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The Shards Of Sin: wherein the inscrutable Magus Skoth and the studious Pathfinder Master Korzhu align to seek out the Shard of Pride.

GM Resources lists the various opponents and challenges the adventurers will face in this adventure.

Session 1

(Magnimar Alabaster District, The Crow)
Magnimar City Of Monuments

Master Korzhu Is Summoned To Magnimar

The Pathfinder known as Korzhu once adventured with Sheila Heidmarch in the Mwangi Expanse, some years before she rose to prominence and her current position as Venture-Captain of Magnimar. In those days, Master Korzhu was already an experienced veteran Pathfinder with many expeditions and site studies under his belt, while Sheila was young and starry eyed and possesed of more idealism than experience.

Yet despite the discrepencies in their age and experience Master Korzhu always treated her humbly and as an equal, with is his way. Further Korzhu's academic integrity was impeccable, and his research papers were thorough, well written, and even illustrated with a suprisingly deft hand. And of course his uncanny abilities were impressive as well. Thus, Lady Sheila mentally put Korzhu on a short list of peers worthy of her trust and never forgot.

Years passed, as they are wont to do. Lady Sheila rose to prominence within the Pathfinder Society, and was eventually awarded permission to open a lodge for the society in Varisia to be based in Magnimar with her as its Venture-Captain. A grand thing, and Lady Sheila set upon her work with gusto, aided by her husband and a few other stalwart Pathfinders.

But Lady Sheila soon realized that the obligations and paperwork involved in being a Venture-Captain leave little time to pursue new research, and fieldwork is practically impossible. Thus the need for trusted agents who can be dispatched to run down clues, investigate rumors, find paths, and delve sites.

In fact, one research thread in particular needed close attention by someone trustworthy, competent, and devoid of powerhunger. For if the clues Shiela had found in a recent trove of ancient Thassilonian tomes recovered from a catacomb hidden away in the upper reaches of the Darklands turn out to be true, the pieces of the ancient Thassilonian artifact known as the Sihedron might still exist. And worse, be recombinable to restore the artifact to wholeness.

Lady Sheila immediately thought of Master Korzhu, and sent missives to Pathfinder lodges around the Inner Sea and beyond addressed to him. It took some months for one of the missives to find him, but Korzhu made his way to Magnimar via fast ship as soon as was practical. Once arrived, he immediately bent all of his considerable talents to assisting Sheila in her research into the rumored Shards of the Sihedron.

Skoth Has A Vision

The Magus Skoth, a learned man of letters, gentleman swordsman, and student of Thassilonian lore had traveled to Magnimar to study the subject of Ancient Thassilon in greater detail. Taking rooms at a boarding house, establishing his bonafides at the Great Library, and opening an account at the Cathedral of Abadar, Skoth proceeded to settle in for some serious research while his funds held out.

However a few mornings later while meditating as part of his daily observances of Nethys, Skoth was blessed with a stark vision of the Irespan's Crow tower, which zoomed within to a pair of Siccatite doors bearing the Thassilonian runes for LISTEN and THE EYES. Skoth then saw superimposed over the doors an image of the Sihedron in its original form, which then seperated into seven Shards, and finally all but the Shard of Pride faded away.

The vision ended, leaving Skoth with an overwhelming feeling of urgency.

Never before had Skoth received such a potent and lucid vision in his meditations, and the knowledge that his capricious god had seen fit to choose Skoth to undertake a quest filled his heart with exuberance.

Skoth Meets Korzhu At Heidmarch Manor

Magnimar Alabaster

Despite having received a vision of the Shard of Pride and being filled with a sense of urgency, Skoth lacked actionable information about the Tower of the Crow and the other pylons of the Irespan. Thus without delay, he set out to get some.

Sharing an interest in Thassilonian scholarship, Skoth had met Lady Heidmarch a couple of times in the past and corresponded with her on several occasions. Also, Skoth had already intended to find an excuse to drop in for a face to face meeting while in the city, and this certainly qualified as a good enough reason.

Thus, Skoth made his way across the bustling metropolis to arrive at the gates of Heidmarch Manor. Gaining admittance and requesting an audience, Skoth eventually found himself ensconed in a library off the main entryway of the manor with the Lady of the House, and an ancient Thassilonian puzzlebox sitting upon a table. Lady Sheila revealed that the box had been recently discovered by another Pathfinder and dropped off for study that very morning. She had not yet had time to look at it.

Heidmarch Manor

The Puzzlebox

Encounter details for the puzzle box

The puzzlebox proved to be a convenient means of breaking the ice, and Skoth was able to display his encyclopedic knowledge of the long-fallen empire of Thassilon and its dead language by rattling off some facts identifying the device, its likely purpose as a safe for small valuables, and translating the puzzle tiles to spell out "CRUEL". But he couldn't quite deduce the solution to the puzzle.

At this time Master Korzhu entered the library to continue his research, carrying a couple of books to return. Taking one look at the box as he approached Lady Sheila and Skoth at the table, Master Korzhu proclaimed "I sense danger associated with that device...", but was unable to elucidate what kind of danger

After introductions were made, Sheila, Skoth, and Korzhu all subjected the puzzlebox to further inspection, but did not discover any traps and were unable to identify any obvious threats posed by the box or its contents.

