Saturday, January 5, 2013

Thistletop Island (01/04/2013)

Due the a spell of holidayus interruptus our Friday Night Pathfinder game had been on hiatus for a month. Everyone was eager to resume our adventure but we needed to do some clean-up from our last game night first. The last encounter had run long and there was some "end of day" details that we did not get to cover, so after we got caught up on our personal holiday stories we quickly moved into game mode.

After the battle in the underground cathedral the party had returned to The Rusty Dragon for some well-deserved rest and recovery. At dinner as the party talked amongst themselves they realized they still had more questions than answers. Who was the woman on the statue? What was that ancient book they had found floating in the levitation room? What was that pool where the sinspawn came from? Exactly what kind of evil lived in those catacombs? If a major attack on Sandpoint was a necessary part of an evil plan, to what end? What was Nualia really up to, and did it tie in to this somehow? The party also realized their next steps would likely lead to the goblin lair named Thistletop and Nualia, but with the sheriff still out of town for a few more days the decision was made to take a few days of rest, recover, resupply, and to research what they could about Nualia and Thistletop.

Father Zantus
After a night of fitful rest the party went to the common room at the inn only to find an acolyte from the temple waiting for them with a note. The note was from Father Zantus asking the party members to visit him at the temple – he was concerned and wanted to know more about what the party had found in the tunnels underneath Sandpoint. After a hearty breakfast the party walked to the temple and was shown into Father Zantus’ office. There the party relayed the whole story of Tsuto, of the cleaning of the catacombs, including providing details on the shrine, the underground cathedral, and the quasit named Erylium. The party said they had many questions as well – perhaps Father Zantus could provide some explanation to these things as well.
Father Zantus looked the ancient book over, and after a few moments began. “Some of what I am about to tell you is written in old texts that have long been lost or destroyed. We were lucky to save some of ours during the fire that destroyed the original temple at this location. Some of what I am about to tell you are from the old tales. How much is really true I cannot say. But let me tell you what I can.
Sihedron Rune
The seven pointed star is known as the Sihedron Rune - the ancient symbol of all seven schools of Thassilonian magic. The Sihedron Rune is said to signify not only the seven virtues of rule - generally agreed among scholars to have been wealth, fertility, honest pride, abundance, eager striving, righteous anger, and rest – but also the seven schools of magic recognized by Thassilon (evocation, conjuration, illusion, enchantment, transmutation, necromancy, and abjuration). In any event, the Sihedron Rune was certainly a symbol of power, one that may well have stood for and symbolized the empire itself.”
Thassilon was a vast empire ruled by powerful wizards known as Runelords. Is is said the mightiest of the Runelords was Karzoug. The sheer size of the monuments they left behind can testify to the power of the runelords, and the unnatural way many of these monuments have resisted erosion and the march of time can testify to their skill at magic. Most sages place the height of the Thassilonian empire at 7000 to 8000 years ago.”
The statue you saw was likely that of Runelord Alaznist. Unlike the other Runelords, Alaznist was a woman of faith - faith in ruin, devastation, and wrath. While she had an alliance with the demon lord Yamasoth, she drew inspiration from all demon lords. She encouraged her minions to venerate demons as well – she cared not whom they revered, as long as they were destructive. The demon queen Lamashtu, also known as the Mother of Monsters, was a favorite choice.
Father Zantus held up the ancient book the party had presented him and said “This is a book dedicated to the worship of Lamashtu. The quasit was a demon, so that fits. Where Nualia fits into this I cannot say. The thought of someone so beautiful and precious consorting with demons is almost too much for me to even consider.
After a pause, Father Zantus continued. “The magic pool you described is likely an ancient Thassilonian artifact called a runewell, a device capable of extracting magical essence from the souls of certain creatures who, in life, exemplified specific spiritual traits – in this case, if Alaznist was involved, it would be wrath. The collection of souls feeds the runewell to greater and greater strength – to what end I cannot say. It is said the different runelords each had their own runewells, tied to their own grim cruelties. But you say you were able to deplete the runewell of its power. One can guess it had not reached its full strength, but again, I do not know what its goal was for.
As the party was about to leave Zantus asked them to stay a little longer – there was more to the story. “There is one thing I have not told you. It pains me greatly, but with the things shaping as they have, I must tell you. When the old temple burned to the ground and killed Tobyn Ezkarien, Nualia was in the temple with her father that that evening. She was with child, Delek Viskanta, the town boy she had taken up with was the father. After the temple burned her body was not found. At first we thought she must have been burned in the fire, but not all thought that. Delek was found dead a few days later. I tried to hide the suspicions I had, but now, I can do that no longer.
With a resigned sigh, Zantus continued, saying “She must be destroyed. Whatever it is she has become she is no longer the little angel who played in our gardens.” After some more discussion the party took their leave. Many of their questions had been answered, but many more remained still.
Sheriff Hemlock
The adventurers now had a few days to plan their next move, at least until Sheriff Hemlock returned from his trip to Magnimar. Ameiko provided whatever information she knew about the goblin stronghold, plus some historical information was gathered from the records at the temple. When asked almost any towns person was more than willing to tell everything they knew about Thistletop Island – although the party soon determined many of these stories were wildly untrue and provided little help to the party.
The party visited the jail in an attempt to persuade Tsuto to tell what he knew about Thistletop Island - after all, Tsuto's journal had mentioned visiting there, but to no avail. Tsuto had resisted talking even though the tip of one of his fingers had been cut off and one of his legs broken, so no amount of physical threat or clever entreatments could ever get his tongue to loosen.
What the party was able to learn about Thistletop Island was this: Located about six miles north of Sandpoint, Thistletop was a curiously round island about 60 feet off shore. The only thing that connected it to the mainland was a rope bridge. The island had an unusual genesis - it was once the head of one of Runelord Karzoug's sentinel statues that stood upon the ridge of land called the Rasp before the nation of Bakrakhan became the Varisian Gulf. It was said that when the statue was intact one could see the entire gulf from the eyes of the statue. The statue has long since crumbled and become overgrown by the nettlewood, but the head had escaped such obscurement by landing upright in the surf. The magical nature of the statue's construction drastically slowed the process of erosion on the head's features, and when the sun hit the western cliff of the isle just right one could just make out the ancient features of the statue's face. A stockade was built on top of the skull, but no one could say for sure if any rooms existed below this stockade.
But of greater consequence was how exactly to reach the island. One could arrive there by boat, but the island had 80 foot wet and slippery cliffs that would have to be climbed. The waves themselves were extremely treacherous and only the most able of swimmers could even hope to risk entering the water. The general consensus was that if one could access the island from the gulf then pirates would certainly use it as their own lair.

