Rise of the Runelords

Requiem for Heroes
Epliogue

Castle Korvosa, Rova 16 AR 4735

Princess Ecclesia paused for a moment as she looked out the nearby window. Fireworks of brilliant red and gold sparks streaked into the air, delighting all in attendance to the grand ball at the palace. The world-renowned minstrels played popular jigs and ballads, though with an ever-increasing complexity and strange instruments. The beats of the drums seemingly in time with the fireworks, the two melded in her mind as musical strings droned together in a crescendo.

Her thoughts edged back to the meteors crashing against her armor, metal clanging loud in her ears as she kept fixated on its source. The roar of the Blue Dragon right before it blasted her and the other Wardens with lightning, their painful screams as they reeled from the attack. The familiar pulse of her life force pulsing through the edge of her holy blade as it viciously cut into the chiseled gargantuan frame of a Rune Giant. Her vision darkening as she was pulled out of existence…

She felt a familiar hand on hers, caressing the engagement ring on her ring finger. Ecclesia drew her eyes away from the fireworks and back towards her fiancé.

“Are you enjoying yourself, darling?” Ameiko asked.

Ecclesia smiled, “Yes, of course, I was just-“

“In Xin-Shalast, no doubt, you’ve been visiting quite a bit lately,” Ameiko stood up from her chair and led Ecclesia toward the dance floor, “Come now, and let’s bring you back to your party.”

“Our party, my love.”

“Yes, but your birthday. I didn’t splurge on these dresses so you can sit behind a dining table all night. Dance with me.”

Ameiko lead her to the center of the hall and signaled to the minstrels to start up a cheerful jig. Ecclesia’s crimson and gold sequenced dress twisted and spun, the light catching on amethyst gemstones not unlike the streaks of fireworks earlier. It was complimented by Ameiko’s own dress, which was inspired by her own native Minkaian fashion but styled to her eclectic tastes. The silk print showcased a Ruby Dragon spewing forth golden threaded flame upon a black field. As they danced, the couple held bright smiles in their picturesque performance. A few words were exchanged, though between the continuing thunderous explosions of the fireworks and the spirited minstrels nothing could be discerned by those observing. They remained on the dance floor for a spell before retreating graciously towards an empty side hallway. The couple moved up a flight of stairs and further away from the party until at last they were alone on a balcony overlooking the fireworks.

Ecclesia once more looked out to those streaks of light, as they continued to burst in the night sky.

“You were wonderful out there, my love,” she said at last, “I can already tell my people will love you once we are married.”

“You’re sounding more and more like your father the longer we’re here,” Ameiko replied, playing with Ecclesia’s engagement ring as she held her hand, “To say nothing of that furrowed brow now that we’re alone.”

“I’m not—“

“I’m teasing,” Ameiko chuckled. “But seriously, what’s troubling you?”

“It’s nothing.”

“Did the party not meet your expectations, my love?”

“Yes, of course, everything came out just as you described it to me, Ameiko, I couldn’t be more pleased with it.”

“Then why the long face? Have I offended you?”

“No, of course not, it’s just—,” Ecclesia paused, straightening up as a dignitary rounded the corner and she gave a solemn nod as they passed, “Let us continue this in the parlor.”

“As you wish,” Ameiko said as Ecclesia took her arm and led down the hall. The smile and statuesque serenity returned to the princess’ face once more, as they passed more well wishers and esteemed guests around the first floor reception halls. They passed up a 2nd flight of stairs, retreating further into the castles more intimate spaces, and while the vibrant murmurs of the party downstairs could still be heard, there was a sense of solitude that occupied this floor. It wasn’t long before they found the parlor room, lit for privacy, and slipped inside.

Ecclesia went over to the small cabinet and fashioned a pair of drinks. She handed one to her fiancé before she curled up on the opposite couch. She took a long sip before setting it down. A silence hung over the pair, until at last Ecclesia spoke.

“It’s just the usual ‘Weight of the World’ worries. Father has seen fit to entrust me with additional responsibilities now that we’ve announced our engagement, on top of the usual hunt for any signs of the other Runelords stirring, organizing our efforts for expeditions into other Thassilonian sites, crusading against those Lamash—"

“Please don’t utter that vile name, you know how worked up you get when you say it,” Ameiko interrupted, setting down her own glass. “So, my soon to be father-in-law saddled you with this today? He does know it is your birthday, doesn’t he?”

“It is his way of expressing his love in lieu of a card or present,” Ecclesia replied, taking another long sip. “Ask my brother Telus if you don’t believe me.”

“Well, he must really like me then, seeing as he agreed to foot 70% of today’s bill,” Ameiko said, her glass hiding her bemused smirk.

“What?” Ecclesia blurted, nearly dropping her drink, “That’s—I, mean—what?”

“You’re so cute when you’re flustered,” Ameiko chuckled, “you know he’s really not so bad—“

“Unless it’s me.”

“Yes, well, you can be rather difficult to deal with sometimes.”

“Ah, so that’s how he got to you then,” Ecclesia pouted, though a small smirk tugged at the corner of her mouth. “You’re the one responsible for my additional duties then?”

“No more than you can handle, and it’ll keep your mind off of your visits to Thassilon.”

Her smirk vanished. A lump in her throat squeezed against her words, “I’ve told you they’re not an issue! My mind wanders in our idleness, that’s all.


“Your mind is replaying those moments, over and over again, you even do it in your sleep,” Ameiko rebutted. The words cut into Ecclesia like an ogre hook. She struggled with a response, moving from a half-hearted explanation to a reassurance, though none escaped her crimson stained lips. She felt Ameiko’s eyes on her, and had to say something, anything, to break the tension before—

“You have to learn to let me in; I can’t be the one to drag it out of you all the time. Trust me I know what it’s like to have those kinds of visits. Talk to me or at the very least talk with your Knight-Captain about—“

“I can’t. There’s still so much we need to do, so much I need to accomplish, so many—”

“You’re no good to any of us if you’re falling apart inside Lea.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” She said, her tone uneven and high, “I need to be fine, I need to be better than fine. I can’t for one moment have any doubts on my convictions!”

“Then talk to someone dammit! Surely there’s one person you’d listen to!”

“There’s—wait.”

Ecclesia rose suddenly from her chair, her gaze fixed on a dark corner of the room. She crept towards a barely visible purplish green shimmer, like a lioness waiting to pounce. In a flash she pulled out her hairpin, its form warping and extending into a familiar runic great sword. It slammed hard against the object, shattering the ethereal eye into purple and greenish bits. Ecclesia’s eyes darted around the room as she took a defensive stance. Her eyes and hands locked in unison as she slowly made her way back to her fiancé, who was also on alert. A moment passed before there was a small knock at the door.

“Elle, are you in there?” said a voice from the door.

Vicky? ” Ecclesia asked, her stern countenance softened as she shifted the blade back into a hairpin as she walked to the door, “is that you?”

“Do you know anyone else who can use an Arcane Eye within these walls? Anyways, open up already!”

