|Paizo Pathfinder® Paizo Games|
|About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ|
[Two Days After Sandpoint Murders, Sandpoint Hinterlands, Early Afternoon]
NOTE - This map should be a little better. I forgot to point out that the party's location on this is noted by the small red triangle. Your approach has been from the north, and you're standing at a 4-way intersection. You know that the Hambley's are to be found somewhere roughly SW of your current location.
The scarecrow's damp clothes smolder with reluctance in the cool autumn air. To the south, where the road bends, you can see three more scarecrows hanging above the stalks of wheat and corn. Their backs face one another, as they each hang in silent sentinel of the wide fields spread at their feet.
Here's a map of the farmlands area in the Hambleys' immediate area:
You're on a narrow footpath, hemmed in by large fields of corn and other crops, which connect the various area farmsteads. The tall plants tower over you, creating ominous tunnels and giving you the impression of a maze. (get it, 'maize' ?)
You know that the Hambley farm is roughly south-east of where you stand right now. The map I've linked above has a large scale to track party movement as a whole. About a hundred feet south of your location, the pathway comes to a 4-way intersection. A scarecrow stands on his frame here, standing a lonely sentinel, not moving and staring towards the east.
Which way will you go at the intersection?
Grump waves Selia away playfully. "Nah, I'm not hurt, at least not in my body. But, my eyes won't soon forget what I seen this morning."
"We're thinkin all the farms south of the Soggy are empty now, at least empty of decent folk. But this side of the river, something awful is stirring at the Hambley place.
"If you go down there, Hambley's got a big barn sitting across from his house. It might look empty from the outside, but when the doors opened up, we saw it was full of half-eaten animals and people, and the ground round it was littered with bones. The footpaths you take to get there are narrow, too, and when we was walkin through 'em, scarecrows lept out from the cornstalks and tore into us real bad.
"We didn't even get close to the house. A terror took over me after the corpses and scarecrows ran out of the barn. Something is in that house, though. And, if someone don't stop it, there won't be any farmers south of Sandpoint soon."
[Two Days After Sandpoint Murders, Sandpoint Hinterlands, Noon]
Grump runs towards you, gesticulating like a madman and babbling the same things over and over, "Walking scarecrows at Hambleys ate everything! Place ain't right, I tell you. Walking scarecrows will get us, run to town, quick!"
After a few minutes of talking to him, he begins to calm somewhat and start his story from the beginning.
"It's as plain as porkpie, as my marn would say. Since about the last full moon, the farmlands all about here have come to be haunted. I don't know how else to say it. Walking scarecrows come about at night, and there's more of 'em every night.
"They seemed to be coming from the old Hambley place. Things just ain't been right there for the past few weeks, so finally, a bunch of us farmers in the area decided, like fools I guess, to pay the Hambleys a visit and set things right. We were attacked as soon as we got there, by scarecrows and corpses, but they fed like starving animals. They even ate our dogs!"
Grump wipes his brow and sits down on a stone milepost next to the road.
Perception checks please.
[Two Days After Sandpoint Murders]
Hambley's Farm is several miles outside of Sandpoint, so you set out in the morning from the Rusty Dragon. On your way out the door, Ameiko hands you a big basket of just-baked bread, a gift she explains from the owner of Sandpoint Savories, whom you saved from marauding goblins.
Soon after passing south of the Ashen Rise, as you get closer to the Soggy River, you notice that the farmhouses are unusually quiet. Many locals whom you recognize and have known for years turn themselves around at the sound of approaching parties, run into their homes and slam the doors. The road itself is quiet and you encounter no traffic until mid-day.
Cresting an upcoming hill, about 30 yards ahead of you, you see a haggard looking figure wave his hands wildly above his head. He's running towards you, yelling for help. His clothes look muddy and torn, and in the wind, you hear him yell something about corpses and scarecrows. As he gets closer, you recognize the man immediately, another old Sandpoint farmer, Maester Grump .
