Rise of the Runelords

The Hidden Beast
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 12

Toilday, 24 Erastus, 4734

As the Rune Wardens approach Xin-Shalast, Marcus thinks back to his recent shopping trip in Magnimar.

In the Bazaar of Sales, he visited the stall of Tendertoes’ Soles, operated by a shoeless halfling named Tilly Tendertoes. She would be able to provide him with boots of freedom of movement, but first Marcus needed to shore up his finances. He asked where he might find someone interested in buying wendigo parts. She directed him to the tent of Kusa Komba.

Kusa Komba was a Garundi man with spectacles and strange scars on his face that pulsed with an unearthly pink energy. Marcus and Zavian haggled with him over the wendigo parts, ultimately convincing him to part with 3,250gp for the lot.

Marcus was troubled by the thought that the components could be used for evil purposes. He was even more troubled when Zavian revealed that they still have other items to sell, making the deal with Kusa Komba unnecessary. Marcus vowed to find a way to right the scales for any arm his decision caused.

Back in the present, Zavian returns from scouting ahead to warn the party about what he saw in the city. They debate how to get inside and what to do with the cart. After deciding to use wind walk to infiltrate the city, they realize they need to wait for Zavian to receive new spells from Sarenrae.

They retreat back to the cave of the giant sentinels and spend several hours disposing of the bodies and cleansing the snow of any obvious sign of battle. Marcus creates a rope trick inside the cave, and most of the party retreats inside. Lea and Zavian intend to trade off watch duty, while Amelia also sleeps in the cavern.

During Zavian’s brief period of rest, Lea notices a frost giant and a squad of stone giants approaching. The paladin wakes Amelia and casts enlarge on her. Per their plan, Amelia uses a hat of disguise to make herself look like the dead frost giant Bjormundal. Then she casts glibness.

Using the disguise and her bardic magic, Amelia persuades the patrol that the cloud giants are chasing off some harmless interlopers. When the other frost giant chastises “Bjormundal” for sleeping at his post, she accuses him of being late and suggests that they just report that all is well instead of escalating the issue to the Rune Giants.

Wealday, 25 Erastus, 4734

The following morning, the party disassembles the cart into two pieces. Zavian uses the spell treasure stitching to bind the cart components and the clockwork horses into three big carpets for easier transport. The cleric then uses the wind walk spell to allow the party to infiltrate the city posing as fast-moving bits of cloud.

The adventurers agreed that their first stop would be helping the Spared, the creatures who dwell in the tunnels below the city. The ice nymph Svevenka had warned that they were being preyed upon by an alien vampiric entity called the Hidden Beast. In gaseous form, Lea finds an entrance to the sewers and leads the party down.

After they break into the main sewer, most of the party reverts to their physical form. Grenja remains gaseous for greater ease moving in the tight quarters. To keep pace with the rest of the group, Zavian uses his fluttering wings to propel her vapors in front of them. The cleric leads the party through the warren of tunnels, following a set of human-sized footprints.

At an intersection, the adventurers find themselves suddenly surrounded by a band of blubbery, hairless humanoids. The leader, Morgiv, challenges them. They quickly persuade him of their good intentions and he comes to believe they are the prophesied saviors of the spared foretold by the ancient Mesmina. Morgiv believes they have come to destroy the Hidden Beast that oppresses his people.

As he leads them on a circuitous route towards the creature’s lair, Morgiv tells the party about the history of the Spared. They are the descendants of slaves who fled into the catacombs below Xin-Shalast to escape the cataclysm that destroyed Thassilon. Guided by the priestess Mesmina, they created a new society below the earth, where they have existed for 500 generations.

A few decades ago, the Spared tunneled into the lair of the Hidden Beast and it has been preying upon them ever since. No one has seen the creature, hence the name, but it has disappeared many Spared and turned others into vampire servants. The party uses this knowledge to make ready their spells and devise a strategy.

They approach the creature’s lair from two sides: Marcus, Zavian, and a gaseous Grenja from the east, and Lea, Amelia, Ameiko, and Reri from the west. Lea uses detect undead to start drawing a bead on the creatures within, while Zavian casts hide from undead on the party and Marcus makes use of invisibility and see invisibility on himself.

This proves crucial in the ensuing fight. Most of the undead are able to see the party, while Marcus’ spells let him see the invisible vampire decapod that is the Hidden Beast. Zavian and Lea blast them with positive energy, Zavian makes extensive use of Sunspark’s searing light, and Marcus pulls off a successful chain lightning. Grenja, finally gaining physical form, hacks the Hidden Beast into a puff of smoke.

