Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Mystery Deepens (11/30/2012)

We had a successful kick-off to our Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords adventure during our first session two  weeks ago and everyone was fired up and ready to continue on tonight. It was likely that the  characters would reach Level 2 tonight also and each of the players had an updated character sheet stuck away just for this occasion. Four of our five participants have purchased the Herolab character builder software at this point and have found the pay version to be much more complete than the free demo  version - as one might expect.

Welcome to Varisia

Varisia was a true frontier, stretching from the Varisian Gulf in the west to the sheer peaks of the  Mindspin and Kodar Mountains in the east. The space between encompassed all manner of terrain -  sprawling plains, dense forests, burning badlands, and mysterious swamps. Much of the land has remained  relatively untouched by the lumberer’s axe or the fisher’s trawl and its wild creatures have also remained, varied and plentiful - and sometimes monstrous.

The Storval Rise, a thousand-foot-tall cliff that ran northwest to southeast across the region, divided  the fertile lowlands from the rugged Storval Plateau. The west and south hold lush expanses:  woodlands like the Churlwood and Sanos Forest, expanses so tangled even experienced trackers  shy from their edge; the Velashu Uplands, a gentle plain home to the rugged Velashu horse lords;  and the Mushfens, a dangerous marsh that straggles along much of the land’s southern length.

The Storval Plateau, which included the burning wastes of the Cinderlands, encompassed the east  and north. The Cinderlands were a dry desert where regular firestorms scoured the thorny scrub  brush and seared the reddened land. Much of the Storval Plateau proved slightly more hospitable  though, and this arid stretch of grassland and hard-packed plains was home to equally hard tribes of  reclusive giants and proud Shoanti.

The Boar Hunt

Aldern Foxglove
The previous evening ended with the party dining with Aldern Foxglove, the well-to-do noble that the  party had saved during the goblin raid the previous day. He had provided the party with dinner and  with a bag of 50 GP as a matter of thanks for the party’s heroic exploits and had asked the party to  join him on a boar hunt this morning.

As agreed the party met Aldern early the next morning to participate in a boar hunt. Foxglove had  procured rides for each of the party members from the Goblin Squash Stables in town. From Sandpoint it was a mile-and-a-half ride to Tickwood Forest, just north of the upthrust limestone  escarpment known as the Devil's Platter. Despite its ominous name, Tickwood was actually a  relatively safe woodland, one well known to be the home of wild boars, deer, firepelt cougars, and the  rare giant ticks for which the wood was named - but no goblin tribes were known to dwell within its  boundaries.

Along the way Aldern continued peppering the party with questions. Who were they? Where were  they from? How long had they been fighting goblins? Did they have any harrowing tales of their  adventures? The party soon decided that while Aldern meant no harm, but rather that he was really more of an  adventurer wannabe - a wealthy one though, so it was probably worth their while to play along with the  young noble.

Upon reaching the border of the Tickwood Forest the party secured their horses and advanced into  the woods. Aldern reported that one of his men had seen a good size boar in this wood just the  previous day and chances were the boar would still be located somewhere herein. After about an hour the party felt they had the boar more or less trapped in a section of the woods directly ahead of them. They worked their way through a wall of brush and found themselves in what they surmised might have been part of the grounds of an estate at one point many years previous. Additional walls of brush gave the impression this piece of land might have been part of a larger  maze, and in the middle of the area stood a long forgotten fountain.

Wild Boar
The boar could be heard rustling among the thick shrubbery ahead, so the party moved up and hoped to find the beast. Stike took the lead and the others arrayed themselves behind him. As Stike  reached the thicket the boar attacked, just missing with a gore attack on the fighter. Stike managed to hit  the boar, but the animal quickly darted back into the brush before more damage could be inflicted. The brush slowed down the advance of the party, something that did not seem to hinder the boar.  Indeed the boar seemed to have simply disappeared from this particular thicket. Aldern jumped up on to the  fountain to see if he could spot the beast while the remainder of the party continued their efforts to  flush the animal.

And then the boar struck again, coming through another section of brush to successfully gore Kheo with his tusks. This proved  to be damaging to the young rogue, but fatal to the boar as the other party members struck quickly  and killed the beast.

