Rise of the Runelords
THE TOWN OF SANDPOINT - HISTORY
Those who head north from Magnimar along the rocky coastline quickly find themselves in a peculiar country. Fog drapes the rolling landscape, floating spectrally along damp and lonely moors. Small woodlands grace the region, their tangled depths redolent of nettles and pepperwood and pine sap, while further inland, river valleys lined by majestic redwoods wind between ragged tors and limestone escarpments. The region’s vastness and sense of isolation have earned it its local name – the Lost Coast.
There are pockets of civilization along the Lost Coast. Traditional Varisian campsites can be found in nearly every gulch and hollow along the cliff-lined reaches, and lonely houses sit upon bluffs now and then – domiciles for eccentrics or the rich seeking a bit of peace far from the bustle of Magnimar’s streets. Roadside inns grace the Lost Coast every 24 miles or so, placed by virtue of the distance most travelers can walk given a day’s travel. Low stone shrines to Desna, goddess of wanderers and patron of the Varisians, give further opportunities for shelter should one of the all-too-common rainstorms catch travelers unaware. Given time, any of these seeds of civilization could bloom into a full-grown town, or even a city. It’s happened once already, along the shores of a natural harbor nestled among the cliffs some 50 miles northeast of Magnimar. What was once a larger-than-normal Varisian campsite in the shadow of an ancient ruined tower has become the Lost Coat’s largest town: Sandpoint, the Light of the Lost Coast.
Light of the Lost Coast
As one approaches the town of Sandpoint, the footprint of civilization upon the Lost Coast grows more clear. Farmlands in the outlying moors and river valleys grow more numerous and the blue-green waters of the Varisian Gulf bear more and more fishing vessels upon the waves. Passage over creeks and rivers is more often accomplished by wooden bridge than ford, and the Lost Coast Road itself grows wider and better-kept. Sight of Sandpoint from either approach (south or east) is kept hidden by the large upthrust limestone pavements known as the Devil’s Platter and the arc of the rocky outcroppings and lightly forested hilltops that rise up just east of town, but as the final bend in the road is rounded, Sandpoint’s smoking chimneys and bustling streets greet the traveler with open arms and the promise of warm beds, a welcome sight indeed for those who have spent the last few days alone on the Lost Coast Road.
From the south, entrance to Sandpoint is governed by a wooden bridge, while from the north a low stone wall gives the town a bit of protection. Here, the Lost Coast Road passes through a stone gatehouse that is generally watched by one or two guards; the southern bridge is typically unattended. Aside from the occasional goblin, the citizens of Sandpoint have traditionally had little cause to worry about invasion or banditry – the region simply isn’t populated enough to make theft a lucrative business. Hanging from a bent nail at both the gatehouse and the southern bridge is a sign and a mirror – painted on each sign is the message: “Welcome to Sandpoint! Please stop to see yourself as we see you!”
Millennia ago, before the fall of Thassilon, what is known today as the Lost Coast was not a coast at all. It was a series of rocky bluffs and cliffs that ran through a vast moor stretching from the end of the Fogscar Mountains south to the Mushfens. Called the Rasp, this ridge of stony tors and limestone escarpments marked the boundary between the nations of Shalast and Bakrakhan. When Thassilon fell, the nation of Bakrakhan collapsed and slid into the sea, forming what is now called the Varisian Gulf as the Rasp become the region’s new coastline.
Before these cataclysmic events, the Rasp was heavily patrolled by the armies of Shalast and Bakrakhan, and violent clashes between the two were common. Runelord Karzoug used his impressive magic and giant slaves to erect immense statues in his image along the Rasp, granite sentinels that stood hundreds of feet in height and from whose stony eyes he could look out upon the nation of Bakrakhan from the safety of his throne in distant Xin-Shalast. In response, Runelord Alaznist built several destructive watchtowers called Hellstorm Flumes along the Rasp. Each of these towers housed a contingent of her soldiers, commanded by sorcerers and demon-worshiping clerics hand-picked from her personal guard. Atop each Flume burned a constant vortex of arcane fire, one that its commander could direct to scorch intruding armies from miles away. The Flumes did a remarkable job at keeping Karzoug’s forces from effectively invading Bakrakhan, while his own Sentinel Statues prevented Alaznist from launching any surprise invasions of her own. And so the two kingdoms existed in tenuous balance until the cataclysmic fall of their world.
