Read Session 5
As the heroes of Sandpoint continue their ‘cleansing’ of Thistletop they come across an ancient door that has had its stone face chiseled away with only a small portion that remains. An investigation of the slate stone face of the door reveals, “the whispering beast is tamed,” is left on its surface.
Once through the stone door they come across an ancient trapped hallway that leads to a library. Inside they encounter a female wizard, Lyrie. With all the noise the party had made moving through the complex, she was prepared for a fight, but when Salamander entered, he quickly lowered his weapon and began to converse with her. She agreed to give information about who she was and why she was here with this band of goblins and vile Nualia in exchange for a peaceful release.
She told them that Nualia hired Lyrie primarily for her knowledge of arcana and architecture, her ability to read Thassilonian, and her arcane magic. Lyrie was in a desperate place when Nualia encountered her in Magnimar—she had recently been informed that she was no longer under consideration to join the Pathfinders as an initiate. She suspects bitterly that they kept copies of her notes and applicant thesis, and that their rejection of her application had more to do with the fact that they suspect she murdered two of the competing initiates. That this is true doesn’t matter to Lyrie. When Nualia offered to pay her in platinum to study Thassilonian relics, she gratefully accepted.
Her only true friend is her cat familiar, Skivver, even though he has a bad habit of scratching and marking his territory.
She also tells them that the primary evil is Nualia and that her recent success with a ritual to offer her foster father’s corporeal remains to Lamashtu saw her rewarded with a promise of things to come—her left hand has been transformed into a red demonic talon.
She says that she believes that in Nualia’s madness, Nualia has come to view her silver hair, violet eyes, and shapely figure as a curse, a scar visited upon her by her angelic heritage. She wants to shed this part of her, to become fully monstrous to better serve her new mistress. She wears the mark of her devotion to Lamashtu proudly, keeping her midriff bare to expose the ugly scars and wounds across her belly.
She says that this is the Mark of Lamashtu, denoting the carrier not only as one devoted to the Mother of Monsters, but one capable of birthing monsters from her own body. The transformation of her hand into a talon is not the only reward Lamashtu has sent Nualia. Her third yeth hound is a constant companion, loyal and eager to please her.
With these bits of info Lyrie says she will leave, but the party lets slip that they have encountered others from Nualia’s employment, namely Tsuto (Lyries secret love) she turns on them asking if they’ve injured or hurt him. They tell her they have and he is now incarcerated and being transported to Magnimar. With that Lyrie turns invisible and runs off.
From there the heroes find a strange room, a goblin nursery. Horrifyingly, this is the Thistletop nursery. Most goblin tribes have equally reprehensible methods of raising children—very few tribes actually coddle and protect their young, since the theory is that such activity only results in adult goblins who can’t defend themselves. Goblin wisdom instead supports methods like these cages, where fast-growing goblin babies and children are
raised like animals on daily regimens of raw meat and abuse so they grow up properly mean and strong. There are only three babies left here alive, two fast dying from starvation and one that has been eating off the other two. Salamander eagerly lept in and rescued the goblin toddler. He removed its cage and slide some dried meat from his pack into its cage. Patronicus then entered and put an end to the dying goblin younglings.
Salamander proclaimed he would name the goblin child, Poog.
The group then turns a few corners to find the main chapel and none other than Nualia herself. She is surrounded by her favored hirelings, Bruthazmus the bugbear and Orik the human mercenary.
The bugbear reacts to intruders with roars and curses, and he flies into combat with his heavy flail with a murderous glee. Nualia then releases her Yeth Hounds upon the heroes and motions for Orik to stay near to her.
The battle is heated, but in the end Nualia falls as well as the hounds and the bugbear. Upon seeing his employer fall, Orik throws his sword down, “I’ll not give my life if not getting paid for it…”
He tells the heroes his name is Orik Vancaskerkin, a down-on-his-luck mercenary from the lawless city of Riddleport. After a scam involving a tiefling prostitute, a shifty alchemist, and an elixir of love, Orik was forced to flee town. He’s pretty sure that Clegg Zincher, the now-dead alchemist’s powerful brother, still carries a grudge for what Orik did to the alchemist when he discovered, to his horror, that the elixir of love was actually just cheap ale laced with lavender. While Orik bears no regrets for murdering the alchemist, he does regret the fact that Clegg Zincher effectively made it impossible for him to continue living in Riddleport. He misses his hometown greatly, despite the fact that little good ever came of living there, and has several half-formed plans to return there some day to face Clegg and perhaps seize control of Zincher’s power for himself.
