Rise of the Runelords

A Series of Missteps Leads to a Fall
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Interlude

13 Kuthona, 4733 – Fort Rannick

lea-1.jpg

Schlinnnng……crunch. The sound of a wickedly sharp ogre hook punching through mithral plate. An equally wicked grin spread across the ogre’s grotesque lips. Lea’s eyes widened as she looked down at the end of the hook protruding from what was her sternum, covered in grime and blood. She tried to scream but the only thing coming up were gurgled gasps as blood filled her lungs.

“You got yourself a strong arm there,” the ogre mused aloud. “I’mma enjoy eating that last part, last.”

As quickly as it had entered, so was the hook removed, causing the young paladin’s body to shutter violently. Lea stumbled backward, bright crimson splattering on the unsteady rubble beneath her feet. No! This can’t be happening! Her violet eyes flared up brightly, only to sputter and dim just as quickly. NO! Iomedae please!! Her knees buckled, her limbs growing heavy, as she tumbled down the debris heap from where she stood, finally stopping as her body slammed hard against a chunk of fallen masonry. Lea let out a painful gasp. Her vision darkened, as she struggled to move. Iomedae please! I can’t die here! I… Her hand outstretched, reaching for the Earthbreaker just above her feet.

I’m sorry…

Ameiko.

There were shouts and cries, but Lea could not hear them. Everything was dark, cold. The pain was agonizing, seemingly without end. Then suddenly, a familiar voice rang out in her mind.

“Don’t you know? Pride comes before the fall,” Elhayzar said.

Lea’s eyes opened to see the golden spirit standing over her where her Earthbreaker was. Her face was stern, her brow furrowed. Lea tried to speak but no sound came out, her throat was coated with blood, causing her to cough and wheeze.

“And a prideful and careless child you’ve proven to be, Ecclesia Ionomia. Greedily you enjoyed slaughtering the Grauls, proud of the plans you so haphazardly constructed. Again you strove headfirst into a contest with ogres, trying to outshine your predecessors, envying their glory. Iomedae has no use for failed martyrs. Your light is fading quickly, and if it were up to me it would be extinguished here and now. What a royal meal for ogres you would be!”

Elhayzar’s arms and wings swing in a wide gesture, as she then shakes her head and frowns.

“The Inheritor and The Gold-Fisted feel differently, and so here I am once again. The Gods have taken an interest in you blessed child, even that drunkard Cayden Cailean is watching in earnest. As are more malevolent forces seeking to see you fail.”

Elhayzar’s hand stretches out toward Lea, and a golden light shines upon her wounds. Lea’s body convulses in pain as bones and sinew are being magically knit back together, and torn muscles and organs stitch close. Lea gasps and cries out.

“See that you remember this feeling, this despair, this anguish,” Elhayzar chided. “These were your failures. See to it that you do not fail her again. Ogres are nothing to trifle with, so be careful.”

Another golden light flashes out, this time from a different figure out in the distance. The world around her starts to take shape again as Lea’s breathing starts to return to normal.

“That Abadaran Aasimar of yours knows your prayers have been answered and he’s attempting to bring you back into the fight. Awaken, Ecclesia Ionomia, and let us join the others in battle.”

With that Lea’s eyes opened once more. She took a loud gasp and coughed as the cold mountain air filled her lungs.

“She’s alive! Lea quickly we need you!” Zavian shouted, charging off in the distance.

View
Marcus the Ogre Slayer
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 4

Moonday, 11 Kuthona, 4733

The Rune Wardens have so far curbstomped the Graul family of ogrekin cannibals—blowing up their barn to kill their giant spider, avoiding their traps, and ambushing their matriarch Mammy Graul. Flush with success, they continue their home invasion.

Marcus discovers the Grauls’ kitchen and immediately wishes he hadn’t. While he recovers from the overwhelming nausea, Lea bashes down the door to the family room but doesn’t see anything of note aside from a creepy couch.

With nowhere else to go but down, the adventurers cover their noses and race through the gore-slicked kitchen and down the stairs to the Graul basement.

The stairs open out onto a cramped workroom with several sets of half-finished pieces of furniture cushioned in human leather. Astrid takes point and is ambushed by two rodents of unusual size, as well as a furious ogrekin berserker.

Although the enraged Graul deals out furious wounds to Zavian, the cleric manages to stove his head in with a mace. Astrid splats the donkey rats and the party moves on.

Zavian uses shape stone to bring down the wall between the workshop and the chamber beyond. This inadvertently reveals the Grauls’ nastiest secret: an enormous tendricolus plant monster that was once one of their own.

Lea rushes in to confront it, but is quickly caught in its jaws and paralyzed. Marcus keeps a flaming sphere on it, while the others bring the creature down. Astrid and Amelia investigate the Graul treasure. Meanwhile, Zavian and Marcus check up on Lea. While she is incapacitated, Marcus uses this opportunity to inspect her strange purple eyes.

The adventurers salvage what they can from the Graul household, including the gear of their Black Arrows allies. Amelia has a close call with a Graul trap on the creepy couch in the family room. Once she’s been tried for the poison, the adventurers set fire to the place and return to their camp in the Kreegwood while the farmhouse burns to the ground.

They reunite with the elves and the Black Arrows to plot their attack on Fort Rannick. Jakardros and Vale brief them on the layout of the fort and its vulnerabilities. The Rune Wardens decide that they will approach by air while the others launch a diversionary attack to draw away some of the ogres.

Toilday, 12 Kuthona, 4733

First however, they take a day to make preparations. Amelia ferries supplies between the camp and Turtleback Ferry on her hippogriff. Zavian uses his vivicarum spell to raise three vivicars of the dead Black Arrows from the Graul farm. One of the vivicars takes the form of Vale’s dead brother Victor. Vale is so troubled by this that he asks Zavian to dispel the construct and summon another one.

Shalelu and Lea gather bitterbark branches for the diversion. Lea asks the elf ranger about her reunion with Jakardros and learns that her suspicions were right. Jakardros left after the death of Shalelu’s mother not out of callousness but grief. The two have reconciled.

Shalelu and Galodar hear someone approach and stealth off to investigate. They return with a captive, a trapper named Rotibar who claims he was returning to Turtleback Ferry after checking his traps in the Wyvern Mountains. The party is suspicious, but Lea senses no evil on the man, who protests loudly about being detained.

Rotibar is troubled by the unnatural rains, and mentions that it may have riled up Black Magga in the Storval Deep. A more immediate concern was Rotibar’s sighting of a hill giant in the Valley of Broken Trees just north of Fort Rannick. The party decides to investigate once they retake Fort Rannick. They let the trapper go on his way.

