Rise of the Runelords: Arbiters of Change

Chapter the Fourth
As Chronicled by Thomas of Sartor

Initially, the tunnel carved into the stone beyond the broken walls of the Glassworks’s basement were rough, but as we continued warily forward, the tunnel became smoother and better hewn. I followed my companions into the dark passageway guided by a torch generously lit by Tarek. I believe it was after the fourth of fifth turn that I realized just where this tunnel may have come from. For a time there was a thieves guild that operated in the underbelly of the town, the Sczarni family. Rumor had it they used hidden tunnels to get into and out of every business in Sandpoint. Of course the tunnels had never been found, but no one had heard from the thieves guild in several years. And here we were standing in just such a tunnel that had been walled up.

I didn’t put too much thought into the reason why the tunnel would have been walled off without alerting the authorities and instead focused on the shadows in front of us. Eventually the walls and floors ceased to be carved stone and became stonework, ancient stonework. I wasn’t sure of the age, but comparatively, the stonework was much, much older than the passageway we had just walked down, possibly even by as much as a thousand years.

My thought process was distracted however as up ahead Tarek and Olaf both drew their blades and braced themselves from attacks from an unseen foe. There was a clash of steel on steel and then I heard a scream. It was unearthly, like the wailing of the damned and my blood ran cold. I knew that sound even if I had never heard it. It was the cry of the Sin Spawn. I rushed forward to the room where Olaf and Tarek were engaged in battle with the creatures to confirm my suspicion (though I had secretly been hoping I was wrong). I was right.

Tarek and Olaf with the assistance of Hamdar made short work of the two sin spawn. Upon inspecting the room we found nothing of value; even the corpses dissolved into an ectoplasmic goop. We cautiously continued further into the buried stone structure. Several hallways split off from the one we were in and there were two shut doors. We elected to avoid the doors, as well as the stairway leading up down one hallway and instead focused on the last two rooms at the end of the hallway.

In the first room was a statue of a woman. It was carefully crafted from red marble and the woman carried a book and a Ranseur of exquisite creation. After racking my brain for every possible deity and with the help of Tarek we confirmed that this wasn’t a goddess of any kind, but I couldn’t come up with anyone in the past worthy of a statue. That was until I saw the symbol on the book. It was a septagram, a seven pointed star. Given the age of the stonework around us it must be Thassilonian in origin.

The Thassilonians had a system of magic found on the seven virtues, however a group of people called “Runelords” discovered that the seven “sins” were even more powerful at fueling their magicks. The Runelords rose up and overthrew or destroyed the Thassilonian empire, obliterating every trace of it, or so I’ve read. If anything remained it would have been built by those enslaved by the Runelords… which means the statue in front of us was one of the Runelords and given the sin spawn we’ve seen as well as the coloration and weapon held… The icon before was was Alaznist, the Runelord of Wrath.

We moved quickly on, but not before I “liberated” the ranseur – studying it would be worth its weight in treasure, but I figure I could get about 400g from the right buyer when we were done with it.

In the next room we found two more Sin Spawn who fell the same way as the first as well as two bodies that were nearly as old as the bones scattered around the catacomb we found ourselves in. They were clad in leather armor and carried short swords and they bore signet rings. Engraved on the rings was the emblem of the Sczarni thieves guild which meant that whatever moved in down here had brought these sin spawn with them and wiped out the previous occupants.

We moved deeper into the catacombs unsure as to what we would find up ahead and at this point we were determined to get out as quickly as possible. Unfortunately Koruvus had other plans. We weren’t expecting the goblin down here, but it only reaffirmed the tunnel’s connection to the goblins and told us we were headed the right way. The only thing was… he was… twisted. This is definitely not what a goblin is supposed to look like, and it appeared that whatever power was at work was “blessing” those that worked with it. Nualia would have much to answer when we found her.

Koruvus, despite his gruesome appearance, went down hard and while we caught our breath we examined the room we encountered the goblin “hero”. It was filled with pits at the bottom of which were festering undead. This just kept getting better and better. We left the room quickly – we didn’t have the resources to deal with the necrotic, so we opted to just get out and go. Eventually the hallway that lead away from the undead holding tanks reached a dead end. Well, it ended in a door and to the left was a small archway that contained a spiral staircase leading downward.

We conferred briefly before deciding that we should check the door just in case. Upon opening it we found a completely spherical room and within it was floating several objects. Magical writing lined the walls and a strange energy crackled about – apparently the source of the levitation effect. Within was a book, a scroll, a wand, a dead Raven with maggots, and a bottle of wine. Tarek leaped into the room before we could stop him and he spent a few seconds bouncing around the room before we could get a rope to him to help him stabilize.

