Toilday morning, the 1st of Abadius, New Year’s Day, 4708 AR
Drawing the Empty Throne card from his grandfather’s Harrow deck, Aubrey wove glamour so as to interrogate the spirit of the deceased scribe, receiving answers to the following questions:• What is your given name?
• How did you come to be alive again?
“Lamshtu’s grace. I was more than alive. I was her divine guardian.”
• What was her purpose for you being down in this temple?
“I was bound to her before this life. I became her incarnation; something to replace Nualia in her machinations. I have devoted my days to recording her wisdom on the walls of her temple. Knowing that soon she will call for me to do her bidding amongst the souls above.”
• What is her interest in Runeforge?
“Heh. It is MY interest. It was to be MY escape from the Runelords wraith. I commanded one of Alaznist’s Hellfire Flumes along the border between her empire and that of Karzoug. I created sinspawn for her army and maintained a defensive line. Yet Karzoug bought my allegiance. And then I became devoted to Lamashtu. I knew eventually it would all end. Alaznist would eventually discover my duplicity; or perhaps Karzoug would discover I wasn’t completely truthful or loyal to him either. Regardless, I spent many years discovering the secrets of the Runeforge. When Thassilon collapsed and the world shook and the oceans swallowed Alaznist’s empire, my plans for escape proved inadequate. I had planned for the wrath of one, perhaps two Runelords, but not the rage of an entire world. And so. I died. But when I awoke I was consumed by a need to know. So many questions. I know how to get into the Runeforge. It should still be there—and I want to SEE.”
• So, why hadn’t you gone off to find it yet?
“I… needed more information first.” (Kivu suspected this to be a lie.)
• Did you expect us to come down here and read your scribblings?
• What happened to the four men who ventured down here before us?
“They disappeared. The priest among them teleported them away; but I don’t think it worked the way he thought it would.”
• What would you have expected to find in Runeforge?
“Peacock feathers and all they represent.”
That done, Aubrey turned his attention to the missing Erastilian priest and Magnimarian knights while his companions busied themselves with destroying the numerous unholy idols in the subterranean temple. To that end, the gnome walked over to the town’s cathedral to fetch some of Father Liam’s personal effects from the priests’ chamber. With a few stray hairs in hand, Aubrey returned to the soon-to-be-demolished temple. He briefly examined a gem which Elshbeth had found hidden inside the sundered altar and declared it to a mystical gem of seeing. Retrieving a scroll he’d recovered from the Black Monk at Jorgenfist, the gnome wove a complex glamour over the ensuing hour.
In the end, the scroll caught fire; its smoke coalescing into an image of four men huddled around a campfire atop a frozen plateau dotted with seven stone statues. Near their encampment lay a steaming lake and a towering mountain encrusted with ice. Musing over the scene, Aubrey conjectured that it was likely to be the “eastern shores of steaming mirror” about which Xaliasa had been scribbling; it being the eastern shore of lake Stormunder at the base of Rimeskull mountain in northern Varisia. Leaving the scene to play itself out as the rest of the Sihedron watched, Aubrey drew the Wanderer card from his Harrow deck and wove glamour around himself. In the blink of an eye, the gnome vanished; appearing instantly next to the icy hill pictured in the mystical haze.
Rimeskull mountain foothills
Aubrey joined the huddled men and, after offering them some food and hot tea, inquired about their exploration of the ancient temple beneath Sandpoint and their timely escape thanks to a magic staff which Father Liam carried. The gnome related the Sihedron’s own encounter with the scribe and demon in turn. Aubrey then broached the subject of Sheriff Hemlock and Mayor Deverin’s suspicious behaviour. Father Liam eventually admitted his belief that he and many of the town’s leaders might have been magically charmed in some fashion. The priest couldn’t explain his own behaviour in any other way. Their chat at an end, Aubrey offered to whisk the men back to Sandpoint. Tired of the desolate cold, they readily accepted.
Aubrey, Father Liam and the trio of Magnimarian knights appeared in the cathedral’s courtyard a moment later. Before parting ways, the gnome offered the priest a silver bell token which Father Liam promised to use to contact Aubrey when the next emergency befell the town.
Once together again, the Sihedron briefly discussed how to proceed with the mayor and sheriff. They chose to start with Mayor Deverin; finding her hard at work in her office. She seemed largely oblivious or disturbingly unconcerned when questioned about the sinkhole, the howling sounds issuing from it at night or the men who’d gone missing after venturing down into its depths. Indeed, all signs appeared to point to Sheriff Hemlock as the person purposefully manipulating the town’s other leaders. Tipped off about the likeliness of his being out on patrol along northern road outside of town, the Sihedron headed out in pursuit.
Finding the lone Shoanti inspecting some piled crates just off of the main road, the group approached the man openly. Using Elshbeth’s mystical gem, Aubrey confirmed his guess that the sheriff was in fact another lamia matriarch in disguise. The lamia feigned ignorance when confronted with the truth and insisted on continuing her charade even after being offered the chance to surrender or, failing that, a threat of imminent violence. Forced to take action, the Sihedron quickly subdued the lamia; taking her unconscious serpentine body back to town thanks to a horse and cart which the group discovered hidden nearby.
Under interrogation the revived lamia, who’s name was Icne, confessed to having been charged by her patron to watch over the town and sow mayhem whenever possible. She claimed to have first infiltrated Sandpoint shortly before the Swallowtail Festival some months earlier. Although there’d once been a real Sheriff Hemlock, the lamia had indirectly orchestrated his disappearance through foul play. She further admitted to having facilitated the Scarnetti family’s local smuggling of contraband; though the lamia claimed they remained unaware of her true identity. The latter news enraged Mayor Deverin, who insisted she would immediately seek to arrest the clan of notorious nobles. The Sihedron offered to assist her in doing so. But first, Aubrey magically transported the lamia along with Ton and Elshbeth to the Hells Prison in Magnimar so that the tricksy monster could be safely confined.