Rise of the Runelords

A Pathfinder Horror Story

Session 5: Nevermore

We find ourselves back in the arms of Sandpoint at the familiar Rusty Dragon Inn, what has become our home away from home over the last twelve days. However, it is the first morn since our return from the plundering at the Thistletop Goblin Fortress and we have many wares to sell and much loot to hock. Joyously we fill our pockets fuller than any of us have before and immediately turn to upgrade our equipment and armor. A frenzy of gold exchanges hands and we all come away slightly better off than we were when we waffles.jpg arose to the delectable smell of waffles.

After gearing up, we unexpectedly discover that we have almost two weeks worth of time to kill and all choose to branch out on different journeys. Aella visits her tribe in the Calphiak Mountains where she catches up with family, her heritage and her grandmother. Wallace and Zazz travel to Magnimar: Wallace to reconnect with his mentor and brother and Zazz to discover a destitute wizard in possession of a rare spell that has caught his eye. Eric is the only one that remains in Sandpoint and spends the first half of his time donating the proceeds from crafted goods to a local orphanage and the second half practicing for a performance at the town theatre. Thankfully, all of us make it back to Sandpoint just in time to see the opening night of: The Heroes of Sandpoint! Starring Eric “The Red” Oathborn! A splendid amount of cheese and wonder turn the performance into one worthy of raucous applause and praise. In his one and only theatrical debut, Eric proves that he’s more than just muscle and blind obedience as he dazzles the crowds and brings them all to their feet.

Our good fortunes are not meant to last however and the very next morning Sheriff Hemlock summons us all to his office where he grimly tells us about the serial killer plaguing the fair citizens of Sandpoint and the surrounding area. He even reveals an ominous note left about Aella; one suggesting love, desire, a mysterious pack and evil. Undaunted, we eagerly take up the task of investigating these horrendous crimes and head straight away for the site of last night’s slaughter.

At the town’s sawmill, we are greeted to our first glimpses of the carnage and violence with which these murders are taking place. We quickly notice that one of the two victims has a Sihedron Rune carved into his chest, the same mysterious symbol Nualia wore around her neck.

Thanks to some clever deductive reasoning and thorough footwork, we gather some clues about the scene of the crime:

  • A set of barefoot medium-sized humanoid footprints lead from the second story window. These prints bear an awful stench akin to rotting meat.
  • An axe with blood and the same raunchy smell lies on the floor.
  • This stench seems to suggest that the axe was used on the flesh of a Ghast with in the last day. Thanks to some knowledgeable party members, we know that a Ghast is a particularly powerful and smelly type of Ghoul. In particular, they are known to travel in packs and lurk on the edges of civilization such as near sewers or graveyards. The notion of a “pack” briefly draws our attention back to the note about Aella which also mentioned the word.
  • The outlying farms around Sandpoint have been awfully quiet as of late.
  • Ghouls transmit/transform others with Ghoul Fever. An infected person will generally rise from the dead the next night at midnight as a Ghoul them self.
  • The female body at the crime scene does not smell especially ghastly like the male body does, suggesting it was not directly attacked or injured by a Ghoul/Ghast. It’s also on the first floor near the saw blade, leading us to believe it was thrown down the log chute onto the spinning blades of death below.
  • After following the footprints from the second story window, we notice that they continue out across the pier and that they originated from the water. Even more interesting is the fact that there are two sets of prints, one distinctly heading to the saw mill and the other from it.

After our Scooby Snack worthy investigationscooby_snacks.jpg, we take the bodies to the Cathedral and warn Father Zanthas about the presence of Ghouls/Ghasts. He is able to confirm that some of the male’s wounds are indeed from the claws of a Ghoul.

Leaving the good father to his work, we return to the Sheriff to report all of our findings. While there, the Sheriff, the first set of corpses and a saw mill worker clue us in to a few more pieces of this dastardly puzzle:

  • The victims of the first set of murders also had the Sihedron Rune carved into their bodies. A lone survivor from this grisly assault, a bodyguard, is currently in Habe’s Sanatorium to the south.
  • 4 of the 5 bodies have had their mouths ripped off which we realize is an attempt to prevent us from communing with them.
  • The saw mill worker who was on the first floor of the building when the attack happened reveals to us that the man and woman were intimately involved above while he worked below. The sound of the blade overpowered his senses and he didn’t realize anything horrifying was occurring until the female fell down the log chute and onto the saw blade he was working on.
  • The male victim was skimming off the books at the saw mill for the Scarzni.

After the two gruesome sights, we turn to an old acquaintance to tell us more about this Sihedron Rune that keeps appearing. The elderly man at the lighthouse, a scholar of ancient Thassalonia, tells us that it is a symbol of the 7 virtues of Thassalonian culture: Wealth, Fertility, Honest Pride, Abundance, Eager Striving, Righteous Anger and Rest. The 7 points on the symbol also correspond to all of the schools of magic except for Divination as the Thassalonians did not take much stock in its powers. The rulers of ancient Thassalonia were known for their corruption and for straying far from the 7 pillars of virtue of their culture. Their actions bastardized these pillars and transformed them into what we know as the 7 Deadly Sins. Finally, the old man tells us that the Runelords were powerful wizards that ruled the kingdoms of the Thassalonian Empire.