Wealday, 13 Kuthona, 4733

In the pre-dawn hours, the adventurers set out for Fort Rannick, arriving in the morning, and begin to set their plan in motion. The fortress is built against a sheer cliff face, with a creek acting as both a water source and natural moat. But there are vulnerabilities in its defenses that they intend to exploit.

The two elves stealthily approach the secret cave entrance to the fort and ignite the bitterbark they had collected. The strong odor smokes out the shocker lizards who dwell in the caves, driving them up into the fortress.

The Black Rangers, bolstered by the trio of vivicars, launch a diversionary attack on the south gate of the fort. They are successful in drawing out the ogres. Perhaps too successful, as a dozen of the giant monsters thunder out of the fort after them.

The Rune Wardens, meanwhile, fly up to the abandoned giant eagle aerie that Vale had told them about. They descend through another secret passage down to the fort’s courtyard, where rubble blocks their way. The courtyard is full of enraged shocker lizards, which are being chased by several ogres.

Noting the crumbling guard post nearby, which they were told was ready to fall any moment, Zavian uses a shape stone spell to clear the way and undermine the base of the tower. It topples over onto a big brutish ogre and the rest of the party surges out into the yard.

Astrid hits the ogre guard in the north gatehouse with an arrow, and Marcus flies in to finish him off with two scorching rays. (One) Zavian and Astrid confront the smaller ogre, unwittingly attracting the attention of the shocker lizards as well.

The big brutish ogre Karly-Lop rises out of the rubble, only a little worse for wear after having a building dropped on him. Lea deftly leaps up onto the debris pile to confront him face to face.

Meanwhile, another ogre brute, Jolly, runs along the wall to assist his fellows. He and Karly-Lop have a cordial exchange about dealing with the carpetbagging scalawags who’ve stirred up this heap of trouble. But when Jolly tries to pull a chunk of masonry out of the wall to throw, he brings the whole gatehouse down on top of him.

Marcus slashes down the smallest ogre with his ranseur and unleashes the stored shocking grasp spell to electrocute Ol’ Randy. (Two)

Lea goes to toe to toe with the ogre brute Karly-Lop, confident that her valor and the Inheritor’s blessing will see her through. The two duel, but the ogre gets the upper hand. Karly-Lop’s wicked hook pierces through Lea’s mithral plate. She slumps to the ground on the brink of death.

Karly-Lop’s triumph is short-lived, however, as Marcus unleashes a barrage of magic missile that pummel the life from the ogre’s warped body. (Three) Zavian quickly revives Lea with the healing power of the Lawgiver.

Jolly, meanwhile, emerges from the ruins of the gatehouse. He surveys the scene. Amelia takes that opportunity to throw glitterdust in his eyes, blinding him. He shrieks that he hates fairy dust.

Crying that this is like the Shimmerglens all over again, the ogre brute runs blindly across the courtyard before slamming into the cliff face. He cleans the glitter from his eyes and makes a break for the main keep. Zavian and Marcus chases after him. Jolly forces open the main doors just in time for Marcus to hammer him with a volley of magic missiles (Four)

With the eldritch knight 4-0 against the ogres, the rest of the party has a ways to go to catch up and the gates of the keep are wedged open to them.

View
The Hills Have Ows
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 3

Moonday, 11 Kuthona, 4733

The Rune Wardens have regrouped after their first raid on the Graul farmhouse, where they freed three Black Arrow rangers from the ogrekin cannibals. Now the party prepares to launch a full scale assault on the main farmhouse, which they’ve been warned is likely to be trapped.

Amelia proposes attacking the Graul farmhouse from above. Her hippogriff carries her, Lea, and Zavian, while an enlarged Marcus flies over to the roof with Astrid and a small boulder.

The boulder smashes through the ragged shingles covering the upper floor of the farmhouse, but Zavian uses a silence spell to keep it from making any noise. Rain pours through the hole in the ceiling into what appears to be a group bedroom.

After descending into the room, Lea and Amelia invesitgate a big wooden chest. The latch isn’t trapped, but the bag of coins inside the chest sits upon a pressure plate.

While Zavian and Astrid investigate the workroom beyond, Marcus attempts to hook the trapped bag of coins with his giant ranseur. This causes Amelia and Lea to retreat away from it. Marcus’ attempts trigger a vicious razor blade that snaps out, cutting the bag in half as the eldritch knight lifts it.

After infiltrating the upper level, the Rune Wardens stealthily descend to the ground floor. They arrive in a hall with multiple doors. Astrid investigates the most foul smelling one and quietly slips inside

Inside, there are several open coffins leaning against the wall which contain dead ogrekin with lips sewn shut. Buckets of filth are lined against the wall. A grotesquely obese ogrekin woman who could be none other than Mammy Graul wheezes in a huge, ruined bed.

With Astrid clinging to the shadows, Mammy asks one of her “boys” to close the drafty door. One of the dead ogrekin lurches forward towards the door.

Quiet as a shadow, Astrid stalks up to the bloated ogrekin matriarch and tears into her with the double-bladed sword Echo. Mammy howls in pain and starts cussing out her incompetent “mother-fucking” boys for failing to protect her. Lea and Zavian charge in to the fray before Mammy or her zombies can react. Astrid finishes her off and the undead are swiftly dealt with.

With Mammy dispatched, Lea investigates the gruesome scene in the dining room. As the paladin reaches to open a door to an adjacent room, Amelia yanks her backwards at the last moment, sparing her from a vicious scythe trap.

Once the trap is spent, Lea bursts into what looks like a gross mockery of a “playroom” where two ogrekin are caught by surprise. The paladin strikes terror into them, causing them to race for the window. A grease spell from Amelia sends them both slipping to the ground. Lea and Amelia finish off the ogrekin, while Zavian falls prey to the grease.

Having totally massacred every incestuous ogrekin cannibal they’ve encountered thus far while dodging the Graul’s traps, the adventurers confidently plan their next move.

View
Zavian Desante's Day Off
The Hook Mountain Massacre Interlude

Starday, 9 Kuthona, 4733

While the good people of Turtleback Ferry have reacted to the Runes Wardens’ arrival with strange looks at the curious newcomers, they save the most gawking for the two aasimar (and their vivicar companion).

As Zavian and Nualia go about their business accompanied by Vivi, they come across a group of children from the village school. They all stare until Nualia sends them running with a glower—all but a lone Varisian girl, Veska. She asks if Zavian and Nualia are Varisians, too.

The girl is disappointed when Zavian explains that they are merely the blood of Celestials. She explains that her family are the only Varisians in town and she often gets picked on for being different. Nualia tells her to beat up anyone who makes fun of her and win respect through violence. She ruffles the kid’s hair with her clawed hand.