But doing something like that requires allies and money, and when a strange but beautiful woman approached him in the seedy Magnimar bar he’d taken up in, he accepted her offer to serve as her bodyguard without question. Since then, and since helping plan the assault on Sandpoint, Orik has come to think that his allegiance to Nualia may be just the latest in a long string of bad choices. Still, she pays regularly in platinum, and to date he hasn’t really had to do much actual bodyguarding, since she’s remained here at Thistletop for some time. He knows she’s after something in the secret chamber behind the pool, but doesn’t know (or care) what it is. Orik has also developed something of an infatuation with another of Nualia’s minions, the foul-tempered (charmingly so, to Orik) Lyrie Akenja. Unfortunately, Lyrie seems more obsessed with Tsuto than anything else. Orik has considered murdering Tsuto to remove him from the picture, but since the half-elf is currently Nualia’s lover, he’s avoided such drastic moves to this point. Things have become so unbearably complicated for Orik that he’s considering giving up on the whole thing and heading east to Korvosa to try his luck there.
With this Fa’ruk stats that he will allow Orik to leave if he is defeated in single combat. Orik smiles and asks, “To the death?” At which Fa’ruk replies’ “Yes, to the death.”
The group is amazed by Fa’ruk’s proclamation, but do as he asked and they back up and allow him to single combat versus Orik.
The fight is a standoff at first, but soon first blood is drawn and after a few near hits Fa’ruk is struck down by Orik and Orik’s blade finds Fa’ruks heart and he puts an end to his life. Orik then turns to the party and bows his ado and leaves.
The rest of the party is shaken by Fa’ruks bold move, but honor his wish and allow Orik to leave. They then turn to the pool and find a secret door.
In the pool, the remains of what must have once been an incredible treasury lie in the sloshing waters is a painting of a city. Veoric identifies the city depicted as legendary Xin-Shalast, a lost city rumored to be hidden somewhere in the Kodar Mountains. Tales speak of the city as having streets of gold and buildings carved from immense gems, but although countless explorers have sought it (and many have died or vanished), none have ever managed to locate this fabled city. Most scholars agree that it never existed at all, that it was a fictitious location invented by the ancients.
The doors to this room are made of stone but bear no handles. An indented outline of a seven-pointed star, its shape covered by hollows and slits, graces the spot where handles should be. They find a hollowed out space for the star shaped key they found and open the door to find a barren room contains an upraised dais on which sits a marble throne. To either side stand statues of a man clutching a book and a glaive. A ghostly figure seems to be seated in the throne, an image of the same man who appears in the statues. He seems to be addressing an audience as he moves his hands about, his fingers decorated with hooked rings, but the words issuing from his phantom mouth are difficult to make out and in a strange language.
This room once allowed the agents stationed here to communicate with a projected image of Karzoug. When the statue collapsed, the magic here was damaged, and now a short loop of Karzoug’s last message plays endlessly; over the ages, the illusion has slowly faded, so that all that remains is this ghostly echo.
His spoken words are in Thassilonian, and repeat the following short message over and over: “…is upon us, but I command you remain. Witness my power, how Alaznist’s petty wrath is but a flash compared to my strength. Take my final work to your graves, and let its memory be the last thing you…”.
Beyond that is lit primarily by a 10-foot-long pit of flickering fire that fills the room with a strange humid heat and the smell of burning hair. In the northern corners of the room, wooden risers each hold several dozen golden candles that burn without melting, while to the south the wall bears an immense carving of a seven-pointed star.
The fire pit is only a few inches deep—stepping into and out of the pit doesn’t impact movement, but each time a creature passes through the pit, it takes 1d6 points of fire damage (but no more than once per round). The flames themselves are magically sustained, and can burn forever without going out.
The powerful barghest Malfeshnekor, once one of Alaznist’s lieutenants and the commander of a legion of sinspawn, has spent the last several thousand years imprisoned in this room. Karzoug’s agents captured the barghest and transported him here, using a binding spell (hedged prison) to imprison him here so that he could be interrogated at a leisurely pace. Yet when the end of Thassilon came, it happened fast. Malfeshnekor was forgotten, survived the sentinel statue’s collapse, and has now gone nearly insane with rage and hunger—despite the fact that he need not eat; his supernatural hunger has not abated. Although the binding keeps him from physically leaving this room, nothing prevents him from assaulting anyone who enters it.
