Iconic Encounter: Striking Thirteen

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

“Now, mister, why would you bother yourself with questions like those?”

Quinn put down the brass cup he was drinking from and closed the open journal in front of him. “It’s unfortunately my job, ma’am.”

“And it’s a terrible job indeed, for such a handsome fellow,” the waitress mused. She tilted her pitcher of wine over his cup, and while the man was sure he’d had enough, he didn’t protest. “It’s such a gruesome thing for you to busy yourself with.”

“Someone’s got to be so busy.” He smirked, reaching into his pocket for a handful of coins and placing them in the waitress’s free hand. “Thank you for your assistance.”

The woman blushed at his touch, bowing as she stepped away. Quinn sipped from the now brimming cup of alcohol as he turned his attention back to his notes, the ones he had taken in his mind carefully as she spoke. This would be the eleventh body so far. He hadn’t seen it yet, but it was still fresh, and nearby—in an alley beside the rented homes at the docks, barely minutes of walking from the tavern he sat in. If the city’s own guards hadn’t moved it—and he was confident they wouldn’t, not until daylight had burned away most of their fear—then tonight was a good chance to get a look of his own.

The grim crime occurred near Augustana’s thriving docks, and Quinn knew which alley the victim lay in when the smell of rum and saltwater gave way to the overpowering stench of death as he approached. He held a torch above his head as he stepped into the dark toward the body. The corpse itself was as all the others, at least at first blush. It was dressed in the robes of the Skinsaw Cult, laying spread-eagle at the center of the scene. They had been exsanguinated, one clean deep cut to the neck letting all of their precious lifeblood out into a receptacle that was no longer at the scene, but left its round red ring of blood on the cobblestones as evidence.

Quinn, the iconic investigator, holds a torch aloft in a dingy alley. The body of a person in red cultist’s robes lies splayed on the ground in front of a clock painted in blood on the wall. The clock’s hands are two human arms pointing at the twelve and thirteen

Quinn assesses the scene of the crime in this illustration by Ksenia Kozhevnikova. Take your own investigators on adventures of murder and mystery with the Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Guide, available everywhere July 30.

The one difference between this scene and the others had been the first thing that Quinn saw, but he wanted to save his assessment of it for last. On the wall behind the body lay concentric painted circles of blood making a crude clock, skeletal arms pointing at the twelve and thirteen numerals. It was peculiar in ways that ultimately felt distracting. These cultists loved their gaudy death imagery—the skulls and bones and blood and exquisitely mannequined carcasses—all meant to elicit terror and leave those who witnessed their handiwork unable to shake the thought of the gruesome scene. As a rule, however, there was always something more meaningful beneath the theater, some misstep of a lazy mind, a revelation to be uncovered by the quick-witted.

Quinn stared at the macabre clock, waiting for it to reveal something deeper the its obvious message of intimidation and horror. It went up to thirteen hours—that would have been simple enough to dismiss as over-relying on superstition, but then why point at twelve? There were also the bones themselves. The body did have its arms split lengthwise, the skeleton severed at the joints for the bones to slip out as much as possible without disturbing the muscle beyond them. The arms nailed to the wall, however, did not belong to this victim. It took barely a moment of Quinn’s forensic acumen to tell. For one thing, there was a short hand, as all clocks were wont to have, but both limbs were still longer than the corpse’s. Each of these arms, then, must be another victim’s injury.

He paused to consider if that would be a useful hunch. That was where they pointed: to the twelfth and thirteenth bodies, somewhere waiting to be found among the ports of the Inner Sea. But why hint at them now? The murderer had so far never left any clues to a further kill. Perhaps he had learned that he was being followed, and the thrill had changed from the lust for blood to the game of not being caught. Quinn winced. “Please, don’t be one of the clever ones,” he muttered.

Quinn knelt and turned over the opened arms of the corpse with the tip of his cane, to check the rest of the man’s skin. The corpse’s nails were clean and manicured, and there were the clear tan lines of a bracelet and a ring around the wrist and fourth finger of the right hand. Nothing else about the person bore the kind of dazed, hungry demeanor of a cultist of the Skinsaw Man. Quinn sized up the man’s muscular build, sun-worn skin, and the pair of ornate anchor tattoos on each bicep—one in the Taldan or Andoren style he would expect of a citizen of Augustana, the other similar but with flourishes that appeared more Garundi, possibly Rahadoumi. This man must have been a sailor. This expanded his investigation quite a bit, and he sighed at the notion.

He endeavored to ask his questions in the morning, then. Sailors tend to be their most volatile at night.