Zavian also asks about the town’s Winter Week festivities and learns that there is a big feast scheduled for Wealday. The aasimar decides he wants to get the party started early. He takes Nualia (and Vivi) to the local tavern, Bottoms Up, promising to show her what he was like in his wild days. He also gives Veska a gold coin for her service and invites her parents to the party.

Zavian drops a sizable chunk of change at the tavern to pay for a big party celebrating the start of Winter Week and spreading the goodwill of Abadar. Nualia loosens up over the course of the evening, participating in a drinking contest (bolstered by lesser restoration), dancing with Zavian, and sharing stories of how Sandpoint celebrated Winter Week. Vivi, meanwhile, attempts to mimic the dancers.

Sunday, 10 Kuthona, 4733

Zavian and Nualia eventually retire to a room upstairs to continue their party in private. The following morning, they are greeted with cheers by the remaining revelers. After breakfast, they head out on a romantic walk. Well, as romantic as it can be in the pouring rain.

When they pause beneath a tree, Zavian takes the opportunity to confront Nualia over the fact that she seems to have lost her clerical powers. She admits that Lamashtu has forsaken her, the latest sign of her failure at life.

Zavian insists that as an Aasimar, she has an important destiny to fulfill and has merely lost her way. At his insistence, she joins him in a ritual to summon a planar entity to help her find the true path forward.

The ritual calls down a blue light from the heavens that manifests as a creature less than two feet tall, looking like a tiny, naked elf with butterfly wings and a lute made of living wood. She introduces herself as Idun, a lyrakien azata of Desna. She heard their call and is here to help both Nualia and Vivi find themselves. The journey will take them into the Sanos Forest.

Nualia grabs Zavian by the collar with her demon hand to give him a farewell kiss. She orders him to keep out of harm’s way, as she is not done with him yet. Vivi waves.

As the trio sets out, Idun hopes that Zavian’s guide also helps him discover his true self. Zavian realizes that he is being watched by the strange dog again.

The hound once again eludes him and Zavian decides his time would be better spent trying to sell the enormous scale that he and Marcus retrieved from the shipwreck at the bottom of Lake Syrantula.

As luck would have it, a Garundi man from Kaer Maga on his way to trade for gnomish items in the village of Pendaka catches eye of the scale. He seems kind of desperate to purchase the scale. Zavian realizes the guy knows exactly what the scale is from and is purchasing it out of fear to appease some threat.

The merchant loudly resists Zavian’s inquiries as he hastily swaddles the scale up in a cloak and throws it over his shoulder. He warns Zavian that there are “strange things in the forests.”

“You have no idea what’s out there,” the merchant says. “What they want and what they’re willing to do. Folks around here are scared of ogres, but there are far more terrible things out there, and believe you me: you don’t want to meet them—or owe them anything.”

“Apparently not,” Zavian says as the merchant hustles off.

View
NOPE NOPE NOPE
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 2

Starday, 9 Kuthona, 4733

After a long journey from Magnimar, the Rune Wardens arrived at the rain-drenched village of Turtleback Ferry the previous day. While they wait for their companion Lea to rendezvous with them, the adventurers settle in at the Turtle’s Parlor inn.

The arrival of so many exotic and well-armed strangers draws gawks from the locals. Marcus retreats to his room to focus on his crafting and research. Zavian awkwardly tries to offer Abadarian services to the locals. Amelia does a little busking, hoping to learn more from the locals, but gets too caught up in her performance. Astrid shyly lingers in the inn’s common room, avoiding the locals.

Word of their arrival travels fast, however, and the adventurers are soon summoned to speak with the town mayor, Maelin Shreed. A priest of Erastil, he offers his spellcasting services to them free of charge for the duration of their stay.

They learn from Maelin that the rangers from Fort Rannick have not visited the town for several weeks. A few days ago, a group of foresters and woodsmen from the village trekked out to the fort to try to make contact. They haven’t been heard from either. So he’s very happy to see a band of adventurers, no matter how strange, here to help.

They ask the mayor about any other strange occurrences in the vicinity of the town. He tells them about the sinking of the Paradise, a controversial pleasure barge that was set up several years ago by a beautiful red-headed woman named Lucrecia. The barge sank in the middle of the night about a month ago, taking all hands and passengers with it to the bottom of Claybottom Lake. The Rune Wardens consider investigating the boat once their other business is done.

The adventurers tell the mayor that they will be investigating Fort Rannick once their final companion arrives.

Sunday, 10 Kuthona, 4733

The following morning, there is a commotion in the center of town as a griffin touches down. The elegant beast has the head of an owl and manages to look both majestic and judgmental despite the rain. On its back are two armored women, one in silver and gold, the other in black and gold.

A weary and chastened Lea dismounts, thanking Ser Chammady of Korvosa for this favor. The senior paladin tells her to remember her lessons, and then tells the other adventurers that she will hold them responsible should anything happen to Lea. She also passes on a greeting to Amelia from her parents. With that, Chammady takes off for Korvosa on the back of her griffin.

Lea is exhausted from nights of standing watch and has to be gently escorted to the Turtle’s Parlor. Along the way, she passes Marcus a book and a letter from Shayliss, as well as a letter from his mother Clairian.

At Zavian’s request, Shalelu takes a walk around the village, inspecting the soil and the sky. She reports that there is a fell voice on the wind, and suspects that the rains are the result of magic, though she’s not sure to what end.

Once Lea has recovered somewhat from her journey, she asks Shalelu about the man she is here to find, Jakardros Sovark. The elf says that she’s heard from the locals that he is a workaholic who has risen to second in command at the fort, and lost an eye some years ago. Lea urges Shalelu to keep an open mind about him, as his disappearance after her mother’s death might have been driven by grief rather than malice. Either way, Shalelu is determined to find out the truth.

The elf ranger is somewhat flummoxed, however, by Galodar’s continuing courtesies towards her and does not know how to react.

That evening, Zavian and Nualia take advantage of a break in the clouds to go stargazing. Zavian urges Nualia to take this opportunity to find her destiny and sends her off on a vision quest, accompanied by Vivi and a summoned lyrakien azata.

Moonday, 11 Kuthona, 4733

With Lea refreshed after a night’s rest, the Rune Wardens set out for Fort Rannick, following an old road that leads all the way north to the ancient dam of Skull’s Crossing. While most of them travel by foot, Amelia takes to the skies on her hippogriff. Marcus rides with her, taking the opportunity to read up in the book Shayliss gave him. It’s a treatise called Path of the Eldritch Knight, a meandering tome written by a gnome which nonetheless has some useful nuggets of information buried in it.

