Rise of the Runelords
There are pockets of civilization along the Lost Coast between Magnimar and Riddleport. Traditional 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 Sword Coast road every 20 miles or so, placed by virtue of the distance most travelers can walk given a day’s travel. Low stone shrines to Desna give further opportunities for shelter should one of the all-too-common rainstorms catch the traveler 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 cliff s some 50 miles northeast of Magnimar. What was once a pirate campsite in the shadow of an ancient ruined tower has become Sandpoint.
As one approaches the town of Sandpoint, the footprint of civilization upon the Sword Coast grows more clear. Farmlands in the outlying moors and river valleys grow more numerous, and the blue-green waters of the Varisian Bay bear more and more fishing vessels upon its surface. 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]] or the arc of rocky outcropping known as [[Whistler’s Tors]], 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 worries 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!”
- Kendra Deverin mayor
- Belor Hemlock sheriff
- Abstalar Zantus town priest
- Titus Scarnetti nobleman
- Ethram Valdemar, nobleman
- Lonjiku Kaijitsu nobleman
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 that stretched between 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 called today the Varisian Gulf—the Rasp became the region’s new coastline.
Before these cataclysmic events, the Rasp was heavily patrolled by the armies of Shalast and Bakrakhan. Violent clashes between the two were common. Karzoug, leader of Shalast, 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, Alaznist, leader of Bakrakhan, built several destructive watchtowers called Hellstorm Flumes along the Rasp. Each of these towers housed a contingent of her soldiers, commanded by sorcerers and thaumaturges 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 for miles around. 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 nations existed in tenuous balance until the cataclysmic fall of their world.
After Thassilon’s fall and Bakrakhan’s destruction, the Rasp became the new 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 its 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, 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 dissatisfi ed with the strong reliance on Chelish support in Eastern Varisia, and before long the need for additional farmland.
The foundation of a new town is not a matter to be taken lightly, nor one to be funded by one man. Four powerful families from Magnimar had designs on the region, and rather than work against each other, they consolidated their efforts and formed the Sandpoint Mercantile League. These four families, the Kaijitsus (glassmakers and jewelers), the Valdemars (shipbuilders), the Scarnettis (loggers), and the Deverins (farmers and brewers), sailed north to claim their land after securing the rights from the Charterhouse in Magnimar. Yet when they arrived, they found the place a frequent haven for pirates.
Refusing to be set back, the Sandpoint Mercantile League began a series of talks with the pirates, promising them an important place in the new township. Unfortunately, after a week of talks that seemed 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 pirate 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 pirates before they were themselves forced to flee, leaving behind three of their own.
The Sandpoint Mercantile League fled back to Magnimar, and in the months to follow were embroiled in the repercussions of Alamon’s assault. The pirates sought vengeance on all four families, but thanks to the remarkable diplomatic skills of a young bard and member of one of the families accused – Almah Deverin the pirates’ call for blood payment was assuaged. In addition, she also managed to salvage the plans for Sandpoint by promising not only to incorporate the worship of Umberlee into the new town’s cathedral, but to pay a generous share of any profits made by Sandpoint businesses over the course of the next 40 years. One year later, the Sandpoint Mercantile League began construction on several buildings with the full cooperation of the pirate league. In the 42 years since Sandpoint’s foundation, it has flourished. Although the initial term of the compact has passed, Sandpoint’s government has elected to extend the compact another 20 years, much to the consternation of a several locals.
Today, Sandpoint is a thriving community. Many industries, including fishing, lumber, farming, hunting, brewing, tanning, shipbuilding, and Kaijitsu’s own legacy of glassmaking, have flourished, 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 Thassilonian’s influence over the region so long ago, the presence of Thassilonian ruins have acted as a magnet. The Old Light is no exception, and a few of Sandpoint’s recent arrivals are more interested in this ruin than anything else.
