Rise of The Runelords: Varisia's Angels

Down With The Tyrant
The Final battle with Mokmurin... But will there be answers?

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.

We charge!

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.

Blood spatters.
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
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…

Blind Hope
Divine Revival, Unholy Light and Penetrating the Fog..

I’ve been here before I think.

A place of quiet stillness and justice and righteousness.
And the Valiant Lady.
She stands in shining plate mail, heraldry on her gold hilted sword and long shield, basking the space with their warm light.
A light that seems to beckon.

At once I feel compelled to step forward into her embrace but instead, I kneel down before her. I dare to look up after a long moment, into a face obscured by her radiance and can just make out an expression that I can’t read.
At her feet lays a strange, metallic rod, an object in stark contrast to the surrounds, but it looks though like something’s missing.

Almost instinctively I reach into my tunic, closing my hand around the heavy weight that hangs there. Always a dark stain and no less so than here.

Stepping out from behind her crimson cloak is a large pale creature.
Breathing heavily, head cooked it could be Wynter but no… It’s a creature much larger. Stretching it’s neck out, I can see now, it’s a huge Elk, antlers intertwined by vines.

It steps forward, hooves clattering on the hard floor and lowers it’s muzzle down to me, its earthy breath close.
There is a new light, a cooler light… an older light.

I awake to a distant din of clashing metal and desperate shouting.

I prop myself up from the slop of half frozen entrails I find myself in, staring blearily into the headless neck of an Ogre Necromancer- mauled, disemboweled and unlifeless.

Shouting still; steel on steel, growling, a terrible noise like a Blacksmith’s bellows.

I’m alive! If only barely.

The undead Giants are slain, but the Forge Fiend is back renewed!
Athene, Wynter and the Dire Tiger are formed up against it.
I draw my bow but there’s no need as a volley from Moriava seems to find every weak point in its metal shell.

We rest and heal.
The wands near depleted, we move on.
We follow a series of tunnels though the Forge Fiend’s slag-lined Silo, turned lair to arrive in a long, wide hallway.

The high ceiling is propped up by numerous pillars, the walls chiseled with Thasalonian runes (including Sihedrons) which according to Mhad pay tribute to the Peacock Spirit.
Two single doors stand to the east while huge, bronze, double doors feature at the far end.

Our resources waning, I urge the others to move onto what must surely be the prize behind those double doors, but all seem intent on thoroughly investigating each nook and cranny.
It’s Foxglove manner all over again.

However, the Cleric does make a good point that we don’t want any surprises from behind, so I go along with their plans.

When the first door reveals only a bricked over wall, everyone (much to my surprise) decides to follow my suggestion and try the Bronze doors.

They are magical but not trapped.
Cut into a large metal star is the clear relief of a Sihedron about the size of our medallions. I remove one of the many we’ve accumulated but it doesn’t fit!
That was an anti climax…

There’s no lock, so simply go to push the doors open… But a brilliant, malevolent energy emanates from the portal and we step back.

A strange, vaguely female humanoid form materialises before us, her body reflecting an intense light, gouts of bright sparks poring from her eyes and mouth.

We step back again.

A pressure at the back of my head and a sudden, terrible pulse of blinding light.
Everyone’s left reeling…
Athene and I rally and charge the outsider.
She blasts me with a beam of searing light that seeps through my armour.
Dragging Wynter behind me, Athene and I move to flank the Shining Child.
I smite her, nearly cutting her in half and Athene finishes the job.

It was a quick but costly exchange… Looking around, all but Athene and I are staggering blind!

I try the doors again, this time more warily, but they still won’t budge.

After a brief discussion about what to do, we shuffle back to and through the last door to a towering cave with a huge unstable looking pillar. The walls seem especially worn and Athene observes the construction here is relatively new.

Leading the blind along the wall to another pair of double doors, the chamber is suddenly echoing with a trio of otherworldly growls…

We turn just in time to see three, lean, long-limbed hound-like creatures with soulless eyes and toothy maws bounding forward- Hounds of Tindaloss!

We stand ready but the hounds skid to a halt and screech.
The sound is physical.
A shower of knives, that rip and tear the flesh.
They run on an we meet them and despite our sorry state, manage to make short work of them.

Another victory but this will not do.
We must be nearing our target but a few more fights like this and we won’t stand a chance.

Again however, we thank the gods for the strange arrival of this cleric.
Praying to Erastil she able to cure all but Wynter of their affliction. I only hope that her Roc makes a good account for itself in the upcoming battle.

We check the doors and try to penetrate beyond with our senses… but nothing.
As I open the door it’s apparent that something is immediately amiss. I don’t know what, but Athene notices something too.

There’s nothing for it.
Guiding a blind Wynter by the scruff of the neck I swing the doors wide and step forward… To be met by a wall of impenetrable cloud…
It’s is grey and odorless but no less ominous.

Somebody knows we’re coming…

It starts to roll in after us and we clamber backwards.
All except Mhad who pushes us aside, staff from the Wyvern’s cave held aloft and with a word of magic blasts the cloud away with a gust of wind.

Beyond is a cavernous library, dotted by pillars and random piles of texts and other Arcane materials… and at the back, atop a wooden platform, a creature who can only be he who we seek- Mokmurian!

Last Stand
Cauldron's Mist, Constructs, Undead Giants and Mortality.