About three miles north of town, the road crosses over an old bridge to the western bank of the Skull River. As they make the crossing, the adventurers become aware of the sound of a big cat yowling in pain emanating from the nearby Kreegwood. At Lea’s insistence, they investigate.

They discover a firepelt cougar with its paw caught in some kind of bear trap. In the distance, they can hear hunting dogs bearing down on it. Lea approaches the creature and discerns that it is well trained, and likely a companion for a ranger or druid. While Astrid and Shalelu take up stealthy positions among the trees, Lea, Zavian and Galodar pry the cat free of the trap.

The party is soon confronted by the dog pack and their hunt master, a grotesque ogrekin named Rukus Graul. He orders them not to interfere in his hunt for the “kitty cat,” and sics his dogs on them when they refuse. The Rune Wardens make short work of the pack, and Rukus as well when he tries to flee.

The firepelt cougar leads the party deeper into the Kreegwood, following a rough trail back towards the Graul farm. Amelia scouts ahead on her hippogriff and spies a sickly field of corn adjacent to a dilapidated barn and sagging farmhouse. She notices another ogrekin stealthily patrolling the perimeter of the farm clearing.

The party decides to try to lure the guard away from the farm and into an ambush, using Amelia’s ghost sound to mimic an ogrekin voice calling out for “Mammy!”

The guard, Crowfood, hears the party moving into position, but his attempt to ambush the ambushers fails. Astrid cuts him down as the grotesque cornhusk fetishes the Grauls have hung from the trees around their farm look on.

The firepelt leads the party around the fringes of the farm clearing to the old barn. The adventurers debate how best to enter, but ultimately Lea and Astrid bash a human-sized hole in the back wall.

The cavernous interior beyond is thick with spiderwebs strong enough to snare a deer. A catwalk runs around the edge of the space, and the room ends with a set of double doors on the far side of the chamber. Beyond the doors, they can hear the muffled sound of voices.

No one is eager to step into the webbing, so Lea slaps together a Molotov cocktail and chucks it inside. The spiderwebs go up in a flash, startling the enormous ogre spider that lurks within. The arachnid slams into the double doors, battering them down.

An ogre kin in the next room hollers “Look out! Biggin’s got loose!”

Marcus takes this as a cue to step forward and hurl a fireball into the next chamber. Only after the spell is loosed does he wonder if there are any surviving rangers in the room. The fireball explodes into a wrathful globe of flame that sweeps across the room.

There is a sharp hissing noise, and then an explosion that rocks the barn as the still the ogrekin were working on explodes. The Grauls are killed, and the ogre spider is set on fire. Lea rushes forward and bashes its thorax in with her earthbreaker.

While the the others attempt to scavenge what they can from the wreckage, Zavian races up the snmoking stairs onto the catwalk. There is a large wooden cage jutting out from the walkway, within which are three badly injured men in their underclothes. While Zavian heals them up, Amelia frees them from their manacles. the two of them notice that one of the men has a Sihedron rune tattooed on the inside of his left arm.

The men are rangers of the Black Arrows: Vale Temros, Kaven Windstrike, and Jakardros Sovark. The older ranger gruffly explains that ogres have captured Fort Rannick. His unit was out on patrol and upon their return attempted to retake the fort, but were repulsed. While they regrouped, they were set upon by the cannibalistic Grauls, who have been devouring them one by one.

After wrapping the men in blankets, the party takes them outside. Jakardros’ entire demeanor changes when he sees Shalelu. Zavian, meanwhile, sternly questions Kaven about his Sihedron and breaks out a zone of truth to force him to answer.

Kaven admits that he was a regular at the Paradise, and got the tattoo to get VIP access. He ended up in the arms of the proprietress, Lucrecia, and spilled information about the fort’s defenses. He got a tip that he should stay away from the fort on a specific date, which was why he volunteered for Jakardros’ long distance patrol.

The party suspects that Lucrecia is connected to the Sihedron murders, and is perhaps Xanesha’s sister. The Rune Wardens are divided as to what to do about Kaven. Zavian thinks he should be given a chance to win back his honor, and Marcus thinks he could be useful in the fight, while Lea thinks he should face justice for his crimes.

They leave the decision to Jakardros, who takes a sword from Lea, but then looks at Shalelu and decides to grant Kaven a chance to redeem himself.

The adventurers decide to leave the rangers with Shalelu, Galodar, and Jakardros’ firepelt cougar Kibb, while the Rune Wardens assault the Graul farm and recover the rangers’ weapons. Jakardros warns them that the place is likely riddled with traps.

View
Random Encounters
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 1

Toilday, 28 Neth, 4733

After traveling a few hours away from the ruined elf camp in the Mushfens, the Rune Wardens settle down for the night. Zavian uses shape stone to create a thin layer of stone to keep them out of the mud. Galodar asks after their adventures and is impressed with their accomplishments, but over the course of the evening it becomes clear that he and Shalelu do not get along.

While most of the party beds down for the night in their tents, Zavian keeps watch, his ring of sustenance warding off fatigue. The two elves settle in to trance on opposite sides of the camp, while Vivi strolls around, frequently casting her gaze up at the stars that twinkle in between the banks of clouds.

Then, quite suddenly, a thick mass of fog engulfs the camp, making it difficult to see beyond fa few feet. Zavian realizes that this is no natural effect just as he hears a sickening wet crunch from the direction where Galodar was trancing. Zavian dispells the fog and shouts in alarm, as the clouds part to reveal an aberrant marsh giant. The creature’s greatclub is smeared with blood, as Galodar’s crumbled body bleeds out on the ground. Vivi rushes to defend the elf, while Zavian circles around behind the main tent.

The rest of the camp lurches awake. Nualia stumbles out of the large tent in her underwear, bastard sword in hand, to find herself face to face with the giant. Lea comes running out of her tent, earthbreaker ready. The grotesque creature stumbles away from them, trampling over Astrid’s tent as she barely manages to avoid the enormous footsteps. Amelia starts singing an inspiring tune as she wriggles out of her tent. Marcus emerges and hurls a fireball at the giant.

This unfortunately attracts the attention of another marsh giant perched on a fallen tree a hundred some feet away. This giant hurls a boulder at Marcus and continues to pelt the camp with stones. Shalelu looses arrows back at him, but to little effect. Marcus’ spells have a sharper bite, but also make him more of a target. Amelia takes to the air in her hippogriff and pelts the distant giant with glitterdust.

Zavian intones a prayer for the party, while Astrid leaps up, trying to land on the aberrant giant’s back, but he ducks and she instead lands behind him. Lea charges the monstrosity and it strikes her with it’s greatclub. The savage blow nearly knocks her to the ground and cracks the club.

