Rise of the Runelords

Meet the Parents
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 2

Starday, 30 Kuthona, 4733

Having dismounted from their captured mammoth, Trumpy, Clairian Arrowsong and Flint reunite with their son Marcus. Clairian praises him for crafting his own armor, but chides him for not being stronger with the branding.

“There should be raven designs all over this!” she says, wrapping the mithral plate with her knuckles.

Flint and Clairian also reveal that the giant they brought back is still alive and available for questioning.

A platoon of heavily armored mercenaries return from their post at the Scarnetti manor. Far better equipped than any of the forces that defended the main town, “Alpha Squad” is welcomed back by Viorian Dekanti. They praise the defenses that Zavian laid down at the manor and Viorian gives him a pat on the shoulder. Feeling guilty, the cleric ropes the mercenaries into hauling the giant to a secure location—though Viorian insists on haggling for a fee.

Marcus offers to introduce his parents to his sort-of secret girlfriend Shayliss. They find her quietly trying to break back into her family’s grocery store and Marcus decides to hold off the introductions until later. Clairian uses a bit of magic to help Shayliss get inside.

Lea, meanwhile, takes Trumpy to the Goblin Squash Stables, which have not seen a mammoth in over a decade. However, the proprietor is able to make space for the creature. He gives Lea a bottle of wine as a thanks to the Rune Wardens for saving the town once again.

The paladin then heads off to check on Ameiko at the Rusty Dragon. The bard gets the Lea out of her armor and seats her somewhere comfortable to recover. Lea brags about breaking off Longtooth’s horn, and says she hopes to retrieve the whole head to serve as a new symbol of the Rusty Dragon. Ameiko’s glad she’s taking more of an interest in the business.

Marcus’ next stop is take his parents back to Das Korvut’s house. The blacksmith survived the battle, and he prepares tea while Marcus recounts his adventures. The young wizard notices that Flint seems to ask probing questions whenever the talk turns to Thassilon. Clairian, on the other hand, is more concerned with making sure Marcus got the proper credit for his heroism.

The two senior adventurers mention that their last adventure before returning to Sandpoint took them to the Thassilonian ruin of Hollow Mountain on a mission for the Pathfinders. Clairian explained that the dungeon was unusually active; to make matters worse, they were double-crossed by their companions and Flint spent an extended period mind controlled by a halfling. They retrieved a stone tablet from the ruins they thought might interest Marcus and Clairian presents it to him as a belated birthday present.

Meanwhile, Zavian finishes escorting the captured stone giant up to an open field near Old Light and uses stone shape to carve out a pit to leave the creature in. The cleric, joined by Nualia, goes off to help the townsfolk. He notices that Nualia is able to cast spells once again.

As the clerics travel through the town, they come across the smelly half-orc Gorvi scavenged some half-burnt shanks of meat from a butcher’s shop. Gorvi vigorously thanks them for saving the town and tending to the civilians. He gives them a grimy potion bottle as a sign of gratitude.

Once safely clear of the half-orc, Zavian remarks on Nualia’s renewed divine power, noting that Vivi wasn’t the only one to get something out of the vision quest with Idun. Nualia says that the last step was consecrating the former Lamashtu shrine in the Catacombs of Wrath as a shrine to Desna. Zavian expresses his own doubts about himself and the recent revelations about his history. After everything he has done for her, Nualia promises to stay at his side.

Zavian also checks in on the old woman, Risa, who he sort of rescued during the attack. She has returned to her quiet little tavern and is being looked after by her daughter. Zavian confesses that it was his failure to properly reinforce the defenses which led to the giants getting in. Risa urges him not to blame himself and reminds him that without the Rune Wardens, the town would have been doomed.

Over at the giant’s prison, Astrid and Prince Eldrin question the prisoner. The stone giant says that Mokmurian has learned ancient magics that will allow him to lead his army of giants to victory, driving the small folk into the sea. The prisoner says that Teraktinus sought a stone from the ruins of Old Light, for reasons unknown. Perhaps Mokmurian hoped to use stone giant arts to speak with the stone. The captive also identifies Mokmurian’s general Galenmir as the giant that led the raid on Astrid’s village, but he doesn’t know why.

The interrogation done, Astrid turns the giant over to the Sandpoint authorities for trial.

The Rune Wardens gather at the Rusty Dragon to regroup, where they are joined by Marcus’ parents. Lea confronts Flint over his true history as a Korvosan noble and one of the legendary Crimson Blades, the adventurers who saved Korvosa a generation ago. She asks where the hell he’s been and why he hasn’t returned to help in this time of need.

Flint says that he’s already died for Korvosa once, and doesn’t plan on doing it a second time. He and Clairian also explain that they have not been complacent all these years, having been adventuring across the Inner Sea against multifarious dangers. Marcus is confused by these sudden revelations. He asks Clairian if she’s got any secrets to share, and she insists she doesn’t. Marcus gets the sense she’s holding something back. Ameiko escorts the now quite drunk Lea upstairs.

Shayliss drops by the Rusty Dragon and gets roped into meeting Marcus’ parents. Clairian quickly takes a shine to her, having always known that Marcus would eventually find someone. Eventually, Flint convinces her to leave the poor girl alone and takes Clairian out onto the dance floor to the tune of Amelia’s latest ballad.

Marcus and Shayliss talk, and agree that the time has come to reveal their plan to leave together to her father.

Fireday, 5 Abadius, 4734

Marcus first takes Shayliss down to Magnimar for a couple of days while he has the strange dwarf wizard Kunarv enchant his cart. He runs into Viorian there as well, who has come to pick up a magic sword from the collector.

Upon returning, Marcus and Shayliss finally work up the nerve to talk to Ven Vinder. Marcus explains his interest in bringing Shayliss along to help with the wagon, spinning it as a safe learning experience. He intends to leave it to Shayliss to disclose their relationship, but Ven takes him aside first.

The burly shopkeeper has noticed the half-elf’s interest in his daughter and wants to make sure that Marcus doesn’t plan to make a career out of adventuring if he has any long term intentions towards Shayliss. Ven also reminds Marcus that he will kill him like a chicken if anything happens to the girl. Marcus recalls that the family has already lost one daughter, and feels a pit of worry in his stomach.

Marcus’ unease is not leavened by his father’s insistence that the two have a sparring match. Flint carries no weapons but his gloves, while Marcus is given a quarterstaff. While Clairian cheers him on, the son takes several swings at his father. He lands a coule hits, but isn’t able to press the advantage and ends up disarmed. The whole experience leaves both men frustrated, though Marcus dimly recognizes it as an attempt by Flint to connect with him.

