and run in confusion. Some seek the safety of the Fort, while others head for the cookhouse, and others run to the lowest points of the small courtyard. Gellius sees ogres squeezing out of the small door of the New Barracks, and directs another lightning bolt at that structure. The rain has soaked the roof, however, and his lightning only succeeds in blasting a hole in the structure.

As the others scramble up the rock face to the secret entrance (Zendo needing a bit of assistance from Ragnar), Gellius smites the barracks again and succeeds in setting it on fire as another ogre squeezes out. The bellowing cries of alarm and pain from the interior suggest that the ogres inside are panicking in confusion and might not escape from the blazing firetrap alive. As he has not yet seen the others emerge, Gellius continues to strike down the ogres with blasts of lightning from the safety of his perch. One singed ogre escapes into the fort, undoubtedly telling the others of the furious storm outside.

Inside the secret tunnels, the men encounter their own lightning storm. Someone has used bitterbark to drive the shocker lizards from their nests in the tunnels into the armory. The lizards are quite agitated at being driven from their eggs, and the sudden presence of the heroes only serves to alarm them further. The lizards quickly approach the ‘intruders’ and generate a painful charge, given their substantial numbers. Though Ragnar cuts one down, and Zendo injures a few, the shocker lizards persist in approaching the men. The lizards’ avenue of retreat (back towards their eggs) happens to lie in the same direction as the men’s planned approach, towards the secret door behind the barracks. Perhaps by outpacing the confused, frightened lizards the men can stave off electrocution, and avoid being further delayed.

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The Grauls and the Black Arrows
Neth 26, 4707

As the flames of the fireball crackle in the fat of Mammy Graul and the fabric and timber of the room, the men realize that they have a limited time to search before the house goes up in a conflagration. Corvus, however, shrugs his shoulders and gestures. The flames spiral into a ball and roar out past the blasted shutters of one of the windows. “Fire wizard”, he explains.

Searching the room, the men find several magical wands secreted in the charred, stained folds of Mammy’s ‘dress’, as well as a spellbook hidden underneath the sagging bed. They quickly leave the disgusting boudoir and search the upstairs of the Graul homestead, hoping to find survivors.

While searching the upper rooms, the men discover a chest of loot in the bedroom of the Graul boys. Though Zendo does not find any traps on the chest, when he reaches inside the wooden coffer to remove a sack of coins, a blade, coated with a sticky black venom stabs out and slices his hand. He feels faint and weak, and the men quickly summon Shalelu as Gellius and Corvus tend to the stricken bard with a healing kit and spells. After their ministrations, Zendo still feels a little weak and shaky, but is confident he can continue. The attic also contains a store room of spare parts, contraptions, and other mechanical detritus, presumably the workplace of Hucker Graul. Hikage’s sharp eyes and Corvus’s discerning ones spot several vials of acid and many masterwork tools scattered around the mess.

Finding no-one up the stairs, the heroes ask Shalelu to guard the door while they cautiously explore the basement of the house of horrors. Downstairs in the darkness, they happen across a tanning room where the Grauls have evidently skinned the Black Arrows to make leather for chairs and clothes. The only intact skin does not appear to be that of Shalelu’s father, to their relief. They also find a bedroom which evidently doubled as a kennel for Hucker’s overgrown donkey-rats, as well as a store-room of old, broken down furniture and farm equipment, evidently discarded over the years as the Grauls grew more depraved and deprived.

Exiting the storeroom, the men find a suspicious passageway to the west. Both ends of the hall terminate in double doors, and Zendo can hear a faint squelching, like footprints in wet leaves. More ominously, the hall’s walls are studded with sharp blades above head height, and those blades are smeared with the same sticky venom that affected Zendo. The group is very cautious about the strange situation, but Corvus and Zendo reason that the hall itself isn’t trapped, but is in fact, the trap for the gruesome sofa above. The floorboards that Corvus found so suspicious likely give way to this area, slicing and poisoning the falling victims as the floor collapses.

Moving on, the men are aghast at what awaits behind the double doors. A massive, mossy plant writhes beyond the hallway, shuddering with unnatural life, and coiling slimy tendrils towards them. Most horrifically, the carnivorous plant is topped not with a fleshy stalk, but with a hideously deformed, puffy, ogrish face, mouth distended wide and drooling. Hikage and Ragnar reluctantly advance towards the tendriculous as the others stay back out of the reach of its slimy, grasping tendrils. The behemoth snares Ragnar in its viny grip, but he breaks free with brute strength. It attempts to seize Hikage and slide him down into its gullet, but the monk is too fast for the shambling mound and rains down a series of blows upon its spongy, sodden flesh-stalks. Between the onslaught of fists and the spells of Corvus and Zendo, the vile monstrosity collapses into a shuddering heap before Gellius’s striges can even drain the sap from its body.

On the other side of the damp, mossy room, the men find a small chamber, containing a treasure chest full of valuables, including much gear appropriate to rangers like the Black Arrows. With foreboding, they take the valuables upstairs, and Shalelu grimly identifies one of the longbows as belonging to her step-father, Jakardros. The men encourage her not to lose hope yet, as they have yet to explore the large, moss-covered barn.

Shalelu covers their approach from the porch as the men quickly cross the open ground between the house and barn. Wary of more traps, they hold back and allow Corvus to open the barn doors magically. Waiting in ambush are more of the Graul boys. They charge out agressively, brandishing their spears, but the younger Grauls are no match for the heroes and swiftly fall to fist, blade, arrow, and spell. Entering the reeking barn, Zendo finds a set of keys, and the men discover that the barn’s interior has been crudely divided. This section of the barn housed the kennels of the Graul’s hounds, as well as a crude looking still. The other section of the barn has been boarded up, but is still accessible through two doors on the catwalks above.

The men split up and open the doors. Beyond, the barn is filled with a mass of sticky webs, but two wooden cells are visible at the far end. Three unconscious men lay manacled in one of the cages, but an enormous spider, its legs easily spanning 10 feet, scuttles expectantly at the center of the webs. It glares at the men, eight glassy eyes staring at them from an oddly ogrish face. Finally, the men advance towards the spider, and it aggressively lunges at Hikage. This proves to be its final mistake, as the monk and Corvus hastily dispatch it with fists and a sphere of flame. The men quickly move to rescue the survivors, with Zendo’s found keys proving to be
more subtle, but less quick, than Ragnar’s greatsword, in opening the cages.

Inside the wooden cells are three unconscious men, stripped almost naked, and badly beaten. One of the men is older and grizzled, with a salt and pepper beard, and missing an eye; a second is a younger, but broad and strapping Garundi man; the third is even younger, a lean Varisian with heavy stubble, and a suspicious Sihedron tattoo on the inside of his left wrist!

As Zendo and Gellius heal the two older men, Hikage summons Shalelu into the barn. She hesitantly identifies the grizzled, one-eyed man as Jakardros, though Kibb’s reaction, pushing forward and nuzzling his master, leaves no question to his identity. As Jakardros awakens, his eyes widen in amazement. “Shalelu,” he whispers, “you haven’t aged a day.”

“You have. You have aged a lot since you left me and my dead mother,” is her bitter reply. As the druid and the bard heal one of the other Black Arrows, Jakardros approaches his step-daughter and speaks to her quietly. The broad, dark-skinned ranger proves to be Vale Temros. He is pleased to be rescued, but seems upset that it is strangers from Magnimar, perhaps expecting a rescue from his own comrades.

Jakardros and Vale explain what happened at Fort Rannick, and their own survival. Jakardros, being second in command at the fort, was leading a group of the Black Arrows on a routine patrol when ogres of the Kreeg clan must have attacked it. The patrol had been delayed by circumstances, and, when they heard the commotion and saw the smoke, they returned to Fort Rannick to find the gates sundered and the Fort in the hands of the Kreegs. Desperate to relieve their comrades, and confident in the poor tactical skills of the ogres, Jakardros led his patrol in a counter-attack, but found the ogres well-prepared, well-equipped, and outnumbering his own men substantially. The counter-attack turned into a rout, and Jakardros and his men suffered injuries during their headlong retreat from the Kreegs. Forced into the Kreegwood, injured and disoriented, the Black Arrows were captured by the Grauls, a group of ogrekin allied to the Kreegs. The Grauls never turned the men over to the Kreegs, however, and over the last few weeks, they tormented the rangers and steadily took the men from the cages to an uncertain fate in the dilapidated hunting lodge the Grauls called home.

Sovark seems to slump with despair when the heroes inform him of the fate of his men, while their grisly fate seems to ignite an inner fire in the reticent Vale. Jakardros pleads with the men to aid the second of his companions, young Kayven Windstrike. The men explain their suspicions about Kayven’s tattoo, but Vale and Jakardros insist that while the young ranger had a troubled youth, he has served in the Black Arrows faithfully and was part of the patrol (and attempted rescue force). Before healing the wiry ranger, though, Hikage manacles the man’s hands and carefully studies his responses to their questioning.

Kayven awakens and is both relieved to have been rescued and confused by the threatening glares of his rescuers. He seems genuinely embarrassed by the revelation of his tattoo, but confesses ignorance of any deeper occult or cultic symbolism of the mark. “It’s a lucky star! It has seven points, and seven is lucky!”. His embarassment is explained when he reveals the origin of his tattoo. Kayven had been spending his free time in Turtleback Ferry at the Paradise, the ‘pleasure barge’ run by Lucretia, with whom he seems quite enamored. He explains that the star tattoo is a mark for her ‘special guests’, who receive preferential treatment on the Paradise. The Black Arrows, funded and established by Magnimar, would have frowned on a such a cozy arrangement, especially with a business as morally questionable as that of the Paradise. Even to Hikage’s suspicious eyes, Kayven seems ignorant of any deeper symbolism of the Sihedron, and reacts to the news of the sinking of the Paradise with surprise and alarm.

