Rise of the Runelords

The Scribbler's Rhyme
Sins of the Saviors, Part 2

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Buried Secrets
Sins of the Saviors, Part 1

Fireday, 9 Pharast, 4734

Amelia, Zavian, and Astrid demoralize the assembled giants using Mokmurian’s head, but the snowstorm prevents the army from breaking up until morning. The trio rest upstairs in Jorgenfist while Lea, Marcus, and Seleval rest in the dragon’s lair. Marcus copies teleport from Mokmurian’s spellbook into his own.

Starday, 10 Pharast, 4734

The next morning, the party regroups and decides to investigate the library. Marcus sends a whispering wind to their hidden camp so that Shalelu and the others are aware of what’s going on.

Down below, they use the key and the password to safely enter the library, where they are greeted by a helpful clockwork librarian. With his assistance, they spend the day researching Karzoug.

They learn that Karzoug was an Azlanti man and the greatest Transmutation wizard in Thassilon, who ruled the realm of Shalast for hundreds of years. Karzoug’s armies consisted primarily of giants, who were controlled by powerful rune giants that were in turn his pawns. Karzoug also counted on other powerful allies as well, including blue dragons, denizens of the nightmare realm of Leng, blood-drinking scarlet walkers, and immense lamia harridans.

Their research indicates that Karzoug study of transmutation magic, associated with the sin of greed, left him atrophied in illusion (pride) and enchantment (lust) magic. Many believed that weapons imbued with those two schools of magic, so-called “dominant weapons,” would pose a great danger against him.

The research also reveals that while he was vulnerable against illusion and enchantment, his greatest rival was Runelord Alaznist, the evoker wizard who ruled Bakrakhan

That evening, Marcus and Zavian trek out to the hidden camp to begin teleporting the civilians to safety, only to discover they’d already left. Marcus’ raven familiar Ash explains that there were giants sniffing around, so Shalelu decided to evacuate the civilians back to Sandpoint. Only Ash and Amelia’s hippogriff remain. Zavian convinces the bird horse to fly down to its mistress at Jorgenfist.

The duo then decide to teleport to Magnimar to sell some of their Jorgenfist plunder. They appear inside Ameiko’s townhouse, scaring the shit out of her Varisian groundskeeper. They manage to convince him not to call the guards, and they leave with a bit of gossip: Ameiko has not at all forgiven her brother’s killer.

The two of them head over to the King and Axe to spend the night, where Zavian catches up with his parents. The are impressed with his new set of wings and disappointed that he broke up with “that nice girl” Nualia.

Sunday, 11 Pharast, 4734

Zavian and Marcus rise in Magnimar and spend the day running to and fro selling their loot. This includes Lea’s earthbreaker, Aztalnok, which she has abruptly decided to give up.

Meanwhile, at Jorgenfist, Lea researches Azlanti physiology and religion to try to learn more about their purple eyes. She learns that the traits were ubiquitous among the Azlanti, but had no magic or religious properties. However, the Azlanti were known to be on average, stronger, smarter, and faster than other humans, which they attributed to magical self-improvement in the early history of their civilization.

Towards the end of the day, Marcus feels a strange sensation, like he is being called over a great distance. He swiftly realizes that Shayliss has activated her bracelet of friends and is trying to call him back to Sandpoint. Rather than accepting the summons, Marcus drags Zavian away from shopping and teleports them both in front of the Vinders’ general store in Sandpoint.

Shayliss quickly brings them up to speed on what has happened. The other day, a big sinkhole collapsed part of the Sandpoint Garrison. Strange noises emanated from the hole, so Marcus’ parents Flint and Clairian led a group of guards down below to investigate. They haven’t come up in over a day, which spurred Shayliss to call Marcus. Sheriff Hemlock has the whole place cordoned off and placed under guard.

Marcus and Zavian realize they need the rest of the party before they can investigate, but Marcus’ teleport spells are limited. So Zavian hits on the idea of summoning Ilmiring and having her recall the rest of the adventurers back to the Sandpoint Cathedral. As they walk through the town, they notice it is still struggling to rebuild from the stone giant raid. Gorvi and his team are packing up from the construction work, while to Magnimarian clay golems continue laboring into the night.

Marcus and Zavian encounter Nualia as she leaves the cathedral. She is still furious with Zavian for his decision not to help her at the ruined bastion the previous weekend. Every attempt to apologize or justify his actions just falls flat, although Nualia does allow that she’s glad he’s not dead. She lets slip that she is waiting for someone to arrive in Sandpoint, and that she is staying at the Rusty Dragon. Zavian notices that her demonic hand is unusually twitchy.

Inside the cathedral, Zavian calls forth Ilmiring, who brings the rest of the party (and Seleval) back from Jorgenfist. Lea thanks her for helping to restore the paladin to life. The trumpet archon warns her not to make a habit of it, then disappears. Shayliss is impressed by the sight.

While the rest of the Rune Wardens head over to the sinkhole, Lea drops by the Rusty Dragon. She brings along Seleval after making clear that the whole lamia thing needs to be secret. When the paladin arrives, Ameiko is busy serving dinner to a large number of families that are in the Rusty Dragon’s common room.

Lea spies Nualia in a corner and decides to put off the inevitable by questioning why the aasimar is staying at the inn. In between snide remarks, Nualia explains that she is waiting for someone to arrive at the Rusty Dragon, but won’t explain who that is. Lea notices that Nualia’s demonic hand seems to be bothering her. Seleval is surprised that Lea doesn’t want to put the insubordinate commoner in her place.

When Ameiko finally notices the paladin, Lea hastily tries to hide her blue eye beneath her hair. After ushering Ameiko into a back room, Lea unveils Longtooth’s severed head. Ameiko is suitably impressed. The dragon’s firebreath left several families homeless, and she is putting them up at the inn until it is repaired. She is also responsible for bringing in the golems, having promised Lord-Mayor Grobaras that the two of them would attend one of his soirees this year.

When Ameiko finally notices Lea’s eye and expresses concern, the paladin hastily makes her exit. She leaves Seleval behind to “protect” Ameiko.

At the sinkhole, Constable Wallas explains how Marcus’ parents and four Sandpoint guards entered and simply vanished. But strange, inhuman howling continues to echo up from below at night.

Once the Rune Wardens are assembled, they descend into the sinkhole, easily finding where it has collapsed into the Catacombs of Wrath that they scoured many months ago. However, they find that the stairwell leading down, which had once been blocked, is now free of debris. As they descend, they hear a strange howling and notice strange webbing that clings to the stairs and walls.

