Rise of the Runelords

Wings
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Interlude

Sunday, 4 Pharast, 4734

After a day of travel through the mountains, Zavian arrives in a high, windy valley with a ruin half buried in the cliff face. It is a different kind of rock than the surrounding mountains and looks as if it had slammed into the cliff. A single open doorway stands there, decorated with strange elegant carvings Zavian can’t make out from a distance.

On approach, he spies a flash of gold among the rocks. Investigating, Zavian is challenged by a travel-worn young amazon in golden armor. The dark-skinned woman is Ser Arlynn Jalento of Korvosa’s Sworn Swords, also known as Ajay.

Once Zavian convinces her of his good intentions, she explains that she is seeking Mwangi captives that have been taken to Jorgenfist. Her mission hasn’t quite gone as planned. Her Shoanti guides and all their horses were killed by giants and she was left to fend for herself in the Iron Peaks. She is waiting for the stone giant inside the ruin to leave, so that she can follow it back to Jorgenfist.

Zavian notices a familiar hound accompanying Ajay. She explains that the dog has helped her survive in the mountains. As far as she knows, it doesn’t talk.

Zavian tells her that his mission is inside the ruin. Ajay is sympathetic, but warns that the giant has pet landsharks prowling around with it. They try to concoct some way to approach without alerting the monsters, but the hound just starts trotting towards the ruin with them chasing after.

As they near the ruin’s entrance, a fearsome bullette erupts from the earth. The landshark pounces on them, shifting its attacks between Zavian and Ajay. The hound doesn’t strike at the bullette, but instead grants magical blessings to both warriors. A terrible battle ensues, with all parties suffering grievous wounds before the monster is finally slain.

At the ruin entrance, Zavian is met by Nualia, who is on her own quest to recover a Desnan artifact from below the ruin. However, the stone giant is in the way and she needs help getting through.

Unfortunately, the landsharks’ burrowing has destabilized the ruins and the hound speaks to warn that there is not enough time to retrieve Zavian’s missing book and help Nualia with her quest.

Zavian makes a fateful choice and decides to press on with his own mission. Nualia cusses him out as he heads off.

The hound archon, now in its bipedal form, explains that this ruin was part of a celestial bastion that was hurtled across the planes during a demonic incursion. As they stride through the ancient battlefield, spectral echoes of the slain continue to clash in the halls. They don’t notice the interlopers.

Zavian feels something drawing him deeper into the fracture fortress and he leads his companions down a rubble pile into a strange sunken chamber. The broken floor hangs out into a black void in defiance of gravity. Zavian feels pulled towards the far end of the chamber.

However, as they stride out onto the floating terrain, the hound archon smells danger. The trio comes comes to a horrible realization that another bullette is clinging to the underside of the floor directly beneath them. The archon urges them to race to the burning brazier nearby.

The landshark destroys a chunk of the floor and Ajay nearly falls. She loses her spear, but Zavian helps her up. They both then join the hound archon at the brazier. At the celestial’s urging, they thrust their hands into the fire and are surrounded by a warding wreathe of flames.

With the bullette prowling out somewhere, the hound archon moves forward to try to draw it out. The beast emerges, ramming its head through the floor and punching out another hole. Zavian jumps the gap, but urges Ajay to hang back.

At this point, there is a sinister thrum that runs through the ruin and the skeletons littering the floor rise up, animated by cruel magic. The hound archon speculates that the stone giant found whatever evil artifact he was seeking.

Some of the skeletons have horns, others have bony wings with a handful of scorched feathers. Zavian realizes that only one skeleton stands between him and the book. The gilded tome lies open, a scimitar driven through it and into the floor. Having lost his mace, Zavian brings out the warhammer Ghoulbreaker.

Facing a lone skeleton, Ajay raised her shield and charges, battering it off the stone floor and into the bottomless chasm.

Before battle can be joined between the skeletons, the archon and Zavian, the landshark erupts through the floor. The hound archon two skeletons scramble for footing, one of them falling into the void.

The bullette’s antics have broken huge gaps in the floor that are ever more challenging to traverse. Zavian finds himself alone and flanked by fiendish skeletons.

Battering his way past the bony guardians, Zavian reaches the book, but the bullette reaches him. The hound archon tries to leap across the gap to assist, but instead barely catches hold of the edge of the crumbling floor.

Casting aside his Abadarian crossbow, Zavian concentrates and prays to Sarenrae, trying to remove the scimitar. With great effort, he draws the sword, which bursts into brilliant flame.

A shimmering, spectral floor flares into existence as the stone floor falls away. The bullette tumbles off into oblivion. Zavian recovers his holy book and discovers that pinned beneath it was the infernal contract he signed in his past life.

The ruin begins to rumble, its structural integrity finally compromised. With the hound archon Maliek carrying the exhausted Ajay over one shoulder, the three of them race through the complex. The spectral celestials cease their warring to salute them while the ghostly fiends cower in terror.