Ecclesia opened the door and a young woman garbed in a silver and amethyst dress rushed in, shutting the door behind her. She had raven braided locks and deep oceanic eyes. Her frame was slight yet soft, and quite pretty even by the current company’s standards. She had an enchanting aura about her, one that was hard to pinpoint but was clearly felt. Perhaps it was her small, pouty lips, or the beauty mark just below her the corner of her left eye, or even the slight rosiness of her cheeks. Whatever it was, it had a pacifying effect on Ecclesia, a smile once again returning to her face.

A look of relief washed over the young woman’s face as she brushed few stray strands away from her face. She held a silver ring up to her eyes, her brow furrowed for a few moments before the emerald in it glowed. She clasped her free hand over it and looked up at the royal pair.

“Am I interrupting something important?”

“As usual,” Ecclesia said as she pulled in the uninvited guest into a hug, “come here you big nerd.”

“You’re one to talk, are you gonna introduce me to your lovely fiancé or should I?”

“Right,” Ecclesia said, turning back to Ameiko, her arm outstretched, as she motioned between the two ladies, “this is Vic—“

“—toria Thassil, of Absolom,” the woman said, extending a hand to Ameiko, “I’ve heard so much about you Lady Kaijitsu.”

“Vicky, she’s going to be my wife, you can tell her,” Ecclesia held a complaint back, though it wasn’t serious enough to break her grin.

“You can have the King tell her once she’s officially part of the family, until then, you know the rules,” Vicky replied, giving Ecclesia a knowing look.

“It’s… nice to meet you too Miss Thassil, it’s not often I get to meet friends of my fiancé that weren’t part of her band of heroes,” Ameiko said in a stilted tone, taking Victoria’s hand and giving it a light shake, “May I ask what brought you to this private parlor?”

Vicky felt Ameiko’s annoyance dripping from her words. “Oh, my apologies, just a rather unsavory suitor that was a bit too forward and needed to hide for a little while, Elle knows the drill,” Victoria said, as she looked upon her silver ring again, “he is a persistent little man.”

“Was it the balding fat bloke from Taldor?” Ecclesia asked.

“No, it was the impish devil-worshipper from Westcrown; said he could smell magic on me, among other things,” replied Victoria. Without prompting she walked over towards the cabinet to pour herself a drink, “Figured it was best to hide with you seeing as your aura is blindingly bright.”

“I see,” Ameiko said, resigned to the interruption as she took a long sip from her drink, “Sounds like you two go way back. As long back as her and that Endrin girl?”

“Oh! Nononono that’s not what — ,” Victoria stammered between chuckles, “— Gods no! I love Elle like a sister. Her whole ‘Queenie’ phase was without my knowledge as well Lady Kaijitsu; that I can assure you. We practically grew up together, here in the castle.”

“It wasn’t a phase,” Ecclesia protested, “You make it sound like I’m a spoiled child or something.”

“You are a spoiled child,” Vicky and Ameiko said in unison, catching them both off guard, followed by a tension breaking laugh.

“Especially considering this is your third stay in the city since your first disappearance and yet this is the first time I’m seeing you,” Vicky said, her eyes fixated on her drink.

Right ,” Ecclesia said with a somber tone, “Listen, Vicky, I didn’t mean to—“

“Its fine Elle, I know the whole story. Heck, I’ve been following your adventures since that business in Sandpoint with the goblin attack. It’ll be a bard’s tale soon enough, if it isn’t already one. Part of me regrets not going with you, but I wasn’t ready yet. I’m still not ready, but I don’t have much of a choice now.”

“I’m not sure I follow,” Ecclesia said, taking a seat next to her fiancé. Victoria took the seat opposite of them.

“Geez you really don’t think before you do anything do you. I’m being sent to stay with my father up north, something you’re responsible for, in case you’ve forgotten. Not my first choice of locales to see, but those are the cards I’ve been dealt. Tonight’s my last night in the city.”

“Oh, that business with your mother, right. I’m sorry I should have—“

“I said it was fine, Elle. Besides, I’m sick of this cramped old castle. Getting some fresh air, no matter how frigid, will be good for me. And thanks to you and yours, it’s safe for me to travel now.”

“It’s a shame you have to leave so soon,” Ameiko chimed in, “I would’ve loved to hear stories about Lea when she was little.”

“Pretty much the same as she is now, just with less plate mail. She had a habit of saving every stray animal she came across, heck I think her stray cat in Harse is still kicking around.”

“Mr. Frumpterkin’s still alive?” Ecclesia asked, her grin started to slide.

“Yeah, no thanks to you. I’ve had your aunt look after him for you as well after you left the first time. Still as blind and mean as you left him, it’s like he’s getting stronger with each passing year.”

“Sounds like I really owe you a lot,” Ecclesia said, her eyes fell toward her lap and the corners of her mouth dipped, “I’ve been a terrible friend.”

“You do and you have been. Par for the course, seeing as you never let anyone in nor are you capable of asking for help when you’re in over your head,” Vicky said, her eyes grew cold and stern as they intensely focused on Ecclesia, who was still staring into her lap, “you’re stubborn and prideful too, and by all accounts damn lucky Ameiko is long suffering and patient with you.”

“How long were you watching us?” Ecclesia said, still not meeting her gaze.

“Long enough,” Victoria said flatly, “though I didn’t need to see what I saw to know there was trouble: You’re drinking the 13 year your father drinks when he’s upset. You hate the stuff, but not as much as you hate yourself right now. Something messed you up really good out there, and you’re unsure on how to deal with it, so you’re not dealing with it. It’s not working out well.”

She took a moment to let the words sink in, a tip of her glass upon her lips before she spoke again, “How am I doing so far?”

Ecclesia’s face contorted, her mind raced for a response, a rebuttal, anything. Everything Vicky said was true, as usual, a lump in her throat burned and her lip quivered. I hate this so much is all her eyes managed to convey as tears slid down her cheeks. Ameiko held her hand, pulling it close to her, and bowed her head along with her.

“This feeling you’re feeling, remember it well. Anytime you’re not facing things head on, like you should, like you’re good at, this is where it’ll lead,” Victoria said, her eyes still fixed on Ecclesia as she took another sip. Her gaze shifted briefly in the silence toward Ameiko, who was still providing a comforting hand and who’s head was also still bowed.

Ecclesia’s tears streamed in silence, and silence hung over the room like a pall. Victoria poured herself another drink and sat across the pair. A distant sound of applause at the conclusion of the fireworks eventually broke the silence.

“You’re such a bitch sometimes you know that right?”

“Yeah, I know Elle,” Victoria said. A weak smirk tugged at the side of her mouth as she spoke. “Talking to your Knight-Captain will be good for you. She seems to know quite a bit about what you’re going through. Failing that, I’m sure someone within the Pharasmin Temple can help.”

“You both are right, of course,” Ecclesia said as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “ Gods I hate that you’re right. I’ll set an appointment first thing tomorrow morning.”

“Would you be angry with me if I said I already set one for you?” Ameiko asked.

