At the foot of the tower a growing crowd awaits; shock and fascination marking their faces.
A squad of guardsman pushes through the throng and approaches us warily. Our honest if careful explanation leaves them perplexed and I suspect that without the presence of the crumpled Lamia, they would no doubt march us straight to the dungeons. But there IS a bloody, gigantic snake demon and they treat our tale with credibility, deciding to escort us to a higher authority.
Arriving at an impressive garrison we meet the equally impressive Lord Justice Bale. He sits us down and patiently listens to our story of deputisation in Sandpoint; the investigation of the Skinsaw Murders that brought us here; our unmasking of Ironbriar and the battle with Xanesha. We also present what evidence we’ve been able to procure; the documents from the mill, the indecipherable cleric’s journal and the note to Xanesha from one of her co-conspirators mentioning a couple of nearby locations and more immediately, singling out Magnimar’s Mayor as a target for sacrifice!
It’s not surprising that Bale waits for the translation of the Journal before passing his final judgement on us… and not only does he believe us but he shares what he can piece together from what he aleady knows.
He and Ironbriar are (or were) two of Magnimar’s thirteen, highest officials; Ironbriar having served ‘loyally’ and capably for over two hundred years.
The diary recounts a long history of Ironbriar’s transgressions, his establishment and leadership of the coven in Magnimar as well as his allegiance and desire it appears, for Xanesha… An unholy alliance if ever there was.
Most importantly, it confirms our story and suspicions.
The note too mentions two locations as cult targets that Bale is able to shed some light on, Turtleback Ferry and Fort Rannik one built to support the other, reports from there seem to support such claims.
Bale escorts us immediately to the the Lord Mayor Grobaras who receives us surprisingly warmly and who lavishes us with coin, obviously pleased that we have thwarted the conspiracy. While Bale’s men reconcile our notes we are further honoured with rooms and run of the city while we recuperate and resupply.
The Lord Justice asks as to remain for a few days while they crosscheck our intelligence with theirs and offer us rooms to recuperate. We spend the next few days bashing the dents out, resting and resupplying. Our purses have become surprisingly fat as a result of the last week and we make good use of the many mercantile marvels here in Magnimar.
A day or two later and as we’ve come to expect, Bale approaches us with a mission. The reports out of Turtleback and it’s accompanying Fort apparently have some credence. It appears that Magnimr has received an official request for assistance, claiming that the Fort’s guardians, The Order of Black Arrow have apparently disappeared, leaving a town on the border of Giant country and Corsovan interests vulnerable to attack.
We of course agree and taking papers of authentication and head out that day, a week of riding ahead of us. Our path takes us through Sandpoint where we stay the night and report in to Sheriff Hemlock. All is quiet it seems and we speak to Brother Zantuss about the consecration of Fox Glove Manor. Overnight in the Red Dragon Inn we are greeted by Shae!
We discuss recent events with her and she offers her expertise to guide us north.
The week long ride is uneventful, skirting the mountains through the gnome populated woods. Disappointingly we see none; I was curious what such a community might look like?
Turtle ferry is a small fishing village on the river’s edge, the wooden shacks are sturdy if rustic and boats dock the shore line. The villagers seem curious at these heavily armed visitors but friendly enough. Making our way to the home of Mayor and Arastal priest Maryland Shreed, Athene spots something odd, a Sahedron tattoo on one of the locals and sends her owl to follow while we continue on.
The mayor seems relieved to see us and shares everything he knows of the situation, which unfortunately is little more than we already know; except that the rangers from the garrison share good relations with the town, and include convict conscription. The town suffered badly from giant and ogre raids butthe presence of the rangers had essentially put a stop to it.
Though the raids haven’t resumed, there’s been no sign of patrols for weeks. The town formed a scouting party but they too have not returned from the Fort. Others too have gone missing form the surrounds, none of this boding well for fort Rannik.
I show him my Sahedron medallion, hoping he might know something of the tattoo but he does not. Shae is anxious to move on but this line of inquiry must be followed…
We find Thera perched on a modest fisherman’s shack and knock on the door. A young, weather worn man answers, and after a few pleasantries we ask him if HE recognises the medallion… he does not…
Despite describing the tattoo he adamantly denies it and that’s when I lose my temper. If he’s not a servant of evil, he’s a liar and I aim to find out why. Grabbing him by the arm I drag him into the street and across muddy laneways back to Shreed.
A growing crowd trails us, more amused than mob. Perhaps humilation will loosen his tongue?
Back in the temple, come council chamber, Shreed unsurprisingly is a little confused to see us back so soon. We tell him the whole story this time of the Sihedron, about its corruption and the fact that this man bears such a symbol and denies it!
He continues to deny the accusation, even when we reveal the symbol on his flesh but Shreed’s persistent, patient manner drags the truth from him and we learn evermore about the situation at hand.
This fisherman was apparently a frequent visitor of a local pleasure barge called Paradise. His tattoo was a kind membership to that den of vice and his reluctance to share that information with us at his home, was for fear of alerting his wife to his vices.
The Barge itself is a tale in itself, having quietly sunk a few weeks ago with all hands lost, which included a dozen locals, which must have been a great loss for such a small community.
It’s owner, a mysterious and infamous woman called Lurecia has not been seen since (assumed drowned) and the investigating official from nearby town Isurian declared it an accident…
Most locals however believe it was a local lake monster called the Black Magga!
This fisherman could not recall anything untoward occurring aboard the barge, nor any costumes or symbols of the Skinsaw Cult. But the appearance of this rune and a score dead cannot be a coincidence. Perhaps this warrants further investigation? Perhaps this Lurecia is a member of the Skinsaw Cult… Twenty men drowned would surely suffice a worthy sacrifice?
Regardless, Shreed and we believe the Fisherman’s story and let him go, leaving us only to mount up and ride out for Fort Rannik and hopefully answers.
A short ride into the forest and a shrill cry draws Athene and my wolf Wynter to investigate. Barks, screams and howls have us dismounting and running into the treeline. We arrive to find a trapped* firepelt cougar* and Athene and Wynter fending of a pack of hounds. As we join the fray (at a much improved pace thanks to my new magical boots) I wonder at the Cougar.
There’s something about it, something knowing… A Rangers companion perhaps?
There’s no time to ponder further as a hulking malformed brute comes crashing into view- Ogrekin! Warding us away from his ‘Kitty’ prey with witless threats and a massive finger like hook, the monster clearly doesn’t see us as a threat. His attitude changes after we make short work we make of his pack, and he flees into the forest leaving a sack behind.
A sack made from the cloak of Black Arrows…