One could walk there of course, but the main entrance was guarded by a thick patch of thorny brush, with walls of the thorny hedges as high as 20 feet. If one could navigate the brush, not let the goblin dogs roaming the area give warning, make it over the rickety bridge, not be spotted by the guards at one of the three guard towers at the stockade, and defeat the goblin hero Ripnugget and his forces, then surely the party could determine what further trouble lay in the dungeons of Thistletop Island.
After some discussion the party decided they would take the land route. It wasn't that far away to begin with, plus if Tsuto had somehow been able to navigate his way through the maze of thorns and brambles to reach the island then there must likely be some sort of path to do so. As soon as Sheriff Hemlock returned to Sandpoint with several new deputy recruits in tow the party filled him in on what had happened while he was away. The sheriff promised to brick over the entrance to the catacombs below and wished the party well with their new endeavor.
DM Note: As a matter of housekeeping the party sold off their non-magical treasure items and converted their value to GP. The total GP, minus the 200 GP for the potions of Cure Light Wounds, worked out to 154 GP per player.
With their supplies refreshed the party headed up the Old Coast Road. As directed it took them about two hours to reach a turn-off point to head through the nettlewood. This proved to be more difficult than anticipated. Though not exactly a maze, the thick patches of the prickly nettlewood with its briars and thorns proved to be difficult to pass. After another hour of navigating the tricky woods the party found themselves in a tree line facing a massive hedge wall of thorns and briars.
Some of the party doubted the walls were really twenty feet high, but not any more. Kheo climbed a tree to see if there was a better view, but the growth effectively provided a canopy over the whole patch of bristles. The good news was that the patch was only maybe 75-100 feet deep, and from his perch Kheo could make out the top of the stockade on the island.
From their spot hiding in the tree line the party couldn't make out much more, so Stike moved into the open to get a closer look. In the dirt outside of the wall he could make out many sets of footprints: goblin, dog, and the occasional set of human size footprints as well. There was also an imprint in the dirt of what appeared to have been some sort of bag that had been drug across the dirt - all leading up to a particular section of the wall. The rest of the party came forward and determined that there was indeed a door there, cleverly disguised as part of the wall.
The door wasn't locked and opened easily, except for the plethora of thorns one had to avoid to access the door. Beyond the door was a four foot high passageway that led deeper into the thicket. The passageway was navigable by the human-sized party members, but it would be a tight squeeze. If a battle ensued the party would certainly be hampered by the close quarters, something the smaller-in-stature goblins would not have affecting them. The decision was made to follow the path of whatever had been drug across the dirt, so the party headed in a north-east direction, hoping to avoid any entanglements along the way, thorn, goblin, or otherwise.
Around the first corner the part came to a larger clearing, where they noticed that in the larger clearing there were spots where they could stand up straight (DM Note: Basically, if the character was standing next to a thorn wall they were in a squeezed area). This room also featured a large hole. The party carefully investigated this hole, about 80 foot in depth, with the sound of waves crashing below. The party decided there must be some sort of cave open to the sea below, but to ignore it for now.
As they continued north and east the sounds of dogs came immediately ahead. The party had maintained an element of stealth so far - the crashing of waves outside muffled whatever noise they might have made, but the party doubted they would be able to sneak past the dogs without being seen or smelled. The decision was made - the party would use some of the ground pepper they had acquired back in town to disable or hamper the dogs and then use that to their advantage and hopefully takeout the dogs.