“Normally, yes but after what I’ve been putting you through, I’m more grateful that you did so I can’t back out of it tomorrow.”

“It’s good to see I’m leaving you in capable hands, just promise me you’ll listen to her,” Victoria chimed.

“It’s in my vows for when we do get married.”

“I’ll hold you to it,” Ameiko said ribbing her softly.

“Well then, can you get me a glass of something more palatable, or are you going to make me drink this and ruin my birthday?” Ecclesia said to Victoria with a small smile.

“You did that to yourself but since I’ve already made you cry once this evening I suppose I’ll let you off easy,” Victoria said as she took the glass and replaced it with another.

Victoria took a final swig of her own cup before setting it down. She had a wry smile on her face, as she pulled out two identical boxes from a silk pouch. One was wrapped in a red and gold bow, the other silver and black.

“Now then, before I go I have something special for you both; an engagement gift.”

The pair looked at each other and smiled. “‘You shouldn’t have’ is something I would have said but honestly I’m hoping this makes up for earlier.”

“I think it will Elle; in more ways than one.”

“Can we?” Ameiko asked, sheepishly eyeing the red and gold box.

“I’d be offended if you didn’t.”

Simultaneously, they opened their gifts. Inside held strange, though nearly identical golden contraptions. At the front was a golden cylinder encased in a piano-like frame, with the lid secured by a golden swan with a single jewel at its breast; one held a ruby and the other a sapphire. A small, wind up winch attached at the rear is the only clue on its operation.

“It’s a prototype of sorts, the very first of its kind from the Enchantment Department at the Academae: an Orchestrion. I simply call it a “music box”. If you wind the winch there, it’ll start to play a ballad I’ve heard you both enjoy. The two…well, it’s probably best if I show you.”

After some instruction the two boxes stirred to life, playing harmonic chiming tune. The pair, initially discordant with one another, soon found their harmony and was in fact two halves of the same song. The gems glowed a soft scarlet and azure as the boxes played. As the song ended, Victoria continued.

“They’re attuned to each other now, so long as they are in your possession, if you play them, it’ll allow you to know the status of the other one. You can send a short message through the box as well, so long as the connection is maintained.”

“This is amazing Vicky, how did you manage this?” Ecclesia asked.

“Oh I didn’t do anything; just pulled the right people together to have this little trinket conjured up.”

She either stole it or had someone steal it… Ecclesia thought to herself. Ecclesia pushed the disappointed thought out of her mind as she gave Victoria a hug. “Thank you, I love it.”

“This is quite the interesting curiosity,” Ameiko said with a puzzled look on her face, “won’t these anger performers if anyone can conjure up music in this way?”

“Perhaps, but I doubt we’ll be seeing them out in open market very soon, dreadfully expensive to make and takes skilled craftsmanship in both the goldsmithing and enchantments involved. But don’t worry about that; enjoy the gifts for what they are: my sincere hope that you’ll have a long and happy marriage.”

“Thank you,” Ameiko said with a small smile, “for your gift and intervention earlier.”

“It’s the least I could do. As I said, we’re family in all but name, and I hope in time you’ll see me as a sister as well. As much as I would like to spend the rest of the evening here, I must return to my dreary part of the castle. I still need to pack up my things before my father comes in the morning for me. Take care of her for me, Lady Ameiko, and keep each other safe,” Victoria said as she stood up and made way for the door.

“We’ll be fine, Vicky. May the Gods watch over you on your way North. Make sure to bring extra warm clothing,” Ecclesia said, once more bringing her into a hug.

“Don’t worry, I’ll have it all covered by tomorrow. I’ll only be a way for a little while, I’m sure. I’ll be back here before you know it.”

“I’ll still miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too Elle. Have a good night.”

The parlor door swung open once more, letting Victoria slip out into the hall, leaving the royal couple alone to enjoy their new gifts.

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Greed's Fall
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 32

Coming Soon!

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Closing the Eye of Avarice
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 31

Oathday, 2 Arodus, 4734

Having decided to make camp in the chamber where they vanquished the Most High Ceoptra, the Rune Wardens drag the lamia corpses out into the next room and dump them in a pile on top of the Shemhazian demon’s body.

Amelia and Marcus inspect the huge glowing golden sphere bathed in flames, which is emitting a beam of golden light from its top. As they observe, the beam suddenly flares with green light. They determine the orb is an artifact called an anima focus that serves as a one-way connection from the material plane to another plane.

They believe that the device is filtering the greed from the souls of beings marked with a Sihedron rune and transmitting it to Karzoug’s runewell. They suspect that creatures and objects can travel there as well.

With a little nudge from Lea, Marcus recalls that in his dreams Alaznist told him that their runeforged weapons would be key to reaching Karzoug. He concludes that if they strike the anima focus with a runeforged weapon, the dominant enchantment will react with the greed magic of the artifact to tear open a two-way gate to the Eye of Avarice.

However, before they can press on, they need to rest. Flint checks in with Marcus and offers words of encouragement. Zavian’s thoughts are focused on the danger facing Nualia and Vivi, as well as his hopes for Elszevina’s redemption. Lea spends time with Ameiko, who has decided she would just be a liability in the battle with Karzoug and plans to stay behind. Reri checks to make sure that they don’t expect to need her help disarming traps.

Fireday, 3 Arodus, 4734

The planetar Ayruzi, who does not need sleep, stands watch while the party rests. When they awake, she tells them that a pair of cloud giants ventured into the adjacent chamber but took one look at the pile of bodies and then left.

As the adventurers make preparations for the attack on the Eye of Avarice, Ayruzi suddenly alerts them that they have an intruder. Leaning against a pillar to catch her breath is their old companion Astrid. She explains that she dealt with the “very angry” Thassilonian mummies in the Obelisk Forest of Mundatei, and then followed the tracks left by the giant crawling ship in order to catch up with the rest of the party.

The party quickly provides her with a Sihedron ring to protect her from the Occlusion Field. After learning that she killed a couple Cloud Giants on her way up, they quickly catch Astrid up to speed on how they have been trying to release the cloud and storm giants from domination by rune giants. They also introduce her to their allies Reri and Ayruzi, as well as those she knows—Ameiko, Flint, and Viorian.

After this surprise reunion, the adventurers prepare for the final confrontation. With Marcus having sensed Karzoug’s presence just on the other side of the anima focus, they proceed to lather on magical wards and enhancements. Marcus takes the form of a storm giant, which unsettles Astrid, while Zavian and Lea enlarge themselves with righteous might. Marcus ensures that everyone has some form of flight.

Lea, Marcus, and Zavian then all strike the golden orb with their runeforged weapons, tearing open a glowing white portal. One after the other, the Rune Wardens step through.


They find themselves on a stone platform at the mouth of a vast cavern. Behind them, a supernatural inferno blazes outside. A hundred foot drop below them ends in a pool of molten gold, and pillars of the bright hot substance fill the chamber. Two platforms overlook them to either side, with storm giants poised atop them, and a third storm giant stands on guard in front of them.