At the bottom, however, it appears to dead end. They eventually find the secret door, as well as two spells: an alarm on the door and a guards and wards effect on the area. They dispell them and enter.

They find themselves in the antechamber to a strange cathedral, where every available surface is inscribed in Thassilonian writing. All of it, save for a single cryptic phrase, appears to be praise to Lamashtu.

Soon the adventurers are being questioned by a weird invisible man. He asks what has happened to Thassilon, what the current nations are above, who has the most powerful magic, and so forth. They ask him questions in turn. He says he was once called Xaliasa and was commander of the Hellstorm Flume for Alaznist, but had secretly betrayed her on behalf of Karzoug, who he also betrayed. When questioned about the missing people, he snickers that he defeated the intruders.

Throughout the conversation, Astrid was carefully pinpointing his location and finally struck him with an arrow. The invisible man fled deeper into the complex, just ahead of Amelia’s glitterdust. Lea uses her boots of speed to give chase and runs into the invisible man’s backup—an enormous glabrezu demon. The fiend cats some sort of spell, but it fails and Lea charges him. The fiend’s giant claws tear into her and soon battle is joined.

While the rest of the party catches up to Lea, reinforcements arrive for the bad guys as six especially vicious yeth hounds join the fray. Lea is dragged down to the ground and brushes against death twice more. Amelia manages to hit the invisible man with glitterdust, but her spells glance off the demon. Zavian enters the battle with a menacing aura, but his presence provokes one of the temple’s Lamashtu statues to activate and attack him.

Eventually, Marcus clears away the yeth hounds with multiple fireballs, Astrid takes the glabrezu demon apart, and Lea cuts down the strange man known as the Scribbler.

Marcus hears his mother calling out and manages to find her stuck to the wall in the Scribbler’s chambers, missing her right arm. She tells him that there were originally two glabrezu demons whose wish magic overpowered his parents. The Scribbler had Flint teleported away to the spires of Xin-Shalast as tribute to his former master. Thanks to a somewhat inappropriately located magic tattoo the couple got in Nex, Clairian can tell he is still on this plane and alive.

She continues to ramble as Marcus helps her towards the surface, apologizing for being a lousy parent. She explains that her parents, archaeo-astronomers in Kaer Maga, were too controlling when she was growing up, so she swung in the opposite direction and was too hands off. She also tells Marcus that she and Flint have squirreled away an inheritance for him at a bank in Kaer Maga, but Flint has the account number on his arm and Clairian isn’t allowed back at the bank after an “incident.”

Meanwhile, Lea begins to have some sort of psychotic break, hacking away heedlessly at the dead demon while Amelia cheers her on.

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Fire and Blood
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Interlude

Fireday, 9 Pharast, 4734

When the alien hounds had torn into her, in complete silence, Lea sank into darkness. She drifted down, down, in total quiet. Then, out of the corner of her eye she glimpsed something hanging in the darkness.

It looked like an enormous shard of glass, but through it she could see a yellow alien sky overlooking a flat wasteland littered with strange ruins. There were figures there, strange creatures in turbans and veils with blue-gray skin. They were using magic to battle giant spiders, and seemed oblivious to her. All in silence.

Then a pair of the alien hounds loped into view, looking at home in the strange realm. They sniffed the air, then turned and stared right at the sinking paladin. Flailing her arms against nothingness, Lea tried to get as far away as possible from the floating shard as she drifted past it, continuing her quiet descent.

Another shard rose into view, this one a window into the splendor and terror of Karzoug’s Thassilon. She saw slaves and giants building an enormous monument to the Runelord, as lamia overseers swaggered among them and a vast army of Shoanti soldiers assembled. All of it under the watchful gaze of a cadre of green-robed wizards.

Lea drifted deeper and glimpsed another shard, this one showcasing a terrible roiling landscape stalked by demons.

Finally, she found herself sinking towards an endpoint, another window at the bottom of this featureless black void. She saw tombstones and immediately tried to swim out of the way, to no avail. She realized that it is her force of will rather than the strength of her arms that counted in this strange nether realm.

She tried to will herself from sinking into the Boneway below, but only slowed her descent. Head-first, she began to transition into Pharasma’s realm, a long line of souls stretching out before her waiting to be judged. Then she felt something grasp and tug at both her legs.

Her bonded spirit Ell-Hayzar and the trumpet archon Ilmiring were pulling her up. The two celestials yanked her free of the Boneway and together carried her higher and higher, rushing towards a brilliant bring light.

Lea gasps into wakefulness, realizing that she can hear again. She is wrapped comfortably in a bedroll, a folded blanket cushioning her head. Her freshly polished and mended armor is stowed nearby. She sits up, realizing that she is still in Mokmurian’s lair.

The knightly lamia Seleval, still in human, is seated beside her and quickly brings her up to speed: Mokmurian is defeated and most of the party has gone above with his head to disband the army of giants he assembled. Marcus remains in the chamber with them, poring through the stone giant’s spellbooks. Seleval explains that she rescued Lea’s body from the alien hounds and brought it to Zavian, then assisted the aasimar in breathing life back into the paladin.

Seleval also alerts Lea to another change: her left eye has lost its purple hue and is now blue like her fathers. The lamia assures her heterochromia is very fashionable, but Lea feels like she left a peace of herself behind when she came back. Seleval admits that the spell should not have worked and it is a minor miracle she was raised. The lamia also quietly confesses that she said a silent prayer to Iomedae on Lea’s behalf—that being the paladin’s goddess, after all.

Marcus finally notices that Lea is awake and takes some time to examine her. He has a particular interest in her strange eyes, which he had last examined up close while she was paralyzed in the Grauls’ basement several months ago.

The two of them concoct a plan to strike out on their own to eliminate the red dragon Longtooth before he flees the area. Marcus reasons the dragon hasn’t left yet because it would take time to pack up his hoard. The half-elf wants to destroy the dragon to avenge its attack on Sandpoint, while Lea had promised its head to Ameiko. She figures that slaying a dragon would be just the thing to improve her mood. Seleval invites herself along, as she has some experience in that department.

While strapping Lea into her armor, the lamia asks for a boon as a reward for helping saving the princess’ life. She wants Lea to use her connections to arrange for her slain sister, Zaelsar, to be resurrected. Lea expresses reservations and says she will pray on the question. Seleval makes it clear this is her top priority. Marcus manages to miss out on this conversation, having gone off to take a bathroom break.