Believing the roguish Black Arrow to be another greedy, but unwitting, soul drawn into a larger plot, the men free him from his captivity. Perhaps Lucretia is the sister of Xanesha, and her plot was to sacrifice the gamblers on the Paradise through a watery grave. As Hikage, Zendo, Gellius, and Corvus carefully search the horrific domicile of the Grauls, Ragnar and Shalelu guard the wounded rangers and return their equipment. A thorough search of the home and the Grauls reveals a good deal of valuable treasure, presumably looted from victims, as well as several valuable, if grisly, weapons, and even some enchanted items. Helping the injured men back to the horses, the heroes allow the Black Arrows to ride back into town.

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Them No Good Grauls
Neth 26, 4707

Kibb, the firepelt cougar, agrees to lead Gellius and the others through the Kreegwood to the ‘house of the big men’ who captured his master, Jakardros. The others search the grotesque corpse of their opponent, presumably one of the backwoods Graul family spoken of in Turtleback Ferry. The disfigured lummox has a magical belt concealed under a ratty blanket sewn with patches, as well as an enchanted spear. Corvus identifies the belt as a Belt of Giant Strength, but Hikage disdains wearing anything from such an unclean foe. Ragnar, less choosy, agrees to give HIkage his own similar magical belt, emblazoned with a lion, and claims the wide, roughly made belt as a trophy.

Following Kibb along what appears to be little more than a game trail, the group sets off through the woods. They happen upon many leather and corn husk fetishes hanging from trees near the path, but warily do not investigate them further, other than to determine that they are not magical. Eventually, the heroes come to a clearing. They cautiously scope out the situation, seeing a poorly maintained field, strewn with cornstalks, on the right, and a large, dilapidated hunting lodge to the right. Beyond the field is a large wooden barn. From what they can see of the lodge, the windows are boarded shut, and a large rocking chair sits on the wide porch. A mass of bones and antlers hang from the rafters. As the group appraises the situation, they become aware of a figure moving furtively through the tattered stalks of corn.

Shalelu seeks cover in the woods, guarded by the cougar, Kibb. Hikage and Zendo creep towards the figure in the fields, seeking to hide their advance, as Gellius, Ragnar, and Corvus wait at the edge of the clearing. As the monk and bard shift position, suddenly Zendo has a clear line of sight on the stealthy opponent, who shouts a challenge as he spies the bard. Another huge Graul, with a grossly malformed head, stomps through the fields towards Zendo, brandishing a vicious looking hook. “Keep out of my fields, elf!”, he shouts, almost unintelligibly.

Unfortunately for the Graul, Hikage has been biding his time and leaps to the attack, striking the overgrown bumpkin. Undeterred, the yokel pierces Zendo with his hook. Ragnar charges the ogrekin and slashes him deeply with his sword. Gellius, preparing for this moment, summons an owlbear, who viciously mauls the deformed lunatic. Corvus steps forward and sets the farmer on fire. The Graul collapses into a burning heap, blubbering “Noooo…don’t burn the field! Mammy will be mad!”

They quickly search their antagonist, and divest him of an amulet, a ring, and two bottles. Making the most of his monstrous ally, Gellius sends the owlbear to break down the front door of the Graul Homestead. As the owlbear leaps on the porch however, the Grauls’ murderous ingenuity is revealed. Sawblades spring up from between the rough boards of the porch, and rusty scythe blades swing down from the antlers above, piercing the unfortunate beast. However, the sturdy owlbear does rip the door to shreds before the druid releases the bindings summoning the creature.

The men ask Shalelu to cover them from the safety of the woods, reasoning that the ranger can both alert them if someone approaches from the barn, and cover their retreat if they are outmatched.

Wary of approaching the obviously trapped front door, Hikage and Zendo sneak up to the ‘side door’ and do some scouting. Zendo creeps up to one of the boarded-up windows, hoping to spy something inside between the rough planks. Though he smells an overpowering stench of human waste, Zendo peers between the boards, only to receive a sharp spear in the shoulder. Coarse laughter is heard from within. Hikage calls for Ragnar, who is only too happy to assist.

The Ulfen advances and slashes at the wooden door with his adamantine greatsword, slicing through it with ease. Hikage and Gellius advance into the room, which is a horrific kitchen, replete with human limbs on the table. Inside, a pale, loose-limbed Graul chuckles and hollers, “Maulgro, we is doing the skull jig in the kitchen!”. The monk strikes him, and before the relatively normal looking Graul can reply, Ragnar enters and hacks him apart, though the Ulfen is sickened by the smell, perhaps from the room, or perhaps from the stained clothing of the ogrekin himself.

Zendo enters and listens closely at one of the interior doors. He hears something scurrying around behind the door, and Ragnar opens the other door in the room, only to be struck by a blade scything down from the room beyond. As most of the men cautiously explore that room, Corvus hesitantly approaches the porch. He examines the graphic, violent carvings decorating the lintels, and spies a huge sofa inside, upholstered with human flesh and decorated with animal horns, hooves, and legs. Inside the macabre dining room, the others find eight chairs, covered with human bones, and a dining table with a rotting human skull centerpiece. Hikage hears someone in the room beyond, shouting loudly for “Lucky”. The alert monk notices how the leather latch is carefully opened, to avoid setting off the trap, but is unprepared for the figure opening the door.

Expecting a large opponent, Hikage swings wildly as a wide-headed, large-mouthed Graul drags himself into the room with his muscular arms, trailing two twisted, wasted legs. Maulgro lunges at the monk, attempting to bite his thigh with his yellowed teeth. As HIkage disgustedly kicks the ogrekin to death, two overgrown donkey rats scurry into the room, evidently released from the basement beyond.

Moving to assist, Corvus cautiously enters the ‘living room’, avoiding the macabre sofa and eyeing the moth-eaten bear rug warily. Before crossing to the door leading deeper into the house, the wizard notes a suspicious pattern in the floor boards and suspects another trap.

Zendo and Ragnar, interrupted in their examination of the hallway outside the dining room by the donkey rats, return to help their comrade. Zendo is taken aback, however, by another oversized Graul, who evidently creeped up from the basement unseen and unheard. This ogrekin has a limp, and a badly disfigured jaw, making his battle cry of “You done kilt Lucky!” difficult to understand. More horrifically, he also has a vestigial twin emerging from his back, which grunts and babbles fitfully. Despite his deformities. the Graul is monstrously strong and quick, and quite enraged. He strikes Zendo a powerful blow, and does the same to Ragnar when the bard retreats to allow his Ulfen ally to engage. The fighter quickly slices apart the barbaric ogrekin as Hikage and Gellius destroy the overgrown donkey rats. Zendo and Gellius quickly provide healing as Ragnar and Hikage fortify themselves with healing potions.

The men quickly advance and search the hunting lodge. They discover a crude, filthy bed, and a cluttered storage room, littered with debris, as well as the skeletons of many babies. They discover stairs leading upwards, and a long hallway leading to the back of the house. The men quickly strategize as Zendo examines the door.

Opening the door, the Lost Coast Avengers swiftly encounter Mammy Graul, and the remains of three of her boys, animated by her necromantic arts. Mammy is a morbidly obese ogrekin, draped in a tattered, stained curtain. Her hair is patchy and greasy, and a puffy toad lurks in her sweaty cleavage. Most horribly, she has used her magic to summon mirror images of herself, and four equally repellent images of her dance through the stench of the room. She shouts for her boys to come ‘learn’ the intruders some manners, but before she can do aught else, Corvus unleashes a fireball into the room. Using his mastery of fire, the wizard wards his companions from the blast, but the conflagration consumes all of the ‘zombie ogrekin’, and burns Mammy Graul badly. Much of the gruesome furnishings of the room, such as her painting supplies of human flesh and organs, and her sagging, stained bed, go up in flames as well.

To their dismay, Mammy’s flabby form lifts up from the bed, supported by her magics, and she uses a spectral hand to cast a malign spell of blindness at the upstart wizard. Corvus, however, narrowly manages to shrug off the spell. As Hikage and Ragnar move to engage the grotesque necromancer, their efforts are largely thwarted by her magical protections, and Ragnar’s cleaving stroke connects only with a mirror image. Gellius summons a dire ape, but its crushing fists seem almost ineffectual against the grossly fat body of the ogrekin necromancer. Corvus, however, is undeterred, and launches scorching rays of fire at Mammy, knowing that the grossly fat woman has little mobility. His flames coruscate over her body, charring her badly, and Gellius continues the assault, striking her with lightning as well.

Now desperate for her misbegotten life, Mammy desperately attempts to cast a spell allowing her to escape, but in her panic, her incantations leave her open to a swift strike from Hikage, and her lifeless body slams into the wooden floor as flames climb around the heroes.

View
Trouble in Turtleback Ferry
Neth 16-26, 4708

The heroes ride from Sandpoint to Magnimar down the Lost Coast Road, or, as Zendo calls it, the Kaspakari Trail. Though the rains make the roads muddy, the travel goes quickly. The men (and Shalelu) stay at a wagon stop overnight, and ride into Magnimar by the evening of the 17th. Rather than spending their coin at an expensive inn, the heroes resolve to stay in a humbler establishment at the Shore.

The next morning, on Moonday, the men hike up to the Summit, and, brandishing their letter, receive an audience with the Lord-Mayor. Haldmeer Grobaras seems fairly busy, and a bit distracted. He tells the men that the small town of Turtleback Ferry has lost contact with the rangers of the nearby Fort Rannick. Seeing that the men aren’t too familiar with Turtleback Ferry or Fort Rannick, Grobaras sketches them a quick historical outline.

