Rise of The Runelords: Varisia's Angels

Unto the Storm!
Ice Storms, Flight and Pusuit, A Dragon's Hoard.

The White Dragon perches on the statued head that opens to the caverns within, Mahd encircled with ice, Wynter still cowering, the Golems stand sentinel against those without the Sihedron medallion.

Mori says a prayer and we all take to flight.
Mahd appears beside us, teleporting out of her icicle prison.
Goldwing and ne of the Roc’s swoops in and savage the white wyrm.
Athene follows behind as the Roc is torn to shreds and as it was summoned, disappears. Goldwing too is severely injured and retreats.

The Dragon rumbles arcane words and the air is thick with a blizzard of ice.

We here it flap and take to flight, into the mouth of the great stone head and we follow.

The others close behind I fly, magically propelled after the ancient villain.
I cannot see more than a few feet in front if me, but f the Dragon still flies, then so can we.
Behind me, Athene grants be me a magical boon.
My extremities numb form the cold, ears ringing with the noise, I burst forth from the shell of ice like a butterfly form it’s cocoon and whip out a sunrod.

Still a flight, I hover at the beginning of a wide, winding cave system.
The others fly in behind as I feel the magical fear fade from Wynter outside and she comes running unseen.

Mori prays again and my vision opens it seems top all the wonders of the world. Shadows disappear, it is as if I can see everything.
I turn back to a determined group and hurtle headlong into the passages beyond after the Dragon!

Colliding with the stony walls in my haste we come upon a pair of sward wielding statues, one is an illusion! I really CAN see everything… Too late for Wynter I call out a false passage that leads fatally into a great crevasse below… too late that is if I could not summon her too my side, and I do!

Mori summons a gush of water which fills the path before us, showing the true lay of the land and then freezes- A trap! But we are bolstered against the cold by another of Mori’s divine gifts and we continue on.

We emerge into a huge chamber with a gaping chasm leading down into darkness.
Flying down on wing and magical force we land at the bottom of what would’ve have been a long and fatal fall.

The chamber is lined with portals leading on… but the plethora of choices before us are secondary to the treasure hoard that lays piled at our feet… dare I say a Dragon’s hoard!

But where… is the Dragon?!

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Out of the Ice Storm and into the Golems.
The Next Mission, Stoney Faces, Draconic Surprises and Sentinels.

Linking hands, Mahd reads the words of magic on the scroll, describing the Withershins as Quint relayed it.
There’s a strange sensation of vertigo, swirling images, my stomach turns.

Then we are standing on a snow covered field at the foot of an icy shelf of stone. Tussocks of green poking through the blanket of white. A path of giant steps leads up the mountain wall towards a platform, where a sculpted head leads inside the mountain.

A few hundred feet away stands the circle of statues described in the scribblers’ rantings. Facing inwards, seven inscrutable visages stare at one another. Ancient, yet seemingly preserved against time.

Goldwing takes to flight but the crosswinds are too strong and she’s forced down.
We approach the circle.
No evil, but definitely magic.
Stepping into the centre I feel uncomfortable, fourteen lifeless eyes upon me.
I can see Karzoug and Alaznas, but I don’t recognize the others.
The statues seem mundane, if awe inspiring.

If the ritual works (whatever the ritual is) we might need to get to that entrance above quickly, so we decide to scout it out first. The stair is marked by a grand, frost trimmed arch, a sihedron at the peak. The stone steps are covered with icy piles of bone… but what kind of bones… and why?!

We ascend the stairway, almost impossible not to step on bleached remains, all edging away from the sheer drop down below. We get about half way when we get some answers as top what caused them.

There’s a gush of wind like a hurricane, a metallic bellow, a huge white mass overhead and a storm of ice which sweeps over us, everyone screaming in pain.
As the frigid blast passes, Athene, Mori and I, crystalised with ice stand alone, Mahd and all bestial companions feeling in both directions.
We look back in towards the arch in horror at the tail end of at the menacing, gliding form of an ancient White Dragon!

The Dragon returns and plucks a fleeing Mahd from the steps.
It’s like some unseeing entity is determined to make her life miserable…
We let fly with arrows but they deflect harmlessly of it’s metallic hide.