The trio manage to make their way back up to the surface, where they find that the weather has turned and a snow storm now blows down out of the north. Marcus takes the time to harvest scales and other items from the red dragon corpse in the Jorgenfist courtyard. Outside the fortress, the giant army is beginning to disband.

The trio treks across the snowy valley towards the eastern mountain where Longtooth makes his lair. Seleval explains that the dragon slew several lamias before Mokmurian defeated it and compelled it to swear allegiance. The two developed a gridging friendship, and Longtooth helped the stone giant capture other dragons for use as sacrifices.

But when Longtooth returned from the failed attack on Sandpoint, Mokmurian ordered Seleval and Zaelsar not to cure the dragon’s wounds as punishment. Longtooth then retreated to his lair to sulk. Seleval has no idea what spurred the dragon to attack the giants’ camp.

Longtooth’s lair is in a cave 450 feet up a nearly vertical cliff. At the foot of the cave entrance is an enormous piled of gnawed bones, including wyvern, aurochs, and even a roc. To ascend to the lair, Marcus casts fly and invisibility on himself and Lea. Seleval uses air walk to follow behind them.

The cave stinks of dragon, and twists around in a vague u-shape. There is no immediate sign of Longtooth. Lea peers through a hole in the thin cavern wall to see around the bend in the tunnel. She spies the red dragon just as Seleval messages Marcus with a warning.

Longtooth bursts through the thin stone wall and breathes fire on Marcus and Lea, who had thankfully magically shielded themselves against it. A small gang of kobolds emerges from small holes in the floor and begin to swarm Seleval, pulling her down to the ground.

Lea, still invisible, manages to sneak around behind the dragon, who focuses his ire on Marcus. The wizard is further stymied by the dragon’s lair, which has taken on volcanic qualities. Geysers of magma and miasmas of volcanic gas soon clutter the battlefield.

Finally in position, Lea reveals herself to charge the dragon and lands a vicious blow. Longtooth savages her in kind with tooth and claw. Seleval manages to break clear of the growing army of kobolds and Marcus messages her to leave the cave if she doesn’t want to get fried. The lamia hastily follows his advice.

Bleeding profusely, Lea lands the killing blow on Longtooth, snapping his neck. Floating high up in the corner of the room, Marcus hurls a maximized fireball at the cluster of kobolds. The spell ignites the volcanic gas, which incinerates the kobolds in a mini firestorm and eats up all the oxygen in the cave. The adventurers are buffeted about as more air rushes in to fill the vacuum.

Seleval hastily rushes over to Lea and dumps several cure serious wounds into her, then heals Marcus as well. The paladin hacks off the red dragon’s head and hangs her Sihedron medallion on it to create a gentle repose effect. Marcus takes stock of the dragons treasure hoard, which is short on magic items but high on cash and valuable objects.

The trio eventually realizes they don’t have sufficient magic to get out of the cave.They decide to just spend the night. Seleval uses sending to give Zavian a heads up on their situation and then casts stone shape to carve out a secure niche for them to rest. Marcus casts alarm on the entrance to guard against any surviving kobolds.

The lamia offers to shift into her true form so the adventurers can lean up against the soft warm fur of her flanks. She explains that she and her sister Zaelsar used to always sleep cuddled up against one another and she is now frightened to sleep alone. Lea takes her up on the offer, and Marcus eventually follows suit, grudgingly.

While they chat, Lea and Marcus tell Seleval that she is not bound to follow them if she does not want to, and can leave when she wishes so long as she promises not to harm innocents and to continue upholding her knightly vows. Seleval tells them she will think on this.

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Killing Mokmurian
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 17

Fireday, 9 Pharast, 4734

The Rune Wardens stand on threshold of Mokmurian’s lair. The giant lord sneers at them from his throne at the far end of the great chamber, while his runeslave bodyguard stands watch on the stairs. Piles of books, alchemical tools and arcane reagents are scattered about the room, while four pillars hold up the hundred foot tall ceiling.

Zavian and Mokmurian trade threats and the stone giant lord summons up an obscuring and surprisingly dense fog that surrounds the party. Lea presses through the fog towards the throne. Mokmurian responds by calling up a noxious yellow-green cloud around her.

Zavian and Astrid manage to rise above the thick fog—the aasimar takes flight and the half-elf spiderclimbing up the wall. Zavian casts a silence spell on giant lord’s throne to thwart any further spells. Mokmurian, however, flies up into the air beyond the spell.

Meanwhile, the alien hounds the party had been fighting reappear to attack Astrid and Zavian. Their gaze attack has no effect on the cleric and their claws have trouble against the fighter’s armor. The hounds then teleports away. The stone giant runeslave tosses boulders at the adventurers, but misses.

Mokmurian flies forward until he hovers over the noxious cloud, and casts mass reduce person on the Rune Wardens at the chamber entrance. Amelia and Seleval shrink down to halfling size.

The noxious cloud leches away Lea’s health, so she rushes out of it and charges up the stairs to attack the stone giant runeslave. Little Amelia ducks behind a pillar and strikes up an inspiring song. Little Seleval air walks out of the heavy fog. Zavian hunts down one of the alien hounds with his flaming scimitar Sunspark.

Marcus, meanwhile, slips out of the cloud and casts dispell magic on Mokmurian. Unable to remove his stoneskin buff, he strips away the giant lord’s fly spell. He starts to rapidly descend into his own noxious cloud. Astrid looses arrows at him but has trouble penetrating his defenses.

Little Seleval successfully casts blindness on the stone giant runeslave. Mokmurian’s lair, meanwhile, summons up a freezing cloud around Lea and the runeslave. The giant lord himself retreats into the heavy fog, but not before Little Amelia blinds him with glitterdust. He lurks in the fog, trying to scrape the glitter from his eyes and casting a spell. Lea presses the attack on the blinded runeslave, striking it down.

After clearing the glitter from his eyes, Mokmurian rises up into the air and begins slinging spells at Marcus and Lea. The half-elf wizard shrugs off a blast of_disintegrate_, while the paladin is blasted with several scorching rays. The paladin ducks behind the big throne. Sensing weakness, Mokmurian orders his hounds to attack the paladin. Seleval enlarges herself to return to human-size. Marcus blasts Mokmurian with enervation, sapping his strength and vitality.

