Rise of the Runelords

Whispers in the Wind
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 9

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The Hungry Dead
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 8

Toilday, 3 Erastus, 4734

As the party finishes cleaning up the Moon Temple of Desna, Zavian admits that he wants to try to pick things back up with Nualia once the Karzoug business is done with. She’s amenable to this, and wants to get an early start to it. Zavian uses stone shape to give them some privacy in an adjoining chamber, but their loud noises still carry through.

As she beds down, Amelia is visited by her wooden Daelyn doll, which has been animated. The doll explains that Daelyn can speak to her for only one minute a day. After ascertaining that Amelia is okay, the doll tells her that when she finds the ship, she should pull the dagger out of the figurehead. It is useful against constructs. After some prodding, the doll admits the figurehead is a construct and may be helpful if they make it clear they are friends of Daelyn.

That night, Astrid has a vision of her late mother Lydia, who sends her on a quest to the Obelisk Forest of Mundatei. An army of undead Thassilonian sorcerers is entombed there and poised to awake. She slips away from the party in the night, with a letter explaining her actions.

While lounging with the sleeping Nualia in the aftermath of their energetic evening, Zavian is visiting again by the contract devil Belawara. He rejects her offer, but she tells him it is still on the table should he ever change his mind. He realizes he has a long way to go to free Elszevina from her contract.

Wealday, 4 Erastus – Wealday, 18 Erastus, 4734

The following morning, the Rune Wardens part ways with Nualia and Vivi. The restored aasimar plans to help restore the temple, then take the scenic route back to Sandpoint. Nualia turns down Marcus’ offer to teleport them there.

The party spends the next two weeks traveling across the northern Cinderlands. They overcome a patch of difficult sand, while Zavian carefully navigates for them. The Sarenrite priest takes them unerringly to the River Kazaraon and they follow it east and north up into the Kodar Mountains.

Along the way, Lea consults with Zavian about a new spell Iomedae had bestow upon her, allowing her to manifest angelic wings for short periods of time. She asks for the aasimar’s instruction on flying.

Amelia, meanwhile, makes use of her ability to speak with animals to recruit owls to watch the party’s camp at night night.

Oathday, 19 Erastus, 4734

In the shadow of the Kodars, while practicing another flying lesson, Lea and Zavian make another discover. They spot a structure on the cliff overlooking the chilly waters of the Kazaron. There is a large cabin at the top of the cliff, with an enclosed wooden shaft leading down to a smaller structure at the foot of the rise.

Marcus casts overland flight on himself and floats in to investigate. Lea is not far behind him. Rather than entering the structure, Marcus uses his ring of x-ray vision to peer through the wooden wall. Inside are mining supplies and detritus, plus a strange dwarf eating gold dust.

The dwarf looks up and stares at the wizard through the wall and invites him and Lea to join in his feats. Lea circles around to the door to enter and investigate. When the paladin steps naked into his x-ray view, Marcus realizes that dwarf is still clothed. Lea recognizes it as a haunt and blasts it with positive energy.

The large dead tree looming behind Marcus chooses that moment to suddenly uproot itself and attack him. Marcus and Zavian battle the creature, which Amelia identifies as an undead treant. It batters them backwards and pushes towards the cart, which Ameiko immediately sends clattering out of reach.

The undead treant proves to be very vulnerable to fire. In its death throes, the huge burning tree falls down, striking Lea before collapsing onto the building. Marcus puts out the flames with cone of cold. Lea investigates a hollow in the tree trunk full of bones, which also holds some pieces of loot.

The fell creature vanquished, the Rune Wardens break into the lover level of the cabin. Outside, a snowstorm starts to kick up. Before going further, they use stone shape to carve out and then seal off a garage in the cliff to store Marcus’ wagon.

The lower level is largely abandoned. It seems have served as a sorting place for mine ore, with the gold then hauled up the shaft. Investigating the stairwell, Amelia is cautious for dwarven traps. She summons an ape and orders it to move up the stairs.

Zavian flies directly up the shaft with his metal wings, only for the ore hauling chain to suddenly animate and grapple him. The ape, meanwhile, triggers the stair trap and is rescued with a feather fall. Lea extricates Zavian from the chain’s grasp and Marcus then disintegrates the object.

Upstairs, Amelia discovers a hidden strongroom with the dwarves’ collected treasure and a ledger with notes and maps of the region. The last few pages have been torn out.

In the wrecked common room of the cabin, Amelia is stricken with hunger. Realizing it is another haunt, Lea dispels it. Zavian uses magic to sense nearby undead. He pokes his head outside and sees a figure out in the snow. He immediately closes and locks the door.

Investigating the next undead aura in the other room, Lea and Zavian open the door after some struggle. Lea investigates the pile of bones inside and is suddenly attacked by hungry dwarven ghosts. One of them gets a good bite on her.

After destroying that haunt and investigating the rest of the cabin, the party hears knocking down below. When they investigate, the knocking becomes slamming and a host of dwarven ghosts appear. They unsuccessfully try to possess the party before Lea and Zavian banish them.

A new ghost forms, that of Silas Vekker, and it explains that it will provide the way to Xin-Shalast if they can bring it the bones of its brother so they can reconcile.

The party rests in the garage they carved out of the cliff, where they set up a rope trick.

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The Moon Temple of Desna
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 7

Fireday, 29 Sarenith, 4734

The second day out from Kaer Maga is hot and dusty, with the wind in their faces. Zavian guides them even further out of their way to avoid a Cinderstorm. Fortuitously, they stumble across a hidden oasis. On inspection, the pool seems to have been drawn up from the earth using magic.

Lea quickly undresses and jumps into the pool to cool off. Ameiko is right behind her. Not wanting to be left out, Vivi strips down to her clay and follows. Not long after, Nualia and Idun join in the fun. Marcus is dismissive of the nonsense, but Lea splashes him with water.

Clean and refreshed, they settle in for the night in another stone cavern carved out by Zavian and Marcus. Lea and Ameiko pitch a tent for “privacy.” Zavian, meanwhile, sets up his tools to do some crafting during his long watch. He is interrupted by a now very clean Vivi, who wants to chat.

She tells him how she had been hoping the journey from Sandpoint would give Zavian and Nualia a chance to reconnect, but she is starting to feel that this won’t happen. She explains how she liked it when they were together and happy and she could look to them both for guidance.

Zavian praises how far Vivi has come on her own and urges her to keep developing as her own person. But he admits that he still has some feelings for Nualia and is conflicted about how to proceed given his duty to helping Elszevina. Vivi expresses hope that he can figure out what he needs to do. She also tells him how urgent it is to resolve Nualia’s arm issue, as even the protective bracer Zavian gifted her is starting to fail under Lamashtu’s wrath.