Finally Lady Sheila challenged Skoth and Korzhu to help her figure out how to open the box, and the two academics agreed.

For her part, Lady Sheila scribbled notes on a scratchpad of vellum using a quill upon the table. Skoth decided to make use of the fact that he was in a library well stocked with information about Ancient Thassilon, and wandered around flipping through books. Master Korzhu on the other hand merely closed his eyes and relaxed, entering a deep meditative state.

After a quarter of an hour of this, Skoth declaimed "Ah ha! I have found it!", and returned to the box-laden table with his finger pointed to something in a slim maroon leather bound book. Korzhu opened his eyes and allowed a polite smile to touch the very corners of his lips. Both Skoth and Korzhu simultaneously said..."LUCRE".

After a final once over of the box, Master Korzhu volunteered to open it. Rearranging the tiles to spell LUCRE worked, and the box lid clicked open.

Out sprang two impish pugwampis!

One launched itself at Lady Sheila who was sitting next to the table, leering and poised to strike with a cruelly curved dagger, but was struck down instantly by the fast-moving Master Korzhu's barehanded chop.

Skoth scarcely had time to notice a shimmering green edge around Korzhu's hand before freeing his sword to stab at the second pugwampi, which had pounced upon a bookcase to rend at several valuable volumes.

Offended by Skoth's poke, the second pugwampi leapt from the bookcase to land upon the Magi's chest, vicious dagger poised to stab his face. Leaping upon the table in an impressive acrobatic display (particularly considering the voluminous dress she wore), Lady Sheila swept out a dagger from somewhere and skewered the wee imp assaulting Skoth with a diving lunge out of line with her normal decorum.

To Business Then

Eyeing the damaged books sadly, the Lady of the House clambered down from the table and straightened her dress, dagger somehow being tucked away again in the process. Reclaiming her seat, she said "My apologies, gentlemen. Yet, a little excitement every now and then to keep us on our toes isn't altogether unwelcome. But, I suppose we sould cease with frivolities and get to business. What brings you here today, Skoth?"

Having sheathed his blade, Skoth drew out one of the other chairs and folded his long body into it gracefully, taking his scabbard into his left hand to keep it from becoming fouled. Master Korzhu took a seat as well, though he seemed equally poised whether seated or standing.

"Milady, I have come to seek the assistance of your Society on a matter of grave importance to myself and my patron, Nethys. Do you know of the legend of the Sihedron?"

Nonplussed, the normally unflappable Venture-Captain blinked and could not help her eyes from glancing sidelong at Master Korzhu for a moment. The enigmatic half-elf revealed only his usual equanimity however. Regaining control over her reactions, Lady Sheila responded, "As it happens, yes I am familiar, and have recently had cause to research the subject further. What, may I ask, is your interest in the matter?"

Skoth allowed a placating smile to cross his face. "It is not my interest per se, Madame. Rather, my god has seen fit to give me a vision of what I believe to be a part of the Sihedron. As the legend goes, it was shattered into seven Shards, and I believe that one of them is hidden near Magnimar. I intend to recover it, but I lack knowledge of the city and its environs, as well as companions to aid me."

"And you came to us seeking both? Knowledge and allies?", asked Lady Sheila, eyebrow quirked.

"Quite so. I have worked with members of your Society before and found the arrangement agreeable. I offer you an opportunity to gain new information about ancient Thassilon for your organization, and any items of interest uncovered along the way...other than the Shard itself. That I intend to dispense with as Nethys decrees to me.",

"Yes, your reputation was known to me before we first met; that is why I have chosen to correspond with you prior to this. The Society must have allies to balance out its enemies after all. But would you not instead consider joining us, and making our goals your own? Our bylaws are not overly restrictive and presumably would not interfere with your vows.", Lady Sheila persuaded.

"Regretfully, I must decline. I serve but one master, and that is Nethys. No conflict of interest, real or potential, will come between me and my service to my patron. However, I thank you for the consideration."

Lady Sheila shrugged ever so slightly, as if she had not expected him to agree but was obligated to ask nonetheless.

"Very well. In the interests of disclosure...", and here she gestured slightly in the direction of the impassive Pathfinder who sat quietly and disengaged as if in meditation, "...Master Korzhu and I also believe that at least one of the Shards is here in Magnimar. In fact, I have been conducting research on this very subject for months and Master Korzhu recently joined me in the endeavor. Did your vision perchance grant some clue as to where to look for the Shard it revealed unto you?"

"Indeed it did. Very precisely, in fact. Do we have an alliance then? I will lead us to the location, you will aid me in the endeavor to gain access to new lore and any sundries we uncover other than the Shard?"

Lady Sheila looked to her companion. "Master Korzhu, I would ask you to represent the Society's interests in this matter. Does the arrangement seem agreeable to you?"

Without hesitation or urgency, the Master merely nodded once.

