Rise of the Runelords

Nevermore
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 26

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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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Pride and Glory
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 23

Moonday, 30 Erastus, 4734

The Rune Wardens are divided following the Lamia Temple rescue, with most of the party having retreated to the Fen of the Ice mists while Marcus, Grenja and Reri sought shelter in the ruined city.

Inside the rope trick, Marcus is awoken by the silent alert of his alarm spell being triggered. He seizes his ranseur and rushes into the common room. Reri has also awoken and stands in the door opposite, carrying her rapier and wearing her small clothes. The door to Grenja’s room hangs half open and they can hear rustling of clothes within.

Of most immediate concern, however, are the two enormous hands gripping the edges of the portal in the center of the room. Two big,, white-furred yetis launch themselves into the extradimensional space of the rope trick.

One of them manages to claw Marcus even as he jabs it with his ranseur. Cold energy clings to the creature and cuts into Marcus’ wound. The injury triggers his contingency spell and suddenly seven other Marcus mirror images fill the chamber. The other yeti hurls itself at Reri, slamming her against a wall and clawing her savagely. Meanwhile, a third yeti begins climbing into the room.

Marcus responds by tossing a fireball into the confined space, sculpting the spell so it would not harm him or his companions. He realizes immediately that the yetis are vulnerable to fire and tosses another quickened blast. It burns the head off the third yeti, who tumbles back down into the prime material plane, where more of his companions are preparing to climb into the rope trick.

Grenja emerges from her room, holding her pants up with one hand. She grabs the head of the yeti mauling Reri and slams it against the wall several times.

“Get your hands off me, you damned dirty ape!” the tiefling calls out, jamming her rapier through the creature’s throat. Her voice has a strange accent to it and Marcus notices for the first time that Reri’s eyes, normally pure black, are instead glowing yellow.

Before he can inquire, the remaining badly-burned yeti tries to push one of the Marcuses down through the portal. He chooses poorly, and a mirror image winks out. Marcus spears him and dumps his body through the portal like a big fluffy hay bale. The remain yetis below flee in panic.

Marcus and Grenja ask after Reri, whose eyes quickly return to normal. She suspects this was another case of Belawara looking after her, though the thought of the contract devil possessing her in her sleep is never reassuring.

Grenja apologizes for having allowed the yetis to get so close—she had stepped away from her post to take a piss. The frost giantess gives Reri one of her potions of cure serious wounds to help patch her up and the two stay on guard duty for the rest of the night while Marcus returns to sleep.

In the Fen of the Ice Mists, the rest of the Rune Wardens prepare a simple dinner. Worry over the fate of their three companions casts a pall over the whole evening.

Lea approaches Nenet and Malakah; the former continues to ride on the latter’s back and the two have been whispering non-stop since escaping the temple. Lea offers to help with Nenet’s injured feet, but learns that it will take a regenerate spell to regrow the claws, which the lamia priestess plans to cast tomorrow.

Nenet asks what Lea’s intentions are. The paladin explains the situation. Nenet can join Malakah, Seleval, and Zaelsar in Korvosa, where she can live in peace and safety, for all time but only if she abandons cannibalism, renounces Lamashtu, and pledges her service.

The lamia priestess asks Lea if she would ever give up her faith for a similar offer, noting that the Mother of Monsters has protected her for over two hundred years. The two debate whose goddess was truly responsible for Nenet’s rescue. Lea tells her that if Nenet cannot agree to the bargain, she is free to leave so long as she pledges not to harm any innocents in Varisia. The paladin gives her until the morning to think it over.

A concerned Malakah quickly begins conversing with Nenet in frantic whispers.

That night, Zavian awakes to find himself standing on a floating meadow in Nirvana, the sky around him lit by the golden glow of dawn. The sky behind him brightens suddenly as the glow manifests as the goddess Sarenrae.

She questions him about his decision to bargain with Belawara once again, and warns him of the grave dangers in dealing with fiends. But she also notes that the great risks sometime produce great rewards. It may be possible save not just Elszevina, but Belawara, too. For if angels call fall, so too are devils able to rise.