Starday, 30 Sarenith – Toilday, 3 Erastus, 4734

Over the following few days, the Rune Wardens draw closer to the Wyvern Mountains. As they approach the foothills, Marcus casts arcane eye to scout ahead. He comes across signs of a battle with a strange creature, as well as several fresh burial cairns. The adventurers go to investigate and with help from a prying eyes spell, track down to surviving Shoanti women.

The Moon Maidens are a warrior, Ayala, and a wounded sorceress, Seyem. The party treats their wounds while the Lyrune-Quah women explain that they were guardians of Desna’s Moon Temple. The sacred site was attacked by a winged snake woman and her enormous chimera companion. Seeing as the temple was the party’s destination, they promise to drive out the invaders.

The Moon Maidens explain that the sanctum is warded with powerful magics and so likely hasn’t been profaned. That is where Nualia’s cleansing ritual must occur. There is a secret back door to the chamber, which Seyem tells them about. The Rune Wardens leave the two women with Ameiko and then proceed to the temple with Nualia, Vivi and Idun.

Once inside the temple, they attempt to stealthily make their way to the narrow passage to the sanctum. However, the winged snake woman (a fallen lillend azata) appears along with her huge primal chimera. The monster’s dragon head scorches them with fire while the lillend bombards them with spells and bardic powers. Zavian shields little Idun from the flames with his wings.

Lea uses a spell to swap places with the tiny azata and Idun reluctantly flits down the secret passage. Astrid spider climbs up the side of the wall, while Zavian takes flight. The lillend continues to target Astrid with spells, but the half-elf woman manages to shrug off the worse effects.

The enormous chimera has the traditional dragon, lion, and goat heads, but its tail also bears a serpent head. This snake coils around Nualia and pulls her close, then swallows her whole.

The lillend swoops close to Astrid and inflicts nasty wounds on her face before retreating. The half-elf princess responds with a volley of arrows that pins the fallen celestial to the cavern wall wher her body disintegrates into putrescence. But Nualia is still caught inside the snake-headed tail.

Lea uses magic to free the badly wounded aasimar even as the chimera closes in on Astrid. The monster’s buffeting wings fail to dislodge the Rune Wardens, but Vivi is knocked to the ground.

Marcus enlarges himself to go after the chimera. Zavian reaches Nualia and restores her health with a passionate breath of life kiss… just in time for the dragon head to blast them with fire and nearly knock her under.

Astrid is then grabbed and swallowed by the snake-headed tail. The agony inflicted on her is transmitted through her magical link with Zavian, who now teeters on the edge of consciousness himself. In a fury, Lea flies up to the chimera and removes its heads. Marcus uses his enlarged ranseur to cut Astrid free of the snake tail. Nualia, meanwhile, returns the favor by healing Zavian.

The party searches the area and begins the process of cleansing the temple of Lamashtu’s tainted touch while they wait for the moon to rise. Lea harvest’s the chimera’s dragon head for her trophy collection.

At the appropriate hour of the evening, Nualia enters the Moon Altar room to cleanse herself of Lamashtu’s curse. At Idun’s urging, the Rune Wardens draw upon their unique abilities to help her through the challenging process. Zavian in particular casts numerous spells to assist her.

Though arduous, the ritual is ultimately a success, releasing Nualia from her nascent demonhood and restoring her left arm to its natural state. Afterwards, Nualia thanks the party but announces that she and Vivi will not join them on the journey to Xin-Shalast. She gestures to Zavian for them to find a quiet place to speak alone.

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Against the Slave Lords
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 6

Toilday, 26 Sarenith, 4734

Lea and Astrid spend some time asking around Kaer Maga’s Bottoms District trying to make contact with the abolitionist Freemen. They are finally greeted by a burly laborer named Symart, who is a Block Captain for the Freemen. He takes them to the Common House, a tavern and temple to Cayden Cailean that also serves as a meeting place for the Freemen.

Symart explains that the Freemen help freed slaves make a life for themselves, but in order to keep the peace with other Kaer Maga factions they do not officially condone raids to free slaves. He urges them not to visit the halfling woman two tables down.

The halfling, Sybil Lerke, is wearing an unusual outfit and carries a drum. She explains that there is a major shipment of slaves from the orcish city of Urglin arriving tomorrow night. The orcs have hired a group of mercenaries, the Catspaw Company, to provide additional security until the auction is complete that morning. Sybil is trying to organize an effort to free the slaves, but needs help dealing with the mercs.

Lea and Astrid are on board, so she provides some additional background. The mercenaries are led by a man named the Tattered Prince, who claims to be the true prince of Ustalav and is said to have made a bargain with dark powers. His second in command is a particularly tough woman called Pretty Meris. There is also a sorcerer with a fondness for lightning. Lea and Astrid thank her for the info.

Meanwhile, Marcus and Zavian visit the fabled library of the Therassic Spire to inquire after his grandparents. While waiting in the lobby, Marcus flips through several books and finds one that appears to contain an enemies list scribbled in the back, with several names marked off. Marcus recognizes one of the remaining names as Vea Semere, the half-elf smith in Ilsurian he was hoping to collaborate with.

Marcus’ maternal grandparents, Manda Fengwathil and Miranthald Fengwathil, are surprised but thrilled to meet him. They invite him to dinner at their home, while Zavian takes his cue to exit. Marcus brings his grandparents up to speed on events in his life and learns of their research into Thassilonian astronomy. They have come to believe that the stars are aligning for some sort of significant event that the Thassilonians foretold.

After bidding his parents farewell, Marcus regroups with the rest of the party at the Drunken Minstrel. The wizard makes use of the prying eyes spell to scout the Flesh Block, Kaer Maga’s slave market. Most of the eyes get taken out by a mysterious elven archer who seems to be another mercenary, but one is able to return. It provides Marcus with the layout of the slave pens. The eye also recognized the Tattered Prince speaking to an Osirioni woman. Based on this information, the party concocts a plan to raid the pens in the pre-dawn hours, after the slave shipment arrives.

That evening, Amelia does another spectacular puppet performance. Afterwards, Daelyn hooks up with her again. The following morning, the privateer captain gives her a wooden statuette of herself as a gift, so Daelyn would always be at her side in the Kodars. She urges Amelia to keep the statue on her person.

Wealday, 27 Sarenith, 4734

That morning, the Daelyn gives Amelia a wooden statuette of herself as a gift, so the captain would always be at her side in the Kodar Mountains. She urges Amelia to keep the statue on her person, then bids her farewell and good luck.