Glancing over his shoulder, Zavian realizes that the ruin is not merely collapsing but imploding. Maliek warns that it is being pulled back into the Outer Planes. As they reach the foyer, they spy a wounded Nualia trying to run out of the other corridor but getting pulled unnaturally back towards the implosion. Zavian manages to pull her to safety, but once she is clear she wants nothing to do with him.

“You have no idea what you’ve cost me,” she says, looking at her demon arm. After healing herself—but not the others—she teleports out.

The hound archon also bids his farewell at this point, though he expects his path will cross with Zavian’s again. Zavian and Ajay find a good place to camp, with the aasimar reading furiously through his book.

Moonday, 5 Pharast, 4734

After a supremely restful sleep, Zavian wakes to a sense of discomfiture in his shoulders that bothers him throughout his prayers to Sarenrae. As the goddess’ divine power washes over him in blessing, Zavian feels a tug and then two brilliant silver wings burst forth from his shoulders. All doubt is banished from his mind as he takes flight.

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The Road to Jorgenfist
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 10

Fireday, 2 Pharast, 4734

Setting out from the Storval Stair, it takes a day of travel before the party reaches the foothills of the Iron Peaks. They pass a recently-used stone giant camp along the path to the mountains.

Starday, 3 Pharast, 4734

The party ventures into the mountains, passing a mysterious abandoned cliff village as they climb higher. Amelia takes to the air, while Marcus’ levitating wagon manages the difficult terrain. Lea and Zavian have a somewhat harder time navigating their horses through the rough mountain trails.

Sunday, 4 Pharast, 4734

After the first day in the mountains, Zavian splits off from the rest of the Rune Wardens to seek out the site of his past life’s missing Book of Light and Truth.

Moonday, 5 Pharast, 4734

The tumbling of a few rocks sparks fear in the party, although Shalelu is dismissive. Astrid uses her slippers of spiderwalk to climb up the cliff face and investigate. She stumbles across two stone giants, nearly invisible against the rocky terrain of the Iron Peaks. Their positions revealed, one of the giants whistles to call forth three dire bears from a cave below.

Two dire bears claw at Lea and try to pull her from the saddle. A third dire bear tries to hug Marcus, but he slips through its grasp. One of the other dire bears swipes at Lea, but misses and strikes its companion. Lea manages to get free from her attacker.

Observing this resistance, the stone giants recognize the party as adventurers and attempt to disengage to warn Mokmurian. one of them kicks Astrid backwards, nearly knocking her off the cliff side. The giants then attempt to flee.

Lea and her steed Prince Shadowmist push past the dire bears. She wheels the horse around to attack. Meanwhile, Shalelu drives the magic cart up the side of the mountain to collect Astrid and give chase to the giants. Amelia blinds one of the stone giants with glitterdust.

Marcus casts fly on himself and rises above the reach of the dire bears.

Astrid takes off a stone giant’s head with a shot from her icy burst bow. They capture and question the blinded giant, gaining valuable insight about Jorgenfist. Having convinced the surviving giant that Mokmurian is bad news, the Rune Wardens allow him to go free with his pet bears.

Wealday, 6 Pharast, 4734

That night, the Astrid has a harrowing experience. The party has used stone shape to sculpt out a small cave and then used illusory wall to disguise it. A patrol of bickering and oblivious hill giants pass by, one of them pausing to urinate on the illusion. Thankfully, the ruse holds and the giants move on.

Oathday, 7 Pharast, 4734

The party finally reaches the fringes of the valley which contains Jorgenfist. A large watchtower overlooks the entrance to the valley, while seven giant camps surround the fortress below, which is perched on the edge of a great river canyon.

The party debates whether to attack the watchtower, which they know is guarded by two runeslave hill giants during the day and the taiga giant Cindermaw during the night. Ultimately, they decide to avoid the tower and instead investigate the cliff caves they were told about by their stone giant prisoner.

Skirting the edge of the Jorgenfist valley, the adventurers engage another stone giant patrol. Amelia blinds and greases on giant, while Lea chases down another. Both are swiftly dispatched. To prevent word of their sighting from reaching Mokmurian, Astrid takes out the stone giant’s messenger raven. The icy burst arrow shatters the bird into a thousand frozen shards.

After sculpting and disguising another campsite in the mountains, the party leaves Lea’s horse and Amelia’s hippogriff under the watchful eye of Ash.

In order to access the cliff caves below Jorgenfist, the Rune Wardens ride Marcus’ wagon out along the side of the cliff. They finally disembark at the nearer cave entrance. The interior is crawling with bugs, and the far end of the room is thick with old spider webs. Shalelu hangs back to guard the exit and watch over the wagon.

Lurking in the webs are giant undead spiders crawling with millions of little spiders. The Rune Wardens unleash everything they can on the monsters, including holy light and arcane lightning. It takes a little effort, but soon all three of the monster are destroyed.