Two hounds teleport over to flank Lea, slashing at her. The monsters claw and bite. Lea strikes back, bashing one of them to death. Seleval, who had been trying to hack at Mokmurian, races across the room towards Lea but can’t quite reach her. Zavian blesses the party, inflicting more harmful effects onto Mokmurian.

The third hound teleports in to join the attack on Lea, stepping over its dead fellow. This time the creatures find a weakness in her armor, their teeth and claws sinking deep. Trapped in the silence spell, Lea dies without a sound.

Mokmurian now directs his ire towards Marcus, ultimately striding up to the wizard to bash him with a club and unleashing a stored vampiric touch. Marcus is incensed at these copycat tactics, and also at the grievous wounds. The giant lord shrugs off Astrid’s arrows and Little Amelia’s spells.

Zavian casts air walk on Astrid to make it easier for her to close to melee range with Mokmurian. Seleval scoops up Lea’s body, kicking one of the snapping hounds as she goes. Mokmurian orders the hounds to go after Marcus.

Little Amelia casts cacophonous call on Mokmurian one more time, but this time the spell takes hold. The giant lord begins projectile vomiting and staggers away from Marcus. He tries to flee the room but Zavian seals the exit with stone shape. The giant starts running around the room, trying to keep the party at the distance until the spell wears off.

Seleval rushes up to Zavian, Lea’s lifeless body in her arms, and demands that the cleric “fix” the paladin. Working together, they manage to channel enough divine energy to draw Lea’s soul back in her body. The princess remains unconscious, while Seleval begins pumping healing spells into her.

Unable to do much on his own, Mokmurian repeatedly uses his lair’s powers to try to charm Astrid but each time she shakes it off. The fighter manages to cut through the giant lord’s stoneskin. Little Amelia brings the chase to a close by ensnaring Mokmurian with a charm monster.

The charmed Mokmurian is led into the center of the room, where Marcus hopes to interrogate him. Before the questioning can get very far, the giant lord is possessed by Runelord Karzoug. He mocks the party and promises to return soon to awaken the armies of Xin-Shalast. His energies burn the life from Mokmurian, who falls dead to the floor. Marcus curses furiously, having lost his chance to ask questions.

Seleval is terrified that the Runelord saw everyone. She explains that when Karzoug stirred to wakefulness five years ago, he sent his prophetess the Most High Ceoptra into Xin-Shalast to bring the lamias to heel. Seleval’s mother and some the other senior lamias refused, believing that the Runelords’ time had passed. Most High Ceoptra transformed these rebels into lamia hungerers, a fate worse than death, and did so without breaking a sweat. And Ceoptra is a mere servant of Karzoug. The thought of being noticed by the Runelord terrifies Seleval to the bone.

Amelia and Zavian try to bolster her spirits, while Marcus appeals to her anger at what happened to her mother and points out that she has nowhere left to go. Seleval is somewhat heartened, but still troubled, although she admits that she has no other options but to press forward. She is hanging onto the unconscious Lea like a safety blanket throughout this.

The party plunders Mokmurian’s corpse and his lair. They find some magic items that are useful to spellcasters, as well as a second bag of holding that contains Mokmurian’s voluminous spellbooks. They also find the key to the strange bronze doors you’d passed by earlier.

Among Mokmurian’s possessions the adventurers find a map and notes suggesting that he was trying to retrieve a foundation stone from the ruins of something called a Hellstorm Flume. He could use the stone to discern where “the traitor Xaliasa” dwelled and hopefully recover his key to the “Runeforge.” All of the Hellstorm Flume ruins on the map are located out to sea except for one, which is located in Sandpoint.

While the others poke through the room, Zavian tends to Lea’s wounds under Seleval’s watchful gaze. The lamia thanks him for his help and warns him that Lamashtu is still angry with him for taking something precious to her.

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Dream a Little Dream
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 16

Oathday, 8 Pharast, 4734

Having fought their way into the depths of the Thassilonian ruins below Jorgenfist, the Rune Wardens have holed up in a side room to recuperate. Little Marcus spends the better part of two hours deciphering (with Zavian’s assistance) the complex lock on the adamantine scroll case they had recovered from the Black Monk. The scrolls within are ancient and fragile, so Little Marcus asks Amelia to delicately remove them. She extracts a total of eighteen scrolls.

Eight of the scrolls are divine spells including scrying, resurrection, and true resurrection, all of them prepared by a very powerful cleric. Nine of the scrolls prove to be a major artifact known as the anathema archive. Marcus studies the artifact and realizes that it can be used for two purposes: to cast ancient Thassilonian magic, and to research terrible secrets.

The final scroll contains instructions on how to properly access the Therassic Library. Before entering the bronze doors, visitors must utter the password “Viosanxi” or provoke its “shining guardian.” Visitors are then to present the scroll to the clockwork librarian.

With plenty of time to kill, Little Marcus gets out the stone tablet that his parents had retrieved from Hollow Mountain. He learns that it was part of a larger set of tablets recounting the history of the Thassilonian ruin, which served as the fortress of the Runelords of Bakrakhan. This tablet is from the final days of Thassilon, describing how the wrathful Alaznist cooperated with her fellow Runelords to use the Runeforge to devise a method for riding out the coming catastrophe. The tablet explains that Hollow Mountain was shielded and warded to await her return: “It should only take a few thousand years.”

Little Marcus and Zavian then set to work on crafting projects. Lea settles down in a far corner to pray and meditate. Seleval lingers nearby, but after a while starts to get bored and restless. Amelia works on drafting new songs. Little Astrid, meanwhile, stands watch out on the ceiling of the hallway.

After several hours, Little Astrid hears the sound of several creatures attempting to approach quietly. They’re muttering in Giant, but in a higher register than is normal for giants. A javelin and a melon-sized rock come hurtling out of the darkness towards Little Astrid, but miss their mark. Three tall, angular shapes lope into the dim light—two man-sized stone giants and a miniature troll.

A second squad of two reduced-size stone giants and one troll charges down the narrow passage into the party’s camp, where battle is quickly joined. The first squad of man-sized giants runs down the corridor underneath Little Astrid, trying to flank the camp. She charges after them, running along the ceiling and then leaping down to deliver a devastating blow with her double-bladed sword Little Echo. But she misjudges the distance and instead of landing a strike simply faceplants on the floor.