The party coordinates with Sybil and spends the day making preparations. In order not to make enemies in Kaer Maga, Marcus, Astrid, and Amelia decide to use magic to disguise themselves. Marcus looks like a female dwarven warrior, Astrid looks like a very handsome dwarven man, and Amelia looks like a raven-haired elf woman with hooked chain mail.

Oathday, 28 Sarenith, 4734

In the early hours of the morning, the party advances into Kaer Maga’s Downmarket. They approach the Flesh Block under cover of silence and sphere of invisibility. As they draw near, Marcus (with his true seeing) discovers that there is a also gang of invisible mercs perched on the pen. The cluster includes the Tattered Prince and the sorcerer. A couple visible orcs and mercs stand on guard at ground level.

The Rune Wardens decide to get closer, alerting the invisible mercs. Lea charges the orcs at ground level. Marcus launches a fireball at the invisible mercs, followed up by two more fireballs from Amelia’s necklace. Astrid then tosses the silence stone onto the clustered mercenaries.

The sorcerer flies up into the air to escape the silence spell, then unleashes chain lightning at the party. However, having been forewarned the Rune Wardens have resist energy to his favored damage type. Marcus takes out the sorcerer with a disintegration spell.

The mercenaries kick the silence stone away from them and the Tattered Prince strides forward with air walk. The prince mutters a single powerful word and Lea suddenly finds herself blinded.

Zavian uses stone shape to melt the wall of the slave pens out to become a barrier between the blinded paladin and the remaining enemies. Inside the pens are a variety of humanoids in chains, including the hulking form of a single sobbing hill giant woman. The slaves beg to be freed. Sybil’s rogues, as well as Nualia, Ameiko, and Vivi are approaching as quickly as they can with the aim of releasing them.

The orcs dash around the barrier to ineffectively attack Lea. Despite being blinded, she kills several of them.

From inside the slave pens, a scar-faced redheaded barbarian woman — Pretty Meris — charges Zavian. She is accompanied by two dwarven berserkers. Together, they block the entrance to the slave pens.

Amelia hits Meris with dominate person and the barbarian cheerily turns on her fellows.

Astrid cuts down an orc and intimidates a merc to flee. Mercenary cavalry shows up but can’t land a hit on her.

Marcus uses pass wall to take down the stockade. Sybil’s rogues and Team Girlfriend rush in to start unlocking people. The elf archer from earlier begins sniping at Marcus.

The Tattered Prince casts another spell and grows to giant size. Zavian takes flight to face him. The aasimar lands a vicious blow with sunspark and demands to know what fell god the prince serves. The Tattered Prince’s gigantic greatsword ignites and lights up with an unholy symbol as he tears into Zavian.

Marcus tries and fails to hit the elf archer with phantasmal killer. Astrid lands multiple arrows on the Tattered Prince. The prince is badly hurt, worse so when Amelia hits him with a sound burst. Lea gets her sight back, scares off the two mercs, and kills one of the mercenary riders.

The tide of battle has clearly turned in favor of the Rune Wardens, so the Tattered Prince tells Zavian he has the field. After a moment’s consideration, the cleric demands the mercenaries drop their weapons, the prince agrees if Meris is released back to him. Lea demands that they promise never to take a slaver’s contract or harm an innocent. The Tattered Prince immediately agrees. The remaining orcs are still creating trouble, so Marcus hits them with phantasmal killer.

Sybil’s people hastily release the slaves and hustle them out before the rest of the slave power arrives. The party talks to the hill giant woman Mazrina, who has learned her lesson from ignoring her father’s advice and going to Jorgenfist. After some back and forth, they realize she is Razmus’ daughter and tell her to seek him out at Fort Rannick. Zavian writes her a letter of introduction.

They regroup at the Common House. Amelia performs her puppet show. After partying, the Rune Wardens pack up and get out of town before the slaver factions can retaliate.

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The Expedition Sets Forth
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 5

Fireday, 25 Desnus, 4734

While Shayliss catches the recently resurrected Katrine up to speed at the King and Axe, the Rune Wardens find a quiet corner plan their expedition to Xin-Shalast. Amelia reminds the party of their obligation to resurrect the Thassilonian soldier Nelevetu Voan who had aided them in the Runeforge.

Zavian casts the divination spell to consult Sarenrae about whether Nelevetu’s soul even wishes to return. He receives a vision of a black wolf trotting into the tavern carrying a Sarenrite holy symbol and depositing it at his feet, where it comes to life and flies into the air before both vanish in the sunlight. The vision is broken by the arrival of his father with a bowl of his favorite chili. Zavian interprets the vision faithfully.

The adventurers then realize that when Nelevetu crumpled to dust under the weight of the ages, it may have been considered a natural death from old age. Marcus consults the revelation quill as to whether resurrection would actually bring him back, and receives a cryptic but decidedly negative response.

Armed with this knowledge, Amelia asks around for a druid who could perform reincarnate on the remains. She ends up leaving flyers for a local cobblestone druid, Luma “Mouse” Derexhi. That evening, the druid arrives at the King and Axe. They use one of Zavian’s old love dens in the east wing as the ritual chamber.

Through a strange quirk of magic, rather than creating a completely new body for the man, Nelevetu is instead restored to a body identical to his last one, albeit a few years younger. Marcus quickly fabricates some closes for him. Amelia then fronts the cost for Marcus to permanently enchant Nelevetu with tongues so he can speak with the wider world. The man is disoriented, but grateful.

Starday, 26 Desnus, 4734

The following day, the party returns to Sandpoint where Katrine is reunited with her weeping parents. Despite making some clumsy remarks, Marcus is now clearly a permanent member of the Vinder family for his part in enabling this.

Sunday, 27 Desnus, 4734

The next morning, Nelevetu is introduced to Brodert Quink, who has many questions for him and also offers to teach him about the present day world and how it came about. Amelia gets an idea for another puppet show.

After making their farewells, the party—plus Nualia, Vivi, and Shalelu—return to Magnimar, where they hire the Maiden’s Folly to take them up river. Amelia secures lodgings in town for her hippogryph.

Moonday, 28 Desnus, 4734 – Moonday, 11 Sarenith, 4734

The river journey is largely uneventful. After a sudden microburst on tears the sail from the Maiden’s Folly, the party swiftly intervenes to salvage the situation and prevent delays for repairs.

On the night of Sunday, 10 Sarenith, after celebrating the Burning Blades holiday, Zavian is visited in his dreams by an impatient Belawara. The contract devil warns him that her offer is limited time only and urges him to review the contract.