Athene casts a spell which makes the beast swipe at itself irritably… dropping our wayward mage!
I catch up the Mori as Wynter disappears into the cave moth above.
Goldwing at least seems to rally and speeds towards the plummeting elf.
Moving alongside Mori I pray to Iomadae to grant us a boon and smite the enormous reptile.
Mori is looking sorely injured but she looses a shaft and finally strikes the creature, as Goldwing swoops in and collects up Mahd in mid air and deposit her back with us on the stair.

A terrible running battle ensues, the Dragon strafing us with icy breath, claw, fang and tail.
Mahd makes up for lost time, summoning two giant roc’s. One flees stricken with dragon fear while the other engages our enemy high above.

A nearly dead Moriava forms a magical shield and we edge up to the cave mouth together.
Mahd blasts the White Dragon with lightening as I heal our wounds with pulsing divine energy.

The second roc rallies, but the dragon makes short work of them.
Time enough though for the others to scramble up, Dragon in pursuit, but not before I finally smite the creature with an arrow.
It all seems to little though.

As I join them in rearguard it is not an encouraging site.

Two massive golems stand as sentinel at the entrance.
Wynter is still cowering in the corner.
The Dragon, perched on the great stone head casts a spell which surrounds Mahd in a wall of ice, she screaming something sihedron medallions…

When Mori approaches, the constructs move towards her and slam her away.
Another blow like that will kill her.

As Goldwing flies headlong into the dragon, Mori picks herself up, smiles and places a hand on my back and says a prayer…

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Knowledge is Power
Scribbles, Dreams and a New Adventure

Mahd decides to travel to the great library on Goldwing (a long journey) while we, Scribbler’s notes in hand, start asking around Sandpoint to see if any wiser locals than us can make sense of the riddle.

The Sheriff is as confused as us and whilst the historian Brodert is able to arrange the notes in the correct order, his library holds no answers to what they mean.
The well traveled Ameiko is another story, recognising XXXX

While we wait for Mahd’s return, we help recruit and train the dwindling Sandpoint Militia, and send special orders to Magnimar, purchasing and upgrading supplies for the journey, and battle ahead.

Mahd returns (a little saddle sore by the looks) with the information we need…

The* Xin-Xalast Runeforge* was a place of study, not for the Runelords but their agents. In fact, the place was built to repel Runelords, so as to ensure no one lord could influence the magical study within. It also has various enhancements that help sustain those studying within.

With Mahd back, our package from Magnimar arrived and the revival of the Militia underway, we decide to head out the following day. One final meal with Ameiko at our lodgings at the Rusty Dragon, a last moment to relax and not think about what’s ahead.

That night I have a vivid dream.
I am an acolyte in the temple.
Tomorrow I side east to a small town called Sandpoint.
These will be my final prayers before my training is complete…

“WHO ARE YOU?”
I stand defiant, I will not be challenged in my temple like this…
But there is fear too… I try to reply but I can’t…
“YOU WON’T FIND HER”
Her… Surely not, who IS this, WHAT is this?
I try to speak again but still I can’t…
“YOU WON’T FIND THE THIRD PIECE”
I scream at the voice… and yet I can’t…
But then… a shining figure, the lady, Iomadae. She is calm, silent, she puts her fingers to her lips and gives me a wolfish grin.

I wake up… In the next room Mahd is saying something about water and rummaging through her room for something… a book I think?
The next morning it appears that we were not the only ones who had a restless night.
Mori looks tired, like she’s been fighting all night.
Athene keeps muttering ‘Justice’ when she thinks no one’s looking.

But breakfast is good, we four rally and emerge into the light of morning… Onto the Runeforge…

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The Last Scrawl
Scribbling, Smiting and the Fog of War

The heaving form of the Glabrezu stands before me, fuming at the last of his minions destroyed.

Behind him I hear the nonsensical, cackling taunts of The Scribbler.
As the others surround him he casts a spell.
Mahd and her summoned Dire Tiger start lashing out indiscriminately in Confusion about them… and with our elvish wizard in his thrall, we may need to end this quickly!

Not daring to steal a glance behind where her demonic spider may have also turned, I hold Repentance aloft and call on Iomedae to guide my blade.
Charging headlong into the Glabrezu I Smite it. Three blows to cleave the demon in twain.

Advancing through the ruin of green innards and twitching limbs, Wynter and I round on The Scribbler. He’s ready for me though and a magically animated Glaive intercepts me.

You can see the frustration on Athene and Mori’s faces.
They want to press the advantage on the outnumbered, outflanked villain but Mhad (thankfully no hand to hand expert) and her (unfortunately) more adept minion are landing blows on friend more oft than than foe.