Sarenrae also tells Zavian that there are other lost souls in need of rescue or redemption in the Spires of Xin-Shalast. But she warns him that those who reject the chance to atone and remain committed to their evil ways must be met with sword and fire. She kisses him on the forehead and bids him farewell with her blessing.

Back in camp, Lea has used the keep watch spell to stay alert and on guard in camp that night. She is able to take in the quiet beauty of the Fen of the Ice Mists, lit by the shimmering northern lights that flicker between the looming shadows of the Kodar Mountains that ring the valley. Although the camp is largely quiet, Lea can hear the two lamias having a sometimes intense conversation that runs late into the night.

Toilday, 31 Erastus, 4734

The next morning, Marcus uses shadow walk to reunite his group with the party. Lea patches up Reri with a quick lay on hands.

Nenet emerges from her tent, regenerates her missing toenails, and transforms into her lamia body to stretch her new-grown claws. After casting a long look at Malakah, she approaches Lea and grudgingly announces that she will take the deal. She can’t bear to be parted from Malakah, who came back for her, something her own family would not have done.

Lea says that Malakah is her family now, and asks that she cut her ties to Lamashtu. Nenet formally renounces her faith, stirring an ill wind that sweeps through the camp. The Osirioni lamia is visibly distraught, and Malakah rushes up to comfort her. Lea also assures her that they will find a suitable new patron for her, with help from Zaelsar and Seleval.

Grenja also takes this opportunity to announce that she can’t continue on to the Spires, lest she fall under the sway of another Rune Giant. Being bound to its commands, and then Amelia’s, was a disturbing experience. Amelia apologizes for any discomfort she caused, and Grenja assures her she bears no ill will as it was necessary.

The frost giantess plans to join Reri’s mercenary company after Viorian Dekanti is recovered, and could wait in the Fen for them to return. Lea proposes to take Grenja back to Korvosa with them, where she will be a royal guest.

After confirming that this what Grenja wants, Marcus fulfills his promise of permanently reducing her to human(ish) size, and casts a similar spell on her armor. He tells her that if the magic is ever dispelled, she should seek him out and he will re-cast it. Grenja is now a 6’9", 260 pound blue-skinned woman made of muscle, but is overjoyed at being permanently a "normal’ size.

Zavian uses word of recall to take Grenja, Lea and the lamias to Korvosa, while Marcus remains behind with Amelia and Ameiko. The wizard spends his day mounting the ballista upgrade onto his wagon.

Upon arriving in Korvosa, the others head for the Cathredal of Iomedae. Zavian checks in on his friend Ser Arlynn “Ajay” Jalento, who he finds in the training yard. She’s finally out of probation for going rogue to rescue her brother and other captives of the stone giants. But she is getting tired of being cooped up in the city.

Gesturing to the statue of Ser Arlynn Farima, she notes she has a lot to live up to. Zavian suspects that her father Lord Jalento might be using his influence to keep her here in the city and promises to pull some strings to get her reassigned to protecting the Nyah Trail from slave catchers.

Lea seeks out Laori Vaus, who is holding office hours to discuss preparations for tomorrow’s festival of Iomedae’s Ascendance. The paladin presents the two lamias and Laori promises to get them quartered in the church dormitory. She’s sure they’ll get along fine, as long as they don’t eat anybody.

They find Seleval and Zaelsar conversing in the dormitory common room. Seleval is wearing a high-collared black doublet with her gold and black crest embroidered over the left breast, and matching black breeches.

Zaelsar continues to dress in revealing and provocative white silks, with red body paint decorating her exposed flesh. One noteworthy difference, however, is the rainbow-colored Shelynite holy symbol hanging around her neck.

They rise to greet the new arrivals, with Seleval excited to see Lea again and overjoyed at Malakah’s return. The introduction of Nenet is a little cooler, but Seleval quickly tasks Zaelsar with getting her settled. The two will be bunking together until new room assignments are made.

Lea promises to view one of Zaelsar’s exhibits the next time she is in town, seeing as how she is the lamia’s “royal patron.” For her part, Zaelsar drops her typical cynical attitude and thanks Lea for this opportunity to make a fresh start, as she is truly enjoying her life as an artist and a Shelynite. She leads Nenet away, telling her she has some ideas for alternate patron deities.