Aldern was elated with the kill of the boar. He suggested the party field clean it and then bring the  carcass back to The Rusty Dragon and to let the cook prepare it for a feast that night. All the way  back to town Aldern kept up his excited chatter at the success of the boar hunt.

A Family Quarrel

Ameiko Kaijitsu
Upon arrival back at The Rusty Dragon proprietor Ameiko Kaijitsu heartily agreed to have the freshly killed  boar cooked in the kitchens and had one of her cooks take the carcass in back to be prepared.  Aldern insisted on a fresh round of drinks for the parched adventurers and went around to several of  the locals while retelling the story of the boar hunt.

The party was not neglected though. Several more of the town members offered their thanks for their efforts during the goblin raid yesterday. The general hum of conversation and laughter in the inn was  soon interrupted when an older gentleman stomped into through the front entrance of the inn. As he  entered the inn one of the locals leaned over from the next table and whispered to the party “It’s the  old man. Lonjiku Kaijitsu. He’s looking for his daughter. He doesn’t like her owning the inn.

Lonjiku Kaijitsu then stated yelling in a language unknown to any of the party. He stomped past where the  party was sitting and moved up to the bar area. The locals grew suddenly quieted and while no one  would look directly at the irate gentleman it was obvious everyone was interested in what was about  to happen. He then slammed his fists into the bar, and even though his words were indecipherable,  their intent was clear: “Where was my daughter?

Lonjiku Kaijitsu
With a fire still in his eyes the elderly noble looked around the room and his gaze fell upon the  adventurers. Lonjiku approached the party’s table and began to berate them in broken common. “You have endangered the town with your ill-advised antics. This is serious business, to be left to the  city guard. Now others may try such foolishness and they may not be as lucky as you.” As the party  offered their defense Lonjiku sneered and said “Adventurers. Just what this town needs - another band of vagrants and thieves to sleep in our streets.”

Just then Ameiko ambled back into the bar area from the kitchen, a dripping ladle in her hands.  Reverting back to his native language the old man lurched toward the young woman and continued to  pepper her with short command-like sentences. Ameiko stood resolute and answered back in kind,  obviously unswayed by his arguments. In a moment of frustration Lonjiku leaped forward and  attempted to grab her by the hair. Ameiko quickly dodged the attack and slapped him across the  face with the soup covered ladle, dripping remnants of fish, vegetables, and broth against his hair  and outfit.

The old man discontinued his attack, stood up straight as if to gather himself, and in his broken  common said loudly for all to hear and understand, “You are as dead to me as your mother.” He then  spun and strode out of the inn. He did not stop to look back although the party was sure he could  hear the sobs of his daughter, reeling from this final curse.

With the altercation suddenly over Ameiko wiped her tears away and said “I’ll need a new well- cleaned ladle since jackass stew isn’t on the menu,” the laughter of the patrons helped returned the  inn to its normal level of conversation and laughter.

A Goblin in the Closet

Alergast and Amele Barett were a typical Sandpoint family, with two children (little Aeren and baby Verah) and a dog named Petal. They had been present at the Swallowtail Festival the  previous day where Aeren saw a goblin light a cat on fire and then caper around the burning  remains - the poor boy really hadn't been the same since. Last night his howls of terror had sent Petal into a barking fit, and when his parents investigated Aeren had claimed a goblin had come out of his closet. Alergast checked the closet dutifully and found nothing, but ever since the young boy's  complaints about the "closet goblin" had grown more and more tiresome to his parents.

All of this was told to the party by a tearful Amele Barett. She had approached the table in a panic,  clutching the little girl to her chest with one hand and clinging to the back of a young boy with the  other. Just a few minutes before they had heard poor Petal cry out in pain and Aeren's screams had turned shrill. This time Aeren wasn't just having nightmares. Amele paused, took a breath, and then showed  Aeren's arms - they were covered with fresh goblin bites.
Goblin in the Closet
When Alergast had burst into the room he found a goblin crouched on his son's chest. Petal was dead, a knife deep in its ear, and a goblin was frantically trying to chew off Aeren's arm. The frantic father attacked the goblin and chased it back into the closet where it clambered into a hole it had cleverly hidden under an old fur. Alergast had started tearing apart the closet in an attempt to get at the goblin  and Amele had panicked and fled the house with her children to seek out the town's new heroes for aid.

