Rise of the Runelords

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

Coming Soon!

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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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Angry Diplomacy
Sins of the Saviors, Part 11

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The Mithral Mage
Sins of the Saviors, Part 10

Wealday, 25 Gozran, 4734

The Rune Wardens, having duped the white dragon Freezemaw into a tentative alliance, have ventured into the Vault of Greed to confront the mithral mage known as Ordikon. They find him floating over a silver pool of roiling magical energy.

Ordikon begins the battle by trying to disintegrate Zavian, and casts a quickened mirror image spell on himself. Marcus, recalling his previous embarrassment, is irked to no end by this. Ordikon also calls forth two enormous entities magic of silver magical fluid to face the adventurers.

Freezemaw takes a bite out of one of Ordikon’s mirror images, but then sit back to watch the battle unfold. Ordikon’s magics are swiftly hampered by a blindness spell from Marcus. The mithral mage resorts to area of effect magics, but the party resists his spells as Astrid and Lea slowly carve through his liquid servants below.

Unable to land a spell on the mage herself, Amelia summons a horse-sized dire bat to flank blind Ordikon with Zavian, who resists another petrification spell. As the silver wizard’s situation grows desperate, he appeals to the dragon and promises great riches in exchange for its assistance.

Freezemaw swoops over to unleash its frigid breath on the party. When their warding spells resist most of the damage, the dragon takes this as confirmation that they were planning on turning against it. The fight with blind Ordikon takes a backstage to the battle with the dragon. Lea is frustrated to see the fight take to the air where she can’t follow. The battle is taking place so high in the domed chamber that she cannot even reach them with channel positive energy.

Soon, Freezemaw has Marcus in its mouth again, thwarting the wizard’s ability to cast spells or strike with his ranseur. The dragon carries him into the center of the room, out of reach of Astrid and her slippers of spider climbing. Amelia’s spells keep sloughing off its scaly hide.

An enlarged Zavian gets Astrid back into the fight with air walk, but is nearly slain when he swoops down to collect Lea. Despite this, he deftly carries her up into range of her channel and together they bring the party back from the brink of defeat.

Astrid pushes past the blinded Ordikon to attack the dragon, thrusting Echo behind her to shank him without looking. The Mithral Mage’s body falls into the pool, where it dissolves leaving only his possessions.

Still held in Freezemaw’s vicious jaws, Marcus uses his superior knowledge of dragon anatomy to identify its uvula and batter the dangly bit with a telekinetic punch. The dragon retches him out and Marcus drops down towards the silver pool. As he draws close, he feels its raw magic assault his senses and quickly swoops away with overland flight to join Amelia.

The dragon beats its wings to knock Astrid off her feet, and then swoops down after Marcus. Before it can snatch the wizard back up in its jaws, however, Astrid gets her bow out and catches glimpse of a missing scale below the dragon’s left wing. Nocking her greater arrow of dragon slaying, she lets fly straight and true.

The flash of green necrotic energy silhouettes Freezemaw’s skeleton. He tries to press his head forward to bite Marcus, but instead collapses limp at the wizard’s feet, tongue lolling out.

The party quickly sets about scavenging the scene. Lea braves the dangers of the pool to retrieve Ordikon’s items, including a powerful magic staff of mithral. Marcus identifies the strange churning liquid as a pool of elemental arcana that could potentially be used to mend or recharge magic items.

Amelia decides to cut open Freezemaw to look for “dragon pearls” in his stomach. She doesn’t accomplish much beyond covering herself in gore. Astrid methodically salvages enough dragon hide from the ruined corpse to make a suit of armor and cuts off the dragon’s talons, while Lea removes its head. Astrid also retrieves a rare dragon pearl from the creature’s stomach. Infused with elemental cold, the enormous icy blue gem serves as a natural refrigerant.

Amelia goes to speak with the water mephits in the front fountain and lets them know that Ordikon is dead. She wants to know if this has happened before and if Ordikon might reconstitute himself. The mephits, however, break out into impromptu song: “Splish, splash, the mithral mage is dead!” Amelia takes notes on this strange folk music.

In Ordikon’s research center, Marcus realizes that the books on transmutation and constructs are worth a fortune. he and Zavian spend several hours poring through them for information. Zavian learns that the Therassic Flenser device that might cure Nualia’s affliction would also destroy Vivi in the process. But he also learns that the transmuter wizards had also identified a sacred cleansing site of Desna that could achieve the same purpose without harming Vivi.

Marcus learns that the wizards in the Vault of Greed had been tasked with devising a means for Karzoug to ride out the cataclysm of Earthfall, ten thousand years ago. Their solution involved constructing the largest runewell ever made in order to place Karzoug in stasis in a pocket realm between Golarion and the nightmare plane of Leng. The Runelord’s apprentices were supposed to release him once the disaster had passed, though the Runeforge wizards had little information on that side of the process.

Next, the adventurers decide to use the pool of elemental arcana to recharge some wands. Marcus’ wand of shield is fully recharged. The wand of magic missile Zavian dips into the pool explodes in his hands, while a wand of bear’s endurance regains a few charges. By Zavian’s calculations, this was a net gain.

The party strongly suspects that several of the animals in the research center and the fountains are polymorphed (a house cat, three rats, a snake, a white-faced monkey, and two goldfish). Amelia advises that they smuggle the creatures out of Runeforge before trying to change them back.

But before pressing on to the Halls of Wrath, the Rune Wardens decide to rest in the Vault of Greed and recover from the terrible battles they have fought this day.