Seleval admits that she never expected to be in charge of a whole pride of lamias, but that seems to be what’s happened. Lea reaffirms that as her knight, Seleval is calling the shots, and suggests that she might make the pride into something more official, like an order. This pleases Seleval to no end.

Malakah, meanwhile, is excited to squire for Seleval and eventually become a knight herself. Seleval says that she is preparing to complete her atonement so that she can channel Iomedae’s power in this world.

Never one to pass up a good opportunity, Zavian asks to see the holy avenger that is stored in Korvosa to defend the city against Sorshen’s return. It takes a little doing, but he is eventually given a tour of the Cathedral vault by Ser Chammady of the Sworn Swords.

She lands her celestial owl griffin in the cloister courtyard. Chammady gives Lea some words of encouragement in how she is handling the fight against Karzoug, as well as the value of the lamia recruits.

Chammady then takes Zavian into the secure sanctum of the cathedral, guarded by paladins at all hours and into a small circular vault. Alcoves store sacred relics and other items, all under the watchful eye of four columns carved in the shape of angelic warriors, which Zavian suspects to be caryatid constructs.

The sword itself, Mandraivus, floats in a beam of light in the center of the room. From a certain angle, Zavian can almost make out the translucent form of Mandraivus’ spirit holding the sword. He feels a strange affinity for the weapon, which is meant to be used against a different Runelord than the one he is facing. He and Chammady discuss its significance, and then he bids the vault farewell.

Lea asks if they can stay in the city an extra day so that she can attend the Ascendance ceremony. Zavian agrees and they send a message to Marcus letting him know their plans.

Lea takes Grenja to Castle Korvosa to introduce her as a guest. The (former) giantess is continually delighted that she doesn’t have to hunch over or worry about furniture being unable to take her weight. Still possessing a giant’s strength, she continues to interact with people and objects in a delicate, gingerly fashion.

Back in the Fen of the Ice Mists,it is growing late when Marcus gets word of the change in plans. Having already memorized teleport, he decides to pay a surprise visit to Shayliss in Sandpoint.

He arrives at Das Korvut’s house, immediately attracting the attention of the smith’s many dogs. Das is started at how much the half-elf has “grown,” but quickly gets him up to speed on the recent goings on. The town hasn’t faced any major threats, though there has been an increase in bandit activity seeking to exploit the chaos following the stone giant attacks.

The most interesting development, however, has been the appearance of a masked vigilante known as “the Shroud,” who has been waging a private war against the bandits. Opinion on the caped crusader is divided, with the Scarnetti family branding them a “menace,” and speculation is rampant as to the vigilante’s identity. Marcus, however, quickly develops some strong suspicions.

Marcus lumbers over to the Vinder household, beginning wonder if trapsing about the town in giant form is wise. His fears are heightened when Shayliss’ father Ven initially reacts in panic to his appearance. Once the shopkeeper is calmed down, he goes to get Shayliss but reports that she’s not in her room. Marcus promises to find her.

After casting locate creature, he uses fly and invisibility sphere to float unseen over Sandpoint. His spell detects Shayliss approaching from the north, where he finds a masked and hooded figure climbing over the north wall of town. She stealthily ventures into a mausoleum on the cathedral grounds.

Marcus settles down outside to wait for her, dispelling his invisibility. Shayliss, now in civilian garb, emerges from the crypt and is startled to see him. After being reassured that his large size isn’t permanent, she admits that it does make hugs better.

The two of them catch up, as she explains how she wanted to take the skills she’s been developing and do some good with them, without worrying her parents. She’s convinced the Scarnetti family is dirty and is trying to assemble sufficient proof to give to the Sheriff.

After returning her home and allaying her father’s fears with a story about how she went to collect some night blooming flowers, Shayliss joins Marcus in his rope trick. The two spend the night cuddling together.

In Korvosa, Lea is also having an interesting night. After bedding down in her room at the castle, she stirs to wakefulness to find herself wrapped in a bedroll in what appears to be a vast army camp. The banners on nearby pavilions are vaguely familiar, but she can’t place them, and the stars overhead are strange.