When the party arrived at the Barett house they found it disturbingly silent. Upon reaching Aeren's  room they found the young father on his belly, as if he had crawled into the closet. Reynard set off a  Light spell, Kheo hustled Amele and the children back down stairs, and Stike and Selinor cautiously  approached the closet.

Alergast was clearly dead. It looked like the top half of his head and torso were stuck in a hole in the  floorboards of the closet. Stike carefully tugged the body back and was greeted with a shrieking  goblin that jumped out of the hole and swung a makeshift dagger at the young fighter. The attack  surprised the fighter who also missed with his riposte, but the party soon killed the crazed goblin.

The party members guessed that the goblin has been part of the raid the previous day and had snuck in here when the attack went bad. The goblin had found a nice hidey-hole underneath the  floorboards in the closet, but unfortunately the family - and the dog - soon came home and the goblin had found itself trapped. There was little doubt the boys nightmares had been real - there really was a  goblin the closet, but at some point the goblins hunger had overruled its good sense and drew him out of hiding.

Luckily for the party Sheriff Hemlock then arrived. He quickly made arrangements for Amele and the  children to sleep elsewhere and assigned deputies to take care of the dead bodies. With this task  done, he confided to the party that he needed to go to Magnimar for a few days to arrange for extra  help during this crisis – he would consider it a personal favor if the party would hang around  Sandpoint for a few days while he was gone. The party was now well known to the town and would  be a great comfort if they were to be present while the sheriff was out. And then the sheriff added  "There is someone who wants to meet you."

Goblin Knowledge

Sheriff Hemlock explained that Shalelu Andosana wasn't quite a bounty hunter, a survivalist, or a  mercenary, but rather a mix of all three. The elven woman usually passed through town a couple of times a season to buy supplies but never remained more than a few days and she always stayed in the same room at The Rusty Dragon free of charge thanks to her long friendship with Ameiko. Near the end of each visit she would meet with Sheriff Hemlock and Mayor Deverin for a few hours at the garrison to  give a report on the state of the hinterlands before she left town again, a pouch of gold at her side as a token of the towns appreciation. Both Hemlock and Deverin valued Shalelu's reports, since they provided unbiased insight into how the local farmlands were faring and kept the town council abreast of burgeoning dangers in the region.

Shalelu Andosana
The party followed the sheriff back to his office at the garrison and the introductions were soon  made. "Belor's told me of your work against the goblins – well done. I've dedicated the last several years of my life to keeping them from causing too much trouble around these parts, but they're  tenacious and fecund little runts."

"There were five major goblin tribes in the region, and traditionally, they're pretty good at keeping  each other in line with intertribal squabbles and the like. Yet from what I've been able to piece together members of all five tribes were involved in the raid on Sandpoint. A fair number of the  Mosswood goblins I dealt with yesterday were already pretty beat up, and there was a lot of chatter about the 'longshanks' who killed so many of them. Now that I've met you, it seems obvious from their descriptions who they were talking about. It seems to me like you've made quite an impression on them.”

"In any event, the fact that the five tribes are working together disturbs me. Goblin tribes don't get  along unless they've got something big planned, and big plans require big bosses. I'm afraid that  someone's moved in on the goblins and organized them. And judging by these recent raids, what  they're organizing seems like bad news for all of us."

Shalelu then went on to explain there were five major goblin tribes in the region. The closest to  Sandpoint were the Birdcruncher goblins, who lived in caves along the western edge of the Devil's  Platter, although traditionally these goblins were the least aggressive of the five. To the south were  the Licktoad goblins of the Brinestump Marsh, pests who were excellent swimmers. East were the  Seven Tooth goblins of Shank's Wood, goblins who'd secured a place for themselves by raiding  Sandpoint's junkyard and rebuilding the stolen refuse into armor and weapons. Farther east were the  Mosswood goblins, likely the largest tribe but one traditionally held back by the feuding families  within their own ranks. And finally, there were the Thistletop goblins, who lived on the Nettlewood  coast atop a small island that some say held a passing resemblance to a decapitated head.