Athene and I look around dumbfounded at our shrunken companions.
Mhad determines that this otherwise mundane spell effect, was cast by a master Wizard and cannot be undone for some time.

There’s nothing to do but move on and adapt.

Behind double doors, a passageway leads a large hall, glowing with eery firelight. While we hold position, Athene turns invisible and scouts ahead.
When she reappears she slumps down retching.

She describes a room with an enormous cauldron on the boil, from which a living mist emerged and engulfed her, the cause of her current affliction.
She goes on to describe an equally huge, suspiciously inert statue, most likely a construct of some kind.

Conna’s intelligence has been woefully inadequate

Waiting for Athene to rally, we move into the room.
Exactly as described, the hall is dimly lit by the glowing embers, beneath a cauldron over 10 feet tall, scraps of bloody flesh, sizzling amongst the coals.

And the stocky, towering frame of a Golem… waiting.

We skirt the wall in an attempt to avoiding waking the creature, but that, as it turns out, is both futile and the least of our worries…

The second we step a foot in the room, red and green vapours tumble out of the cauldron and toward us with clear intent and a groaning hiss.

The foul gase overwhelms us.

Moriavia and Wynter are immediately stricken and incapacitated, both as green as Athene and Blind as well!
By* Iomadae’s* grace, Athene and I are unaffected and we charge the Golem, indeed, already lurching into life.
I strike the massive construct and in answer, he stomps the ground. A kind of magical shockwave rattles my teeth and clouds my mind.

Head ringing, body numb, it’s all I can do to swing my sword.
Thankfully Athene is unaffected and she downs the Golem.
His effect on me however, remains…

Smoke now filling the room, everyone but is either staggering blind, retching or dragging their feet, a cascade of curses in affect.

We must topple the cauldron- But how?!
Even with our enhanced strength it’s enormous.

Then an ungodly wailing sound from the passageway behind us- What now!!

Wynter comes skittering out, yelping, fur singed.
Moriava, pale faced backs out, stumbling blindly, her Roc hopping behind.
Mahd is half way across the room but blind as well.

And then I see the creature that drove them out!

Another construct, made from huge iron plates that pulse and writhe as if alive. Its prestigious metal belly, with a jaw of bear trap teeth, glowing from within with the heat of a forge.

That thing will make short work of us in this state!

I need to hold it off until the others can get to safety.
Still slowed by the Golem, like moving through molasses, I arrive just in time to block its advance.

Head still foggy I try to focus.
One hit at a time.
Still sluggish, I’m caught in its belly maw.
Only the powerful magical vestments keep my chest plate from being torn clean off.
I can feel the molten heat behind those teeth, radiating through mail and chain.
Redemption’s flames have no effect.

And just when it seems hopeless, an opening…
Teetering on it’s almost comical, mechanical legs, two plates separate to reveal it’s inner workings.
I leap up and drive redemption into the gap.
Steel grinds on steel.
The mechanical monstrosity wrenches my sword loose, spluttering lava and leaps, astonishingly into the stone wall… and vanishes!

I spin around.
Moriava clutches blindly to her shrunken Roc.
The others have made it to a junction on the far side of the room.
I pick up the elf and her mount, and lug the pair to safety.

The alcove is indeed a refuge from the cauldron mists and we take our time to recover.
When Moriava gets her sight back, she summons a font of water and extinguishes the cauldron hearth, leaving hissing coals and a soup of sodden flesh.

We head back in to search the room but there’s nothing.
Mahd, her sight restored has answers at least…
The Cauldron appears to be some sort of necromantic summoning device, fuelled by dead Giants.
The creature I routed, a kind of Dwarvern bogey man- called a Forge Fiend.

We crowd back into the alcove and look onwards to more guaranteed trouble.

The room is ringed by the frozen forms of armour-clad Hill Giants and a single, headless ogre; frost caked arms clutching two wicked hatchets.

A single foot in the door and again, unsurprisingly, ice cracks over the rigid hulks and they come to life… or unlife!

We form up in the alcove creating a chokepoint.
Lethargic undead, Hill giants stomp in.
Mahd lets loose a bolt of electricity, arcing though their numbers with a hiss of steam.
Swords flash, one Giant goes down, then another.
Then an inhuman howl from the headless Ogre, like the winds off the tundra.
Frozen decaying humanoids burst through the flagstone floor all around us!
Mahd finds herself cut off and draws her sword.
Then Moriava channels and the light of Erastil floods the room.
A rising, collective moan is snuffed out as suddenly as it arrived.

Mhad summons her Dire Tiger and with Athene and Wynter we move together, steadily through the Hill Giant ranks.
Swing, sidestep, flank, parry.
The whole time watching that headless Ogre, deathly still, waiting for his moment.
I fell the last Hillgiant and indeed, the Ogre comes in hard.
Hatchets swinging a terrible headless howl echoes off the walls.

I stand my ground but the first a barrage of blows nearly cuts me down.
He seems to sense my every move, but how!
I can just make out the others behind its frigid mass, circling in behind, but too late for me…

Another flurry of ice encased blades and all I see is red.

The Gauntlet
Traps, Trolls, Tiny Villlains and Tiny Heroes.

Leaving Lamashtu’s temple, we arrive at the top of a curving tunnel lined with animal skins.

But something is amiss…
The skins flap gently.
Wide puncture marks dot the hides.
Athene and I reach out with our senses and detect an evil presence, lurking behind the walls, right where each skins hangs.