Kheo crept forward stealthily, but two steps into it the dogs sensed his presence and began to howl. From his position Kheo could see twelve different stakes secured in the ground and four dogs, each tied to a stake. The goblin dogs - big, mean, and nasty, lunged toward Kheo, their tethers not allowing them to advance further. Kheo threw the bag of ground pepper which exploded in a cloud of pepper dust around the dogs, which just enraged them further.
The rest of the party moved up to engage and slew the first set of dogs, but found themselves trapped when a firepelt cougar emerged from the murk behind them. The black pelt with red stripes and the red glowing eyes made a fearsome looking beast as the cat moved forward and snapped at Selinor.
The party then heard goblin war cries coming from somewhere in the thicket but that were advancing in their direction. The last of the goblin dogs went down and the firebelt cougar slunk away just as the goblin war party came careening around the corner. The adventurers backed into one of the larger open areas so they could stand up and provide a better defense against the onslaught, only to see the oldest looking goblin they had ever seen emerge from the thorn wall behind them and shoot Stike with a a bolt of fire from a wand.
Gogmurt and Tangletooth
With goblins on both sides of them the party got down to the business of goblin killing, although the old goblin disappeared into and then reappeared out of the thorn wall several times as if the wall had no affect on him. The goblin war party was quickly slain, with one of Reynard's spells taking out four at once. The firepelt cougar then reappeared behind the last of the goblin war party and moved into a position to attack.

Stike had delivered several mighty blows to the old goblin when he had appeared and after the last of these the old goblin crumpled to its knees and begged for mercy. With no goblins remaining Reynard told the old goblin to call off its cat and the party would spare his life. The old goblin did as he was told and the cougar slunk over and curled up next to its beaten master.
The old goblin started off by saying "I know who you are. I know why you are here. I told Ripnugget it was a bad idea, but he no longer listens to his old friend Gogmurt. He only listens to the longshanks ..." as he clasped his hand over his mouth, afraid he had insulted his captors.
After having been reassured the party was not insulted Gogmurt continued, disgustedly saying, "The very angry woman with the white hair and weird eyes and a torn-up belly has beguiled Ripnugget. She wanted the attack on Sandpoint to happen. Ripnugget went along. It went badly. I knew it would. I knew there would be a response." As he said this he looked the party over, as if to say "I was right. You are the response."
Gogmurt was reluctant to say more, but after some haggling the deal was struck. The party would relieve Gogmurt of his +1 Flame Sword (short sword) and his Wand of Produce Flame and the party would let him live. Gogmurt promised to not interfere, but he refused to give more details concerning his fellow goblins. He did talk about the longshanks inhabiting the dungeon beneath the stockade though. There was the white haired woman, who the party decided was Nualia. There was her half-elf lover, likely Tsuto. There was a tall fighter type who wore lots of metal armor. There was Bruthazmas, a brutish bugbear mercenary, and there was a cruel dark-skinned woman that Gogmurt had reported had used fire to scorch several goblins who had gotten in her way.
Gogmurt and his firepelt cougar companion Tangletooth retired back their quarters in corner of the thicket while the party investigated the rest of the thicket. They found the section where the group of goblins had been living, and they found lookout points facing the north, west, and south, obscured to the outside, but inside giving anyone looking a clear view of the Gulf of Varisia from that vantage point.
When looking to the west the party could see the island a little more clearly. The stockade walls seemed to be solid, with the three guard posts standing ten-to-fifteen feet in the air. The guard posts did not seem to be manned at this point - at least when the party looked they could see no goblins standing up there. The party did see three sets of goblins and their goblin dogs on the side of the stockade away from the bridge. They were playing some sort of game where they were torturing seagulls, and since they were otherwise distracted for the moment the party decided to take this opportunity to cross the bridge.
The bridge was made of thick rope and worn planks, but seemed to be pretty well built otherwise. Perhaps the goblins themselves got tired of rebuilding poorly done bridges and had made a concerted effort to build one that might last. The party still acted with caution though, crossing one at a time as to not overload the bridge. Once everyone was across the party found the large outer doors to be slightly ajar so the party quietly slipped inside.
The first room was essentially some sort of trophy room. The walls were covered with poorly preserved heads of horses and dogs. One of the walls had an odd pair of huge wings held on to the wall by a pair of well-crafted knives. Reynard determined the wings were from a harpy, which caused some head scratching among the party.
The party moved through a southward facing door where they found a door that had been nailed shut. Moving on the found themselves below one of the guard towers. The party left the guard tower alone for now, and moved on when they found an open courtyard where four goblin dogs frolicked with each other. Of course once the goblin dogs sensed the intrusion they immediately raised a ruckus, although the party was able to secure the door before the dogs could get to them.
The party then backtracked to the trophy hall and then opened a door facing west. As the door opened a booming voice welcomed them, saying "Come forward my visitors. Come and sit before Ripnugget."
Knowing any element of surprise was lost, and with nothing otherwise attacking them at the moment, the party moved into the throne room of Ripnugget, Warchief of the Thistletop Goblins. The room was decorated was various pelts - dog, horse, and firepelt. The floor was covered with various pelts and mismatched rugs. Four square posts supported the ceiling, and each post was filled with spikes that impaled various hands in different stages of decay onto the posts.
Ripnugget and Stickfoot
In the back corner of the room on a garish throne covered with pelts and adorned with skulls sat Ripnugget, a giant gekko named Stickfoot resting by his side. The party spread out in front of the goblin warchief and commenced to join in on some friendly banter, but it all seemed to be a prelude for what was to come. Sure enough three goblin commandos dropped down from the rafters (the iron spikes made a handy climbing ladder), and a goblin warchanter slipped out from his hiding spot behind Ripnugget's throne and the battle was on.