Inspired by the match, Lea challenges Astrid and the two end up squaring off, while Zavian referees and also serves as bookie. Astrid is the heavy favorite, and validates the odds by winning handily over Lea.

Sunday, 7 Abadius, 4734

After a day’s sailing, the party arrives in Magnimar. While the others commission the Maiden’s Folly to once again ferry them up the Yondabakari River, Zavian seeks out a powerful cleric. With the priest’s aid, he is able to dispell a curse from the scrap of parchment he’d retrieved from the old Sarenrite shrine in the Shade District, allowing him to read it fully.

Sunday, 14 Abadius, 4734

After sailing up the river and across Lake Syrantula, including being challenged by both Magnimarian and Korvosan warships, the Rune Wardens arrive at the town of Melfesh. A forest of red and black tents has sprung up outside the town walls and it is there that the party heads. They are directed to the command tent, where a figure in black and gold armor steps out to meet them.

It is Lea’s eldest brother, Crown Prince Telus, who chides Lea for her poor timing. He explains that she is not the only guest at the camp.

Moments later, they are joined by Lea’s mother, Queen Cressida Kroft, who is in conversation with Lord-Mayor Haldmeer Grobaras of Magnimar. Lea awkwardly introduces her girlfriend to her mom and explains she is returning to Korvosa at her father’s request.

Cressida speaks with Lea and Telus alone in the warded command tent. She explains that the Runelord Sorshen is stirring in her vault deep below Castle Korvosa. The problem started five years ago and has only grown worse. Sorshen, the Runelord of Lust, specialized in enchantment magic. In the event that she rises, much of the Korvosan military has been deployed to the frontiers. It’s a show of strength to Korvosa’s neighbors, but it also keeps the army away from any mind controlling powers. Cressida suspects that Lea has been summoned back because her father heard of her exploits and believes she is powerful enough as a paladin to be immune to charm magics.

This is all news to Lea, but also to Telus, who doesn’t like being kept out of the loop. Cressida also confesses that she’s worried about her husband’s state of mind. His recent messages have been cryptic, and by all accounts he is shut up in the palace, obsessing over the risk from below. With an army of giants on the loose, Cressida can’t return to the city to investigate. She has to deal with the problem at hand.

Outside, the Queen’s captain-adjutant Remmy has been regaling Zavian with a long and increasingly implausible story about how she lost her eye. All of a sudden, a Korvosan soldier goes flying through the air. A trio of hulking Shoanti warriors barge through the camp, their leader demanding to see Queen Cressida on behalf of his father, Krojun Eats-What-He-Kills.

The young warrior Sejun dumps a stone giant’s head on the ground. He says that the giants are raiding the Sklar-Quah, during winter when the tribe is at its weakest. The giants are amassing in the Iron Peaks, far too strong for the Shoanti to fight on their own. Sejun demands that Korvosa honor its alliance and come to their aid.

Lord-Mayor Grobaras chimes in to say that he too has come to discuss an alliance against the giants. Cressida invites them both back into the command tent to discuss. On his way into the tent, Sejun tells Lea that losing his earthbreaker to her years ago was a lesson in humility; he tells her to hang onto it until she deems him worthy. Lea finds herself left back outside, where Remmy is wrapping up her winding take about the missing eye.

Stones Over Sandpoint
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 1

Fireday, 29 Kuthona, 4733

Having learned of an impending stone giant raid on Sandpoint, the Rune Wardens are racing back to the town to assist in its defense. Zavian and Nualia arrive in town ahead of the rest of the party. Zavian offers his services to the authorities, while Nualia goes around town apologizing for her past efforts to burn it down.

While working on bolstering Sandpoint’s defenses with his magic, Zavian is approached by Lord Titus Scarnetti. The Scarnettis offer him 5,000gp to direct some of his efforts towards bolstering the defenses of their manor, which lies outside Sandpoint’s defense perimeter. Zavian takes the gold and steps away from his work on the town for a while.

Starday, 30 Kuthona, 4733

The rest of the Rune Wardens reach Sandpoint the following day. They quickly split up to visit their friends and loved ones. Amelia drops in on the Pixie’s Kitten to check up on Kaye Tesarani and her girls. Lea heads straight for the Rusty Dragon Inn to see Ameiko, who is not at all pleased with how the paladin ran off to ogre country without so much as a goodbye The dressing down becomes literal as Ameiko has Lea dress up in a frilly barmaid’s outfit to help her tend bar. Amelia quietly spies on the lover’s spat.

Marcus makes a bee line for the Sandpoint Grocery, where he finds Shayliss and her father Ven, who is boarding up the shop in preparation for the attack. Shayliss arranges for Marcus to escort her to the Rusty Dragon so she can pick up lunch. She is unhappy at how Marcus had vanished for weeks with only a single letter offering vague information on his whereabouts.

Astrid and Eldrin briefly interrupt them, but sensing the tension, the elves quickly retreat.

Marcus apologizes for treating Shayliss with the same thoughtlessness his parents treated him. Shayliss reaffirms that the two of them are still exclusive. Marcus offers to take her with him on the party’s next expedition, which excites her. She tells him that she’s learned how to make use of magical scrolls and wands. After playing a game of “find the dagger” in a side alley, the couple arrives at the Rusty Dragon, where Lea the barmaid begrudging serves them.

Astrid and Eldrin, meanwhile, toured the town, which the prince finds delightfully quaint. The two of them arrive at the Rusty Dragon, where they confer with Shayliss about the fate of Eldrin’s comrade Dace. The Ranger Guard was taken away by Inquisitor Inrolod, an ally of Eldrin’s mother Queen Tavara. The prince plans to send Galodar to infiltrate Isandria and see what the state of things are. Astrid persuades Eldrin to lie low at the Rusty Dragon for now. Eldrin is also impressed with the “public humiliation ritual” that Lea is undergoing.

Zavian and Nualia are strolling through the city when they run into Gorvi, the foul-smelling half-orc who runs Sandpoint’s street sweepers guild. He is overjoyed at Zavian’s efforts to involve the street sweeps in making up for the lost labor at the outlying farms. Gorvi shakes the aasimar’s hand vigorously, and slobbers over Nualia’s demonic hand. He insists on accompanying them to the Rusty Dragon, but just as he is starting to creep on Lea he is forcible escorted outside by Ameiko.

After Marcus escorts Shayliss back to the grocery, he stops by Das Korvut’s house. The old smith is holding up well enough, and tells Marcus that his parents were in town. The two adventuring archers left town last week on some mission for the Sheriff, and are overdue to return.