It’s a trap!

Signalling the others to hold position and prepare, I march loudly through the gauntlet.
Taunting those behind the walls, sure enough, two metal ransuer heads flash from flanking murder holes, obscured by the hides.
I’m ready for an attack but not fast enough to avoid both blades.

Ahead I can see the two entrances to where my assailants are hiding.
I surge forward and through a draped skin on the left.
Barreling into a dark musty cell, I find a huge, armoured Troll, pole arm still in hand, waiting for those behind me.

The creature releases its weapon with a bellow, turning tooth and claw upon me.
He’s not like those we faced before, larger, stronger.
He rends and tears with terrible force… but his momentum is short lived.
The cramped chamber is suddenly shoulder to shoulder with my allies, Wynter, an ever eager Babu and Moriava; with healing words just in time for me.

The troll goes down under a furious assault and we pile back into the main corridor.
Athene is still battling in the hidden chamber opposite but the others are now facing off against a very… different threat.

A short, crimson-scaled, draconic humanoid is fighting, nay holding its own against Moriava and her Roc!
So much so, that by the time I’ve stepped up to assist, the Kobold Champion has runs the cleric through with his spear!

The sudden loss of our new companion gives us new urgency and we swarm the diminutive warrior.
He puts up a spirited resistance but with the addition of an Archon now too, he cannot hope to hold against the tide of steel.

We follow the passage onwards to a stairway and down into an altogether different, even strange wing of the complex. Cut by a different hand, the smooth charcoal-grey stone has been engineered with rounded corners… To what purpose though, other than the aesthetic, we can only guess.

The foyer leads off in a number of directions, but all but one is blocked by fallen stone.

Taking the only possible way forward we find ourselves in a huge, high ceilinged hall, that is bare of adornment, but defended by a Hill Giant!

Charging in, I’m almost overcome by a strange sensation

Shaking it off, Athene and I form up against the brute.
The fight is cut short with a mighty blow from Athene, though not quite as short it appears, as my companions appear to be!

Enemy Of My Enemy
Dragon Fire and Lamia and Lamia and Lamia.

Amidst the ruin of Dire Bear, Roc, Stone Giant and their victims, we approach this ‘friend of Sandpoint’ warily.

A cleric of Erastil, she introduces herself as Moriava an errant ally she claims, who has literally followed our progress for months.

Further gobsmacked, if that was possible and unsurprisingly suspicious, we question her thoroughly. Using details about our journey and Sandpoint itself, we are eventually able to satisfy that she is true and welcome her to the cause.

While the others attend to healing the wounded, I search the Giant Captain’s cave. The small cell is lined with grisly trophies; dented scraps of armour; a mounted Frost Giant head; a bushel of dwarven beards and a collection of shields, each bearing the name of its vanquished owner…
Though monstrous, this foe was obviously a mighty warrior.

Climbing back down with a singly impressive shield, I loose the beards from the ring that bound them and lay them with the other remains.

We are just about to continue when a giantess, slightly shorter than the rest and tattooed with runes, emerges from the shadows, hands up in a gesture of submission and asks us why we’re here.

There’s a pause as I think we all consider the wisdom of such a parlay but it’s hardly the strangest thing we’ve seen today.
’We’re here to cut the head off the snake; to kill Mokmurian!’

And to our surprise she she seems relieved!
Introducing herself as Conna the Wise she begs for us to follow. Ever wary still, we creep off to an isolated cave. The walls are covered with primitive paintings of man and wild beast, that seem to shift when you look away.
This place is obviously a holy one, but strangely, not an evil one…

She explains that she is the widow of the Tribe’s former chieftain, slain by it’s current leader- and our target- Mokmurian.
She confirms that Mokmorian is currently here and does indeed plan to invade Varisia … but also that he is under the influence of an even greater power- the spirit of Karzoug!

A familiar name by now, Karzoug was apparently responsible for the subjugation of the Stone Giants many eons ago and she fears that through Mokmurian, Karzoug will doom her people again.

She then offers to assist us in ending Mokmurian’s reign… though pleading that we also spare the lives of her people where we can.

Apparently, Mokmurian can be found in his Library and there’s two ways to reach him.

The first is a long gauntlet of her kin.
The second is guarded by damned Lamia and Dragons!
Though the latter sounds more perilous, we agree to take that path in order to spare as many lives of her folk as we can.

Conna’s parting gift is a powerful spell that rejuvenates us, a gift almost as well timed as the arrival of that cleric.

Leaving Conna’s shrine, we take the the eastern passage as instructed.

Arriving at a fork, Athene scouts ahead.

She returns from the left tunnel to report a promising pair of stone doors marked with a Sihedron.

She returns from the right tunnel at a run, covered in soot and screaming ‘draw your bows- Dragons!’ with two deep, reptilian voices from beyond, taunting her to return!

Moriava speaks a protective word of prayer and we go in.

The cave is more like an old oven, stiflingly warm, blacked, and smoky.
Two, large, impressive red dragons (if not as large as Long Tooth), stand like guard dogs chained to the floor, maw’s flickering with flame.

Mahd’s Dire Tiger charges the one on the right, claws skittering.
Athene, sword drawn, charges the left.
Ordering Wynter to hold I file in behind Athene and lunge with Redemption.
Moravia’s arrows fly overhead.

