Rise of the Runelords

The Skinsaw Murders: Part 5
Interrogation

In the personality of “His Lordship”, the Skinsaw Man tells the PCs of how the Foxgloves have been involved with a secretive organization in Magnimar named the Brothers of the Seven since its inception generations ago. When Aldern moved back to Magnimar from Korvosa, he was approached by the Brotherhood and invited to join them. Through their influence he was able to reclaim Foxglove Manor. After he killed his wife in a fit of jealousy, he fled to Magnimar to ask the Brotherhood for help. They promised to dispose of the evidence, but instead began blackmailing him.

Aldern was quickly being ruined financially, so when the Brotherhood promised him that his debt would be repaid if he were to capture some of the diseased rats that lived beneath the manor, he was ecstatic. He delivered the rats to the Brotherhood, but in the process of obtaining them was infected by the potent Ghoul Fever they carried and was transformed into the ghast known as the Skinsaw Man. Since then, a shadowy figure known as Xanesha, Mistress of the Seven has been providing him with lists of victims, upon whom he must perform the Sihedron ritual.

As he mentions another secret society, known as the Skinsaw Cult, the “Lordship” personality loses control, and the calm, deadly Skinsaw Man personality assumes control. Though bound, the Skinsaw Man stands and bows before the adventurers, saying “I wonder how your deaths shall affect your friends. What things might you have done that will go unfinished? What will those broken promises spawn? How will your murders shape the world?”. He lunges at them, attempting to kill them with his teeth, but is finally vanquished.

The adventurers find further evidence of the Brotherhood’s influence in a letter from Xanesha to Aldern, which mentions Aldern’s townhouse in Magnimar. They realize that the time has come to venture into the city to see if they can discover the secrets of this mysterious Skinsaw Cult, starting with the Brothers of the Seven.

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The Skinsaw Murders: Part 4
Misgivings

Thanks to the healing skills of their cleric, both of the young farmers and all of the adventurers are able to overcome Ghoul Fever after a few days back in Sandpoint. They spend their recuperation time learning all they can about their next destination: Foxglove Manor. After preparations are made, they make the trek to the site.

The route leading out to Foxglove Manor is a 3-mile hike along a narrow path that follows the Foxglove River from the covered bridge where it flows under the Lost Coast Road to the dark sea cliffs overlooking the Varisian Gulf. Here, wild sea birds call out to a roaring ocean that churns hundreds of feet below. As the adventurers near Foxglove Manor, it almost seems as if nature herself has become sick and twisted. Nettles and thorns grow more prominent, trees are leafless and bent, and the wind seems unnaturally cold and shrill as it whistles through the cliffside crags. The path slowly rises, bending around a steep corner in the cliffs, and then Foxglove Manor looms at the edge of the world.

The strangely cold sea wind rises to a keening shriek as Foxglove Manor comes into view. The place has earned its local nickname of the “Misgivings” well, for it almost appears to loathe its perch high above the ocean, as if the entire house were poised for a suicide leap. The roof sags in many places, and mold and mildew cake the crumbling walls. Vines of diseased-looking gray wisteria strangle the structure in several places, hanging down over the precipitous cliff edge almost like tangled braids of hair. The house is crooked, its gables angling sharply and breached in at least three places, hastily repaired by planks of sodden wood. Chimneys rise from various points among the rooftops, leaning like old men in a storm, and grinning gargoyle faces leer from under the eaves.

Decay abounds inside the manor. Ceilings sag, plaster swells, and timbers rot. Doors are often wedged shut by dampness and rot. Mold and stains mar walls and floors, often in strangely unsettling patterns. As they search the apparently abandoned structure, the adventurers are haunted by powerful and terrible visions of the past. It becomes clear that unspeakable horrors have befallen all who have inhabited this house for any period of time.