Lea uses gaseous form to follow the hidden beast down to its lair to ritually kill it with stake and sword. Marcus does the same to the vampire skulks. Morgiv is overjoyed and promises to reward the party in one day’s time. They also request a map of the tunnel complex so they can navigate the city without being seen.

They question Morgiv about several other items of interest. He doesn’t know anything about Viorian Dekanti or [[:flint | Flint]. He does know of the storm giant Nenzir, who dwells in the Shahlaria fortress, where the storm and cloud giants have gathered. Morgiv notes that the giants also carried a wooden ship to the Shahlaria. Newer recruits, meanwhile, gather in a camp near the entrance to the city where they acclimate themselves to the altitude.

Lea asks about the lamias. Morgiv says that Most High Ceoptra resides in the Spires, rarely descending from the mountain. The main body of lamias reside in the Temple of Divine Consumption at the foot of the mountain. The redheaded barbarian lamia Content Not Found: malakah is also known to the spared, a huntress that prowls the wilds, one that the other lamias do not think highly of.

Morgiv provides the party with directions to a safe space in the catacombs where they can rest. Lea and Marcus are interested in making Nenzir and the Shahlaria their next target.

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Giants in the Clouds
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 11

23 Erastus, 4724

Having found a surprisingly warm welcome in the Fen of the Ice Mists, the party decides to make camp and rest up. While Marcus and Zavian work on crafting items, Lea invites the others to a card game.

Amelia bets her almost-expended necklace of fireballs, the ice nymph Svevenka bets a magical boon, the tiefling mercenary Reri bets a favor for added value purchasing, Lea bets a favor, and Ameiko bets an embarrassing task for Lea.

Lea wins the first round and Amelia bows out, replaced by their frost giant friend Grenja who bets some winter wolf teeth. Svevenka bets more magic, Reri bets information on safe passage between Korvosa and Magnimar, Ameiko bets more embarrassment for Lea, Lea bets more favors. She and Ameiko reach a draw, then Lea wins the double or nothing round.

Their crafting complete, Zavian summons the trumpet archon Ilmiring to forge an eaglesoul pact with her. He then asks her to teleport him and Marcus to Magnimar for some shopping. Reri watches with interest. In Magnimar, Zavian finds the dwarf collector Kunarv to sell him an anti-construct earthbreaker that he conveniently has an urgent need for. Zavian uses the funds to pick up a ring of evasion for Lea.

That evening, Marcus casts rope trick for the party to rest in. Grenja is too large to squeeze inside, so he shrinks her with reduce person. She is very impressed to be a “normal” size, if only for a few minutes, and considers Marcus’ offer to shrink her permanently. Her reaction reminds Marcus of the simple glee that Shayliss often expressed about spells like fly.

Reri asks Zavian about his experiences as an aasimar and his connections to celestials. She doesn’t know much about her own infernal heritage and is interested to learn what life is like on the other end of the planar heritage spectrum. Zavian tells her about his unique history as a fallen archon and his need to set things right with Elszevina.

24 Erastus, 4724

That morning, they discover Reri spent the night with Svevenka. The tiefling says she likes to try everything once and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The nymph checks off an entry in her bucket list.

Marcus and Zavian cast true seeing on the Rune Wardens and their companions, while Svevenka blesses Lea with barkskin and resistance to fire for the next 24 hours.

With the spells in place they set out, following the bed of the ancient River Avah. Thanks to the magic, they are able to navigate the reality warping effects of the area with ease.

After traveling for some time, they are suddenly beset by a pair of strange, enormous giants with pale gray skin and lanky frames. The giant hurl stones at them from a perch high up in the valley wall.

A frost giant leaps down to attack Marcus with an enormous axe. The wizard blasts him with scorching ray and spurs the clockwork horses to run faster, leaving Grenja to face the intruder.

Zavian use stone shape to turn the ledge beneath the strange giants on the cliff into a ramp. One of them loses its footing and tumbles down in front of the wagon. The aasimar cleric then flies up into the face of the giant still standing. It swings a morningstar at him, but loses its grip. The weapon goes flying off. Zavian notices that a semi-hidden cave entrance is nearby.

Down below, the wagon comes to a halt in front of the face-planted giant. Lea charges forward to confront the flailing foe. She gets in a solid hit with her greatsword. Amelia leans out of the passenger hold to hurl glitterdust into the eyes of the giant up on the ledge.