"Very well then Magus Skoth, you have your deal. Master Korzhu will go with you and it will be as you have said. The Shard will be yours, all findings and discoveries are ours. We would ask that you allow us to study the Shard at least briefly, should you find it. Information about it would be of great interest to us."

"As you like, should we find it the Society may document the find and describe the item, but I will not allow you to experiment with it or otherwise offend the interests of Nethys. And as to Master Korzhu alone accompanying me, though I am sure he is competent, I had hoped for more numbers.", Skoth nodded apologetically to Korzhu, but the stoic Pathfinder showed no sign of being offended or of anything else.

"Rest assured worthy Magus, Master Korzhu should be sufficient to your need. If further assistance proves necessary, we can renegotiate terms."

Lady Sheila nodded and placed both hands palm down upon the table in preparation to rise, an unladylike mannerism betraying a background more practical than her dress and high manners suggested. "And with that, I am afraid I must return to my obligations. You may trust Master Korzhu, and assume that he speaks for me and for the Society in this matter."

Forced by ettiquette to stand along with the Lady, all three rose as one. Nodding once to Master Korzhu and politely offering a minimal curtsy to Skoth, Lady Sheila departed the library.

"Well, then I suppose we are left to get to it then, Master Korzhu. I note that you carry no weapons and wear no armor. Do you need some time to gather your kit?", Skoth inquired.

Korzhu indicated his satchel and various pouches. "I carry all that I require.", he replied impassively.

"Well, I certainly approve of always being prepared. First things first; we'll need a rowboat of some kind. We need to cross the harbor to pay a visit to the Tower of the Crow, which I understand is one of the pylons standing above the waters in the harbor. Do you know which of the pylons it is?"

Korzhu pulled a journal from his satchel and efficiently flipped to an overhead sketch map of the Irespan and coast of Magnimar. "Yes; the Crow is known to me. It is the outermost remaining pylon. Per the Pathfinder records I transcribed from, there is a small chamber of sorts at the base that is sometimes used by smugglers. Unlike most of the pylons, it is believed to lack any further rooms within."

"Then, I suppose we should make all speed to the docks.", and so saying Skoth walked to the door and politely held it open for his new comrade.

Does A Dog Have Irori Nature?

Magnimar Capital

Departing the Heidmarch property, the duo set out on foot heading generally northwesterly, crossing from the Alabaster to the Capital district near the Menagerie, passing by the Founder's Archive and the Cenotaph without pause, though Skoth did note the many Pharasmins in the area.

But their stroll was interrupted as they neared the long ramp down to Dockway. Pressing forward along the edge, the pair made their way around a knot of blocked traffic, to eventually discover that the cause of the blockage was a turnip cart coming up the hill that somehow managed to skip a rut and half crush an aristocrat's expensive hunting dog.

Several guardsmen were on scene attempting to control the crowd of foot traffic to flow around the cart, while the apparant owner of the dog verbally castigated the hapless turnip farmer driving the cart; meanwhile the dog moaned and warbled in pain unattended.

Unconcerned, Skoth continued to skirt the situation to make his way down the hill, but without altering his stride or revealing his intention, Master Korzhu smoothly strode into the thick of it and divested a guardsman of his spear. Turning in one smooth motion Korzhu slid the spear haft at an angle beneath the edge of the turnip cart and used it as leverage to lift the wagon's rear out of the rut and off the dog.

Calmly handing the spear back to its owner, Korzhu knelt next to the suffering canine and looked it deep in the eyes, laying one hand gently upon the dog's side. A miraculous thing then happened; the dog's bones began to knit and return to their natural position. Under his tunic and concealed from most eyes, Korzhu's own body crumpled as if his ribs had been crushed or perhaps as if he had taken the dog's injuries onto himself. But almost as quickly, Korzhu's sympathetic injuries rapidly healed, leaving him none the worse for wear.

The aristocrat, Alam Scarnetti, thanked Korzhu profusely for saving his "Fifi" and pressed an elaborately lacquered card into Korzhu's hands, promising to host a dinner in his honor should Korzhu merely call upon the aristocrat's residence (for which the address was written on the card).

Skoth, meanwhile, had belatedly realized his companion had stopped to aid the guards in their duties and stood watching from the sidelines, partly amused and partly impatient to be making progress on their stated goal.

But seeing Korzhu move a fully laden turnip wagon, even with a spear for leverage, left Skoth taken aback. Recalling the greenish aura around Korzhu's hand when he had slain the first pugwampi, Skoth began to seriously wonder about the nature of his new companion. What was he? Subsequently seeing Korzhu heal the dog led Skoth to the theory that his associate must be a priest of Irori. And yet...Korzhu did not detect as using magic. Very curious.

Without further disruption or discussion, Korzhu calmly turned and resumed his journey to the docks as if nothing had happened. Joining strides, Skoth commented, "We can proceed now? Or do you intended to stop to get involved in every random thing we come across?"

Korzhu gave no indication of having heard Skoth.


Magnimar Dockway

Finally reaching the docks, the duo proceeded to the end of the longest pier where a man named Pilb had a few simple rowboats available for rent.

