Toiday, 11 Lamashan 4707, late night
The adventurers tied up the ruffians they’d captured, retrieved the chest of contraband, and marched them back to the Sandpoint Garrison. Zandu knew all of them— all were connected to the local Sczarni criminal families. On the way, they interrogated their prisoners, who refused to talk at first, but were persuaded by some thinly-veiled threats. They said that they’d been sent by “a friend” to “pick up some merchandise that fell off a wagon.” When pressed, they said their friend was Reggie “Fingers” Brendo— who Zandu also knew as one of the local Sczarni lesser leaders. When asked about a dead dwarf or what had become of Andrezzi Jhorasso, they seemed to have no idea, even under threat.
Wealday, 12 Lamashan 4707, late morning
The adventurers slept in late the next morning. Over an early lunch, Larissa informed the rest of the group that they weren’t on the town guard’s payroll, and that she thought that the town guard would be more than capable of handling this from here. She said she would be returning to her room to continue her magical studies.
Charrone, Declan, Ted, McGregor, and Halfred returned to the Sheriff’s office to discuss next steps. Hemlock thought that looking up “Fingers” Brendo would be a good next step. Ted suggested that they should go straight to the top: to speak with the head of the local Szcarni family, and let him know in no uncertain terms that the tunnels are closed and that we know his people killed the dwarf. Hemlock said that might be a bit rash, and assigned his senior guardsman, Othart Zemka, to give the party a bit more legitimacy (and to steer them away from overly rash action).
Asking around, the party learned that “Fingers” Brendo often could be found at the Feedbag Tavern, so they headed over there to look for him. On the way, Ted asked Othart who the leader of the local Sczarni was, and he replied “Jubrayl Vishki. He’s also at the Feedbag more often than not. Vishki is too clever to ever get caught— all the trails usually end with his underlings.”
At the Feedbag, the bartender frowned when he saw five adventurers and the highest-ranking member of the town guard walk into his bar. Ted began by asking whether Vishki was in, and if they could see him, which the bartender refused. After several go-rounds about that, the barkeep asked them all to leave, but they refused. At that, most of the patrons in the bar stood up and tried to look menacing. Halfred refused to be menaced, and threw the first punch, and a full-scale barroom brawl broke out. Even the young barmaid got into the act, by hitting McGregor over the head with a tray of ale mugs. Ted was surprisingly effective as a brawler, and Halfred and Charrone managed to punch out several people before the bartender relented and told how to get to Vishki’s office. “Won’t do you any good, though. I haven’t seen him in three days. I bet he went to Magnimar, but he doesn’t tell me when he comes and goes.”
They found Vishki’s office, and found it to be locked from the inside. McGregor used a knock spell to unlock the door, and they were in. The office was well-apportioned, if not tidy. Papers were strewn across a large wooden desk, but Charrone noticed the scent of death in the air. She approached the desk, and was assaulted by a gruesome sight.
The corpse of a man was slumped against the wall, his hand driven into the walls with spikes. The man’s lower jaw, and most of the flesh from his face was removed. His shirt was torn open, and into the flesh of his chest was a familiar symbol: the Sihedron Rune!
Disturbingly, McGregor noted that the door had been locked and barred from the inside, as were the windows, and that the room had no other doors. Halfred noticed a folded piece of parchment that was pinned to Vishki’s leg: It read:
Marilictor Charrone Genteur, Order of the Nail (ret.)
To prove my undying devotion, I give you this callous lawbreaker. I know that you will love me eternally in return.
Charrone was perplexed and disturbed by the note, and confirmed that the title was accurate: she had been a Hellknight once, of the Order of the Nail, and that her rank had been Marilictor, but she had resigned and took vows as a paladin shortly thereafter. She said that she knew plenty of nobles in Cheliax, but they wouldn’t use “Your Lordship” to refer to themselves in a letter.
Othart said that he was reasonably sure that the corpse was Vishki, and ran to get the Sheriff. The rest of the party began searching the office. Among the papers on Vishki’s desk, they found a ledger that included listings for “Riddleport Tobacco” and “Daggermark wine,” which the party quickly deduced were referenced to the drug flayleaf and weapon poison, respectively. A different note, dated two days earlier, mentioned that a shipment of Riddleport Tobacco needed to be stopped due to “rats in the sewers,” but he had no way to get a message to a ship at sea. Yet another note, this one dated two weeks ago, refers to the “old cellar” that was “on the bricked-up sewer line” had been cleaned out by “the new exterminators” and could probably be used to store “product.” The note also indicate that his boys would be storing some merchandise there.