Turtleback Ferry is a small town, subsisting mostly on logging, trapping, and fishing, eking out an existence in the shadows of the Storval Deep. Long plagued by the ogres of nearby Hook Mountain, the villagers appealed for aid long ago, and Magnimar, eager to extend their influence towards Korvosa, replied. They sent troops to build a fort, Fort Rannick, in the region, and garrisoned the fort with a new order of rangers, the Order of the Black Arrow. The Black Arrows were, and are, largely made up of malcontents, loners, and petty criminals, which, given the isolation of the posting, is understandable. However, the rangers achieved a major victory over the ogres of Hook Mountain at the Battle of Broken Trees nearly forty years ago, and the small garrison patrols regularly to keep the remaining ogres thinned out and disorganized.

The Mayor of Turtleback Ferry, Maelin Shreed, replied to the missive from Magnimar, saying that the rangers, who normally visit the town on weekends, had not been in town on the past Starday. Mayor Shreed was organizing a party to trek to the Fort, but given the time necessary for any reply to reach Magnimar, it would be some weeks before the situation was known. The Lord-Mayor, knowing the interests of the Lost Coast Avengers, assumed that they might wish to investigate further on Magnimar’s behalf. Grobaras also assured the group that he did not expect their services for free, and agreed to disburse funds from the city coffers for their expenses, though he dismissed the Black Arrows as scruffy and uncouth, and Turtleback Ferry as rural in the extreme.

After the departure of the Lord-Mayor, his assistant, Valanni Krinst distributed a substantial sum of gold to the men (750 gold each) and provided them with more specific information about the region and the Black Arrows. Searching through the records that he prepared, Krinst was able to tell them that the current captain of the Fort was one Lamatar Bayden. Krinst also explained that despite the disdain that Grobaras holds for the Black Arrows, the order has an arduous task in patrolling Hook Mountain, and, despite their often less-than-respectable origins, the rangers who survive are tough and disciplined.

The men regroup with Shalelu and their horses and make for Whartle, departing later that day They travel along the northern banks of the Yondobakari River, known to the Varisians as the Dry Way, though the persistent rain puts the lie to that moniker. For two nights, the group camps at night at the caravan stops along the road, seeking the safely and companionship of the Varisian nomads traveling their traditional routes. Fortunately, while the rain and cold make travel unpleasant, they also inhibit the mosquitos, nightbelly boas, and boggards of the Mushfens on the other bank of the river. On the third evening, Oathday the 21st, the men are able to make it to the boardwalk streets of Whartle and enjoy some modest creature comforts in the small frontier town. They restock their rations at the general store and speak to a few of the plain-spoken townsfolk, mostly swampers and trappers. Their generous coins loosen several tongues, and some of the locals warn Zendo about the cold shoulders in Ilsurian, which seems to have a poor reputation among the boisterous, bearded men in the Lean-To, a dilapidated tavern which seems almost ready to tumble into the murky swamp.

Another two days travel brings the group to the whitewashed homes of Whistledown, an appealingly eccentric village on the southern shore of Lake Syrantula, in the afternoon of the 23rd. The men are surprised by the number of gnomish townsfolk, almost outnumbering the humans of the town, and bemused by the inexplicable profusion of windchimes hanging from every building and post. They stop for the night in the Azure Cup, one of the few inns with sufficient human-sized beds to sleep five weary travelers.

However, sleep is far from the forefront of most minds. Tonight is the full moon, and the night of Seven Veils! Whistledown has been celebrating the holiday all day with feasting, dancing, and courting, and the heroes are not too late to miss the splendid evening meal. The masquerade of the Seven Veils begins, and the men are quick to participate. Ragnar attempts to parlay the celebration of diversity into a romantic interlude with Shalelu, who is clearly in no mood for him. Perhaps hoping for luck similar to his previous encounter with the Varisian maid, Corvus flirts with the aloof elven ranger as well, to no avail. Gellius and Ragnar both make passes at some of the more comely gnomish girls, though the normally faithful Gellius is more successful than Ragnar. Zendo embraces the masquerade with the most enthusiasm, and uses his magical chapeau to transform himself into a tall, rangy Ulfen shield-maiden, looking as a sister to Ragnar. The bard is careful to read the crowd, however, and chooses to flirt with a good-humored, rather short man who seems unlikely to resent the imposture. At the end of the masquerade, Zendo reveals his true seeming, only to discover that the stout man was, in fact, a slender woman, also concealed under an illusion! Hikage, exasperated by the tomfoolery, turns in early, only to be driven to distraction by the incessant tinkling of windchimes throughout the night.

On Sunday, the group rises late from their revelry and journeys through the increasingly steady rain to the free town of Ilsurian on the northern banks of Lake Syrantula. Owing allegiance to neither Korvosa nor Magnimar, the Ilsurians are serious-minded, outspoken folk. Though the town seems orderly and well-maintained (if a good bit smaller than Sandpoint), Zendo picks up on an undercurrent of hostility in the townsfolk which takes him aback. At first, he is inclined to think that the Ilsurians are unfriendly to half-elves, but as he warily interacts with them, he suspects that the largely Chelaxian natives are suspicious of his Varisian heritage. Unusually for the outgoing bard, he turns in quickly that evening, and the group leaves Ilsurian on the 25th without incident.

Cautiously fording the swollen Skull River, the men (and Shalelu) follow the trail north, skirting the foreboding Ashwood to the east. Arriving on the southern shores of Claybottom Lake around noon, the group decides to take a mid-day meal in the small fishing thorp of Pendaka. The Walleyed Wife serves as the small village’s only inn, and also as a trading post. The men sample some of the local fare, including black gar, and a delightfully offbeat cranberry turtle egg pie, made by the proprietor, Olam Keecher. The men regretfully decide not to cross Claybottom Lake in the rather unique ferry-boats, made from the shells of giant snapping turtles, given the size and weight of their horses, and follow the muddy, rutted path along the lake’s shore to the town of Turtleback Ferry.

Arriving near sunset in the small town, the men have little chance to look around the modest town, but quickly locate the town’s only inn, the Turtle’s Parlor. They speak briefly to the innkeeper,Cesten Orlandi, who seems in a foul mood. The modest rooms are quite expensive, more than the opulent quarters at the Golden Acorn in Magnimar, and the group grouses about the expense, but has little choice. Food is not served at the inn, so the group runs through the rain drenching the town square to the adjacent tavern, the Bottom’s Up. The tavern is run by a friendly halfling couple Yads and Bethandy Kesker, who commiserate with the men over the prices of the Turtle’s Parlor.

They explain that with the sinking of the Paradise, along with the rains, few travellers frequent Turtleback Ferry any longer, and the innkeeper’s custom has dried up. Talking to Yads and Bethandy, and many of the other residents frequenting the small tavern, the men learn a great deal about the town, and hear a lot of unsubstantiated rumors and theories.

The Paradise was a gaming hall aboard a river barge moored in Claybottom Lake. It was owned and operated by an attractive woman named Lucretia, who some of the town viewed as scandalous. It sank on the evening of the 26th of Lamashan, and there were no survivors.

A lake monster known as Black Magga supposedly lives in the Storval Deep, where the Skull River lies dammed behind Skull Dam. Bethandy believes that Black Magga is upset and her disquiet is causing the incessant rain. Others claim that underground rivers link the Storval Deep with Claybottom Lake, and Black Magga sank the Paradise after traveling through them.

Her husband, Yads, claims that the rains are not due to Black Magga, but that the Hook Mountain ogres, a clan known as the Kreegs, have tamed a dragon, who stirs up the clouds and causes the rains.

Some claim that the Paradise was not a simple pleasure barge, but a den of iniquity, and the wrath of Erastil sank it and sent the sinners aboard to a watery grave.

Storytellers also tell the men about Old Pinkeye, an albino giant gar who lives in the lake. The bright sun hurts his eyes, so Pinkeye is never seen during the day, but his immense, pale back is sometimes seen on moonlight nights. The dense cloud cover has darkened the skies so much that some fishermen claim to see Pinkeye’s scaly back even during the day now.

Other villagers claim that the rains aren’t all that unnatural, but the disappearances in the Kreegwood are due to the Grauls, a backwoods family with ogre blood somewhere in their family tree. They warn the men about the mistrusted family, who no longer even travels to town to buy supplies.

After receiving two earfuls of tales about the town, the men resolve to meet with the Mayor in the morning and investigate Fort Rannick for themselves.

In the morning, the group crosses the muddy town square, past the general store and smithy, and down past the one-room schoolhouse to the large, rustic Church of Erastil. Maelin Shreed, mayor of Turtleback Ferry and priest of the church, stands on the church steps, methodically sweeping the mud off the wooden boards with a wet broom. He looks up from his work, rain dripping from the brim of his hat, and greets the heroes. Evidently word has already reached him that the ‘men from Magnimar’ are here.

As he begins speaking to the group, Gellius tells the weather-beaten old Garundi man about their adventures and discoveries in Magnimar. Shreed insists that, unlike Magnimar, Turtleback Ferry is a simple town, full of simple, plain folk, and not the sort of place where secret cults of murderers can hide. When Corvus tells him about the sorcerous serpent-woman, Shreed irritatedly insists that Turtleback Ferry doesn’t have any ‘snake-women’, just rapacious, cruel ogres. The men persist in trying to convince the mayor that the troubles plaguing his town are somehow connected to a deeper mystery they seek to unravel, but Maelin quickly becomes frustrated with the group. “I thought Magnimar was going to send up some soldiers to go to the fort and help us get things under control! We don’t have any cults up here, or snake-women. All I have is some missing villagers, a sunken boat, and a fort that’s gone quiet! I need help, not more problems!” While the men assure Shreed that they will investigate the fort, they mistake the priest’s desperation, and dismiss him as narrow-minded rube.