After driving out the remaining insects, the Rune Wardens sneak the wagon inside before venturing deeper into a narrow tunnel hidden at the back of the cave.

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The Storval Stair
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 9

Sunday, 11 Calistril, 4734

The morning after the coup, the Rune Wardens are invited to breakfast with King Thalion. Astrid converses with the King and he tries to bond with her. He tells her she has a home here in Isandria and offers her a colonel’s commission in the Ranger Guard. King Thalion invites everyone to a party that night.

That day, Marcus seeks out the local blacksmiths and learns techniques from them. Lea gets tips from Naya Hushblade on preserving the lamia head and making it presentable to the nereid. Naya also warns her about the fey’s capriciousness. Amelia spends time with her grandfather, learning about Isandria and its music.

Meanwhile, Zavian contracts one of the harkeners to learn more about the Battle Heralds and his past life. The spell goes awry and he learns more than he bargained for, including that his lost love Elszevina is on Golarion. He is to look for her in the Eye of Avarice. The wizard goes blind, an occupational hazard for seers.

Astrid spends her day reading up on Isandria’s history. She is visited by her old friends Dace and Shar, who were freed from the Queen’s prisons. She also learns how her father met her mother. He was wounded while traveling incognito, and was taken in by a group of human squatters. Lydia saw through his disguise and planned to ransom him, but in the end he saved her settlement from being razed by the Ranger Guard. He admired her cunning and bravery, and continued to visit her. He also recognized the plight of the human settlers and began to make reforms.

That night, the king’s party features fine food, music, and magical entertainment. Afterwards, the party plans their next move with King Thalion. He points out the different ways to reach the Storval Plateau, and they settle on the plan of taking the Storval Stair. He also says that he is sending Eldrin to represent Isandria at the council at Ilsurian.

Moonday, 12 Calistril, 4734

Lea takes a quick detour to visit the nereid Meleena and presents her with the lamia’s head. She spends a couple pleasant hours in the fey creature’s watery abode. The water nymph continues to be interested in the paladin, but doesn’t press. Lea promises to return visit again after her quest is complete.

Toilday, 13 Calistril, 4734

The party sets out for Sandpoint. Zavian is troubled by dreams, where he must choose between Nualia and Elszevina.

Lea takes a quick detour to visit the nereid and presents her with the lamia’s head. She spends a couple pleasant hours in the fey creature’s watery abode. The water nymph continues to be interested in the paladin, but doesn’t press. Lea promises to return visit again after her quest is complete.

Oathday, 15 Calistril, 4734

The Rune Wardens arrive in Sandpoint during a nasty cold snap. Zavian travels to the Cathedral to pray at the shrine to Sarenrae. Marcus catches up with his parents and Shayliss.

Astrid heads to the inn and gets pressed for tales of adventure. Amelia unveils a song hinting at Astrid’s parentage.

Lea seeks out Ameiko at the Glassworks. Her girlfriend is less than happy to hear about the nymph interlude, and insists that if Lea encounters any more, she keep her distance—at least until Ameiko can join her. They jokingly plan a trip to Isandria.

Fireday, 16 Calistril, 4734

After stocking up on supplies, the party prepares to head out for the Storval Stair. Lea hires Shalelu to serve as a guide and a minder for Marcus’ cart.

They find signs of increased giant activity on the trip north. Astrid skips a chance to visit the ruins of her village, determined to press on to find the stone giant general Galenmir responsible for its destruction.

Oathday, 1 Pharast, 4734

Scouting out the Storval Stair using arcane eye, they discover that it is being guarded by a squad of hill giants. They devise a plan to ambush the giants during the night.

Astrid and Amelia use spiderclimb to stealthily ascend the cliff, scouting out the area. They decide to split up, with Astrid going after the hill giant on watch and Amelia using stone shape to wall in the others. Astrid is successful, but Amelia’s spell alerts the giants. They also do an eagle call to signal the others.

Marcus flies up to the window of the structure to blast magic into it, while the others rush up. The hill giant chief orders his warrior to bash down the stone shape barrier and soon they are locked in combat with Astrid, Lea, Amelia and Zavian.

The ruckus draws the attention of a wyvern which attacks Marcus.

The hill giants are cut down one by one, but the wyvern takes more killing. When it starts to cuss out the party as a bunch of “dicks,” they realize wyverns are intelligent creatures. the sass mouth doesn’t improve it’s life span and the winged lizard is slain trying to flee.

Their enemies vanquished, they drag the bodies under cover and then settle in for the night, master of the Storval Stair.

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War of Words
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 8

Starday, 10 Calistril, 4734

The Rune Wardens have confronted the stone giant ambassador Kayalithica in her guest quarters at the royal palace in Niriath, capital of Isandria. The stone giant proves capable of summoning earth elementals and telekinetically hurling chunks of rubble. Astrid is the focus of the giant’s wrath and takes a beating.