Impatient to be on his quest, Skoth brusquely revelead that he and his companion were on Pathfinder business and intended to row out the Crow. This would later prove to be a blunder. The boatkeeper asked for 10 gp to rent one boat and 2 oars for a day. Korzhu displayed unexpected street savvy and bartered it down to 7 gp, which Skoth paid.

That settled, the duo settled into their rented boat, and Korzhu took the oars. Rowing with a rythym and strength seemingly out of line with his small half-elvish frame, Korzhu propelled the rowboat to the Crow in less than fifteen minutes. An astonishing pace.

Skoth stood in the prow, foot raised, staring out across the water at the pylons as they neared. As the Crow loomed closer, Skoth could make out a landing of sorts with at least one other boat tied up, and directed Korzhu to row towards it.

The Crow

Encounter details for the Tower of the Crow

Drawing nearer to the Tower, Skoth turned back to look at Korzhu working the oars as tirelessly as an automaton and said, "I can see a boat tied up...maybe two!"

Without changing his expression or appearing to squint, Korzhu peered around Skoth and intoned, "There are two."

Skoth blinked. Internally he was beginning to resent his companion's seeming superiority in all things. This little alliance might be doomed to an uncertain future. Time would tell, he supposed.

Skoth returned his gaze to the Tower, scanning for threats. But as far as he could tell the ornately decorated crow-themed pylon seemed deserted aside from the two rowboats tied up at the waterline.

Gauging the distance, Korzhu banked his oars and allowed the boat to glide into the cul de sac containing the other two boats, beneath an impressive arch over a hundred feet tall.

Skoth gazed up the backside of the arch realizing that the tower and arch formed a defacto shaft rising at least two hundred feet straight up. But his inspection was disrupted as Skoth was caught by surprise when Korzhu failed to prevent their craft from rubbing against the rearmost of the two tied off boats. The noise was not disastrous but certainly less than stealthy. He turned a quick disapproving glance back at the impassive Pathfinder, but secretly Skoth couldn't help but feel some small sense of relief that Korzhu wasn't perfect after all.

The First Floor


Turning back to scan the makeshift dock area for threats, Skoth murmured to Korzhu, "Tie off the boat...". Not waiting for a reply Skoth leapt for the ledge, robes be damned, and landed adequately to the right of the entrance of an alcove leading back into what looked and smelled like a makeshift camp. Skoth could clearly see that the wall backing the alcove had been bashed in, revealing chambers within the Crow. Skoth could also hear some kind of rustling coming from somewhere beyond the ersatz passageway.

Pulling himself behind the concealment of the corner, Skoth motioned to get Korzhu's attention. Pointing into the breach, then to his ear, Skoth mimed having heard something. Reaching up to clasp the tastefully sized holy symbol of Nethys worn about his neck, Skoth prayed to Nethys for Guidance. Finally he cast a small spell upon himself sotto voce, and vanished from view.

Master Korzhu shrugged slightly, concentrated for a few moments, and sort of...bent out of existence. Skoth was taken aback yet again by his companion's antics...but squinting Skoth was able to see a sort of...edge...of light displacing which he realized was Korzhu debarking the boat and gaining the shore. Using his magical senses Skoth continued to not be able to detect anything mystical, but his active mind reasoned through what he was observing. "Interesting; not magical invisibility, and imperfect at that. But how?"

But this was a time for action, not speculation. Putting such thoughts away for later reflection, Skoth drew his blade smoothly and quietly, and proceeded to enter the insides of the Crow trusting to his invisibility to grant him the edge should there be inhabitants waiting.

However, he found only a room filled with detritus, and signs of recent habitation. A strong reek from the left indicated a latrine or privy, and it was from that direction the sounds emanated...a sort of rooting or scurrying sound. About to press on into the area to investigate further, Skoth was able to see the shimmer that marked Korzhu returning from that room and moving on. Whatever was in there was not a threat then...perhaps just rats.

Korzhu and Skoth proceeded east up a flight of curving stairs, both still employing their particular brand of invisibility. The next room, a sort of large landing between staircases was similarly uninteresting aside from three stone boxes surrounded by a fine yellow powder upon the floor. Skoth double checked the powder for foot prints before proceeding into the room and after a cursory glance around both adventurers pressed onward up the other set of stairs.

I Smell A Rat

Finally! Something of interest. At the top of the stair awaited a large fanciful room with old votive candles, pillars, and vibrant murals upon the walls. A doorway to more stairs was catercorner across the room from the stairs the adventurers had emerged from.

Sitting by the opposing corner of those stairs was a rather large rat staring intently at the archway through which Skoth and Korzhu had emerged. Fortunately, both were still invisible. Suspicious, Skoth paused and peered at the rat intently...only to detect an aura of Polymorphic Transmutation around the rat. This was no mere scavenger!

Moving as stealthily as it was possible for him to manage, Skoth crept around the edge of the room to the down wind side and tip-toed up to stand near the rat. Luckily, he remained undetected. With no warning, and still invisible, Skoth lunged with his deadly sword and skewered the rat-thing.