A figure tends a nearby campfire and offers her some coffee. As she accepts the tin cup, Lea realizes this is the goddess Iomedae. She immediately drops the cup, and apologizes for her clumsiness. Iomedae picks it up and refills it; Lea is convinced it’s the best coffee she’s ever had.

After the Inheritor explains that she feels most at home out in the field, on campaign, Iomedae gets down to business. Despite Lea’s impulsiveness, she is doing good work and is well-positioned to take the fight to Karzoug. Iomedae also praises her recruitment of the lamia’s, but warns her against those who might abuse her mercy.

The goddess explains that there is a greater danger in Mhar Massif, the mountain where Karzoug has placed his Spires. She is constrained from speaking openly about it, but she warns Lea that the Runelord is dabbling in things he does not comprehend and cannot control. There is an evil there that is beyond Karzoug, and potentially more dangerous. Iomedae tasks Lea with finding and destroying it.

Wealday, 1 Arodus, 4734

When she awakes, Lea finds that she still has the tin coffee cup Iomedae gave her. She rushes to the Cathedral to show it to Laori, who is also excited. The elf priestess notes that it is a magical item, but she doesn’t know its properties. She invites Lea to be a guest of honor at the Ascendance Day ceremonies.

At the event, Laori highlights Lea’s encounter with the Inheritor and the sacred relic she recovered. The paladin is soon mobbed by the faithful seeking insight into the goddess and her divine gift.

Zavian, meanwhile, uses word of recall to transit to Sandpoint. He finds Nualia finishing breakfast at the Rusty Dragon. She teases him for taking his sweet time in visiting her, but cuddles up to him as soon as he sits down. She tells him that her arm is doing fine now, but he notes that she is still wearing the bracer he made for her.

Things have been pretty quiet in Sandpoint recently, so most of her work has been tending to mundane concerns in town. Vivi, meanwhile, has become a sheriff’s deputy. However, her enthusiasm for the job, combined with her inability to sleep, made her something of a nuisance. So she was taken off of regular police work and assigned to track down the mysterious vigilante the Shroud.

Nualia has convinced Vivi to come by the Rusty Dragon once every week to get cleaned up, and she is due later that day. Zavian waits around until their construct “child” enters the inn, thick with dust over her gray clay skin and cowgirl duds. Vivi strolls up to the bar and demands a shot of whiskey. Nualia whispers to Zavian that she can’t actually absorb alcohol, but is mimicking the other deputies.

Once the cosplay act is done, Nualia hauls her up to their room to clean the construct girl off with create water and get her clothes washed. Vivi is excited to see Zavian and tells him all about her adventures. She hasn’t had much luck finding the Shroud, but she has uncovered a wide variety of ruins and potential hidey-holes in the area.

Zavian spends the day catching up with both of them, and saying a brief hello to Marcus and Shayliss. As night falls, Nualia hustles Zavian up to her room for a more intimate reunion. He was apparently missed a great deal.

Oathday, 2 Arodus, 4734

The Rune Wardens finally reassemble in the Fen of the Ice Mists. Lea shows her souvenir to Marcus and Zavian. The cleric is able to determine that the tin cup is Iomedae’s cup of campaigning, with the minor enchantment to turn any coffee poured into it, no matter how terrible, into the best coffee ever. Having been crafted by a goddess, the mug is also nigh indestructible.

The party decides that their next move is to press on into the Spires of Xin-Shalast. With only five Sihedron rings to protect them from the occlusion field, they decide to leave Ameiko at base camp. Lea isn’t happy about leaving her girlfriend all alone in the frozen swamp, but Ameiko assures her that she isn’t alone: the sexy ice nymph Svevenka is protecting the area. This does not reassure Lea as much as it should, though she acknowledges she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

They party develops a plan of approach and then pushes on towards the city. After overcoming the reality-warping zone around Xin-Shalast, they fly towards Mhar Massif. Staying low to the snow-covered surface and using their Sihedron rings’ glamour ability to camouflage themselves (save for Zavian, who simply turns invisible), they ascend higher and higher.