It took a bit, but eventually we managed to gather everything up save for the raven. The book turned out to be “The Book of the Mother”, a holy text on Lamashtu and the scroll contained the spell Burning hands. The wine was just that, wine, and the wand will prove useful as it contained the spell Shocking Grasp. We shut the door and after adjusting everything we prepared to descend down the steps when Hamdar had a thought.

The Raven had maggots. Every other dead thing had been dead for some time. The skeletons in the catacombs had been dead for millenia, and even had a preservation auro on the room. The thieves we had found in the catacombs and even in the chamber of Koruvus had been dead for years. But maggots have a gestation period of only a few days… Which meant that the raven was only recently dead, which also probably means that whatever used that room, did in the past week.

We looked at each other and decided to give this floor one more go over. We didn’t want to expose our flank to attack and if the person responsible had also created the undead, well, all the more reason to make sure we clear out this level of the structure before heading deeper.

We headed back and uncovered an experimentation room which contained corpses similar in composition to Koruvus’s final form, but in varying stages of development. Beyond that there was nothing of note until we encountered the corpse of one of the thieves with its head missing. The head looked like it simply left the shoulders and we were all stumped, that was, until a chill ran down my spine. I remembered reading stories of a species of vampire or spirit that would attack you and if you died as a result, your head would leave your body and become another one of those vampire. A vargouille. We looked up the staircase where we found the body towards a door and we all visibly paused.

Eventually we gathered our wits and pushed forward. Sometimes I hate being right. Within we found two Vargouille that proved to be our toughest challenge yet. Their gaze could petrify us with fear and their kiss could have killed us at any moment. Thankfully Olaf, Hamdar and Tarek were able to take them out, I’m not sure what I would have done were I alone.

Beyond the door we found a small pool of water that appeared to contain fresh pure water. I’ve read too many stories so I opted not to drink it, but Olaf felt it was safe. I wasn’t so sure and at the time I was getting an itchy feeling like we hadn’t seen the worst of it yet.

Chapter the Third
As chronicled by Thomas of Sartor

I had no idea at the time the danger into which we had found ourselves. And I am uncertain as to what I would have done if I had.

Dinner the night after the Swallowtail Festival was as exquisite as any of Ameiko Kaijitsu’s meals. Though, that night brought the total number of meals at the Rusty Dragon to five… but even I could tell she was something else in the kitchen. However, I digress. We were joined once more by Aldern Foxglove whose company I found enjoyable if stilted. Simply put he and I come from different sides of the path, but be that as it may, the conversation was pleasant enough. Eventually dinner ended and we headed off to bed for the next day.

We started early enough, running a few errands that had not been finished the night before – Tarek and Olaf took their armor to be repaired while I took the opportunity to consider a simple suit of leather armor as protection against what was certainly and quickly become a dangerous new life. Hamdar stayed back at the Rusty Dragon to replenish his alchemical creations and met up with us for lunch. I must admit that I have rather enjoyed how well I’ve eaten the past few days, but lunch was not given much opportunity to sit as we were approached by a member of a guard where it was requested that we go to City Hall to meet with Sheriff Hemlock. We found ourselves meeting with Mayor Deverin and surprisingly we were also joined by Shalelu Andosana, the huntress. She had news for us as well as information as Sandpoint’s new “Goblinslayers”.

Shalelu’s knowledge of goblins was almost as fierce as her demeanor, though the latter had her grace to temper it. We learned that there were actually five goblin tribes in the immediate area surrounding Sandpoint. First and closest are the Birdcrunchers. They live in caves along the western edge of the Devil’s Platter and traditionally are the least aggressive of the five. Next are the Toadlickers, a tribe of capable swimmers that live within the Brinestump Marsh. To the east of Sandpoint live the Seven Tooth goblins in Shank’s Wood. Turns out they’re the ones I used to see raiding the junkyard for refuse and recyclables. Farther east are the Mosswood goblins, which by Shalelu’s estimates are the largest tribe, but generally spend too much fighting amongst themselves to actually do anything. And finally there are the Thistletop goblins who live in the Nettlewoods atop a small island.