Inside the camp, the fighting is fierce. Little Marcus unleashes a blast of lightning against the intruders and then tries to fend off their attacks with his little ranseur. Lea and Zavian come to his aid, while Amelia strikes up an inspiring tune and hurls glitterdust at the man-sized giants.

By the time the first squad of mini giants gets into flanking position, the second squad is in rough shape. When the sergeant of the second squad is struck down, his squadmates try to flee but Zavian uses wall of stone to bar their exit. The remaining giants prove to be fanatical loyalists of Mokmurian and fight to the bitter end.

Once the bloodletting is done, Seleval identifies them as among the last of Mokmurian’s inner circle. She suspects there are no more than four stone giants remaining in the caverns above.

Once the bodies are cleared away and the Rune Wardens are patched up, Lea decides to tell Seleval about Korvosa. During the conversation, Amelia watches the lamia closely and gets a solid read on her. The bard concludes that Seleval is primarily motivated by fear of the party and is sticking close to Lea in part because she thinks she has the best handle on how to placate the paladin. Seleval also seems very protective of the pouch with her sister’s ashes. Amelia further surmises that Seleval’s commitment to chivalry is only skin deep, but since the tropes of knighthood kept her alive she is playing the role to the hilt.

Lea gets a sense of Seleval’s understanding of knighthood when she asks about the lamia’s coat of arms and realizes they were copied from a famous fictional knight from a chivalric romance. Seleval actually has a battered copy of the book, which belonged to her father and which she says she read very closely growing up. Lea begins to wonder if she’s made a big mistake.

The Rune Wardens eventually lie down to sleep in their camp, and several of them have portentous dreams.

Zavian finds himself in a memory, strolling through the floating fields of Sarenrae’s realm in Nirvana. He is meeting with Elszevina, intending to confess his love for her. When he does so, however, she caresses his cheek and asks “Why did you betray me?”

Her angelic visage darkens and her wings burst into flames as the sky around them turns a hellish red. She tells Zavian that his recovery of his old Birth of Light and Truth testament and his travel to this “thin place” has allowed her to track him down. She promises that he will join her in damnation or be destroyed. Zavian insists he will free her.

The arrival of the trumpet archon Ilmiring banishes Elszevina and brightens the landscape. Ilmiring brings tidings to Zavian about the threats that await the party, including Mokmurian’s otherworldly guardians with a baleful gaze. She says that Mokmurian is ready and waiting, but that if he is slain his army will disperse. Before bidding Zavian farewell, Ilmiring reveals that she fought alongside him in the Dawn Heralds and will answer his summons if he needs her help.

Meanwhile, Lea’s dreams find her visited by her bonded spirit Ell-Hayzar. The angelic being praises her for how she handled the surrender of the lamia, but chastises her for allowing the creature to dine on the harpy and for rushing to knight Seleval, which creates additional complications.

Lea is frustrated that she is being criticized now for being too nice when before she was chided for being too ruthless. Ell-Hayzar warns her against being too hasty, noting that lamias are tainted by Lamashtu and cannot be trusted. Lea pointedly wants to know if Ser Arlynn would be able to redeem the lamia. Ell-Hayzar urges the young paladin not to measure herself against others. The spirit urges her to start to break Seleval’s connection to Lamashtu, but not to rush things.

In Marcus’ dream, he is in a quiet corner of an otherwise bustling Rusty Dragon Inn. He is reading the same paragraph over and over again without processing it. Most likely, this is because Shayliss is nibbling on his ear and whispering very dirty things to him.

This reverie is interrupted by the arrival of his familiar Ash, whose cane clacks against the floor as he strides nervously. The man-sized raven is in his normal garb: waistcoat, top hat and monocle. All of this strikes Marcus as very normal, but there is fear in the bird’s eyes.

Speaking in his typical posh accent, Ash notes that the inn is crowded with some very strange customers. Glancing up from his book, Marcus notices that the other patrons are dressed in yellow turbans and kaftans. Veils cover their mouths, but what little skin can be seen is purple. As he notices, they begin to rise and drift towards him.

Ash alerts Marcus to the fact that his ranseur is on fire. The blazing ranseur flares as the patrons approach, repulsing them. Touching it fills Marcus with anger at these interlopers.

Marcus realizes that Shayliss has been whispering in Thassilonian the whole time and her words have changed: “Kill Karzoug. Mokmurian will point you the way to the traitor, the traitor will lead you to the forge, where you my blessed champion will imbue my ranseur with dominant power that will cut out his greedy heart. You will do this for me, love, and I will make you first among my ragesmiths when I return.”

As he realizes this he sees Shayliss’ face shifts to that of red-haired Runelord Alaznist, who pulls him into an angry kiss. When he wakes, Marcus tastes blood in his mouth. Must have bitten himself in his sleep.

Astrid’s dreams are much more peaceful. She is at home in her village. Her mother Lydia is there, serving up some tea. Lydia is happy that she has been able to find her elvish family and helped make Isandria more welcoming of humans.

Amelia simply has untroubled sleep and rises refreshed.

Fireday, 9 Pharast, 4734

Fully rested, though perhaps not untroubled, the Rune Wardens set out to finish their hunt for Mokmurian. They find a hall with a huge set of big double doors with a huge Sihedron rune on it. They recognize these as the doors from the scroll which are protected by a shining guardian who will strike if a password is not uttered. The doors also require a strange key that they lack.

Unwilling to try breaching the entrance without the key, the adventurers check a side door instead. Beyond, they find the first chamber on this floor with sharp angles. It is inhabited by a trio of alien hounds that can walk on air. Marcus and Amelia resist the strange creature’s gaze attack. The monsters teleport in and out of view as the battle is joined.

The fight takes the party to the far end of the room, where the alien hounds teleport into the chamber beyond. Uncertain of what lies beyond, the party presses forward… where Mokmurian awaits them.

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Cauldron of Giantkind
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 15

Oathday, 8 Pharast, 4734

Having bought some time with the army of giants outside, the Rune Wardens head back down into the caverns. They discover that the stone barrier they had erect was bashed down. Inspecting the tracks, they realize that stone giants had battered through, ascended, and then retreated back below.

The knightly lamia Seleval, still in her human form, leads the party through the caverns to avoid a stone giant patrol. They pass through the chamber used by the two charmed red dragons. Seleval explains that Mokmurian and Longtooth captured them for use as sacrifices. One dragon, Encontredor, remains at large.