At noon, the Rune Wardens gather at the Sandpoint Garrison for a war council with Mayor Kentra Deverin, Sheriff Belor Hemlock, the heads of the Four Families, Lieutenant Belvar Korrinas and the mercenary captain Viorian Dekanti, whose Black Talon company was sent to reinforce the town.

Belor and Viorian offer competing strategies for protecting Sandpoint. Viorian suggests a defense in depth approach that would sacrifice much of Downtown, but offer more protection for the defenders. Sheriff Belor notes that this would ruin the livelihoods of many in Sandpoint. He suggests setting up defenses that would funnel the giants towards a few key points, where the defenders would hold out against them. In both versions, the Rune Wardens would serve as a strike team to charge in wherever they are needed.

After some careful thought, aided by Zavian’s divination spells, the adventurers settle on Belor’s approach, but insist on evacuating the civilians to the sea caves. They arrange to have the Sandpoint Watch guard the North Gate, Viorian’s mercenaries protect the Tanner’s Bridge, and Lieutenant Belvar’s soldiers hold the Sandpoint Bridge.

Having gleaned from Zavian’s petitions to Abadar that the giants will attack during the day, the party settles in for the evening. That night, Ameiko discovers the strange markings on Lea left by the divine magic that saved her from death on a Kreeg ogre hook. Ameiko holds her tight and the two reconcile (mostly).

Oathday, 28 Kuthona, 4733

That morning, Lea switches into the barmaid’s outfit and helps serve breakfast to the rest of the Rune Wardens. They’ve only begun to tuck in, however, when the alarm is raised at the North Gate. The giant attack has begun!

The adventurers leap onto their horses and ride for the gate—all save Lea, who is struggling to get into her armor. Ameiko givers her a hand, proving disturbingly adept at swapping out the paladin’s outfit with great haste.

The Rune Wardens have only made it halfway across the town before another attack begins on the Tanner’s Bridge. Zavian, Amelia, and Nualia peel off to support Viorian’s mercenaries while Marcus, Astrid, and the elves press on to North Gate. Lea, trying to catch up, hears strange roars coming from the Tanner’s Bridge and spurs Prince Shadowmist in that direction.

At the Tanner’s Bridge, two stone giants are driving four dire bears across the bridge. Acting fast, Amelia casts grease on the bridge while Zavian buffs his companions and Viorian’s mercenaries. The first grease spell sends two of the bears face-planting onto the bridge, and a second casting stops the second pair of bears just as they reach the end of the bridge. Lea leaps up onto the barricade to hammer down at the beasts. The stone giants lob boulders at the defenders.

At North Gate, a trio of stone giants are also hurling stones at the defenses, though it will take them some time to batter down the heavy wall. But they are overshadowed—literally—by the arrival of the dragon Longtooth. The red wyrm swoops down from the north with a fearsome roar, passing over the gate and continuing onto the Sandpoint Garrison. It belches flame onto the stone building, before landing upon it to gloat at the terrified humans. Here and there, Viorian’s snipers loose arrows at the dragon, but only occasionally find any weakness in its red scales.

Meanwhile, south of Tanner’s Bridge, a trio of stone giants punches through a weak point in the riverside defenses that Zavian had ignored in favor of the Scarnetti mansion. The giants, lead by an enormous warrior carrying two massive pickaxes, begin marching through town towards the ruins of Old Light.

At Tanner’s Bridge, Zavian uses control water to unleash the Turandarok River, sending a tremendous flood surging over the bridge. The four dire bears and one of the stone giants are swept away. Leaving the remaining stone giant to Viorian’s forces, Amelia, Lea, Zavian, and Nualia rush to intercept the other three giants. They can hear more fighting taking place further south at the Sandpoint Bridge.

Meanwhile, the red dragon takes wing and sets the Sandpoint Cathedral on fire. He pauses once again to gloat over his handiwork.

At the North Gate, Eldrin, Galodar, and Shalelu take up positions on the wall. Astrid and Marcus use magic to clear the wall and try to creep through the foliage to flank the three attacking stone giants. They are spotted, but the giants are not able to bring them down with boulders before the pair enters range. Astrid charges the nearest giant, while Marcus lines up a lightning bolt.

Zavian, Nualia, Lea, and Amelia catch up with the stone giant intruders at the intersection of Crab Street and River Street. They see one of the giants grab an old woman off a balcony and stuff her into a sack. The leader of the giants, who stands a full head and shoulders above the other two, demands that the adventurers get out of his way if they wish to live. They refuse.

Lea flies up to attack the lead giant, Teraktinus, while Zavian and Nualia attempt a daring rescue of the old woman in the sack. Emphasis on attempt. The skirmish devolves into a clumsy brawl as Amelia hurls glitterdust at the giants, blinding the one carrying the old woman. A command spell from Zavian further throws off the giants. Although Teraktinus gets some good knocks in, Lea ultimately bludgeons him to the death.

The red dragon Longtooth arrives too late to rescue the stone giant leader, but he does manage to douse the adventurers with fire. Zavian chooses to use his magic to protect Nualia rather than the old woman and only belatedly attems to save her.

Lea, armor still smoking, air walks up to face the dragon and smashes her earthbreaker into his head, chipping of the tip of one of his horns. The wounded Longtooth knocks the paladin aside and flees the scene.

Astrid and Marcus, having dispatched their own stone giant trio, reunite with the other rune Wardens and together the party rushes down to the Sandpoint Bridge, where a scene of carnage awaits them. The Magnimarian soldiers put up a good fight, but Lieutenant Belvar and most of his men are dead.

All of a sudden, a woolly mammoth charges across the bridge towards the town. Mounted atop its back is the slumping figure of a stone giant. The mammoth comes to a stop at the end of the bridge and the giant topples off, revealing its back to be full of arrows. riding behind the giant are two figures, a man and a woman. The deftly disembark, with the woman sweeping her arm up to take in the mammoth.

“Look what we found!” says Clairian Arrowsong, Marcus’ mother, while his father Flint brushes mammoth fur from his cloak.

Kreeg Cleanup
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 9

Sunday, 17 Kuthona, 4733

The Rune Wardens and their stone giant prisoner exit the throne room. Amelia, still pretending to be a polymorphed ogre, demands to speak with the entire Kreeg clan. They are taken to a large common room, where the Kreegs have built an enormous forge to mass produce giant-sized weapons and armor.

Amelia, still under the effects of glibness, addresses the crowd of ogres. She holds Barl Breakbones’ head aloft and says that he had refused Mokmurian’s command to send the ogres to Jorgenfist — because Barl thought they were too weak. But she knows the Kreeg ogres are the strongest clan on Hook Mountain and tells them to report to Mokmurian at Jorgenfist immediately. The bamboozled ogres hastily pack up their weapons and set out.