Once they are well into the death zone, approaching the spires, a strange voice calls out to them, asking to parlay.

The inquiry originates from three huge, asymmetrical Leng spiders lurking on the mountainside. The alien beings demand that the Rune Wardens slay their ancient enemies, the Denizens of Leng, and destroy the mysterious device that the Denizens built for Karzoug over 10,000 years ago.

Lea recognizes the spiders from the visions she saw during her death experience in Mokmurian’s lair, and Marcus realizes that the strange turbaned creatures from his dream with Alaznist must be the Denizens.

The spiders don’t know what the Denizens’ device does, only that Karzoug commissioned it and that it is important to the denizens, so it must be destroyed. If that proves impossible, the slaughter of all the denizens would be acceptable. The device is said to be located in the Pinnacle of Avarice, the highest tower in the complex.

Though the creatures seem far from trustworthy, the Rune Wardens agree to add this errand to their list.

The party presses onward, passing into the strange, vertigo-inducing occlusion field which seems to pulse with energy once every minute, sending a tingle down their spines. Before them lies the spire complex, three different collections of smaller towers in the shadow of the enormous pinnacle where Karzoug surely awaits them.

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Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 22

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Responsibilities
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Interlude

Sunday, 29th of Erastus AR 4734, Korvosa Castle

Wow, she’s certainly been through a lot… Lea thought to herself as she put down the final letter among the stacks of handwritten letters from her faithful knight-apprentice. She had spent the last several hours reading each of them in her bedroom in the castle, using a spell that would allow her to catch up with the letters while getting her requisite amount of rest; its true intent is to allow her to keep watch, but she had found it useful for other purposes, such as this one. Lea curled up into a ball as she stared into the hearth in the center of her room. Suddenly, she heard a familiar voice:

“She’s come a long way, your apprentice. To be honest, I would have thought it impossible. You, on the other hand, continue to challenge what is possible. Her Light shines bright on your efforts.”

“I only provided the opportunity, nothing more. This is her accomplishment Ellie, not mine,” Lea responded. Her head turned to face the celestial. Ell-Hayzar’s armor was gleaming even in the low light of the fire. The flames appeared to dance on the polished surface as she approached the young paladin. A small, wry smile pulled at the corners of her mouth.

“Humility from the Princess-errant, the wonders never cease,” the celestial said, as she exaggerated her surprise, “Joking aside, your humility is misplaced, welcome though it may be. This would not have occurred without your intervention, and you have done something worthy of The Inheritor. You and yours are discussed fondly in the Heavenly Realms, and now I see it is with merit.”

“Thank you Ellie, coming from you, that is high praise indeed,” Lea said. Her eyes drifted away from the celestial and found their place within the flames once more.

“Praise you often seek, though today it doesn’t please you. What troubles you, child?” Ell-Hayzar asked, her brow furrowed and her arms crossed.

“I guess –no, I know it is because I know realize what I’ve done. I do these reckless things –don’t look at me like that I know–, but I don’t think what happens if I’m wrong, or more importantly if I’m right. I’m her hero; she believes in me and dreams these beautiful and wondrous dreams. I am in awe of this person she wants to serve, to follow, “ Lea replied.

“Bard tales and the dreams of the inspired often cast long shadows,” Ell-Hayzar began, “only because their source is a wondrous light. You are not the raw recruit that left Lastwall all those months ago, Ecclesia Ionomia. Your meteoric rise amongst our champions is not without merit, you’ve done some amazing things in a rather short amount of time. You are every bit the hero she believes in and that inspires her.”

“I hope I can continue to be so, clumsy though I may be, “Lea replied, as she pulled her knees close to her chest and dipped her chin down, covering her eyes.

“So long as you continue to be true of heart and purpose, that will continue to be the case,” Ell-Hayzar replied, as she gently lifted Lea’s head, “that you question yourself shows growth, though do not dwell so much that you become a prisoner to your past mistakes.”

“Do you think Ser Arlynn or Ser Irabeth ever felt this way? Surely not Ser Chammady or the Knight-Captain,” Lea said as she slumped down into the chair.

