The Protectors of Sandpoint
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 as an eccentric for his one-man crusade to carve depictions of birds on every deserving building in town. Stoot never made a carving without securing permission, but his incredible skill 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 talent to include ship figureheads and even carriages. Those who asked or tried to pay him for his skill were rebuffed, Stoot telling them, “There ain’t no birds in that wood for me t’set free,” and going on his way. Stoot often wandering the streets for days before noticing a hidden bird in a fencepost, lintel, steeple, or doorframe and securing permission to “release” it with his trusty carving knives.
Stoot’s excuse for wanting to move to 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, 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 fifteen 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 body count suddenly began to mount, the town 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, every few days brought a new victim to light. Each was found in the same terrible state, bodies bearing deep cutting wounds to the neck and torso, with both hands and feet severed and stacked nearby and the eyes and tongue missing entirely, plucked crudely from the 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 particular toll on Sheriff Avertin, who increasingly took to drinking. Many believe that he even took to beating his wife and daughter, and that, in its own way, may have been the genesis of the Sandpoint Fire. In any event, Sheriff Avertin himself became Chopper’s last victim, slain when he finally caught the killer mutilating his latest victim in the side street that would come to be known as Chopper’s Alley. Yet in the battle that followed, Avertin managed a telling blow against the murderer. When the town guard found the sheriff dead with another victim several minutes later, they were able to follow the bloody trail left by the killer.
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 in 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 for 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 then blessed and then scattered in an attempt to stave off an unholy return of his evil spirit from beyond the grave. And in the months to follow, Sandpoint did its best to forget the terror, although even today, children who remember the dark times only six years ago sometimes wake with nightmare visions of Chopper hiding under their beds.