Through these visions, they learn that Vorel Foxglove, who originally built Foxglove Manor, was attempting to turn himself into a Lich, but was stopped by his wife Kasanda. After doing so, a strange disease that caused any living creature to break out in tumors and decay killed everyone inside the house. When Traver and his family moved in years later, Traver became increasingly insane. His wife, Cyralie, blamed this on the manor itself and tried to burn it to the ground, starting with the servant’s quarters. When she tried to light the manor itself on fire, Traver flew into a rage and redirected the flow of the fire using magic to ignite her instead. As she burned to death, Cyralie staggered across the room and threw herself through the window to plummet to her death on the rocks below. This sight caused Traver to finally snap out of his madness long enough for him to retreat to his bedroom and kill himself.

Years later, after taking over the manor, Aldern became increasingly jealous and suspicious of his wife, Iesha. Returning home drunk one night, he found his wife and one of the carpenters huddled in the library in the chairs by the fire, their heads almost touching as they leaned toward each other. Aldern mistook their shared examination of a book for passion and roared into the room, sweeping up a stone bookend from a shelf as he approached. He brained the carpenter with the bookend, knocking him senseless, then dropped the bookend and strangled Iesha with her own scarf. He hid her body upstairs and dumped the carpenter down the well.

While exploring, the adventurers discover that Iesha has become a Revenant, awaiting release from an attic bedroom so she can exact her revenge on her murdering husband. After a not-so-successful sneak attack from the rogue, she leads the adventurers to a once-buried staircase in the basement that leads to a series of waterlogged caves beneath the manor. These caves have become the home of Aldern, who has become the powerful ghast known as Skinsaw Man and his budding ghoul army. As they enter the room to face him, they find that he and his ghasts have defeated Iesha. When he sees Sorcerer Dave, he exclaims, “You live! Well and good, for now I shall have the reward of tasting your heart while it is yet warm…”. The adventurers have their most difficult battle yet against the Skinsaw Man, but eventually he drops his weapons and falls to the ground sobbing and begging for mercy. He claims that “The Hurter” is gone now, and that “His Lordship” is in control again. He seems to be willing to tell them anything they want to know in order to convince them to help him…

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The Skinsaw Murders: Part 3
Walking Scarecrows

As the adventurers return home from the Sanatorium, they find Sheriff Hemlock waiting for them outside their home, with a breathless man covered in mud and sweat. The sheriff introduces him as Maester Grump, the owner of one of the local farms. He is extremely agitated, and muttering about walking scarecrows. He calms down a bit and at which point he tells a short but harrowing story, speaking of how the southern farmlands have become plagued by foul walking scarecrows that stalk the night. All the farmers knew that the problems were coming from the old Hambley place—things “just ain’t been right there for a few days now”—but when a group of locals paid the Hambley farm a visit the previous evening, they were attacked by folk that looked like corpses but fed like starving animals.

The sheriff explains that his men picked up Grump as he ran into town screaming about walking scarecrows. The sheriff asks the adventurers if they can investigate. He hopes that Grump’s story has been enhanced by the booze he can smell on the old farmer’s breath, but worries that the moonshine may actually have dulled the man’s memories of the grim fate that has been visited upon the Hambleys, and that the situation there is even worse than Grump knows.

The adventurers begin their trek to the Hambley farm. Over three dozen farmsteads dot the fields and vales southeast of Sandpoint, the farthest being some six miles from town. Farms to the east and north have heard stories of the trouble to the south, but it’s not until the adventurers move south of Ashen Rise and approach Soggy River that the rumors turn into firsthand accounts.

Footpaths, dusty tracks about 10 feet wide hemmed in by fields of corn and other crops, connect the farmsteads. Tall-stalked plants transform the paths between them into oppressive tunnels, making it dangerously easy for visitors to become lost. All five of the other farms south of the Soggy River are strangely deserted, their occupants having either fled north to seek shelter with other farmers or much worse. The Hambley farm is nestled at the western edge of the Whisperwood, a forest said to be home to capricious gnomes, pixies, and other fey, but now overshadowed by the closer menace.

The adventurers arrive at the farm just after dusk. As they search the twisting labyrinthine paths for the farmhouse, they are attacked by the undead. Ghouls, wandering the fields searching for fresh prey, shriek as they fly from the dense crops. Even more gruesome, the ghouls have been adding to their number by binding the victims they have chosen not to eat, making scarecrows of them and hanging them up to “ripen” in the fields. Bound by baling twine to their frames, they’ve been left to hang confused, blinking through sack-covered faces in the harsh sun, unsure of what has happened to them yet aware of a growing and monstrous hunger. As the adventurers draw near, they struggle hideously against their bonds in an attempt to break free, immediately attacking with a shriek when they do.