With the ogres seen to, the Rune Wardens set their sights on the coven of annis hags responsible for the region’s unnatural weather. The three hags are gathered around a repulsive and bubbling cauldron as Astrid stealthily spiderwalks over the chamber’s domed ceiling. She overhears the hags muttering in Giant about their concerns over Barl’s leadership of the ogres. Once in position, Astrid charges down the ceiling to maul one of the hags from behind with her double-bladed sword Echo.

After Astrid’s ambush, the hag coven traps her in a force cage. Lea barrels into the room and hammers one of the vile crones with her earthbreaker. Marcus tosses a fireball at them, causing the cauldron to explode. The shrapnel finishes off one, breaking the coven’s group powers.

While Astrid pounds futilely against the walls of the force cage, Zavian assists Leia in bringing down another annis hag. Amelia hangs back and uses her wand of magic missiles.

The last hag summons up a hazy blue fog and tries to escape, but her fog cloud is dispelled and the adventurers finish her off. The death of the coven and destruction of their cauldron has put an end to the region’s unnatural rain.

From there, the Rune Wardens investigate the shrine of Lamashtu where the slain ranger commander Lamatar Bayden still lurks. Advancing into the chilly, fog-shrouded chamber, Lea is ambushed by the frost wight. After slashing her with icy claws, Lamatar fades into the mists and teleports away.

He reappears by the Lamashtu altar and fires chilling arrows and the adventurers before vanishing again into the fog. When he reappears again, Lea and Astrid charge him. Lamatar’s frozen body shatters under the fury of their blows. Lea harvests his frozen heart and stuffs it in the party’s bag of holding.

Zavian and Lea then tip over and smash the Lamashtu shadow. Their iconoclasm complete, the party prepares to leave.

In the entryway to the clanhold, Marcus retrieves the enormous Sihedron medallion from the 40-foot-tall ebon giant statue, causing it to crumble into dust. This reveals that it was actually a giant’s corpse, preserved under the medallion’s gentle repose spell for so long it fossilized.

Zavian uses stone shape to bring down the clanhold, sealing it off from the outside.

Wednesday, 20 Kuthona, 4733

The Rune Wardens return to Whitewillow in the Shimmerglens to return Lamatar’s heart to the ghost of his nymph lover Myriana. She uses the last of her power to reincarnate Lamatar as a handsome half-elf. The ghostly nymph passes her inspiration onto Amelia and then bids Lamatar farewell as she fades away. The reincarnated ranger vows to take up her role as protector of the fey portal in Whitewillow.

Thursday, 21 Kuthona, 4733

The party returns to Turtleback Ferry aboard the eponymous ferry and discover that the village is disturbed by a flight of hippogriff-riding Sable Company Marines from Korvosa. Jakardros has arrived in town to treat with them.

The Marine Captain Kel Kalandra recognizes Lea as a princess and delivers a letter from her father. He writes urging her to return home, where she is needed.

The conversation is interrupted by the arrival of two stone golems that wade out of Claybottom Lake. They are reinforcements sent by the Lord-Mayor of Magnimar. The golems react with hostility to the sight of Korvosan forces on Magnimarian territory. The Rune Wardens talk the golems down and then transfer command of them to Jakardros. The ranger intends to put them to work rebuilding Fort Rannick.

Prince Eldrin, now re-equipped with Black Arrows gear, catches with Astrid as the party prepares for the return trip to Sandpoint. Eldrin will being going with them, as the quickest route back to Isandria runs through Sandpoint.

Nualia returns, alone, at the last minute. Zavian takes her for a walk by Skull River to bring her up to speed and learn what she has been up to on her vision quest.

Breaking Barl's Bones
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 8

Sunday, 17 Kuthona, 4733

Having reunited with their elven allies Shalelu Andosana and Captain Galodar, the Rune Wardens spent a cold and lonely night in the foothills. As dawn breaks faintly through the thick layer of unnatural rain clouds, the adventurers rise and prepare to ascend Hook Mountain for the attack on the Kreeg ogre clanhold.

Shalelu leads the party up the ogre’s hunting paths, while Amelia scouts ahead on her hippogriff. The wind and falling snow proves challenging to navigate, but she manages to spy the cave entrance to the Kreeg clanhold about a half a mile down from the summit. Smoke pours out of the opening and other smaller vents in the hillside. Two ogre brutes in heavy furs stand guard outside. Amelia reports this to the party then flies ahead with her hippogriff and hunkers down to wait for the others to catch up.

As the adventurers ascend the mountain, Astrid stealthily scouts ahead through the snow and fog. A lumbering shape with two lumps on its shoulder looms out at her—an ettin! Astrid charges towards it and cuts it to pieces with her double sword Echo before it can sound the alarm.

The party regroups at Amelia’s position and determines their next move. The bard proposes a bold plan for infiltrating the clanhold and heading straight for Barl Breakbones, the stone giant lord of Hook Mountain.

Following the plan, Astrid and the elves quietly approach the cave entrance through the snow and howling wind. Amelia, meanwhile, casts glibness upon herself and brazenly leads the rest of the party straight up to the cave. The ogre guards demand to know who they are.

“Ho there, friend!” the bard calls out to the ogre guards as they approach.

“Now what’s all this, then?” one of the guards shouts back.

“Reportin’ back to Barl after a mission,” Amelia says in her best ogre accent.

The ogre narrows his beady eyes. “I ain’t heard nothin’ ’bout no mission.”

“Need to know,” Amelia tells him. “Infiltratin’ the humans.”

“Are you sayin’ that underneath those pointy ears beats the red-blooded heart of an ogre?” the guard asks incredulously.

‘You know it!" she grins back. "Can’t you tell? Best enchantment there is."

The ogres buy her story hook line and sinker, inviting Amelia and the others out of the cold and advising them that there is some sweet tea on the fire once they are done reporting to Barl. While the guards’ attention is focused on the new arrivals, Astrid and the two elves stealthily slip inside the cavern.

The entryway to the Kreeg clanhold is impressive. The adventurers must stride beneath the 20-foot high rib bones of an enormous, long-dead creature. Beyond them, in a great domed cavern, is a gargantuan statue clad in jewel studded armor. The statue has ebony skin riven with cracks and fissures. It’s face is hidden beneath a demon-headed helmet, while its had grasps a glaive. Around its neck hangs an immense Sihedrun medallion. Not much farther down the passage is a foul smelling deep pit, which the adventurers assume is the clan’s cesspool.