Marcus makes clever use of spells to disrupt Kayalithica’s efforts, summoning an ice storm and then calling forth a fog cloud to fill the upper part of the chamber so the giant couldn’t see. With her attacks growing in effective, the giant is eventually worn down. Finally, Marcus finishes her off with a blindly launched fireball that blasts out a wall of the guest chamber.

Once the giant is slain, they search the chamber, acquiring an adamantine belt and some sort of gray magic bag from the body. Astrid spots a package hidden up in the trees at the top of the chamber, finding a letter from Mokmurian urging Kayalithica to step up her efforts to negotiate with “the elves” to get the artifact from Sandpoint.

Amelia uses glibness to assuage the concerts of the elf guards rushing towards the burning guest quarters. The adventurers then press on to investigate the Queen’s chambers, to look for more incriminating evidence. Amelia fast talks her way inside, where Inquisitor Inrolod and some elf guards have secured the room. The adventurers try to further confuse the elves by suggesting that the shapeshifting lamia is posing as a guard.

Astrid tries to sneak past the foyer of the Queen’s chambers to her back room, but is spotted by a clear-eyed elf guard. Inrolod reaches for his mace and the guard races for the back room. While Astrid and Zavian close with the inquisitor, Lea rushes after the guard.

Inrolod summons up a swirling ring of fire around himself. That doesn’t stop Astrid and Zavian from beating him into submission and he grudgingly surrenders.

The guard, meanwhile, has run over to a bookshelf and is fiddling with it. Lea runs up to stop him, and Amelia blinds him with glitterdust. The guard whistles, awakening one of the statues in the room, then channels negative energy. This badly wounds Marcus’ familiar Ash, who falls unconscious to the ground. The statue grabs hold of Lea.

The guard reaches through the bookshelf and carries off a brick-sized object. The elf makes a break for it, but Lea jabs out with her earthbreaker one-handed and manages to lay the it low. It falls to the ground, growing and morphing into a readheaded lamia. Marcus hits the statue with a dispel magic, rendering it inert. Lea then draws her longsword and beheads the unconscious lamia. She keeps the head.

After Ash is revived and wounds are healed, the party sends a message to their ally the Blacktree to notify him of what they have found so far. The queen’s chambers include a wizard’s laboratory in which it appears she was researching Isandari mind prisons, but otherwise there are no incriminating notes. The artifact the lamia was trying to steal appears to be a stone, the size of a brick, much heavier than it should be. They question Inrolod and determine he was not colluding with the lamia.

The Rune Wardens debate their next move and decide to wait to hear back from the Blacktree. After 10 minutes, however, a company of guards arrive and demand that they see the queen. There is no fast talking these elves, and the party ends up being accompanied by an entire platoon to the throne room.

The “room” is actually more of a courtyard, with several large stone outcroppings featuring enormous disapparating crystals. Dominating the courtyard is an enormous white tree which has grown out of the largest clusters of crystals. An enormous seat has been carved into the living tree trunk—the Sentinel Throne. Queen Tavara, dressed in white and gold, is gazes down upon them from the high seat. Standing nearby is the Ranger General Naya Hushblade.

The queen questions the adventurers and Amelia weaves a tapestry of lies, but Tavara is clearly not buying it. After a while, she cuts the story short and denounces them for lying in the sight of the Sentinel Throne.

Astrid then drops her disguise, accusing the queen of destroying her village, kidnapping the prince, and usurping the throne from the king. She urges the guards to detain the queen until an investigation can take place. The queen demands that the interlopers be arrested. Naya Hushblade looks uncertain, and the guards who accompanied the party refuse to obey.

Queen Tavara brings matters to a head, hurling a fireball at the adventurers (and incidentally catching the rebel guards). The fire scorches all of them, but the only one who perishes is the badly wounded Inrolod.

The rebel guards confront their counterparts, using only non-lethal strikes. Zavian realizes that the scattered crystal outcroppings are key to the illusory defenses of the sentinel throne. The adventurers begin smashing the crystals.

Queen Tavara, meanwhile, focuses fire on Astrid. After staring down an elvish guard and smashing a crystal, Astrid is struck with multiple scorching rays and falls to the ground, near death. Lea is too far to help. Zavian rushes over but isn’t able to stabilize her using mundane skills.

Amelia uses charm person to win over the uncertain Ranger General Naya Hushblade, who joins them in smashing a crystal and calling for Tavara’s surrender. When the last crystal cluster is destroyed, the Sentinel Throne’s defenses are withdrawn and Marcus, Amelia, and Lea concentrate on the throne and its occupant. Queen Tavara surveys the chamber one last time, then grudgingly surrenders.

The Blacktree, Shalelu, Galodar and Galebrie arrive moments later, flying in on giant owls. They explain that the queen’s sympathizers throughout the city have been defeated. They have control of Niriath. Prince Eldrin arrives and he and Astrid confront the queen.