Their stone platform branches out in a Y-shape into two staircases leading up to another level where the glowing runewell sits, with a strange ring-shaped artifact mounted above it. A rune giant stands watch beside it.

At the back of the chamber is a throne on which sits Karzoug the Claimer, Runelord of Greed, with a blue dragon by his side. Karzoug complains about their tardiness.

The party hastily applies some last minute buff spells, including Marcus transforming his raven familiar Ash into an invisible white dragon. Karzoug, however, seems to flicker in place and Marcus realizes that the wizard has cast time stop. Then the meteor swarm batters them, though most of the party has been warded with some sort of fire resistance.

The fighting is vicious, with the blue dragon Jozarax blasting them with its lightning breath before getting attacked by Dragon-Ash. The storm giants on the balconies hurl lightning at the party, while the one before them strides up for a fight. Karzoug continues using his legendary abilities to batter them with spells. Amelia sends a swarm of mad monkeys to distract a storm giant.

Lea realizes that the circular device over the Runewell is infusing it with the same green energy being transmitted by the anima focus. She attacks the device, the soul lens, with her runeforged blade. This infuriates Karzoug, who banishes Lea with a maze spell.

Amelia uses hold monster to paralyze the blue dragon and send it tumbling down into the molten gold a hundred feet below. She then uses her magic flute to transform into a blue dragon herself, but is struck down. Thanks to the strange qualities of the demiplane, Zavian is able to revive her before her soul passes on.

After tearing through a storm giant, Astrid follow’s Lea’s example of going after the soul lens. The rune giant tries to stop her, and Marcus and Zavian move to defend her. Meanwhile, the blue dragon frees itself from the hold monster and rises up out of the molten gold with a shriek. Dragon-Ash sets upon the wounded foe and tears its throat out. Lea is able to use her magic to overcome the maze spell and return to the battlefield.

Astrid destroys the soul lens and Karzoug howls that while he may be trapped here, there is no escape for them. Marcus dispels the prismatic wall that Karzoug was hiding behind and the wizard starts to retreat across the chamber. Zavian cuts down the rune giant, which causes the remaining storm giants to come to their senses, collect their fallen comrade, and retreat through the portal back to the Material Plane.

Sensing Karzoug’s weakness, the Rune Wardens press the attack. They herd him into a corner and Amelia tries to pin him down with an irresistible dance, but that activates Karzoug’s contingency spell, dispelling the effect. Karzoug them uses a wish spell to restore his health and spell slots. He warns them that their fight against him had only just begun.

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Most High Ceoptra
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 30

Oathday, 2 Arodus, 4734

The Rune Wardens have hacked through the shimmering golden wall of force that surrounds the last major unexplored chamber of the Pinnacle of Avarice. Within they have found a 30-foot diameter glowing golden orb bathed in sluggish flames. A stone walkway leads up to a small platform balanced precariously atop the sphere, from which a golden beam rises up into the ceiling.

Awaiting them in the chamber is the enormous lamia harridan, the Most High Ceoptra, with the lamia matriach Rena, two lamia clerics, and a pair of cloud giant nobles. Ceoptra assures them that their journey will end here, for nothing can thwart Karzoug’s return.

Marcus is the first to act, swooping up to the massive lamia and readying a strike from his ranseur. Ceoptra responds by pouncing towards him, but is only able to swat away a few of his mirror images. Marcus’ own strikes are deflected by the Most High’s own magical defenses.

One of the lamia clerics, Shoral, casts an unholy blight on the rest of the Rune Wardens, while the other cleric Gaudib casts mirror image upon herself.

Zavian and Lea pile into the room, crossing swords with the two cloud giants by the entrance. Amelia and Ameiko start up stirring tunes, but otherwise hang back.

Ceoptra uses a legendary action to transform into a whirlwind of sand and relocates behind the glowing sphere before Marcus can follow up his tasks. Rena the lamia matriarch blasts Marcus with scorching rays, further depleting his mirror images. He responds by casting greater invisibility and stealthily approaches Rena. He wounds her severely with his ranseur.

Zavian tries dispelling the dominate effect on the cloud giants, but the magic is too strong to overcome. Amelia casts mass charm monster, affecting the giants and Rena. She urges them that it’s in their best interest to just leave the battle.

Ceoptra unleashes the spirits of her ancestors to harry Marcus’ general vicinity and summons a blade barrier across the entrance of the chamber to try to discourage her wayward minions from leaving.

With the cloud giants no longer viable targets, Lea pursues the lamia cleric Shoral, while Marcus and Zavian go after the cleric Gaudib. Rena turns herself invisible and flies out of the room. The cloud giants also make a quick exit.

Ceoptra joins Shoral in battling Lea. While the paladin’s divine defenses ward off most of their physical attacks, the lamias’ touch is draining away her psyche. Meanwhile, after Zavian dispatches Gaudib, Marcus casts greater invisibility on him as well.

Lea tries to convince Shoral to leave, but she is to frightened of Ceoptra to disobey and is cut down instead. Marcus subsequently casts greater invisibility on the paladin as well, as the three of them close in on Ceoptra. Amelia, meanwhile, uses spider climb to maneuver around the blade barrier. Ameiko is stranded outside, left only hearing the battle.

Despite the advantages of invisibility, Ceoptra drains Lea’s mind enough to send her into a coma. The Most High then turns her attentions to the invisible Zavian. The enlarged aasimar is able to hold his own against a hail of blows, as his wounds trigger various contingencies restoring him to health. The battle begins to take its toll on the lamia harridan, and she uses her whirlwind of sand ability to retreat to a distance.

Amelia finds the unconscious, invisible Lea and uses a greater restoration scroll to bring her back to consciousness. Lea uses her own magic to imbue the bard with some of her paladin abilities, effectively “deputizing” Amelia.

As the adventurers close in on Ceoptra once more, it is Amelia who delivers the killing blow with her rarely-used runeforged rapier, the Lusty Lunger of Pride.

Exhausted and badly battered, the Rune Wardens decide they must rest before pressing on to a final confrontation with Karzoug. Marcus estimates that they have two days at most to vanquish the Runelord before he loosed upon the material plane once more. Zavian rounds up the party’s allies—Flint, Reri, Viorian the Disarmed, and the planetar Ayruzi—and brings them back to the chamber to make camp.

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Guardian of the Golden Door
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 29

Oathday, 2 Arodus, 4734

With their allies Flint, Reri, Viorian and Ayruzi sheltering in the lamia quarters, the Rune Wardens set out to investigate the other half of the Pinnacle of Avarice.

They discover a series of now-defunct stasis chambers, over 30 of them, that previously held Rune Giants. Recognizing that they had only even seen a total of four such giants, the adventurers are concerned about where the rest could be.

They also discover a glowing golden portal set into a a south-facing wall. Marcus determines that it is a one-way portal that sends those who enter it somewhere else in Xin-Shalast. Lea is initially excited at the thought that it could be a backdoor to Karzoug, but is disappointed to learn that the portal does not send someone to another plane. The party decides to leave any further investigation of the portal until later.