Selinor got close enough to the Warchanter to place him in an area of silence, although that did not dissuade the warchanter from his infernal - but otherwise unheard - war chants. Ripnugget slipped onto the back of his prized pet Gekko and rode forth to engage Stike. Kheo and Reynard held off the goblin commando's on them. When the warchanter realized his chanting was having no affect he made a break for it and was downed by a killing stroke from Selinor's scimitar.
Even with a commando on one side and Ripnugget and a giant gekko on the other Strike delivered several mighty blows to the warchief, and Selinor was able to step in and deal one final killing blow to the warchief. Reynard had been backing towards the front door in order to keep some space between him and the commando attacking him and just as he delivered his fatal blow the three goblin commando's that had been outside rode their goblin dogs in through the front door.

The final battle was fast and furious (DM note: and the DM's dice went quite cold all of a sudden) but soon the adventurers put down the last of the goblin dogs. The only noise to be heard was the heavy breathing of the party members and the baying of the four goblin digs outside in the courtyard.
Before moving on the party looked around and found the following items:
6 Masterwork horse choppers (short swords) and various goblin bows/arrows.
5 potions of Cure Moderate Wounds and 2 potions of Cure Light Wounds
Various pieces of studded leather armor
Ripnugget had a masterwork breastplate, a +1 shortsword, and a key ring with several keys.

The keys were used to investigate several rooms just off of the throne room. One room was an armory with miscellaneous goblin weapons and a work table. One of the weapons founds was a Masterwork dog chopper (short sword), but the rest was considered junk.
The next room was a meeting room, with a table and several chairs. A door lead into what was Ripnugget's personal quarters, which was just as garish and bizarre as his throne room. The furniture was a curious mismatch of what might have been valuable antiques at some point, but were now battered and dirty pieces of junk. A collection of 122 horseshoes were tacked to the wall. The only thing of value found in the room was a silver holy symbol of Lamashtu made with tiny garnets, worth maybe 40 GP. Another key was found, hidden underneath a pillow on one of the chairs.
Beyond the private quarters was what would be best described as a privy. The foul odors emanating from there precluded further investigation. The party opted moved back to the front of the stockade where they found an empty goblin quarters with several filthy goblin beds. They also found a set of stairs heading down.
When we meet next time there were still the three guard towers to investigate, the door that was nailed shut, the four goblin dogs in the courtyard, there were still several keys that have not been used, and what - or who - might be down those stairs?
For tonight's efforts that party members each earned 2390 XP, giving them (5620 + 2390) 8010 XP earned so far, with 9000 required to reach Level 4. Our next session will be in two week (Friday, 01/18/2013), same time, same place.

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