The frost giant Bjormundal chastises Grenja for allying herself with the small folk and then runs after the wagon. He tries to flip it on its side, but due to the levitate spell this merely sends it spinning in the air. The motion does tangle up the harness for the clockwork horses, who are wrenched from their feet.

Meanwhile, the huge giant on the ground rises to its feet and punts Lea backwards ten feet. She lands among the confused clockwork horses.

Grenja bellows with uncontrollable fury and chases after Bjormundal. Meanwhile, two more huge cloud giants emerge from the cavern. One descends to attack Lea and immediately loses its morningstar. Another cloud giant joins its fellow in attacking Zavian, who discovers that the bigger they are, the harder they hit.

The reinforcements also sound a war horn that echoes through the mountains, to the party’s dismay.

Marcus enlarges himself, while Ameiko uses her magic to distract and lure away one of the giants on the ground. Amelia continues to throw around glitterdust. After taking a pounding, Zavian tries to strike back with holy word, but the cloud giants are too powerful to be affected.

Bjormundal, however, is not so fortunate. Paralyzed by the cleric’s word, he is helpless as Grenja twists his head off with her bare blue hands.

Reri has emerged from the wagon and approached the cloud giant on the ground. Using her tower shield to magically grant herself total concealment, she stabs it in the tendons with a vicious sneak attack. Lea assumes her greater angelic aspect and flies up to ram her sword through the giant’s jaw. He falls dead with a tremendous crash.

The three remaining cloud giants float into the air to gang up on Zavian, who is not in good shape. Despite their use of a fog cloud for cover, Marcus tosses fireballs at them. Amelia uses song of discord to get them to turn on one another and scatter. Two giants effectively kill each other.

Marcus grants fly to Grenja, and together she and Lea double team the remaining cloud giant. It is rendered asunder by their fury. After getting patched up by the paladin and the cleric, the adventurers loot the bodies before pressing on. Zavian flies out ahead of the wagon to scout the pass and avoid any other surprises.

So he becomes the first to glimpse the vast cityscape of lost Xin-Shalast. A great black-walled fortress guards the main entrance to the city and to the elevated Gold Road that stretches its length. The eastern district of the appears to have been devastated by an ancient volcanic eruption, but the rest of the skyline is unaffected. The spires rise up the flank of Mhar Massif, but stop short of it peak, where the stern face of Karzoug glowers over the landscape.

Here and there, Zavian can see distant shapes flying patrol over the city, including the black fort. They seem to be on alert and he hastily retreats lest they spot him.

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Between a Roc and a Hard Place
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 10

Fireday, 20 Erastus, 4734

Zavian has another disturbing cannibal dream, this time adding the trumpet archon Ilmiring to the buffet with Nualia. Both women are helpless as he feasts on them, savoring every bite.

Starday, 21 Erastus, 4734

Zavian awakes confused and hungry. Unable to determine how to free himself of the wendigo’s magic, he consults with Marcus.

The wizard is able to determine that Zavian is under the effects of a curse. Marcus also realizes that the cannibal urges implanted in Zavian are causing him to crave his own kind—aasimar and celestials. While Nualia is relatively out of reach, a crazed Zavian could try to summon Ilmiring to devour her.

Marcus calls out to Lea to remove the crazy cannibal curse from Zavian. The cleric is not happy to have his secret blurted out to everyone. Lea dispels the curse with a slap from her hand.

As the party prepares to follow the Vekker brothers’ directions north, Marcus discovers that his clockwork horses have frozen up in the cold. Amelia uses prestidigitation to warm them and Marcus tosses some furs over them to try to keep them from freezing.

Zavian uses a sending spell to contact their ally the frost giantess Grenja. She appears confused by the spell, but says she is in a swamp and being bothered by fey creatures. Her reply is cut off by the strict word limit to the spell. They conclude that she is at the Fen of the Icemists, a frigid fen that is on the way to Xin-Shalast.

Following the Vekker’s guide, they trace the Kazaron River north to its second tributary, the river Avah. There is no river bank, just a sheer canyon carved by the water, so they take the wagon along the cliff-face. Because the clockwork horses need no sleep, they decide to continue on through the night and try to catch what sleep they can.

During Lea’s turn at watch, she sees a flicker of fire on a nearby ledge. Impulsively deciding to investigate on her own without alerting the others, she gives herself an angelic aspect and takes wing. The canyon crosswinds and thin, high-altitude air make flying a challenge, but she swoops towards the fire.