Exploring among the stasis chambers, they find a triangular-shaped one that is human-sized, which Khalib the First Apprentice had been using as his bedroom. Marcus seizes his spellbooks, while Zavian finds the remains of Khalib’s dealings with the ice devil Gamigin and the contract devil Belawara.

The corridors of stasis chambers suddenly open out into a much larger room, featuring a 20-foot golden statue of Karzoug, poised as if he was holding something. Across the room from the statue is a stone pagoda-like structure. On the far side of the cavernous space are two enormous golden doors which shimmer behind a golden energy field.

The room itself is guarded by a gargantuan Shemhazian demon, a bestial fiend that combines the worst aspects of a bear, a mantis, a wolf, and a reptilian humanoid. Two vulture-like vrock demons perch on the stone pagodas and quickly take flight as the party enters view.

The vrocks position themselves to bottleneck the party in the corridor, where Marcus braces against attack and Lea grants her smite ability to the party. Everyone smites the Shemhazian immediately. Lea also uses righteous might to increase her size. Amelia uses hold monster to snare one of the vrocks in place.

Ameiko attempts to charm the other vrock, but it resists her spell. It then swoops into the corridor among the party and then unleashes a cloud of abyssal spores that latch onto Marcus, Zavian, Lea and Ameiko.

The Shemhazian lumbers to the threshold of the corridor and sends his paralytic gaze into the band of heroes. Marcus and Zavian are able to resist, but Lea succumbs. The enormous demon then slides forward and lashes out at the helpless paladin with a carefully aimed strike from his unnaturally long tail. But by the grace of the Inheritor, she is spared from this coup de grace.

The vrock that Amelia had held breaks free of her magic and flies over the bulk of the Shemhazian to join the fray. Amelia uses hold monster on the second vrock, causing it to tumble from the sky and land on Ameiko.

Zavian recalls the dangers and weaknesses of the the demons facing them, and then lashes out at the nearby vrock with his flaming scimitar. Marcus lays into the Shemhazian with his ranseur, causing terrible wounds but leaving the monster still thirsty for battle. Lea answers that by charging forward and hacking into him with her greatsword, slicing through his leathery hide.

Ameiko rolls out from under the paralyzed vrock and lines up a crossbow shot at point blank range, delivering her own coup de grace, which kills it. The vrock’s body vanishes immediately, revealing that it was a temporarily summoned creature. Amelia uses her frightening tune to terrify the other vrock into fleeing. As it flutters past them, the giant-sized Marcus and Lea tear it to pieces with their weapons. It’s body, too, disappears.

The Shemhazian casts a necrotic spell that injures the party, but they resist its full effects. The creature then falls back into the chamber and Zavian gives pursuit, deftly flying around the enormous demon to attack it from behind. The Shemhazian responds by whirling around to deliver a barrage of bites, claws, and tail swipes, but none can get through the aasimar’s armor or his divine protections.

Lea’s giant-sized form dashes forward, scrambling up the back of the greater demon to drive her sword through it’s head. The gargantuan body slumps forward and lies still, revealing that the Shemhazian was not a temporary summon, but a permanent guardian bound to this place.

The Rune Wardens investigate the area, concluding that the stone pagoda and its contents were part of some sort of symbolic ritual to prepare Karzoug for his long sleep, but which hold no items of value. Zavian recognizes an opportunity with the demon corpse and fetches Reri, who had been tailing the party from a distance while invisible.

Belawara assumes control of Reri temporarily to inspect the Shemhazian’s body, determining that it is Sumesha of the Enduring Swarm. He was among the armies of the demon lord Deskari spilling out of the Worldwound. There is a sizable bounty on him in the Nine Hells, and Zavian suggests she turn that in to try to buy off her enemies there. Belawara takes Sumesha’s eyeteeth as confirmation of the kill, stowing them in Reri’s bag of holding.

The former contract devil then beckons Zavian over to a corner, where she thanks him again for his help. Concerned that he might need her assistance later, without risking Reri’s mortal form, she whispers her true name to him so he can summon her with a typical planar binding spell. She says that this is an act of incredible trust, and he commends her for taking this step down the path towards Good. Reri then resumes control of herself and agrees to shadow the party invisibly for a little while longer, in case they need her assistance.

Marcus examines the glimmering field over the golden doors at the far side of the chamber. It is the same type of the field that Zavian had observed through the wall earlier. After a brief debate on the best method for bringing it down, they agree to rend it with their weapons, which takes several minutes.

The Rune Wardens fling open the golden doors, revealing a room dominated by a 30-foot glowing orb wreathed in flames. Protecting the orb are two cloud giants, two lamias, the lamia matriarch Rena, and the Most High Ceoptra. The high priestess assure them that their journey will end here.

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The Leng Device
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 28

Oathday, 2 Arodus, 4734

Having freed the planetar Ayruzi from her binding, the Rune Wardens decide to have her take Flint, Reri, and Viorian to safety in the Fen of the Ice Mists to wait out the battle with Karzoug. The giant, green-skinned angel picks up Flint and Viorian in each arm, with Reri hanging onto her back, and then departs through Mokmurian’s Door.

From there, the party presses on to investigate the strange noises that Zavian heard while on watch, which Lea is certain comes from the Leng Device. However, they are first confronted by another manifestation of Karzoug, who wastes no time blasting them with a cone of cold. They quickly use their runeforged weapons close the reality rift he was appear through.

Pressing on, the adventurers find the Aklo Doors — two giant-sized doors made of black stone and covered with squiggly silver writing an alien tongue. Expecting a fight, Lea takes on her greater angelic aspect. But when she and Amelia read the Aklo runes on the doors, the whole party is drawn into a nightmare maze on Leng. Amelia quickly deduces a safe route out and leads the others back to the material plane.

Recognizing that they lack the means to disable the magical trap on the door. Zavian draws on his connection to Belawara to recall Ayruzi and the others. Reri shows up to disarm the trap. Belawara briefly peers out from behind her eyes to wink at Zavian. The tiefling takes her time, and with a bit of magical help she is able to disable it. Lea suggests that Reri wait with Ayruzi and the others by Mokmurian’s Door, in case the party has further need of their services.

The Rune Wardens open the Aklo Doors, revealing a chamber with strange devices all connected to a large stone ring at the opposite end. The ring shimmers with magical energy. Occasionally, the field shows a view of the cityscape of Xin-Shalast as it appeared 10,000 years ago—a window through time.

A dozen yellow-turbaned denizens of Leng are hard at work on the device, largely ignoring the party. The denizen closest to the door insists that its fellows have no interesting in opposing the party’s mission against Karzoug.

The Rune Wardens are more skeptical, even as the denizen protests that the Leng Device has been altered to no longer serve Karzoug’s purposes. Zavian notes that he is picking his words carefully, as if trying to talk around awkward truths. Lea refuses to back down from her divine mission to disable the Leng Device.

Marcus, meanwhile, has invisibly infiltrated the room and unleashes a slow spell that ensnares half the denizens. The denizens tear away their veils, revealing their true, insectile features. They claw and bite at Marcus and Lea, the two closest targets, but make not headway against the adventurer’s armor. Lea’s angelic form also shields all those near her from the denizen’s magic.