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Invasion of the Statue Smashers
Sins of the Saviors, Part 9

Wealday, 25 Gozran, 4734

The Rune Wardens have gathered around the Runeforge pool and have begun imbuing their weapons with the properties of enchantment and illusion magic. Just as the last runes finish etching themselves on the blade of Iomedae’s Wrath, they are confronted by a 20-foot tall animated statue of Runelord Karzoug.

Lea charges the statue, calling upon her goddess’ blessing to protect her. As she does so, she feels something strange and watches as her blade seems warp and swell until it takes the form of a giant silver dildo. Karzoug is baffled by this and Lea worries that it is a side effect of the Runeforge. The sword still works like a sword, though and cuts into the stone as if it were flesh.

Astrid dunks her double-bladed sword Echo into the pool. Once it is ready, she joins the fight. Lea begins to suspect her weapon’s ridiculous appearance is a sign of Iomedae’s displeasure.

Marcus, having cast see invisibility earlier, spies the white dragon Freezemaw creeping out of the entrance to the Halls of Wrath and watching the battle with great interest. Marcus whispers a warning to Amelia, then moves away and summons up eight identical mirror images.

Amelia uses her glibness to call out to the dragon and insist that it was the Runelord of Greed who stole its treasure hoard. She urges it to join them in fighting the dragon, and makes a case so persuasive she almost convinces herself.

Despite the power of their Runeforged weapons, Lea and Astrid are taking a tremendous beating from the smirking Karzoug statue. The stone giant also afflicts all nine Marcuses with a slow effect. Zavian, having buffed the party, dips Sunspark into the Runeforge pool.

The white dragon, still invisible, flies out with a roar (knocking the Alaznist statue to the floor). Freezemaw attacks the Karzoug statue, demanding that it return its treasure. A big chunk of stone is torn from the huge golem’s shoulder.

Astrid takes advantage of the distraction to dash up the side of the statue, hack off its arms, and then remove the head. Karzoug sputters some last threats before his stone visage shatters on the ground. The invisible dragon presses on into the Vault of Greed, howling for its lost treasure.

Amelia and Marcus dip their weapons in the pool, while Lea’s sword returns to it normal state. Many dick jokes are made. Noting that the pool still has some lingering energy left, Zavian has Marcus help him lower his wings into its churning waters. His senses are assaulted by the magic within, but when his wings are withdrawn they are inscribed with runes. Marcus notes that the runes are different for each weapon, speaking to the bearer’s particular sins or virtues.

The party spies two warriors of Wrath peering out at them from behind the ruined Alaznist statue. Marcus addresses them in Wrath-inflected Thassilonian. The adventurers convey that they are here trying to thwart Karzoug’s return and that the dragon is an enemy of theirs as well.

Marcus also tells them that Alaznist has spoken to him and promised to make him a ragesmith once he destroys Karzoug. The Wrath Warriors are unsure what to make of this, but promise to convey it to Highlady Athroxis, who may permit Marcus an audience.

The party then follows the dragon into the Vault of Greed. They find the jeweled metal door that had thwarted Marcus’ prying eyes, but which was merely a trapped decay for the secret entrance into the Vault, which the dragon has torn through.

The true entrance is warded by a shimmering green mist that Marcus realizes will transform those of weak fortitude into something else and teleport them away. Zavian uses dispel magic to temporarily remove the mist’s danger.

In the chamber beyond, they encounter several mephits in a bubbling fountain. After winning the creatures’ trust, they learn that the fountains in the Vault are all connected and fed by a tiny portal to the Plane of Water. There is also a much larger pool in the complex “made of magic.” The Vault is ruled by a “mean silver man” who has killed at least a dozen of the mephits. The creatures warn that the green mist transforms people into goldfish and teleports them into pools.

Following the dragon’s trail, they come to another chamber with a fountain that features a large statue of a robed male wizard. As Zavian approaches to inspect it, the statue reveals itself to be a stone golem. The adventurers fight it and Zavian ultimately brings it down, but one after another its three identical siblings arrive in the chamber to fight and be destroyed.

After Astrid cuts down the last one, they investigate the fountain and see goldfish swimming in it. They debate whether to turn them back into who or what they were, but decide to leave them for now.

Following the dragon’s trail, they find a hallway with several side chambers full of raw goods—lumber, iron, cotton, etc. Marcus determines that the rooms are enchanted so that anyone within can cast fabricate at will, but any items created will revert back to their base materials if removed. Sort of practice rooms for transmuters.

They pass through another identical fountain chamber with goldfish, only this one has no statue. From there, they step into some sort of research chamber that the invisible dragon is in the process of tearing up. It surprised a “mithral mage” here, but the wizard dimension doored away.

Freezemaw questions how the adventurers knew the mage had taken its hoard, but Amelia is just barely able to talk him down. She assures him that the mage must simply be deeper in the complex. The dragon then smashes through another set of doors and starts talking to someone else.

That “someone” is a huge boar-like creature known as a nalfeshnee demon. The fiend claims it is bound to guard this chamber, but simply wishes to be released back to the Abyss. It promises them a great reward if they can free it, but the Rune Wardens recognize that its promises are empty.

In the ensuring fight, Lea discovers that her smite has lost some its protective power, another sign of Iomedae’s displeasure. After the paladin and Astrid take their swings, it is Marcus who finally cuts the pig fiend’s belly open.

Freezemaw presses impatiently onward, leading them to a large room with a big shimmering, writhing pool of silver liquid. Above it floats the mithral mage, who looks like a hairless human man with skin made of silver. He doesn’t look happy to see them.

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