Beyond the pit they reach a four-way intersection guarded by two ogres and a dim-witted hill giant named Lunderbud. Amelia repeats her story on the ogres, convincing them thoroughly. Lunderbud spots Astrid skulking around in the dark, but the ogres dismiss him as a dumbass. While they explain to Amelia that the hill giant is so dumb that he thinks he’s an ogre, Astrid and the elves sneak past. The rest of the party follow, heading down the corridor to the right.

They ignore the two passages leading down to the left and approach the end of the tunnel, where it makes a sharp right turn. Astrid stealthily creeps forward to peer around the corner. The tunnel opens out in a gigantic chamber that slopes upward between two ledges. Above, the ceiling opens to the slate gray sky above.

The ramp leads up to an enormous stone throne, on which the stone giant lord Barl Breakbones is seated. He is listening to the red haired woman standing beside the throne. Two other stone giant bodyguards stand nearby, while the ogre attendants wait nervously. Barely visible to Astrid are several alcoves at the far back of the cave, where she hopes that Prince Eldrin is being held.

After she relays her discovery to the party, they come up with a plan of attack. Marcus casts fly and mirror image on himself and enlarge person on Lea. Zavian casts silence on one of Astrid’s arrows, hoping she can get close enough to disrupt Barl’s spell casting. Astrid begins to stealthily infiltrate the chamber. Barl’s eyes flicker in her direction. Sensing that something is amiss, he orders one of his guards to investigate.

Zavian uses stone shape to seal off the tunnel to the throne room and the attack begins. Marcus swoops into the room and hurls a fireball at the throne. Barl and Lucrecia are singed, while the three ogre attendants are incinerated. The ground rumbles as the enlarged Lea strides into the chamber and challenges Barl.

The giant lord dismissively orders his minions to deal with the intruders, then casts a spell upon himself. Zavian enters the room and calls down holy fire on the throne. Astrid and the two elves fire arrows at the stone giant bodyguards as the giants grab boulders and hurl them at the adventurers. Amelia attempts to charm one of the giants, but it shakes off her spell.

From her perch beside the throne, Lucrecia dusts off some of the ashes. She invites the Rune Wardens to join her side, saying that “Mokmurian would love to meet you.”

Lea brags about killing her sister Xanesha, and insists that Lucrecia will meet the same fate. The red haired woman gapes in shock.

“Little Xanesha?” she says. Her face contorts into a snarl as her torso shudders and ripples. Her legs merge into a snakes tail and her eyes turn yellow like a cat’s. She draws twin daggers and launches herself towards Lea. The gigantic paladin takes a swing with her earthbreaker, hitting her square on. The blow staggers the lamia matriarch and Lea promises more to come. Looking frightened, Lucrecia attempts to cast a spell defensively, but it fizzles.

Amelia tries to sow dissention among the giants by using glibness to claim that Lucrecia betrayed them to the party. She is able to fool Barl’s bodyguards, but the stone giant wizard orders them to focus on killing the Rune Wardens.

A boulder thrown by a stone giant takes out one of Marcus’ mirror images. He flies over to the giant to engage it with his ranseur. Astrid charges the other stone giant bodyguard. Barl casts a spell, causing a ghostly hand to reach out of the stone floor and grasp at Lea, draining away some of her life energy and strengthening the giant lord.

Zavian moves up to Astrid to cast fly upon her and tell her that he is planning to teleport them both up to attack the floating Barl. Amelia, meanwhile, casts invisibility onto herself and creeps up onto the dais. In an alcove behind the throne, she spies a disheveled elf chained to the wall.

Lea hammers Lucrecia into unconsciousness and leaves the lamia matriarch bleeding on the floor. The stone giant fighting Marcus loses his balance on the ledge and falls to the ground. Astrid cuts down the other stone giant bodyguard, while Lea makes her way over to loom beside Zavian.

Over in the alcove, Amelia releases the elf’s bonds, breaking her invisibility. She greets the astonished Prince Eldrin.

Zavian uses dimension door to bring Astrid, Lea and himself up above Barl. The cleric and the paladin takes swipes at the stone giant wizard as they fall, while Astrid unleashes devastating blows with Echo. Barl is cut down and his body crashes onto his stone throne.

With his master dead, the last remaining stone giant, Sarktus, offers his surrender to Marcus. The wizard stands guard over the giant and the unconscious Lucrecia.

With the fighting over, Astrid and Prince Eldrin have an emotional reunion. The prince is also glad to see that Galodar is alive. Eldrin explains that he is the only survivor of the elven warband that was ambushed by the stone giants. He was taken back here to be held captive by Barl. Overhearing conversations, Eldrin discovered that his mother Queen Tavara and her Highborne faction have made some sort of alliance with the giants. She was responsible for the giant attack that destroyed Astrid’s village! Eldrin fears that a Highborne coup may be underway in Isandria.

Searching Barl’s body, the Rune Wardens come across a message scrawled on mammoth hide. Astrid translates it from the original Giant. The message is addressed to Barl from Mokmurian and instructs him to make ready to leave for Jorgenfist with his “ogre slaves.” Mokmurian writes that Teraktinus will lead a band of giants “and the dragon” on a raid against Sandpoint because the town “could hide what my lord seeks.” Because the giants could be pursued, Barl is instructed to help cover their retreat.

The adventurers then question their prisoners. Sarktus tells them what he can about the stone giants’ plans. He says that a might giant spellcaster named Mokmurian has discovered the lost magics of Thassilon and has gathered an army of young warriors to take back the empire that was once built by giant hands from the small folk who are squatting amid the ruins. The army has gathered at Jorgenfist, a once-taboo site with an ancient Thassilonian tower. Barl was Mokmurian’s apprentice, but Sarktus found that the stone giant wizard had no honor and has subsequently lost his faith in Mokmurian’s cause. If released, he will not rejoin Mokmurian’s army.

Sarktus also tells them that the ranger Lamatar Bayden was killed and then turned into some sort of undead creature by Barl’s magic. Lamatar is currently guarding an abandoned shrine to Lamashtu.

After disarming and tying up Lucrecia, the adventurers revive her. The lamia matriarch tries to negotiate for her release, but ultimately shares her information out of desperation. Zavian leads the interrogation. He learns that she sank the Paradise to kill the passengers marked with the Sihedron rune so that their greed would serve her master’s need. They learn that Mokmurian is another servant of Lucrecia’s own master, about whom she is compelled not to speak about directly. The adventurers guess that it’s a runelord, most likely the runelord of greed. She has no further information about the impending attack on Sandpoint. Lucrecia also reveals that a coven of hags in the clanhold is responsible for the unnatural rain.

Zavian uses divinatory magic to see whether Lucrecria will harm innocents if let go, and does not detect any danger. They allow her to flee and she dimension doors away.

