Festival and Fire
Sunday, 23 Rova, 4707 A.R.
Having witnessed the death of his master—the exiled Knight of Lastwall Cayden Ryder—on the border with Belkzen, the mercenary known as Steel arrived in Sandpoint seeking Cayden’s brother Erik, intending to inform him of Cayden’s passing.
In Sandpoint itself, the Swallowtail Festival was in full swing. The rogue Galfin picked a few pockets as he idly waited for the Sandpoint Games to begin, until he was eventually caught trying to filch Steel’s purse. After a brief exchange, with Galfin providing the much bigger man with directions to the Rusty Dragon, the men parted with little more than heated words. Galfin went to place a bet on the horse race to be held later in the day, betting on an outside chance—a stallion named Shadowmist—rather than the favourite after checking over all the horses as they waited in the stables.
Elsewhere, Valjun, the gnome printer, watched as the nobles of Sandpoint paraded down Main Street on their horses, on their way to attend the Festival’s opening speeches. The crowd’s rapturous applause, in combination with vapid possessiveness on the face of Titus Scarnetti in particular, drove Valjun from irritation to outright anger. The gnome quietly intoned a few syllables and flexed his fingers imperceptibly. The horse reared and dumped Scarnetti unceremoniously on the muddy road—to the uproarious laughter of the common folk. Scarnetti, however, did not see the amusing side of the situation, and demanded that the person responsible for spooking his horse be found immediately, but Valjun slipped away before he could be spotted.
At his lodgings at the Rusty Dragon, Reza stared critically at his reflection in the mirror, as he did every morning. After several minutes of examination, he could find nothing out of place, and began to make his way downstairs, intending to join in the fun and frivolity of the Festival. He ran into Steel on the stairs, and the two exchanged a nod before going their separate ways.
The Festival’s opening speeches began with Kendra Deverin welcoming everyone to Sandpoint, followed by Sheriff Belor Hemlock asking everyone to restrain themselves from excessive celebration, as he didn’t want the guard to spend their night fishing people out of the bay. Lonjiku Kaijitsu, local nobleman, was scheduled to be the next speaker, but he didn’t appear, citing a stomach complaint. This didn’t surprise the locals; the old man has always been quite open in his disdain for frivolity and festivals. Cyrdak Drokkus—local showman and theatre owner—stepped up for his speech advising that the local production of The Harpy’s Curse opened this Fireday. Galfin in particular was interested in that; he was in the chorus line, and was looking forward to the opportunity to get up close and personal with the noted Magnimaran beauty Allishandra. Then Father Zantus made a few opening remarks before declaring the Festival officially underway, and releasing a cloud of swallowtail butterflies. By local tradition, those whom the butterflies alighted upon were destined for great things, so when butterflies landed upon Reza, Galfin, Steel and Valjun—all four having found themselves standing near each other in the crowd—they immediately set to talking, and made a pact to return at lunch time and eat together.
Titus Scarnetti—still mud-stained from his tumble—skulked off and did not make an appearance for the rest of the day.
The Sandpoint Games—an annual tradition in Sandpoint—piqued Steel’s interest, and he entered himself in the boxing, quickly mopping the floor with every opponent until nobody was left. As a prize, he won a 300-sail promissory note from the tannery. He was presented to the people as the champion by sponsor and tannery owner Larz Rovanky, but given Steel’s belligerent attitude to the local talent throughout his bouts, few applauded—although Galfin, who had bet on the big man to win, was among those cheering.
Meanwhile Valjun took part in the newly-established Games of Distinction, competing in the monster lore contest held at Chask Haladan’s bookstore, The Curious Goblin. The Games of Distinction, set up by a group of Sandpoint intelligentsia calling themselves the Sandpoint League of Gentlemen, were in their first year as a more academically-minded alternative to the annual physical contest of the Sandpoint Games. Valjun exhibited great breadth of knowledge, eventually winning the contest, with Aliver Podiker coming a close second. Valjun won a promissory note for three hundred sails from Bottled Solutions, run by half-elf alchemist Nisk Tander. Once again Galfin collected his winnings after betting on the gnome.