The adventurers also discover two poor souls who haven’t yet succumbed to ghoul fever also hanging from scarecrow frames. Horran and Lettie Guffmin, who were dragged off from their farm the night before and left bound, gagged, and masked as scarecrows. They feebly warn the adventurers about the ghouls that dwell in the barn before begging to be returned to their families. It is obvious that sending these two back to their families in their condition would be fatal for them and most likely others. They adventurers promise to help them find someone to heal them before they will allow them to return home.

With the help of Horran and Lettie, the adventurers finally arrive at the farmhouse just after dark. A barn and small home sit in a small clearing in the center of the fields. The ghouls themselves have made this barn their primary lair, and the place has become a macabre tangle of bones and partially eaten carcasses. Alerted to the arrival of fresh meals, the ghouls attack, accompanied by a one-eared ghast. After a lengthy battle, in which most of the party contracted Ghoul Fever (except for the Paladin and the Monk), the ghouls are vanquished.

Inside the farmhouse, the adventurers discover the decaying corpse of Crade Hambley, swarming with flies. Even in this state, the Sihedron Rune is still plainly visible upon the man’s chest, as is a single scrap of parchment pinned to his tunic. The note bears the name of Sorcerer Dave. They also discover an iron key hanging around the neck of the one-eared ghast. The key bears a heraldic symbol of a curious flower surrounded by thorns, which they recognize as the the same symbol worn by Adlern Foxglove during their boar hunt. All signs now point to Foxglove Manor as the source of the murders.

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The Skinsaw Murders: Part 2
The Thing in the Attic

The adventurers head to the sanatorium to question Grayst Sevilla, the man taken into custody outside the barn where the corpses of the three con men were found murdered. The proprietor, Erin Habe, doesn’t want to let them see his patient, but reluctantly agrees once he finds out that Sheriff Hemlock has sent them. He brings the patient down to the large first-floor workroom, and it’s obvious that he’s in the advanced stages of Ghoul Fever. He sits, muttering to himself about “razors”, and how “the Skinsaw Man is coming”. Sorcerer Dave tries to ask a question, and as Grayst looks at him, his countenance changes.

“He said. He said you would visit me. His Lordship. The one that unmade me said so. He has a place for you. A precious place. I’m so jealous. He has a message for you. He made me remember it. I hope I haven’t forgotten. The master wouldn’t approve if I forgot. Let me see… let… me… see… He said you should come to the Misgivings soon, to meet the Pack, for they have something wonderful to show you.”

With the message related, Grayst collapses and issues a low moan. His moan turns into a shriek as he leaps upon the table and tears his arms free of the straightjacket. He lunges for Sorcerer Dave but the adventurers are able to defeat him. They confron Erin Habe, who is attempting to escape, and Erin orders his Tiefling assistants to attack. They too are vanquished, at which point Erin surrenders and begs the adventurers for mercy. He tells them that there is a necromancer named Caizarlu Zerren who has a lair in the basement. He is the real master of the Sanatorium, and has been blackmailing Erin for some time. Whenever a patient dies, Erin must give the corpse over to Caizarlu for his “research”. The adventurers turn over Erin to the town guard, and head into the lair of the necromancer.

Caizarlu is expecting the guests, and he and his zombie minions try unsuccessfully to vanquish the adventurers. He is captured, and although he doesn’t know anything about the murders, he has heard of an increase in Ghoul activity in the farmlands surrounding Sandpoint. Knowing that the paladin is probably going to kill him, he makes a desperate final attack against the adventurers, but is ultimately slain.