She also told us of six goblin – for lack of a better word – heroes. Big Gugmut of Mosswood, Koruvus of the Seven Tooth (a stubborn and vicious brute who bears a magic longsword), Vorka the cannibal of Brinestump Marsh, Rendwattle Gutwad the chieftain of the Brinestump Marsh, Ripnugget of the Thistletop goblins who controls the best lair. And finally Bruthazmus a bugbear ranger who lives in the Nettlewoods. (Note to self: Shalelu seems to hold a personal grudge with that last one and I should probably stay out of her way.)

The reason Hemlock had us attend this meeting, it turned out, was because he was headed to Magnimar to request more soldiers to fortify defenses in Sandpoint until the goblin menace could be dealt with. This left us and Shalelu unofficially in charge of the city’s safety. Admittedly we would be official guards, but we had proven ourselves more than capable and it seemed Hemlock trusted Shalelu implicitly.

Meeting adjourned, we spent the rest of the day uneventfully finishing up the rest of our respective errands. If only the next morning were as uneventful as the day.

In the middle of the night I was awoken by Bethana the barmaid. She had always welcomed us with a glass of mead or ale and served us at dinner, but I had never seen her as frightened as she was that morning. She summoned us to the kitchen where we were found Shalelu in a similar, though more dignified, state of distress.

Once we were all gathered she gave us a note written in an unfamiliar language. Thankfully she had translated it for us. I’ve included it for my records especially as we’ll need it as evidence for later. To summarize, Tsuto, Ameiko’s half brother called her to her father’s glassworks to confront their father about his involvement with the attack on Sandpoint by the goblins. Shalelu was as confused as we were and while we were in a bit of a hurry, we need to prepare ourselves for every possible situation. At dawn we gathered the armor that had needed repair and any other supplies before heading towards the glassworks in search of Ameiko.

We noticed something odd upon arriving at the factory – while we could hear the furnaces going, none of the windows were open and there didn’t seem to be anyone working. I had never not seen the glassworks in motion while the sun was up so we circled the building looking for the delivery entrance mentioned in Tsuto’s note.

The door was easy to find and Tarek tried the knock combination that appeared in the letter to no avail. After a period of silence I unlocked the door making sure the Paladin was looking the other way and opened it a ways to see what I could see. Inside the room was dimly lit and after we managed to get inside and let our eyes adjust we could see that we certainly weren’t the first ones to come in through that door.

Around us were the various powders and chemicals used to color glass, a fact supplied by Hamdar, though while they were busy examining the various bins, an open safe caught my eye. Unfortunately it was empty and after trying to come up with what the safe may have contained, Hamdar further mentioned that gold and silver were also effective at staining glass. Seeing as that was one riddle solved, we checked out the doors leading away from the room deeper into the glassworks and a pair of double doors looked promising.

On the other side of the door we could hear the furnaces blasting and maybe something more. Unsure, we cracked the door open and peered inside. Within were nine goblins wreaking havoc on the factory, destroying everything they could get their grimy hands on. Olaf kicked open the door and charged straight at the nearest group while Tarek and I tried a more subtle approach by flanking the goblins. Hamdar meanwhile took up a simple ranged position and began the lobbing of his trademark concoctions.

We made quick work of the goblins, mostly thanks to Olaf’s skill with his sword. Unfortunately one managed to get away but we were distracted by what was in the center of the room: Lonjiku Kaijitsu was dead, entombed in glass that must have been poured over his body molten. We all shuddered at the mental image, but we forced ourselves back into reality and began our search for the missing goblin.

We scoured the glassworks from top to bottom and found nothing, no hide nor hair of the one that got away. Eventually we decided to head back to the main furnace room to examine what we could of the crime scene and look for any evidence of Tsuto or Ameiko. Unfortunately I think I let my guard down too much because just as we were about to enter the room, a blur hit me fast and hard. I could feel my ribs crack and for a moment I thought I had been dropped to the ground, but despite the pain I was still standing.

Olaf and Tarek took point getting in front of me quickly and readying their weapons. Though I think it was their surprise that got me thinking straight – A half elf man was surrounded by goblins and they were helping him ambush us. He looked eerily familiar and then we put two and two together. Before us was Tsuto Kaijitsu and it was him who was behind the goblin attacks all along.

Sadly I didn’t have much time to revel in this revelation, as I was still probably internally hemorrhaging. Tarek happened to be in front of me and I remembered that he had put the wand of healing somewhere in his bag. A quick bit of pickpocketing and the wand was in my hand. Course it took me a while to figure out how to use it which gave Olaf, Tarek and Hamdar time to push the goblins back and finish them off before going after Tsuto.

