Four Mages Rise of the Rune Lords

Death and Taxes

“Theo, back so soon, and once again, alone?” a young-looking she-elf approached the brute.
Upon hearing the voice, Theo instinctively slipped into a role he fulfilled less than a year ago, “Hello, Mistress. I hope I’m not troubling you tonight.”
“Trouble is but the nature of Chaos. What brings you back, boy? Are you seeking a bed to leave undisturbed?”
“My apologies for that, Mistress. I came to check on that item I left here in your protection.”
“Ah yes, your …Memory? I noted then you didn’t tell me why you kept such an exquisite memento. Regardless, my child, I told you when you left it in my care, it would be safe. Do you question my abilities?” Her eyes flashed gold for a moment, clearly preparing to reflect the wrath of such insinuation.
“No Mistress, I’m just in need of comfort from that Memory. Another friend has died, this time a murder,” Theo shared, following one step behind his former Mistress as protocol expected. She sat in a large pillowed lounge while Theo immediately knelt beside the bed. Mistress Ayamyra smiled at his obedience.
“You’ve grown stronger since you and dear Andri left. Why hasn’t he come to visit me? Who are your friends who have died?” Ayamyra suggested Theo inform to her what she desired to know. Another courtesan arrived and provided a glass of an aromatic red wine for Mistress.
“Mistress, I’m sorry. Andri…”
She had seen that expression enough times to recognize the grief and loss of a loved one, “When?”
“Approaching a month, Mistress.”
“And I’m only now hearing of it?” Her offense bathing her words.
“I had told no one, Mistress. My regrets have weighed on me heavily,” Theo confessed.
“You disappoint me. Continue. Who else?”
“He was a new friend, called himself Selith.”
“And when?” She asked again, controlling the confession more directly now.
“The other night. When the Temple to Sarenrae in the Underbridge was desecrated,” Theo looked down at his knees, expecting additional humiliation would be added for what he would say next, “We were there to protect a friend; there at the friend’s insistence to help the sick. The friend survived, but has his own guilt driving him on a new path.”
There was an unexpected silence. Soft white-noise of the city, the torchlight, and a few soft conversations in distant corners were drowned out from the weight of Ayamyra’s silence.
“They’re fortunate you aren’t one of mine anymore. You truly disappoint me, Theoric. You should take your trinket and leave this place,” a single hand signal sent a few courtesans bustling about the Dome. Quickly, Theo was escorted to the entrance, and Ayamyra presented a twine-bound, linen-wrapped deck of cards. “Before I give you this, did you at least avenge your friend’s death?”
Theo grinned, “Justice Ironbriar and his gang skinsaw men are now twice-dead.”
Ayamyra’s eyes gave away her shock. Impressed, she returned the deck to him, “Don’t return here, Theoric.”

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The Night of the Living Dead