“We all do, as only champions and heroes can. We carry the weight of the dreams and hope of all we inspire. The only difference is, “Ell-Hayzar paused to place her hand on top of Lea’s head, “…most of us aren’t young maidens when we start our quests to save the world.” The celestial tousled the young paladin’s light brown hair, and walked past towards the open window. A smile escaped Lea’s lips for a moment, before returning to a pout.

“One last bit of advice for tonight,” the celestial began, gazing out the window, “as the hour grows late. Before you return to your quest, make sure to speak with your charge: reassure her, acknowledge her struggles, congratulate her accomplishments and commiserate in her setbacks. Notice her, and be there for her. Though it no fault of yours, she has been lacking your support and encouragement, especially during this critical time for her. And as we learned tonight, even princesses need encouragement.”

“Har har,” Lea retorted, her nose wrinkled as she pulled herself up out of the chair to turn and face the celestial, “thank you, I didn’t realize how much I needed it until now.”

“You are most welcome, child. Get some rest, you’ll need your strength in the morning if we are to storm the lamia’s profane temple,” Ell-Hayzar said. She turned and smiled one last time before her image faded into the night sky behind her. Lea nodded and walked to her desk. A few stacks of parchment and an inkwell awaited her. She slipped herself into the desk chair and picked up the quill; inspiration kept the nib scratching at the parchment, pausing only to take in fresh ink.


The morning’s first rays had already broken into the room when Lea finally put the quill down; their light filled the room as if to replace the expiring light from the candles. The hearth too had burned out, leaving only glowing embers among the ash. Lea stood up and stretched, her nightgown billowed out like an unfurled sail on a boat. Though sustained by the magic of the spell, Lea slunk over to her bed and climbed in to while the few hours she had to herself before her fellows came to collect her. She pulled the covers over her head to preserve the last bits of darkness in her room which was slowly filling with daylight. As light reached the final corners of her room, a purplish-green specter in the shape of an eye silently stirred to life and floated over and out the window…

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Dividing up the Spoils
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 21

Sunday, 29 Erastus, 4734

Having plundered the dragon’s lair, the party seeks safe haven with the spared. Lea removes their lamia disguises.

The Spared provide them with the promised rewards, including a staff of healing, additional healing scrolls, and eight elixirs of the peak.

Marcus, Zavian and Lea decide to head to Korvosa to sell the loot and do some shopping. The rest of the group will recover in the Spared’s safe house. Lea decides to take Malakah with them.

They use Marcus’ shadow walk spell to retreat to the Fen of the Ice Mists. There, Zavian uses his magic to transport them to the Sarenite temple in Korvosa. They arrive during the sundown service on Sunday. Zavian, manifesting like an angel in the center of the temple, takes over the ceremony and manages to play it off smoothly.

Outside, Malakah is amazed at the intact city, so full of people, and right by the ocean. Lea promises that this is where she will stay once they rescue Nenet, and offers to take her to see Seleval.

Zavian and Marcus split off to do their shopping before the merchants close everything up.

Lea and Malakah arrive at the Cathedral of Iomedae just after their own sunset services ended. They encounter Laori Vaus the high priestess, who is happy to offer additional rooms for the lamias once they are ready. She tells Lea that after a bumpy start, Seleval and Zaelsar are doing well.

However, Seleval’s progress converting to be a cleric of Iomedae has stalled. She needs to go on a quest of atonement, but she is delaying it until Lea returns, since she is worried she might need to go help the princess. Laori asks Lea to talk to Seleval about the issue.

After the high priestess leaves, Lea is nearly tackled by an excited Seleval, dusty and sweaty from training with the Sworn Swords. She is delighted to see Malakah and the two greet each other by rubbing noses.

Seleval takes them both back to her quarters, which are fairly sparse. She has an armor and weapon rack, a writing desk and chair, and a small table with candles, a shrine to Iomedae, and a small portrait of Lea.

She explains that the painting was done by her sister Zaelsar, who has been studying at the Church of Shelyn and gotten into the Korvosan art scene. Though had to move to different rooms, Seleval continues to keep tabs on her sister and just make sure she doesn’t eat anybody.