Briefly reviewing the evidence, we then realize that the female victim, Vin Vendor’s eldest daughter, still had her mouth intact and we race to the Cathedral to try and intercept Father Zanthas before he can hold the funeral. Mr. Vendor and his family are present to pay their final respects to their daughter, but we manage to drag Father Zanthas away just in time and urge him to postpone the proceedings. He agrees that communing with the girl’s corpse may yield some answers about her death and stalls the funeral a day so that we may use his magic to ask her a few questions before she is laid to rest.

The next morning we set about the task and the father works his magic to allow us two questions. We determine from the girl’s head that she and the boy were indeed killed by a Ghoul and that she was the one that attacked it with the bloodstained and reeking axe before being thrown down the log chute. Recognizing that she has endured enough torment, we leave the girl to Father Zanthas’ care and attempt to pursue other leads.

Immediately snatched away to the Sheriff’s office however, we meet a panicked farmer who tells us of walking scarecrows scarecrows-creepy-scarecrow.jpgand zombie-like creatures carrying people off in the night. Although Eric smacks the man into unconsciousness in an attempt to calm him down, we manage to gather the information from him and are sent by the Sheriff to investigate the farmland. All has not indeed been quiet in the countryside.

On the way to the farms, we decide to stop by Habes’ Sanatorium to question the bodyguard of the first murder victims. The owner/head of the facility is quite curt and insists that the man is not fit enough to be seen. After ushering us out twice and ignoring or insinuations that he is actively impeding a murder investigation, we send Munin to fetch the warrant he requires to allow us to enter his premises. Once obtained, he begrudgingly allows us to enter and takes us to the bodyguard, a man by the name of Greyest.

When we reach the top floor of the Sanatorium and are escorted to the man’s room, we find him to be quite disturbed. However, when Aella enters the room his demeanor immediately changes and he gives her a message from his “lord” concerning the mysterious pack and something called the “misgiving.” After his message is delivered, he launches into a crazed attack.

Zazz, our versatile wizard, color sprays the manic man and leaves him stunned and blind for a short time. During this interlude, Aella and Wallace beat him into unconsciousness, but not before one of the Sanatorium’s guards locks us in the cell with him.

Unperturbed, the three bashers turn to the locked door and hack it down only to find a Were-Rat waiting for us on the other side. Evil is certainly afoot in this standard horror-movie setting.

For a few frustrating seconds, we are forced into the confines of a hallway with Eric acting as a buffer between the team and the poisonous Were-Rat. Luckily, Zazz is able to use his telekinetic fist to eventually take the beast down and we emerge from the enclosure just in time for Wallace to behead a zombie that has wandered up the stairs.

Though there is clearly commotion on the floor below as more unknown foes lie in wait, Eric boldly rushes down to greet the horde. On this level, he discovers the two Tiefling guards, three more zombies and a necromancer. Unafraid of a battle, we all join Eric below and set to work dispatching of our enemies. The zombies prove to be disposable as Wallace’s positive energy and Aella’s mighty swings render them back to nothing more than rotting flesh-covered bones. Though the necromancer tries to get tricky by dousing us all in a nauseating cloud, we mostly overcome it and easily kill the Tiefling brothers as well.

During the momentary distraction, the necromancer seizes the opportunity to flee down the stairs, but we quickly regroup and give chase. We pound our way into the basement where he has taken refuge and begin hammering away at his mirror images. When he realizes his plight is hopeless and that he is cornered, the necromancer holds his hands up in surrender to our awesome might. Before we finish him off, we get him to reveal that the Ghoul activity is resultant of something lurking to the south of Sandpoint.

After exploring his chambers, we return to the main level to attempt to find Habes who disappeared when Greyest began his attack. Unfortunately, we are too late and he has already made headway to the south, toward Magnimar.

Refusing to dwell on the misfortune, we turn to explore the rest of the facility more thoroughly and also decide to permanently put Greyest out of his infected misery. While finishing the deed, we reflect on a name he uttered during his rant at Aella: Skinsaw. With some mental probing, we suss out that Skinsaw is an aspect of the god Norberger, a god of murder, assassination and secrets. Unsure of much more, we resolve to pry even further into the name when we are in a better position to do so.

Using Munin once more, we send for a locksmith and some guards to rescue two remaining patients at the Sanatorium and escort them back to Sandpoint. Our mission here then complete and the business of death foreclosed upon by our hands, we turn to face what lies in wait at the farmlands. However, that is a tale for another day.

Rejoin us next time for Pathfinder: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 8: Why Won’t You Die Yet!

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