The night started as most adventuring should NEVER start, a drunk brute being dumped in his bed. Beni wished he had the strength of an ant as the group quite poorly drug Theo up to their room. “Grief does strange things to people,” was all Beni could think as he rolled himself into bed and snuggled up with Crookshanks purring and trying quite persistently to get as much of his body onto Beni’s face as he could. Beni mindlessly said to his little friend, “It’s a wonder I get any rest at all with you always wanting to smother me in my sleep.”
It didn’t take long for the room to grow quiet as everyone drifted off to sleep. At some point in the night, time is so unclear when sleep is involved, the commotion in the room with Jir and the innkeeper was enough to rudely snap Beni back to the waking world. It all happened so fast, the innkeeper being incinerated by a hellhound and then a quasit appearing in the room. A quasit! This group truly attracts a lot of danger and unsavory creatures. How strange the last few days had turned Beni’s life. All he knew is he was not going to go down without a fight. No demon from the pits of hell interrupts his sleep and gets away without at least an explanation. Then the thought entered his mind, “What if there are others coming in or worse fleeing the building to alert whoever is behind all the cult happenings of late.” Beni raced to the window and then realized he was not even facing the front of the building. So he sent Crookshanks to the other window to watch the front of the building.
Then all hell broke loose with an elemental storming the room, going for Crookshanks, and before he knew it Beni had no other choice than to harbor his feline friend in his own body with a spell that was anything but the favorite experience of the poor cat. Then it happened. The very drunk Theo ran through the room in what appeared to be an attempt to leap out the window and in fact did nothing more than destroying all the alchemy tools Gale and Beni had on the desk of the room. Oh how the graceful are rarely the big fighters.
As the quasit tauntingly fled the scene, Beni leapt out the window in pursuit. At this point no fiend from the pits of any hell is going to get away with not only waking him from sleep but also the reason his alchemy lab is destroyed. The pursuit across town in the dark toward the crypts was filled with cool air, but that didn’t cut the ominous feeling of running toward not only death but the entire group running toward their end.
The crypt was eerily quiet. Too quiet. The door was ajar. Something was not right. As the rest of the crew, drunk bloodrager and all, arrived Beni had already gotten the sense that this was not going to end well for someone. Jir bravely went in to scout the crypt, and the rest of the group stupidly stayed outside as if to send the poor Halfling to his death. ZOMBIES! The gods be angry, zombies in the temple of Pharasma. That was not a good sign at all. How had they found themselves in this terrible fortune? Beni decided to keep poor Crookshanks hidden away rather than risk his small friend being harmed. He’d make it up to the little guy with an easy week.
As the combat went, Beni felt more and more unsure if they would be joining Selith at the funeral tomorrow as attendees or bodies themselves. The quasit seemed bent on their destruction. Then it happened. Jir went down, and Beni felt the first pangs of fear and doubt creep into his heart. He would not let his friend be the first to fall tonight. Rushing in rashly, Beni grabbed his little friend. Getting to safety, he was pleased enough to see consciousness come back to Jir’s face. Then turning back to the battle, it looked much messier than he had anticipated. Then it started, corpses began to explode as drunk Theo hacked and slashed his way through the zombies. Plague Zombies! Ugh. Beni just wanted to be asleep in his bed with Crookshanks snuggling up to him and the various tinctures and potions bubbling away in the night.
With the battle appearing to turn in their favor finally, Beni relaxed enough to think clearly and realise the bitch, the quasit that had brought this night to a screeching halt, would most likely try to run. Guarding the doors wasn’t enough. With help from her summoned shit-pile she still escaped. Beni had questions. Lots of them. There was more pressing matters at hand, however. As they investigated the crypts they found Selith’s body still at rest safely, and a zombie that had clearly been incinerated by Pharasma’s wards. At least the gods were good for something.
It was no surprise after healing and restoring the innkeeper that they all were asked no so kindly to find another inn to stay in. It was no matter to Beni. He had not made many enemies in Magnimar yet. There were plenty of inns to rest his head. All he cared about was finding a new alchemy kit and paying his respects to Selith who was clearly the focus of whoever that quasit was. Beni had lots of questions for his friends when the time was right.

