Rise of the Runelords


Fortress of the Stone Giants, Interlude

Sunday, 4 Pharast, 4734

After a day of travel through the mountains, Zavian arrives in a high, windy valley with a ruin half buried in the cliff face. It is a different kind of rock than the surrounding mountains and looks as if it had slammed into the cliff. A single open doorway stands there, decorated with strange elegant carvings Zavian can’t make out from a distance.

On approach, he spies a flash of gold among the rocks. Investigating, Zavian is challenged by a travel-worn young amazon in golden armor. The dark-skinned woman is Ser Arlynn Jalento of Korvosa’s Sworn Swords, also known as Ajay.

Once Zavian convinces her of his good intentions, she explains that she is seeking Mwangi captives that have been taken to Jorgenfist. Her mission hasn’t quite gone as planned. Her Shoanti guides and all their horses were killed by giants and she was left to fend for herself in the Iron Peaks. She is waiting for the stone giant inside the ruin to leave, so that she can follow it back to Jorgenfist.

Zavian notices a familiar hound accompanying Ajay. She explains that the dog has helped her survive in the mountains. As far as she knows, it doesn’t talk.

Zavian tells her that his mission is inside the ruin. Ajay is sympathetic, but warns that the giant has pet landsharks prowling around with it. They try to concoct some way to approach without alerting the monsters, but the hound just starts trotting towards the ruin with them chasing after.

As they near the ruin’s entrance, a fearsome bullette erupts from the earth. The landshark pounces on them, shifting its attacks between Zavian and Ajay. The hound doesn’t strike at the bullette, but instead grants magical blessings to both warriors. A terrible battle ensues, with all parties suffering grievous wounds before the monster is finally slain.

At the ruin entrance, Zavian is met by Nualia, who is on her own quest to recover a Desnan artifact from below the ruin. However, the stone giant is in the way and she needs help getting through.

Unfortunately, the landsharks’ burrowing has destabilized the ruins and the hound speaks to warn that there is not enough time to retrieve Zavian’s missing book and help Nualia with her quest.

Zavian makes a fateful choice and decides to press on with his own mission. Nualia cusses him out as he heads off.

The hound archon, now in its bipedal form, explains that this ruin was part of a celestial bastion that was hurtled across the planes during a demonic incursion. As they stride through the ancient battlefield, spectral echoes of the slain continue to clash in the halls. They don’t notice the interlopers.

Zavian feels something drawing him deeper into the fracture fortress and he leads his companions down a rubble pile into a strange sunken chamber. The broken floor hangs out into a black void in defiance of gravity. Zavian feels pulled towards the far end of the chamber.

However, as they stride out onto the floating terrain, the hound archon smells danger. The trio comes comes to a horrible realization that another bullette is clinging to the underside of the floor directly beneath them. The archon urges them to race to the burning brazier nearby.

The landshark destroys a chunk of the floor and Ajay nearly falls. She loses her spear, but Zavian helps her up. They both then join the hound archon at the brazier. At the celestial’s urging, they thrust their hands into the fire and are surrounded by a warding wreathe of flames.

With the bullette prowling out somewhere, the hound archon moves forward to try to draw it out. The beast emerges, ramming its head through the floor and punching out another hole. Zavian jumps the gap, but urges Ajay to hang back.

At this point, there is a sinister thrum that runs through the ruin and the skeletons littering the floor rise up, animated by cruel magic. The hound archon speculates that the stone giant found whatever evil artifact he was seeking.

Some of the skeletons have horns, others have bony wings with a handful of scorched feathers. Zavian realizes that only one skeleton stands between him and the book. The gilded tome lies open, a scimitar driven through it and into the floor. Having lost his mace, Zavian brings out the warhammer Ghoulbreaker.

Facing a lone skeleton, Ajay raised her shield and charges, battering it off the stone floor and into the bottomless chasm.

Before battle can be joined between the skeletons, the archon and Zavian, the landshark erupts through the floor. The hound archon two skeletons scramble for footing, one of them falling into the void.

The bullette’s antics have broken huge gaps in the floor that are ever more challenging to traverse. Zavian finds himself alone and flanked by fiendish skeletons.

Battering his way past the bony guardians, Zavian reaches the book, but the bullette reaches him. The hound archon tries to leap across the gap to assist, but instead barely catches hold of the edge of the crumbling floor.

Casting aside his Abadarian crossbow, Zavian concentrates and prays to Sarenrae, trying to remove the scimitar. With great effort, he draws the sword, which bursts into brilliant flame.

A shimmering, spectral floor flares into existence as the stone floor falls away. The bullette tumbles off into oblivion. Zavian recovers his holy book and discovers that pinned beneath it was the infernal contract he signed in his past life.

The ruin begins to rumble, its structural integrity finally compromised. With the hound archon Maliek carrying the exhausted Ajay over one shoulder, the three of them race through the complex. The spectral celestials cease their warring to salute them while the ghostly fiends cower in terror.

Glancing over his shoulder, Zavian realizes that the ruin is not merely collapsing but imploding. Maliek warns that it is being pulled back into the Outer Planes. As they reach the foyer, they spy a wounded Nualia trying to run out of the other corridor but getting pulled unnaturally back towards the implosion. Zavian manages to pull her to safety, but once she is clear she wants nothing to do with him.

“You have no idea what you’ve cost me,” she says, looking at her demon arm. After healing herself—but not the others—she teleports out.

The hound archon also bids his farewell at this point, though he expects his path will cross with Zavian’s again. Zavian and Ajay find a good place to camp, with the aasimar reading furiously through his book.

Moonday, 5 Pharast, 4734

After a supremely restful sleep, Zavian wakes to a sense of discomfiture in his shoulders that bothers him throughout his prayers to Sarenrae. As the goddess’ divine power washes over him in blessing, Zavian feels a tug and then two brilliant silver wings burst forth from his shoulders. All doubt is banished from his mind as he takes flight.


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