Seleval also swings by her quarters to pick up a few things. The party is repulsed by the thick scent of incense and the horrific Lamashtu murals, so they choose to wait outside. The lamia recovers some unknown items from behind the blood-soaked stone altar—the adventurers glimpse some scrolls and books. Once she’s gathered what she needs, the lamia takes them towards the entrance to the lower level, which is guarded by the troll brothers Hurek and Durek.

The party decides to lay a trap. Astrid perches on the ceiling in her slippers of spider climb, while the others lurk in a side passage waiting to pounce with steel and spell. Seleval, in her lamia form, is sent to coax the trolls into the trap.

Astrid listens in to the conversation (held in Giant). It takes some back and forth but the lion-woman ultimately succeeds in luring the brothers away from their post.

The ambush is swift and devastating. Zavian paralyzes the big troll Durek with a hold person spell, while Marcus’ flaming sphere scorches Hurek. Astrid attacks from about but has trouble keeping her footing. Lea charges forward and Amelia inspires the party. Hurek takes the brunt of the damage and is slain just before Durek breaks free of the spell.

The larger troll brother deals a grievous wound to an overconfident Seleval, but the collective might of the Rune Wardens is too much for him. Once he falls, the party hastily loots the well-equipped trolls and presses on the to the lower levels before a stone giant patrol can investigate.

It is a long, winding trip down the tunnel during which Marcus questions Seleval about the appeal of worshiping Lamashtu. She talks about the goddess’ patronage of the lamias.

The spiraling passage eventually transitions from natural caverns to worked stone. The ruins have an alien feel to them, as every hard edge and sharp angle has been beveled into a soft curve.

The adventurers come across a section of tunnel that appears to have collapsed many years ago. With that direction closed off, the party takes the only path available to them. The passage leads to the Chamber of Reduction, where hill giant and stone giant runeslaves wait in ambush.

Marcus is the first to enter and is stricken with both of the chamber’s strange effects: debilitating nausea from the warped geometry and a reduction in size to approximately halfling height. The affliction impacts the wizard and all seven of his mirror images.

Lea charges in to confront the giants, Iomedae’s grace shielding her from the baleful magic. Astrid sets up in the threshold with her bow and begins loosing arrows. Amelia strikes up a greatly inspiring tune for Lea.

Zavian takes wing and flits into the disorienting chamber, shaking off its effects and navigating around behind the hill giant runeslave. The party realizes that the stone giant runeslave was one of the laconic smiths that they slew after entering the caverns.

Astrid lands the kill shot on the hill giant runeslave, right through the brain. The stone giant runeslave is soon to follow and Lea does her best to make sure he won’t be coming back.

Astrid tries to cross the room, but the Chamber of Reduction takes its toll on her as well. Amelia uses dimension door to transfer herself and Seleval across.

Now significantly stealthier, Little Astrid scouts ahead. She comes across a large stinking chamber illuminated by a flickering fire. The room contains an ornate 12-foot tall cauldron steaming over an impressive firepit at the center.

The cauldron is being watched over by a stone statue that Little Marcus quickly surmises is some sort of construct. He and Astrid use message to coordinate a plan with the rest of the Rune Wardens, who are hanging back.

Little Marcus rushes up to the stone golem to use shape stone to snare its legs. Little Astrid dashes across the wall to strike at the golem with her shrunken double-bladed sword. The noxious fumes from the cauldron start to bother Marcus and Astrid.

It takes time for the rest of the Rune Wardens to catch up. avian swoops in and begins casting magic, while Little Marcus puts some distance between himself and the stone golem. Moments later, Lea and Seleval move up to join Astrid in fighting the golem. Little Marcus spider climbs up to the ceiling.

That’s when a big round walking furnace called a forgefiend bursts out of the wall with a loud “Oh yeah!”

Its first move is to vomit molten slag onto the paladin and the lamia. Lea is warded by her resist energy spell, but Seleval is badly scorched. The smell of burnt fur mixes with the noxious cauldron fumes.

Zavian uses stone shape to plug up the poisonous cauldron, then moves to flank the forgefiend with Lea. Astrid takes apart the stone golem.

The forgefiend tries to retreat back into the wall, but is stricken with Amelia’s cacophonous call as the Rune Wardens close in. The fiend starts coughing up debris from both its mouths.

Surrounded and nauseated, the forgefiend finally succumbs. Meanwhile, the plugged up cauldron starts to hiss ominously. The party flees the room before the explosion.

When they return, they find the cauldron unharmed. Upon inspection, they find that it is some sort of minor artifact used to create runeslaves from giant corpses. It is a thoroughly evil item thrumming with necromantic power, which can only be destroyed by reversing the runeslave ritual with a good aligned giant volunteer. Unable to destroy the cauldron, they put out the fire.

After healing up, the party carefully advances into the next room. They find a macabre trophy room full of stuffed giants wearing armor and posed as if rallying for war. Zavian senses necromantic energy from several of the figures, including the centerpiece—an enormous, headless ogre in armor.

None of the figures stir awake while the party lingers at the threshold, so the Rune Wardens concoct a plan.

Perched on the wall, Little Marcus unleashes a fireball that destroys two zombie hill giants and sets several of the stuffed figures on fire. Zavian blasts one of the other zombie giants with searing light from his sword Sunspark.

The Headless Lord rushes Lea, his double axes held high, but a grease spell from Amelia send it tumbling to the ground. While Little Astrid fires arrows from the ceiling, an overeager Seleval leaps into the fray and gets hammered by one of the other zombie giants.

The Headless Lord is swiftly destroyed and the party moves on to the other zombies. Still stinging from her misjudgment, Seleval kills the last one. After looting the corpses, the party scouts a little further.

They find a side chamber accessible only by narrow, 5-foot wide passages. Beyond that, they reach a hallway with a set of strange metal doors at one end and two other doors along the opposite wall.

After some discussion, they decide that after this last battle they have no choice but to rest and recharge until their spells return. They retreat into the side chamber and set up camp.

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The Black Monk
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 14

Oathday, 8 Pharast, 4734

The Rune Wardens, now accompanied by the knightly lamia Seleval, have gathered in the frigid confines have gathered in the frigid confines of the Black Tower. Above them, the tower is hollow and empty. But they have discovered a hidden trap door leading into a chamber below. Seleval has warned them that it is the home of a powerful undead creature known as the Black Monk.