Despite their initial dislike of Shreed, they are true to their word, and quickly set out of town up the trail leading to Fort Rannick. The path leads along the Skull River, flowing fast and high into Claybottom Lake. After crossing a stout old wooden bridge spanning the river, Gellius hears a feline yowl of pain from the woods nearby, though it is hard to notice over the sounds of rain and river. The group dismisses it as some of the local wildlife, which has been described by the villagers as ‘all stirred up’. They move on up the trail, but soon Hikage can hear barking hounds in the woods, accompanied by a deep, off-key voice, singing about hunting ‘kitties’. Though the urbane monk is inclined to dismiss the incident as a trapper or hunter, Shalelu and Gellius insist that, while some trappers might use hounds to tree prey, it is a strange sort of huntsman who would broadcast his own location to his quarry.

Gellius transforms into an eagle to scout out the dense forest, as Hikage and Shalelu dismount and cautiously make their way through the woods towards the disturbances. The three happen upon a strange sight in a small clearing, not much more than a quarter-mile from the path. A firepelt cougar is trapped in a bear trap in a small clearing. Though the animal seems to sense both the monk and ranger, it remains quiet, and persistently pulls itself towards them, though the trap holds its rear leg painfully.

Using his bardic magics, Zendo communicates with the scouts, and the men decide to move up and take a closer look. They tie off the horses, save for Trencher, who Ragnar sternly orders to ‘Guard!’. As Zendo and the others move towards the clearing, Gellius cannot wait any longer. He transforms from an eagle back into his human guise, and approaches the cougar, who calmly stands its ground. Sensing that the cat is no wild animal, Zendo approaches it and carefully uses his ‘tools of the trade’ to release the trap, as Gellius casts a spell and speaks to the feline in its own language.

The firepelt is known as Kibb, and he names his master as Jakardros, Shalelu’s step-father and Black Arrow! Kibb says that the big, loud men have captured his master, and he needs help to rescue him. Kibb was trapped by the big men here, and their dogs are on the way. The men can clearly hear the hounds, now that the sounds of the river have receded, and they quickly prepare for a confrontation.

Gellius heals Kibb, and asks the cougar to guard Corvus, who prepares one of his more impressive fire spells. Shalelu remains hidden in the woods, but readies an arrow. Hikage creeps into a brambles in the clearing, seeking to surprise the oncoming hunter, while Ragnar and Zendo nock arrows to their bows behind the cover of some shrubs.

Soon enough, large, aggressive hounds rush into the clearing. Arrows are loosed at them, though more of Shalelu’s find the mark than those of Zendo or Ragnar. Indeed, despite the driving rain, the elven ranger downs most of the hounds herself. Even as the hounds bay and snap at the men, a tall, burly oaf emerges from the woods. “I be huntin’ kitty-cat!”, he bellows through a broad, flabby mouth full of yellow teeth. “No business of yers, less you want hunted too!” The ‘hunter’ is large, even taller and broader than Ragnar, and grotesquely disfigured. Not only is his head overly wide and toothy, his left arm tapers to a single, thick finger, rather than a normal hand. Ragnar curses him in a strange tongue, which only Corvus seems to understand, but the backwoods trapper charges at Gellius, who stands between him and Kibb. He stabs the druid with a spear, injuring him significantly.

Ragnar takes the opportunity to close with the strange trapper, undoubtedly one of the Grauls, and smites him mightily, though he takes a painful blow in return. The violent oaf is surrounded by the men, and quickly beaten down, finished off by a deft strike from Zendo’s rapier.

View
Just another rainy day in Sandpoint
Neth 13 to 15, 4707

As Zendo, Gellius and Hikage talk to Sheriff Belor Hemlock about the increasingly wide-spread cult activity, Hikage notices Corvus struggling down the street with a large, evidently heavy parcel. Zendo and Gellius go out of the Sandpoint Garrison to assist him, and Corvus enters the garrison, explaining to Belor that he has located the Rusty Dragon’s lightning rod, which was hidden in the attic of the White Deer Inn.

Sheriff Hemlock is upset that his own brother, Garridan is implicated in the crime, but Corvus quickly assures the sheriff that he, for one, believes the theft and plant was an obvious attempt at a frame-up. The heroes are unsure what to do with the inn’s namesake, but Belor insists that they cannot store it in the garrison, as questions are sure to be asked about any apparent arrangement between the two brothers. The men carry the lightning rod back to the Rusty Dragon, and Zendo enters the public room alone. He tells an engrossing, amazing tale which he learned as a child, embellishing it as necessary and providing dramatic flourishes. The men use the distraction to carry the rusty dragon upstairs and present it to Ameiko.

The feisty bard is difficult to convince of Garridan’s innocence in the matter, since any lost revenue from her inn would directly flow to him. Corvus assures her that as a powerful wizard, he would have been able to assuredly locate the lightning rod at the White Deer, so any attempt to hide it there would have been sure to fail. As such a ‘powerful wizard’, however, Corvus is forced to admit that he is unable to determine who removed the rusty dragon, since he’s not ‘that kind’ of wizard. However, he is maneuvered into agreeing to repair the lightning rod on the morrow, as he is indeed the ‘kind of wizard’ who can do that.

Corvus and Gellius retire to their rooms to enchant a wand and scribe a scroll, respectively. The other heroes make their way out of the Rusty Dragon, through the infuriating drizzle. Ragnar accompanies Zendo and Hikage part of the way up to the Old Light, but stops at the General Store to flirt with Shayliss Vinder, though without success. The seductive town flirt was evidently less impressed with Ragnar’s exploits in Magnimar than others, or perhaps a bit upset that, unlike his previous exploits, the Ulfen didn’t come bearing gifts.

Hikage and Zendo call on Brodert Quink, delivering the package entrusted to the monk by Sheila Heidmarch. Quink is obviously pleased with himself, and happily unwraps the parcel in front of the men, revealing a strange spherical object on a short cord. Seeing their puzzlement, Quink opens a clasp on the device, called a Wayfinder, and explains that it is a sort of magical compass, based upon ancient Aztlani devices of a similar nature, discovered by famous Pathfinder Eando Kline. The wayfinder is not merely a compass, Quink lectures, but can also serve as a home for an Ioun Stone, another Aztlani magical invention. Zendo sees the utility in being able to conceal and still use an ioun stone, but Quink explains that the Wayfinder is much more sophisticated than that. Not only will an ioun stone continue to safely function in a wayfinder, ioun stones manifest additional magical properties when stored thus. These resonant magical powers are not deliberately enchanted into either the ioun stone or the wayfinder by modern enchantment, but instead, appear to be evidence of a deeper, more fundamental understanding of magical theory by the ancient Aztlani.

Quink explains that much of the ancient knowledge of the Aztlani remains undiscovered, and explorers like the Pathfinder Society are desperately needed to discover, document, and maintain such knowledge. Some of the great magical effects of the ancient Aztlani are fading, like the preservative magics used to guard their monuments against the effects of time and weather. Those magics, if not fully understood, could fade without ever being replicated. More ominously, the ancient Aztlani could have also constructed magical barriers and wards, which could also be fading over the centuries. Rather than simply losing knowledge of the past, those wards might crumble and release unknown entities or energies. Quink explains that others, such as the Aspis Consortium, seek to pillage these same ruins for antiquities and simply sell them for profit, rather than understanding them. Gellius visits with his girlfriend, while Zendo calls upon the lovely half-elven seamstress Rynshinn.

On the 14th of Neth, Ragnar is visited at the Dragon by an attractive young woman in a rather skimpy outfit. Ameiko sternly reminds her that the Rusty Dragon is off-limits for ‘that sort’ of work, but the girl breezily replies that she was just visiting her best customer before work ath the Pixie’s Kitten. Gellius waits until the young ‘lady’ gets out of Ragnar’s lap before cornering him about his past. Ragnar is guarded, but agrees to exchange answers with the inquisitive druid. He reveals that, as a young boy, giants raided his family homestead, killing his father and mother, and his younger sister, who tried to flee. He survived only by hiding, to his shame. Ragnar, then orphaned, served aboard several Ulfen ships for well over a decade, never settling down. He insists that he has joined the band of heroes not for any grand cause, but because of a determination to steel his own nerves, and because of a sworn oath of vengeance to Shayliss Vinder. Since her sister’s murderer, Aldern Foxglove, was but a pawn in a larger scheme, Ragnar does not consider Katrine Vinder‘s death truly avenged. The gruff Ulfen surprises Gellius by pointedly questioning him about the wisdom of building a relationship with Boudra Fullona. Ragnar’s estimation of the lifespan of heroes is rather bleak, and the men realize that his inveterate wenching might be a strange sort of principled stand.

Later that evening, both Shalelu Andosana and Amander Malonial turn up at the Rusty Dragon. Shalelu has made her routine return to the small town to restock and resupply, and, as usual, is visiting her friend Ameiko at the Dragon. She talks to the men about her patrols in the outlying regions, and is sceptical of Corvus’s tale of the Sandpoint Devil. When convinced of the wizard’s veracity, the laconic elf is unimpressed, and seems to think the wizard and druid dangerously foolhardy, rather than brave. Ragnar presents her with the Arrows of Elf Slaying taken from Bruthazmus, and thus the bedraggled ranger learns of the demise of her hated rival, though she fails to warm to Ragnar as he had evidently hoped. Zendo asks the retiring elf about forts upriver from Magnimar, but Shalelu demurs, explaining that a great many forts litter the wild and untamed regions of Magnimar. Amander seeks to speak privately to Ameiko about a business venture, but the men are none the wiser as to the outcome. Zendo and Gellius both call upon their lady loves, though Hikage returns to the House of Blue Stones to train, while Corvus continues his work enchanting a wand of fire.