After Thassilon’s collapse and with the onset of the Age of Darkness, the Rasp become the region’s new western coastline. Karzoug’s Sentinel Statues collapsed, although here and there fragments of these once mighty guardians still stand . Bakrakhan’s Hellstorm Flumes fared no better – most of these watch towers fell into the sea during the cataclysm. Only one remained above the waves, and even it crumbled to less than a quarter of it’s original height. Varisian travelers preserved in their oral traditions stories of how ruined towers once cast fire down upon the surrounding lands, but over the generations, these tales evolved. The ruin’s location at the edge of the sea seemed to indicate that it was once a lighthouse, and in time, old tales of beams of fire became beams of light. Today, the Varisians view the last Hellstorm Flume as nothing more than an ancient ruined lighthouse, a landmark they call the Old Light. No record of the tower’s destructive purpose remains in the modern mind, yet clues to its violent legacy remain unsuspected in catacombs that once connected to the tower’s dungeons.
More recently, settlers from the southern nation of Cheliax have come to Varisia. The city of Magnimar was settled by colonists dissatisfied with the strong reliance on Chelish support in eastern Varisia, and before long the need for additional farmland grew apparent. To the south, the sloppy expanse of the Mushfens made farming difficult, so the settlers turned their eyes north along the Lost Coast. For much of its length, the coast offered little shelter, with one exception – a perfect cove of about 50 miles away from Magnimar. A cove overlooked by a curious stone ruin.
The formation of a new town is not a matter to be taken lightly, nor one to be funded by a single investor. Four powerful families from Magnimar had designs on the region, and rather than work against each other, they consolidated their efforts and formed the Standpoint Merchantile League. These four families – the Kaijitsus (glassmakers), the Valdemars (shipbuilders), the Scarnettis (loggers), and the Deverins (farmers and brewers) sailed north to claim their land after rescuing the rights from Magnimar. Yet when they arrived in the spring of 4666 AR, they found the place already settled by a large tribe of Varisians.
Refusing to be set back, the Sandpoint Merchantile league began a series of talks with the Varisians, promising them an important place in the new township. Unfortunately, after a week of talks that seem to be going nowhere, an impatient man named Alamon Scarnetti took matters into his own hands. Rounding up a group of his brothers and cousins, the Scarnettis mounted a murderous raid on the Varisian camp, intent on killing them all and leaving evidence to blame local goblins for the deed. Yet the Scarnettis, too drunk and overconfident, managed to kill only five Varisians before they were themselves forced to flee, leaving behind three of their own.
The Sandpoint Merchantile League fled back to Magnimar, and in the months to follow were embroiled in the repercussions of Alamon’s assault. Magnimar’s Varisian council demanded punishment for all four families, but the High Court arbitrated peace between them, in no small thanks to the remarkable diplomatic skills of young bard and member of one of the families accused – Almah Deverin not only did she manage to assuage the Varisians’ call for blood payment, she also managed to salvage the plans for Sandpoint by promising not only to incorporate the worship of Desna into the new town’s cathedral, but also to pay the receiving council a generous share of any profits made by Sandpoint businesses over the course of the next 40 years. One year later, the Sandpoint Merchantile League began construction on several buildings with the full cooperation of the Varisian people. In the years since Sandpoint’s foundation, the settlement has flourished. Although the initial term of the compact with the receiving council has passed, Sandpoint government has elected to extend the compact another 20 years, much to the consternation of a few locals.
Today, Sandpoint is a thriving community. Many industries, including fishing, lumber, farming, hunting, brewing, shipbuilding, tanning, and glassmaking, have bloomed, luring skilled laborers from as far as Korvosa and Riddleport to relocate here. Yet Sandpoint’s location on the lost Coast has also recently drawn settlers of another bent. As explorers and adventurers begin to piece together the fragments of ancient Thassilon’s influence over the region so long ago, Varisia’s Thassilonian ruins have acted as a magnet for such lore-seekers. The Old Light is no exception, and a few of Sandpoint’s recent arrivals are more interested in this ruin than anything else.
Throughout its history, Sandpoint has been thankfully free of major disasters. Every winter brings its share of strong storms, yet the natural harbor, sandbars, and cliffs do a remarkable job of blunting the force of wind and wave, leaving the town relatively unscathed. Elders in town spin yarns of a few really big storms, but apart from what the town’s somewhat rocky beginning with the Varisians, only two events have really qualified as disasters: the Chopper and the Sandpoint Fire. These two events, occurring in such close and recent proximity as they have, are generally lumped together as the “Late Unpleasantness”, even though the incidents didn’t have any obvious links. Natives of Sandpoint are reluctant to talk about either event, preferring to look ahead to brighter times.