Five humanoids are huddled around it, murmuring. They quickly spot her as she approaches. One calls out a challenge, while another simply looses an arrow, but fumbles his shot and grazes one of his companions. The winds force Lea to land and she tries to parlay.

The five are mercenaries with the Black Talon Company; Lea recognizes their unit badges from their service in Sandpoint against the stone giants. They are looking pretty ragged and underfed. They have been in the mountains for weeks, trying to hunt down their rogue commander, the golden armored Viorian Dekanti.

After she acquired a strange magic sword, Viorian went on a rampage that killed two dozen of her own soldiers before fleeing Magnimar for the wilderness. The five are hunting her to seek justice for their fallen comrades (and get the 20,000gp bounty on her head). But they have been wandering in circles, having lost her trail to the strange nature of the mountains.

Meanwhile, the wagon continues trundling along as the clockwork horses plow forward without direction. The wagon occupants are jolted awake by a terrible shriek as the wagon is jostled. Marcus peers outside and sees that the vehicle has blundered into the nest of a giant roc. The house-sized bird has seized one of the clockwork horses, Lucky, in its beak while two chicks squawk under its wing. Amelia uses charm monster and speak with animals to calm the creature. They placate it with their entire stores of meat and then limp away. Once they have retreated to a safe distance, Marcus puts the damaged horse up on a floating disk while he and Zavian attempt to repair it.

When Lea returns to alert them about the mercenaries, Amelia thoroughly chews her out for abandoning her post without even leaving a note. As punishment, Ameiko has Lea wear a frilly pink greatcoat with matching ushanka. Amelia insists that Lea has also lost her watch privileges.

Eventually, the adventurers link up with the Black Talons. Marcus uses overlapping tiny hut and secure shelter spells to create a comfortable place for the mercenaries to rest. The Black Talons are deeply divided on how to proceed, especially after Amelia tells them that Viorian might be under the influence of a cursed sword.

After much discussion, the mercenaries decide that all but one of them will retreat back to Kaer Maga. The one staying behind will travel wit the Rune Wardens to see that Viorian is either freed from her curse or brought to justice. The adventurers select Reri, the red tiefling woman with the tower shield, as their choice to join them.

Sunday, 22 Erastus, 4734

After bidding farewell to the mercenaries, the Rune Wardens introduce Reri to Marcus’ wagon. Ameiko gives her the wagon attendant speech: “Exits are at the front and back of the vehicle. In the event of an emergency water landing, the wagon will turn into a boat.”

Pressing on through the canyon, they have a scary moment when a gust of wind nearly detaches the wagon from the cliff. Reri uses her prehensile tail to keep a barf bag close by.

Rather than press on through the night, the party makes camp that night. Marcus uses stone shape and tiny hut to try to protect the clockwork horses from the element. The adventurers retreat into the rope trick, where Lea asks if it would be possible to get a private room. Marcus offers to do that for everyone next time; Lea and Ameiko decide to bunk in the wagon below.

Reri shares some stories from her experiences in the Black Talons. Hailing from Riddleport, she has traveled across Varisia and beyond. Her tower shield was a trophy from a rogue Hellknight the company was sent to put down. Lea manages to accidentally hit on and then insult the tiefling.

Moonday, 23 Erastus, 4734

That morning, the party arrives in the Fen of the Icemists. The clockwork horses start to bog down and Marcus casts overland flight on them, creating a flying wagon. Amelia makes contact with Grenja via message spell and they track the giant down through the mists. She explains that that a fey creature posing as an otter has been harassing her. At that moment, an otter pops up nearby and casts a spell. Grenja suddenly turns into a silver-furred otter herself. Amelia strides out on her boots of the mire, while Lea uses dispell to release Grenja from the spell.

The otter reveals herself to be the ice nymph Svevenka. She recognizes Amelia and Lea as having been blessed by her cousins Myriana and Meleena. She apologizes for hassling Grenja; she thought the giant was another warrior headed for Xin-Shalast.

Svevenka offers the fen as a safe haven for the party and warns them of the dangers in Xin-Shalast. She tells them of the Spared, the descendants of the city’s original inhabitants who dwell in the tunnels below. Unfortunately, many of them have fallen under the sway of a vampiric entity called the Hidden Beast that she urges the party to slay.