The next day, Fireday, is Market Day in Sandpoint, so, despite the gloomy weather, many locals make their way to the market square to buy goods from merchants both local and from abroad. In addition, the 18th of Neth is Evoking Day, in commemoration of Nethys, god of magic, and many of the more affluent townsfolk are purchasing fireworks for the attendant celebrations. Shalelu plans to go to the market to re-equip herself, so most of the men, other than the busily enchanting Corvus, accompany her. Shalelu confesses that her ‘step-father’, Jakardros Sovark, might be serving among the Black Arrows garrisoning Fort Rannick, near the Storval Deep. Ragnar bluntly inquires about the man, and the situation, and to the surprise of the others, the reticent Shalelu speaks about her situation forthrightly. She explains that Sovark abandoned her after the death of her motherSeanthia. As a young elvish maid, she never understood the romance between her mother and the ranger, but it surprised and hurt her when he left their village after the dragon’s attack with no explanation.

Zendo decides to seek out Vesnutt Parooh and draw upon the gnomish mapmaker’s geographical expertise. Though Vesnutt is very interested in the plans of the heroes, he cannot offer any good suggestions, as ‘upriver’ from Magnimar describes a great deal of the Varisian countryside, and manned and abandoned forts litter the uncivilized hinterlands. The bard also decides to seek out Niska Mvashti and ask the elderly seer her advice about the persistent rain. Madame Mvashti tells Zendo that the rain is indeed unnatural, but the residents of Sandpoint are fortunate that the constant rains are not focused on the Lost Coast. She explains that someone, somewhere, must be summoning the rains, and Sandpoint is simply unfortunate enough to be between the gulf and the summoning. Zendo tries to get her to speculate on the cause of the torrential rains, but the wizened seer laughs and explains that she is no priest and no wizard. She can see that the ill winds blow no good, and that the rains bring someone sorrow, but she cannot speculate on the nature of the magic any more than the swordsman can scry the forging of a blade.

After a damp day, the heroes return to a hot meal at the Rusty Dragon. Ameiko asks them for advice about Amander’s offer to buy the Glassworks for his mercantile consortium. She explains that the eloquent merchant is offering a generous price for the Glassworks, but is insistent on the need for a complete transfer of ownership, preferably quite soon. Ameiko tells Corvus that the merchant is unwilling to agree to a partial ownership of any sort, or even allowing Ameiko to remain as a silent partner. Malonial has assured her that the money would be quite substantial, and would allow her to maintain both her family’s villa here in Sandpoint and the larger Kaijitsu manor in Magnimar. The heroes speculate about the merchant’s motives, and Zendo muses that perhaps the Glassworks is not his actual object. Gaining control over the only remaining access to the Thassilonian ruins under Sandpoint could be the true goal. That would explain his urgent attempts to close the deal, as well as his unwillingness to consider any other arrangements. The men urge Ameiko to be cautious and deliberate in her dealings, reasoning that such delaying tactics will not unduly upset a true investor, and will expose any nefarious plans.

Late that evening, a rain-soaked rider arrives at the Rusty Dragon with a missive from Magnimar. The rider explains that he was sent from the city two days ago with an urgent communication from the Lord-Mayor. Opening the sealed scroll, Zendo reads a letter from Valanni Krinst, written on behalf of the Lord-Mayor. It reveals that communication from Turtleback Ferry indicates that the rangers of Fort Rannick, the Black Arrows, have been incommunicado for longer than expected. The mayor of the small town, Maelin Shreed has sent men to the Fort, but word was sent to the heroes before awaiting any response. The Lord-Mayor clearly expects the heroes to swing into action to investigate this occurrence, though he also grants them an audience on the way. Zendo seems unwilling to entertain the mayor’s political posturing, but Shalelu does point out that travel across the Varisian hinterlands would be a good bit more arduous than following the well-established caravan and barge routes from Magnimar to Turtleback Ferry.

The men resolve to purchase horses on the morrow and ride for Magnimar, and thence, to Turtleback Ferry. The elven ranger diffidently offers to accompany them, in hopes of confronting her long-absent ‘stepfather’. The heroes agree, more than willing to have a seasoned outdoorsman like Shalelu along. Zendo makes a scandalously late visit to Rynshinn to inform her of his plans, and Gellius argues with Boudra, who, despite the possibility of peril, feels a bit ‘left out’ by the plans of the druid and his companions.

On the morning of the 16th, the ‘heroes of Sandpoint’, and the ‘guardian of Sandpoint’, purchase horses from a bemused Daviren Hosk. Zendo, Gellius, Corvus, and Shalelu purchase well-groomed riding horses named, respectively, Caramel, Nutmeg, Pepper, and Strawberry. Hikage buys a lean and whipcord-strong horse named Picket, which Daviren himself often rides around town during tense times. Ragnar scrapes together some coins and two chunky golden armbands and buys a thick, unkempt destrier named Trencher, so called for his undisciplined appetite, though the massive horse seems sturdy enough. Hosk seems pleased to sell most of his stock in one go, though he does seem sorry to see his horses leave. The men make their way to Ven Vinder’s general store for supplies, roundly cursing their lack of foresight, as the gear and provisions they now need would have been cheaper during Market Day. In the end, they settle on warm clothes, oiled leather ponchos, ample rations, and a sturdy tent or two. So equipped, they begin their ride back to the City of Monuments.

View
Rain, Rain, the Sandpoint Devil, and More Rain
6 Neth -13 Neth.

On the sixth of Neth, a light morning drizzle clears up by mid-day, allowing the group to do a little sight-seeing in Magnimar while Corvus scribes spells into his new spellbooks. Gellius and Boudra (accompanied by Hikage and Zendo) go to see many of the varied monuments in Lowcleft, as well as taking a look at the massive bronze lighthouse called the Wymwatch. Being in Beacon’s Point, Zendo takes the men to the Varisian encampment there, located adjacent to the strong fumes of Washer’s Row. He visits with his kinsmen, sharing stories of the ‘Lost Coast Avengers’ with the travellers there. A sceptical caravan roustabout insists that Zendo is lying about burning down Foxglove Manor, but the bard wittily parries the verbal jab.

The next day, the morning drizzle builds into a lashing rain, driving the heroes inside for much of the day, save Ragnar, who seems unperturbed by the cold and damp. Towards evening, though, strong winds from the gulf drive off the clouds, and Hikage invites the others to dine with him at the Kibagami home. Arriving at the home of Hikage’s parents in Keystone, the heroes (and Boudra) are taken off-guard by the thoroughly unfamiliar layout of the home, and a little bemused to remove their boots and dine sitting on the floor. Hikage’s parents have invited another guest, Amander Malonial, a representative of a mercantile consortium. He seems quite interested in grilling Hikage about Ameiko Kaijitsu, though the monk is politely evasive. Amander explains that he wishes to purchase the Glassworks and corner a small, but lucrative market in Tian glasswares in Varisia. The merchant is concerned that Ameiko, who seems to be uninterested, at best, in her family’s ‘noble affairs’ might let the Glassworks suffer through inattention, and he is trying to make an attractive initial offer for the business, in hopes of securing a deal before that is the case. While Hikage is non-committal, Corvus offers up some suggestions to the inquisitive businessman. Ragnar, however, curtly suggests that Malonial should stay out of the affairs of Ameiko’s family name, causing great consternation to the Kibagami elders, who seem hopeful that such a transaction could help their own business dealings with the consortium.

After dinner, Zendo journeys out to the nearby Varisian encampment in Keystone to share stories and tales with his fellow wanderers. He puts on a fine performance which is much appreciated by one of the attending caravan masters, who invites the half-elf and his friends to journey back to Sandpoint in the wagons a few days hence. An elderly Varisian seer, perhaps the caravan master’s aunt or grandmother (though both are used as terms of endearment as well), also takes a liking to the glib bard and offers to harrow his fate. The grandmotherly woman takes time to explain the manner of the divination to Zendo’s non-Varisian friends, laying out the cards to represent Zendo’s future, and past, and his weal and woe. In his past, she sees the Tyrant, overthrown, and the Tangled Briars of ancient plots, as well as the suffering of the Cyclone, disaster brought about by mortal toil. As for Zendo’s present situation, she sees the good omen of the Publican, representing his camaraderie with his companions. Though a bit obvious given the wagonmaster’s offer, the Cricket represents travel, but she also sees a lurking danger in the Liar, a card represented by a seductive Lamia, who Gellius thinks should be in the past, rather than the present. As to Zendo’s future, the harrower sees the Mountain Man, an irresistable force of nature which must be endured, rather than overcome. The uncertain paths of the future show both the overturned Fiend, meaning a chance to rescue the innocent from peril, and the Avalanche, a sign of impending natural disaster.

On Abjurant Day, Corvus takes a break from his spell studies to draw the group to the Stone of Seers, the magical academy founded in recognition of the oracular nature spirit that formerly inhabited the spring in Magnimar’s natural park. On this day sacred to Nethys, many people gather to bid good fortune to young apprentices in magic, as well as to share blessings and charms against evil sorcery. The weapons which Hikage, Zendo, and Gellius were having enchanted will be ready by the end of the day, so most of the group accompanies Zendo to Carent’s camp, at the foot of the Summit, before ascending into the Capital district to retrieve their newly enchanted weapons. Zendo spreads tales of the Avengers throughout the camp, and despite the rather disreputable air of the damp, muddy encampment, many of the nomads reward him with a silver or two for his troubles.