The wyrms, perhaps waiting for us to assemble, sweep the room with a jet of flame that touches all those on the front line.

In response, a singed Athene swings down hard, on the extended neck of the first and lops it off, spouting fire as it flails about.

The Tiger savages the second, as wading through the gore I drive my blade deep into its breast. The reptile rears, crashes into the cave wall and slides to the ground with a shudder.

With no time to spare we run forward, and into a long chamber.

With bestial adornments and an altar like a three eyed Jackal skull, this could only be a temple of Lamashtu!

And sure enough, not without it’s priestess’

Two creatures, familiar if not identical; with a woman’s torso and the body of a lioness. These can only be the Lamia.

And as if on cue, they cast that spell we loathe so much, each bursting into a cascade of mirrored images and charge, knife upon knife flashing.
The DireTiger swipes away one image, then another.
But the Lamia returns with a blur of slashing blades and the Tiger disappears with a yelp.

Suddenly surging forward, they seal us into a bottleneck.
One on one, Athene and the the first Lamia trade blows.
Unable to keep pace with the overlapping forms, Athene is is nearly killed and falls back.
Arrows (magical and mundane) fly overhead, chipping away at the mirrors.
Two left…
I step up and get lucky…

Redemption’s flaming blade flashes and I behead the priestess.

Her partner pulls back with an angry shriek.
Moravia heals Athene and we clamber over the crumpled feline form to swarm the second.

Still mirrored, a spiral of knife blades flash finding myself and Athene.
But Athene rallies.
As the last false image pops, she leaps forward and strikes a blow that leaves the abomination reeling.
And as she falters, I take advantage, and drive my blade until the flames of Redemption disappear.

Piling in we give the room a cursory look and discover a cache of books hidden beneath the altar.

We must be close now…

A Roc And Hard Place
Stone Giants, Rocs and New Friends.

The Stone Giant Captain stands smirking behind one of the many boulders stockpiles (strewn throughout the keep), in a cave mouth 10 feet above.

Ahead in the tunnels I can hear Mahd and Wynter prepare to face a trampling onslaught of Stone Giants.
Somewhere behind me, Athene’s sword can be heard ringing off stone, over the growling of Dire Bears.
Briefly I consider my course if action…. And charge his position!

His grin falters ever so slightly as I draw wooden ladder, price tag still dangling, from my Handy haversack and slap it against the cave wall. I bound up the rungs, creaking beneath the weight of my armour as a boulder crashes across my shoulders.

I perch upon the top rung and swing Redemption, but tucked in his little hole, the coward ducks out of the away.

A lightening bolt cracks from the tunnels below and Wynter’s snarl echoes off the walls as Athene bounds down the ramp to join them.

The Stone Giant appears in a sudden lunge and shoves hard against the ladder.
I feel suddenly foolish as I tilt backwards and slam into the carrion floor.
Brittle bones and fleshy scraps break my fall (mostly) but my ears are still ringing… No, not ringing, it’s screeching… from outside, above!

What horror pursues us now!?

Picking myself up, the Giant Captain lobs Boulders at Mhad who is now backing out of the tunnels… All four of her in fact; obviously she’s learnt something from our Lamia foes about the effectiveness of Mirror Image.
Another run at him up there would be futile- let him come down to us!

I run forward to join my friends in the tunnels.
Mahd looks drained but not out. Athene, Wynter and a Dire Tiger stand back to back holding the three way intersection, already littered with Stone giant corpses.

I step up in front of Wynter and we push them back on two fronts.
They keep coming but they’re no match for us and the last grey skinned devil goes down, floor shuddering.

Or I thought so at least!
Standing with Wynter in a tall roofed common room, a Giantess with ragged apron stands defiantly in an alcove at the rear. Lit by cooking fires, she snarls defiance in her guttural tongue.
We charge her in answer.

I steal a glance behind me though as the sounds of what appears to be a flock of giant birds comes echoing in through the aperture outside, thrashing and flapping.

Iomadae protect the other two…

Wynter and I meet the Giantess half way, ladle in her hand (and what would be a maul in mine) and strikes me across the face. I pick myself up and we leap on her and it’s a short fight.

Then, over what could only be described as an avian cacophony, I hear Athene’s desperate plight ‘SIIIILLLVVVAAA!’.

I double back to the pit and stand at the tunnel archway in awe.

The pit lit is now lit by flames of a giant fire elemental, yanking the charred remains of the Stone Giant Captain from his little hole, but that is the least of it.
Not one, but two giant, dark feathered birds- Rocs; are locked in mortal combat at the centre of the chamber, claws and beaks slashing, beating wings sending charnel debris aloft.

No-one seems to know what to do.

Surely this can only be the enemy, and yet the birds are fighting each other.
Could this be some conflict between natural enemies that has spilled, incredulously before us?

No… One of the birds, the smaller one (if ‘small’ could be used to describe such a creature) bears a rider!
An ally? An enemy? Neither?

It has a vaguely female form, human sized at least, but blurred, as if by magic.

A spy perhaps? Surely that makes her an ally?
The rider leaps free of the saddle as the larger Roc near eviscerates her mount, calling ’I’m a friend of Sandpoint’.

With that, Wynter and the Diretiger pounce on the larger Roc but Athene finishes the fight.

And we stand a little dumbfounded, I’m not ashamed to admit.