Queen Tavara insists that she was trying to save Isandria and Eldrin’s future. She argues that the Chelish settler cities, Magnimar, Korvosa and Riddleport, will war with one another until one dominates the region and overruns Isandria before collapsing. Mokmurian’s giants will wash over Varisia like a cleansing fire, obliterating the threat. It becomes clear that she believes Mokmurian has merely unearthed ancient Runelord magics, but insists that Isandria stood free against the Runelords themselves and will be safe from the giants.

(Shalelu notes that in the age of Thassilon, Isandria was protected by the now-fallen elf kingdom in the Mierani Forest and the homeland of Kyonin.)

Tavara says that her husband was too tolerant of the humans, threatening the long-term safety of the kingdom. Astrid confronts her about the attack on her village, and Tavara says that her very existence as a potential claimant to the throne is a threat to Eldrin. Not to mention, a constant reminder of her husband’s infidelity. The queen reveals that her husband is trapped in a mind prison and his body is hidden within the Sentinel throne.

The queen is hauled off in shackles and King Thalion is revived. Still getting up speed, he welcomes the adventurers as guests, promises to get to know Astrid better, and pledges that Isandria (whose illusory defenses were shattered with the crystals) will stand against the giants.

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Into Isandria
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 7

The Rune Wardens prepare their plan to infiltrate the hidden elven kingdom of Isandria and confront Queen Tavara. The Blacktree reaches out to a merchant contact, Adalas, who has a cart tricked out with illusion magic. Lea and Zavian obtain hats of disguise. For the others, Galebrie provides enchanted acorns that will disguise them as elves for up to seven hours.

Zavian also visits the Sandpoint Cathedral and leaves his holy symbol, formally abandoning Abadar’s faith. He had come to realize that his faith was a selfish effort to hide from who he really is. His recent escalating arguments with Nualia also come to a head. She tells him to get his shit together, and leaves to take care of her own business.

Oathday, 8 Calistril, 4734

The party sets out for Isandria, traveling in Adalas’ wagon accompanied by Galebrie’s commandos. Astrid hangs onto the disapparating gem. Lea, unable to understand elvish but determined to stay out in the open rather than attempt to hide, concocts a cover story as a deaf mute the merchant took under his wing.

Fireday, 9 Calistril, 4734

They arrive at the edge of the border to find ranger guards expelling a desperate human family. Galebrie is questioned by an elven inquisitor, Inrolod. Lea,in her guise as a deaf mute forlorn elf, helps moves things along. Unable to acquire the gem from Galebrie, Inrolod searches the wagon and just barely misses detecting Amelia.

Once they are clear of the border, the Rune Wardens leave the cart and hand the gem over to Galebrie. Then the adventurers continue through the forest towards the “back door” to the capital Niriath. That night, Marcus uses a rope trick to create a safe and hidden camp site.

Starday, 10 Calistril, 4734

The next day, they hear a strange sound nearby. Astrid investigates and finds a ruined human settlement being picked over by two pixies who are arguing over a silver bell. Astrid resolves the dispute by teaching them rock paper scissors. They reward her with a pinch of pixie dust that will erase the last 5 minutes of memory. In the wreckage of the settlement, Astrid finds an inquisitor’s badge.

From there, they proceed to the waterfall cave where the back door is located. They find a wounded nereid, Meleena. After Lea heals her, the fey woman warns them that a lamia clawed its way through. Meleena kisses Lea to grant her a fey boon: the ability to breath under water. Lea promises to return with the lamia’s head.

Inside the waterfall cave, they find an elf gate, a portal known as an aiudara. With everyone hanging onto Astrid because of her royal blood, they step through. On the other side, they find themselves in the elven city of Niriath. There are murdered guards nearby. After stripping the guards of their outfits and gear, Amelia, Astrid, and Marcus activate their disguise acorns. They proceed through the city to the Blacktree’s house.

Their elvish allies prove to have successfully slipped back across the border. The adventurers warn the Blacktree about the lamia loose in the city. He warns them that there is a stone giant ambassador rumored to be in the palace, undoubtedly negotiating with the Queen over the artifact that the elves recovered from Sandpoint.

The Rune Wardens concoct a plan to infiltrate the palace with Amelia posing as an inquisitor and the rest as ranger guards. Using the bard’s glibness, they easily enter, then go after the giant said to be in the guest quarters. They end up roping in Inrolod and sowing dissent between him and Ambassador Kayalithica.

They ultimately convince Inrolod to send some guards to protect the queen, and to take the rest to guard the artifact. Amelia uses glibness to further confuse the giant, and they question her about who was responsible for the raid on Astrid’s village. They learn that Queen Tavara had hired Mokmurian to destroy the village and slay all within, with the stone giant general Galenmir personally leading the attack.

Having heard all she needs to know, Astrid reveals herself to the giantess and calls for her death.

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Elvish Intrigue
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 6

Toilday, 30 Abadius, 4734

The Rune Wardens have gathered in a tavern called the Wanton Warrior to plan their next move,but their deliberations are interrupted by a team of elvish commandos. The elves bear the arms and armor of the Isandari Ranger Guard.