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Beni Benraziel's Background

At dinner that evening Beni opened up to his new friends about his past, “This will be some boring old news for my little friend Jir, but I feel it is in the interest of comradery that you all ought to know a bit about where I come from.” He started in his usual matter-of-fact manner. “I was born and spent the first 100 years of my life in the southern mountains of Kyonin. My parents aren’t necessarily nobles of our race, but they are far from simple people. My mother hoped I would follow in her footsteps as a wizard, and my father had always expected I would become a great inventor like him. I suppose they both got a bit of their wish and yet they both have great disappointments in me. I spent my younger years diligently studying the lessons they both set before me, but the moment I was free from my lessons I ran out the door to relish in the wind and fellowship with the animals and plants all around where we lived.”
He was briefly interrupted by a mew from his side-satchel as Crookshanks poked his head out and insisted on being petted. It was obvious at that point to anyone paying even the most casual attention that Beni truly saw his little feline friend as more than a companion but a true equal. They both adored each other in a way that maybe only a witch can understand.
Beni then continued, “Pardon my distraction. Sometimes my little friend reminds me life is not always about the business and facts of the world. Where was I? Oh right, it was on my one hundredth name day that I decided to leave my parents and home to get a sense of the world outside of Kyonin. I really can’t tell you what drove me to decide that aside from an incredibly warm wind blowing out of the east. It seemed fortuitous that both the suddenly warm wind and my name day corresponded, so off I went like a leaf on the wind toward the west. I managed to fund myself quite well as I traveled from town to town with the alchemy skills my father had taught me. I have found that EVERYONE is in need of potions at some point, but the big change and surprise to me happened the day I met this little furball.”
After scratching under Crookshanks’ jaw Beni continued, “I was out gathering some herbs to brew up a batch of cure potions for a local cleric in Caliphas when I saw a rabbit dart out from the bushes near where I was foraging. I thought it was my lucky day to have rabbit stew and drew and arrow and my bow, but I didn’t hardly have the arrow knocked when this mangy looking fellow came bounding out of the bushes in pursuit of what had just become both our hopes of dinner. I instantly started to laugh at the turn of events and startled poor Crookshanks nearly to the lowest pits of hell. He leapt nearly 5 feet in the air, spun around to face me, and hissed the most threatening sounds at me. This of course made me laugh even harder as I lowered my bow and let the rabbit run its lucky day off into the brush. So there I was having this stare-off with the most ferocious feline and both of us were now one less dinner plan, but there was something deeper in the eyes of Mister Crookshanks. It was as if he looked right through my eyes into the deepest parts of me. So I held out my hand and tried to coax the growling little ball of scruff to come and say a proper hello. Needless to say he and I became fast friends. I gave him protection and companionship and he in return taught me how magick is far greater a force than just spells written down in old dusty tomes. Our adventures continued west from Caliphas as I learned more and more about tapping into the arcane world around me with my newfound friend. It was as if I had finally found my own path instead of taking the road my parents insisted was the one true way. Crookshanks has taught me so much about being more caring for the world around me. I’ve learned to only take what I need, leave the world in better shape than I found it, and always be grateful for the next meal or a warm place to lay my head.”
Beni trailed off into memories of his time with Crookshanks with a gaze in his eye that looked as if he was peering into a distant time and place completely inaccessible within the confines of normal vision.

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From the Desk of Justice Ironbriar II

An old and beautifully filigreed tome with numerous hand-drawn illustrations.

The book presents tales of Tane—the most feared of a group of notorious fey known as the Twisted, goliaths of war and madness dreamt and stitched into being by the Eldest.

The Tane are said to be terrible to behold, and the stories speak of them stumbling into mortal lands, where they ravage kingdoms by creating firestorms, crushing keeps with their feet, and eating dragons.

Specific Tane described include monstrous creatures like the Jabberwock (a thing of scales and fire and crushing fury), the Thrasfyr (also known as the Dreaming Hill of the Dark, a chimeric monster wrapped in chains that the book claims took part in the Three-Thousand-Year War of the Eldest), and the Sard (the Storm of Insanities, a thing of boughs and briars and misery, an ancient Wychwood Elm given life and hate by the Eldest.

This fine tome is appraised at 500 gp.

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From the Desk of Justice Ironbriar I

Wizards Spell Book: Emblazoned with two entwined snake (one red, one green). Contains:

Blink, cat’s grace, chill touch, enlarge person, fox’s cunning, grease, haste, lightning bolt, mage armor, magic missile, scorching ray, shocking grasp, shrink item, spider climb, web.

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The Deed to Foxglove Manor
Clues

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Chasing the Skinsaw
Clues

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Theo's interlude

It was the mostly the humor of it.