The Scribbler slaps Wynter across the muzzle. The Wynter Wolf howls as she seems to shrivel before my eyes!
Iomedae has more work to do here today.
Enraged, I close my eyes with a last prayer to smite my enemies.
The Scribbler looms over me and I drive upwards, punching through his breastplate, flames smothered as I drive it to the hilt.
He looks down at me, eyes still flickering when Wynter rallies and tears out his throat.

The Scribbler has scrawled his last…

We spend a few moments dancing around the still affected Mhad and friend, both still swiping at any who go near, until the magical effect dissipates.

It’s time to regroup.
The Scribbler has a few minor curiosities and all that remains of the Glabrezu now is two piles of ash. Words of healing are spoken and we reassess the situation. Three paths lead forward. A pair of heavy double doors, a narrow fog filled crack in the wall and what appears to be a small door at the end of the collapsed temple chamber.

Beginning with the fissure I dispel the fog to reveal a small wooden door. Single file, I lead us through an unlocked door into a small round room, with a clear pool of water. Runes on the wall mark this as Lamashtu’s so we crowd in cautiously. I sense no inherent evil, nor does the water smell, or look foul. I should probably leave it alone but it might be important to know more. Moriava consecrates the font and I dare to taste from the pool (saying a prayer as I do).
It is not poisoned… thankfully, but it tastes far fouler than it appears.

A little dissatisfied we return to the the double doors.
They are unlocked but open only to another blanket of fog, and dispelling the enchantment is no longer an option.

I fire an arrow into the mist but if it lands somewhere, I don’t hear it.
I have visions of a gaping chasm…
As I notch a second arrow Mori lights it up… but it too is swallowed wholly by the murk without trace. I turn back to my companions but receive only the same dumbfounded I no doubt share… and yet we must go in…

Gaping chasm…
I look around for a suitable probe.
Athene starts talking about ‘10 foot poles’ like they’re something all adventurers carry around with them… all the while trying to hide the halberd strapped to her back. I guess the magical weapon’s hardened oak shaft and steel blade is too fragile for the task.

It’s a little short for my liking but a spear will have to do.

Tap, tap…
The floor is stone,
Tap, tap…
Is that the wall? It can’t be, it sounds like I’m in some great hall. This is… wrong.
Tap, tap.
As I emerge past the bank of mist I realise that some magical obfuscation is at play. What felt like a great hall is a surprisingly narrow corridor with three nondescript wooden doors.

We rank up and try the furthest door.
Behind it a room filled with the rubble of another collapse. Runes cover the walls but it is otherwise of little interest.
But wait, where is Mahd and Athene?

Mori and I file back into the corridor, hoping that the fog has not claimed them, only to find Athene on her hands and knees, up to her elbows in some ancient latrine… Clearly the effects of that confusion spell still linger though I didn’t realise it had affected her… Perhaps she’s looking for Goblin treasure…

Mahd casually emerges from the last door, a scrap of paper in hand.
At least she has discovered something useful, a transcribed a message from the wall inside:
“On Eastern shores of steaming mirror, at end of day when dusk is nearer, where seven faces silent wait encircled guards at Runeforge Gate”
Athene seems to think it has something to do with the main temple here but I’m not so sure.
I am not the thinker amongst us, but it seems to me to clearly describe this Rune Forge Gate we seek; perhaps how to find, use or enter it. ‘Seven silent faces wait’, statues maybe, perhaps the great constructs of the Rune Lords?

I suppose we’ll see…

We double back to the main chamber.
It is a menacing place in the magical light, with its statues of bulging, claw footed jackal women and a gigantic visage of Lamashtu staring up from the floor.

We halt immediately when we reach the small archway.
Opening to a long irregular room the flagstones are slick with fresh blood, morsels of flesh and tattered cloth that could well belong to our wayward guardsman. For some at least, it seems we’ve come too late.

Following the bloody corridor around, we arrive at another arch and a collection of empty cells beyond. We skirt the chamber around a large pillar. It is quiet. And empty…

Which is when a pack of monstrous hounds leap from the darkness!

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The Traitor
Uncovered ruins, Demonic forces and Scribbles.

Leaving the council at the Cathedral, Sheriff Hemlock escorts us to the site of the newly formed sinkhole.

