Atop a wooden platform, stands Mokmurian.
Golden jewellery glittering against slate grey skin in the light of a nearby hearth. Not as tall as his Stone Giant brethren.
Yet he radiates power, and clearly doesn’t fear us.
He points a crooked finger.
A ray of ominous green light beams across the room hits Mhad with a flash that disintegrates the stone wall around her.
Moravia casts a spell upon us and Athene and I (dragging a very confused Wynter) are suddenly flying in the air alongside the Roc!
Mokmurian counters, swirling his arms with another spell and a sudden fog engulfs us like a canvas falling from the ceiling.
The mist, more like molasses, slows our advance but does not stop us and we’re soon flying around him like swooping magpies.
I call on Iomadae to serve Justice to this evil and together as one we Smite him!
Infuriated he taunts us, fire licking at his hands he launches a fire ball across the room, at an already staggering Mhad and her crumpled form goes down.
Moravia rushes to her aid.
We turn on the StoneGiant with a new fury.
Athene and I deal a flurry of terrible blows, while Wynter only snaps blindly.
He looks worried.
He’s casting again.
A dark portal appears on the wall behind him and he steps through, with a smug grin.
He reappears on the other side of the hall behind Mhad, slowly getting to her feet at Moravia’s healing hands.
We rush back across the chamber to meet them.
A wobbly looking Mhad summons a prehistoric monster that near fills the cave behind.
Moriava summons a creature of her own- a giant elemental of air!
Flanked now by two monstrous behemoths, he counters again with a noxious green cloud that fills the hall.
Coughing against the poisoned air we must push on.
I hope he’s not going to shift away again…
No, he stands to face us but in his arrogance we outmaneuver him, and lock Mokmurian in a ring of steel and tooth and buffeting air.
Then, amazingly, the Tyrannosaurus Rex rears up and clamps it’s jaws down on the Stone Giant.
Infuriated and screaming in pain he struggles against the cage of teeth that binds him.
We strike at anything left exposed, the beast’s breath atrocious…
The Reptile seems to be fighting some natural instinct to swallow him.
While Mokmurian fights, virtually helpless, desperately looking for a way out, literally and figuratively.
I manage to smite him one last time before the ancient monster lifts him off the ground and crunches down, like a dog with a chicken carcass.
He screams… shudders… And the would be warlord of Varisia is slain…
Mhad, green cheeked and charred black, stumbles forward ordering the tyrant lizard to drop its prey.
It seems impossible but I would swear there’s disappointment in those reptilian, alien eyes, but it does as it’s told and Mokmurian’s broken, mauled, bloody bpdy falls with a wet thump.
We stand for a moment, silently looking on, breathing heavy, still coughing.
But others might be on their way.
I kneel down, extinguishing Redemption and unceremoniously sever his head.
I turn it with over with my foot to spike it but the drooping eyes flicker open with a sudden green, necrotic light.
“So these are the heroes of the age? More like gasping worms to me-worms to be crushed back into the earth when I awaken the armies of XinShalast, when the name Karzoug is again spoken with fear and awe. Know that the deaths of those marked by the Sihedron- the giants you have so conveniently slain for me-hasten my return, just as yours soon will. Fools, all of you. Is this all you could manage in ten thousand?”
Athene picks up the dismembered head and spits it on my sword-
“More like a ten weeks…”
As the green light fades, there’s a sound we’ve not heard for some time… laughter.
We rifle through the room, collecting texts, spell books, treasures and battle plans including a map of the Lost Coast of Varisia.
Taking a sihedron shaped key from his mangled body, we double back to the unopened, bronze double-doors.
There’s a light again but this time not of the Shining Child.
We step forward into a tall cylindrical room lit by hanging crystal lanterns. The walls are illustrated with Runes and a great shaft descends into the centre of the floor, surrounded by plush furniture.
Also in the room, another large, inert, clockwork Golem.
As we approach, weapons ready, the construct comes to life, but our alarm is premature…
The creature, or device begins to speak.
I don’t understand the words but I recognise the sounds as Thasalonian, its tone compliant, neither threatening nor argumentative.
Mhad begins to converse with it.