Lea asks the nymph about the path to Xin-Shalast. She explains that true seeing or protection from chaos would help see the true path without resorting to the Vekkers’ fasting technique. Svevenka also warns about a dangerous occlusion field encasing Karzoug’s palace on Mhar Massif and speculates that his servants have some means of traveling into it safely.

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

Oathday, 19 Erastus, 4734

During his brief period of rest within Marcus’ rope trick, Zavian has a disturbing dream of himself cannibalizing Nualia. He quickly ascertains that this is some sort of supernatural imposition, but still he has trouble resisting the urge to lick his lips.

Fireday, 20 Erastus, 4734

After waking and taking a cold breakfast in the extradimensional space, the Rune Wardens return to the Vekker brothers’ cabin. No spirits emerge to menace them, but the snow storm continues outside without pause. Over a foot of snow has fallen since they camped out, making travel outside rather difficult without snow shoes.

The party sets out into the storm to seek out the body of Karivek Vekker and return it to the cabin. As they struggle along the mountainside, Marcus comes up with the idea of using the ring of x-ray vision to see through the snow. Testing it, he discovers an old trail, which leads them to the ledge where Karivek’s body awaits.

Of course, the body is also buried in the snow. Marcus and Amelia use their weapons to jab through the white snowdrifts in search of the body. Lea gets the ring from Marcus and discovers how revealing it is. She quickly casts her gaze to the ground.

Lea and Marcus hit upon Karivek’s frozen body at the same time. Unfortunately, their investigation has draw the interest of an enormous frost worm that bursts out of the frigid earth. The worm belches forth a breath of cold that washes over everyone save Marcus.

Karivek’s angry ghost soon joins the fray, getting drawn into battle with Lea. Meanwhile, Marcus and Zavian douse the frost worm with fire magic. Amelia lands the killing blow on the beast, which then explodes in a shower of cold energy and shrapnel. Lea brings down the dwarf’s ghost.

As they gather up Karivek’s body, whose legs end in charred stumps, they hear an eerie howl on the wind and resist the chill that runs through them. Zavian recognizes the sound as the call of an evil extraplanar entity called a wendigo.

Lea is ready for a fight, but the rest of the party is keen on returning to the cabin. They grab Karivek’s body and begin the dangerous trek back along the narrow trail. Around them, the snow storm escalates into a blizzard, obscuring sight. Amelia insists on tethering everyone together with rope, and Zavian casts mass air walk to help them move through the mess.

Amelia’s tether proves crucial as a wendigo suddenly swoops through the blizzard at incredible speed and tries to carry her off. It lacks the strength to drag the tethered lot of them and instead just zips off. The wendigo continues to buzz them as they move along, while the adventurers ready spells and attacks to blast it with. Marcus uses a locate creature spell to keep track of its location as it vanishes into the blizzard with every pass.

Upon returning to the cabin, they barricade the door and then lay out the body of Karivek Vekker. The remains disintegrate and re-form into Karivek’s ghost, which gets into a psychic battle with Silas Vekker’s spirit.

The Rune Wardens’ attention is drawn away from the test of wills by a pounding on the cabin door as the wendigo attempts to batter it down. They are unnerved when a second battering sound starts up from a wall on the other side of the cabin and they realize that there is more than one wendigo!

The first of the horrors smashes down the door and is drawn into battle with Lea. The blizzard starts to blow into the cabin through the open entrance. Lea makes short work of her foe, even as it afflicts her with lingering wounds that sap her strength of personality.

The second wendigo flits over to perch on the roof above the doorway and claws down at Lea. The paladin air walks up to face it, but the creature snares her sword in its antlers and hurls Lea over its shoulder and across the building.

Marcus and his eight mirror images decide to take the gloves off, launching a fireball that burns a big hole in the cabin ceiling while scorching the wendigo. Zavian, empowered with righteous might, strides over to the creature and attacks it through the hole in the ceiling with his flaming scimitar.

Badly burned, the wendigo attempts to flee into the blizzard, quickly moving out of sight. Marcus, however, uses locate creature to sense its position and hit it with another fireball. The monster makes one last unsuccessful flyby attack on Lea before fleeing into the mountains beyond the reach of Marcus’ magic.

The ghosts completely ignored the battle and continue their mental fight, until finally Karivek is put at peace and disappears. The ghost of Silas then, reluctantly, provides the party with the missing pages from the brothers’ ledger before vanishing as well. On the pages is a detailed account of how the Vekker brothers found the location of the lost city of Xin-Shalast.

The Rune Wardens retreat back downstairs to Marcus’ wagon to review the documents and recuperate.

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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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