On the 9th of Neth, the heroes (and Boudra) meet up with the caravan heading up the Kaspakari trail, following the Lost Coast Road to Sandpoint. The steady rains coming in off the Varisian gulf turn the packed earth of the road into mud, and the wagons make for slow going. The incessant rain drives most of the Varisians into the wagons for shelter, so there is little opportunity for a pleasant walk along the wagons, or a restful ride alongside the drivers. For the most part, the Heroes of Sandpoint stay in the warm, dry wagons, speaking with the Varisian nomads and passing the time as best as possible. Corvus engages in a few games of Tower with some of the less pious nomads, pocketing a few silvers for his troubles. Zendo whiles away the time trading stories with the other Varisians and playing tunes on his flute around the damp campfires at night. They learn that Ethram Valdemar‘s lung infection has been acting up with the damp, and the old man seems unable to get rid of it, regardless of the attention of the Sandpoint priests. The aloof fishermen of Grubber’s Hermitage haven’t been heard from in quite some time, and the ship captains report seeing unusual quantities of seabirds gathering around the small, rocky isle. The local folk say that the wyverns nesting at the Dragon’s Punchbowl have been joined by a dragon again, though no one in the wagons claims to have seen more than a large, winged silhouette along the Coast. Hikage talks to the Varisians about their faith in Desna, and their wanderlust, learning more about the enigmatic nomads which roam among the wilds of Varisia. Ragnar makes an overly bold attempt to bed one of the more winsome Varisian maidens, and while she spurns the shaggy Ulfen, she takes a liking to the quieter, more civilized Corvus.

Late one evening, Gellius is sitting around the campfire with several of the travelers from the caravans, when a strange, flaring light attracts their attention. The mysterious fire winks in and out above the treeline to the east, slowly and erratically moving north. The Varisians utter superstitious oaths and mutter darkly about the Sandpoint Devil, a strange fiend said to haunt the region in the last few decades. Blamed for missing livestock and vanished children, the beast leaves hoofprints on isolated roofs in the winter and is said to curse all who suffer its searing wrath. While the travelers watch the bobbing flames apprehensively, Gellius wakes Corvus from a warm berth shared with the Varisian maid.

The two men traipse off in the dark towards the enigmatic flames. They cross over the road and scramble down a damp hillock into a copse of trees. Realizing that the light is further away than they had thought, and thus, a larger fire than expected, the two press on through the wet, leaf-littered forest, wandering far from the camp.

When they finally clear the forest, they are startled to see a large, bat-winged, bipedal horse flying over a panicked encampment of goblins. The strange beast opens a fang-filled maw wide and vomits forth a gout of greenish fire which incinerates several of the goblins and sets one of their small, damp leather tents ablaze. The two men realize quickly that they are outmatched by none other than the Sandpoint Devil! Corvus quickly casts a spell and flies away over the treetops. Gellius transforms into a small bat and flees as well, though not as quickly as the wizard. The goblins scatter, terrified, in all directions, though Corvus curses the luck that several run their way. The Devil, flapping its monstrous wings, utters harsh syllables in Abyssal and the burning tent explodes into a blinding spray of sparks. While the two men are too far away to be seriously inconvenienced by the flash of light, the goblins are utterly dazzled, and run into trees and in circles. One even blunders back into the camp and trips over his own tent. Gellius continues his headlong flight in bat form, as Corvus pauses in midair to render himself invisible before continuing. The two wing their way back to the camp, and quickly rouse both the other heroes, and several of the caravan’s guards. Corvus encourages the dousing of the campfires, to hide the camp from the attention of the Devil, while the men debate the wisdom of breaking camp in the dark to find safer environs. Some of the Varisians bemoan the decision of the druid and wizard to ‘stir up’ the Devil, particularly when Corvus reveals that the beast was attacking goblins, and not fellow travlelers, in the woods. “Curious fools will draw down the Devil on us all!” is heard more than once. In the end, however, the Sandpoint Devil seems content to wreak havoc on the goblins, and, though the watch is redoubled, his eerie flames eventually fade away.

Other than the incessant rain, the remainder of the trip passes without incident. The men make their way back into Sandpoint, across the south bridge, late in the day on the 12th of Neth. Though all are eager to get back to the warm and comfort of beds in the Rusty Dragon, Zendo notices, with his acute elven eyes, that the inn’s namesake, the rusty lightning rod in the shape of a dragon, is missing from its perch upon the rooftop.

Entering the Dragon, the men find it sparsely filled and subdued. Ameiko welcomes them back warmly, with a brotherly hug for Hikage. Ragnar tries for a rather more ‘friendly’ hug from the shapely bard, and she deftly slips through his grasp, but takes the attempt in good humor. Ameiko offers them their ‘customary’ rooms, explaining that with such light traffic, a good deal of her beds are empty. She complains that the foul weather combined with the missing iron dragon, has robbed her of much of her clientele. “It’s hard to direct people to the inn with the rusty dragon on top, when the dragon’s not there! Everybody can find the White Deer inn, even in the rain,” she grouses. Hikage resolves to climb onto the roof, in the dark, in the damp, and Zendo, sensing a good story at least, accompanies him. The agile monk clambers onto the wet, slippery roof and can see that someone has pried the lightning rod loose using some metal tools (so, not the Sandpoint Devil).

Most of the men settle down in the warm, dry inn for dinner, but Gellius accompanies Boudra back to her home. Boudra tells her parents breathlessly about all of their adventures, or at least her part in them. She recounts their ship voyage, and their trips to the Aquaretum, the monuments, the Serpent’s Run, the Hard Roc CafĂ©, and the theater. She shows them her new dress, her clockwork pegasus, and her pearl earrings, as well as the pearl necklace from the Lord-Mayor himself! She tells her astonished parents about her arrest by the Watch, and their late-night encounter with the Sandpoint Devil himself!

Corvus cautions Ameiko about Amander, the merchant from Magnimar, and assures her that he will ply his wizardly arts on the morrow to locate her inn’s namesake.

On the morning of the 13th of Neth, most of the men go to speak to Sheriff Belor Hemlock about their recent exploits. Corvus, however, excuses himself and heads more directly towards the town center. Casting a spell to locate the Rusty Dragon lightning rod, he walks through the muddy streets of town guided by his magic. He is surprised to find that his spell leads him unerringly through town towards the White Deer Inn. He enters the inn and confronts a confused and suspicious Garridan Viskalai, who angrily denies vandalizing the Rusty Dragon, but warily agrees to allow Corvus to search the inn to satisfy his curiousity. Forced to extend his spell, the young wizard guides Garridan into the cramped loft of the White Deer where they store seasonal items, like winter blankets and summer sheets. Garridan is astonished and displeased to find the lightning rod wrapped in blankets and hidden in a corner. He angrily denies being involved in the theft, and insists the slight wizard take the hefty iron sculpture with him as he leaves the inn to meet his companions.

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Magnimar in the Rain
31 Lamashan-5 Neth

On the last day of Lamashan, the newly flush heroes follow their comrade Corvus who knows of many of the professional enchanters in the Alabaster District. On a lovely fall morning, many of the the wealthy residents, and well-to-do visitors, can be found roaming the streets of Naos. The men, accompanied by Boudra, stop to buy some fresh fruit and watch a fire juggler while listening to a street musician. Zendo, distracted by the flaming torches, inadvertently jogs the arm of a well-dressed blond half-elf, spilling his tankard onto his velvet doublet. Lord Olohorn Moonshadow demands satisfaction from an apologetic Zendo, who reluctantly agrees to a duel. The offended half-elf scoffs at the notion of bloody vengeance, and insists that the duel will simply be ended when the superior man demonstrates his superiority to the the lesser man, and to the watching crowds. Zendo opens the non-lethal duel with a showy display of magic, and is taken aback when Olohorn lashes him swiftly across the leg. Zendo begins a witty banter, extolling his virtues as a swordsman, and is surprised when Olohorn quickly responds, with an equally inspiring rendition of his own merits. Though Olohorn succeeds in tripping Zendo at one point, the Varisian bard’s swordplay is simply faster and more consistent than his rivals, and he soon defeats his challenger. The magnanimous Zendo invites the crest-fallen Olohorn for a drink, and, during the conversation, realizes that ‘Lord’ Olohorn is naught but a pretender. Deciding to give the conniving half-elf a little of his own medicine, Zendo employs the skills picked up in a mis-spent youth and relieves the blonde duelist of his coin purse, resolving to turn the meager pickings therein to the temple of Desna. Corvus spends much of his afternoon poring over Ironbriar’s complicated cypher.

Neth opens with a dreary, rainy day. Despite the rain, the heroes decide to go to the Bazaar of Sails. Perhaps the rain will keep away the crowds and let them score some bargains. Zendo, Gellius, Boudra, and Corvus are perusing the offerings, dashing from awning to awning, as Ragnar and Hikage examine wares elsewhere, before the Ulfen makes inquiries at the Dockway. The young girl loitering around turns out to be a female halfling, who darts off with Gellius’s coin purse. Zendo starts off in pursuit, but is thwarted as the clever thief times her flight with the arrival of an overladen fruit cart. Gellius shouts at the merchant to clear the way, while Corvus casts Flight upon himself and rises into the air. As the halfling weaves around a belligerent drunk, Zendo realizes that they are getting no-where fast, and uses his magics to Haste himself and his friends. He then tears through the bazaar, as the lightning-fast Corvus zooms through the crowds and plows past the confused drunkard. The little pickpocket scrambles up a low roof to evade pursuit, but her pursuers, unhindered by gravity, bear down on her. As Gellius screams towards her in the form of an eagle, she walks precariously across a laundry line to evade them. When Corvus crests the rooftop, he spies his quarry and deftly immobilizes her with a newly learned spell. Hikage and Ragnar remain ignorant of their allies activities until later in the evening, when Zendo recounts them as Corvus continues to decipher the ledger.