Where the secret entrance, to the ruins below once was, there’s a gaping hole some thirty feet across, loose earth tugging at its edges. The site has a cordon of rope and knotted rags, and a single forlorn guard on sentry duty.
Looking inside, fifteen feet down, we can see that the damage has breached the thankfully unoccupied cells below the Garrison.

With no hesitation, Mori and Mhad us their magic to fly down, leaving Athene and I to take a more mundane route through the Garrison. The Roc and Owl try to follow their masters in, but reel back, their feathered forms too large to enter.

Hemlock‘s expression is grim; wishing us well on our mission, but hoping we can find his men… or recover their remains.

We climb down the slope of clotted earth to an exposed stairwell leading into the ruins.
Spells of light cast upon me, the only one among us unable to see in the gloom, I lead us in, Wynter by my side, her sleeker form allowing her to follow where our avian companions can not.

The ruins are strangely dormant
I sense no evil, but not even insects stir, despite the exposed earth nearby.
We are able to share with Mori the sights of a mission past. The Sinspawn Rune well; only a hint of its dark energy remaining but otherwise empty and still. The ritual room, the vargouille roost, glaive wielding statues, sinspawn catacombs, abandoned cells, arrow filled maggoty zombie corpses and a gnarled, mutant goblin now nearly picked clean by scavengers.

But we all know where to go. The tracks of the guardsmen lead us to the bottom of a spiral stair. A corridor, once blocked with rubble and the source of spectral howling, now lays open. We’ve waited a long time to learn the secret of what lays beyond and venture forth, curious but wary…

The corridor beyond is narrow and draped with cobwebs. They appear to be some sort of magical ward. It is trapped too, but only trivially. The corridor leads to a rather conspicuous dead end, where Athene notices a hairline crack that reveals a secret door.

The door swings open to reveal an antechamber, every inch of the floor and walls scrawled with spidery script, in letters small and large. The tall roofed hall has sturdy doors on one side, a narrow fissure on the other and a large, pillar lined corridor beyond, all shrouded in what must be a magical fog.
I sense no evil beyond, but it feels evil nonetheless. A statue of a three eyed, jackal headed female figure stands here too… Lamashtu; Demon Queen of Beats and patron of so many of our enemies.
Just as Mahd proclaims the language Thassilonian, a dismembered voice echoes and shifts from every corner of the room. I don’t understand the words but I’ve heard the dialect before, it too is Thassilonian and unlike me, Thad understands them!

The two engage in a long and animated discourse that leaves the rest of us a little on edge. When Mhad is finally finished she relates her conversation with an ancient Thasilonian who calls himself ‘The Scribbler’. He also described himself as one who played each side against the other in the same conflict between Runelords that is at the centre of our mission.

We realise then that he must be the traitor Xaliasa mentioned in the map we found, and this very likely is the location of a Runeforge key!

Mori uses her magic to dispel the fog… and the mood suddenly changes.
The small fissure reveals only more darkness but the pillared hall in front of us opens into a huge chamber. Lined with more grotesque statues of the pregnant, kukri armed jackal woman Lamashtu, all the way to a wide dias, covered with rubble from the collapsed roof.

And on that dias is a demon- a Glabrezu!
Nearly twenty feet tall, it is a fearsome abomination. Rippling muscles under spiked carapace, a skeletal, horned head, bony reptilian feet, crab like pincers and a second pair of almost comically small, but clawed arms.
Repentance seems to vibrate with anticipation, flames licking the blade as Wynter rumbles with an eager growl.

‘Oathbreakers’ it bellows and the fight is on!

Despite its massive size it is quick and no mindless animal.
Before any of us can move, it casts a spell.
The room turns upside down, no, it is us that has flown upside down! I try to hold onto the narrow pillar in front but it’s no good, my armour weighs me down (or up) and all of us but Mahd (still flying) crash upwards into the roof.

In the time it takes to stand looking with disorientation back down at the floor) he has summoned a second of his kin to aid him!

Mahd summons her own ally, a huge almost equally demonic looking spider, a Bebolith!.
Mahd is screaming something about the Demon, that it shouldn’t be able to use summoning magics and something incoherent about armour.

It matters not though.
I charge, across the roof towards the Demon, hoping I may smite it from above but instead, not half way there, Wynter and I fall back down with a crash, obviously beyond the limits of the spell, stopping us in our tracks.

Arrows are bouncing of its plated hide.
Mori tries to dispel the second demon but to no avail!
The second Demon counters with it’s own spell and our arachnid minion vanishes!