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The Skinsaw Murders: Part 1
Murder Most Foul

With Nualia vanquished, and the local goblins subdued, the adventurers return to the now-safe town of Sandpoint. Word of their exploits quickly spreads and they are viewed with even more awe and appreciation by the townsfolk. One morning, a few weeks after they have returned from Thistletop, Sheriff Hemlock knocks on the door of their home and asks to speak to them privately. He tells them that there have been a few grisly murders in town of late, and he fears that the murderer is only beginning. They remind him of Chopper’s spree during the Late Unpleasantness and he’s afraid of what may yet happen if this new perpetrator isn’t stopped soon. He’s been taking great pains to keep the details of the murders from getting out in order to prevent a panic.

He explains that the first murders occurred two days ago at an abandoned barn along the Lost Coast Road, a few miles outside of town. Three well-known con men and swindlers from Magnimar were found mutilated inside along with a note that invited them there. An obviously sick and insane man was captured outside the barn and is currently being held at Habe’s Sanatorium. It was assumed that he was the culprit of the murders until another similar one occurred early that morning. Sheriff Hemlock didn’t want to ask another favor of the adventurers so soon, but a note left at this latest crime scene made him reconsider. It was attached to the victim, written in blood, and addressed to Sorcerer Dave. Sherrif Hemlocks asks the adventurers to help in the investigation and deputizes them as official representatives of his office. He assigns Deputy Raheal to accompany them and act as a liaison between them.

The adventurers head to the Sandpoint Lumber Mill, the scene of the latest murder. Inside they find the mutilated corpse of Banny Harker, one of the mill’s operators. He’s been affixed to the wall by several hooks normally used to hang machinery. His face has been carved away and his lower jaw is missing entirely. There is a rotten scent in the wounds, and closer inspection reveals smaller gashes, almost appearing to have been made by claws. His bare chest has been carved with a strange rune in the shape of a seven-pointed star, which the adventurers recognize from medallions they had found in the possession of both Erylium and Nualia. In the town mortuary they find that the corpses of the first victims have also been mutilated with the rune in a similar fashion. Brodert Quink, a local historian, tells them that the rune is named the Sihedron Rune and that it comes from the ancient Thassilonian empire.

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Burnt Offerings: Part 4
Thistletop

Tsuto’s journal mentions that Nualia would be burning her fathers stolen remains at the “Thistletop shrine”. Knowing that Thistletop is an ancient site along the Varisian coast that has long serverd as a den for goblins, the adventurers head into the wilderness. While navigating the labyrinth of Nettlewood that has overgrown the area, they discover a group of goblins who appear to be a bit worse for wear. Andrick Windfall, master of the amazing disguise check, tricks the goblins into thinking that he is one of them. He learns that they were part of the front lines in the goblin raid on Sandpoint, but that their leaders had been killed. They’ve come to Thistletop hoping to join Chief Ripnugget’s clan. Since they arrived they’ve been treated poorly by the Thistletop clan and they are rather miserable.

Returning to the group, Andrick explains what he has learned. Paladin Lambo, knowing the death and misery that these goblins have caused, is compelled by Justice to end their lives. Andrick attempts to prevent this from happening. A skirmish erupts within the party, and results in Andrick heading off on his own.

The adventurers forge ahead and capture Gogmurt, a goblin druid who tells them that the Sandpoint raid was the idea of the humans who have taken residency in Thistletop. He mentions that Chief Ripnugget has become enthralled with them, especially with a “very angry woman with white hair and weird eyes and a torn-up belly”. He tells them that it was at her urging that the assault on Sandpoint took place. He begs the adventurers not to harm any more goblins, and that if they can get into Ripnugget’s fort on the island and get rid of the angry woman and the other “longshanks” that she has with her, that no goblin will ever bother Sandpoint again.

Inside the fort they face Chief Ripnugget, astride of hist giant gecko. He fights to the death, but the adventurers learn that Nualia and her allies can be found in the complex that exists below the fort. Descending deeper into the catacombs, the adventurers encounter a few of Nualia’s cohorts:

  • Bruthazmus – A bugbear ranger, who very nearly kills Seagretor.
  • Lyrie Akenja – A human wizard who the adventurers capture and attempt to feed to a multi-eyed, multi-tentacled monster. She is able to escape and dive into the ocean. It is uncertain if she survived.
  • Orik Vancaskerkin – A human mercenary. Orik is ambushed in his quarters by the adventurers, and agrees to help them fight Nualia, his now ex-employer.