The rains of winter seem to have come early, as Starday opens with another cloudy drizzle. Despite the inclement weather, Zendo is surprised at the crowds climbing from the Shore to the Summit for games at the Serpent’s Run. Once the men have paid admission and entered the immense stone coliseum, city priests steer the clouds away from the festivities, ensuring that the expectant crowds remain dry. Boudra enjoys the horse racing, but Ragnar and the others seem to appreciate the mock gladiatorial combats, staged between the city watch and prisoners of the Hells, more than she does. Once safely back at the Golden Acorn, the young wizard continues to pore over the ledger, occasionally questioning Zendo on a finer point of Elvish grammar.

The first Sunday of Neth is a sadly gloomy one, with the seemingly incessant rain. While Corvus makes the best use of the gloomy morning, finally unscrambling Ironbriar’s complex cypher, Zendo brightens everyone’s spirits with a suggestion to attend a show at the Gilded Cage. Hikage demurs, viewing the venue as little more than a garish gambling den and flay-leaf parlor, but most of the others jump at the chance for entertainment, particularly a bored Boudra. Though much smaller than the spacious Sandpoint Theatre, the Gilded Cage does not disappoint, with several renowned Magnimarian singers performing solo on stage. Ragnar wraps a sturdy leather poncho around his shoulders and seeks entertainment elsewhere.

On Moonday, the rains have slackened to a persistent drizzle, and a halfling page in formal livery inquires at the inn, inviting Master Kibagami and his companions to a brunch at the Lord-Mayor’s Menagerie. Though the damp prevents the heroes from strolling around much of the grounds, they cannot help but notice an apparently tame, fourteen foot tall ape, identified as “Prince Mandali” by a nearby placard. The rain doesn’t deter Ragnar, who declines the invitation and, putting on his poncho and roughest trousers, stamps off towards the docks. At the Menagerie, the men (and Boudra) are escorted to a palatial tent, where a tasteful meal is set. They are greeted by Lord Carnavon and Lady Sheila Heidmarch. Lord Canarvon is polite, but a bit distant, though he becomes more animated when discussing his exploits in the Mwangi Expanse and his history with Prince Mandali. Lady Sheila is more outgoing and direct. She explains to the men that, based on his surveys and notes, which Hikage delivered, Brodert Quink has been awarded a field commission to the Pathfinder Society. A nearby parcel, intended for Quink, is entrusted to Hikage with delivery. His documentation of previously undiscovered Thassilonian ruins under Sandpoint, and at the nearby Thistletop, are of significant interest, both to her personally, and to the Pathfinder Society. Lady Heidmarch inquires diplomatically as to why, given their role as discoverers of these ruins, the heroes chose not to apply to the Society themselves.

Although the heroes have certainly heard of the Pathfinder Society, Lady Heidmarch explains the underlying structure of the Society, and the core tenets of the organization. New field agents are accepted either through a rigorous training period at the Grand Lodge in Absolom, or one of the larger Lodges, or can be offered a field commission through an established record of significant discoveries or exceptional deeds. An adventurer who captures the eye of a Venture-Captain, performs a valuable service to Pathfinders in the field, or uncovers a truly notable location or treasure, can be offered a field commission by the Society. Sheila Heidmarch explains, wryly, that the heroes would have certainly been offered a field commission for the discovery of the ruins under Sandpoint alone, much less the discovery of more significant ruins at Thistletop, but their seeming disinterest in the second two tenets of the Society meant that the dilligent Brodert Quint was inducted instead. Those field agents, commonly known as Pathfinders, as well as clerks and sages at the Lodges, serve under Venture-Captains of the Society, who assign missions based on their own extensive experience, and the directions of the Decemvirate, the anonymous inner circle of the Pathfinder Lodge.

The society operates under three firmly held, if loosely defined, tenets: Explore, Report, and Cooperate. All Pathfinders are expected to be driven to explore, whether in the wild reaches of Golarion, in the tomes and relics of antiquity, or even the theoretical realms of magic. While Quink certainly isn’t the bold explorer, his diligent curiosity about Sandpoint has helped to reveal mysteries lost for thousands of years. Reporting discoveries is also essential, as Pathfinders are dedicated to the dissemination and preservation of knowledge througout the lodges. Significant discoveries are selected for inclusion in the Pathfinder Chronicles, a series of chapbooks distributed throughout the society, and often purchased by interested outsiders to learn about recently discovered regions, or vicariously relive the experience. While the heroes were undoubtedly among the first to explore the Thassilonian ruins beneath Sandpoint, only Brodert Quink spent much time measuring, recording, and documenting the dimensions and runes within for the edification of others. Finally, cooperation with others within the Society is expected. While truly greedy and selfish individuals can seldom function within the society, Pathfinders come from many different societies and a wide array of credos. Even the most superstitious Kellid barbarian would be expected to assist a Chelish diabolist IF that diabolist was a fellow agent acting on the directives of the Society.

The heroes express a great deal of trepidation about the degree of cooperation expected among Pathfinders, and Lady Heidmarch allays their fears, somewhat. The Society’s goals are neutral and open to all, she assures them, with neither political ambition or moral agenda. Furthermore, the men do have time to consider her offer, as she is not currently offering them a field commission. She cannot, in good faith, offer them one for the discoveries attributed to Brodert Quink, and their recent endeavors, while undoubtably of great public benefit, did not reveal anything other than the seamy, sordid underbelly of Magnimar’s society. She recognizes that the men are on the trail of a modern conspiracy, rather than an ancient mystery, but encourages them to keep their eyes open and consider the Society if they do happen upon such discoveries. At the very least, she says, the Pathfinder Society has deep coffers, and would be more than willing to buy information on significant ruins, undiscovered regions, or mysterious relics from men such as them. After all, the Venture-Captains need new assignments for their agents!

On Toilday, appropriately enough, Corvus spends much of the day transcribing spells into his new spellbook and Ragnar goes out to work at the docks, muttering about the constant rain. That night, the Ulfen invites them to a tavern he discovered at Beacon’s Point, the Whale’s Belly. Despite the rough look of the pub, the food is quite good and the ale is strong. A little too strong, perhaps, as a disagreement breaks out between some of the departing drunkards. As some of the other patrons move up to observe the impending brawl, one of the sailors crashes through the doors and trips over Hikage. Quickly, a fracas erupts, with the original feud mixing with old disagreements and fresh accusations. Hikage quickly subdues several of the dockworkers, while Ragnar unnerves all of them with his belligerent roaring, before wading in with his own fists. Zendo remains on the bench, urging his fellows on, while Corvus quickly moves behind the safely of the bar, chatting up the barmaid. Gellius surprises everyone by transforming into an immense tiger, batting the drunkards aside and shaking them like a terrier with a rat. He even pursues several of the terrified laborers into the bathroom to administer a beating. Ragnar’s choice in taverns remains highly suspect, as his consistently high standards of pub fuel contrast sharply with his rather low bar for appropriate entertainment. At least Gellius had the sense to tell Boudra that the excursion was a ’boy’s night out’.

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Justice Court and the Lord-Mayor's Gratitude
28-30 Lamashan, 4707

The heroes cautiously exit the Shadow Clock, using Ragnar’s rope (and strength) to carefully lower each man, and treasure chest, down from the lowest undamaged landing, except for Gellius, who delights in leaping down from the top using the Ring of Feather Falling. The unwieldy corpse of the Serpent-woman is another matter, as, though Ragnar can carry it with difficulty, the combined weight of the Ulfen and the corpse would surely sunder the decrepit stairs. The men solve this dilemma by allowing Ragnar to lift the corpse and use the Ring of Feather Falling to leap from the top of the Shadow Clock, gently floating to the streets of Underbridge. Though Ragnar is willing to do so, he is unhappy, upon landing, to see a cluster of unfriendly and suspicious locals gathered around the tower. As the others exit the Shadow Clock, they find that the clangor of the dropping bell and the sight of a winged devil have attracted both the city watch and local toughs.

In their attempts to explain their suspicious circumstances (exiting a condemned building with treasure chests full of coin, and the corpse of a humanoid serpent), the heroes decide on full disclosure. They point out the corpses of the faceless stalkers, the inert flesh Golem, and inform the watch of the cult at the Seven’s Sawmill. As the suspicious watchmen escort the heroes to Kyver’s Islet to verify their tale, Zendo attempts to defuse the tension and win over the wary guards. His charming personality makes great strides in this goal, but, despite the clear evidence of hidden cultists at the sawmill, the revelation that Justice Ironbriar has been slain by the men, means that the watch, no matter their attitudes, now regards the entire affair more gravely.

Stopping only to seize the materials held at the Golden Acorn (as well as a confused, and frightened, Boudra), the watch escorts the men into small, stone cells under the Pediment Building. “It’s not the Hells, gentlemen,” growls a surly gaoler, “just Limbo for now.” The men, disarmed and divested of their gear, are to be held for a hearing the next morning.

The next day, Chief Justice Bayl Argentine holds a formal hearing in his stately chambers in the Justice Court. Many important people attend, including ProctorJyronn Imikar, Captain Acacia Uriana, and even the Lord-Mayor, Haldmeer Grobaras.

Testimony is presented by members of the city watch as to the faceless stalkers found in the Foxglove Townhouse, the cultists and cult material found in the Seven’s Sawmill, and the faceless stalkers, flesh golem, and supernatural serpent monster found within the Shadow Clock. The members of the watch seem, to the men, to present their stories soberly, with attention to detail and honesty. Though the guards do not seem as sympathetic as the heroes might have hoped, the watch takes pains to establish the gruesome and unusual nature of the creatures, and the macabre trophies found within the Seven’s Sawmill.