Sadly, though the fake rat was neatly skewered and thus could not run, it also wasn't quite dead and began to keen and wail while flailing at it's unseen attacker and twitching its nose trying to catch a scent.

As Skoth prepared to finish the beast, he felt a strange sort of pressure on his mind, as if something were attempting to contact him mentally...however the protective guidance of Nethys shielded his psyche and the feeling ceased. But then another strange thing happened...the rat-thing's eyes widened in pain and it seemed to lose all concern about Skoth's assault. The creature began manically squeaking and clawing at its own head, starting to tranform into something more humanoid despite the invisible sword still shoved through it.

And just as abruptly the rat-thing expired, with blood runing out of it's nose, mouth, and ears. It had gotten only part way through its transformation and disturbingly looked like a person mixed with a rat.

"A wererat? How odd.", Skoth thought to himself as he unfouled his blade. Her means of expiration were unclear to Skoth, but he assumed this was more handiwork of Master Korzhu.

Looking around, Skoth couldn't catch sight of the tell-tales he associated with Korzhu's light bending invisibility, but assumed Korzhu was with him and pressed on up the stairs.

Meanwhile, Master Korzhu decided he must take the time to document the excellent murals of ancient Thassilon upon the walls, and thus had extracted his journal and was already invisibly drifting around the room sketching the fine discoveries in quick impressionistic illustrations and relevant notes. Ironically, Korzhu enjoys near-perfect recall via meditation, but thoroughness demands he record his observations while they are still fresh when possible.

The Fourth Floor


Still unaware his companion had not joined him in his ascent, Skoth climbed the stairs to yet another landing of sorts, opening up into a complex of rooms. Peering around the right corner to look southward, via his magically enhanced vision and the uncertain light of a flickering fire about eighty feet down the hall, Skoth could make out what appeared to be a table flipped on its edge. A makeshift barricade perhaps?

Invisibly skulking around, Skoth quickly determined that a couple of small rooms sharing the hallway were of no consequence, and then proceeded to sneak up on the room with the fire. As he drew closer he could smell cooked meat, and hear at least two distinct voices. Female voices, in fact, speaking Common Taldane with a few Varisian words tossed in as is typical of lower class Magnimarians...particularly amongst the organized criminal gangs of the Sczarni.

Creeping closer still, to the very doorsill, Skoth was able to observe two leather clad women camping around a fire, cooking a couple of large rats. One of the two looked older, more experienced, and more talkative...spewing complaints presumably about the women's leader and a recent failure against a gang called the Wringers.

Skoth thought to himself, "There are few things I like less than a whinging woman.", and momentarily reflected back on a few failed relationships before forcing his attention back to the room, "Stay focused!. Make your mind as pointed and as sharp as your blade."

The other woman had peeled off a long boot and was picking lint and grime from between her dirty unsavory habit for an otherwise attractive woman. The hygenically challenged woman had the manner of one disinterested in their companion's complaining but humoring them for lack of anything else to do.

None of their chatter about "Tower Girls" or "Wringers" or gang politics meant anything to Skoth, but he filed the information away for potential later use.

From their back and forth banter Skoth determined that the complainer was named Nayven, the unsanitary one was called Embyr, and the leader they were less than pleased with was known as Ayala.

Also of interest, the fire had no natural outlet for venting from this location but the women had propped open a stone door that would otherwise be hidden leading further back into the tower, and smoke was turgidly making its escape though it.

Finally, Skoth made note that he was standing next to a simple trip alarm trap rigged by a string across the door at ankle height and running to a pile of clanky metal junk in the corner of the room.

The Invisible Swordsman

Eventually having heard enough, as Nayven ran to the end of her greivances and began to restate them again, Skoth took action. Timing his strike just after Nayven had finally shut up and Embyr had started chattering away Skoth stepped over the trip alarm string and struck with his deadly sharp sword to sever Nayven's head from her body where she sat, gracefully enough to avoid knocking Nayven's body over.

Skoth imbued his attack with a little statis charm as well, resulting in his victim's head remaining briefly attached and the flow of blood temporarily held in check. The hapless woman's only reaction was a surprised widening of the eyes.

Embyr continued talking, unaware that her companion was no longer among the living. Unfortunately, Skoth's luck ran out as he was manuevering around to kill her too as the head slid off of Nayven's corpse, bounced, and landed in the fire.

Alerted by the rather alarming sight of Nayven's hair and face on fire, body slumped over nearby, and no one else in the room, Embyr dropped her boot and rolled to her feet while pulling a dagger. She did not look like she intended to fight, but rather was trying to decide whether to run towards the stairs and go downward or bolt towards the secret door and whatever lay beyond.

Skoth gave her no further opportunity to decide, taking full advantage of his invisibility to lunge forward to skewer the hapless woman through the heart, with his blade mystically charged to extra keeness to slide through her leather armor as if it were not there. The weave of his vanishment finally gave out and Skoth returned to visibility.