The group then adjourned back to The Rusty Dragon where steaming heaps of roasted boar were now  available, The conversation continued as Shalelu noted that goblins generally live short, violent lives.  It was unusual for a single goblin to achieve any real measure of notoriety, but when one did it was  well earned. Currently there were six goblins in the region enjoyed the status of "hero."

Big Gugmut is an unusually muscular and tall goblin from Mosswood who, it is said, had a hobgoblin  for a mother and a wild boar for a father.

Koruvus was a champion of the Seven Tooth tribe, as well known for his short temper as he was for  his prized possession - a magic long sword sized for a human that the goblin stubbornly kept as his  own (despite the fact that it was too large for him to properly wield). Koruvus supposedly vanished  several months ago after he discovered a "secret hideout" in a cave along the cliffs, but the Seven  Tooth goblins have remain convinced he was out there still, a ghost or worse, waiting to murder any goblin  who tried to discover his hideout.

Vorka was a notorious goblin cannibal who lived in the Brinestump Marsh, a "hero" mostly to goblins other than those the Licktoad tribe.

Rendwattle Gutwad was the obese chieftain of the Brinestump goblins, a corpulent monster who, it  was said, never left his throne.

Ripnugget was the leader of the Thistletop goblins and controlled what the five tribes agree is the  best lair.

And lastly there was Bruthazmus, the infamous bugbear ranger who lived in northern Nettlewood and  often visited the five tribes to trade things he'd stolen from caravans for alcohol, news, or magic  arrows. Shalelu noted that Bruthazmus had a particular hatred of elves and that they had fought on  several occasions. To date neither of them had managed to get the upper hand on the other, but  Shalelu bitterly vowed that she wouldn't be the first to fall when their private war was resumed.

Then Shalelu asked the party about the incident at the graveyard the previous day. The party told of the skeletons and  the missing body of Tobyn Ezrakien. This news particularly disturbed Shalelu - if one simply needed a body there were certainly easier ones to acquire. It seemed like someone had gone to a lot of trouble to get one specific body. Shalelu went on to explain the Ezrakein had died some six months previous, some say died of a broken heart. His daughter, Nualia, was an Aasimar, an angel touched, and he had hoped she would make her home in the temple. Instead she had run off with a commoner and had not been seen since.

The evening advanced with the party peppering Shalelu with questions and she answered the best  she could. As the evening drew to a close Shalelu said she needed to get back - there was definitely  something afoot with the local goblin tribes and she needed to get back to watching them. With her  and the sheriff no longer in town the party went to bed pondering their new responsibilities.

DM Note: The players have accrued 2000 XP and have reached Level 2.

The Glass Works

After the party rose the next morning they were approached by a timid elderly halfling woman named  Bethana Corwin, a maid who worked for Ameiko Kaijitsu at The Rusty Dragon. She was obviously upset and asked to speak to the party somewhere in private. In short, her employer had gone  missing.

Bethana woke earlier this morning to find that Ameiko hadn't already started the breakfast for the first  time Bethana could remember. Worried, she had knocked on Ameiko's door but didn't get a  response. Against her better judgment Bethana had entered Ameiko's room to find it empty and the  bed unslept in. Worse, she found a crumpled piece of parchment near the bed - a note from  Ameiko's older brother Tsuto Kaijitsu.

Tsuto's Letter
Bethana explained that Tsuto was something of a scandal when he was born (a year before  Ameiko), since Tsuto was a half-elf. Bethana sagely noted, with big eyes, that neither of Ameiko's parents were elves. It was obvious that Lonjiku wasn't the boy's father and his rage at the discovery of his wife's indiscretion was the talk of the town for months. Lonjiku's wife Atsuii never  revealed who the father was, and it was a testament to Lonjiku's stubbornness that they remained  married. Tsuto was handed over to the Turandarok Academy to be raised outside of the Kaijitsu  family, ignored by his father and forbidden visits from his mother. Ameiko started visiting him in secret once she had learned about his existence at the age of 10 and visited him a few times a  month to keep him company, bring him some food, and promise him that someday things would get all sorted out.