At first light, Quinn awoke and took a moment to consider what he knew so far about the victims. The Skinsaw Cult garb was a ruse—but whose? Did a cultist find enough forethought to hide their latest body in their own robes? It was doubtful compared to the alternative: someone attempted to infiltrate the cult. It was highly unlikely that they were on the same path that he himself was. Still, what the poor soul may have found might be relevant, he thought. He hoped that the man may have shared some part of his plan with a crewmate.

Yes, he knew that would mean forcing the answers out of a sailor, the bulk of whom Quinn’s experience told him would be loyal to their oaths of secrecy, even those sworn to the dead. It’d be hard going, but at least there would be someone with answers.

Quinn spent the morning combing the Fleet District, listening and watching for any indication of what ship last night’s victim may have served on. If his theory were correct, if the victim truly was tracking the cult across the northern coast of the Inner Sea, then it’d be a ship recently arrived from Almas, after having put in at both Oppara and Cassomir, though not in that order. That narrowed the possible number of vessels to four.

It was early afternoon before he’d further winnowed the possibilities to a single ship, Oasis, which employed a Taldan crew but called Azir, Rahadoum’s so-called Port Godless, her home port. Oasis had arrived just two nights hence, and its crew were holed up in one of the sailor’s flophouses not far from the scene of the crime. When he found the home, Quinn lifted the head of his cane and rapped on the door three times with rhythmic precision, with the force of conviction but not malice. Just as he drew breath to call out his name and intention, the door slowly creaked open, and the stern face of a blond man in his forties glared at him. “What can I do for you, friend?”

“I may have a bit more to offer,” Quinn replied, smiling. “But first, do you know a tan-skinned man, around your height and build, maybe a bit younger, darker of hair, with twin anchor tattoos on the arms, of a kind but likely done by different needles in ports far from one another?”

“Er… I mean, I know lots of guys,” the man started, his eyes darting quickly from Quinn’s face to the head of his cane and back. “Why?” Quinn noticed that the man didn’t inhale at the end of the inquiry, nervously, subconsciously holding his breath.

Surely you heard tell of the murder last night, the ritual killing? I have reason to believe someone who’d been bunking here with the other members of his crew was involved.” Quinn drew his journal from a coat pocket now, making a show of checking it for the ship’s name. “Yes, the victim was most assuredly a sailor on the Oasis—strange name for a ship, no? You know it?”

“Victim?” the man said somberly, releasing his held breath and letting the door swing open wide enough for Quinn to enter. “Jassa, one of my mates…” His eyes opened wide, as if he were searching the floor between them both for something to make sense of his sudden grief. “I’m bosun of Oasis. I can’t imagine why Jassa’d be a target of a slaying that brutal. If what I heard is true, course.” When he finally found himself, he put his hand out to greet the detective. “Randall. Thank you for letting me know.”

Quinn shook the man’s hand firmly. There was the formality Quinn expected, the apprehension against opening up to anyone—especially non-sailors—who seemed to know more about a given situation. Experience told him that he just had to push a few buttons first. “Why would a man serving on a ship out of Azir be involved with religious zealots, cultists?”

“Cultists? You think one of those flesh-peeling Skinsaws did that to him?” Randall’s eyes flared with rage, but he caught himself suddenly.

There it was. Quinn had him now. “He told you something.”

“Like what, sir?”

“You didn’t even hesitate. Jumped straight from ‘cultist’ to ‘Skinsaws’. Your man Jassa was looking into something, and he let you know what. So now you’re going to tell me.” He walked past the man and toward the corner of the room that served as a kitchen and continued. “So, how do you like your tea?”

“… tea? What are you on about, man?”

Quinn peered into a kettle to ensure its cleanliness and began filling it with water, then turned to Randall and smirked. “When someone’s about to tell me a long story, I like to have something to drink.”

About the Author

Brandon O’Brien is a writer, performance poet, teaching artist and game designer from Trinidad and Tobago. His work has been shortlisted for the 2014 Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing and the 2014 and 2015 Small Axe Literary Competitions, and is published in Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, Fireside Magazine, and New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean, among others. He is also the poetry editor of FIYAH: A Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction.

About Iconic Encounters

Iconic Encounters is a series of web-based flash fiction set in the worlds of Pathfinder and Starfinder. Each short story provides a glimpse into the life and personality of one of the games’ iconic characters, showing the myriad stories of adventure and excitement players can tell with the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games.

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Tags: Iconic Encounters Iconics Investigator Pathfinder Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition Quinn Web Fiction
Grand Lodge

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Huzzah for Quinn!

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Yay Quinn!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Ok, let's get the rest of the story, please!

Quote:
deeper the its obvious message of intimidation and horror.

Than?