The first Demon casts that spell we hate so much and when it advances, eight not one blurring Demons descend upon me- Mirror Image!

Mahd summons a second Bebolith as Wynter and I flit between the shifting images of the first Demon, to attack the second behind.

By now, surrounded by the leaping, swinging forms of nine Glabrezu and a Bebolith I can barely make out what is happening behind on the roof.
I hear the howl of two Babau but they are not with Mhad, Athene stands between them nearly death and calling for help.
I hear Mori’s bowstring and an image in front of me disappears.
A blast of magic and another is gone.
The Glabrezu howls it’s infuriation!

I say a prayer and the might of Iomadae swells form me and into Wynter and as one, we smite the Summoned Glabrezu! The shining lady does NOT appreciate unwanted Outsiders in her realm!
Both Demons turn on me now.
Attack and lay hands, attack and lay hands…
Wynter tears it’s siney flesh but cannot pull the creature down.

The spider’s massive, clawed feet rip at Demon hide.
More magical images disappear.
A wave of holy energy washes over us, and all the outsiders (including my arachnid ally) shudder and screech in pain.
The Demon wavers and Wynter presses the advantage, leaping in and tearing out the Demon’s innards. It’s fiery eyes flicker then it disappears!

Then from the fissure a cackling, seemingly mad voice- The Scribbler!
From the alcove he lashes out at Athene, then he reappears on the other side of the room.
Mahd summons a Dire Tiger which bounds into the fray and fells the last Babau and Athene is finally able to right herself… Still alive despite her protestations.

One demon remains, The Scribbler too… we have the upper hand, but will we win… or will they just open a door and run away?

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A Heroes Work is Never Done
The Journey Home

With the would be Stone Giant Warlord, Mokmurian slain and The People returning to their ancient lands led by Conna the Wise, we too begin the long journey home from the Hook Mountains.

Finding a still live horse amongst the larder for Athene, we descend the great stone stair and travel overland back towards Sandpoint.

We have many hours to fill and do so by recounting all that has happened in the few short months since Goblin Night with our newest companion Moriava.

So much has happened, so much has changed, it’s hard to believe. In fact, few would believe what we have seen and achieved. Had I heard our tale in an Inn I would laugh at the Bard for his fanciful exaggerations. It makes me wonder at the legends of real heroes from the past, perhaps there is more truth to those stories too…

Retelling our story together, reflecting on the chain of events that we have endured, remembering adventures sometimes terrible; glorious; even amusing; sometimes all three at once; I look around at my companions, even the new and the beastial, and find myself flooded with a sense of respect and security. We are a much more than just friends now, we are family. Yes we bicker and fight. Yes we don’t always agree. But we have always been there for each other in ways that few could understand, particularly our enemies…

And so, though we go now into even greater peril, I am ever more convinced we will endure. For now we know the architect of all this horror; a man if man he still be, the*Runelord of Greed*, an ancient Thassalonian power from ages past, returned to conquer GolorianKarzoug!

We arrive back in Sandpoint to our accustomed welcome. Captain Trussk proffers a salute as we pass through the gate. Store owners and townsfolk wave, children trail along, daring to pluck at fur and feather where they can.

It seems that Moriava is well known herself. I’m surprised that this is the first we’ve seen of her. I guess there can be no denying her credentials now.

We head straight to The Rusty Dragon to unload and clean up before meeting with the cities officials. Ameiko greets us warmly as the ‘the Heroes of Sandpoint’ and shares a particularly fond embrace with Moriava, Athene mumbling something about ‘the real heroes of sandpoint’.

I haven’t even unbuckled my armour when a bashful acolyte blunders in and asks us to attend Brother Zantuss at the Cathedral. We leave immediately, attending like all good ‘heroes’ do , to find The head priest, Sherriff Hemlock and Mayor Deveran waiting.

It seems that a massive sinkhole has engulfed the entrance to the ruins beneath Sandpoint, a pit that appeared around the time we defeated Mokmorian. Strange howls have been heard, not unlike those we ourselves once encountered below. The guard was sent to investigate… They haven’t returned.

Once the look on those three faces before us would have been a pleading look… Now it’s an expectant one.

Let’s go find those guards…

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

Atop a wooden platform, stands Mokmurian.
Finally.
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.

Karzoug!

“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
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
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…

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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!

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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.

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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!

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