That all changed several years ago when the two had a terrible argument in which Tsuto struck Ameiko. Bethana didn't know what the argument was about, but whatever it was sent Ameiko away from Sandpoint for a year, during which time she made a living as an adventurer. She returned to  Sandpoint a year later to attend her mother's funeral. Tsuto was quite public in his opinions that his  father had pushed Atsuii off a cliff to her death, and during the funeral there was a confrontation.  Lonjiku nearly broke Tsuto's jaw with his cane, after which Tsuto cursed him and left Sandpoint.

Ameiko had tried to reestablish contact with him ever since, but was never able to track him down.  Bethana was worried that Tsuto was up to no good. Since Sheriff Hemlock was out of town and the  PCs were the only ones she could turn to. She begged them to head over to the glass works and find  out what happened to Ameiko as soon as possible.

The main components of glass were all found in abundance nearby: sand, seaweed, salt resistant  plants (the ashes of which form an important reagent in the process), and lime extracted from stone  quarried from the cliffs of Devil's Platter. All that remained was the technical proficiency to work  these components into glass. For many years the Kaijitsu Glass Works produced fine products known across the Gulf of Varisia.

The glass works was a large factory building from which their glass products were cast. A billowing  smoke stack showed that the large furnace inside was burning and that the workers were producing  the wonderful glass masterpieces. A showroom was part of the building, with skylights added so the sun could highlight the intricately made pieces of glassware. Much of the product was shipped off to wealthy customers in Magnimar, but it was not unusual to see customers come and go at the glass works throughout the day, as well as workers and delivery carts.

DM Note: The DM had created a beautiful map to be used for this part of the adventure but neglected to print it out because he thought he had already done so. We therefore used a little "theater of the mind" for this part.

The party approached the building - the smoke stacks were billowing smoke as they expected, but  despite the normal morning traffic around the town there did not seem to be anybody coming and  going around the factory. The party tried the secret knock at the delivery door, but no one answered.  Next they the party tested the external doors, only to find them all locked.

Kheo picked the lock of the door that lead into the showroom, and the party stepped into a room of  destruction. The room had obviously carefully laid out so that the showroom products could be  highlighted by the suns rays that came through the sky lights above, but now all the tables had been  over turned and the glass products smashed.

Sensing no immediate danger the party carefully stepped over the glass strewn floor to a door on the  opposite side of the room. As they stepped through this door the faint hum they had heard previously  became louder and more distinct - the furnace was definitely roaring this morning. The party choose to continue moving and stepped through a door that led into the primary work area of the glass works.

The workroom was a vision of horror. The bodies of eight servants, most dismembered, were  strewn about the floor along with their tools and broken samples of their work. Most ghoulishly was the body of Lonjiku Kaijitsu – his dead body had been placed sitting up in a chair and it had been  covered with several hardened layers of glass. Eight goblins could be seen running breaking  glass pieces, throwing tools, and throwing things – including hacked off body parts – into the large  furnace, while others continued their bizarre experiments of pouring the molten glass on the dead  bodies.

Outraged at the scene in front of them the party used the noise of the furnace to surprise the goblins and get in the first blows. The goblins quickly regrouped and attacked, furious that their play had been interrupted. Several had short swords, two goblins toward the back fired arrows, but several just  grabbed what they could find and threw broken pieces of glassware and crockery at the party. The party quickly mowed through the goblins, save for the one goblin that had pushed a fellow goblin into the midst of the fight so that he could make a break for it and run away.

The party quickly started off after the runaway goblin, but he had a head start and the party members really didn't know their way around the building. The party started investigating the  remainder of the glass works, finding office space, dining and living quarters for the servants, and  eventually worked their way back around to the showroom where they had started. The missing goblin had still not been found, so the party moved to the remaining unopened door. This door was not locked and when opened revealed a set of steps that lead down into a darkened basement area.

The basement area was a space used for additional storage of the glass making materials. Several  barrels and crates were lined up against the wall, and a pair of hand carts stood next to them. There  was also a passageway that was littered with bricks – up until very recently this passageway had  been bricked off. A quick investigation showed that the bricks themselves to be likely several  decades old, but the marks of destruction on them had been made just a few days hence.