It's time for the evening meal after a long day. A rowdy group of grain merchants, one dwarf among several older men, drinking their fill inside the Rusty Dragon identify the embroidered sleeve on the spot. "Aye, friend, that sleeve came from a jacket that old Hambley often wore."
"Yup, right you are. I've seen 'im strutting around in that getup on many a day. Farmer Hambley sure loves to dress in finery. He's puttin' on airs a lot these days, you might say."
"An' no wonder, that greedy ole' geezer has wheeled and dealed land right from under his neighbors' noses. Heard Franca had to sell out his last parcel to him just the other day."
"Well, Franca spent more on drink than on seed, so that's no surprise."
"At least, he'd fit right in with us, right?" Laughter ensues among the men.
With ease, Ned identifies several footprints on the outside wall and leading into the window. The tracks themselves lead all the way across to the opposite end of the pier. A barefoot human man climbed up from the mud under the pier, walked over to the mill and then scaled the wall to the upstairs window. The prints all bear the lingering stink of rotting flesh.
Selia, you spy a muddy footprint on the window sill looking out towards the river. The print bears the same faint rotten odor you've encountered elsewhere in the mill.
Hemlock shakes his head. "No, I was hoping you might have some insight on that point. Is this really a noble? He is literate, so perhaps, but it's hard for me to imagine someone capable of such savagery. Come by the garrison a bit later and I will have that letter written and sealed for you."
Your investigations are interrupted by Sheriff Hemlock climbing the ladder upstairs. "Had to half-carry a definitely not-sober Bilivar Wheen back to his shop, so thought I'd step inside and see how you were doing. Pretty gruesome, isn't it? Not to pressure you or anything, but the Mayor's got the Scarnettis screaming at her about us closing their mill while we investigate.
"If you're still willing to follow this through, I need to give you some information about the first set of murders a couple of days ago. A patrol of guards were assaulted by a deranged man near an abandoned barn south of town next to Cougar Creek.
"The attacker had fevered flesh, wild eyes, his mouth frothed and his clothes were caked with blood. The patrol was able to subdue him, but they also found three dead mean inside the barn, horribly disfigured. Sound familiar?
"Nobody could identify the bodies. But, one of them had this note in hand. The men were Tareh Mortwell, Lener Hask, and Gedwin Tabe, swindlers and con-men that have given me no shortage of trouble over the past few years. The fact they got killed doesn't surprised me, but the way they were killed does."
Hemlock points to Harker's savaged corpse. "Each one of those men bore the same identical mark on their chests. If you'd like to see for yourselves, the bodies are lying in state in the garrison basement.
"I think the insane man was simply hired muscle, caught in a bad situation. He's locked up outside town in Habe's Sanitorium. You might learn more from him, but don't expect too much. He's a bit off his rocker. But, if you're headed that way, I will be happy to give you a letter of introduction to Erin Habe."
Sandpoint doesn't have a library, but you could check in with Ned's old acquaintance who is now headmaster at the Turandarok Academy.
This rune is a sign of ancient Thassilon and Sandpoint has a resident sage who is a self-proclaimed expert on Thassilonian lore. He has offered his insight before on what this sign means. I can repeat again if you'd like.
Looking around upstairs:
The rune carved into Harker's chest is definitely the same icon as the one from the medallion you recovered from Nualia.
Near the log splitter chute, you find a hand-axe lying on the floor. The handle is covered with bloody fingermarks. Smears of what appear to be rotten flesh and tiny fragments of bone are caked on the blade. The odor of rotten meat is especially strong from the handle, and sickens Lleidr.
The fingermarks on the handle are slender, indicating a woman's hand.
Given the footprints' position, it appears Katrine wielded the axe against someone or something and was then pushed into the log splitter chute. This incident happened at about the same time as Harker's impalement upon the great metal hooks.
Also, some of the footprints are from a barefoot person, and these prints often have the same lingering odor of decay as that which you found on the handaxe.