Once I had caught my breath I followed them in and stood behind Olaf, doing the best I could to keep him standing with the wand of healing while he traded blows with Tsuto, or tried to at least. What happened next took me and Tsuto off guard. Apparently Tarek had circled around to the side and clambered atop a work bench and with a short leap, landed atop Tsuto trapping him beneath his armor-clad weight. After a bit of struggling, Tsuto finally fell unconscious in Tarek’s stranglehold giving us plenty of time to tie him up.

We took a few minutes to rest and compare notes making sure we were all on the same page. We knew we hadn’t finished searching the glassworks, there was still the basement to consider, but there’s no way we could have possibly left Tsuto tied up. His physical prowess was simply too refined to let a simple rope keep him detained. So, Tarek and I carried/dragged him back to the city hall where the jail was and left him in the care of one of Hemlock’s men. He’d be safer in jail and the rest of us can figure out what the hell was going on.

Back at the glassworks we found the stairs leading to the basement and took them cautiously. We were fairly certain we hadn’t seen the last of the goblins, but without a leader we weren’t sure how they would react. Thankfully we didn’t see anymore goblins, but we did find a broken wall hiding a short corridor that had been there for some time.

Within the hidden hallway was an office containing Tsuto’s journal and a masterwork flute. Course, I was more concerned about the former. I skimmed through it rapidly until a drawing of a woman caught my eye. She looked familiar and I had to wrack my brain trying to come up with it until I saw her name – It was Nualia, Brother Tobyn’s adopted daughter. By my recollection she was a celestial, a gifted human born of the union of an angel and a mortal. Or so the legends go. I had never actually met one, but I digress.

The journal spoke of Tsuto’s love for the girl, probably born of knowing the same hardship of mixed parentage, especially that which comes from being abandoned by one’s family. It described how Nualia was seeking to unleash and bind an entity by the name of Malfeshnekor, as demonic a name as I had ever heard one. It outlined the attack on the town and even explained how the goblins got into the city in the first place. But what caught our attention was the fact that it seemed Nualia was planning to sacrifice the whole town so she could gain favor with Lamashtu and rid herself of her celestial heritage.

I was somewhat stunned by what I had read and stowed the journal into my satchel. Leading from the hidden hallway adjacent to the office was a roughly hewn tunnel leading deep underground. Wisely we decided to clear out the basement before venturing into parts unknown, after all if Tsuto had been this close, Ameiko couldn’t be much farther. Luckily I was right.

We found Ameiko tied and gagged in the next room down in the hallway. She looked weary and injured. Olaf healed her with a simple blessing and we quickly tried to explain what had happened letting her know we found Tsuto and managed to capture him, securing him safely in the town jail. Unfortunately this also meant we had to tell her the news of her father.

A moment of silence passed before she spoke, rising slowly to her feet. She felt she had to leave and we let her go. Looking back, we probably should have gone with her to the Rusty Dragon and then together with Shalelu, planned our next steps, but the words from Tsuto’s journal kept flashing through my mind.

We were running out of time and we had to find Nualia and stop her before she could unleash hell upon Sandpoint.

The First and Second Encounters
As recorded by Thomas, the Dog of Sartor

The day began like any other. Or rather it didn’t. Actually it didn’t begin like any other day at all. In fact it was so unlike any other day that in the future, the participants in this story will be able to look back and go “Yep, that’s the day it all began.”

Three of our heroes awoke that morning to find strange gems embedded in their foreheads and evidence of having been attacked. They also found themselves in a strange inn in a town they did not know on a coast they couldn’t recognize. So far so good. It was more or less recognized that they were in a pretty pickle and so they decided to head downstairs to uncover more of what befallen them.

On the first floor of that inn, they met with the innkeeper who revealed they had a mysterious stranger to owe for their accommodations as well as a gift. Pressed for more information, the innkeeper could only give a vague description of the stranger as being very tall and lithe and hidden beneath a dark cloak. Our heroes thanked the innkeeper for his information and took the “gift”, a small bag, to a table to open over breakfast.

Meanwhile, a few tables over, our fourth hero was busy pretending to read a book while he strained to overhear the odd patrons’ conversation. What made them unusual, as far as he could tell, was that two of them sported gems, like his, in their foreheads. The other, odds were, did too as he had his face and head covered with a scarf. In fact his intuition was spot on as the one with his head covered motioned for the other two to cover theirs.