The brown, smaller Roc, rights itself with an unsteady hop, talons crunching in the carnage strewn floor and immediately starts preening bloody, tattered feathers, Wynter and the Dirtiger eying her warily.

The Sky Rider steps fourth and pulls her dark, siver-threaded hood back.
The blurry image settles into that of a pale skinned half elf with black hair and strangely mismatched eyes.
She tucks a fine longbow behind her back and I notice, on a chain across her mythril breastplate a holy symbol of Erastil.

Her entrance will make quite a tale for Ameiko, but if that Roc can’t carry us all out of here, she’ll probably never here it…

Out Of The Pit, Into The Pit
Mummy Monks, Frost Giants, Bears and The Charnel Pit.

Before us stands the tall, luminescent figure of man, wrapped in sodden, frost touched bandages, a metal scroll tethered across his chest.
The Mummy is not armed, or armoured but I know something of these creatures and and he needs not such things.

There is no talk.
I Smite him and we sweep in.
He takes a strange martial stance.
Mahd summons a huge creature of flame and we surround him.

Then he lashes out with a flurry of blows!
Chilling, gnarled, black hands and feet, dart and strike and block with complete disregard for armour or weapon.

He stuns Wynter with a yelp, the wound seeming to fester right before our eyes.
He’s quick too, so much so, that when I finally do hit him, I nearly cry in triumph.
We slash and bite but he continues to rain blows upon us.
I can feel the necromantic energy of the creature and I channel the might of Iomadae.
He’s suddenly very interested in me!
Then a blow leaves Athene staggering…
Our numbers dwindling I look over at the rope and suddenly realise that retreat will be impossible.
There’s only victory or death down here!

So we keep swinging.
Wynter rallies (though she looks almost withered), then Athene.
A devastating strike from me, then Athene.
The elemental is chipping away…

Then the deathblow.

Rags flutter away from Athene’s sword as ash scatters, infusing with the icy floor.

We search the crypt but there’s nothing but the mummy’s scroll case.
Made of adamantium, it contains sheets of near perished parchment, too fragile to remove but apparently arcane in manner.

We climb back up the rope and out of the tomb, perplexed.
If this was not Mokmorian’s lair, perhaps it is the pit after all?
I should have trusted my instincts…

We decide to send out Athene to scout the barracks alone.
After a very anxious wait she returns safely and reports.

She discovered a large barn, with animals of some kind that she dare not enter to identify; the domicile of a Frost Giant couple (thankfully asleep); and a communal hall with some large creature scratching at the floor- possibly the Dragon Longtooth!

And finally, the pit…
The inside wall is covered by small cave mouths, the stone path actually passing by a sleuth of Dire Bears asleep in their den.
The bottom is indeed littered with carrion but it is also the entrance to a greater cave system… and a female Hill Giant sentry!

Athene did well to cover so much ground undetected, but I also suppose an army such as this would have little fear of invaders, little lone behind the walls…

We decide to indeed go down into the pit.
Athene seems keen to slay the sleeping Frost Giants on the way and under the circumstances not a bad idea, but the risk of rousing the watch before we’ve even sited our goal is too great.
I actually wonder who those Frost Giants are?
More fearsome than Hillgiants, perhaps they are the custodians of the fort?
Or maybe Generals in the army?

We creep across the courtyard shadow to shadow (myself almost giving us away) and arrive at the charnel pit.
It is dark, and foul and deep.
We toe down to the mouth of the den, where the stink is almost worse than from below. There are three and they are no less fearsome to behold than when awake.
A few whispers and we decide that Athene will deal with the Bears, while we try and reach the guard below.

Leaving her to the grim task we creep down.
A dull clunk from the cave, followed by a wet thump…
A too long a pause and then a terrible bellow!
A second wet crack from above as we scramble to reach the sentry before she raises the alarm.
A third growl and then the beginning of a terrible fight !
Then, from up high on the pit wall opposite, a heavy, grease stained curtain of animal skin is drawn aside and a mighty specimen, of a Hill Giant appears, stones in hand and hurls them!

Mahd, Wynter and I dodge aside as rock crashes around us!
Should I try and deal with him? He’s over 10 feet above. Should I ignore him then? What about the sentry? Are we too late?

I charge the brute above with a plan hatched for such situations weeks ago.

Wynter and Mahd rush ahead into the caves beyond as Athene emerges behind, bloodily victorious.

Wynter, unseen, howls…
I know that cry… Enemies are coming…

An image of molten steel between an anvil and a hammer comes to mind’ I only hope that’s a sword being forged and not a horse shoe!

Raid on Jorgenfist
Invisibile Allies, Walking on Air, Seductive Songs and Meeting the Enemy.

We scuttle up the cliff face like insects before the Spider Climb potion wears off and into a nook of boulders overlooking the fortress. From here we can make out the clamour of restless camps, distant guttural voices, the percussion of hurled stones and the occasional clash of steel.

We hatch a new plan to infiltrate Jorgenfist and immediately set to action. Using the wand we found in the Wyvern’s den, Mahd casts Airwalk on us all as we drink the other potions we brought for the task- Invisibility.

Leaving Wynter and Thera behind, both agitated at the separation, we take to the air unseen.
It’s a curious sensation, walking along an invisible walkway that changes orientation at will.