Marcus lobs a freezing orb into their midst, which wounds some of them but reveals that the creatures are highly resistant to cold damage. Zavian moves in and slashes one with Sunspark, revealing that they have no such resilience to fire. Amelia and Ameiko start up bardic songs, with Amelia lobbing glitterdust at a pair of the creatures, blinding one.

Each time that one of the denizens dies, the Leng Device pulses with energy, the image of Xin-Shalast grows more distorted, and the device gives off a high pitched whine. Amelia uses dimension door to get closer to the device to inspect it. She deduces that the denizens have some sort of supernatural link to the machine, and their deaths are damaging it somehow.

Marcus unleashes a carefully sculpted fireball, while Zavian calls down a holy light that blinds many of the creatures. Lea and the others continue cutting through the thoroughly outmatched denizens. But the paladin insists on leaving the last one alive to interrogate first.

With the whine from the machine having become a shriek, the rest of the Rune Wardens retreat from the room. Zavian makes sure to scoop out the denizen bodies using wall of stone so the party can loot them. Each is carrying 1,000gp in various gems.

Lea questions the remaining denizen about the Leng Device and he explains that Karzoug commissioned it 10,000 years ago to serve as a time portal that could transport his army from the glory days of Thassilon to the present. However, the denizens have subtly re-purposed the machine to aid them in their war against the Leng spiders.

The denizen refuses to discuss the true purpose of the device, so Lea hurls him into the shimmering energy field. This causes a small explosion of force energy that injures both of them. After giving him one last chance to come clean, Lea drags him out of the room and closes the Aklo Doors behind her. Then she executes him.

The Leng Device reaches a crescendo and holds it for a minute. Then there is a loud bang, followed by an otherworldly howl that Lea immediately recognizes. An enormous hound of Tindalos, the Thing from Beyond Time, bursts through the doors.

It slashes at Lea with its claws and she responds by granting the entire party the ability to smite it. Lea and Marcus lay into it with their weapons, causing horrific wounds, but it is Amelia’s thundering drums spell that deals the final blow.

Marcus inspects the now inoperable Leng Device. As a major artifact, it can’t be destroyed in such a crude fashion, but it has been rendered inert until someone repairs it. Marcus is able to determine that the device was indeed some sort of time portal, but it had been subtly altered to focus on a period of time eons ago. The Rune Wardens wrack their brains, but can’t imagine what specific purpose this might serve the denizens of Leng.

With the device out of action, the adventurers backtrack to the lamia quarters. Per Flint’s advice, they stay out of the attached prison section where a bound Astradaemon, Chernog, serves as guardian. Instead, they search the lamia common room, sleeping hall, and the quarters of the Most High Ceoptra.

They learn that Ceoptra was having one of her matriachs, Rena, quietly spy on Khalib. Marcus finds a minor magic item that got lost in the folds of a blanket, and Zavian discovers Ceoptra’s hidden stash of treasure. Ceoptra herself appears to worship the philosophical concept of greed, as well as venerating her ancestors.

As they complete their looting, Zavian is contacted via sending by his girlfriend Nualia: “Zavian, Lamashtu cultists have taken Vivi to Thistletop. They want me to offer myself as trade or they’ll kill her. I have two days. Help?”

Zavian replies to tell her he will send help and come as soon as he can. He then uses sending to ask the paladin Chammady to send the Sworn Swords to help Nualia. Chammady replies that she will send a small team in order to get there in time, and asks Zavian to Lea that they are also trying to reach Seleval.

The Rune Wardens then turn towards the central hallway to explore the other half of the Pinnacle of Avarice.

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Caged Angels and Disbarred Devils
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 27

Oathday, 2 Arodus, 4734

Zavian convinces Elszevina to abandon her thirst for vengeance against Belawara and instead seek out her own lost testament from the Book of Light and Truth. She leaves to track down the celestials Ilmiring and Maliek, but before she does she tells Zavian that there is another one being kept here against her will. He can find this person at Mokmurian’s Door, and is warned that she doesn’t talk much.

Realizing that he missed much of the battle trying to talk down an angry erinyes, Zavian rushes over to help restore Marcus to consciousness. Once Zavian and Amelia have healed the party, the aasimar decides to try to question Chellan the Sword of Greed about Karzoug’s whereabouts. Although he is able to master the sword, it is not interested in speaking with him. Lea has no better luck and they put the sword away.

The Rune Wardens decide to investigate the room that the Rune Giantess had emerged from during the battle. Flint says that it leads to a Rune Giant barracks.

First, however, the come across an antechamber. They sense a strange hum in their Runeforged weapons, and Karzoug manifests in front of them. He casts a spell at Amelia, but her runeforged rapier deflects the spell and the party piles onto him. Using their weapons, they seal away the rent in reality he was appearing through.

Marcus and Zavian examine the fading magical aura and concludes that Karzoug cannot control where these distortions appear. They determine that they can detect the location of these sites, and seal them with their weapons even if Karzoug doesn’t appear.

They find and plunder the Rune Giant barracks. The party decides to camp here and use the nap stack spell to rest for just a couple of hours. Zavian is on watch and hears some strange sounds coming from the opposite side of the throne room. The whistling of wind, and the faint sound of someone hammering and speaking an alien language.

He can also feel several very large creatures moving around in the chamber next door. When he tries to use magic to peer inside, his vision is blocked by a shimmering field that is embedded withing the stone wall of the chamber.

Meanwhile, Lea has a pleasant dream of reuniting with Ameiko in Korvosa, after the Karzoug business is taken care of. The dream is interrupted by a cackling, three-eyed jackal, who has a message from Lamashtu: while Lea is distracted questing after Karzoug, her loved ones will perish as recompense for her offenses against the demon goddess.

Relaxing on one of the Rune Giant beds, the enlarged Marcus goes to sleep wondering about why Karzoug and Alaznist have such animosity towards each other. The question follow him into his dreams, until he finally poses it to a mural of Alaznist he finds within the Runeforge. The mural comes to life and answers his questions. Alaznist also tells him that accessing Karzoug’s hidden sanctum will require cutting it open with their Runeforged weapons, or embracing fire. But it is important that when they go through, they go through simultaneously.

Marcus awakens with this nugget of advice, though he is not sure whether he was speaking to the real Alaznist. Lea, meanwhile, awakens very concerned and asks Zavian if he is able to use sending spells to warn Ameiko and Seleval. The cleric does not have those prepared, and instead summons the trumpet archon Ilmiring to serve as a messenger.

Zavian and Lea realize that Nualia could be in danger as well. As much discussion, Lea asks Ilmiring to retrieve Ameiko from the Fen of the Ice Mists and bring her to the party if possible, or take her to Korvosa otherwise. Next, Ilmiring is to warn Seleval in Korvosa, and then travel to Sandpoint to alert Nualia.