Both Reza and Galfin entered themselves into the talent contest being held outside Cracktooth’s Tavern. Unfortunately for Galfin, his performance—a series of flowing forms using his father’s scimitar—was marred by several missteps; in combination with an attempted pirouette that saw him slice a corner off his cloak, they were enough to put him out of contention for the final. Reza, on the other hand, made the final, but was defeated by Arika Alvertin’s spirited rendition of a traditional Varisian folk song.
The remainder of the day passed with little incident. The stallion Shadowmist won the Sandpoint Cup, outpacing most of the field over the first furlong and holding on to the lead as he came home, with the financial windfall almost making up for Galfin’s poor showing in the talent contest. The marathon runners returned, with one swearing he had seen the Sandpoint Devil wheeling above Devil’s Platter. The Sandpoint Games and Games of Distinction both wrapped up; winners celebrated while losers commiserated, and talked about their chances of turning things around next year. Ameiko Kaijitsu, owner of the Rusty Dragon and semi-estranged daughter of nobleman Lonjiku Kaijitsu, won the annual popular contest for best lunch with her spiced salmon, causing her closest competitor Garridan Viskalai of the White Deer Inn to chew furiously on his moustache in frustration.
Eventually, evening came and it was time to begin the formal part of the Festival, which this year included the consecration of the brand new stone-and-glass cathedral, built atop the ruins of the old timber buildings that had served as Sandpoint’s place of worship for nearly forty years before burning down in the Sandpoint Fire of 4703. Father Zantus took to the dais in front of the Cathedral and detonated a thunderstone to gather everyone’s attention. He smiled and cleared his throat, and that was when the mayhem began.
The first sign was a woman’s scream; Reza, Steel, Galfin and Valjun all turned to see a vicious goblin hiding under a cart at the edge of the crowd. It stood next to the carcass of a dog, licking the blood off its dogslicer. Standing nearby were another three goblins, each sporting its own disturbing grin and bearing dilapidated weaponry. More goblins were disappearing into the town in the distance, or harrying the townsfolk at the edge of the crowd.
The heroes wasted no time and leapt to the attack. Apart from one moment where a goblin launched itself off a table at Steel’s head—and fortunately missed—the heroes had an easy time of it, even knocking one of them unconscious. Across the square, three other figures defended the closed doors of the cathedral against more goblin raiders, but the heroes had little time to see who they were before they heard more screams coming from down Junker’s Way.
Sighing, Galfin drew his blade across the goblin’s throat and the group headed down towards Junker’s Edge.
As they reached the junction with Cliff Street, the group saw a young woman and a much older man at the edge of the cliff, being menaced by another group of goblins. Galfin drew his bow while Valjun quickly mixed some unstable chemicals and threw a bomb into the goblins’ midst. Between their attacks and Steel’s longsword—which he wielded with the speed of a rapier—the goblins were quickly killed. The young woman—Lanalee Magravi—offered them thanks, while the old man gave his name as Erik Ryder.
Steel’s ears pricked up at having found the man he was looking for. He told Erik that he had news, but shouts from the beach below quickly distracted the heroes.
Down on the beach, the goblins had lit the bonfires that had been prepared for the evening’s festivities. Amongst the flaming pyres, two watchmen were fighting what looked to be a losing battle against at least eight goblins, one of whom stood behind its companions while bellowing instructions and wielding a whip. Looking around, Galfin spied knotted ropes tied to trees and boulders at the top of Junker’s Edge, which must have been how the goblins had entered Sandpoint—although that still left the question of who had tied the ropes on in the first place. Galfin also noticed that these goblins appeared to be from a different tribe compared to the ones they had fought in the square.
Hurriedly, Galfin and Steel untied the goblin’s ropes so they could use them to climb down to the beach. Meanwhile, Reza and Valjun ran the entire length of the cliffs so they could turn back and run up the beach to aid their new companions. Steel and Galfin both almost fell down the entire cliff face, but when they finally did make it into combat to aid the Watchmen, the goblin with a whip (who looked disturbingly female and scantily clad at that) cast a rheumy eye over Steel and then spat an incantation, stretching out a clawed finger towards him. Steel momentarily felt his throat close over with terror, but managed to marshal his courage and gripped his sword more tightly. Anger settled in to replace the fear.