The giant casts the weapon aside and bellows “Mokmurian!”

Lea and Astrid catch the creature in a flanking position and begin to hack into it. Nualia charges the tentacled monster and ducks under its swing to catch it in the groin with her bastard sword. The loss of its little tentacle brings the already overbalanced giant to its knees, where Astrid delivers the killing blow.

The remaining marsh giant tries to make a break for it, but Amelia uses her hippogriff to ferry the eager warriors from the campsite to its position. Zavian and Lea heal Galodar and the others, but Astrid’s tent is a loss.

Astrid keeps watch for the remainder of the night while Zavian rests and talks with the two elves. She asks Galodar about her brother, her father and life in Isandria. Galodar explains that unlike Shalelu’s homeland in the Mierani Forest to the north, the main city of Isandria was kept hidden from interlopers during the elves’ millennia of seclusion at Sovyrian. This allowed them to move back in with relative ease.

(Shalelu notes that the Isandrians have not taken advantage of their good fortune to help their cousins in the Mierani Forest.)

But dangers still lurk in the wider forest, and it is the job of the Ranger Guard to secure it. The Guard lacks the resources to keep all intruders out, so over the years Isandria’s leafy expanse has played home to more and more unauthorized human settlers: bandits, refugees, and foresters. It has become a significant political issue for the royal court, which is divided between two factions.

The Highborne, favored by Queen Tavara, wish to expel the humans before they further pollute elven lands and culture. The Stalwarts support King Thalion’s position of toleration, which seeks to incorporate the humans into the realm and teach them proper elvish ways.

(Shalelu interjects to note that both sides are arrogant and xenophobic, even to other elves.)

The two continue to verbally snipe at each other for the remainder of the night while Astrid tries to keep the peace.

Wealday, 29 Neth, 4733

The party returns to Magnimar and immediately begins preparations to depart for Turtleback Ferry. Lea takes her leave of the group to escort Ameiko back to Sandpoint and hopefully meet up with Ser Chammady of Korvosa at Foxglove Manor along the way.

Astrid reunites with the Kellid smith Neshka to tell her of her first victory over the giants, the first of many Neshka assures her. Astrid’s shipment of mithral has arrived, allowing for the crafting of a suit of plate mail.

Zavian purchases supplies for the journey and also goes clothes shopping with Nualia, who is in a chipper mood after emasculating that giant.

Marcus collects the completed rod from the Seer Stone Academy and finishes some crafting projects over the next few days. He also takes some time to write a short letter to Shayliss, letting her know where he’s gone, and another one to his parents letting them know he may be out of town for Winter Week.

Amelia practices barrel rolls with her hippogriff. She’ll get the hang of it someday.

Fireday, 1 Kuthona, 4733

Having charted a boat to take them up the Yondabakari River towards Turtleback Ferry, the Rune Wardens board the Maiden’s Folly. The boat is captained by Captain Merrey Erwer, a Varisian woman whose swash is at least half-buckled.

She is happy to have adventurers aboard, as river travel has grown more dangerous in recent months. In addition to monsters from the Mushfens, river pirates have grown more active, and ships have simply gone missing out on Lake Syrantula. On their first day out, the boat is assailed by a vicious warm of mosquitos that Marcus brings down with a well-placed burning hands spell.

Disgusted by the sight (and smell) of the Mushfens, Zavian retires to the private cabin he secured for himself and Nualia. The two aasimar spend most of the journey in there getting intimately acquainted with one another, at times rather noisily.

Galodar and Shalelu, meanwhile, stay on deck as much as possible, but stick to opposite sides of the ship, barely speaking. Marcus buries himself in his studies and craft work, while Amelia soars overhead on her horse-bird-lion thing. Vivi, when left to her own devices, attentively watches the landscape pass by.

Moonday, 4 Kuthona, 4733

The night before, the Maiden’s Folly had pulled into Whistledown, a small town that serves as the gateway to Lake Syrantula. The town has as many gnomes as humans, and is renowned for its musical instruments, including windchimes that create a haunting melody at night when the wind comes of the lake. When dawn broke on Moonday, Amelia decided to stay in town a little longer and catch up via hippogriff.

As the Maiden’s Folly makes its way out onto the deeper waters of the lake, something very large bumps into it, sending the boat rocking. The jostling grows more severe, disturbing Zavian and Nualia’s recreation in their cabin, while out on deck Captain Merrey realizes that the boat is being attacked by four giant gar.

As the crew scrambles to their positions, Astrid leans over the side to stab at one and is nearly devoured. Galodar’s string of bad luck continues, as a gar snatches him from the boat and quickly swallows him. Marcus manages to scald three of the enormous fish with a well-placed fireball.

Inside his cabin, Zavian methodically dresses and equips himself, determined not to rush out disheveled.

Astrid skewers the brain of the giant gar that tried to eat her. The fish start to dive, but Marcus hits them with another fireball, killing the one carrying Galodar in its belly. Without a word, Shalelu dives into the water and swims towards the dead creature.

Zavian emerges and grants water breathing to the rest of the party. Astrid and Nualia swim out to the dead gar, where Shalelu manages to cut Galodar free. They bring the wounded elf back up onto the ship. He looks at Shalelu with newfound admiration and perhaps something more, but she doesn’t seem to notice.

Zavian and Marcus, meanwhile, deduce that if this is a hunting ground, there might be more wrecks below the surface they could salvage. After all, they’d already cast water breathing. They concoct a scheme to lower themselves on long ropes to scour the murky depths with a daylight spell. Only midway through do they realize that this plan effectively turns them into giant fishing lures.

Thankfully, there are no predators nearby and they are able to salvage three heavy barrels from a wrecked ship. The barrels’ unspoiled content turns out to be salt. they offer a cut of the salvage to Captain Merrey and her crew. The Captain is very grateful to them for saving her ship and says she’s never seen that many giant gar acting in concert.

Wealday, 6 Kuthona, 4733

After the fishing incident, the Maiden’s Folly turns north towards Ilsurian. Shalelu warns them not to display Magnimarian or Korvosan symbols. Ilsurian stands apart from both city-states, and its insular inhabitants are very suspicious of outsiders.

Marcus recalls that a renowned smith, Vea Semere, lives in Ilsurian and vows to visit her shop. Vea turns out to be a young half-elf woman who specializes in weapon smithing, to meet the constant demand for weapons from the Ilsurians, who prize them as symbols of independence. The two half-elves chat excitedly about smithing and Marcus suggests a future collaboration once his Turtleback Ferry business is done. On his way back to the boat, he has to remind himself to be faithful to Shayliss.