We pass over one of the camps, noisy enough that we don’t need to sneak and over the fortress wall.
Giant sentries pace below on the enormous ramparts with piles of boulders at the ready.

The plan was to head for the tower, but that changes we take in Jorgenfist in it’s entirety. Lit by moonlight we can see a number of enormous wooden barracks and all the usual sundries you’d expect to see (if scaled up some 10 times) the towering monolith… but something unexpected too!

At the centre of the fortress gapes an enormous and ominous pit. Broken earth falls away into the pitch black depths but a walkway leads down too. We each are immediately struck by it’s possible importance. That, not the tower is surely where Mokmorian’s lair is…

After a whispered discussion we change direction towards the pit. We get within a few metres, staring unnervingly into the depths. Hundreds of feet below it is lined with bodies and carrion and slithering things in the dark.
A charnel pit.
I think we’ve made a mistake…

We quickly reconsider our options but Mahd is strangely silent.
A sudden panic comes over me, I reach out, invisible, groping blindly for Mahd, but she ’s gone!

What happened to her!?

Perhaps she wondered off?
No, it can only be trouble…
Did she come up against some sort of magical barrier?
Was some equally unseen sentry attracted to her power?

The invisibility potions will run out soon, so we have precious few options left to us.
I fumble our last invisibility potion to Athene who is the only one with any chance of finding her.

Leaving Athene to a near impossible task I backtrack to the tower. No windows, platform or doors above the ground level- another roadblock.
I descend and tuck myself as best as possible into a shadowy nook where the tower meets wall… and just in time as my invisibility potion where’s off.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so vulnerable.

Then a strange scream from above, back towards the gatehouse.

I look desperately around for bad company before I Airwalk (now fully visible) up the face of the tower to get a better look… and see only horror…

There, suspended in mid air, a now visible Mahd is blundering along in a sort of daze behind a scrawny winged crone, warbling a terrible hypnotic tune- Banshee!

Hovering against the tower edge I can see Mahd flailing against an invisible assailant- Athene!
But the Inquisitor cannot budge the elf and she shoves the unseen obstruction aside. The Banshee looks back for a moment but is not alerted to our presence.

I’m high enough above the wall, that with the ambient noise from the camps, if I’m careful, I won’t be heard by the sentries below.
Securing redemption I knock an arrow.
Still no further sign of Athene.
I aim.
I fire.
Three shafts loose, two hit the creature, kicking up feathers with a screech.
But not a screech of pain though, a call for help!

Two more banshees appear from the monolith and dart towards the action.
But they haven’t seen me yet.
I’ll never take them all out quietly with my meager skill as an archer…
Yet can I risk a melee in open site like that at the gates of Jorgenfist?
And how much longer with the Airwalk spell last?

Then Athene makes the decision for me.
She appears, great sword flashing in the moonlight and attacks the Harpies.
The singer continues her crooning, Mahd still in her thrall and all three turn on the defenseless wizard!

We might lose our only chance to penetrate the defenses of Jorgenifst, but better us together on the same side of the wall, whichever side that is!

I sprint across open air on silent hoping my clanking armour will go unnoticed below.
Mahd is being torn apart.
Athene is trying to beat as I step up with Redemption and slay the singer outright…
As the two halves topple bloodily to the ground, I look desperately at Mahd for recognition… But despite the end of the song, she still stands stupefied!

The Banshees continue to claw and thresh.
We slash counter.
Mahd jolts awake, looks around and with a word teleports away through a a portal.
Thank Iomadae!

Athene slays the second which plummets to the ground in a wide circle and a with a scream masked by the winds.
The third declares that she must warn her master and with a beats of her wings, soars back towards the keep.

Athen and I race after her but she’s so fast!
Hurtling along the invisible ramp we find ourselves standing above the castle wall again, out of ear shot of the sentries.
The Harpy is already at the door of the dark tower fumbling at the latch.

That’s when Mahd steps through portal nearby and summons her tentacle trap!
The Harpy howls, clawing at the door.
We’ll need to be quick before her screams alert the watch!
Athene fires an arrow pinning a wing to the ground.
I sprint down through the the air, pause like a pendulum above the flapping monster and pin her to the ground with a flaming Redemption.
She whimpers, and stills.

I can feel myself getting heavier.
The potion can have only moments left.
All visible and feeling thoroughly naked we all descend to the tower door, push it open and tumble in, dragging the Harpy with us.

How we didn’t alert anyone I’ll never know. The gods were indeed watching over us tonight…

The tower is not what I expected.
The reason it had no doors or windows is that it is a shell. A vast hollow tower and cold as ice.

On the floor is a trap door which opens only to darkness.
Obviously the Harpy’s destination.
Pulling out ropes and pitons we rappel down.

One by one with we drop into a vast crypt.
It is the shape of a cardinal star, strange, frost covered coffins nestled into each point and we are not alone…
There, stands a tall bandaged figure, faintly glowing green with a menacing, luminescent light… Mokmorian? No, this figure is, or was once a human male… Now A Mummy!

The Giant's Fist
Fortresses, Wyvern's & Insects

The battle over, we drag the dead Hill giants onto the bridge and roll them into the gorge, hoping to delay our discovery.

Athene riding behind me on Shadowmist, we make our way onto the tundra where towering statues of the now familiar, glaive wielding Runelord; Karzoug line the road.

The Iron Peaks looming ahead we leave the road for a series of game trails to avoid enemy patrols.