While the celestial takes flight, Zavian settles in for his two hours of required rest. The others prepare their spells and ready themselves for the day ahead. Marcus studies the golden energy field in the wall that Zavian alerted him to. He concludes it was a powerful, self-regenerating wall of force placed by Karzoug. Because it was made with rune magic, their runeforged weapons should be able to cut through it. Marcus realizes that whatever is in that chamber must be incredibly important.

Meanwhile, Zavian’s dreams take him on a trip down memory lane with Elszevina, Belawara, and finally Nualia. After she steps out of their cabin aboard the Maiden’s Folly to get some air, Zavian hears a knock at the door. It is Belawara, the contract devil, manifesting in his dreams. She gives him the corpse of a three-eyed jackal, which had been jabbering about something bad happening to Nualia. Zavian mentally files the body away for later.

He notices that Belawara is nervous and she admits that the way things went down with Elszevina were not what she had expected. He seems to have avoided any negative consequences for that part of his contract while simultaneously undoing Belawara’s greatest triumph by freeing Elszevina. This has effectively destroyed her career within the infernal hierarchy, and she ends up vomiting out all her contracts, which turn to ash.

Zavian offers her a place in Sarenrae’s following, and she grudgingly accepts his outstretched hand, committing to …something. For now though, she plans to take up residence as a guest in Reri’s head, with the tiefling’s permission.

Sometime after Zavian awakes, Ilmiring returns with Ameiko. Lea insists that the safest place for her right now is at her side. The trumpet archon, meanwhile, heads off to her next task.

With the party assembled, they decide to explore in the direction of the whistling wind and alien voices. Ameiko will follow along with the party, but Flint, Reri, and Viorian will hang back. Viorian still needs to people to watch her, as she remains obsessed with recovering the sword Chellan.

Advancing down a hallway, the party senses another reality distortion. Karzoug begins to manifest to taunt them, but they are already upon him with their weapons and seal the tear.

Passing by the lamia quarters for now, they press on and investigate the chamber with whistling wind. Inside is a planetar with a tear-stained face, who confronts them. They struggle to communicate with her, as she won’t speak, but eventually she manages to convey via pantomime that they need to cut her down so she can rise up again.

This they proceed to do, with Zavian, Marcus, and Lea laying into her. After the planetar collapses, her regenerative abilities (with some help from healing magic) revive her. She is now free of Khalib’s planer binding spell and introduces herself as Ayruzi. She offers the party her services and they ask her to help escort Flint, Reri, and Viorian to safety.

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Nevermore
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 26

Oathday, 2 Arodus, 4734

As the tower trembles with giant footsteps from the hallway, the Rune Wardens hastily buff themselves for another battle. Flint and Reri drag the hand-less Viorian Dekanti into the southeast corner of the bejeweled throne room, out of sight of the hall door.

An angry rune giant charges into the entryway and blasts them with a shower of glowing red sparks from his forehead. Zavian creates a wall of stone beneath his feet on an incline, causing the massive creature to stumble forward onto his face. Marcus deactivates his form of the statue in order to stab at the giant with his ranseur, to no effect, and retreats back into statue shape. More giants can be heard in the hall.

There is also a creepy clattering sound that heralds the arrival of a horrific spider creature climbing along the ceiling. Zavian identifies it as a bebelith, a demon-hunting predator from the abyss. Ignoring the Marcus statue, it goes straight for Zavian. He manages to hold off its initial attack, barely, but knows that if the creature can get its claws in it can peel him out of his armor in the blink of an eye.

The bebelith is followed by a succubus, who swoops into the room and approaches Amelia flirtaciously. She taps the bard on the shoulder and a flare of green necrotic energy drains away a chunk of life force.

After granting smite to everyone in the area, Lea lays into the rune giant at her feet, as it swats at her ineffectually with its enormous longsword. Amelia, wounded from the rune giant’s shower of sparks, pulls out her flute and transforms into a large blue dragon. The succubus is disappointed with the makeover.

A voice calls out from down the corridor: “You have been a thorn in my master’s side for too long. Now I, Khalib, First Apprentice to Karzoug, will defeat you!”

Lea spies an Azlanti man in purple and gold robes peer out from around the corner of the hallway. He flicks a red bead into the room, where it hovers in mid air. Then he commands his “darling” to go slay the intruders.

Swooping past him is a fearsome fallen angel with burning wings and eyes of hellfire. Elszevina goes straight for Zavian, telling him she has spent centuries longing for his comeuppance. She cuts into him with an archon sword blackened by hellfire.

That’s when Khalib’s delayed blast fireball goes off, scorching Amelia and Marcus. The blast has no effect on the rune giant, the bebelith, the succubus, and Elszevina. However, the blast does conveniently dislodge the contract from Elszevina’s armor and Zavian is able to reflexively snatch it.

At the back of the room, Flint peers around the corner at the fray and sends several arrows at the rune giant, the bebelith and at Elszevina.

Then the doors of the northeast corner of the throne room burst open, as a rune giantess emerges from the barracks there. She charges into the fray and swings at Lea. Her male counterpart rises and tries to bull rush Lea back towards his ally, but she is rooted in place.

The cloud giants in the hallway close in. The Countess Zatrya, who the Rune Wardens encountered before, steps into the threshold of the chamber. She swings her morning star at Zavian. The two other cloud giants hang back and one of them summons a fog cloud to obscure the battle from Flint.

Marcus briefly reverts from statue to flesh in order to allow Ash to depart. The raven familiar flies up to Khalib, who unsuccessfully tries to bat it away. Ash smites the First Apprentice and then delivers the ghoul touch spell that he was carrying. The hapless wizard is paralyzed as Ash lands on his shoulder.

Zavian apologizes to Elszevina and promises to save her. She tells him he’s a couple hundred years too late. He doesn’t understand at first, but realizes that time passes differently in the outer planes. The fallen archon spent much longer in hell’s clutches than he had thought.

Before continuing the conversation, Zavian focuses on the spider-like bebelith. He dices it up with a fearsome series of blows from his scimitar and metal wings. The remains vanish, revealing it to be a summoned creature.

Out in the hallway, Ash tells the paralyzed Khalib that “Ash is a good bird. Ash is blessed by Iomedae.”

The raven then drives its smite-empowered beak into the helpless wizard’s jugular. As Khalib bleeds out from this coup de grace, Ash quoths to him “Nevermore. Nevermore.”

In the throne room, the succubus uses her vampiric touch again on Dragon-Amelia. The transformed bard responds by tearing the succubus limb from limb, which the demon is not concerned by since she will simply return to the Abyss. Her remains likewise vanish.

Elszevina slashes at Zavian furiously with her hellblade, long years of pent up rage unleashed with each stroke. Zavian parries the first three swings, but the fourth cuts into him again. He responds with a flurry of attacks, flaming scimitar against hellblade, metal wings against burning wings. Zavian gets the better of the exchange and Elszevina is left badly wounded.

Lea unleashes a wave of attacks against the male rune giant, ultimately striking him down after an honorable fight. With his death, the two cloud giants in the hall come to their senses and flee. The Countess, however, remains. She steps forward to attack Dragon-Amelia.