Downstairs, there are no tracks of this barefoot entity inside the mill. The only find of significance is the mangled remains of Katrine, chewed and crushed by the tremendous force of the log-splitter. Outside, the river gently winds its way past the pier and a massive pile of uncollected timber. In the street, you can catch glimpses of a restless crowd, many of whom are asking the guards if this is a sign of the goblins' revenge.
What immediately strikes you upstairs is the degree of horrific mutilation that's been performed on Harker's body. His corpse is affixed to one of the walls by several large iron hooks dangling from the ceiling. His face is carved away and his lower jaw is gone. Perhaps most disturbing, his bare chest has been defaced. Carven into the skin, his chest displays a bloody rune in the shape of a seven pointed star.
The only reason the body is assured to be that of Harker's is because his lower abdomen bears a faded tattoo of a raven (which you know beforehand because I'm retconning the Sheriff telling you about it).
The lumber mill sits on the banks of the Turandarok River, with a small pier jutting out into the water. A marsh lies on the opposite side of the river. The mill is a stout, thick-walled wooden construction with wooden shingles atop a low sloping roof. At the moment, the mill is unusually silent, except for a small crowd of curious onlookers huddled near the entrance.
A pair of guards is keeping folks away from the main door into the mill. When they see you, they give you a silent nod and allow you to enter.
Inside the mill, you immediately see sawdust strewn with footprints and splashes of blood. The mill interior has an upper and lower level. Logs collected at the pier are hauled inside and upstairs via large hooked chains. And then the logs are fed into a water-powered splitter, essentially a chute filled with rotating saw blades, which spits the wood onto the lower floor.
Katrine's mangled remains are strewn underneath this chute, atop a pile of bloodstained firewood. A pale-faced guard, visibly upset, stands nearby. From the entrance, you can see another body hanging from the chains on the upper level.
Ibor leans forward and presses his face to the rusted iron bars of his cell, trying to view each direction of the hall. In a whisper, "You know the lumber mill is owned by the Scarnetti's, right? Well, Harker was cooking the books for a long time, but he thought he was keeping it secret. I never had any part in his scam, but I bet Harker had stashed a lot of coin by skimming off the top of sales for so long.
"The Scarnetti's are ruthless. If they thought Harker was stealing from them, they would never hesitate to kill him."
At first, Ibor looks away, but he masters his nervousness and lets out a sigh. "I usually arrive at the mill before dawn to send Harker home. He works at night, if you didn't know. But then when I opened the door this morning it was .. it was awful.
"Katrine's body is a mangled ruin, smashed by the log splitter. Harker was hung from the ceiling on these great hooks, his body horribly mutilated. I .. can't go into more detail than that. As soon as I caught sight of all that, I ran here for the sheriff. He kept me here since then, and then he dragged Ven here, and he was howling in rage like a beast.
"Look, it's no great secret round here that Harker had midnight trysts with Katrine. Ven could be overly protective, but I can't see him doing what was done to those two." Ibor shakes his head.
Vinder shakes his head slowly. "Her movements? Huh. Ever since that no-good Harker caught her fancy, she would sneak out of the house after waiting for me and my wife to fall asleep. It's been happening for months. Harker manned the mill at night, you see."
"One night, I got so fed up, I stayed awake and then followed her to the mill, but she got in before I could catch her and then Harker locked me out. I was so angry, the neighbors had to rouse the sheriff."
"But, that's all over now. I think I need to talk to Father Zantus."
Ibor eyes you with a weary indifference as you approach.
[1st Day After Murders]
His anger and frustration vented and spent, Ven collapses onto a small stool. His grey face and the dark bags under his eyes betray his lack of sleep.
"I know Katrine snuck out at night to be with that worthless Harker, but why would someone kill her? Why?" He points a finger at you. "A fiend did this alright. If I find out it was you ..." he leaves the threat dangling as his voice trails off.
You find a tiny spot of the white paint on a stone near the river, and then no paint or any footprints at all on the opposite side, which is essentially a marsh.