The documents handed over by the men are produced, including the letter from Xanesha to Aldern, the deed to Foxglove Manor, the financial ledger of Aldern Foxglove, and the letter from “L” to Xanesha. Their contents are read aloud, for the benefit of the Chief Justice and those attending the court. The Lord-Mayor faints when the plot to sacrifice him is revealed, leading to a brief recess as he recovers himself. The letter from Sheriff Hemlock to the Captain of the Watch is also produced, and Captain Uriana stands to deliver a opinionated, heated defense of Sheriff Hemlock’s integrity and judgement.

Though not allowed to speak with each other since the previous night, the men are all encouraged to present the court with their interpretation of the events of the previous days. The heroes deliver these dutifully. Their tales agree on all major particulars, but range widely from the loquacious, digressive tale of Gellius, which exasperates the Chief Justice but amuses some of the court, to the terse, minimal testimony of Hikage, which fails to elaborate even on points of obvious interest. Corvus delivers a version of events which strikes many as wildly speculative, tying the nefarious cult activities to ancient Thassilonian runes and rituals, while Ragnar’s statement consists of little but a litany of outrages committed by foes and vengeance delivered upon them, uttered in almost a poetic meter. It falls to Zendo to deliver a sweeping statement, and the bard does not fail to rise to the occasion. The half-elf carefully ties the evidence and testimony presented into a compelling narrative, presenting Aldern Foxglove as a man duped and corrupted by machinations beyond his ken. Zendo plays up the unsettling discovery of the faceless stalkers roaming unobserved in Magnimar, and the travesty of a Justice corrupted by a cult of murderers. He recounts the long, fairy-tale history of Mumble-mumble, the Scarecrow of haunting nursery rhymes, and the heroes role in delivering children from the menace. Zendo spends particular effort in describing the otherworldly appearance of Xanesha, the serpent-woman hidden in the Shadow Clock, and her supernatural powers of deception and enchantment. Bayl Argentine seems impatient listening to the heroic ode of Zendo’s account, but begrudgingly allows the bard to deliver it uninterrupted.

The Chief Justice recesses, and the heroes observe a servant, evidently attached to the Lord-Mayor, enter the judge’s chambers among other court functionaries. After a tense wait in the intimidating Justice Halls, Bayl Argentine emergest to deliver a formal statement from the court exonerating the heroes of any wrong-doing.

The Chief Justice issues a finding which states that the creature known as Xanesha, having exerted mind-controlling magics over Justice Ironbriar, used his influence to control or subvert a secret organization known as the Brotherhood of the Seven. Ironbriar, using his position as a Justice, and his influence as a member of the Brotherhood, gathered and led a proscribed cult of Norgorber within one of the holdings of the Brotherhood, under the direction of Xanesha. In addition, Xanesha brought under her influence a group of ugothols from the surrounding Mushfens and used them to operate under the cover of both the nobility (by impersonating the Foxglove family) and the law (by impersonating, as witnessed, a bailiff). Furthermore, Xanesha illegally occupied property seized and condemned by the city, and controlled a necromantic golem specifically forbidden under the charter of the Golemworks.

The heroes of Sandpoint, also to be known as the Avengers of the Lost Coast, did happen upon this conspiracy while investigating the circumstances by which their friend, Aldern Foxglove, came to be entangled within it. Any violent disturbances in which the Lost Coast Avengers became embroiled are found to have been as a result of members of this conspiracy, in efforts to maintain secrecy. The object of this conspiracy was the assassination of specific citizens of Magnimar, up to, and including the Lord-Mayor, for purposes unknown.

The membership of the Brotherhood of the Seven, with the exception of Justice Ironbriar and the possible inclusion of Aldern Foxglove, remains unknown, and the extent of their involvement within this conspiracy remains unknown. Any members of the Brotherhood of the Seven are ordered, immediately, and without delay, to identify themselves to, and submit to questioning by, the City Watch. Failure to do so will be taken to be evidence of willing involvement with the conspiracy. The Seven’s Sawmill will be seized by the city and auctioned off one month hence, unless one or more of the Brotherhood of the Seven steps forward to claim ownership, and satisfies the Justice as to their innocence in this conspiracy.

After the court proceedings, the heroes seek out the nearby Cathedral of Abadar to receive aid with their lasting injuries. The temple’s priests, evidently conversant with the events of the last few days, are reluctant to minister to visitors to Magnimar who engaged in such vigilante justice. Though they agree to assist Hikage and Corvus, as citizens of Magnimar, the priests suggest that Zendo and the others might be better off seeking aid from the priestess of Desna at the Cynosure, as she, and her goddess, have more affection for wanderers and strangers. However, the Cathedral does offer a generous bounty for the evil artifacts of the cult members, to ensure their destruction. Seeing the obvious wealth and prestige of the Cathedral, the men agree to this proposition, and are pleasantly surprised by the vast sums of gold and wealth which the temple presents to them.

The men make their way to Cynosure Tower, located in the Keystone district, and find a tall, circular structure, with an open-air shrine inside. The lone priestess, Bevaluu Zimantiu, however, is highly regarded by her goddess, and she is able to ease the afflictions of Ragnar and Zendo, as well as restoring Zendo’s drained constitution. Unlike the no-nonsense priests of Abadar, Bevaluu speaks freely and widely to the heroes, asking them about their travels, and sending a warm greeting to her fellow worshipper Abstalar Zantus in Sandpoint. The gregarious, gossipy priestess talks with the men for some time, with the quiet stone walls serving to isolate them from the bustle of the city, before they take their leave of her and her sky-roofed shrine.

On the morrow, the heroes receive an invitation, delivered to the Golden Acorn by a messenger named Valanni Krinst, to a party at Defiant’s Garden one day hence. The well-dressed courtier is none other than the mayoral aide that entered the Chief Justice’s chambers! The men realize that a party at the Lord-Mayor’s official home in Vista is likely to be very elegant, and they quickly go out to the shops of Lowcleft and Naos to obtain appropriate garb and some accompanying jewelry. Most of the men spend quite frugally, choosing a few understated pieces of jewelry to accompany the lavish clothing of the well-to-do. Gellius, choosing something more pleasing to Gozreh, selects some simple pearl earrings for Boudra, while Ragnar purchases two hefty, but unadorned, arm-bands of gold from a snaggle-toothed Ulfen sailor at the Bazaar of Sails. Hikage, ever independent, decides to eschew any such ornamentation, but announces his intention to wear the fine silk kimono he obtained in Sandpoint.

Defiant’s Garden is small castle, perched on the Seacleft, and dominating the other manor homes of Vista. Though the men are not allowed to explore the rooms unattended, the party itself is an extravagant affair attended by a great number of nobles and wealthy merchants. After a servant strikes a crystal chime to direct attention, the Lord-Mayor delivers a theatrical, florid account of the conspiracy, naming himself as the prime target. He breathlessly tells of the Serpent-woman who ensorcelled a Justice of Magnimar in her coils to create a cult of murderers with his death as the final goal; a goal, which, he is sure, would have terrified and demoralized the citizens of Magnimar. Grobaras delivers a performance worthy of the stage, and by the end of his tale he is flushed and sweating. After summoning a drink, he calls the heroes up, as a group, and publicly rewards them with extravagant magic items and valuable jewelry drawn from his own private coffers, hand-delivered by his servants. Corvus is presented with an Ioun stone, in the form of a prism of rose crystal, and a necklace of gold set with a ruby. Zendo receives a enchanted silver headband, set with red and orange gemstones, as well as a silver necklace with a Desnan butterfly picked out in blue and purple stones. Gellius receives a rod of mahogany carved with whirling storm clouds, as well as an exquisite holy symbol of Gozreh formed of platinum. The mayor’s servants also complement Boudra’s earrings with a simple necklace of pearls as well. Ragnar receives an enchanted adamantine greatsword, as well as a torc of gold tipped with carvings of boar heads. He presents Hikage with a simple white headband, embroidered with an Imperial dragon, and a set of golden prayer beads.

After the public approbation, the Lord-Mayor calls the men aside and asks them pointed, specific questions. Hikage realizes, to his surprise, that the mayor’s theatricality, while perhaps not entirely an imposture, is something the man accentuates for public consumption. The Lord-Mayor asks them if they have had any success in deciphering the ledger taken from Ironbriar’s room, and insists that the ledger is surely the key to understanding exactly how long, and how deep, Ironbriar’s involvement with both the Brotherhood, and the Skinsaw Men, has run. He tells them that he knows little about Ironbriar’s private life, as the Justice was known to be aloof and reclusive. Ironbriar grew up on the streets of Vyre in Cheliax, and, like many Forsaken elves, seemed distant and cold. Grobaras suggests contacting Madam Irba Demerios at the Founder’s Archives if they need any assistance in those matters. He has already sent messengers upstream to the other protectorates of Magnimar, such as Nybor, Ravenmoore, Whartle, Wolf’s Ear, and Galduria, as there are many forts in the wilds of Varisia, and not all are under the control of Magnimar. Some of the farther-flung towns lie a week or more away, so any replies may be a fortnight, or more, in coming, from those locales. After taking the men into his confidence, he asks them an innocuous question, as to where they may be reached, both immediately, and in the future. The heroes unhesitatingly reply that messengers may be sent to them at the Golden Acorn in Magnimar, and to the Rusty Dragon in Sandpoint if they are not there.

The Lord-Mayor assures them that he will send word to the heroes if his men discover anything awry, as he is sure that they will want to pursue this matter. Zendo realizes that the portly Lord-Mayor has deftly maneuvered them into acting as his agents, or running the risk of being publicly reviled.

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