The party spent the night in the dungeon, camping out in the room they'd last fought Nulia and Ripnugget. No one bothered them -- the mage and Ripnugget apparently kept running, the mercenary's charm spell wore off but he wasn't angry enough about that to confront them, and everyone else was dead. Except the dogs locked in the temple, 'Val's mom' in her lair, and the hellcat who... did... something? Nobody knew what happened to the hellcat, but it didn't bother them.
In the morning, they healed the last few wounds from the previous day's combat, and went to investigate the rooms they'd skipped. The first -- in the vault where they'd fought Malkeshnikor -- was already stripped of everything valuable, although there was a creepy projection giving a speech on a loop.
The second involved getting past the shadows. Elsie wanted to try out her potion of hide from undead, so Ash and Kaito turned into foxes and hid in her clothing while she snuck past the shadows to search their room. The obvious place to search was inside all the sarcophagi, and sure enough one of them was secretly a door to a pair of staircases leading further down.
At the bottom of the stairs was what remained of a treasure room, or possibly an armory -- moss and slime was everywhere, as the ocean had gotten inside and washed out the floor. There was something moving in the water, but there was also so much treasure to be had...
So Kaito turned back into his fox-man form and tried to get a better look at the thing in the water, and sort of succeeded as it attacked him.
A giant crab leapt from the water and caught him in its pincers! He had little hope of getting free, but was able to keep stabbing it with his rapier, and when it pulled him into the water, Elsie leapt onto its back and cracked open its shell with one mighty punch. Even in death, its sinking carcass tried to drag them to their doom, but both of them managed to get free.
Ash used detect magic to scan the treasure in the pool, and found an amulet. Kaito dragged out eight chests full of coin, which he was able to open with Elsie's help -- the coins went into Ash's haversack and a more mundane sack for Elsie to carry. The biggest treasure (literally) however, was a giant jewel-encrusted gold helmet, which took all of them working together to get out of the water and drag up the stairs.
But how were they going to get it past the shadows? Elsie couldn't push it by herself. Also, Ash did a quick detect magic and verified that fighting the crab had broken her hide from undead spell.
By this time, the others were getting antsy, and as they heard the scraping noise slowly moving towards the shadow room, Zakhar lit a sunrod and leapt into the room. "This sounds like a job for SUNROD MAN!"
Unfortunately, the sunrod enraged the shadows instead of dispelling them, although it did make it a little harder for them to hit him. Which was good, because he wasn't very strong, and each of their hits drained about a third of his strength.
So it was a close thing. But between various magic weapons, his healing bombs (which hurt undead, of course), and some holy water Phoof had, they managed to defeat the shadows before he was drained entirely. He had two strength left!
At that point Ash remembered that she'd memorized levitation, and cast it on the helmet, making it much much easier to move around. Unfortunately, even with that, they weren't able to get it up through the entire dungeon and over the rickety wooden bridge before the magic wore out. They considered making some sort of pulley system to get it across, instead of trusting it to the bridge, but when they went back in to ask the remaining goblins if they could borrow some rope, they were fresh out.
But Val remembered that she had a potion of levitation, and somehow pouring it over the helmet did the trick. Once it was across the bridge, they loaded it onto the back of the horse Phoof had claimed (the one they rescued from the dogs earlier) and made their way back to civilization.
Phoof took a small side trip to tell the shaman about Nulia's fate, and he promised to gather up the goblin refugees and rebuild the tribe. Yay?
It turned out they'd done their nightly rest a bit early, and it was still early morning by the time they got back to town. While parading the giant helmet through the streets, they ran into June, and Noggin's valet, who rejoined them in time to help split up the treasure.
The jeweler wasn't open yet, so they camped out on his porch. The sheriff came by to get their report, and told them that they would, in fact, be allowed to claim the treasure they'd taken from the goblins. The jeweler, when he finally woke up, was a bit mean, but ended up giving them an almost fair price for the helmet -- by accident. Apparently, he'd thought it was solid gold and was offering them 10%. The gold and gems it did have were still worth more than he'd given them, though, so hopefully he wouldn't feel *too* cheated.