Another passageway to the left was about 20 feet ahead so the party moved forward and down this  hallway. There were two doorways, the first leading to a small room with finished products inside,  likely waiting for shipping. The second door was locked, but Kheo quickly worked his lock-picking  magic and when opened revealed an unconscious and obviously hurt Ameiko Kaijitsu. She had  obviously responded to her brother's letter and somehow ended up here, but the first order of the day was to  revive the young woman. Once she was conscious she asked for water and a few minutes to compose herself, so the party moved onto a third door they found around the corner.

Tsuto Kaijitsu
Again Kheo stepped up to check the door and when he did was greeted with a hard punch to the nose from within the darkened room. The party moved in to engage this unknown person - who had  a goblin with him - and it was soon determined that this was the missing brother - Tsuto Kaijitsu. The  fight was fast and furious. While unarmed the half-elf Tsuto still provided quite a wallop, but he was obviously outnumbered and once he had been hit a few times he decided to make a break for it. He headed down another passageway that led away from the basement area, the party in hot pursuit.

Reynard used his special speed affect to catch the fleeing Tsuto and to delay his escape just long enough for the remainder of the party to catch up as well (DM Note: Reynard got this special speed  affect to run away from danger, not to run towards it - Ha!). The fight then continued, but the already injured Tsuto eventually succumbed to his wounds. However, the party was not content to simply let him die. Instead they made the effort to revive him and to then bind him carefully so he could be returned for further questioning.

With the prisoner now safely in their possession the party and the prisoner returned to the basement area. Ameiko was up and about by this point and told the party that Tsuto had revealed to her that he and several other  mercenaries were led by Nualia and hinted that she had big plans for Sandpoint's future. Tsuto warned Ameiko that she didn't want to be in town when those plans came through, and offered her a  chance to join his group at Thistletop. Ameiko had recoiled at the suggestion and had slapped her brother in shock that he had sunk to such a low. He responded by unleashing his goblins on her. They goblins quickly overwhelmed her and had left her here. Ameiko was distraught at the treachery of her brother and wanted to warn her father, so the party had to provide her with that particular piece of bad news as well.

An inspection of Tsuto and Tsuto's room room revealed the following: An empty potion of cure light  wounds, a composite short bow with 20 arrows, a ring of protection +1, a set of masterwork thieves'  tools, a masterwork flute, a pair of silver earrings worth 25 GP, six pouches of gold dust worth 50 GP  each, eight pouches of silver dust worth 5 GP each, 10 platinum pieces, and a leather bound journal.

This small, leather-bound booklet contained two dozen parchment pages, most of which Tsuto had filled with maps of Sandpoint or erotic drawings of an unidentified but beautiful woman. The maps  each depicted different attack plans. The first set showed the attack plans for a group of 30 goblins -  one of these battle maps was circled and the party quickly recognized it as the attack the goblins  recently made on Sandpoint. Of more pressing concern were the next several pages which illustrated an  assault on Sandpoint by a force of what appeared to be 200 goblins. None of these were circled, and while many were scratched out as if they had been rejected, the implications were ominous  nonetheless.

Much of the journal was useless, but in particular three of the pages caught the party's attention:
Tsuto's Journal
The journal contents revealed much to the party. This passageway was really a smugglers tunnel,  which is likely why it had originally been bricked up and recently "unbricked." Also revealed was the fate of Tobyn Azkerian's body and that Nualia was behind it, but exactly what was she up to? Tsuto had definitely been in cahoots with the goblins, but who were these other names and places?

Conclusion: Each party member earned an additional 770 XP since their elevation to Level 2 and stand at 2770 XP earned (5000 XP needed for Level 3). The party ended the evening in the basement of the glass works. Ameiko was ambulatory but weakened, and Tsuto still was securely bound. There didn't seem to be any more to investigate in the  basement, but the smugglers passage that lead away from the basement had only been partially been explored. The pages from the journal had revealed a lot though but introduced some  additional mysteries as well, and we will pick it up there next time.

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