Rise of the Runelords

Guardian Angel

Pharast 20, 4708

After healing the wounds of Ragnar, the men quit the prison of the Pinnacle and move to search for Khalib, Viorian, and the hated Karzoug. Rounding the corner of a curved hallway, the group once again encounters another of Karzoug’s projected images.

The master transmuter smirks at the Avengers, informing them drolly that they are going the wrong way, before launching a blast of chain lightning at the men. Gellius’s protection saves most of the Avengers from any significant damage, though Ragnar, who bears the brunt of the blast, takes some nasty burns.

Zendo heals Ragnar with Gellius’s wand of healing, and shares his insights with the group. Karzoug didn’t seem to be lying, per se, but his mocking revelation was hiding something. Perhaps the men aren’t on the direct path to find Karzoug, but the bard feels that the Runelord was telling them that for his own ulterior motive.

Hikage listens closely at the door at the end of the hall, and can hear faint crying or snuffling within. When the monk opens the door, he is startled to find a tall, pale green, winged being standing sadly before him. The being readies a huge greatsword and gazes at them dolefully, though Hikage can see nothing of worth in the room, save a peculiar tunnel through the wall that reveals sky and gusting winds beyond.

The men speak to the sad being, which Corvus identifies as an angelic planetar, but it responds only with gestures and nods. The heroes make it clear that they mean the angel no harm, but the angel indicates that, though it bears them no malice, it must harm them. It gestures and magical waves of exhaustion wash over the men, staggering them with crushing fatigue. Zendo uses his magic to swipe the sword from the planetar’s hands, and Hikage and Ragnar both step forward to strike with fist and flat of sword, hoping to subdue the reluctant angel.

Gellius attempts to dispel the magic binding the angel to such a task, but finds that no magical compulsion exists. Corvus realizes that a powerful spell of binding, such as those used by demonologists to bind demons, could also be used to force an angelic being to a similarly onerous duty. The wizard attempts to banish the planetar back to the celestial realm, but the angel’s will, even in reluctant servitude, is too strong.

The angel summons a blast of holy fire down upon the men, and, in response to Zendo and Gellius’s urgent questioning, indicates that his oath can only be broken by his death. However, the angel’s bruises heal rapidly, their purplish hue fading to the pale green of his skin before their eyes. Reluctantly, Hikage and Ragnar unleash their killing force upon the agent of heaven, as Corvus and Gellius withdraw to safety to wrack their brains for other options.

Even as he is smiting his celestial opponent, Hikage is reminded of another fight. The angel is vulnerable only to weapons of great evil, just as the ice devil Gamigin, was only vulnerable to weapons of pure good. Having no such weapon meant that the men, despite their efforts, could not stop the remorseless regeneration of the devil. Hikage warns the others that he fears they cannot kill the angel and free him from his oath.

However, Zendo realizes this might actually hold the key to the planetar’s freedom! If the angel fights to his dying breath, perhaps his oath is fulfilled, even if death does not actually claim him. Hikage and Ragnar strike down the noble planetar, and the men wait anxiously as the winged being lies on the floor, motionless. Have they slain an angel, or freed one from a wicked task?

Soon, the angel’s chest begins to rise and fall, and the celestial being looks at them uncertainly. He asks permission to rise, which is granted, and thanks them for freeing him from his oath. Zendo returns the greatsword to the planetar, and begs the angel to tell them of how he came to this task.

The planetar identifies himself as Ayruzi and tells the Avengers that he was summoned here to this room only a few days ago, and bound with magical rituals, until he was forced to agree to the terms of his servitude. Khalib was his summoner and tormentor, and the wizard bade him to guard this room, slaying any who entered, and to speak to no one, unto death. The Avengers confess their own hatred of the despicable Khalib, and, to their surprise, Ayruzi agrees to aid them if, and only if, they allow him to deliver the killing blow to Khalib to avenge his slighted pride and wounded honor. Eager to secure such an ally, the men quickly agree, and Ayruzi uses his powerful magic to remove the negative energy plaguing HIkage and Ragnar, and restore the Ulfen’s sapped willpower. Ayruzi also lessens the exhaustion of the heroes, and Zendo quickly uses his magic to restore their spirits.

Bolstered by the presence of their newfound ally, the men press on. At the far end of the hallway, they discover another set of doors. After careful inspection, they open them carefully, finding beyond a barren chamber of stone, with two large black stone doors set into the wall. The face of each door is covered with thousands of runes carved in eerie, spidery script. Gellius quickly tries to see if the runes match those from the Scribbler’s lair , while Corvus examines them to see if they are Thassilonian. However, the runes seem to writhe and twist under observation, and the men find themselves transported to a strange, otherworldly maze of greenish glass, where phantasmal horrors emerge from the labyrinth itself to tear at their minds! The Avengers bravely face the horrors within, recognizing them as stemming from their own minds, and Corvus and Zendo quickly work out a path to release them from the magical maze, returning them to the room before the black stone doors.

Most of the Avengers avert their eyes from the doors, but Hikage quickly closes his eyes and pushes the doors open forcefully! The eldritch forces within the runes are unleashed again, but the magic washes over the monk without effect. When he opens his eyes, however, he finds that all of the other Avengers have been transported back into the maze, and he stands before the opened chamber with Ayruzi as his only ally!

Within the room, strange devices and tables laden with equipment lead to a massive metal framework at the opposite end. The arcane machinery seems to be wired into the framework and crackling energy generates a portal of some kind, which seems to serve as a window to Xin-Shalast below, but strangely changed. More urgent than the portal, however, are the unwholesome and weirdly twisted denizens of the room, who gaze at Hikage in annoyance and hunger—the denizens of Leng!

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