Lea, Seleval and Malakah of them spend an hour catching up with each other. Seleval says she has been praying for the Rune Wardens’ safety, and has written Lea every day, sometimes several times a day. She digs out an enormous bundle of letters from her desk and gives them to the paladin. Lea promises to read through them and reply to a few by the time she returns with Nenet.

Lea asks Seleval about the atonement quest and Seleval admits that she has been putting it off until she knows that Lea and the others are safe and won’t need her help. Lea gets her to agree to stop delaying the quest, though she will wait until Malakah and Nenet get settled in before she starts on it.

Lea offers to have breakfast with Seleval tomorrow, and leaves Malakah there to spend the night.

Before the paladin can go, however, Seleval hastily retrieves a letter from the bundle, which she says should not have been in there due to its inappropriate content, which she wrote while drunk. Lea understands her embarrassment, and gives her a kiss on the forehead before departing.

The young paladin’s next stop is crashing a dinner party at Kyra’s Castle. Lea uses her Sihedron Ring to switch into appropriate attire, and then consults with the halfling spymaster about the signet rings recovered from the dragon’s hoard. Kyra drives a hard bargain for them, and the paladin comes away with only a slightly better deal than she could have gotten elsewhere.

By this point, Zavian is sending for her, and she reunites with the two boys, who had a busy day of purchasing. They head to Castle Korvosa to spend the night, and to confer with Valeria Endrin regarding the painting of Queen Domina recovered from the dragon’s hoard. The seneschal ultimately buys the painting for its historic value.

That night, while Marcus and Lea enjoy their comfy beds, Zavian returns to his demiplane and invites Belawara. The contract devil congratulates Zavian on eliminating her rival Gamigin.

She provides him with her copy of Elszevina’s contract and reminds him that he also needs to destroy the other copy that Elszevina has in order to void it. She also reminds him that at any time, he can invoke the second pact of his contract and gain access to a wish spell. In return, he must provide Belawara with Chellan the Sword of Greed within 24 hours of invoking the second pact. Zavian doesn’t think he’ll make use of that feature. Belawara notes that the Rune Wardens will have to get rid of the sword somehow.

The two of them flirt for a bit and exchange pecks on the cheek before Belawara makes her departure. Zavian realizes this is the first time Belwara has visited him in the flesh since she reappeared in his life.

Moonday, 30 Erastus, 4734

The next morning, they have breakfast with Seleval, although the space is a bit cramped for giant-sized Marcus. Lea gives Seleval a locket that she can use to check the paladin’s status, hopefully putting her mind at ease.

After bidding farewell to the lamia, the four of them return to the Fen of the Ice Mists to regroup with the rest of the Rune Wardens. Their final target in the Lower City is the rescue of Malakah’s friend Nenet from the lamia temple.

Malakah provides a map of the temple and the party debates their approach. They decide to enter through the secret door in the high priestess’ quarters and fight their way through the complex to Nenet’s room.

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All That Glitters is Definitely Gold
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 20

Fireday, 27 Erastus, 4734

Having been provided safe haven by the Spared in the tunnels below Xin-Shalast, the Rune Wardens decide that their next move is to raid the treasure hoard of Ghlorofaex before the rest of the city realizes the old blue dragon is dead.

Their first step is simply getting to the lair undetected. After some discussion, they settle on using Marcus’ veil spell to disguise themselves as lamias. This will mean conjuring up a unique look for all of them.

  • Zavian takes the lower body of a white tiger and models his upper body on Nualia.
  • Marcus likewise takes on the likeness of his girlfriend Shayliss, while assuming a lizard form for his lower body.
  • Lea keeps her looks but hearkens back to the appearance of her lamia knight Seleval and takes on a lioness’ proud form.
  • Ameiko also keeps her own likeness, but assumes the dark purple and orange body of a Varisian firepelt cougar. Lea is a little jealous.
  • Grenja alters her looks to change her skin from blue to a pale, almost alabaster color that matches her snow leopard lower half.
  • Reri adopts the features of a varisian woman, while choosing a panther’s lower body with just hint of red to the tuft of her tail.
  • Amelia keeps her upper body but adds the lower body of a puma.
  • Malakah once again takes on the likeness of a different, saurian-bodied lamia.