The Late Unpleasantness
When Jervis Stoot made clear his intentions to build a home on the then-nameless tidal island just north of the Old Light, many worried that he’d break his neck climbing up and down the aisle’s cliffs. Jervis had already garnered something of a reputation for eccentricity when he began his one-man crusade to carve depictions of birds on every building in town. Stoot never made a carving without securing permission, but his incredible skill of woodcarving made it a given that, if Stoot picked your building as the site of his latest project, you seized the opportunity. “Sporting a Stoot” soon grew to be something of a bragging point, and Jervis eventually extended his gift to include ships and carriages. Those who asked or tried to pay him for his skill were rebuffed – Stoot told them, “There ain’t no birds in that wood for me t’set free,” and went on his way, often wandering the streets for days before noticing a hidden bird in a fence post, lintel, steeple, or door frame, which he then secured permission to ‘release’ with his trusty hatchets and carving knives.
Stoot’s excuse for wanting to move onto the isle seemed innocent enough. The place was a haven for local bird-life, and his claim of ‘wanting to be with the birds’ seemed to make sense – so much so, in fact, that the Guild of Carpenters (with whom Stoot has maintained a friendly competition for several years) volunteered to build a staircase, free of charge, along the southern cliff face so that Stoot could come and go from his new home without risking life and limb. For 15 years, Stoot lived on the island. His trips into town grew less and less frequent, making it something of an event when he chose a building to host a new Stoot.
Sandpoint was no stranger to crime, or even to murder. Once or twice a year, passions flared, robberies went bad, jealousy grew too much to bear, or one too many drinks were drunk, and someone would end up dead. But when bodies began to mount up in late 4702 AR, the town initially had no idea how to react. Sandpoint’s sheriff at the time was a no-nonsense man named Casp Avertin, a retired city watch officer from Magnimar. Yet even he was ill-prepared for the murderer who came to be known as Chopper. Over the course of one long month, it seemed that every day brought a new victim to light. Each was found in the same terrible state: body bearing deep cuts to the neck and torso, hands and feet severed and stacked nearby, and the eyes and tongue missing entirely, having been plucked crudely from each head.
Over the course of that terrible month Chopper claimed 25 victims. His uncanny knack at eluding traps and pursuit quickly wore on the town guard, taking a toil on sheriff Avertin in particular, who increasingly took to drinking. In any event, sheriff Avertin himself became chopper’s last victim, slain upon capturing the murderer in a narrow lane – now known as chopper’s alley – as he was mutilating his latest victim. In a battle that followed Avertin landed a telling blow against the killer. When Belor Hemlock, then merely a town guard, found both bodies (Avertin’s and the penultimate victim) several minutes later, he rallied the guards and they were able to follow the killer’s bloody trail.
The trail led straight to the stairs of Stoot’s rock. At first, the town guard refused to believe the implications, and feared that Chopper had come to claim Jarvis Stoot as his 26th victim. Yet what the guards found in the modest home atop the isle and in the larger complex of rooms that had been carved into the bedrock below left no room for doubt, Jervis Stoot and Chopper were one and the same, and the eyes and tongues of all 25 victims were found upon a horrific altar to a vile demon lord of winged creatures and temptation whose name none dared speak aloud. Stoot himself was found dead at the base of the altar, having plucked his own eyes and tongue loose in a final offering. The guards collapsed the entrance to the lower chambers, burned Stoot’s house, tore down the stairs, and did their best to forget. Stoot himself was burned on the beach in a pyre, his ashes blessed and then scattered in an attempt to stave off an unholy return of his evil spirit.
But as fate would have it the people of Sandpoint would soon have a new tragedy to bear, one that almost eclipsed Choppers rampage. A month after the murderer was slain, a terrible fire struck standpoint. The fire started in the Sandpoint Chapel and spread quickly. As the town rallied to save the church, the inferno expanded, consuming the North Coast Stables, the White Deer Inn, and three homes. In the end the church burned to the ground, leaving the town’s beloved priest Ezakien Tobyn and his beautiful adopted daughter Nualia dead.
All that remains today of the once-loved Stoot carvings are ragged scars on buildings and figureheads where owners used hatchets to remove would have become a haunting reminder of the Wolf in the fold. The homes and businesses ravaged by the fire have been reconstructed, and the Sandpoint Chapel has finally been rebuilt as well. With the consecration of this new cathedral, Sandpoint hopes to finally put the dark times of the late unpleasantness to the past.