Amelia spends the trip outlining her next puppet production: “The Lewd, Rude History of the Universe.”

Toilday, 12 Sarenith, 4734

The Maiden’s Folly arrives at the town of Whistledown on the shores of Lake Syrantula. Shalelu departs to make her own way north to Fort Rannick to spend time with her step-father Jakardros. Amelia visits the town to buy a masterwork dragon flute.

Wealday, 13 Sarenith, 4734 – Moonday, 25 Sarenith, 4734

The Maiden’s Folly continues its voyage across Lake Syrantula, now heavily patrolled by Magnimarian and Korvosan galleys. They pass through the lakeside town of Melfesh and venture further up the Yondabakari River, past the village of Abken and on to the foot of the Storval Plateau, where the adventurers disembark.

Toilday, 26 Sarenith, 4734

The clockwork horses pull Marcus’ enchanted wagon up the side of the cliff face, arriving at the skull-bedecked walls of Kaer Maga. Drawing on her mother’s stories of the city, Amelia directs them to enter through the Tarheel District. as the safest approach

Marcus scopes out the district, including its strange promenade. The party encounters their old pal Duli, who catches Marcus up on her mission in the city to get the key to Janderhoff’s Adamantine Gate further enchanted. After catching up, they part ways again.

The party heads to the Downmarket, where Marcus stops the cart to scout out the area. He finds a trinket shop run by a scarred, tattooed Keleshite man named Ashaar and realizes that he has a ring of X-ray vision mixed among minor items. He haggles for a bit and purchases it at a significant discount.

The party then sees a troll marching through the market examining its own entrails. It returns to a stone structure where other trolls dwell, likewise carving themselves open to inspect their entrails before their regeneration seals the wounds. Emerging from the structure are two familiar if unexpected figures: Daelyn and Arakos. They explain that they were consulting the troll augurs after a run of bad luck with storm giants.

Marcus is curious about the large object wrapped in sailcloth that is slung over Arakos’ back. He activates the new ring of X-ray vision and gets a good look at what appears to be an enormous key. He also inadvertently sees more than intended of Arakos, Daelyn, and Lea.

Lacking the tongues spell, he can’t read the inscription on the enormous key Arakos is carrying or the tribal tattoos on Daelyn’s arms, belly, and heart. He does notice that Lea is more wiry and less muscled than he’d have expected for a warrior. Marcus quickly pulls off the ring, realizing its potential for abuse.

Unaware of Marcus’ discoveries, Amelia takes them all to the Drunken Minstrel, a tavern in the Hospice District. At a quiet table, Daelyn explains how her crew salvaged a derelict storm giant ship only to be attacked by more storm giants near Roderick’s Cove, giants who carried off her ship!

Daelyn is determined to recover it, but the augur’s reading found that it was in the Kodar Mountains, stowed in what the party realizes is Xin-Shalast. Lea asks if the ship can be teleported. Marcus and Zavian concoct a scheme to shrink the Misericorde and then stitch it into a blanket for transportation.

They warn Daelyn and Arakos about the dangers in the Kodars, and the pair are only too happy to stay behind in Kaer Maga. Daelyn admits that she’s desperate for money and asks for a loan. Lea makes and then adjusts an offer, but Amelia steps up with the full 1,500 gold pieces.

Marcus then suggests the two privateers make scarce to avoid overhearing dangerous information. Daelyn promises to reunite with Amelia later, then leads her lizardman companion over to the bar. Marcus then uses mage’s private sanctum to ward them before presenting his plan to free some slaves before they skip town. Lea is on board with this plan and suggests they reach out to the anti-slavery factions in Kaer Maga to coordinate.

Lea and Amelia go to make inquiries about the abolitionist Freemen Society in the Bottoms, while Marcus and Zavian go to the Bank of Abadar to track down information on his grandparents. Marcus learns that the elder Fengwathils live in the Bis District and work at the famed library known as the Therassic Spire, named after order of Thassilonian astronomer-monks.

While the others run their errands, Astrid stays with the wagon to keep an eye on it, as well as Ameiko, Nualia, and Vivi.

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Reunions and Farewells
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 4

Moonday, 21 Desnus, 4734

Having returned to Sandpoint after many weeks, Marcus greets Shayliss. She is amazed at the skymetal amulet and even more impressed when she heres what it is and how the wizard came by it. Marcus takes her flying over town and takes joy in Shayliss’ wide-eyed wonder at what has become, for him, a trivial spell. Eventually the two of them retire to get more reacquainted.

Toilday, 22 Desnus, 4734

The following morning, Seleval seeks out Lea, tracking her down to the Kaijitsu many where the paladin and Ameiko are lounging half-dressed taking a late breakfast. Seleval decides that this is a good time to press her case: now that they are back in town, the Rune Wardens had promised to resurrect her sister Zaelsar.

The adventurers decide that the best course of action would be for some of them to teleport to Korvosa for the resurrection, while Zavian heads down to Magnimar to do some shopping.

Lea, Ameiko, Marcus, Shayliss and Seleval teleport to Korvosa, arriving in the courtyard of Endrin manor. They startle the guards, but are ultimately welcomed by Queenie. After an awkward moment, she invites them to breakfast the next morning.

The quintet makes there way to the Cathedral of Iomedae, where they encounter a troubled man who has visions of a great evil rising in the north—a mountain that moves. Lea tries to reassure him, while Marcus starts to suspect the man’s visions are not about Karzoug per se.

Inside the Cathedral, they are taken to see Knight Captain Laori Vaus, the cheerful high priestess. Lea asks her to perform the resurrection and bill her father, which the elf is happy to do. She takes them to a special chamber, while Seleval nervously acknowledges that Zaelsar might not be in the best of moods when she returns. In an attempt to put her at ease, Seleval assumes her true lamia form.

In a lengthy process, Laori weaves a new body for Zaelsar out of her ashes. The red-headed, tiger-furred priestess is disoriented, but quickly attacks Seleval for betraying her. Lea uses a spell to try to break up the fight, with limited results.

In response to being attacked, Seleval plops her cat butt down on the ground and just starts sobbing. “I just wanted my sister back!”

At sight of the waterworks Zaelsar’s mood immediately changes. She moves to comfort Seleval and apologizes to her “little sister.” Seleval gives her a cloak to cover her human torso, and brings her up to speed on events. Zaelsar is not happy at all with the situation, but is unwilling to abandon her sister. The tiger lamia renounces the faith of Lamashtu as well, but refuses to join Seleval in following Iomedae.