Our odd hero out scooted imperceptibly closer to the three to see what their mysterious benefactor left them: 3 black cloaks of incredible quality, 4 silver clasps, and 2 wands of an obvious magical nature. Unfortunately for our intrepid eavesdropper, as they were examining the artefacts, the three became acutely aware of the magical aura emanating from the fourth’s forehead and before long he was shanghaied into the group discussion regarding metamagical matters.

The conversation didn’t last for long as the (now) four’s benefactor, Mr. K, left a note suggesting in such a manner as to leave no room for alternative interpretation that they go and enjoy the Swallowtail Festival that was going on in town. Seeing as that was as good an idea, the four left the inn and ventured towards the newly rebuilt temple to partake of the festivities. Good food was had by all and after a few words spoken by the Mayor and other very important people, the real fun began.

Screams and cries of horror began first at the edge of town, but swiftly travelled towards where our heroes were seated listening to droning of the sheriff or some-other-person-who-didn’t-really-matter-at-this-point-because-hey-there-were-goblins! Yes, goblins burst into the crowd who screamed and acted in exactly the way you’re not supposed to in panic worthy situation by panicking. Our heroes, of course, did not and so they were able to quickly meet the first and second waves of goblins in combat.

There may or may not have been some friendly fire on the part of an unnamed alchemist, but it’s all good because a paladin was on scene. At any rate, the goblins stood no chance against our heroes’ combined might and together they toppled the goblins in the main square, just in time to hear a cry of help coming down a side street. they rushed forward eager to put down more of the goblin menace and arrived to find a man cornered by several goblins, one mounted atop an ugly excuse for a wolf. The man’s faithful companion, a dog, had already been slain and he would have been next if it hadn’t been for our heroes’ timely intervention.

After those goblins had been put down the man introduced himself as Aldern Foxglove, a local noble. Thankful for saving his life, Foxglove offered our heroes dinner at the Rusty Dragon and on their way there, suggested they join him for a boar hunt on the morrow. Our heroes readily agreed as the Rusty Dragon provided such good at the festival that there was no reason at all to turn down such an offer, plus a boar hunt is always fine entertainment.

On the way there, however, the sheriff of Sandpoint, Belor Hemlock approached the heroes to ask of them a favor. They were the heroes of Sandpoint and he could use their help to examine a tomb that had been desecrated amidst the chaos of the goblin invasion. Foxglove was reticent to let his new friends and meatshields leave him alone, that is until the fortunate arrival of Ameiko Kaijitsu, whom Foxglove managed to persuade into escorting him the rest of the way to her tavern. This left our heroes free to go with Hemlock to examine the grave of Ezekien Tobyn, the former priest.

Upon reaching the mausoleum where Tobyn had been buried, the heroes and Hemlock found the door cracked open. They paused to see if they could hear anything from inside, but after perceiving nothing, they opened the door only to reveal a gang of undead skeletons. They were dispatched quickly with some hefty cleaving and the group inspected the interior only to find that Tobyn’s body had been removed.

Outside the mausoleum, they found traces of goblins and a medium humanoid having climbed over the wall and our intrepid adventurers scaled the ten foot stone impediment to follow the trail off into the forest. Hemlock meanwhile left to report the news to Abstalar Zantus, the current and mild-mannered priest.

Our heroes followed the trail into the forest only to have it dead end as the sun was setting. A quick scouting of the surrounding countryside via the top of a tree revealed nothing so they headed back to the Rusty Dragon to compare notes and discuss the events of the day.

The food was good and they were given a gift of gold as thanks from Foxglove and they even managed to secure a week’s stay in the Rusty Dragon if they stayed and helped Hemlock look into the missing body. The heroes spent their first night sleeping soundly unsure of what the week may bring.

The group spent the next morning getting supplies based off what they had earned in rewards from the day prior and it was passed in anticipation of the Boar Hunt at noon. A hat was purchased, along with a map, and they even had a visit to the town guard’s amory. It was quite a shopping experience.

At any rate, at noon they met up with Foxglove and his men before heading to the stables where Foxglove generously purchased a horse for each of our Adventurers. It was obvious by now that if you kill things you get lots of free stuff so our heroes decided then and there that they would be doing a lot of killing.

Horses acquired the party of seven headed off into the woods in search of their wild boar. Or pig. I don’t actually know the difference, but whichever it was, it was shortly encountered and slain in no small part thanks to the tanks of the party. Dead boar acquired, they headed back to the Rusty Dragon where it was left in the care of Ameiko to be prepared for supper. This is where we now find our heroes at the beginning of the third Encounter.

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