One day and a cold night later we reign up on a sheltered precipice, overlooking our destination… Jorgenfist.

Ringed by mountains, a vast valley extends before us falling off on the southern side into the River Muschkal.
At the centre of the dusty bowl stands a grim fortified citadel of dark stone accented with cruel spikes. Turrets punctuate the perimeter and a massive tower of Thassalonian make on the furthest edge. Within rises a strange pointed monolith.
Seven encampments satellite the fortress, peopled by giants and other monstrous humanoids, each keeping their own company.
A gigantic watchtower stands nearby, obviously placed to prevent an approach form our current position.
On a tall peak to the east we can clearly see a wide cave mouth, immediately impressing us as the Dragon’s roost.
On the cliff wall following the river we can make out another two significant openings in the rock face, perhaps even leading under the citadel…

We wait there for some time, trying to determine the best course of action in this most dangerous of assaults.

Waiting until nightfall and only after I’ve prayed for Iomadae’s guidance do we sneak by foot the long way around the rocky perimeter towards the river caves… and what we hope to be our way in!

Passing under the large cave on high, we creep through the litter of dry, gnawed bones, of creatures large and small, four legged and two, confirming to us the lair of LongTooth.

We make the long, tense journey around without detection, arriving at the rivers edge. Looking down at the hundred or so foot drop below, the entrances to each cave would be a perilous climb… had we not come prepared.

Drinking potions of Spider Climbing we literally scramble on hands and feet like insects across the cliff face… and it’s an odd sensation to say the least!

We make our way to the first cave-mouth.
A musty, mysterious smell emanates from within but we creep in none the less, finding a wide natural passageway.
A few feet in we come to a junction, at the centre of which, atop a pile of dirt, is a large red gem.
And that’s when they emerge.

Three reptilian cries echo off the backs of each tunnel and in flies three large, blue scaled, armless draconic creatures with spiked tails- Wyverns!
They swoop in together, barbed tails striking.
Mhad summons a Dire Tiger and we divide ourselves among them.

Wynter howls as a barbed tail strikes true, green liquid dripping from the wound- Poison!
She snarls.
Clamping jaws on the Wyvern’s neck, ice crunching in her maw, she pulls the creature down.
We push forward, they counter and fly back into their lair.
Wynter and I pursue but behind there is a yelp from Athene.
I turn back to see the Inquisitor, arms pinned, off the ground in the jaws of the Wyvern.
the Tiger attacks it, trying to free her.

The one facing me tries the scoop me up too but I dodge out the way.
I press the advantage forcing it to the back of the cave.
After a great struggle Athene is free, and the Tiger leaps on the Wyvern, tearing it to pieces.
Wynter finishes her opponent and all rush to my aid, killing the last.

We search the cave for a passage under the fortress but nothing.
We do find a small cashe of loot amongst the remains left by the Wyverns. Including an impressive enchanted Halberd and the the red Fire Gem, propped up like a symbol of worship in the in the centre of the cave.
Perhaps these creatures are less like animals, and more like their Dragon kin?

Potions still in our blood we climb like spiders to the second opening.
And that’s exactly what’s waiting for us.
I had thought we might camp here overnight but the cavern is swarming with chittering insects.
We push in, shells crunching, ichor bursting, hoping there’s a worthy reward at the back of this nest and a sudden repulsive vision of us crawling through this disgusting swarm…

The main chamber is a net of ropey spider… and we’re not alone!

The carpet of insects bulges, and a Golem of living spiders lurches out of the clicking mass, then another, and another- Death Webs!

Mahd summons her Babau minion as we crunch across the chitinous floor to face them.
One spews a stream of sticky web entrapping Athene.
Insects pour off the monstrosities and swarm all over us, stinging and sliding beneath my armour.
Wynter is yelping.

The fight is a desperate one but we’ll not be outclassed by a host of bugs.
Smashing our way through the monsters, limbs throbbing with poison and skin literally crawling we eventually prevail… and are rewarded again with a disappointing dead end.

We leave the cave before the potions wear off and scale the cliff face, ascending near the gatehouse of Jorgenfist.

We skirt the edge out of site until we find a quiet nook to try and come up with a new plan…

Fortress of the Stone Giants
Consecration, Expedition, Ascention and Descent.

Whilst making preparations for the journey North the courier arrives from Magnimar with our supplies and it’s time to visit brother Zantus and deal with the Runewell below Sandpoint once and for all.

We arrive to find Acolytes and labourers busy repairing the the Cathedral annex, wisely replacing wood with brick. We sit down with Zantus and make plans for the consecration. Apparently we must boil holy water in the font for a day, and we sit down with Broderick Quint to work out the best process.

With barrows of barreled holy water, the acolytes follow us underground into the ruins below. I’m pleased to see that even after the havoc of days previous, a guard still stands sentry at the entrance here in the back alley.

We travel down through the musty caves, the dilapidated gaol, the Zombie hive and the Vargoule’s lair. The place is eerily still and I’m equally happy to say that nothing seems to have returned here. Though from the look on the Acolytes faces, I think that my ease is not shared… and I can’t blame them. I’m sure we had similar expressions months ago when first we were here.

Finally we arrive at the Runewell chamber. Though remains of those we vanquished are long picked clean, an unholy aura still persists.

