Rise of the Runelords

Astrid's Revenge
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 12

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Under Jorgenfist
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 11

Wealday, 7 Pharast, 4734

Having vanquished the undead spiders in the cliffside cave and left their wagon there under Shalelu’s care, the Rune Wardens investigate the narrow tunnel at the back of the cavern. The passage is very narrow, ranging from 3 to 5 feet, forcing them to advance single file. It is pitch darkness, save for the dim light from Lea’s earthbreaker.

They reach a fork in the tunnel and Amelia pauses to try to determine the correct direction. Several minutes pass while she examines the area. Suddenly, small shapes dart among party, cackling and kicking at them with spiked steel boots. They look like ugly, scrawny gnomish men with wispy white beards. All of them carry oversized scythes and wear ugly red caps.

After kicking the party, they duck back into cover among the darkened tunnels. They chortle to each other about having trespassers in their tunnels to prey upon. Before the party can react to this threat, the redcaps dash back out kicking at them again.

Astrid, Lea, and Amelia brace their backs against the tunnel walls and prepare to strike at the next little redcap to appear. Marcus, meanwhile, hurls a fireball through a crack in the rock towards what he believes to be the largest concentration of the ugly little men.

The redcaps shriek for the death of the wizard and charge out with their sickles held high. Astrid and Lea kill several of them, Marcus wounds another with his ranseur. The remaining little men swarm Amelia, mistakenly believing her—the least armored adventurer—to be the mage.

The Rune Wardens make short work of them, leaving one redcap alive who calls for parley. They learn that the evil fey have no love for Mokmurian or his giants, who drove them into these tunnels after they reclaimed the caverns below Jorgenfist. The party persuades the survivor to grant them safe passage through the maze of tunnels so that they can attack the giants. The redcap warns them that a dangerous kobold woman guards the tunnel exit for Mokmurian.

As they proceed, the adventurers are startled by the arrival of the trumpet archon Ilmiring who teleports in Zavian and Ajay. The cleric is much changed from his state just a few days ago, bearing metallic wings and renewed powers now granted by the goddess Sarenrae. The reunited Rune Wardens quickly catch each other up, while Ilmiring bids them farewell.

The narrow tunnel eventually opens out into a much larger cavern. Astrid scouts ahead but can see very little due to the lack of light. She does hear the distant sound of a smithy. After reporting back to the others, the whole party advances. That’s when Enga Keckvia jumps them.

Using the natural chokepoint of the narrow tunnel, the kobold barbarian puts up a fierce fight. Astrid takes the brunt of it, while Lea is unable to get her blazing earthbreaker into bear in the confined space. Amelia’s use of dimension door allows the party to flank the creature and bring it down.

Amelia and Ajay hang back to loot the body while Lea marches down a passage looking for a fight. Zavian, Astrid, and Marcus hastily follow. The four of them come upon a trio of ogre leather workers tanning hides around a boiling vat. They catch the ogres completely unawares. Lea charges right up to them, Marcus gets into ranseur range, and Zavian closes to cast a spell. Astrid hangs back to loose arrows at them.

The fighting goes poorly for the ogres, but it draws the attention of two laconic stone giants from the adjacent smithy. Astrid, hanging back in the corridor, is their first target. With all but one of the ogres subdued, Zavian and Marcus move to help the beleaguered Astrid. Amelia arrives and uses cacophonous call to inflict nausea on one of the giants. The smiths are strictly cut down.

Once the fighting is done, the Rune wardens can here the sound of people calling out for help from inside the smithy. Ajay races ahead of the group and Zavian chases after her. They find that the giants were keeping slaves to help them work the enormous smithy bellows. The captives include several dwarves, who’ve had their beards shaved off, as well as another half dozen Mwangi—including Ajay’s brother Egan, known as “Egg.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the party is approached by an elderly stone giantess named Conna who wants to talk in a safe location. The party leaves their ogre captive in her care, while they escort the freed prisoners back through the redcap tunnels to the spider cave. They ask Shalelu to begin ferrying them back to the Rune Wardens’ hidden camp using Marcus’ wagon. One of the dwarves is impressed with the wagon and wants to talk with Marcus later about marketing it to Janderhoff prospectors.

Once the freed captives are safe, the Rune Wardens reunite with Conna and the ogre captive in a cave haunted by the spirit of her murdered husband. She explains that she’s caught on to Mokmurian’s deal with Karzoug and recognizes that he will doom all of Varisia. Conna gives them the lay of the land and tells them that Mokmurian is one level below, in an ancient library. Before continuing, the party decides to rest in Marcus’ rope trick.

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Wings
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Interlude

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

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The Storval Stair
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 9

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War of Words
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 8

Starday, 10 Calistril, 4734

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Into Isandria
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 7

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

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

Oathday, 8 Calistril, 4734

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

Fireday, 9 Calistril, 4734

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

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

Starday, 10 Calistril, 4734

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Elvish Intrigue
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 6

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

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Cat Burglar
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 4

Fireday, 26 Abadius, 4734

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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