Zavian also goes ashore at Ilsurian to sell the salt, and notices himself being watched by the same stray dog that he’d seen watching him back in Magnimar as early as the Lord-Mayor’s feast. Yet every time he tries to catch the dog, it vanishes. He worries that some sinister being is tracking him.

Fireday, 8 Kuthona, 4733

From Ilsurian, they continue north up the Skull River. The Rune Wardens disembark from the Maiden’s Folly at the village of Pendaka. The rest of their journey is taken aboard the eponymous turtleback ferry, made from the shell of a giant turtle. The ferry takes them across Claybottom Lake to their destination.

It’s raining, and they learn from the ferryman that the winter rains have come early and haven’t let up. It’s the latest ill omen to strike the region. Some months ago, a pleasure boat named the Paradise sank in the lake, killing dozens including its proprietress. In the eerie Shimmerglens on the west bank of the lake, strange lights have been seen at night. And it’s been weeks since a patrol came down from Fort Rannick to the north.

After arriving at Turtleback Ferry, the party gets rooms at the only inn in town, the Turtle’s Parlor, while Marcus arranges accommodations for his wagons. The innkeeper, Cesten Orlandi, substantially overcharges them but Marcus doesn’t mind, as it seems the man gets little other business.

The Rune Wardens decide to wait several days in town for Lea to reunite with them after her adventures in Sandpoint.

View
Lost and Found
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 12

After the excitement (and hefty payouts) of the past week, the Rune Wardens do some shopping. Marcus also takes some time to craft himself new armor using the finest mithral.

Marcus then discusses his plan to get the Great Key of Janderhoff back from Brodi by showing him a decoy to get him to check the location of the real key. All but Amelia agree to participate.

After Duli confronts Brodi at the Blue Bunyip, the party tails him back to a house in Lowcleft by the Arvensoar rubble. After convincing his bodyguards to cooperate, they head down into secret catacombs below the house.

There, they find Brodi speaking with his girlfriend, a duergar named Ludmilla. Marcus blinds Brodi, which provokes Ludmilla to enlarge herself. Zavian tries to talk Brodi into surrendering, but he refuses. Ludmilla wounds Astrid before Lea and Astrid beat her unconscious.

Interrogating the two of them, they learn that Brodi ran off with Ludmilla. He took the key so that its anti-scrying enchantments would protect her from her enemies among the Duergar. Lea promises them safe haven in Korvosa.

With the key returned, Duli faces a trip back to Janderhoff. She offers to stay on for a bit, but Marcus sends her off, saying he’s come to value the importance of family.

Next, the party investigates Prince Eldrin’s camp in the Mushfens. Amelia and Astrid scout ahead, riding Amelia’s new hippogriff. From the air, they note that the camp seems abandoned and that there are giant footprints in the area.

The party approaches cautiously as the sun sinks low. Marcus casts enlarge on Lea. They find the bodies of three elven warriors. Zavian inspects one of the bodies, which is seemingly uninjured save for the huge hole driven through its chain shirts. There’s giant tracks on the ground. Shalelu identifies both marsh giants and stone giants, which makes no sense.

As Lea examines one of the bodies. near the tree at the center of the camp, she senses an evil aura coming from high up in the tree. A wave of necrotic energy flares out from a fetish hung high in the tree. The energy stirs the corpses to life. The one Zavian is examining grapples him, while the one by Lea lashes out at her, and the third rises to its feet.

The undead are soon joined by an angry alligator, which surges out of the stagnant water behind the tree to attack Lea. The reptile is quickly followed by a grotesque marsh giant, who trips the paladin with a gaff hook. The fighting is fierce but swift as the Rune Wardens bring down the undead and the giant, who is brought low by a hammer blow from Lea.

They quickly realize that the fetish in the tree is continuing to pump necrotic energy into the elf corpses, reviving them for another round. Amelia, whirling overhead on her griffin, puts an end to the threat by blasting the fetish with her wand of magic missile.

As the adventurers loot the corpses, an unfamiliar hand falls on Zavian’s shoulder. A wounded elven ranger, Captain Galodar, had been hiding using tree shape. After he is revived, he explains that the camp was attacked by a combined force of marsh giants and stone giants. Prince Eldrin and several others were given over to the stone giants as prisoners, to be taken north to Hook Mountain.

The Rune Wardens decide they cannot afford to tarry any longer. With the prince’s life in danger, they need to set forth for Hook Mountain and Turtleback Ferry as soon as possible.

View
Dawn of the Scarlet Sun
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 11

Sunday, 19 Neth, 4733

Since he has been forbidden entry at the Kaijitsu villa, Zavian asks Astrid to go inside and summon the other Rune Wardens.

He reintroduces them to Nualia. She is distracted by her vivicar duplicate, whom she and Astrid nave taken to calling Vivi. While the other adventurers are not exactly enthused to have their former foe join them, they press on to the ruined chapel in the Underbridge District. There, Captain Kasadei informs them that no one has entered or exited since the fiendish red gargoyle flew into the structure with his half-elf ally.

The Rune Wardens enter the wrecked building cautiously. Zavian deduces that it was once a shrine to the sun goddess Sarenrae, who otherwise has no temples in Magnimar. As they near the back of the building, they are ambushed by the fiendish red gargoyle, who swoops down to attack Zavian.

The Abadarian cleric finds himself assailed from behind by a vandalized statue of Sarenrae. The statue proves resistant to magic, forcing a more direct approach. Lea is knocked on her back by the gargoyle, but manages to pull the creature on top of her. Thus grounded, the gargoyle is mobbed and defeated, followed by the statue.

Completing their exploration of the grounds, they find a small cemetery out back, where four graves appear to have been freshly dug. They also discover a semi-hidden entrance to the catacombs below.

Astrid scouts ahead and notices an odd design scribed on the floor. Marcus identifies it as a glyph of alarm and Amelia defuses it. The party advances down the corridor and into a chamber that has been transformed into a shrine to the demon lord of lies and murder, Shax. Kneeling before the altar, devouring a human heart, is the half-elf cultist Zadendi.

Zavian challenges her and advances into the room, but she is soon joined by her demonic patron, Avalexi. The demoness eerily resembles a fiendish Sarenrae right down to the flaming scimitar, and she denounces Zavian for his heresy. Not merely for posing as a Sarenrite, for she claims he turned his back on the goddess. Lea tries to threaten the demon, but is dismissed with a “Quiet, child, the grownups are talking.” Avalexi calls forth four undead creatures that form a barricade between her and the party. She also rends open a brief portal to the Abyss, from which spills forth a babau demon that attacks Marcus at the rear of the party’s formation.