The leader of the commandos, a stern elvish woman, orders the party to lay down arms and prepare to be searched. She claims the party has stolen an important item from Isandria.

“She wants to grab our stones,” Marcus deadpans, and his corny joke causes a wave of titters to spread across the room.

Thanks to some deft negotiation, the Rune Wardens manage to diffuse the tension and convince the elves to sit down to lunch with them. It turns out that the elvish commander is Galebrie, sister to their friend Galodar.

Verifying this mentally with Galodar, they also learn that Galebrie had a scandalous affair with a half-elf stable boy named Wesley. When they bring this up, she turns bring red and quickly cuts them off. This personal connection does fully persuade her of the party’s claims against Queen Tavara.

Galebrie explains that her team was sent by the queen to retrieve a disapparating gem that was stolen from Isandria by a red-headed half-elf. She also warns that the Sentinel Throne can track the location of the gem. To allay suspicion, they decide that the elvish commandos should travel with the party back to Sandpoint to reunite with Prince Eldrin and Galodar.

Wealday, 31 Abadius, 4734

The next day, Galebrie charters an elvish ship, the Green Sceptre, captained by Captain Egon Sarneiros. During the voyage they are stalked by dwarvish pirates, but the Green Sceptre uses a ruse in the night to avoid them.

Oathday, 4 Abadius, 4734

Upon arriving back in Sandpoint, the Rune Wardens learn that there was an incursion by elven commandos. Marcus’ parents prevented them from abducting Prince Eldrin, but the elves managed to abscond with something from the ruins of Old Light.

They also learned that Galodar has returned from his scouting mission to Isandria, and he brought someone back: Blacktree, Amelia’s grandfather. He explains that Queen Tavara and the Highborne faction orchestrated a palace coup. Officially, King Thalion has fallen ill and the Queen is acting unilaterally in his stead. The King’s supporters are being quietly arrested and the Blacktree has heard rumors that there is a stone giant ambassador in the palace.

The Rune Wardens work with the Blacktree to concoct a plan to infiltrate the Hidden Kingdom and get to the bottom of this intrigue.

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A Question of Honor
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 5

Coming Soon

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Cat Burglar
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 4

Fireday, 26 Abadius, 4734

Magical barriers have closed over all of the exits to the throne room. Valeria Endrin urges the dignitaries to remain calm as security is detaining an intruder. She then tells the party she has no idea what is going on, but doesn’t think that Amprei triggered the barrier. Their lead suspect is a half-elf violinist, who vanished from the bandstand just before all hell broke loose.

Valeria urges the party to find a way out and get to Amprei’s study in the Old Queen’s Tower. Lea suggests they see if wizarding prodigy Ryah can bring down the barriers. The princess says that she can bring down the fields briefly. Marcus quietly watches Ryah work and determines her ability to lower the door is innate.

To minimize the number of barriers they have to go through, the party decides to head out onto the side of the building. Marcus enlarges himself to carry Shayliss and Ryah, while the others use their own magic to fly or walk across the outside of the castle towards the Old Queen’s Tower.

Rounding the corner of the building, they spot the half-elf violinist slipping out of the tower with something under her arm. The Rune Wardens quickly catches up to surround her, after Zavian pins the suspect with a hold person spell.

The half-elf breaks free from the spell and morphs into her true form as a lamia: a creature with the upper half of a beautiful woman fused with the body of a lion. Astrid and Zavian are knocked prone, but Lea uses more magic to anchor her to the spot.

The creature tries to negotiate, but as soon as Lea’s spell fades she attempts to flee and is cut down. She was carrying a book embossed with a seven-pointed star, and had been using a rare Isandari artifact known as a disapparating gem to elude magical detection. Nualia swiftly lays claim to the gem.

The party traces her path back into the Old Queen’s Tower and from there to the extradimensional study that presently serves as Amprei’s laboratory. They disable the magical barriers on the castle and get back in touch with Amprei and King Aquilos, who were fighting some vampires in the dungeon below—a decoy, apparently.

Amprei soon joins the Rune Wardens in her study. She offers some more details on the disapparating gem, and is quizzed about the Runelords. She ultimately agrees to allow the party to study the book, which was an overview of the seven Runelords just before the fall of Thassilon, written by their contemporary the devil Sermignatto.

Nualia is loath to part with the gem, but eventually hands it over to Astrid for safekeeping.

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With a Spirit of Impatience
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Interlude

Fireday, 26 Abadius, 4734 – Castle Korvosa

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Ecclesia sits in front a large, intricately carved oak dresser with a tall, clear mirror. With the light waning outside, small candles litter top of the dresser between an assortment of powders and tinctures to provide enough light for the young paladin to affix her makeup for the evening’s planned festivities.

Her hair had been tended to hours prior: the long, soft, light brown locks braided neatly in four small chords that accented the bulk of her hair that was pinned up in a neat bun. Although she prefers to keep her hair in a more practical low bun or ponytail, especially now that it has grown these past few months, the extra time and care taken by the royal aestheticians was appreciated.