Nonetheless, Laori invites them to stay at the cathedral, where Seleval will undergo training and instruction by the clerics and the Sworn Swords. The lamia sisters will have to hide their true forms, however. Marcus fabricates an outfit for Zaelsar based on her original revealing clothes, only afterwards realizing how inappropriate the clothing would be. Zaelsar likes it, though.

Lea and Marcus also realize that their girlfriends had also lost siblings, so seeing the lamia revived might be a sore point. Ameiko says that given he he treated her, Tsuto can wait to be revived.

Lea also treks out to Kyra’s castle to check in on the halfling family and make sure that Kyra’s daughter Becky had made up with her mother.

Wealday, 23 Desnus, 4734

The next morning, the quintet meets with Queenie at the Sticky Mermaid for breakfast. It’s Chowder Day, which seems to have quite the following in town. Queenie and Lea bury the hatchet. Seleval looks happier than they have ever seen her, grinning from ear to ear. Zaelsar is grouchy and curt, but enjoys the chowder.

When the adventurers prepare to leave, Seleval gives Lea a tearful farewell and prays for her safe return while Zaelsar looks embarrassed. Seleval also provides the party with a map of the lower Xin-Shalast, though she admits some information may be out of date.

Once they are ready, Marcus casts teleport to bring them back to Sandpoint. But something goes wrong and they do not end up where they are supposed to. Shayliss is incredibly frightened by this turn of events, even after Marcus determines that they are just nine miles north of town. They spend the hike back bickering. Marcus slowly realizes that this is the first time that Shayliss has seen his magic fail.

Oathday, 24 Desnus, 4734

The next morning, Marcus works on his projects at Das Korvut’s place. Eventually, Shayliss comes by to reconcile. Marcus promises to resurrect her dead sister.

With Zavian returned from Magnimar, the whole party gathers to consult with Brodert Quink about the location of Karzoug’s ancient capital of Xin-Shalast. The scholar has a lead for them to follow. Two dwarven prospectors from Janderhoff, the Vekker brothers, claimed to have found the lost city, but their expedition vanished in the mountains. Brodert Quink believes that if the party can find the brothers’ camp on the banks of the Kazaron River in the Kodar Mountains, they may find the secret of Xin-Shalast’s location.

The Rune Wardens consult with Shalelu about the best route to take to the Kodar Mountains, which are on the opposite end of Varisia. They decide to take a route that passes through Kaer Maga.

Fireday, 25 Desnus, 4734

The party heads down to Magnimar to make preparations for the journey. Zavian also reaches out to the Bank of Abadar to commission a resurrection of Shayliss’ sister Katrine Vinder. The ritual is performed by the head of the Bank, the glad-handling Proctor Jyronn Imikar. Katrine is restored to life and is shocked to learn that months have passed.

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Truth and Reconciliation
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Interlude

Moonday, 21 Desnus, 4734

Trying to ignore the sense of foreboding hanging over her like a cloak, Lea heads straight for the Rusty Dragon as soon as she steps ashore at the Sandpoint docks. It’s early afternoon and the happy hour crowd is just starting to trickle in. Ameiko quickly hands off the bar to her halfling deputy and rushes to greet her girlfriend.

Lea presents Freezemaw’s head to Ameiko, attempting to put on triumphant airs while her stomach ties itself in knots. After ascertaining that Lea didn’t pick up any gruesome new scars battling the dragon, Ameiko remarks that she’s running out of wall space. Once the severed head has been seen to, Lea asks to speak with Ameiko alone, away from the inn. An uncertain look flits across the bard’s face, but she cheerily invites Lea to join her at the Kaijitsu manor.

As they stroll along the edge of the bay, Ameiko brings Lea up to speed on what has transpired in Sandpoint since the Rune Wardens left. The Glassworks is finally back up to full working order and its finances are at last getting back into shape.

A gang of Sczarni criminals attempted to take advantage of Vivi’s naivete to kidnap her for sale to unscrupulous artificers, but bit off more than they could chew. The survivors are in jail and Vivi is now a beloved member of the Sandpoint Watch.

Nualia has been spending her days helping minister to people at the Sandpoint Cathedral and her evenings in the Rusty Dragon trying to teach Vivi how to be an adult. She’s had middling success at both tasks.

Brodert Quink has been exchanging large amounts of letters with scholars from across Varisia and looks more worried each time he visits the inn. Ameiko’s tried to ask him about it, but he won’t talk until he’s “verified” his speculations.

Shayliss has been flaunting her dragonhide vest and other gifts from Marcus around the town. Whenever questioned about the items, she always talks up her boyfriend’s business and assembled taken up a list of commissions for his return. Shayliss has also been checking in with Ameiko every morning to let her know that the party is safe as Marcus had visited her dreams the previous night.

Lea is only half-listening to all of this, her thoughts already turned towards the conversation to come. Each step towards the manor feels like a step towards doom, but she knows she cannot shirk from this task. Ameiko can tell something troubles the young paladin, but doesn’t press the case during the walk. Instead she puts an arm around Lea and tries to turn their attention to the beauty of the sun dappling across the water and rustle of the wind in the trees.

It has been months since Lea visited the Kaijitsu manor, and in that time Ameiko has decisively made the place her own. Her father’s austere and traditional décor has been replaced with his daughter’s more eclectic style, which mixes Minkaian furnishings with Varisian rugs, Vudrani drapes, and Andoren statuary. Lea can’t help but notice some pieces by Korvosan artists on the walls, including a street scene in Old Korvosa by the renowned Trinia Sabor that hangs in the main dining room. The paladin realizes that Ameiko must have purchased these quietly during their visit to the city.

Finally sitting down with Ameiko in the study, Lea begins to describe the party’s adventures in Runeforge. She shows the glowing runes inscribed into Iomedae’s Wrath and explains that with these weapons, the party’s final task is to confront Runelord Karzoug in his stronghold of Xin-Shalast. She notes that this is likely a one-way trip. Ameiko thinks she’s underestimating their chances.

Lea then comes clean about what happened in the Iron Cages of Lust. She says that her goal at the time was to make sure that she did whatever she could to get back to Ameiko. She admits to losing faith in herself and her companions’ ability to do so after seeing the massive complex and its protectors first hand.

She wanted to protect all of Varisia and in particular Ameiko so much that she was willing to do anything to achieve what they set out to do. Even if it meant essentially prostituting herself to a demon in order to obtain the components for the Runeforged weapons. Lea recognizes the cruel irony that not valuing herself meant hurting the person she values the most. She blurts out that her death in Jorgenfist really shook her, and she’s only starting to understand that its affected her very core.