The adventurers discover another altar to Lamashtu in Thistletop, and learn that Nualia is attempting to become a demon herself through sacrificing her father’s remains to the Mother of Monsters. They confront Nualia and bring her schemes, and her life to an end.

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Burnt Offerings: Part 3
The Catacombs of Wrath

When the adventurers arrive at the Glassworks, they find the building curiously silent. Searching the rooms, they find that goblins have apparently overrun the facility and murdered all of the workers. They find the corpse of Ameiko’s father, Lonjiku Kaijitsu, completely encased in glass, apparently murdered and left on display. In the basement they find a secret passage and stumble upon Tsuto Kaijitsu. Tsuto commands the goblins that are with him to attack the adventurers, but they are quickly dispatched, along with Tsuto. Further exploration of the secret basement uncovers the unconscious Ameiko, as well as Tsuto’s journal, which reveals that he was the mastermind behind the Goblin raid on Sandpoint, and that he is working with Nualia Tobyn, who was presumed to have perished along with her father during the Sandpoint Fire. Drawings in the journal show her with some demonic features, such as bat wings, horns, a forked tail, and fangs. The journal also reveals that another larger-scale goblin attack is being planned for the near future.

After rescuing Ameiko, the adventurers head deeper into the network of tunnels that the goblins have been using to enter Sandpoint. They stumble upon the recently-excavated entrance to an ancient prison/laboratory known as the Catacombs of Wrath, buried deep below the town. Inside, the adventurers face a new threat: Sinspawn born from a magical pool, and Erylium, a Lamashtu -worshipping quasit who sees the prison as her own personal domain. The adventurers defeat Erylium and her Sinspawn, and drain the pool of its power, ensuring that the town above is safe.

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Burnt Offerings: Part 2
Something's rotten in the city of Sandpoint...

Sheriff Hemlock asks the adventurers to look into the Goblin raid, and it quickly becomes apparent that it was intended to cover something much more sinister. During the attack, someone exhumed and then stole the bones of Sandpoint’s last priest, Ezakien Tobyn, from the Sandpoint Boneyard. Goblins have never been known to do anything like this before.

Sheriff Hemlock introduces the adventurers to Shalelu Andosana, who informs the them that the local goblin tribes are usually too busy squabbling among themselves to cause too much trouble in the region, but it is clear that all five tribes were involved in the raid on Sandpoint. She is concerned that someone may have united and organized the tribes and that more attacks may be imminent. Because of this, Sheriff Hemlock has planned to go to Magnimar in order to secure additional soldiers to station at Sandpoint for a few weeks. In his absence, he asks the adventurers to maintain a public presence in the town to keep the towns populace at ease.

On the third day of Sheriff Hemlock’s absence, Bethana Corwin, an elderly halfling woman who works as a maid at the Rusty Dragon, approaches the adventurers and informs them that her employer, Ameiko Kaijitsu has gone missing. Bethana shows them a note, apparently from Ameiko’s older brother, Tsuto. Bethana is worried that Tsuto is up to no good and asks the adventurers to head over to the Sandpoint Glassworks as soon as possible in order to find out what has happened to Ameiko.

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Burnt Offerings: Part 1
Stay a while and listen...

As Father Zantus is about to offer the consecratory prayer during the Swallowtail Festival in the town of Sandpoint to dedicate the newly finished Sandpoint Cathedral, the town is attacked by goblins. A group of local adventurers is able to help blunt the attack and drive the goblins off. In so doing, they earn the gratitude of Mayor Kendra Deverin, the town, and save the life of Magnimarian noble Aldern Foxglove. Aldern thanks the adventurers for rescuing him by taking them on a boar hunt.

A few days after the attack, the adventurers discover a goblin raider hiding in a local home. It had been trying to escape since the raid, but the family dog had terrified it enough to keep it from venturing too far from the child’s closet it had burrowed under. The father of the home makes the unfortunate mistake of investigating the hole with his head and upper torso… which does not end well for him. The adventurers remove the goblin, and the remaining family members move to Magnimar, leaving the home to the adventurers to use as their new Headquarters.

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