Paizo Employee Marketing & Media Manager

17 people marked this as a favorite.

"The rule of law is only as strong as the people who uphold it, and few know this fact better than Quinn."

The investigator class and our Iconic investigator Quinn returns to Pathfinder on July 30. Read his backstory in Meet the Iconics: Quinn from 2014.

Grand Archive

9 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber

I love Quinn a lot. I want a murder mystery novel about him...
Hell, I could see a point & click mystery adventure game... :P
... UH. Would actually be very cool. Would really help to show off more of the lore of the setting than a combat-heavy CRPG!

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Quote:

“It’s such a gruesome thing for you to busy yourself with.”

“Someone’s got to be so busy.”

He's the best there is at what he does, and what he does is... necessary.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This is excellent! Well done!


6 people marked this as a favorite.

I'm probably not the first one to say something like this, but I can't help but imagine Morgan Freeman speaking Quinn's dialogue -- a fantasy equivalent to Se7en's Detective Somerset, if you will.

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

13 people marked this as a favorite.

I've always thought Idris Elba would be a better Quinn. Followed by Wesley Snipes and Ice T. I think Morgan Freeman probably would have been good casting a decade or two ago, but now I think he's too old. Same with Danny Glover.

I wake every day hoping that it's the one when these decisions are actually something we're approving, but until we have a movie or television deal, they're just fun thought experiments.

Grand Archive

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber
Mark Moreland wrote:

I've always thought Idris Elba would be a better Quinn. Followed by Wesley Snipes and Ice T. I think Morgan Freeman probably would have been good casting a decade or two ago, but now I think he's too old. Same with Danny Glover.

I wake every day hoping that it's the one when these decisions are actually something we're approving, but until we have a movie or television deal, they're just fun thought experiments.

I just quickly googled a video of him to see/hear... And yeah. I agree totally. But might be a bit too costly to get? :X

Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

We definitely need a Pathfinder game in the vein of Phoenix Wright, but with Quinn.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, PF Special Edition, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I can't wait to play an Investigator. This is the class I've been looking forward to the most.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Man I would love to have a character like this in one of the games I run.

But my players tend to be murderho-I mean utterly lovely individuals who just don't like a good mystery drama.


Quote:

He walked past the man and toward the corner of the room that served as a kitchen and continued. “So, how do you like your tea?”

“… tea? What are you on about, man?”

Quinn peered into a kettle to ensure its cleanliness and began filling it with water, then turned to Randall and smirked. “When someone’s about to tell me a long story, I like to have something to drink.”

This was possibly one of the best endings I have read so far in Iconic Encounters. Poor Randall must have been somewhat wrong-footed talking with Quinn at the end.

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Excellent story. I am salivating for more on this.

Investigators would need a "Watson's hunch" ability that gets their Investigator sense tingling when one of the players' far-fetched hypotheses on a mystery strikes not too far from the truth.

Dark Archive

Just to note though, it should be "cultist of Father Skinsaw", Skinsaw Man was certain serial killer who was trained by cult in certain ap.

But yeah, enough of nitpicks, this is delicious delicious iconic story :3


Very cool to see Quinn in action! It was a good slice of the mystery.

Grand Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Is that a wanted picture of Valeros next to Quinn?

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
jquest716 wrote:
Is that a wanted picture of Valeros next to Quinn?

Someone must have forgot to pay their tab!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Now even more than before, I want to see an Andoran AP. Specifically, an Andoran conspiracy AP.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Seconded. Wouldn't mind bopping about Iobara/Casmeron, too.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Elfteiroh wrote:

I love Quinn a lot. I want a murder mystery novel about him...

Hell, I could see a point & click mystery adventure game... :P
... UH. Would actually be very cool. Would really help to show off more of the lore of the setting than a combat-heavy CRPG!

A point-and-click adventure game starring a Keith David-voiced Quinn is the game I never knew I needed, and I need it yesterday. Who needs CRPGs?


7 people marked this as a favorite.

Have you checked this gorgeous 3D rendition of Quinn?

That said, I think it doesn't matter that the actor's his spitting image - what's more important is that he can accurately portray him, "BE" Quinn - and give his personal spin to the character (also, he shouldn't be too young - Quinn has grey hair and beard and a noticeably wrinkled face).

Anyways I'm glad we still have one of our Black Iconics!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:
<snip> Anyways I'm glad we still have one of our Black Iconics!

???

But, Seelah (the iconic Champion) is black!

...Isn't she?

Honestly confused by this. (Maybe it's the phrasing, which implies that Quinn is the only black iconic that still remains...)

???

--C.

<edit> Added a little clarification of my confusion.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

That 3D rendition of Quinn is indeed awesome!