Lea and Nualia are caught up battling the undead, while Amelia hurls glitterdust at Zadendi and blinds the cultist. Avalexi flies across the room to attack Zavian. Marcus enlarges himself and battles the babau demon with his glaive. Swords clash and spells fly as the battle is joined. The demoness cuts through Zavian’s armor with her burning blade, while her own revealing outfit shrugs off blows from the cleric and from Astrid. Spells fizzle against the abyssal auras of both demons. The undead aren’t able to inflict much harm against Lea and Nualia, but take a good deal of killing. The cultist Zadendi, still blind, attempts to support the undead by channeling negative energy.

Finally, the tide begins to turn against the demonic forces. Despite the cultist’s efforts, the undead begin to fall and Nualia turns her attention to Avalexi. The demoness retreats back across the chamber towards the altar. Astrid gives chase, while Zavian tends to the party. Marcus retreats from the babau and casts haste upon the party. Lea takes advantage of this to charge Zadendi and delivers a furious blow that splatters the half-elf against the Shax symbol on the wall.

Astrid runs up the wall to leap at the floating Avalexi and slash her. Marcus rushes up to Lea to cast fly upon her. The paladin flies up and then brings her earthbreaker crashing down on the demoness. The remaining babau wisely teleports away.

After looting the bodies, the Rune Wardens report back to Captain Kasadei, who is impressed at their ability to bring down threats far beyond the abilities of her guards. She pays them the reward for bringing the killer to justice, and promises to inform the local Sarenrite community of their actions.

Having foiled another murderer, the party rests for the remainder of the day and prepares for the Lord-Mayor’s upcoming feast. Lea works with Ameiko to assemble a disguise to the event.

Moonday, 20 Neth, 4733

The feast honoring the Rune Wardens is hosted at Defiant’s Garden, an opulent palace perched on the most scenic spot of the Summit, with a view looking out across Magnimar. The palace was claimed by the current Lord-Mayor, Haldmeer Grobaras, as his official residence and he clearly spared no expense on this grandiose events.

There is live music, elegant dancers, patriotic blue and silver bunting at every table, and exquisite cuisine representing the finest of Magnimar’s culinary offerings. A veritable who’s who of prominent residents has turned out for this exclusive event, while the Rune Wardens are given pride of place at the Lord-Mayor’s table, which is located on a raised wooden dais.

Haldmeer Grobaras is a corpulent fellow dressed only in the finest silks and attended by a brass angel with a fiery halo. His chief bodyguard, an unsavory Chelish man, lingers nearby. The Lord-Mayor delivers a speech praising the party’s service to Magnimar, destroying the Skinsaw Cult (and thwarting its plans to assassinate him) and bringing down another murder cult.

Once the Lord-Mayor is done, Zavian asks for permission to speak and explains how the party’s actions have served the will of Abadar. he ends by plugging his family’s restaurant. Lord-Mayor Grobaras says that he should pursue a career in politics. Grobaras also asks Ameiko to pass his best wishes along to “Her Highness,” who he would be most interested to speak with.

Lea, meanwhile, is posing as Ameiko’s handmaiden and has some trouble stifling her reaction as the Lord-Mayor explains that he thinks that he and the princess would have a great deal in common. Lea takes some time out from tending to Ameiko to briefly say hello to Mira, who is among the guests.

The Lord-Mayor then introduces the elven bard Kassiel, who steps out onto the stage to perform a ballad recounting the party’s various heroics, all of which is painted as selfless service to Magnimar. The poetic license extends to the defeat of Xanesha, who is depicted as being slain on the very steps of Defiant’s Garden while attempting to assassinate the Lord-Mayor. Grobaras whispers that this is how you do public relations. The song will be sung far and wide, telling the tale of the Rune Wardens.

As the meal starts to wind down, Grobaras offers the party rewards for stopping the Skinsaw Cult and saving his life. He then asks if they would be interested in carrying out a task for him. Fort Rannick, located in the shadow of Hook Mountain near the distant community of Turtleback Ferry, has recently fallen silent.

Since the fort lies near the border with Korvosa, any large body of troops could be perceived as preparations for an attack. But a small band of heroes could investigate without elevating the already heightened tensions between the two cities. The Lord-Mayor offers to cover their travel expenses for the job. The party agrees, since they were going to head that way anyway to investigate Xanesha’s “sister.”

After hiring on the party, the Lord-Mayor decides to retire from the revelries and summons a team of sturdy porters to literally haul his chair away. His brass angel golem and his bodyguard follow close behind.

Shalelu, having overheard the conversation, asks to join them on the trip to Fort Rannick. She recently learned that her mother’s former lover, a man named Jakardros Sovark, is a member of the Black Arrows, the order of rangers that operates out of the fort. Jakardros abandoned Shalelu decades ago after her mother was killed by a dragon, and the elf woman has some pointed questions to ask him.

Ameiko, however, warns that Hook Mountain is ogre territory and she begs Lea and the others not to go. It comes out that Ameiko’s adventuring days came to a close when nearly all of her party were killed by ogres, vile cannibals who delight in torture and suffering. She warns that they are big, strong, fast, and more clever than they appear. Lea, however, insists that she’ll be fine, and with Iomedae’s blessing can overcome all evil.

The journey to Turtleback Ferry will take some preparations, and the Rune Wardens decide to deal with some other loose ends first, such as investigating the rumored Isandari encampment in the Mushfens.

View
Before Dawn
The Skinsaw Murders Interlude

Starday, 18 Neth, 4733

Moving with divinely-endowed haste, Zavian heads north to meet up with Constable Wallas at the Inn of the Golden Shield, where he takes custody of Nualia. She’s happy to be away from Sandpoint, where she’d been on a work-release program carrying out Zavian’s Abadarian bookkeeping duties.

More recently, she had worked with the Sandpoint Watch to hunt down the surviving goblins from Thistletop, the ones that Shalelu had lured away on her decoy mission. Nualia acted as bait to draw the goblins out where the guards could kill them, an act that had drawn some grudging respect from a town that still feared and hated her.

As the two aasimar travel together, Zavian commends Nualia for helping the town, but acknowledges that bureaucratic work was not suited to her. She asks why he is having her join him in Magnimar and he explains that as an aasimar, she has an important destiny. He wants to help her discover what that is.

Noticing her shivering in the cold, he casts endure elements on her. Zavian admits that he is taking a great risk bringing her south, even though she had passed up previous opportunities to escape. He asks her to swear not to make any escape attempts or violations of the law during her stay in Magnimar.

“I know how you Abadarians take oaths and contracts seriously,” Nualia says with a sly smile. She holds up her red demon hand. “Pinky swear?”

After the vow is made, they travel in silence for a while, until Zavian pauses again. He confesses that he killed Tsuto, but did so in an improper summary execution. He admits that he did wrong, but is trying to do better. Though he also confesses that he killed Tsuto to remove his influence from her, but also out of jealously.