Before they can warn anyone in Sandpoint about the impending attack, the Rune Wardens still have the Kreeg ogres to deal with, not to mention the hag coven and the undead ranger.

The Waters Rising
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 7

Wealday, 13 Kuthona, 4733

After activating the floodgates on Skull’s Crossing, the adventurers discuss their next steps. They decide to return to Fort Rannick for the night.

The Black Arrows have bunked up in one of the gatehouse towers, with the fort still in too much of a mess. Lea heals the wounded Kaven, while Marcus retreats to a room to read and work. Zavian teams up with Vale, making use of the ranger’s architectural knowledge to put his stone shape spells to best use restoring the structure. They have the rangers send an animal messenger to the town to warn the citizens of the danger of flooding.

Finally, the adventurers bed down. Zavian’s sleep is troubled by dark thoughts of the day’s revelations about his history as a fallen celestial. Marcus has a dream about being back in Sandpoint, introducing his parents to his girlfriend. He grows worried upon waking as he realizes such a meeting could be taking place right then. Amelia has a restful, dreamless sleep and rises early to groom her hippogriff.

Oathday, 14 Kuthona, 4733

The party decides that before heading out to Hook Mountain, they should journey south to the Shimmerglens to search for the missing Black Arrows Commander Lamatar Bayden. They hope to recruit him, and possibly fey allies, to help them confront the ogre stronghold.

However, as they approach Turtleback Ferry, the adventurers realize that the town has in fact flooded. There are a few people stranded on rooftops, including a group of school children. Although some of the residents are being evacuated by boat, the process is hampered by the presence of river predators: crocodiles and an enormous nightbelly boa constrictor. The enormous snake is menacing the children, but a pair of figures are struggling through the waist-high water towards them: Nualia and Vivi.

The Rune Wardens rush to the rescue. Lea makes use of the boots of the mire to stride confidently across the surface of the water and bash the nearest crocodile into submission. Amelia, riding her hippogriff, carries Astrid to the schoolchildren to confront the snake.

On a different rooftop, a group of panicked civilians threatens to overload a small rowboat. Marcus flies over there and offers to carry some of them away. But before he can evacuate people, a crocodile grabs hold of the man in the rowboat.

Zavian then enters the fray, casting control water to sweep the crocodiles away from the civilians and towards Astrid and Nualia. He then parts the waters to create a path he can stride through.

From the back of her hippogriff, Amelia casts sound burst to stun one of the crocodiles. Astrid attacks the night belly boa, but ends up splashing down into the water below. While the crocodile floats stunned and Astrid splashes about in her heavy plate, Nualia finds herself snared in the giant snake’s coils. She claws at it with her demonic hand. The schoolchildren flee to the edge of the roof.

Marcus tries to evacuate civilians by carrying them in his enlarged form. He sees his cart floating by.

Astrid brings down one of the crocodiles, while Zavian and Lea stride towards the fray through the unnatural dry path through the water. The final crocodiles are slain, while Nualia fights off the snake. Zavian uses the full extent of his control water spell to create dry passages between all the houses so the village can evacuate. Lea revives the crocodile victim snatched from the rowboat.

Nualia chases down and kills the nightbelly boa. She has Vivi begin skinning the corpse, but presents the head to the Varisian girl Veska.

As the floodwaters recede, the party regroups at the town church where the residents are sheltering. Zavian reunites with Nualia and they step into a quiet corner where he shares what he has learned of his true heritage. The other aasimar is impressed, and more than a little curious, by the revelation. This does not prevent the couple from finding an even quieter space in the temple to become more intimately reacquainted, while Vivi stands as lookout.

Fireday, 15 Kuthona, 4733

The following morning, the party moves on to investigate the missing ranger commander Lamatar Bayden. They take an eerie ride across Claybottom lack on the Turtleback Ferry, which deposits them on the shores of the Shimmerglens. The superstitious ferryman warned them of strange lights in the swamp at night. The place is known to be home to fey creatures and other, stranger things. Left on their own, the adventurers wade into the muck. Marcus and Amelia, however, ride on a floating disk that trails after Lea.

Not far into the Shimmerglens, the adventurers are approached by a distracted pixie called Yap. He explains that his mistress Myriana is not well and that her sickness is tainting the land. Yap begs the party to aid her and eagerly leads them deeper into the swamp.

Nualia, Vivi, and Idun part ways with the Rune Wardens as the aasimar’s vision quest takes her west into Sanos Forest. She once again tells Zavian that she’s not finished with him.

In the heart of the Shimmerglens, the party comes across a mysterious sea-going ship, hundreds of miles from the ocean. While Lea and Amelia wait below with Yap, the rest of the adventurers climb into the hulk to investigate. Amelia takes the time to scrawl “Amelia Orisini was here” on the side of the ship, which otherwise has no legible markings.

Aboard the abandoned ship, they find the long-dead and not-quite-human captain seated at a piano, as well as astoundingly original sheet music. Nearby are some maps of utterly alien coasts. When they emerge onto the deck, they spy a weird dog that disappears into the forest. The music is passed onto Amelia, and the journey continues.

Deep into the cursed grove of Whitewillow, the party comes across a dead dryad hanging halfway out of a tree. The corpse whispers to them.

“She should not have fallen in love—her heart brought this upon us—why won’t she let us go?”

The adventurers are filled with resolve to free the grove from the curse.

They finally reach a placid pool, from which emerges the furious ghost of the nymph Myriana. She explains that ogres ambushed her and her beloved Lamatar. The ranger commander was taken back to the Kreeg stronghold in Hook Mountain. She is certain that Lamatar is dead, but her powers cannot revive him. She demands that they retrieve a piece of Lamatar and return it to her so that her magic can restore him to life. Figuring that this is the best way to put the ghost to rest, the adventurers agree, with Lea personally promising to return Lamatar to her.

The party then presses north, skirting the edge of the Shimmerglens and crossing over into the Kreegwood before reaching the foothills of Hook Mountain. In the Valley of Broken Trees, they encounter a strange hill giant named Razmus.

Sunday, 16 Kuthona, 4733

The unusually intelligent and well-spoken Razmus has claimed the valley as his own territory. He wants no trouble with the Black Arrows and does not care for the Kreeg ogres, who are pawns in Mokmurian’s army. Razmus explains that Mokmurian is a stone giant leader who is rallying an army at the forbidden fortress of Jorgenfist in the Iron Peaks. Razmus led a clan of hill giants until he was abandoned by his people, even his own children, who sought to join Mokmurian’s growing army. Razmus knows that Mokmurian will ultimately fail to overcome the small folk, and doesn’t want to be caught in the crossfire.