Upon leaving the underground chamber, hey frighten the Spared, who are often hunted by lamias. (“We call them skulks,” Malakah whispers.) After reassuring the Spared, the newly disguised party ascends to the surface.

Marcus, still under the effects of overland flight, prowls along the rooftops as a lookout, while the rest of the Rune Kittens walk below, trying to look like ordinary lamias. Marcus can see that giants are converging on the Heptaric Locus where battle took place just a short time before. There are multiple aerial patrols as well, both cloud giant roc riders and blue dragons.

One patrol of roc riders notices them. The leader descends to speak with them while his companions remain high in the cloudless sky. once he approaches within earshot, the cloud giant calls out “Praise Chellan” and waits expectantly for a response.

The party realizes this is a code phrase and that things could go badly if they don’t answer correctly. Amelia recalls seeing the mural of Chellan in the Heptaric Locus and responds with her title: “The Living Weapon.”

This satisfies the cloud giant, who then questions why they are not investigating the Heptaric Locus. Amelia and Lea spin a lie that the Most High Ceoptra ordered them to secure the perimeter in case the invaders escape from the Heptaric Locus. The cloud giant buys this, and warns them to be watchful and call for help if they encounter the adventurers.

With that, he returns to his patrol and gives an “all clear” hand gesture. Amelia makes note of the gesture for future reference. The roc riders continue on their way.

The Rune Kittens proceed towards the dragon’s lair, now feeling somewhat more secure in their disguises. Ameiko teases everyone over their looks, especially Zavian and Marcus. Lea is frustrated at how her illusory tail keeps betraying her mood, and repeatedly tries to grab it in a vain attempt to hold it still. Grenja dances around, getting a kick out of watching her illusory cat form translate her movement. Marcus uses overland flight to move from rooftop to rooftop, his illusory lizard body fanning out skin flap to make it look like he was gliding.

Ghlorofaex’s lair was the former treasury of Xin-Shalast, a heavily fortified structure that has mostly collapsed. The entryway is still structurally sound, however. After checking it for traps and dispelling an alarm spell, the Rune Kittens warily enter. The antechamber leads into a much larger main hall. One side of the room has collapsed, but the other side is structurally sound with several side doors. The whole place stinks of dragon, but no treasure is in view.

As they move deeper into the room, they notice of one of the side doors is open. A blue-skinned teenage girl in brightly colored garb, jewelry hanging from her neck and wrists, exits the room. She is shocked to notice the intruders and hastily hides something behind her back.

The blue girl demands to know what the strange lamias are doing in her “grandfather’s” lair.

“I could ask you the same question,” Lea responds.

The blue dragon girl refuses to reveal what she’s hiding behind her back and attempts to pull rank on the “lamias,” demanding that they leave at once. Lea dials up her inner mean girl and intimidates her fellow teenager.

The blue girl realizes that these aren’t actually lamias and is terrified. She tells them to take whatever they like and just let her go. She explains that she is running away from Xin-Shalast and traveling very far south, to the distant land of Rahadoum. She has some sort of scheme involving the weather controlling orb of storms she is stealing from her grandfather.

She promises to tell no one about the adventurers and begs them not to take her head. Lea has her stand still for ten minutes in order to inscribe a mark of justice upon her, placing it just above her right eye. The mark will activate if she warns anyone about the party or if she harms any people. The definition of “people” is left a little vague, much to the girl’s consternation.

Lea also demands the dragon girl’s name. Somewhat haltingly, the teenager says that she is “Kezeecha the Stormcaller” and demands Lea’s name, which is given in turn. Utterly terrified, Kezeecha flees the chamber via a secret passage, the orb of storms cradled in her arm.

Reri goes to investigate the passage and any other hidden doors, while the rest of the party steps into the treasure room. Ghlorofaex’s hoard is neatly heaped in a small chamber, littered with riches and magic items that Marcus and Zavian quickly set about cataloging.

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Last Stand at the Heptaric Locus
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 19

Coming Soon!

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Bread and Circuses
The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 18

Coming Soon!

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