NOTE - I was waiting to see what you wanted to do about the trail you've discovered. Selia wants to speak with Ven, so I'll assume you're all headed that way. Looks like a goof on my part; the trail bit is in the past, and doesn't interfere with you questioning anyone.
[1st Morning After Murders]
Stepping around a narrow corridor, you see Ven Vinder wedged into a small cell, slumped up against a wall. Catching sight of you, he leaps to his feet and points in your direction. "Jackals, deviants!" he roars. "You murdered my child. I caught one of your kind sneaking into my home, and then you chased my daughter into that infernal mill!"
Ven's face is purpled with rage, and his knuckles are white from his huge hands gripping the cell bars, as if to rip them loose from the stone floor.
Ned can tell that the sleeve was ripped because it was sopping with paint at the time, and leaving it in the alley was likely done to keep from dripping a trail.
Unfortunately for the thief, Ned can follow a trail of tiny paint blotches which go out east on Prickleback Lane. The trail stops at least twenty feet from the water.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
You all may not be aware, but about 14 years ago, New Line started releasing a trilogy of films based on an obscure volume, Lord of the Rings. They're worth checking out.
In all seriousness, what about Disney's Sword in the Stone? I remember it featuring a really neat wizard's duel.
I'll split my posts up between the two week downtime and the time after the murders, so that we can resolve any outstanding items while current events unfold.
Ilsoari Gandethus is busy herding his charges at the academy, but manages to confirm that yes, he does have the very thing you're after. He pulls a scroll tube from among dozens stored in a latticed case, each with a woolen tassle differing in color and length.
Handing you the scroll, he says, "I owe Ned for saving my life. Now he owes me one. Tell him, I'm obligating him to give next year's commencement address at Turandarok."
[1st Morning After Murders]
Hemlock nods. "Ven's in a cell in the garrison. Like I said, I don't believe he killed anyone, but when he learned of his daughter's death, he flew into a rage. My men brought him here to cool off, and I'm going to release him, but I can wait till you speak with him.
"Ibor's in a cell there, too. Be gentle with these guys, if you question them. They've been through a lot since the moon's last rising."
Hemlock continues. "The note was found pinned to the sleeve of the latest victim with a splinter of wood. I'm sure it put there to throw suspicion onto you, but I harbor no suspicions at all that any of you were involved with this.
"That said, if word of this note gets out, I fear that the town may have a much worse reaction. I'm relying on you to keep this quiet, otherwise the town will panic.
"I will help you investigate things, but at the moment, my hands are full just keeping the peace. Consider yourselves deputized - I'll give you all the support I can. For instance, there's a number of places and people you may want to consider.
"The Sandpoint Lumber Mill makes sense to be your first stop; I'd like to get the place cleaned up and the bodies buried. The Scarnetti's will be hounding the Mayor to get things up and running as soon as possible.
"Ibor Thorn discovered the bodies, and I've spoken to him once, but you may want to see what you can also learn from him.
"My only real suspect is Ven Vinder. You see, one of the victims was his oldest daughter. He's locked inside the gaol at the moment, but I really doubt he was involved with this.
"Three con men from Galduria were found murdered in a similar manner a few days ago, but their bodyguard survived. Unfortunately, he went insane from the ordeal and is housed at Habe's Sanatorium just outside town."
A lounging guardsman at the Town Hall gives a yawn as big as the building's gaping arched entrance, then leaps up to his feet upon catching sight of you. "Follow me, please", he says, motioning you inside, leading to a windowless room secured with a thick door of old oak. Hemlock awaits inside, his head in his hands, and he looks up at you, emotionless, but his eyes betray a sense of desperation on his part.
As soon as everyone is seated and greeted, he begins.
“First, let me thank you again for all you’ve done for Sandpoint. It’s fortunate you’ve proven yourselves so capable, because we’ve a
“Put simply, we have a murderer in our midst—one who, I fear, has only begun his work. Some of you doubtless remember the Late Unpleasantness, how this town nearly tore itself apart in fear as Chopper’s slayings went on unanswered. I’m afraid we might have something similar brewing now.