Thanks for sharing. <3

--C.

Scarab Sages

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Psiphyre wrote:
Roswynn wrote:
<snip> Anyways I'm glad we still have one of our Black Iconics!

???

But, Seelah (the iconic Champion) is black!

...Isn't she?

Honestly confused by this. (Maybe it's the phrasing, which implies that Quinn is the only black iconic that still remains...)

???

--C.

<edit> Added a little clarification of my confusion.

If Roswynn is talking about Alahazra, then it's possible she'll be the 'fire oracle' build iconic.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Yeah, I was commenting about the fact that we lost Alahazra, I do know Seelah is Black (and that is awesome). Sorry if I wasn't clear, English isn't my 1st language.

BTW I love Korakai, who has East Asian elements... But he *is* a birb, after all. He's a great addition, I'm just sorry we had to demote Alahazra to... "just a build".


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Ah, I see.
So, it was just the phrasing.
I thought you were having a temporary brain far there -- no worries! (*^_^*)

I was also a bit disappointed with the sidelining of Alahazra, but I'm also happy we got a new cool nonhuman iconic in Korakai, at least.
Yep, still in some state of confusion... ;p

And yeah, Seelah is awesome! :D

Carry on,

--C.

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:

Have you checked this gorgeous 3D rendition of Quinn?

That said, I think it doesn't matter that the actor's his spitting image - what's more important is that he can accurately portray him, "BE" Quinn - and give his personal spin to the character (also, he shouldn't be too young - Quinn has grey hair and beard and a noticeably wrinkled face).

Anyways I'm glad we still have one of our Black Iconics!

This is honestly 200% awesome. Do they exist for other iconics?


3 people marked this as a favorite.

I saw something similar for 1e Seoni and Valeros by Rafael Malavassi, but alas, nothing else!

Liberty's Edge

Roswynn wrote:
I saw something similar for 1e Seoni and Valeros by Rafael Malavassi, but alas, nothing else!

Thank you.

Sovereign Court

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Is 13 the number of victims needed to summon forth a Leukodaemon and bring upon the world a plague of massive proportion. One that will require social distancing of not 1 but 2 5 foot squares.
Is 12 the number of current sacrifices?
Inquiring minds want to know.

Please do a follow up,
also cudos to the artist.. I love how the blood is redder and thicker at the bottom of the clock and washed out at the top.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It really looks like the 'long hand' is giving Quinn the middle finger..... :>

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


It really looks like the 'long hand' is giving Quinn the middle finger..... :>

Hmm, what could the symbolism of this be? More investigation is needed.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

It's sort of sad, a great trailer for a movie that's never going to come out. I would love a whole story to follow this.


^We probably won't see any followup for a while, but who says it's NEVER going to come out?

Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

They have already followed up previous fiction with adventure material that builds off of it. The Pathfinder Jounrals from AP 1-6 are referenced in a number of PFS scenarios.

Grand Archive

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber

Also, the fiction in the latest Character Options for Pathfinder Society and Guide Updates blog actually continues the adventures of a previous blog fiction story. :3
Pretty sure that if they see enough positive reception to a story, they are not against writing some "follow-up" fiction. :P

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I loved this piece on Quinn. Excellent job on this, Brandon!

Dark Archive

Eltanin24 wrote:

Is 13 the number of victims needed to summon forth a Leukodaemon and bring upon the world a plague of massive proportion. One that will require social distancing of not 1 but 2 5 foot squares.

Is 12 the number of current sacrifices?
Inquiring minds want to know.

Please do a follow up,
also cudos to the artist.. I love how the blood is redder and thicker at the bottom of the clock and washed out at the top.

Isn't there a demon lord who keeps a 13-number clock running with abducted children from across the planes in her realm?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
thefreakachu wrote:


Isn't there a demon lord who keeps a 13-number clock running with abducted children from across the planes in her realm?

Shivaska.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

7 people marked this as a favorite.

I was wondering how long it'd take before someone noticed that there's a thematic link between Norgorber and Shivaska. Excellent.

Grand Archive

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber

Didn't know about her. I really need to brush up my knowledge of the lore. :O
That's awesome. Nice detective work you two thefreakachu and Xenocrat!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

2 people marked this as a favorite.

There's a fair amount of inspiration for Shivaska from my favorite episode of the early 80s D&D Saturday morning cartoon as well!

Dark Archive

James Jacobs wrote:
I was wondering how long it'd take before someone noticed that there's a thematic link between Norgorber and Shivaska. Excellent.

Wowzers! Many thanks, O Great Wise One!


Shivaska almost sounds like a Kyton Velstrac that went Chaotic Evil.

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