After getting information about the Kreeg clanhold, the Rune Wardens write a letter of endorsement of Razmus and send him back to Fort Rannick to earn the locals’ trust by helping rebuild the fort.

After the encounter with Razmus, the adventurers catch up with the elves Shalelu and Galodar who they’d sent to scout ahead. The elves corroborate Razmus’ information about the Kreeg defenses.

Trolls and Tentacles
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 6

Wealday, 13 Kuthona, 4733

Having dispatched the ogres sabotaging the dam, the Rune Wardens venture out onto Skull’s Crossing, only for the dam to shudder beneath them. A new crack emerges in it and a gush of water pours out. An enormous, terrible creature with tentacles tries to climb through the gap. It is Black Magga, the legendary scourge of the Storval Deep!

Marcus hurls a lightning bolt at it, to no effect. Zavian figures out a plan to harm the creature and runs off at supernatural speed. Astrid runs up to attack it, but is grappled by a tentacle. Lea goes after her. Amelia starts inspiring courage.

The monster belches a poisonous cloud onto them that confuses Astrid, Marcus, and Amelia. Lea dodges a tentacles and runs up to attack the tendrils grasping Astrid. Astrid babbles incoherently, Marcus and Amelia injure themselves and each other.

Lea smashes the tentacle grasping Astrid. The creature freaks out and flees. Zavian apparates into the air above, standing atop a stone plug he crafted. It falls into place, sealing the crack in the dam.

The disturbance rouses several trolls from the central structure on the dam. One tries to leap across, but slips the landing. Another troll rips a door off its hinges and hurled it at Zavian.

The adventurers recover from the confusion. Amelia charms one of the trolls, but can only communicate through gestures. She gestures for it to leave.

The runtish troll leaps out to attack Zavian, but falls down below, then climbs back up. Zavian and his spiritual ally go after the Troll throwing the door. The charmed troll moves to attack him. Amelia isn’t able to convince him to leave.

Zavian coup de graces the held troll, but the creature’s regeneration keeps it alive. Lea makes her way over to bash it with fire. The other charmed troll leaps at Zavian but tumbles off the dam.

The adventurers search the troll room, find some hidden loot and a warning about “Big Papa Grazuul” over the stairs down. The party descends 150 feet and finds a room with an algae covered pool and multiple doors. They decide to open the side doors, starting with the one on the left.

The leftmost chamber contains a model of Skulls Crossing, and a pile of skulls. Lea and Marcus move up to investigate. This causes the pile of skulls to assemble into a scorpion and advance. Lea channels positive energy, but realizes that the scorpion is a construct.

In the central chamber, Big Papa Grazuul lunges out of the algae pond to attack Zavian. Meanwhile, the scorpion construct seizes Lea in its pincers.

Whirling her double-bladed sword Echo, Astrid moves up to the aquatic troll Grazuul and takes him apart. Literally.

In the side chamber, the scorpion pins Lea to the ground and raises its shears. Marcus stabs it but his ranseur gets stuck. Zavian uses dimension door to evacuate Lea. The Rune Wardens surround the construct and hammer it. After the scorpion is destroyed, Lea keeps trashing it.

The party continues their investigation of the dam’s interior, finally coming to a chamber with two large cells with big circles of glowing runes scribed on their floors. In one cell, a pile of crimson ash sits in the center of the circle, while in the other a dead devil lies in the circle.

Approaching, they discover the devil isn’t dead at all. It has been trapped here for 10,000 years and begs for release, promising to offer valuable secrets about the planes. It tells Zavian that the aasimar is more than he appears, and this catches the cleric’s interest. He negotiates with the devil, while Lea protests, unable to understand their conversation.

Marcus figures out that the circles were leeching power from two devils in order to operate the dam’s overflow, until one of the devils was finally drained to death. Now there is insufficient power to operate the overflow. But if another creature steps into the empty circle, it will be drained instead and the dam should operate. Lea volunteers and Marcus runs off to use the model in the scorpion chamber to operate the dam.

Still unsure whether to take the devil’s offer and release it, Zavian appeals to Abadar for guidance and gets the sense that would be a Bad Thing. The cleric angrily walks out of the room as the overflow is activated and the pit fiend is drained to death.

Zavian heads up to the top of the dam to sulk, where he is visited once more by the strange dog he keeps seeing. This time, the dog speaks to him, chastising him for being so tempted by the devil. The dog reveals itself as a hound archon and explains that he once fought alongside Zavian back when the latter went by a different name as a celestial serving in the Dawn Bringers.

The hound archon explains that Zavian’s foolish deal with a contract devil damned his lover Elsevina and saw him banished to live out a mortal life on Golarion. He barely avoided repeating that mistake today. The hound warns him that the waters that spilled from the dam have imperiled Turtleback Ferry.

Throw Down the Gauntlet
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 5

Wealday, 13 Kuthona, 4733

After rescuing the surviving Black Arrows, the Rune Wardens have joined with them to attack Fort Rannick and reclaim it from the Kreeg Clan ogres who had conquered it. While the rangers drew away some of the ogres, the adventurers infiltrated the fort courtyard, where Marcus slew four Kreeg ogres. The last of these, Jolly, was struck down as he pried open the doors to the keep.

The head of the Kreeg Clan, Papa Jaagrath, appears on the keep wall to taunt the party and urges his “boys” to show them “Kreeg hospitality.” He then retreats back into the keep.

A big Kreeg brute named Gragavan and two smaller comes spilling out into the courtyard, with more lined up behind them. Two other ogres take up positions on the keep wall and chuck rocks at Marcus, but can’t hit him. Behind the party, a lone ogre in the south gatehouse also throws boulders with no success.

The ogres in the courtyard move to surround Zavian, who stamps his foot on the ground and casts stone shape. He uses the spell to pull the earth out of the ground in front of the keep and form it into a heap between him and Gragavan.

The ogres on the wall tumble to the ground, as do Gragavan and the ogres in the courtyard. Stone flows over the keep entrance, cutting off the ogres inside. The maneuver provide the party with some cover from the keep and cuts off one of the ogres on the ground, where Astrid quickly kills him.

Marcus hurls a fireball onto the ogres in the rumble. He then descends to the ground with his ranseur at hand. An ogre climbs to the top of the rubble, but is quickly struck down by Lea. The adventurers regroup behind the rubble heap.

Papa Jaagrath returns to the keep battlements, accompanied by an ogre with steel teeth named Hookmaw Kreeg. Jaagrath begins barking out orders in Giant. Gragavan leaps up onto the rubble pile, but slips on the gore of his brother’s remains and falls to the ground. Lea and Astrid quickly gang up on him.