Shouts and screams come from the back of the room, where the fog obscures something attacking Flint, Reri and Viorian.

Lea is too caught up fighting the female rune giant to investigate. So Marcus flies over and discovers that three bloated abominations known as hungerers have emerged from the lamia quarters. The monsters are attacking his father and their friends. Marcus blasts the creatures with an orb of frost, and they start cooing and salivating over him.

Elszevina, meanwhile, tells Zavian they can settle their score some other day. She prepares to teleport away, but Zavian calls on her to stay. He manages to persuade her not to flee, and instead she falls into a defensive stance, blood seeping from a dozen smoking wounds.

Dragon-Amelia finally manages to dispell the dominate enchantment on the Countess, who turns on the female rune giant. It is Lea who ultimately delivers the killing blow after an honorable battle.

Marcus does not fair as well. Turns out that the hungerers can fly, and they swoop up to him to drain away his willpower until he falls into a coma. Lea, Amelia, and Flint are left to finish the creatures off.

The Countess bids the party farewell, extending an invitation to her realm of Skyreach Castle. The Rune Wardens begin patching themselves up as they debate whether to rest up before pressing further.

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A Hands Off Approach
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 25

Oathday, 2 Arodus, 4734

The Rune Wardens have entered a lavishly decorated throne room. At the far end of the chamber, the mercenary captain Viorian Dekanti stands in gleaming golden armor, the cursed sword Chellan in her hand. Three storm giant warriors stand a health distance apart from her. And near the jeweled throne is Marcus’ father Flint, a bow in hand.

Flint shoots first, launching a volley of arrows into Marcus (and a couple into the green-haired storm giantess nearby). He denounces his likeness as crummy, and calls him a son of a bitch. Marcus is hurt by the insult.

Viorian moves up with supernatural speed and and takes cover behind a pillar. The male storm giant advances and unleashes a blast of chain lightning. The two lady giants hang back but unleash their own lightning blasts.

Marcus goes down, gasping “I’m sorry.” Flint is troubled by the sight, the charm effect on him weakening. Weird glowing motes linger around Marcus’ body. The tiefing rogue Reri also crumples unconscious to the ground.

Zavian rushes over to give Marcus’ giant-sized body the breath of life. The half-elf inhales the strange glowing motes and is healed back to full.

Marcus gets up and dimension doors over to Flint and the green-haired storm giantess. Flint considers but chooses not to attack him. Flint acknowledges that he may have made a huge mistake.

Amelia strikes up an inspiring tune and tries to cast dispel magic on one of the giants, but is unable to break the domination effect on them.

Lea channels positive energy to heal everyone but Marcus, bringing Reri back up. She gives everyone except Marcus smite and then advances towards Viorian, calling her out. The golden warrior beckons her forward.

Lamia matriarchs slide down the pillars onto the battlefield. One of them is Anshar, the ex-gladiator that Malakah vouched for. Lea persuades Anshar not to intervene in her duel. The other lamia refuses and tries unsuccessfully to attack. Another pair of lamia matriarchs drop down near Marcus and turn invisible, though he can still see them thanks to his permanent see invisibility.

Reri gets up and uses her shield to obscure herself and stealth.

Viorian unleashes a torrent of strikes at Lea. While only a few get through her defenses the paladin is pushed onto the back foot.

Flint formally switches sides, dashes over to the throne, and takes out the black lamia with a volley of arrows.

The jolly green giantess lays into Marcus with her greatsword. It doesn’t go well for him. The male storm giant moves up to take a sword to Zavian but can’t get through his defenses. The purple haired giantess goes after Flint, badly injuring him.

Zavian dispels the domination effect on the male storm giant, whose demeanor immediately changes.

Marcus uses illusion magic to place an illusory duplicate standing over his dad while turning invisible himself.

Amelia hits the green-haired giantess and one of the invisible lamias with glitter dust. They look fabulous.

Lea unloads a devastating strike on Viorian Dekanti, badly wounding her. The adventurers have discerned that she has been imbued with power from Karzoug, which has made her supernaturally tough but also left her vulnerable to their dominant runeforged weapons.

Viorian reacts by wounding Lea with a sudden strike from her sword.

The invisible lamia matriarchs move up to cast healing spells on their champion, to Lea’s displeasure. Anshar continues to sit this one out.

Reri tries to stab Viorian, but is foiled by her cloak of displacement.

Viorian presses the attack, leaving Lea on death’s door.

Also not doing great is Flint, who fires another volley at the purple haired giantess bearing down on him and the illusory Marcus.

The green-haired giantess realizes the illusion and is stabbed by the invisible Marcus. She calls out a warning to her companion, who hacks at Flint, but only manages to damage the throne and lose her weapon.

The male giant simply flees now that he is no longer dominated.

Zavian battles with the sparkly lamia, bringing her down.

Viorian slashes at Lea to no effect.

Marcus animates the sword, the chair, and various small items around the room. The chair goes after green hair, the sword goes after purple hair, and the little items go after the invisible lamia.

Amelia again tries and fails to dispel the domination from the purple haired giantess.

Viorian uses a magical sword attack against Lea, who cheats death thanks to her goddess’ blessing. Lea then lops off both of Viorian’s hands.

The invisible lamia matriarch attempts to cast a spell, fails, and makes a break for it. Anshar quietly urges Lea to finish her foes.

Reri begins to treat the shocked Viorian and prevents her from feebly chasing after the cursed sword. Flint uses this opportunity to retreat towards the rest of the party.

Marcus fires scorching rays at the fleeing invisible lamia, wounding but not killing her.

The giantesses tear up their animated harassers. Zavian dispels the dominate effect on green hair, confident that it’s the right move. Amelia frees the purple haired giantess. The storm giants flee.

Zavian helps Reri stabilize Viorian and bind up her wounds. Lea permits Anshar to leave, still unconquered.

Flint apologizes to Marcus and catches him up to speed. The party is made aware of the available exit options as they heal up and hastily loot the bodies. They are also warned that rune giant is sleeping in the adjacent chamber. And they hear giant-sized footsteps approaching from the hall outside…

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Runelord Interrupted
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 24

Oathday, 2 Arodus, 4734

The party scopes out the spires on Mhar Massif. All signs point them towards the Pinnacle of Avarice, the enormous tower just below the mountain peak.

Inside, they fight four cloud giants. After killing one, Amelia and Zavian liberate the others from domination using dispel magic. The giants ask them to free their compatriot, the Countess Zatrya, and provide intelligence on the the Pinnacle.

The adventurers come across a spectral manifestation of Karzoug in a closet. Amelia shuts the door on his monologue and they move on.

They unlock the doors to the interior of the tower complex. Karzoug manifests in the hallway and says “You little shits didn’t let me finish!” and tosses a fireball at them.

The adventurers drive their Runeforged blades into his spectral image, dispelling it.

They move to investigate a pair of golden doors to the west. Inside, they find Karzoug’s throne room. It is guarded by Viorian Dekanti, three storm giants, and Flint.

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