Kicking the limp corpse off his blade and wiping the blade clean with her hair, Skoth proceeded to peek through the propped open secret door to see a mostly empty large room beyond, but lit with natural light and smelling of fresh sea breeze. A welcome relief from the smokey stench of the dead women's ad hoc camp ground.

However, Skoth wondered to himself, "Why wouldn't they pitch their camp in the other room, with better ventilation and lighting? Ah, of course, the secret door. These girls were supposed to be guards, with the door closed and thus hidden, but they foolishly propped it open to vent the smoke from their fire thus defeating their purpose. Also...they did not seem very competent; should the door not have been obvious I would merely have killed one and interrogated the other for the information. Clearly, we are not dealing with geniuses here."

Looking around for Master Korzhu and seeing no evidence of his presence, Skoth shrugged and proceeded to loot the bodies of the slain, finding a couple of tanglefoot bags and smokesticks. The smokesticks were of no use to him, but he gladly took the tanglefoot bags. Some coinage was also pocketed.

Another Fine Mess

At some point Skoth looked up from his looting and realized that Master Korzhu had rejoined him and returned to visibility. The strange Pathfinder merely stood in the room near the door watching Skoth's pillaging with an impassive and serene expression.

"Where did you go? I thought you were with me when I came up.", Skoth exclaimed.

"Did you not notice the murals in the rostrum hall below? Fascinating. I was documenting the discovery.", Korzhu replied patiently.

"...yes, fascinating. But perhaps we should concentrate on clearing out enemies first and writing in our journals after we have secured the ruin.", Skoth replied.

Korzhu looked at Skoth and then at the dead women before replying. "A person who sees enemies everywhere is soon surrounded by them."

Skoth was unsure how to respond to that sentiment. He understood all of the words, but not necessarily what they meant when put together like that. After a pause he frowned slightly and said, "May we press on, then?", gesturing to the propped open door.

"We will see.", stated Korzhu, and gestured for Skoth to go first.

Passing beyond the secret door, the pair entered another abandoned stripped bare room with murals, these scratched and faded. An empty plinth which may have once supported a statue rested in an alcove. To the left yawned an open passageway to a ledge, a drop off, and some sort of platform. Lots of ropes seemed to be involved.

Seeing no threats in the room, Korzhu drifted around looking at the faded murals but was unable to distinguish anything of interest. Skoth wandered over to the passageway and realized they were at the apex of the arch shaft he had looked up into when first arriving on the boat.

Peering at everything intently, Skoth detected no magical emanations, but did make note of the elaborate archwork at the crown of the arch, and the odd platform projecting off the ledge and hanging suspended over the two hundred foot drop to the waters below.

While Skoth scanned from the ledge, Korzhu calmly strode out onto the suspended platform, and noting a pole gaff with a hook on it, looked up and spotted an eyelet screwed into the stone above.

"There appears to be a trapdoor above this platform", Korzhu informed his companion.

Skoth had returned his attention to looking down and replied, "Most excellent news. However, perhaps of more immediate interest, I spot a fourth boat down below. Which means we will soon have company.

Korzhu looked over the edge and saw that this was true. A fourth empty boat was tied off two hundred feet below.

The Daring Plan

Focusing his sharp intellect, Skoth immediately came up with a plan. "We could wait for them to come up and meet them here, but then we would have nowhere to retreat to. I suggest we head down to meet them and attempt to hold them at one of the stair wells. That way if we are overwhelmed we can fight a retreat with the advantage of high ground."

"Alternately, I could drop down from here and advance behind them, trapping them between us.", Korzhu serenly suggested, glancing over the edge at the pocket of water below.

Skoth scoffed, "Please be serious; time is of the essence. We must agree upon a plan and act upon it before they catch us up."

Korzhu nodded. "Some men must see a thing to believe it."; and so saying he calmly took off his gear belt and satchel to lay them upon the platform, closed his eyes, crossed his arms over his chest, and then simply stepped off the platform to fall two hundred feet below.

Nonplussedly watching his companion plummet all the way down, Skoth seemed to see a displacement of air or of a force of some sort billow out in the last moments. Still no magical emanations, though. Korzhu sluiced into the water with a much smaller splash than Skoth expected. A few moments later Korzhu bobbed up to the surface again and swam for the ledge below.

"By the left nut of Nethys...he did it!", Skoth muttered to himself. Then, realizing he was ignoring his own advice, Skoth cast a spell of Expeditious Movement upon himself and turned to run back through the rooms he had recently passed through to find the stairs once more.

Racing down the stairs at magically enhanced speed, Skoth built up quite a bit of momentum and was unable to stop himself from running pell-mell into the middle of the rostrum room where they had killed the wererat earlier, sliding to a halt directly in front of a hard-bitten looking Sczarni criminal with a sharply glinting short sword and dagger drawn.

The Fight Is On!

Though shocked at the sudden appearance of a large maroon-robed man in front of him, the Sczarni was no stranger to battle and immediately stabbed at Skoth. Arresting his speed and spinning half in place, Skoth managed to whip his own deadly blade from its scabbard, move himself out of his attacker's direct line, and focus some magic into a protective aura all in one smooth motion.