Over its four decade history, Sandpoint has been thankfully free of major disasters. Every winter brings its share of strong storms, yet the natural harbor, sandbars, and cliff s do a remarkable job of blunting the force of wind and wave, leaving the town relatively untouched. Elders in town spin yarns of a few really big storms, but apart from the town’s somewhat rocky beginning with pirates, only two events have really qualified as disasters: the Sandpoint Fire and Chopper. These two events, occurring in such close and recent proximity as they have, are generally lumped together as the “Late Unpleasantness,” even though the two events 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 island just north of the Old Light, locals paid him no mind. 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 at 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 ship figureheads 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 fencepost, lintel, steeple, or doorframe, which he’d then secure 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 birdlife, and his claim of “Wantin’ ta be with th’ birds” seemed to make sense. So much so, in fact, that the guild of carpenters (with whom Stoot had 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 with ease. 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 the bodies began to mount five years ago, 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 winter month, it seemed that every day brought a new victim to light. Each was found in the same terrible state: bodies bearing deep cuts to the neck and torso, hands and feet severed and stacked nearby, and the eyes and tongue plucked crudely from the head and missing entirely.
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 particular toll on Sherrif Avertin, who increasingly took to drinking. In any event, Sherrif Avertin himself became Chopper’s last victim, slain upon catching the murderer in a narrow lane—known now as Chopper’s Alley—as he was mutilating his latest victim. Yet in the battle that followed, Avertin managed a telling blow against the killer. When the town guard found both bodies several minutes later, they were able to follow the killer’s bloody trail.
A trail that 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 poor Jervis 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 the same, and the eyes and tongues of all 25 victims were found upon a horrific altar to a birdlike demon 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 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.
As fate would have it, the people of Sandpoint would soon have a new tragedy to bear, one that almost eclipsed Chopper’s rampage. A month after the murderer was slain, a terrible fire struck Sandpoint. The fire started in the Sandpoint Chapel and spread quickly. As the town rallied to save the church, the fire spread, consuming the North Coast Stables, the White Deer Inn, and three homes. In the end, the church burnt to the ground, leaving the town’s beloved priest Ezakien Tobyn dead.
All that remains today of the once-loved Stoot carvings are ragged scars on buildings and figureheads where owners used hatchets to remove what had become a haunting reminder of a wolf in their 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 can finally put the dark times of the Late Unpleasantness in the past.
Sandpoint at a Glance
Most of the buildings in Sandpoint are made of wood, with stone foundations and wood shingle roofs. The majority are single-story structures, with a few noted exceptions. The town is often thought of as two districts by the locals. Uptown consists of areas 1–12. Most of these buildings are relatively new, and the streets are open and less crowded. This section of town is also physically above the rest, situated on a level bluff overlooking the southern half of town, which consists of areas 13–46. The majority of the town’s buildings can be found downtown, which grows increasingly crowded as available space is claimed by new arrivals. Downtown is built on a gentle slope that runs from a height of about 60 feet above sea level to the west down to only a few feet above the waterline to the east and south.
Sandpoint Harbor is a fairly deep natural harbor, 30 feet for most of its expanse, with sharply rising slopes near the shore. The languid waters of the Turandarok River wind down from the hinterlands, emptying into the harbor—the river is often used to transport lumber harvested far upriver down to the local saw mill. South of town rises another bluff on which Sandpoint’s most affluent landowners have staked their claims.
Only a few hundred feet north of town rises an upthrust spur of rocky land topped with a few trees—this is known now as [[Chopper’s Isle]], once the home to Sandpoint’s most notorious criminal. A remote outcropping accessible only by flight or by a skilled climber, locals now believe the isle to be haunted by Chopper’s ghost. Children often dare each other to go out to the isle’s base at low tide and touch the barren cliff face that surrounds it, but no one’s visited the top in years.
The sight that strikes all visitors to Sandpoint at first is the ruins of the Old Light. The original height of this tower is unknown, but those who have studied the ancient elven architecture of the crumbling remains estimate it might have stood more than 700 feet tall. Today, less than a quarter of that remains. The Old Light rises from sea level and is built into the face of a 120-foot-tall cliff , the tower extending another 50 feet above that level to culminate in ragged ruins. The remaining shell is yet another reminder that none are the first settlers of this land, yet apart from a few badly weathered carvings signifying that the peak of this tower once held a brilliant light, no insight to the tower’s true purpose remains.
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