Nualia describes Tsuto as a lovestruck young fool who should have stayed away after things fell apart at Thistletop. That’s why she decided not to take up his escape offer. Besides, she shrugs, Zavian is prettier.

As they continue to travel, Zavian regails her with stories of his wild days as “King of Lowcleft,” which Nualia finds hard to believe. Zavian acknowledges that he has hidden depths.

As they approach the city, he also tells her about the creation of the vivicar and how he has noticed that it has traces of her personality, and signs of the divine goodness within her. He also notes that the vivicar seems drawn to Desna’s constellation. With a cocked eyebrow, Nualia questions him about what activities he got up to with this pliant copy of her . . .

Meanwhile, in Magnimar

Earlier that day, Astrid visits the Bazaar of Sails to ask around for information on Isandria. She is eventually pointed towards an Isandari merchant, Adalas Dorasaer. The bombastic elf was selling baked goods made from rare, fey-touched grains. Astrid purchases some lembas bread, and gets the man talking about the Hidden Kingdom.

She learns that Isandria is currently divided into two factions. The Stalwarts support the King’s policy of tolerating human settlement within the forest realm, while the Highborne want to drive the humans out and preserve elvish culture. She asks if giants are known to live in Isandria and is told that the Ranger Guard would fight off any such incursions.

She also got a brief, slightly condescending lesson in Elvish history. Ten thousand years ago, the Elven farseers sensed the coming disaster of the Earthfall and evacuated the vast majority of their population off of Golarian via an artifact called the Sovyrian Stone.

After the elves returned thousands of years later, they found their ancient lands had been overrun by humans and fouler things. The elves of the Mierani Forest to the north continue to grapple with the dangers that crept into their lands to this very day. But the illusion magics cast upon the Isandari capital of Niriath kept it hidden from looters and squatters, allowing the elves to return as if no time had passed.

After Astrid bids farewell to the the bread merchant Adalas, she climbs the great causeway up to the Summit region and visits the Founder’s Archive. There she buries herself in books on giants, finally coming across a tome that sketches out a valuable overview of the many different breeds of giant.

There are an abundance of the huge creatures in Varisia, mostly sticking to the Kodar Mountains, the Cinderlands, and other wild regions of the interior. She also learns that a giant with a boulder in its hand is bad news, as they are naturally gifted at hurling large rocks.

Sunday, 19 Neth, 4733

Early tin the predawn hours, Astrid meets up with Zavian, who has taken up Captain Kasadei’s offer to serve as bait in her murder investigation. With Zavian dressed as a Sarenrite cleric on a Dawnwalk procession, Astrid sets up an ambush in a nearby alley together with Nualia and the vivicar.

However, the assassin nonetheless gets the drop on Zavian. She is a red haired half-elf woman who probably isn’t related to Astrid. The killer uses a silence spell to mute his calls for help before knifing him in the back.

But the cleric proves more resilient than her normal prey, and soon the cultist attempts to flee the alleyway. The vivicar tackles her and Nualia beats her unconscious. Zavian arrives to chain her up, but before he can do anything her backup swoops down from the alley, a gargoyle Zavian had noticed earlier. The creature has a fiendish look to it and red-tinted skin. It knocks Zavian flat on his ass and swoops up with the unconscious half-elf woman, despite the vivicar’s attempts to hold on.

Zavian casts fly on Astrid, who chases after the monster and finally sees it land at a ruined temple deep in the Underbridge District. She returns to report her findings to Zavian and to Kasadei, who has her guards set a watch on the temple. Recognizing that his party of four is outmatched, Zavian heads back towards the Kaijitsu villa to rally the Rune Wardens.

View
Marcus About Town
The Skinsaw Murders Interlude

Starday, 18 Neth, 4733

At the Kaijitsu Villa, Marcus catches up with Duli and asks about her relationship with her estranged brother Brodi. The dwarven woman explains that she and her brother are from the Goddig family of the Wyrmbreaker Clan of Janderhoff, but as exiles they can no longer use those names.

A decade ago, her brother was accused of stealing the key to the Great Gate of Janderhoff, which connects the Dwarven Sky Citadel with the Underdark. Duli thought her brother was being railroaded and joined him in exile as a protest, only to realize he had stolen the key after all.

She describes the key as an adamantine object about the size of a mace, bearing the face of King Jander. Spells are woven into it to prevent scrying, which may be why her brother stole it. She suspects he was smuggling goods out of the Underdark, and has ties to the Korvosan underworld.

Duli has been striving for some way to restore her family’s honor, but she doesn’t have the fighting skill to go about the usual way—killing a shit ton of goblins, orcs, and giants—and she lacks the roguish talent to steal the key back. She’s been trying and failing to figure out a way to retrieve it. Marcus offers to help, though he admits his interest is driven in part by the presence of an adamantine magic item.

Their first stop is at Billivin’s Benevolent Balms and Effulgent Elixirs, the eclectic magic shop run by the absent-minded gnome Billiver Billivin. The gnome shopkeep forces Marcus to answer some riddles before suggesting that they think about how to acquire the key without magic, since it’s warded against spells. Marcus then asks about crafting a magic rod into a weapon. The gnome directs him to the Stone of Seers, Magnimar’s finest wizard’s academy.

At the school, all the professors are busy but a talking stone angel statue outside schedules an appointment with the headmaster. Marcus then moves on to the Founder’s Archive. He fails to impress the head librarian, but is nonetheless able to research the origins of the “snake lady” Xanesha.

His information suggests that she is of the lamia-kin, cursed beings who often take the form of comely women with the lower halves of lions. Xanesha is likely a more powerful form of such creatures, a so-called lamia matriarch. Lamias are spiteful and predatory, known to corrupt the innocent, defile sacred places, and lure in mortal lovers who they devour once they grow bored.

Lamias can breed with mortals, and it is likely that Xanesha’s “sister” is a genuine blood relation. Marcus’ research suggests that there is an unusually high prevalence of lamias in Varisia, with some scholars speculating they have ties to ancient Thassilon.

Marcus also researches the Janderhoff key and discovers a reference sketch of it. He has a plan to create a replica and startle Brodi into thinking it was stolen, in order to provoke the dwarf into rushing to check its hiding place. However, it will be a challenge to whip up a convincing replica.

Marcus then goes to meet with headmaster Leis Nivlandis at the Stone of Seers. The half-elf who believes that Marcus’ proposal of merging a magic rod into the shaft of a weapon is feasible, but faces challenges. He directs him to work with a halfling wizard, Ander, who has an interest in constructs.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.