Unfortunately, the Sczarni had friends who Skoth had not yet noticed, and a longswordsman and a scar-faced thug with a hand axe and a dagger rushed in to flank Skoth, striking at him from all directions.

Skoth whirled, parried, dodged, deflected, and evaded in a flurry of steel, flickering robes, and flare ups of his protective sword magi magics...and he managed to avoid injury and to redirect the longswordsman's blade to cut at the axe wielder, but at the cost of becoming winded.

And then an arcane bolt arced out of a corner of the room, thrown by an unseen spell caster. Skoth desperately counterspelled it, but he could tell that he was dealing with a more powerful worker of the arcane arts than himself.

Knowing that he could not withstand these odds for long, Skoth bull rushed past his original attacker and towards the stairs down, just barely ducking behind the edge of the archway as another arcane blast sought to burn him. Glancing back he saw that the three Sczarni were in close pursuit.

Fortunately, Master Korzhu dashed up the stairs, seeming to move the last hundred feet in a blur to drive a greenishly aura'd foot into the chest of the Sczarni closest to Skoth. The hapless Sczarni was driven backwards as if thrown by a giant, flying backwards across the room to land over twenty feet away and skidding upon the floor.

The other two Sczarni slid to a halt on either side of Korzhu, who stood poised at the top of the stairs, and proceeded to hack at him with their blades. But Korzhu manifested faint glowing green energy blades from his hands and easily deflected his attackers. Skoth, realizing the battle had turned, wheeled back into the fray and lanced out with his blade over Korzhu's shoulder to plink the axe-man.

The Sczarni dual-wielder who had been punted ran back into the thick of things attempting to tackle Master Korzhu, but the compact half elf saw it coming and simply somersaulted straight up, to then land hard upon his diving opponent's back, driving the hapless Sczarni into the hard floor beneath with the sound of something breaking.

The invisible spell slinger struck again, seemingly having moved to the bottom corner of the room. Skoth managed to unravel the incoming glittering cone of prismatic bedazzlement, and squeezing the last magic out of the Divine Guidance of Nethys he had prayed for earlier, he squinted hard and was able to pierce the veil of the enemy dweomercaster's invisibility.

Their arcane attacker proved to be a slight of build, pointy-hat wearing wizard or sorcerer, festooned with potions and scrolls. Dashing past Korzhu and the two standing Sczarni, Skoth ran at the invisible arcanist in the corner, kipping up off the wall at the last second for extra height and force. Striking down at an angle, Skoth's blade just barely failed to find its mark, leaving a razor thin laceration on the surprised sorcerer's cheek.

The arcanist's cloak of invisibility was exhausted and collapsed, and seeing his employer in danger, the longsword bearing Sczarni abandoned the unfruitful attack on Master Korzhu to run across the room to aid his boss. Catching Skoth unawares from behind, the thug managed to tackle Skoth and bear him to the ground.

Unsuccessfully squirming to get free and seeing the enemy arcanist prepare to cast something nasty directly in his face, Skoth called out to Korzhu for help.

Looking calmly across the poorly lit room Korzhu's elven heritage allowed his eyes to compensate and see the emerging situation. Using one hand to gesture, Korzhu mimed throwing or forcefully lifting something up into the air, and the thug hunched upon Skoth's back was somehow lifted and thrown straight up towards the ceiling.

Skoth wasted no time and jumped up as well to grab the sorcerer and forcibly trade places with him, putting the arcanist below the soon-to-fall Sczarni criminal. Then, Skoth plucked one of the tanglefoot bags he had looted from Nayven and Embyr's corpses and threw it directly at the spell flinger's feet. A black tarry substance instantly expanded and held the thrashing enemy in place.

The arcanist looked down, then up at his plummeting henchman with a snarl of frustration. The resulting "CRUNCH" a moment later when the Sczarni fell full upon him was met by howls from both men. The spellcaster attempted to fumble at something on his belt, a potion or scroll, but Skoth struck at the man's hands with his sharp sword injuring one of them.

Meanwhile, the two thugs still facing Korzhu had used the momentary distraction when he aided Skoth to run away down the stairs towards the boats. One of them had the presence of mind to throw a tanglefoot bag at Korzhu, but the Pathfinder simply caught it and threw it back after the thug, trapping him upon the stairs.

Seeing that Skoth had his opponents well in hand, Korzhu turned and ran after the escaping man, at a relaxed loping pace.

Korzhu Gets In A Light Workout

Effortlessly running after his paniced quarry, Korzhu was not feeling any particular urgency as he wisely knew that once the man fleeing from him reached the boats it would take some crucial moments to get into one, cut loose the rope, set the oars, and begin to row. But, still, efficiency is a worthy endeavor if not taken to extremes.

Thus, in the interests of efficiency, Korzhu sped up and overtook the fleeing Sczarni in the chamber on the other side of the break in the outer wall by the makeshift dock, and tripped him.