Ameiko grows quiet, which is usually a bad sign. She softly reminds Lea that they had specifically discussed this sort of situation and agreed not to do anything without consulting the other first. She also notes that she’s already put up with a lot in their relationship. Ameiko suggests that they take a break until Lea can figure out what this thing between them really means to her and what she’d be willing to do to keep it going.

Despite huge lump in her throat, Lea asks Ameiko to either end things or reaffirm their relationship before going away to Xin-Shalast. She can’t go into the final battle with her heart in two places, as the fate of the world could depend on her being fully committed without distraction or doubt. In light of all that she’s asked of Ameiko, Lea vows that if she makes out alive, she’ll quit the adventuring life for good and come back to her in Sandpoint and spend the rest of her life with her.

After receiving this ultimatum, Ameiko sizes the paladin up and says that if that’s how it is going to be, then she will be at Lea’s side to the very end. She’ll join her in traveling to Xin-Shalast to see this whole thing through together. Besides, things have gotten stale in Sandpoint now that the Glassworks has turned around.

But regarding Lea’s promise to give up the adventuring life, Ameiko tells her that she knows from experience that you shouldn’t make promises you won’t be able to keep. Adventuring is in Lea’s blood, she’s good at it, and she’ll be called off on some other quest soon enough. Ameiko knew that when she got involved, but processing what that really means has taken a while. So she’s made her piece with Lea going into danger, and even intends to join her now and then. Just no more sex with demons please, and no third partners without consulting her first.

Lea is caught completely off guard by this response, but is quick to pull Ameiko into a big hug. Tears start streaming out as she nods along with all the conditions that may apply. Lea promises to take Ameiko on a long overdue vacation together, just the two of them, with all the royal trappings to whenever she wants to go after they make it back.

Ameiko can tell that this is probably the first time in a long time Lea’s been able to fully let out all the negative things pent up inside her, and that reaffirming things with her will probably be the thing that gets her through this final push.

Lea then excitedly tries to fill her in on all the other stuff that happened in between, especially mentioning Aspexia and Daggermark as a possible vacation spot. Once the stories have run dry, Lea suggests getting “reacquainted with her bedroom.” Since it’s been such a long time and all. Ameiko archly agrees to show her around.

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The Cruise Party Episode
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 3

Fireday, 18 Desnus, 4734

At the Mystery of the Gate Inn, Amelia is signing autographs from her adoring fans, while Astrid is enjoying the ambiance. Concluding his conversation with the academics, Marcus heads outside to relieve Shalelu from guarding the wagon. However, he is confronted by the band of Gray Maidens the party encountered earlier, who demand to know the whereabouts of Princess Aspexia. Marcus loudly criticizes their accusations, drawing a crowd. This convinces the Maidens to de-escalate and go inside to talk.

Inside, their commander, Colonel Oriana, explains that they are bodyguards for the princess, who disappeared and was reportedly seen in the company of a group of heavily armed strangers. They are very suspicious of everyone in this pirate city.

With Astrid on hand to back him up, Marcus tells the Gray Maidens that Zavian took Aspexia out to show her a good time in the city. He offers to cast a sending spell to contact the cleric. But the wizard has also noticed that one of the academics at the inn,the red-headed half-elf Samaritha, was startled at the sight of the Gray Maidens and retreated upstairs. Marcus has Ash follow her.

Meanwhile, in the Rotgut District, a band of dwarven pirates have ambushed Zavian, Aspexia, Lea and Seleval in an alley. Zavian and Spex have been tangled within a strange net, which zaps them with electricity but they manage not to be stunned. Several dwarves have rappelled down from the rooftops of the tenements. They close to attack Lea and Seleval with swords and pistols, while other dwarves ineffectually try to bludgeon Zavian and Spex unconscious. More dwarves on the rooftops fire down at them with muskets.

A spear with a red and black banner appears in Spex’s hand, which she uses to lever the net off of herself. Zavian remains trapped in the net, but is able to cast blade barrier to protect them and really fuck up the dwarves on the ground. One of the snipers on the rooftops is also beheaded by a mysterious ally, and another dwarf makes a run through the blade barrier towards Spex, but is cut down by Lea.

Back at the Mystery of the Gate inn, Astrid makes small talk with the Gray Maidens, identifying herself as another member of the “princess club.” Oriana and the others are a little surprised, but take it at face value. Marcus feels a surge of emotion from Ash and has Astrid go check on his familiar while he finishes casting his sending spell.

The half-elf heads upstairs to find the raven tap, tap, tapping at a chamber door. He says that Samaritha entered the chamber and was talking to someone, sounding worried. Astrid leans in and hears someone in the room trying to be quiet. Then all of a sudden there is a loud noise.

Back in the alley ambush, a particularly burly dwarf covered in glowing tattoos charges through the whirling storm of magical scimitars and tries to grab Spex. Disoriented by the spell, he grabs Lea’s arm by mistake. He uses a strange device to teleport away, taking the paladin with him.

The other dwarves then use this opportunity to try to flee the scene. Zavian, however, is able to capture one of them using hold person. He then collects Spex and Seleval and flies them out of the blade barrier’s enclosure. The princess is impressed, while Seleval is distraught by the disappearance of her princess.

At Spex’s command, the paralyzed dwarf is dragged into the alley by her secret backup: a Mwangi woman in the chitinous armor of the Red Mantis. The assassin, called Shadow, chides Spex for making her life difficult. They interrogate the dwarf, Kurdu, who says that his crew was hired to capture Spex, alive and unspoiled, and deliver her to a red-haired half-elf woman. He offers to show them where, in exchange for his freedom.

Lea, meanwhile, finds herself transported to a modestly-furnished hotel room where she is gawked at by an unfamiliar half-elf. The burly dwarf, badly wounded by the blade barrier, curses his mistake. The half-elf woman offers to let herself out. On the other side of the hotel room door, Astrid hears that and prepares to grab Samaritha as soon as she leaves.

Lea takes the dwarf hostage at sword point and readies a spell. Samaritha turns herself invisible and tries to flee out the door, but Astrid manages to seize her. Lea entangles the half-elf in wreathes of holy fire as a crowd begins to gather.

Marcus completes his sending spell to Zavian and learns that the cleric and company are on their way back to the inn. Ash flies down to warn of a fight breaking out in Samaritha’s room. The Gray Maidens elbow their way through the crowd to seize the burly dwarf and the half-elf woman. When Zavian and the others arrive, their prisoner quickly identifies Samaritha as his contact. He is then handed over to the Gray Maidens.

Spex puzzles out that Samaritha was acting as a proxy for Elias Tammerhawk, head of the Cyphermages and the very person she had consulted with about the crystal. Tammerhawk is scheduled to deliver the lecture that night. Spex insists on waiting to confront him and the party obliges.