Valjun and Ren arrived shortly after that, with Reza seemingly drawing comfort from the immense bonfires and launching scorching sheets of flame at the goblins. Valjun hurled more bombs and set the goblin warchanter on fire. She turned to run—having to flee down the beach past Valjun—and dove into the waves. Valjun cast dancing lights on her in an attempt to follow her progress, but she soon sunk beneath the waves. The remaining goblins put up little resistance.
After checking to make sure the Watchmen were all right, the group headed off towards loud shouts coming from the southern end of town, where they discovered Ameiko Kaijitsu and Daviren Hosk out the front of the Rusty Dragon, defending a badly wounded man from a group of at least a dozen goblins, including one mounted on a rat-like creature the size of a large dog. Daviren’s face seemed distended, his nose forming an almost snout-like appendage and his shoulders broader and hands bigger than usual. Whatever was going on, something strange was happening with Daviren.
Grimly, the group attacked. Valjun found himself out of the reagents he needed to create his bombs, so he began hurling refuse, water pails—whatever he could find to hand in an effort to distract the goblins. Steel headed straight for the mounted goblin, landing a solid blow but being savaged in return by the rat-like creature. The others laid about themselves as best they could, but not before several goblins piled onto Daviren and their dogslicers did enough damage to send him into unconsciousness.
Ameiko kept up her desperate defence, the man behind her growing more fearful. Fortunately for all concerned, it didn’t take too much longer for the remaining goblins to be killed, and Valjun rushed in to offer Daviren some smelling salts that seemed to bring him around. The ranger sat up groggily while Ameiko tended to him, and Valjun moved on to heal the man. From the relative quiet, it sounded as though the goblin threat was over for the time being.
The noble introduced himself as Lord Aldern Foxglove, with his estate lying around halfway between Sandpoint and Magnimar. Valjun looked like he had swallowed a beehive.
Lord Foxglove thanked everyone for saving his life, particularly Steel, whose blade had taken no fewer than four of the goblins, plus the mounted goblin and its rat-like mount. Ameiko explained as she patched Daviren up that the strange rat-dog was a goblin dog, and that its dander often led to horrific rashes.
Steel began to itch.
Lord Foxglove thanked the group again, saying he would have been dead if it weren’t for them, and asked to see them again tomorrow at the White Deer Inn when everything had calmed down, where he would be happy to discuss a reward. The group agreed, although Valjun seethed at the notion of receiving a gift from someone in such a position of power over his fellows.
Steel introduced himself to Ameiko, asking who she was, and congratulated her on her bravery and skill in facing down the goblin warband. Ameiko demurred, saying she was just doing her best, and pointed a thumb over her shoulder to say she owned the Rusty Dragon. Steel asked to see her blade, and she showed him—a mithril sabre that Steel declared was surely too small to do any real damage. Ameiko, amused, suggested that perhaps they could try a sparring match with practice weapons—her sabre against his greatsword. Steel agreed, relishing the thought of besting the woman, and said he’d take her on in the morning. Ameiko then further suggested he should have a drink with her some time, which Steel found an even more appealing idea. Ameiko doused Steel’s ardour somewhat by then inviting all four of them to stay at her inn with free food and board for a week.
As the group broke up, Galfin remarked that it was unusual for goblins from different tribes to be working together, and that it probably meant someone was organising them. The new companions agreed to consider the problem again in the morning.
Valjun went home to make sure his brother Huvic had escaped the violence unharmed (he had), Galfin spent the night at the Pixie’s Kitten, Steel retired to the Rusty Dragon, and Reza spent his night contemplating the meaning behind the attack. Amongst the wounded, the worst off was Ven Vinder, the proprietor of the General Store, who was absolutely covered in cuts and bruises. He remained tight-lipped about his injuries, but slowly the story filtered in that he had held off a half-dozen goblins himself, with his bare hands. As others told his story for him, his eyes shone, remembering his days as a militiaman in his youth. At least he had done that memory proud.
Miraculously, not a single life had been lost in the raid, and Sandpoint’s newest crop of heroes had accounted for a good score of goblins. Another dozen or so goblins had met their end in front of the Cathedral, and others had died here and there as the Watch—or individual townsfolk—put up a desperate defence.
As everyone went to their homes, the town was silent—save for the sound of doors being locked. An uneasy night lay over Sandpoint at last.