By this time, Hemlock, Othart, and Zandu had all arrived. Hemlock and Othart took charge of the scene, and Charrone reported on what the party had found in Vishki’s records, and handed over the note. Hemlock looked at Charrone a bit incredulously, and said, “I didn’t know you were a Hellknight.”
“Was once, but not anymore,” she replied. “I don’t like to talk about it. I don’t know who wrote the note, but it’s obviously someone who’s either known me for a long time or has investigated my past.”
Halfred said that now might be a good time to look for the rest of the contraband in the Catacombs, and Hemlock agreed. Charrone, Ted, McGregor, Halfred, Declan, and Zandu walked over to the Glassworks to enter the tunnels, and Sandi, the guard on duty, let them in.
Following the passageway to the Catacombs, Halfred noticed that there were signs that people had gone this way recently. When they got to the natural chamber before the Catacombs proper, Ted said, “I would guess that the notes from Vishki’s office referred to the actual Thassilonian ruins, not the natural caves. Let’s go straight there.” Halfred said that it would be safer to check the cavern first, so as not to leave possible enemies behind, and went into the cave.
In the back chamber of the cavern, Halfred was shocked to see another body mutilated the same way that Vishki’s had been: slumped against the wall, his hands spiked to the stone wall, jaw and flesh of face removed, and a Sihedron rune carved into the corpse’s chest. Halfred called the rest of the group over. Ted said he’d stay in the corridor as a lookout.
McGregor noticed that the corpse seemed to be wearing clothes very similar to the explorer’s outfit that Ted tended to wear while adventuring, even down to the spell component pouch still belted to the corpse’s side. In fact, the more they examine the corpse, the more they became convinced that it was the body of their friend. Declan found another note pinned to the body:
Charrone Genteur, Hero of Goblin Day
I saw how he looked at you and I shall brook no rival. You shall be my eternal companion when you surrender to the Pack.
Like the note pinned to Vishki, it was written in blood. Declan whispered, “If this is Ted, who’s guarding the passageway? A doppleganger?” Everyone drew their weapons and returned to the cave entrance.
“Nobody coming,” said ‘Ted,’ “did you find the drugs?”
“No, but we did find something interesting. Something that looked for all the world like your corpse.”
“Huh. I wonder why someone would go to all the effort to fake my death? Obviously, it’s some kind of ruse. Anyway, we need to look for Vishki’s contraband before someone else finds it and sells it to children. I’ll scout ahead.” Ted walked very quickly up the passage and turned down the side-tunnel that led to the Catacombs. Charrone followed him, her sword drawn.
While determining whether or not to also follow, the rest of the group heard Charrone cry out in alarm, then shout, “I’m under attack! Ghouls! Some help, please?” The rest of the party turned the corner, and indeed saw that Charrone was fighting a number of ghouls in the passage. In the fringes of their torchlight, they could see Ted farther down the passage, past the ghouls, casting a spell. The spell targeted Charrone, and she felt a brief surge of panic, but quickly suppressed it. “You’ve got to try harder than that, Ted, or whatever your name really is!” She raised her holy symbol, and shouted “By Iomedae the Inheritor, behold the light of justice!” Brilliant rays of light emanated from the symbol, visibly burning the ghouls. Declan raised his symbol and invoked Sarenrae to a similar effect. All of the ghouls shrieked in pain, and two fell. Halfred skewered one with his ranseur, and it also fell. The remaining ghoul tore into Charrone, managing to get past her armor. The paladin briefly felt numb, but recovered immediately.
Zandu sprang forward with a kukri in each hand, and finished off the last ghoul. ‘Ted’ held up a hand glowing with magical energy, and stretched out his arm ten feet to strike Zandu. The energy discharged, and Zandu suddenly felt extremely tired, as if he’d been running at top speed while carrying a heavy load. Charrone invoked Iomedae again, and her sword glowed with holy energy. “In the name of the Inheritor I smite thee!” and she swung at the creature in Ted’s form, striking a mighty blow.
The creature then transformed almost immediately: Ted’s features melted away, and the creature’s head became bald and featureless, save for a disturbing pattern of whorls and ridges on its skin where a face should be. Three pointed tongues protruded from slits in the center of its faceless head. It tried to cast another spell.
But Halfred was ready! As soon as the creature attempted to cast the spell, Halfred thrust his ranseur at the creature. Unfortunately for it, the creature misjudged Halfred’s aim and stepped directly into the strike. Halfred impaled the creature straight through the center of its chest, and bright green blood spurted violently onto the walls and floor. The creature collapsed to the floor, gurgling in an unnatural way.