Apparently some sort of records keeper or librarian, it offers us access to its archive.
More weary than wary, we drop down into the couches.
We make a barrage of inquiries and with each question, the mechanical aestetic transforms into a flying contraption and flits from rune to rune like a chef gathering ingredients.
When it’s done, it settles back into humanoid form and a truly wondrous, illusory presentation begins in the empty void before us (not unlike the image of the man giving a speech we saw in the Dam at the Skull Pass.)
We Learn many things…
Karzoug (as it turns out, the man we saw making that speech at Skull Pass) was the Rune lord of Greed. An Azlanti human, he was said to have lived for hundreds of years, ruling a region called Shalast, for over 10,000 years.
Karzoug’s undyingly loyal giant armies were commanded by Rune Giants, pawns of the Rune Lords themselves and counted many other nefarious allies amongst their number including; blue dragons; nightmare denizens of the Leng; blooddrinking outsiders known as scarlet walkers; and towering lamia harridans.
Karzoug was said to be the most gifted manipulator of Transmutation magic in all of Thassilon. Once associated with the virtue of wealth, it became the magic of greed and even among the rune lords, his mastery of greed magic was uncontested!
His command of the schools of illusion and enchantment however (related
to the sins of pride and lust) became atrophied. So much so that many believed a weapons infused with such enchantments (known as “dominant weapons”) would be particularly potent against him; though no record of such a weapon being used thus, exists within the library.
Karzoug warred with his neighbors, but none more so than Alaznist, the Runelord of Wrath and ruler of Bakrakhan. Both built defenses along a ridge known as the Rasp between their nations; Karzoug- immense sentinel statues; Alaznist- a series of towers called the Hellfire Flumes.
Citizens of both nations worried that the war might escalate to the point of the end of the world!
Xin-Shalast, a legendary lost city with streets of gold and buildings made from gemstone was the capital of his Empire, one of seven such Empires that composed ancient Thassilon.
The city was said to be located on the mythical mountain of Mhar Massif a peak that towers above the already impressive (and stupendously inhospitable) Kodar Range.
Mhar Massif was said to be found at the headwaters of the sacred River Avah (which Varisian folklore says leads to an earthly paradise sacred to Desna), though no record of it exists today, most scholars believing it was destroyed during Earthfall.
The mountain itself is said to serve as a bridge to otherworldly realms, most notably -the nightmare dimension of Leng, infusing the region with dangerous eldritch energies.
Apparently this ‘archive’ cannot leave the room, but with the magic Mahd discovered in Mokmurian’s lair, we should be able to return here later if need be and lock the door to prevent further access by others.
We double back until finally we emerge from the charnel pit, Mokmuran’s head held out before us… And discover Conna the Wise ahead of no less than 50 Stone Giants!
Though neither Dragon, ogre or any other giant-kin can be seen.
The two forces stand facing one another.
I feel ready to take on the whole lot of them on, but even rested and recovered, fighting this literal army would be suicide.
And as it happens, we are not in danger.
Conna steps forward to thank us and addresses her people, their expressions as stoney as their namesake.
She points at the head of Mokmurian, cursing him as the usurper, the traitor and branding those who followed him as fools. I understand little of what she says, Mahd translating in whispers but it’s clear… Mokmurian’s hold on these people is no more and they are shamed.
Conna thanks us and informs us that Longtooth and the other armies have left.
She will lead her people away from here and return to their traditional homes and old ways, abandoning this cursed place.
With that, the sea of Giants parts and we walk the gauntlet, each and every Giant stepping forward to look upon the severed head of Mokmurian, our boots crunching in the dirt the only sound until we pass well beyond the gates.
I walk us over to the cliff and hold Redemption aloft.
I speak the command word that bathes the blade in flames and the head of the Stone Giant tyrant starts to spit and blacken.
I wait until the face is burnt beyond recognition and sling the sizzling hob down into the river below.
Athene’s fretting owl flies down, owner and bird obviously happy to be reunited, though it shares an untrusting glance with Wynter as it looks over at the Roc.
But, it’s long ride back to Sandpoint, there’s plenty of time for them to get to know each other better…