The rust orange pool seems to beckon to us.
Before we begin it occurs to me to investigate if my sihedron medallion reacts to the well, as both things being seemingly related. But I’m no arcanist nor Inquisitor and nothing, perhaps thankfully, seems to comes of it.

And so we begin.
The Pool must be exhausted.
Athene and I flank the well, weapons ready.
Wynter and Thera guard Zantus and his troupe while Mahd waits ready should matters go awry.

I stand over the well, a distinct feeling of anger washing over me.
I slide my palm down the blade of redemption abd droplets of my blood splash on the surface.
Runes at the basin’s edge glow with an intense heat.
Water bubbles.
And the first Sinspawn emerges…
It’s decaying skin glistening in the torch light it rises with a creaking gurgle, mandibles stretching, tongue lolling…

And Athene lops it’s head off!

So the process continues; I make a blood offering, the spawn emerge and Athene dismembers them.
I do not even need to take up my weapon, Mahd looks positively bored and even Zantus seems to relax before it’s over.
It’s hard to believe the threat these creatures once posed, now just rotten meat for the butcher.

Eventually, the Runewell is purged and the basin is dry.

We roll up the casks, refill the font with holy water and enact the plan.
Brazier’s laden with wood are floated in the surface. My sword and another with the same magical properties (provided by Quint) are placed into the vessels. Command words are spoken, and magical fires engulf the kindling.

When the water reaches boiling point the ritual begins.

Brother Zantus stands vigil in prayer and we take shifts on guard while acolytes keep the fires fed and holy waters full.

Twenty four slow hours pass.
All of us are there in the final hours.
The runes around the well edge glow again.
One set of symbols starts shimmering in the air above the well.
Mhad whispers- ‘Wrath

We tense.
The Pool bubbles more furiously than before.
That palpable feeling of hatred peels away.
Stone cracks.
Holy water flushing out onto the floor.

It is done.

After a brief round of congratulations Zantus’ and his exhausted party take their leave…. While we remain to check one last thing…
Athene is still consumed by the unholy howling we heard deep below, last we were here. We return to the fissure, still filled with rubble and llisten again.

Nothing. It has been months after all…

Mahd suggests using magic to disintegrate the blockage but according to Athene’s trained eye, it would only cause perpetual cave-ins.
Less than satisfied we return to the surface.

We spend our last night in Rusty Dragon common room where Ameiko has had one of the Stone Giant’s Dire Bears rather skilfully (if slightly disturbingly) stuffed and posed as if drinking at one of the tables.
It’s been a long time since we last relaxed like this, and even on the eve of our greatest task yet, it’s a welcome respite.

We rise early, load up the horses and venture fourth.

It’s a long if easy ride through the picturesque countryside, speaking to numerous locals in villages and townships along the way.All have distressing tales of Giant sightings and worse; missing friends and family.
The sooner we deal with this menace the better.

After nearly two weeks we arrive at the only passage through the mountains, the Storvel Steps.
A marvelous Thaslonian staircase made for a giant gait, carved into the mountain with two titanic statues at the base, poised ascend, the lowest one mostly rubble now.

Mahd decides to reconnoiter and launches herself with a spell into the air. She returns to report the all clear as far as she could range but a difficult path ahead… and she’s not wrong!

Without our horses, the climb would be a task indeed but we continue without incident for a number of hours before the first sign of trouble.

Up ahead beyond the next ridge there’s a smashing sound that shakes the ground. It could be an avalanche but it’s too deliberate.
No, it can only be the hurling of boulders- Giants again!

But perhaps this barrage is not intended for us. We can’t see our foes. Perhaps this is them making sport?
Or perhaps not…
Pushing on with careful optimism, the first massive boulder comes bouncing haphazardly down the stair.
Wheeling our mounts, trying to avoid the barrage we are not all so lucky- Wynter and I both, clipped by tumbling shale.

Caution will only get us crushed- we CHARGE!
Galloping up the stairs we arrive atop a long, wide stone bridge a sheer, three hundred foot drop either side.
At the end, a column of Hill Giants, knotted bulbous faces drooling and slavering with guttural obscenities, are there, still lobbing great rocks as we advance.

We ride up and dismounting ready for battle.
They’re spread out and we’re outnumbered but hopefully not outclassed.

Mahd phases out to reappear on the Giant’s flank.
Raising her hands a clap or lightening arcs through their ranks, from one ugly head to the next, each howling in pain.

Wynter and I are engage three on the right.

Athene ridie up along the bridge edge as a giant bursts from the pack, wheels around and barrels headlong into her…
It happens in a second.
Athene tries to reign her terrified mount from the path of the giant.
He crashies into them, rolling horse and rider, head over tail like a sack of potatoes, towards a drop that means certain death.
And what was gift from the departed Aldern Foxglove tumbles headlong over the edge with a sickening scream.
But Athene leaps from the saddle just in time, clinging to whatever handholds she can find.
My heart stops, seeing the same fatal drop on my side of the bridge.

Wynter and I move quickly away from the edge before our foes get the same idea.

Mahd summons her Archon, giving Athene time to scramble up to safety and back to her feet.

But if the Giants’ thought they had the upper hand, they were mistaken.

The battle turns quickly.

Soon only one giant remains and he flees.
He’s moving fast but we cannot allow him to raise the alarm.
We all lose with a volley of missiles but it’s Athene who brings the brute down.

Looks like someone’s going to have ride double!


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