A beautiful red ball dress with black and golden accents lies upon her bed; the last part of the evening’s preparations. As Ecclesia reaches out for the red lip tincture on the dresser, a familiar voice rings in her ears.

“What a peculiar choice of war paint for fighting giants. Tell me, do you plan on seducing them into submission, child?”

Ecclesia’s amethyst-colored eyes shoot straight up, as in the mirror the familiar form of Ell-Hayzar stands behind her. Her similarly amethyst eyes fix upon the young paladin, her arms crossed as she gives a disapproving head shake. Ecclesia lets out a small sigh as she turns to face her bonded spirit, “Very funny Ellie. You know why we’re here, what I’m thinking. If you have something to share, please make it quick, Ameiko should be in here any minute and you know how she feels about me talking to myself.”

Ell-Hayzar bristles a bit at the nickname, her long, elegant nose wrinkling for a moment before relaxing. “She shouldn’t concern herself with matters that are yours to consider. Nor should you hide our connection to those closest to you. But I will again acquiesce, if only to press upon you once more the importance and imminence of the task of quelling the evils that stir within Varisia. We must move on the information we have with all haste if we are to prevent it.”

Ecclesia shakes her head in turn and moves toward the bed. “I’m well aware of giant war bands marching to Jorgenfist. We fought and won a brief respite, and we’re better served by preparing for our enemy, just as they are hard at work preparing for us. Besides, the King—“

“The King of Korvosa is not my concern, child,” Ell-Hayzar folds her arms, her eyebrows pull closer as she narrows her gaze. “I am answerable only to The Inheritor herself, as are you. It is not his glory that bestows you your powers; it is not in his name that you bring justice into this world. His will is not your law.”

“You forget yourself, Ellie. I am his daughter, his blood flows within my veins. There are…” Ecclesia pauses for a moment to lightly apply the red balm upon her soft lips, “…norms to consider. I am a servant of The Inheritor yes, but I am also a servant of this Kingdom. I need to make amends for my past transgressions.”

“You didn’t care about this before,” Ell-Hayzar raises an eyebrow, softening her gaze. “Why now?”

“Near-death experiences and your lessons are the culprits,” Ecclesia replied, a wry smirk tugged at the corner of her mouth. “I owe it to The Inheritor to be focused on the task at hand: I can’t afford to be hiding who I am any longer. I am a Paladin and a Princess in equal measures, if I am to be successful at both I need to handle the unique demands and responsibilities each bring to the table. And at the moment, not running from my father is more important than tending to the giant problem.”

“A giant problem that stems from the return of a Runelord that threatens all of Varisia,” El-Hayzar sighs, “but I digress. Very well, child, I will acquiesce. Take care that your mortal duties do not cause you to stray from her light, the annals of power are fraught with shadows.”

“Ever the worrier Ellie,” Ecclesia chuckled, “Of course I will. I wouldn’t—“

“Just who were you talking to?”

Ameiko strolls into the room, wearing a familiar smirk but mixed with crossed arms and focused gaze. She taps her foot expectantly as she gives the paladin a once over.

“Just myself, of course, nothing to worry about my love,” Ecclesia hastily discards her clothes and pulls on the dress. “Care to help me into this thing?”

“A likely story,” Ameiko replies, stepping closer, “You know I don’t like it when you…talk to yourself. It’s bad enough you talk in your sleep.”

“I know, I know. She—, err, I had a lot on my mind; just needed to air out my thoughts.”

“I know it’s coming from a good place but it creeps me out. The other night it was in a strange language, I was worried you were being possessed!”

“You know that’s not how it works,” Ecclesia chucked. Her voice is straining as she forces a grin, “besides, neither Iomedae nor any of her servants would ever take possession of me in such a violating manner. If you’d really like to know, I—“

“No, I really don’t want to know. I’ll take your word for it, again.”

“You wouldn’t have to if I could just—”

“Don’t we have a party to go to darling? We can talk about it another time, okay?”

Ecclesia lets out a sigh, “Sure, I’ll put in on the calendar.” She rolls her eyes but before they complete the roll, Ecclesia feels a tight tug at the corset as Ameiko finishes tying.

“Hey!” Ecclesia yelps in protest, as a sly grin flashes across the Minkaian’s face, “I kind of need to breathe tonight you know.”

“Nonsense darling, I very much prefer to be as breathless as you are now.” Ameiko replied giving her a quick peck on the cheek. A light blush flashes across the young paladin’s face. “It’s not often I get to enjoy you all dolled up as you are. Now, let us be on our way before I end up tearing you out of that lovely dress instead.”

“Don’t worry my love, you’ll get your chance after the party.” Ecclesia replies, taking her arm as they head out of the room.

