Rise of the Runelords

Between a Roc and a Hard Place

The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 10

Fireday, 20 Erastus, 4734

Zavian has another disturbing cannibal dream, this time adding the trumpet archon Ilmiring to the buffet with Nualia. Both women are helpless as he feasts on them, savoring every bite.

Starday, 21 Erastus, 4734

Zavian awakes confused and hungry. Unable to determine how to free himself of the wendigo’s magic, he consults with Marcus.

The wizard is able to determine that Zavian is under the effects of a curse. Marcus also realizes that the cannibal urges implanted in Zavian are causing him to crave his own kind—aasimar and celestials. While Nualia is relatively out of reach, a crazed Zavian could try to summon Ilmiring to devour her.

Marcus calls out to Lea to remove the crazy cannibal curse from Zavian. The cleric is not happy to have his secret blurted out to everyone. Lea dispels the curse with a slap from her hand.

As the party prepares to follow the Vekker brothers’ directions north, Marcus discovers that his clockwork horses have frozen up in the cold. Amelia uses prestidigitation to warm them and Marcus tosses some furs over them to try to keep them from freezing.

Zavian uses a sending spell to contact their ally the frost giantess Grenja. She appears confused by the spell, but says she is in a swamp and being bothered by fey creatures. Her reply is cut off by the strict word limit to the spell. They conclude that she is at the Fen of the Icemists, a frigid fen that is on the way to Xin-Shalast.

Following the Vekker’s guide, they trace the Kazaron River north to its second tributary, the river Avah. There is no river bank, just a sheer canyon carved by the water, so they take the wagon along the cliff-face. Because the clockwork horses need no sleep, they decide to continue on through the night and try to catch what sleep they can.

During Lea’s turn at watch, she sees a flicker of fire on a nearby ledge. Impulsively deciding to investigate on her own without alerting the others, she gives herself an angelic aspect and takes wing. The canyon crosswinds and thin, high-altitude air make flying a challenge, but she swoops towards the fire.

Five humanoids are huddled around it, murmuring. They quickly spot her as she approaches. One calls out a challenge, while another simply looses an arrow, but fumbles his shot and grazes one of his companions. The winds force Lea to land and she tries to parlay.

The five are mercenaries with the Black Talon Company; Lea recognizes their unit badges from their service in Sandpoint against the stone giants. They are looking pretty ragged and underfed. They have been in the mountains for weeks, trying to hunt down their rogue commander, the golden armored Viorian Dekanti.

After she acquired a strange magic sword, Viorian went on a rampage that killed two dozen of her own soldiers before fleeing Magnimar for the wilderness. The five are hunting her to seek justice for their fallen comrades (and get the 20,000gp bounty on her head). But they have been wandering in circles, having lost her trail to the strange nature of the mountains.

Meanwhile, the wagon continues trundling along as the clockwork horses plow forward without direction. The wagon occupants are jolted awake by a terrible shriek as the wagon is jostled. Marcus peers outside and sees that the vehicle has blundered into the nest of a giant roc. The house-sized bird has seized one of the clockwork horses, Lucky, in its beak while two chicks squawk under its wing. Amelia uses charm monster and speak with animals to calm the creature. They placate it with their entire stores of meat and then limp away. Once they have retreated to a safe distance, Marcus puts the damaged horse up on a floating disk while he and Zavian attempt to repair it.

When Lea returns to alert them about the mercenaries, Amelia thoroughly chews her out for abandoning her post without even leaving a note. As punishment, Ameiko has Lea wear a frilly pink greatcoat with matching ushanka. Amelia insists that Lea has also lost her watch privileges.

Eventually, the adventurers link up with the Black Talons. Marcus uses overlapping tiny hut and secure shelter spells to create a comfortable place for the mercenaries to rest. The Black Talons are deeply divided on how to proceed, especially after Amelia tells them that Viorian might be under the influence of a cursed sword.

After much discussion, the mercenaries decide that all but one of them will retreat back to Kaer Maga. The one staying behind will travel wit the Rune Wardens to see that Viorian is either freed from her curse or brought to justice. The adventurers select Reri, the red tiefling woman with the tower shield, as their choice to join them.

Sunday, 22 Erastus, 4734

After bidding farewell to the mercenaries, the Rune Wardens introduce Reri to Marcus’ wagon. Ameiko gives her the wagon attendant speech: “Exits are at the front and back of the vehicle. In the event of an emergency water landing, the wagon will turn into a boat.”

Pressing on through the canyon, they have a scary moment when a gust of wind nearly detaches the wagon from the cliff. Reri uses her prehensile tail to keep a barf bag close by.

Rather than press on through the night, the party makes camp that night. Marcus uses stone shape and tiny hut to try to protect the clockwork horses from the element. The adventurers retreat into the rope trick, where Lea asks if it would be possible to get a private room. Marcus offers to do that for everyone next time; Lea and Ameiko decide to bunk in the wagon below.

Reri shares some stories from her experiences in the Black Talons. Hailing from Riddleport, she has traveled across Varisia and beyond. Her tower shield was a trophy from a rogue Hellknight the company was sent to put down. Lea manages to accidentally hit on and then insult the tiefling.

Moonday, 23 Erastus, 4734

That morning, the party arrives in the Fen of the Icemists. The clockwork horses start to bog down and Marcus casts overland flight on them, creating a flying wagon. Amelia makes contact with Grenja via message spell and they track the giant down through the mists. She explains that that a fey creature posing as an otter has been harassing her. At that moment, an otter pops up nearby and casts a spell. Grenja suddenly turns into a silver-furred otter herself. Amelia strides out on her boots of the mire, while Lea uses dispell to release Grenja from the spell.

The otter reveals herself to be the ice nymph Svevenka. She recognizes Amelia and Lea as having been blessed by her cousins Myriana and Meleena. She apologizes for hassling Grenja; she thought the giant was another warrior headed for Xin-Shalast.

Svevenka offers the fen as a safe haven for the party and warns them of the dangers in Xin-Shalast. She tells them of the Spared, the descendants of the city’s original inhabitants who dwell in the tunnels below. Unfortunately, many of them have fallen under the sway of a vampiric entity called the Hidden Beast that she urges the party to slay.

Lea asks the nymph about the path to Xin-Shalast. She explains that true seeing or protection from chaos would help see the true path without resorting to the Vekkers’ fasting technique. Svevenka also warns about a dangerous occlusion field encasing Karzoug’s palace on Mhar Massif and speculates that his servants have some means of traveling into it safely.

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