They pry open the trap door and Zavian casts his azure gaze into the darkness. The trap door leads to a 50 foot shaft, which opens out onto a room below. The aasimar can barely make out the floor below. He casts light on a pebble, then tosses it down. It hits the icy floor and slides out of view.

The party gets out a rope and secures it soundly before dropping it down the shaft. Astrid uses her slippers of spiderclimb to warily descend. The room below has a 20-foot ceiling and numerous alcoves along its round walls, all of it coated in a thick sheen of ice. The temperature is unnaturally frigid.

Worst of all, as Astrid peers into the room, she discovers that the Black Monk is floating near the ceiling, waiting for her. He is wrapped and bound in ancient yellowed linen, and wherever his flesh peeks through it is blackened by age. In one arm, he cradles a rune-inscribed adamantine scroll case. His other had lashes out at Astrid with a series of swift, precise jabs and strikes.

The rest of the Rune Wardens are swift to come to Astrid’s aid. Amelia casts feather fall on the party and they drop one after another down the chute. Even Seleval, who has assumed a human form to descend the narrow shaft.

The Black Monk takes swings at them all, but concentrates his strikes against Astrid. The redheaded half-elf is eventually battered into unconsciousness and tumbles from her perch on the ceiling. Her potentially fatal fall is thwarted by Seleval’s cat-like reflexes, as the lamia snags hold of Astrid and gently carries her to the floor.

Lea heals Astrid and then hits the Black Monk with a spell that compels him to attack her or suffer divine repercussions. The Black Monk responds by letting out a terrible screech that travels up the shaft into the hollow tower, where it reverberates.

Soon, the siren sound of a harpy can be heard filtering down from above. Two more harpy monks swoop down to attack. Zavian calls on righteous might to grow to gigantic size and battles them.

Lea and the Black Monk trade devastating blows. Marcus moves up to support the paladin with his ranseur, while Seleval bolsters her with a healing spell. Lea’s earthbreaker blazes with holy light as she batters the mummy into smithereens.

Meanwhile, the enlarged Zavian uses his enormous flaming scimitar Sunspark to cut a harpy in half. He then squeezes his way up the chute to confront the singing harpy above. However, it manages to escape his clutches. Down below, Amelia lands the killing blow on the other harpy.

The party scavenges the adamantine scrollcase that the Black Monk had been guarding. Marcus realizes it has a complicated lock written in Thassilonian, which will take time to decipher.

Seleval asks Lea for permission to eat one of the dead harpies. Lea waits for the others to ascend the chute before agreeing to let the lamia have a few nibbles. She quickly regrets her decision, as her steel gorget tightens around her neck and her bonded spirit Ell-Hayzar shouts at her from across the aether. Lea calls Seleval off, but then acquiesces to the lamia’s request to be made a proper knight.

Lea and “Ser Seleval of Korvosa” clamber up to join the rest of the party in the ground level of the Black Tower. They can hear angry giants at the gates, demanding to speak to Mokmurian. The dragon Longtooth appears to have vanished.

Amelia uses glibness and a bead from her necklace of fireballs to pose as Mokmurian and scare off the giant chieftains below, at least for the moment. The party decides to descend below and confront Mokmurian.

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Charge of the Mammoths
Fortress of the Stone Giants, Part 13

Oathday, 8 Pharast, 4734

Having rested up, the Rune Wardens exit the rope trick and decide to venture up into the main fortress to take out another ally of Mokmurian’s, the Black Monk. Following Conna’s directions, they head to the central pit.

As they wind their way around the side of the crater, they come across a trio of dire bears. Amelia attempts to fascinate the beasts with her performance, but is only able to get two out of three. Which is not sufficient.

In the ensuing violence, two of the dire bears are slain and a third is stricken with nausea. The angry bears draw the attention of a patrol of stone giants, which hurry towards the fighting. Marcus uses stone shape to barricade the entry to the pit, and the adventurers race upstairs.

The Rune Wardens emerge into the open courtyard of Jorgenfist. There is a stone giant riding a mammoth in the practice yard, while an armored lamia and a young red dragon patrol the grounds.

Thankfully, the party is not immediately noticed thanks to the disturbance going on outside the fort. Plumes of black smoke rise up from the camps surrounding Jorgenfist, as Longtooth swoops overhead spewing down fire. He is pursued by the other young dragon, while the other lamia and several stone giants watch from a nearby tower.

The adventurers duck behind the large stables to get some cover. Inside are three woolly mammoths, who quickly become agitated by the presence of strangers. The Rune Wardens then concoct a plan to try to lure in the nearby lamia and its pet dragon.

Making use of a bead from the necklace of fireballs, the party sets the corner of the stables on fire in an attempt to provoke the mammoths to stampede. They hope this will draw over the lamia and dragon.

Once the blaze is set and the northern stable doors are left open, they hurry over to the burning end of the building. From there, Marcus peers up at the battle in the sky between Longtooth and the other red dragon. Observing their behavior, he comes to realize that the lamias’ two dragons are under some sort of charm effect.

As planned, the unusually knightly lamia and her enthralled dragon approach the burning stables to investigate. Lea, having heard Marcus’ discovery, activates her boots of speed to race out to the dragon and cast protection from evil onto it. This allows the creature to shake off its charm spell and immediately turns on the lamia knight. It ignores Lea’s clumsy attempts to build a rapport.

With the party’s position now revealed, the stone giant rider charges on his mammoth. The prehistoric creature inflicts fearsome wounds onto Astrid, but the giant has less luck. He over-extends with his greatclub and falls off.

The fallen giant is swiftly set upon and slain, but the rampaging mammoth remains a hazard. Lea races back to the creature and miraculously manages to climb onto it. She holds on while the great beast tramples over her friends, then begins trying to coax the creature into arcing around the burning stables.

Meanwhile, the other mammoths charge out of the burning stables, trumpeting in terror and fleeing north across the courtyard. Elsewhere, the knightly lamia and the red dragon fight it out in the mud. Up in the towers, the red headed lamia directs the stone giants to pelt the party with boulders.

Amelia and Marcus start to investigate the Thassilonian tower, but the second young red dragon swoops down and blasts them and Astrid with flame. Zavian, meanwhile, has taken flight with his metal wings, rising up to level with the fort’s walls. He notices that two of the frightened mammoths have been found and calmed by two frost giant who’ve emerged from an outbuilding.

The knightly lamia manages to slay her treacherous dragon as Lea rounds the corner of the stables on the back of the mammoth. The paladin lines up a charge and the lamia turns to face her, grinning with anticipation. The mammoth hurtles forward. The lamia manages to avoid the worst of the beast’s wrath.