A large crowd gathers to hear Tammerhawk, a mixture of scholars and adventurers. The leader of the Cyphermages reveals that his order has detected a surge of magical energy in the Thassilonian ruins that is accelerating and should reach a fever pitch in the next few weeks or months. The surge originates in the ancient realm of Shalast. Tammerhawk warns that long-forgotten magics within the Thassilonian ruins are stirring, and calls on scholars across Varisia to coordinate information to ascertain the potential danger.

During the post lecture Q&A, Marcus asks a question. Well, more of a comment really, noting that the danger could be a returning Runelord, like Zutha (the Runelord of Gluttony who awoke but was contained in his Cenotaph).

Having gotten Elias Tammerhawk’s attention, Marcus was able to lead him into a private conversation where Spex confronts him. Tammerhawk agrees to refund his consultation fee and to an unspecified favor, in exchange for the return of Samaritha. He leaves the dwarves’ fate up to Spex.

The princess is ready to have her Gray Maidens execute the pirates, but Zavian intervenes. After getting the dwarves to pledge never to attempt another kidnapping, he insists that Spex let them go free.

Marcus asks Tammerhawk if he has any information on the location of the lost city of Xin-Shalast. The Cyphermage notes this is a little outside his wheelhouse, but he does know a scholar who might be able to help. An obscure fellow, but one whose eccentric theories about Thassilon are increasingly being proven correct. Tammerhawk asks if they’ve ever heard of Brodert Quink. Marcus realizes this line of inquiry has been a complete waste of time.

With that, the party joins Spex aboard her ship, the Sawtoothed Sabre, which sets sail immediately to escape whatever vengeance Tammerhawk is preparing. The ship has a strange design, with a red hull and red sails. It flies the flag of Ilizmagorti, a pirate city off the west coast of Garund that is a de facto protectorate of the Red Mantis. Shadow, the Red Mantis assassin, poses as a simple member of the ship’s crew.

As the ship leaves Riddleport, Marcus casts overland flight on himself and then flies out to the island known as the Devil’s Elbow to do a quick search for skymetal. He manages to find a small ingot of dull, coppery metal and gets back to the ship without incident.

On the three day trip south to Sandpoint, Spex gives Zavian repeated, energetic tours of her quarters. She also hangs out with the other princesses, Lea and Astrid, on the deck. They gossip, play games, and watch Spex show off her river bear riding tricks on the water. Zavian manages to overhear the princess gossiping enthusiastically about their encounters. Astrid is very excited to be one of the “cool girls” and thoroughly enjoys herself.

When not hanging out with Spex, Lea spends some time with the Gray Maidens, getting more information about how Ileosa and Sabina came to power in Daggermark. In short, they used their band of highly trained Gray Maidens, together with Ileosa’s political skills, to knock over several petty River Kingdoms. They then called on their contacts with the Red Mantis to help take out the Poisoners’ and Assassins’ Guilds that ran Daggermark. Currently, their focus has turned south to the theocracy of Razmiran, which has been a long-running danger to all the River Kingdoms.

Marcus realizes that he is one of only two men on the ship and retreats to his cart to study the skymetal. He realizes the coppery substance is Horacalcum, the rarest of the known skymetals that is said to warp time around it. The lone spellcaster among the Gray Maidens, a young woman named Kattga, visits him and assists in his studies. The two hit it off, especially once they realize they are both eldritch knights, and Marcus decides to gift her some of the skymetal—in so doing, he makes a friend for life. He then uses his share of the skymetal to craft a simple heart-shaped amulet for Shayliss.

Upon arriving in Sandpoint, Spex gives a surprisingly tearful farewell to everyone. She definitely wants a second go at Zavian when the opportunity presents itself, and she gives everyone an open invitation to the palace at Daggermark. Lea returns the favor with an invitation to Korvosa, and Zavian promises her a tour of Magnimar’s Alabaster District if she is ever in town.

As the Sawtoothed Sabre sails away from the Sandpoint docks, Lea’s shoulders slump as she realizes she needs to come clean with Ameiko about her activities in Runeforge.

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Princesses and Puppets
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 2

Fireday, 18 Desnus, 4734

A giant otter charges the Rune Wardens, leaps on top of Marcus’ wagon and hurls itself over the shocked crowd to attack the fishmonger’s stall.

The group of Gray Maidens that the otter burst out of send several after it, while Lea goes after it as well to try to calm it down. Marcus notices that the red-headed young woman who was with the Gray Maidens has vanished, leaving behind only a pink cloud. The Maiden’s leader marches resolutely towards the party’s cart. Marcus also notices that a Mwangi woman in civilian clothes is quietly climbing up a side of a nearby building.

The Gray Maidens are deeply suspicious of the party, although their leader, Colonel Oriana, did offer some recompense for the damage caused by the giant otter. She also demands to climb up onto the cart and scan the area. She spies something and sends her Maidens in that direction, with no explanations offered.

Unsure of what to make of this, the Rune Wardens press on, led by Shalelu to an inn near the center of Riddleport called the Mystery of the Gate. The elf ranger insists on keeping watch over the cart while the party goes inside to rest up.

The Mystery of the Gate is popular with sages and adventurers investigating Riddleport’s Cyphergate and nearby Thassilonian ruins. Every week, one of the city’s fabled Cyphermages comes down to deliver a lecture on their investigations, with the next one expected tonight.

Amelia, however, decides to entertain the patrons in the meantime with a performance of a lewd puppet show “inspired” by Lea’s encounter with the succubus Delvahine in the Runeforge. The performance is an enormous hit, though the paladin is completely mortified.

One of the show’s biggest fans turns out to be the red-headed young woman they spotted with the Gray Maidens earlier. After the performance, she quickly strikes up a conversation with Lea and introduces herself as Princess Aspexia Arabasti (“Spex” to her friends). She had identified Lea’s true identity when she saw them earlier and followed her to the inn.

Marcus, meanwhile talks with some of the sages hanging out in the common room, trying to feel them out for information on Thassilon. He learns that tonight’s lecture is being delivered by the leader of the Cyphermages, Elias Tammerhawk, a rare honor.

Lea introduces Spex to the rest of the party and they spend a while conversing. Spex explains that she is the daughter of Ileosa Arabasti, Queen of Daggermark, and traveled to Riddleport on a quests to learn more about a mysterious shard from a ruin known as the Emerald Spire. She’s going to have the shard crafted into a spear she will use to kill Razmir, the so-called Living God who threatens the River Kingdom. But the Riddleport trip has been boring, so she gave her Gray Maiden chaperones—her “aunties”—the slip to have some fun.