An ogre spellcaster, Dorella Kreeg, appears on the keep battlements and casts a confusion spell on the party. Zavian and Amelia are afflicted, while a protective ward flares brightly on Astrid’s magic gloves to shield her from its affects.

Amelia, meanwhile, casts charm person on one of the ogres, Jedediah. She tells him that the Rune Wardens are the Kreeg clan’s guests, that the ogres are making a mess and treating them badly, and that he should do something about it.

The third ogre leaps onto the rubble, the charmed Jedediah urges him not to attack, ultimately grabbing hold of him. Lea and Astrid finish off Gragavan, while Marcus blasts down the ogre.

With all of the ogres on the ground—save Jedediah—now dead, Lea calls out Papa Jaagrath and challenges him to a duel. There is some back and forth over the terms, but the ogre chieftain ultimately agrees. Both sides stand down while the courtyard is cleared. The ogre bodies are heaped up in a pile and burned.

While this takes place, Astrid, Zavian, and Marcus question Jedediah. They learn that a stone giant named Barl Breakbones has taken over the Kreeg clanhold on Hook Mountain. He arrived bearing a medallion with the Sihedron rune, much like the woman Lucrecia who arrived at Fort Rannick some days ago. Jedediah confirms that, as suspected, she is a lamia matriarch.

Astrid questions him about stone giants and the fate of her brother, discovering that Prince Eldrin was brought before Barl as a captive. Jedediah doesn’t know what’s been done with the prince, but speculates that he’ll be eaten.

Meanwhile, Amelia chews out Lea for this reckless gamble, as almost a dozen ogres gather on the keep walls to watch. The bard asks if Lea remembers anything Chammady taught her, while Lea assures her there is nothing to worry about.

Once the battlefield in prepared, the two combatants step up to it. The ogres on the wall chant “Kreeg! Kreeg!” as Jaagrath boasts about his inevitable victory. he stands more than twice Lea’s height, 14 feet in all, and seems to be made out of muscle. Countless scars crisscross his body, and a string of polished human skulls hangs from his belt. In his hand is an enormous ogre hook that shimmers with sinister magic.

The duel begins and Lea surges forward to land the first blow. Jaagrath hits her harder, gouging her viciously with his hook. He offers to handicap the fight, by stepping back to let her swing again.

She lands a devastating blow with her earthbreaker, then charges. Jaagrath is unable to strike her as she brings him to his knees. The blow should have killed an ordinary creature, but Jaagrath surges on, lashing out with his ogre hook and nicking Lea’s face as she ducks her head back. She brings the earthbreaker down on his head and it is over.

The remaining Kreeg ogres look uncertain what to do. Lea plants her foot on Jaagrath’s body and orders them to carry a warning back to Barl and then flee from Varisia or suffer her wrath. The ogres submit and Astrid further demands that they leave behind their weapons. She warns that she will be coming for her brother. The sullen ogres mutter that the Kreeg Clan will rise again and march off, with Jedediah still trying to make apologies to the party.

Concerned that Lucrecia and who knows what else is still lurking in the keep, the Rune Wardens decide to rest in the south gatehouse. They greet the Black Arrows as the rangers return, carrying a wounded Kaven Windstrike.

Zavian tends to the injured ranger, who was hurt while fending off an ogre brute from attacking Jakardros. Meanwhile, Shalelu questions Lea about the terrible gouges in her armor. The paladin asks her not to mention this to Ameiko. After a long moment, Shalelu agrees. For now.

Jakardros, meanwhile, inspects Jaagrath’s body, noting that the ogre owed him an eye.

Astrid confides in Galodar about Prince Eldrin’s capture. The elf ranger is eager to go rescue him, but first they have to clear the castle.

The adventurers, the Black Arrows, and the elves enter the fortress, where they immediately come across the ogres’ grisly handiwork. Graffiti is scribbled on the walls in blood, while the mutilated bodies of Black Arrows lie everywhere. The stench is awful.

The Rune Wardens head upstairs while the others explore the dungeon. In the commander’s quarters, they discover love sonnets written by the Black Arrows’ leader Lamatar Bayden to someone named “Myriana” along with a lock of nymph hair and a pair of boots of the mire.

The poems suggest that Myriana dwells in Whitewillow, which Jakardros identifies as a location in the Shimmerglens that is close to a portal to the First World. The sonnets explain what Commander Bayden was up to on his monthly “communes” in the swamp. He was absent from the fort on one such commune when the ogres attacked, and his body is not among those in the fort. Jakardros and Vale are suddenly excited at the thought that he might still be alive in the Shimmerglens.

The rangers report that the dungeon has been converted to a sensuously decorated lounge with hanging silks and soft cushions, most likely where Lucrecia was staying. The lamia matriarch herself appears to have fled the fort, unfortunately.

The Rune Wardens plan their next move. Fort Rannick will be left in Jakardros’ hands, with Vale sent back to Turtleback Ferry to recruit some townsfolk to help stand guard and begin repairs. They have Shalelu and Galodar track the ogres back to the Kreeg Clanhold and get reconnaissance on Hook Mountain.

In the mean time, the adventurers are concerned about the purpose of the unnatural terrain. They ask the Black Arrows what purpose the rains might serve. Vale, the order’s engineer, thinks that they might be trying to burst the ancient dam known as Skull’s Crossing. This would flood the region, killing everyone in Turtleback Ferry and points beyond.

Investigating the dam becomes priority one, and the adventurers immediately set out north, following the western shore of the Skull River back towards the dam. Skull’s Crossing itself stretches across this massive gorge. An ancient stone staircase is gouged out of the canyon wall, leading up towards the top of the dam.

Amelia does a quick pass over the area on her hippogriff, spying a group of six tired ogre on the dam, hacking away at it with sapping tools. Elsewhere, a huge chunk has been torn out of the top of the dam and water is spilling out.

Near the top of the goals, the stone stairs end in a cave. Astrid stealthily investigates and comes across a guilt-wracked ettin. The huge two-headed creature is in deep conversation with itself about how the ogres bribed it into letting them pass.

After Astrid tells the others what she found, Marcus casts spider climb on her. Walking on the cave ceiling, she stealths back inside while the rest of the party follows. Attempts to talk their way past the ettin fail, and the creature prepares to charge. But Astrid drops down from the ceiling and takes him apart.

The ettin’s cave opens out onto the rain-slicked top of the dam. Zavian and Astrid use magic to walk along the side of the dam until they draw close to the six ogres. Zavian then bends the stone with stone shape to tilt the top of the dam and sends the ogres tumbling off. They plummet hundreds of feet to the churning waters below.

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

13 Kuthona, 4733 – Fort Rannick


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…


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.

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.

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.


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