Rise of the Runelords

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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