She is thrilled to learn that Lea is a princess of Korvosa, and cheerfully welcomes Astrid to the “Princess Club” as well after learning of her connection to Isandria. Spex also aggressively hits on Zavian, who proves receptive.

The Rune Wardens also learn from the wayward princess that Riddleport was damaged by a tsunami caused by a falling star that landed on a nearby island. The few ships that weren’t damaged have been pressed into ferrying treasure hunters to the island where they hope to scavenge rare “skymetal.” The only available ship in town is hers, which she will graciously offer to them if they can show her a good time.

Zavian offers to take Spex out to see the Free Coin District. Lea and Seleval invite themselves along. Astrid, meanwhile, goes out to sell some of their loot.

As she prepares to sell the cloak of the north wind crafted by frost giants, Astrid thinks about the friendly frost giant Grenja that they met and her uncertain feelings about that. She realizes that Grenja comes from the same culture as her giant-hating blacksmith friend Neshka and isn’t sure what to say the next time they meet.

She finds a Qadiran magic carpet vendor who is interested in the frost giant cloak. In their conversation, he shares a bit of folk wisdom with her. The north wind follows a certain current, but sometimes there’s a gust that carries things further than usual, and that’s where they belong. This clicks with Astrid and her unusual life path. She figures she should keep an eye out for things that seem out of place, as one can never know when they will find another Grenja.

On on the streets of Riddleport, Zavian walks arm in arm with Spex taking in the strange sights, while Lea and Seleval trail behind. As they approach the ferry to cross the river to the Free Coin District, a mutt sidles up to the aasimar and mutters to him: “There are wolves among the sheep at Saint Casperian’s.”

Spex is down for an adventure, so Zavian changes course to investigate the Sarenrite mission at Saint Casperian’s. With a little poking around, the four of them discover that a gang of criminals had infiltrated the mission and were using it as a base of operations from which to terrorize the neighborhood.

After capturing the criminals, they resume their trip to the Free Coin District, but haven’t gotten far before they suddenly find themselves ambushed by a team of well-armed dwarves that zip-line down from the neighboring buildings.

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Journey to Riddleport
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 1

Moonday, 7 Desnus, 4734

Having made their trades with the river clans of Nolander barbarians, the Rune Wardens set out southward into the interior of the Nolands. The adventurers largely ride on Marcus’ cart, but Amelia scouts ahead on her hippogriff. The party’s passage attracts the attention of some territorial griffins, but Amelia is able to persuade the bird-lions to leave them be. She also manages to restrain her hippogriff from chasing after them.

Zavian, advised by Shalelu and Astrid, uses magic to help create a protective shelter for their camp. That night, he hears scuttling outside and discovers that his efforts have disrupted a mother dragon’s nest. He quietly corrects the issue, then returns to trying to decipher Belawara’s contract.

Toilday, Desnus 8, 4734

The next day, the Rune Wardens are challenged by a band of horse clan barbarians who are skeptical of the party’s cover story as pilgrims. The Nolanders accuse them of being elf spies. The adventurers are ultimately ably to talk their way past, but Amelia notices that a pair of barbarian outriders continue to shadow them through the rest of the day.

That night, Marcus cautiously lays down some alarm spells. Their sleep is troubled by a particularly vocal owl, which Amelia ultimately lures away using ghost sound.

Wealday, 9 Desnus, 4734

On the next day, Amelia spots an unusual spot of blue hanging off a tree trunk. Investigating, the party discovers that it is an elven arrow with blue fletching. The phrase “No Farther” is carved into the haft in Elvish.

Shalelu tells the party a little about the elves of her homeland in the Mierani Forest, who are slightly more open to interacting with outsiders than the Isandari, but still very protective of their borders.

Oathday, 10 Desnus, 4734

After traveling through range land, the Rune Wardens finally reach the banks of the Velashu River.

Fireday, 11 Desnus, 4734

After turning the wagon into a boat — or “woat” — the Rune Wardens begin traveling down the river. They make a good pace over the next several days, watching the countryside grow tamer and more civilized. They raise the Sarenrite flag over the woat to try to reassure strangers that they mean no harm.

Zavian also marks the start of the month-long Sun Festival of Sarenrae.

Moonday, 14 Desnus, 4734

After several days of perfect spring weather, a storm descends upon them with heavy rain. Unable to see clearly through the downpour, Marcus nearly rams the woat into a massive humanoid shape that looms out of the rain. It turns out to be a young frost giant woman, Grenja, who was fording the river.

Indignant rather than hostile, she chews out the party for nearly hitting her, then offers to help move their beached boat. The Rune Wardens start to warm to her, as it becomes clear that she is badly lost. Grenja was raised by the Standing Bear Clan of Kellid barbarians far to the north, where she was given the ancestral greataxe Moonslicer.

But her clan was massacred by giants led by the storm giant Nenzir, who stole the barbarians’ mammoth heard to take back to Xin-Shalast. Grenja has been seeking vengeance against him, but with no luck.

Noticing she is uncomfortable in the heat of the lowlands, Marcus enchants her necklace to bestow endure elements on her each day. He also offered to shrink her down to human size, a proposal that proved very tempting to her. Grenja, however, decides to hold off until she has confronted Nenzir. The party points her in the general directions of Xin-Shalast and promises to reunite with her once they have more specific details on reaching the city.

Fireday, 18 Desnus, 4734

After another few days of travel, the party nears Riddleport. Shalelu has them disembark outside the city so no one will see the cart transform. She insists that the Rune Wardens disguise themselves as simple mercenaries so as not to attract attention.

The first thing they notice approaching Riddleport is the foul smell of human waste, garbage, and burning chemicals. The second thing they notice is the shanty town outside the north gate, called Lubbertown. They are sized up by toughs and hassled by begging children.

At the gate, a pair of bored gendarmes charge them for entrance, and Shalelu slips them a small bribe to help smooth things along. The guards tell them that the city is still recovering from a tsunami and it may be hard to hire a ship.

Pressing on inside, they proceed through the military district, spy the Overlord’s citadel on its island in the river, and see the casinos of the Free-Coin District. Shalelu takes them deeper into the bustling city, where they witness some strange sights and sounds. This includes a gladiator, Slab the Butcher, endorsing Jord’s Fish Stand as his favorite in the city.

The adventurers also notice a group of women in Gray Maiden armor clustered around a red headed young woman. Suddenly, a big shape bursts out of the cluster and starts bounding towards the party in an undulating motion. It appears to be a giant otter.

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