Lea leaps off to confront the lion-woman, despite not having drawn a weapon. She asks the lamia knight’s name and learns she is called Seleval of Xin-Shalast. Lea in turn shares her full royal titles. The lamia invites her to fight.

As the two prepare to duel, the two frost giants ride over to excitedly survey the chaos. Zavian flies overhead, trying to get closer to the stone giants in the tower. The red-headed lamia meanwhile has descended to the courtyard.

Lea weathers a devastating series of blows from the lamia Seleval. However, thanks to Iomedae’s grace she is able to withstand the assault. Seleval, realizing that she cannot survive a counterattack, attempts to flee. Lea punches her with a spiked gauntlet, driving the lamia to her knees and to death’s door. Surprisingly, Seleval yields and offers to swear fealty to Lea in exchange for her life.

While all this has been going on, Astrid has been firing arrow after arrow at the stone giants in the tower. Marcus has thrown multiple fireballs at them, but the remaining red dragon gets in his face. Amelia tries to overpower the dragon’s charm spell with a charm of her own, but can quite overcomes the lamia’s magic. She tries again with a scroll of dispell magic. The dragon Econtredor abandons the fight to go after the red-headed lamia, keeping its distance to bath her in fire.

Touched by Seleval’s display of chivalry and sensing a test from Iomedae, Lea accepts Seleval’s fealty. The paladin then moves to heal the party, calling on Seleval to come to her side and loudly declaring that the lamia is under her protection. As the Inheritor’s warmth radiates from Lea’s outstretched arms, she deliberately includes Seleval in its embrace.

The frost giant duo of Istvig and Jaansk charge their mammoths down onto Lea, who scrambles away from their heavy footfalls and dodges their axes. The mammoths press on into the the cluster of Astrid, Marcus, and Amelia. Up above, Zavian summons a speedy Bralani Azata to aid the party with its magic.

Seleval comes to Lea’s side and snares Istvig with a hold person spell. Marcus unleashes a fireball on the fire-allergic frost giants. Zavian’s azata ally lines up a lightning bolt on the two unfortunates.

Meanwhile, the remaining dragon is forced to abandon its fight with the red-headed lamia Zaelsar due to a barrage of boulders from the stone giants. Zaelsar tries to make a break back for the safety of the tower. Lea gives chase and forces Seleval to watch as she kills the lamia’s sister. Feeling a little guilty, the paladin invites her to perform whatever funerary rites are necessary. Seleval blasts the body to ash with magic and then scoops some of the ashes into a leather pouch. Lea realizes that both lamias were priestesses of Lamashtu.

Zavian brings Istvig’s mammoth to its knees and Astrid delivers the finishing cut. The other mammoths mournfully retreat as the frost giants are slain. The azata confronts the last stone giant in the far tower, but is vanquished. Even so, the giant retreats into the tower.

The courtyard is by now littered with bodies. The stables have burnt down. the party investigates the Black Monk’s unnaturally cold tower and discover a trap door that leads below.

Lea introduces the shell-shocked Seleval to the rest of the Rune Wardens. The lamia warns them that the Black Monk is an ancient undead creature from the days of Thassilon. She also notes that it has a trio of harpy acolytes that might come to its aid.

Armed with this information, the adventurers open the trap door.

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

Oathday, 8 Pharast, 4734

While the party rests in the extradimensional space in Marcus’ rope trick, Astrid takes first watch. An hour into Zavian’s watch, Galenmir arrives to collect Conna. Zavian overheats and recalls the giant’s conversation, has Astrid translate for him later. He also notices a strange greatsword on Galenmir’s back. He also notices the haunt grow more aggressive.

Lea has a troubling vision of the evil in this place, glimpses of its history, the summoning of creatures beyond this reality.

As the party prepares to descend, Astrid, Zavian and Amelia notice a large flying eye scope out the room. as soon as he hears this, Marcus is rushing out. He telekinetically punches the eye. Lea and Zavian follow, to temporarily banish the haunt with positive energy.

The party debates their next move, and decide they should use guerrilla tactics to pick off Mokmurian’s lieutenants before going after him. But their deliberations are disrupted by the sound of approaching giant footsteps. The adventurers duck into cover as Galenmir and two runeslave hill giants march down the tunnel.

In the ensuing battle, Zavian blocks Galenmir’s line of retreat and the stone giant summons reinforcements in the form of a bullette and a stone giant. Galenmir’s sword hits hard, and imbues him with a smoky shroud that partially obscures him from sight. As the party wounds him, he starts burning runes (three out of seven) from the sword to stay upright.

Amelia nauseates the bullette with her cacophonous call and it burrows into the earth. Lea is kicked to the ground. Galenmir kicks Astrid into the bullette hole. Marcus blasts Galenmir and the hill giants with a fire ball, then goes toe to toe with the other stone giant. Amelia nauseates Galenmir and he tries to flee, but Lea and Zavian knock him to the ground, hanging half into the hole. Astrid kills the bullette and then kills Galenmir. The other stone giant is also slain.

But two more stone giants rush over and then immediately flee for help. The party, with Galenmir’s body in tow, chases after the stone giant running to warn Lokansir.

The stone giant waits to ambush them just inside the door. But he has a hard time trying to hit Zavian. Lea and Marcus get into the mix. That’s when the enormous hill giant Lokansir emerges, just barely avoiding smashing Lea and Zavian.

Astrid charges up to it and gets some knocks from Lokansir. He lays into her and Lea, but eventually the half-elf cuts him down. The remaining stone giant surrenders. With reinforcements closing in and no way out of the chamber, the party concocts a plan to hide. Marcus sculpts a hole in the wall and casts rope trick in there, then covers it up with an illusory wall.

While Zavian hides in the alcove, the others gather in the center of the room while they await the reinforcements.

Two red dragons burst into the room, with a pair of lamias behind them. Using glibness to sell the lie, Amelia loudly announces the party is fleeing for the surface, then dimension doors them into the alcove and they flee up into the rope trick. After a moment, the sound of the dragons recedes.

The Rune Wardens then settle in for a magically-assisted rest. Lea is visited in her dreams by her bonded spirit, Ell-Hayzar, who chastises her for contemplating the murder of the stone giant prisoner. The spirit warns that Lea is walking a very fine line and that she is held to a higher standard than expediency.

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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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