“Last night, the murderer struck at the sawmill. There are two victims, and they’re… they’re in pretty gruesome shape. The bodies were discovered by one of the mill workers, a man named Ibor Thorn, and by the time my men and I arrived on the scene, a crowd of curious gawkers had already sprung up. I’ve got my men stationed there now, keeping the mill locked down, but the thing that bothers me isn’t the fact that we have two dead bodies inside. It’s the fact that this is actually the second set of murders we’ve had in the last few days.
“I come to you for help in this matter—my men are good, but they are also green. They were barely able to handle themselves against the goblins, and what we’re facing now is an evil far worse than goblins. I need the help. But I’m afraid you’ll need the help too. You see, I’m afraid that this particular murderer knows one of you as well.”
Hemlock slides a bloodstained scrap of folded parchment across the table towards you. Written in blood on the outside is a single word, 'Selia'.
[NOTE - I knew you wanted to see the sage, Brodert, but I wasn't sure on when. We can say you had this conversation with him during these past 2 weeks.]
Brodert shakes his head. "I'm no wizard and know very little of any arcane lore. And, I'm much too old to be plunging down holes inside Thistletop. If you're after a particular spell, you probably want to try Madame Mvashti or Ned's friend, Ilsoari, who runs the Turandarok Academy.
Thank you so much for the etchings and descriptions of what you saw in there. You've given me a trove of material to work through. This is an early estimation, but it appears the ruins you found date back to the last age of the Thassilonian Empire. And, these runic symbols! There's so much to discover in this writing.
Take this seven pointed star on the medallion you took from Nualia as an example. This symbol appears often in Thassilonian ruins and artifacts. It represents many things apparently - the seven virtues of life, the seven evils (wrath, gluttony, greed, and so on), but it may also represent seven ancient kings who ruled Thassilon for many, many years."
You mentioned setting a trap involving paint to spill on the thief. Sure enough, Selia is missing a single earring. However, there's a puddle of dried white paint on the floor, and in the alleyway, you find a sleeve, ripped from a fine woolen jacket, stained by a large patch of white paint.
The stranger smiles, revealing a band of yellowed stumps and missing teeth. "Alright, my friend. It sounds like we have many common interests. My name is Jubrayl, and I assume you are Lleidr, of whom much is spoken of late in this town.
"Meet me here in two weeks time, at the midday meal. I have a friend from Magnimar due to visit then, and he will be honored to meet with you."
[NOTE - his name really is Jubrayl, and he's got no connection to our deceased paladin. Think of it as a common name for the area, like 'John' would be for us]
"A guard ran this over from Town Hall before dawn. It sounded urgent."
The handwriting is difficult to make out, as if the note were written in a hurry. The message is terse. "Come to Town Hall as soon as you read this - Hemlock"
While you're in the Rusty Dragon's common room, watching and talking to the locals, Ameiko comes up to your table and hugs each of you.
In a lowered voice, she tells you with a smile. "My friends, I just sold the glass factory. I've also gotten offer on my father's house. Think I should sell it?"
Just then, Brodert Quink strolls inside and eases into a chair next to you all. "Hope I'm not intruding ... I've waited as long as I can after folks said you came back from Thistletop. It was a Thassilonian structure inside, wasn't it?"
Quink is working hard to contain his enthusiasm.
When Lleidr walks in, there's an audible gasp, followed by several fingers pointed in the halflng's direction, but the patrons quickly return to their food and drink.
After settling in a too-large man-sized table and ordering a drink and a bite, you determine that most folks in here are sailors, laborers and what-not. But, you know well that the Sczarni gang are said to inhabit this place.
It isn't long after telling the serving maid your order before a man walks up to your table. He's lean, with a sly looking face, greasy hair and black teeth. You see leather and mail peering out from a threadbare traveling cloak. "You honor us with your presence, my friend. The famous golbin-fighter, Lleidr, here at the Feedbag! Tell me, my friend, are you here for opportunities? We could pay well for eyes and ears that know the Mayor's actions."