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Homecoming
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 3

Sunday, 14 Abadius, 4734

Having arrived at the Korvosan settlement of Melfesh and met with Lea’s mother Queen Cressida Kroft, the Rune Wardens settle in to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening in the army camp. Remmy promises to arrange an escort for them to travel to the city.

Marcus continues crafting, while Shayliss travels the camp trying to sell his weaponry and raise brand awareness. Amelia entertains the troops with ballads of the Rune Wardens’ heroism. Zavian offers his services as an Abadarian cleric.

Moonday, 15 Abadius, 4734

A detachment of Korvosan cavalry led by a Lieutenant Syvas escorts the adventurers as they set out for the capital. The soldiers carry a royal banner with the black, red, silver and gold colors of the Houses of Kroft and Nox.

As they travel, Lea and Amelia notice that there are fewer travelers on the road than normal, even in the midst of the cold, damp Varisian winter. Lea asks Syvas, who says that with the Korvosan military deployed to the frontiers or withdrawn to the cities, there are fewer soldiers to patrol the interior. Bandits and monsters have filled into the vacuum, making travel more dangerous.

Toilday, 23 Abadius, 4734

After nine days on the road, the party enters a wooded area. Amelia is the first to spot a disheveled man leap out of the foliage and dash into the road, looking fearfully over his shoulder. He freezes and gawks at the column of warriors. The bard uses her song to fascinate him so he can be questioned.

Before that can happen, however, another figure comes charging out of the woods after the man and tackles him to the ground. The figure, dressed as an old woman, puts a sword to the man’s throat and says “Don’t you move or I swear by my pretty blue bonnet I will end you.”

This second person turns out to be not an old woman at all, but Ser Marl of Old Korvosa. A halfling named Ser Belia Bairnel arrives soon after, mounted atop the awakened riding dog Reno. The unusual trio explain that they are members of the Order of the Black Mushroom, a knightly order founded by Lady Kyra Loranth. They’d set a trap for bandit slavers who had been waylaying travelers. They plan to take this prisoner, along with several others, back to Korvosa for questioning.

The Rune Wardens link up with the rest of the Black Mushrooms, the gnome paladin Teena and their squire Gunny, and continue their journey together. Upon learning that Teena is a paladin of Sarenrae, Zavian questions her about the page from his past life’s copy of The Birth of Light and Truth. The gnome directs him to a Brother Ahmed at Korvosa’s Sarenrite temple for a proper translation.

Fireday, 26 Abadius, 4734

The party arrives at Korvosa and make their way to the castle. They immediately feel a strange sense of frisson in the air, tingling the backs of their necks and other regions. Shayliss and Nualia seem to be the most affected. The Rune Wardens suspect its a sign of Sorshen’s magic stirring beneath the city.

At the castle, they find that King Aquilos Nox has no time to speak with them, as he is entertaining the new Chelaxian emissary Zasz. He invites them to attend the Lunar Ball that night and arranges quarters for them. Elegant clothes are also arranged for those that lack them. Nualia makes use of magic to disguise her demon arm.

That night, the party attends the ball, which is being held in the throne room of the castle. The Rune Wardens make their entrance and greet the King; Lea makes formal introductions.

The party speaks with the court wizard, Gia Amprei, who offers to trade information about the Runelords in exchange for Marcus’ help with her professional feud against the aged Headmaster Toff Ornelos of the Acadamae. Marcus finds himself roped into a wizard’s duel against Ornelos’ apprentice, Princess Ryah, to take place the following morning.

Zavian and Marcus persuade Lady Jeggare to purchase the over-sized Sihedron medallion they recovered from the Kreeg Clanhold. Zavian also exchanges talk about merchat business with Lord Rolan Farima and High Arbiter Jerem Farima.

Lea catches up with Lady Kyra Loranth, who asks for her help in mending relations with Kyra’s youngest daughter Becky, who is a junior cleric at the temple of Iomedae. Lea promises to help.

Lea is then approached by a muscled young man who punches her square in the face and says simply, “I accept.”

She realizes this is Anton Jeggare, the boy whose nose she broke before skipping town. Anton says he has accepted her challenge, and expects to duel her tomorrow. Marcus chooses this moment to tell Lea that he will be fighting her sister in a wizard’s duel at the same time.

Lea chats with Laori Vaus, the city’s high priestess of Iomedae, who says she has seen the fingers of destiny touching the party in a totally platonic way, and that there is a rising danger over Varisia that takes the shape of a great golden eye peering down greedily from some elsewhere.

Lea finally catches up with Nox, asking for his advice on how to deal with the duel. Eventually, she decides that she will concede the following morning in order to minimize the harm to relations with the Jeggares.

It is at this point that Amprei warns that alarms on the entrance to the vault have gone off. Nox calls for Chammady to be summoned, and then gathers Laori, Amprei, and Kyra to investigate. He tells Lea and the others to stay in the throne room with Seneschal Valeria Endrin to protect the guests.

Shortly after the King and company have departed, magical force fields shimmer into place around all of the doors and windows.

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