The spell worked wonders; allowing such a weight of that massive and obscene helmet to trot down the trail as though it had grown legs of its own. As the great old helmet trotted into Sandpoint, through the streets, and up to Old Light, Theo laughed to himself with the humor of it all. This would undoubtedly be the most useless prize for clearing Thistletop. Still, he felt happy to laugh. After bequeathing the massive helmet to Brodert Quink, he enjoyed a respite with his remaining friends. He found most of his time spent distracting himself with hard rewarded labors, acting with the Sandpoint Theater under the tutelage of Cyrdak, and avoiding his grief and guilt for Andri’s death. Theo dreamt of a worthwhile distraction. He wished for something to prevent his thoughts from grieving for Andri. He still held tightly a hope that he could restore Andri some day. Truly, for the short time it seemed as though the goblin attacks had waned, the sinister plots of Nualia had been successfully thwarted, and even the power play by the Scarnettis seemed a distant concern.

That morning, as the group sat around their favorite table to have one of Bethna’s many great breakfasts, Sheriff Hemlock alerted the group to a concern regarding a pair of horrible murders in the mill. Horrible indeed. The murders brought forth a new occurrence of the sihedron rune that had been so prominent in Thistletop, and the temple under the glassworks. Troubling still, was how it manifested: this time carved into a miller’s chest. Apparently the only motive had been the man’s greed; known for cooking the books at the mill for his personal gain. Perhaps the Scarnettis aren’t so innocent in their campaign for dominance over Sandpoint.

Meanwhile, distractions were granted, though perhaps not exactly as Theo had wanted. Calistria was a fickle mistress as such, though Theo couldn’t complain. On the lighter side, a scholarly whelp – Adam – made his appearance one morning seeking wondrous items for which he might gain in trade. Theo was amused, but held disinterest as the lad over spoke and carried on far too long for Theo’s liking. Indeed, his snarkier thoughts wandered to shutting him up with a good sausage down his throat, or just putting the brat in a sleeper hold. To Theo’s surprise, Adam seemed to catch on to the torn thoughts. By the end of the night, Theo truly didn’t know if Adam had any interest, if Theo himself had any interest, of if the pair simply wanted to express just how annoying the other truly was.

Troubling further was the report of a second murder site. In actuality, this had occurred prior to the lumber mill, but the mill’s horror was first examined. With the party fully deputized, the crew sought out the abandoned barn in the woods outside the mill. More dead. More stench of unhandled death. More sihedron runes carved into chests. Three chests, all thieves; known swindlers. The only true connection being their greed and their death.

The murders felt reminiscent of Chopper, though only in frequency and suddenness of outbreak. No, this was not some ghost of Chopper come to seek revenge on the greedy. These murders were specific, and the group – Selith – was meant to be drawn into them. Such a disturbing note to read; a lordship beckoning the lad like some bitch in heat. How mad must one be? What lords has he inspired in his travels to draw such attention of serial killers?

Theo felt it would be easiest to determine where intentions lied if he left the posturing aside for a bit and let Adam see some honest barbarian intelligence from him. While the group traveled on horses to the asylum for yet another lead, Theo took the time to explain – through many interruptions and wild assumptions he had to correct – much of what he had learned about Sandpoint and the various intertwined relationships over the past six months in a matter of six hours. Upon immediately hearing, “You’ve been investigating this for six whole months?!” Theo realized just how poorly Adam could listen without assuming and growled at the lad. Thrice Theo would repeat that he lived in Sandpoint far longer than the events since the Swallowtail on the 1st of Rova, but he eventually gave up expecting Adam would listen to anything Theo had to say.

Rumors had turned into anecdotes. Ghouls had been appearing frequently from the southern farmlands and a sighting had occurred as north as inside Sandpoint itself. Troubled by these events, the party plus Adam ventured south to investigate. Ghouls indeed had made their impact on the farmlands. Where once cheerful farmers greeted travelers passing through were absent from their abandoned homesteads and chilling sights. Harvest should be soon, and yet none of these farms showed signs of activity.

The party stopped to investigate one farmhouse, finding it abandoned and a bit bloody from a scuffle. With some time to kill that morning, and with concern growing that this ghoul issue could be far worse than presumed, the group continued south to the Hambley farm. There a troubling sight was discovered: Ghouls inside scarecrows. With a plan to push forward to the house and stop the ghouls at any cost, the group set out to march on the farm. Adam, surprised by a ghoul attacking the back of the party, set ablaze the massive cornfield in reaction. Theo knew there would be consequences for that, but ignored it for the moment.