A desperate look upon his face, the man rose to his feet with his axe and dagger and furiously flailed at Master Korzhu, only to be calmly blocked and parried. And then Korzhu kicked the man in the side of the leg. Again the Sczarni unleashed a flurry of blows that failed to find their marks, and again at the end of it Korzhu kicked the man in the side of his other leg.

Feeling the numbness spreading and his legs trembling, the Sczarni realized Korzhu's strategy, and afraid that he would soon be unable to stand the thug made a final desparate dash for the boats and flung himself off the ledge into the outer most boat, attempting to sever the restraining rope in mid air. But his axe blade was blocked by the faintly green glowing hand of Korzhu, who had somehow managed to leap into the boat as well and interpose himself between the thug and the rope.

Landing in the boat together, the thug was partially on top and reared up to strike a deadly chop downward with his axe, but made the mistake of making eye contact with the odd half elf and immediately felt a strange presense in his mind, as if invisible fingers had gripped his brain.

Korzhu, having acheived mental lock on the man, quickly scanned his ready memories and surface thoughts, and saw no real redeeming features. Sadly, Korzhu flexed his mind and snuffed out the Sczarni's consciousness like a candle.

Using his legs and arms as a lever, Korzhu flipped the man's mindless form over the edge of the boat and into the water, where it sank down down down into oblivion.

Rather than get up immediately, Korzhu continued to lay in the bottom of the boat, peering upwards at the top of the arch two hundred feet above, where his journal and affects awaited him, appreciating the majestic and audacious arrogance of an architect to build things at such a scale.

Simultaneously, part of his mind was occupied wondering how much it was appropriate to trust his adventuring companion. This Skoth fellow was definitely an advantaged and competent man of many skills, but he seemed far too eager to dispense destruction and solve matters with violence. Violent men tend to be met by more violence. Skoth was free to choose his own path to enlightenment, of course, but so were those who Skoth killed.

Korzhu resolved to wait and see if Skoth would choose to walk a less bloody path or not.

And, feeling refreshed from his mini-meditation, Korzhu regained the shore and started to head back up to the rostrum room to continue his investigation.

Skoth Stands In Judgement

Realizing the precariousness of his circumstances, the tanglefooted spell caster immediately began begging for his life. But even as Korzhu rounded the bend on the stairs and passed from view, Skoth unmercifully heated his blade up with a sword magi dweomer and skewered the arcanist through the neck. Pulling the blade back out, Skoth gave it a little twist to hasten the end.

The injured Sczarni had broken some bones in his fall, and groveled in pain upon the hard and bloody ground.

"Please, Lord, beggin yer pardon. We was jus' fallowin his orders. Doin our jobs, like. Please don't kill me!", the man shamelessly begged.

Skoth gazed pitilessly down upon the lowlife. He smoothly switched his sword to his left hand and held the right out towards the man, as if offering mercy. "Give me useful information and perhaps I wont. Why did you come here? Who do you work for? Speak quickly, or you will soon cease to exist upon this mortal plane."

"Of course, m'Lord. Ze boss, Dremis", and even in his apparent pain, the man tried to kick at the corpse of the arcanist, "hired us to catch you and the pointy-eared one. He said it woulda be easy, justa some Pathafinder book readers. Gobba Yo Gabba Oy, done deal. Justa two Pathafinder do-gooders rowin' a peg boat out to the Crow for a day. Easy pickin's. We were justa gonna help Dremis tie you up and ah take ya back to the docks, you know?"

"I've never seen this Dremis dandy before. Why would he wish to capture us?"

"Eh...I notta know, m'Lord. But he'sa been seen hangin around the Aspis Consortium for weeks now. Aspis hatesa the Pathafinders, ya?"

"I suppose. Is there anything else you can tell me?"

"No, m'Lord, that's all I's know. Now if you'd just let me git up and dragga myself down out of here, I promise we wont be bothering you no more."

"I'm sorry, but that is a risk I am unwilling to take. As we learn from divine Nethys, what the right hand grants, the left hand taketh away."

And so saying, with the blade still held left handed, Skoth heartlessly stabbed his prostrate prisoner in the left eye, fatally penetrating the brain. Skoth then proceeded to clean his blade on the man's clothes before he'd even stopped twitching, and sheathed the fell sword.

Talking to the man's corpse Skoth said, "You were thrice a fool, Sczarni. I am no mere reader of books, nor 'easy pickings', nor even a Pathfinder. Try to be more well informed in your next phase of existence and be glad that Pharasma judges you for your lack of virtuous deeds rather than your lack of intelligence...much less your atrocious accent."

Formalities having been attended to, Skoth turned to the hopefully more fruitful task of seperating the dead arcanist from his spellbook and kit.

Arrayed about the corpse of Dremis, Skoth was able to find several potions of healing, a potion of what appeared to be invisibility to Skoth's Nethys-inspired vision, and a small traveling spellbook. He also found two scrolls tied by string, but both were ruined by having soaked up too much of the pooled blood on the floor. "Never heard of scroll cases, dunce?", Skoth muttered at the dead wizard. And finally, another little pouch of mixed coinage, which Skoth efficiently stashed away.