They sold a magic bastard sword that no one really wanted, split up the coins (June and Noggin getting half a share since they'd only been there for half, charitably, but Noggin gave all of his money to June leaving him with a full share effectively), and spent a few days shopping, replenishing potions and buying a few minor magical items that they could afford. Altei enchanted his katana, so it wouldn't be useless against the next set of shadows.
Phoof had a bit of a side trek -- a bard she'd sold a flute to had paid her with an IOU instead of the 150 gold he'd offered, and she wanted to collect. Asking around, they found that he'd skipped town entirely, but was hanging out in a cabin in the woods about a day's walk from Sandpoint. Altei and Ash went with her to help her collect.
He didn't want to let her collect, offering her 50 gold because it was 'all that she had'... but she knew he was lying. When she called him out on it, he started brandishing an axe, and badly hurt Altei when she tried to disarm the situation.
Ash stepped up with her own axe. "Is this really a fight you want?" He dropped his axe, and she marched him into his house and made him show them his hidden cache of money -- he had 100 gold, not just 50.
Ash: "Alright. We'll take this for now. I'll be back soon for the other 150 you own me."
Bard: "What? 150?!"
Ash: "Interest. Collection fees. You know the deal."
Phoof was not happy about how badly she'd browbeaten him, but Ash reassured her (once they were back on the road) that she had no intention of actually going back to collect. "I just want him scared, for what he did to Altei."
Anyway, after about a week of relaxing and shopping, the sheriff approached the party as they gathered for breakfast, and told them that he wanted their help tracking down and dealing with a serial killer. He'd murdered a group of con men camping out in the woods, a pair of citizens walking home late at night in the streets, and most recently one of the co-managers of the sawmill and his girlfriend, Katrina, the elder daughter of Vin Vendor, the shopkeep.
On the body, they'd found a letter addressed to 'Dearest Phoof', with a crazy stalker rant about how she'd 'join the pack, and everything would end'. NOT CREEPY AT ALL. But that was one reason they wanted the party involved.
The remaining sawmill manager was in jail -- arrested when he'd screamed upon finding the bodies -- and Vin Vendor was also a suspect since he'd hated his daughter's boyfriend and often threatened to kill him. There was also supposedly a witness to one of the other crimes, but he was insane and committed to a nearby sanitarium.
They started by investigating the crime scene, since the cops wanted to clean it up before it started a panic. It was a mess: the boyfriend was chained to the wall with a ritual symbol carved into his chest -- the seven-pointed star they'd seen Nulia and company using. Katrina was in even worse shape -- apparently, she'd been pushed down a chute into an automatic wood-chopping machine and was almost unrecognizable.
Sniffing around for clues (some of them literally, as foxes), the party slowly pieced together the scenario -- a zombie-like undead of some sort had murdered the boyfriend, and when Katrina had arrived, she'd grabbed an axe and tried to save him, but while she'd gotten at least one hit in, she'd ended up pushed down the chute to her death.
Next they went to talk to the guy who'd found the bodies, but he hadn't seen anything and didn't seem likely to have been involved at all, given the undead angle (not that that stopped the guards from assuming his guilt, at least for the moment).
Since that didn't give them much, they headed over to the general store, which was closed up and locked. Noggin's valet picked the lock, and they confronted the father, who was insane out of his mind with rage. They tried being nice, they tried threatening him, they tried Charm Person... okay, that last one worked. He reiterated his threats to murder the (dead) boyfriend, blaming him for corrupting his daughter (and getting her killed, he kept adding as an afterthought). Even charmed, though, he wasn't spectacularly helpful.
Kaito snuck downstairs to the other daughter's room, but his girlfriend wasn't home. Noggin's valet snuck upstairs to the store's office to rifle through his records, but didn't find anything incriminating.
So... the investigation wasn't really going well.
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