During the march on the Hambley farm, two scarecrows were discovered to not be ghouls or straw, but instead still alive humans afflicted with ghoul fever. Once again, the Ant Haul spell boosted Theo’s status as party pack mule, this time carrying both Gruffmins with ease as they escaped the spreading fire. At the house, the Gruffmins were secured inside safely while the group chose to clear out the ghouls in the farm.

As expected, the best laid plans went to shit. As Alistair moved to wade through a mob at one entrance, others attempted to sneak out the back. Adam, being quick on his toes to react brazenly, felt it his responsibility to stop them before Theo could intervene. Theo let a quick smile escape as he watched Adam become paralyzed from the bites. In a mighty swing, he bisected the threatening ghoul and spared Adam more pain in his helpless state. Selith provided much needed assistance to Alistair, as even the celestial-touched pretty-boy fell victim to the paralytic affects of the ghouls. Gale saw an opportunity, and further cleared the remaining ghouls from around Adam, trusting and understanding Theo could endure the one blast that went awry as Theo attempted to shield Adam from it. Still, Theo reassured all was well with a thumbs-up to remind her to not fret.

As the few final ghouls fell, the fire began to lick the edges of the cornfield and impose a smoky heat of urgency. Inside the farmhouse, Hambley’s body was found, with once again a sihedron carved into his chest and a creepy love letter to Selith. No longer were these notes even remotely amusing; not even remotely appropriate. Yet, in their words, a betrayal of identity was posed: could this whole morbid show be one of affection from his old sugar daddy from mere weeks ago? Theo shuddered at the troubling thought.

The fire was now roaring closer and closer. With time running out, two disabled farmers and a heavy chest of silver to remove, Theo made the call to make his run for it. In a matter of minutes, his enlarged size, full sprint bounded through the fire and smoke. The Gruffmins barely held on, and ultimately the rest of the party found their own paths to freedom to rejoin and recover. Spent, troubled, and quite possibly afflicted, everyone agreed it was time to head back to Sandpoint for medical attention.

Once again, an abysmal stop at the asylum yielded nothing but a sham doctor and more messages for Selith. Theo was certain these messages were coming from Foxglove, and decided he was going to seek out and confront the creep in the morning. The rest of the group was in agreement.

Back in Sandpoint, Theo was disappointed to hear that Father Zantus was incapable of curing the two afflicted farmers, and was outright worried to hear confirmation that Selith, Alistair and Adam had all contracted Ghoul fever during their march upon the farm. Desperate for answers, Theo spoke to Madam Mvashti. After scolding Theo for contributing to the fire, agreed to help the two farmers in exchange for a formal apology from the group to the forest fey for causing the mess. Theo agreed readily, and organized the group to spend the afternoon finding trinkets and other items the fey may appreciate in offering. He knew at least if he failed as an adventurer he could work as a waiter.

Theo was quite worried the next morning. The approach to the forest was quiet enough, though the whole countryside felt tarnished with death from the ghoul presence. More troubling was the approach to Foxglove manor, which appeared to take on a darker tone of death as they arrived. The house felt metastasized and evil. Alistair felt an overwhelming presence of undeath, and the red-eyed crow lingering outside left Theo ill at ease. Certainly, Foxglove manor must represent Aldern Foxglove the man: sinister and evil in secret. He must pay for his actions against Sandpoint.

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Little Notes
Hand out for the PC's

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Who WAS Aldren?

I’ve been very baffled by recent events. There is a murderer on the loose around Sandpoint, and he apparently is infatuated with me.

Me big concern is that I already know who it is. Aldren hasn’t sent any letters since departing for Magnimar. Could he really be the murderer? The one turning farmers to ghouls? I hope not. Mr. Scarnetti also seems suspicious to me. Too much of the bad things lately have been turning out to be in his benefit.

I just hope Aldren turns out to be alright.

-Selith

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