The heroes have battled and are tired, but at last Patronicus lands the final blow to the barghest and it falls dead.
Afterwards the heroes find Nualia’s notes which details her story:
She was a foundling raised by Sandpoint’s previous religious leader, a man named Ezakien Tobyn, and her childhood was lonely and sad. Her unearthly beauty made the other children either jealous or shy, and many of them took to playing cruel jokes on her. The adults in town weren’t much better—many of the superstitious Varisians viewed Nualia as blessed by Desna, a sort of “reverse deformity.” Rumors that her touch or proximity could cure warts and rashes, that locks of her hair brewed into tea could increase fertility, and that her voice could drive out evil spirits led to a succession of awkward and humiliating requests over the years. Poor Nualia felt more like a freak than a young girl by the time she came of age, so when Delek Viskanta, a local Varisian youth, began to court her, she practically fell into his arms in gratitude.
Knowing her father wouldn’t approve of a relationship with a Varisian (he wanted her to remain pure so she could join a prestigious convent), they kept the affair secret. The couple met many times in hidden places, a favorite being an abandoned smuggler’s tunnel under town that Delek had discovered as a child. Before long, Nualia realized she was pregnant. When she told Delek, he revealed his true colors and, after calling her a slut and a harlot, fled Sandpoint rather than face her father’s wrath. Nualia’s shock quickly turned to rage, yet she had nowhere to vent her anger. She bottled it up, and when her father discovered her delicate condition, his reaction to her indiscretions only furthered her shame and anger. He forbade her to leave the church, lectured her nightly, and made her pray to Desna for forgiveness. In so doing, he unknowingly nurtured her growing hate.
When the minor runewell in the Catacombs of Wrath below Sandpoint flared to life, Nualia’s own anger was a magnet to its magic. The wrathful energies suffused her mind and she flew into a frenzy. Seven months pregnant, she miscarried her child later that night, a child whose monstrously deformed shape she only glimpsed before blanching midwives stole it away to burn it in secret. As the child had been conceived in the smuggler’s tunnels below town, in close proximity to a hidden shrine to Lamashtu (the goddess of monstrous births), the child itself was deformed and horrific. The double shock of losing a child and the realization she had been carrying a fiend in her belly for 7 months was too much. Nualia fell into a coma.
As Nualia slept, she dreamed unhealthy dreams. Fueled by the wrath from below and the taint of Lamashtu, Nualia became further obsessed with the cruel demon goddess and the conviction that her wretched life was inf licted on her by those around her. She came to see her angelic heritage as a curse, and the demon-sent nightmares showed her how to expunge this taint from her body and soul, replacing it with chaos and cruelty. When she finally woke, Nualia was someone new, someone who didn’t flinch at what Lamashtu asked of her. She jammed her father’s door shut as he slept, lit the church on fire, and fled Sandpoint.
The locals assumed Nualia had burned in the fire, a tragedy made all the worse by the death of Father Tobyn as well. Yet Nualia lived. She fled to Magnimar, where she enlisted the aid of a group of Norgorber-worshiping killers known as the Skinsaw Cult. With their aid, she tracked down Delek and murdered him. Yet his death did not fill her need for revenge—it only quickened her need for more of the same, for Sandpoint and its hated citizens still lived. Seeing a kindred spirit in the tortured woman, the mysterious leader of the Skinsaw Cult gave Nualia a medallion bearing a carving of a seven-pointed star called a “Sihedron medallion.” Nualia learned that she had a larger role to play, and that her dreams were a map to her destiny. Taking the advice to heart, Nualia returned to Sandpoint and found herself drawn to the brick wall in the smuggler’s tunnels where she and Delek had conceived her deformed child. Nualia bashed down the wall, and in so doing, discovered the Catacombs of Wrath and the quasit Erylium, also a follower of Lamashtu. For many months, Nualia studied under Erylium’s tutelage. During this time, Nualia received another vision from Lamashtu—a vision of a monstrous goblin wolf imprisoned in an underground room. In Nualia’s dreams, she learned that this creature, a barghest named Malfeshnekor, was also one of Lamashtu’s chosen. If she could find him and free him, he would not only help her achieve her vengeance against the town of Sandpoint, but he would be the key in cleansing her body of what she had come to see as her “celestial taint.” Nualia wanted to be one of Lamashtu’s children now. She wanted to become a monster herself.