Rise of the Runelords

The Demon, the Pool, and the Exploding Wand
Calistril 2, 4708

After defeating the Mithral Mage, Ordikon, the men heal and recover before searching his metallic corpse for treasure. Ordikon possessed a magical cloak, as well as a rod of metal and mineral detection. As well, Corvus finds a pearl of power, which he adds to his set. However, the most important find on the transmuter’s corpse is the wizard’s Staff of Mithral Might. This powerful metal staff possesses several magical abilities, most notably, the capacity to transform flesh to stone! Corvus relinquishes his quarterstaff to Hikage to wield the powerful magical staff.

The men proceed to explore the Vault of Greed. Gellius uses his druidic magics to speak to the goldfish within one of the fountains of the Vault, hoping that perhaps, those fish might be transformed prisoners who can tell him more about the wizards of greed. However, the fish all seem to be no more than that, and none has any memories of being anything else. They all loudly beg for food, though none appear to be starving, and greedily swarm around the bits of rations Gellius leaves within the pool. Gellius is disappointed his magical spell revealed no insights, but the men discuss the situation and realize that, most likely, any fish within the pool might have been transformed so long ago that they no longer remember being human (or dwarven, or elven, or, as Hikage points out, possibly goblins or bugbears).

Further exploring the expansive Vault of Greed, the men happen across several incongruous rooms. Each large room contains no furnishings or decoration, but planks of wood, ingots of metal, sheafs of fabric, and other materials strewn across the floor. The men explore them cautiously, as the rooms each radiate powerful transformational magics, but even their careful explorations do not reveal any ‘triggers’ for the magics contained within each room. Finally, Corvus uses his wand to identify the magical aura of one of the rooms, and finds that each of the rooms is enchanted with a powerful spell that allows any wizard (or indeed, anyone) attuned to the sin of Greed, to cast a fabrication spell at will, transforming the raw materials within the room into any sort of substances desired. The heroes eyes light up with avarice, but Corvus points out that the enchantment is bound to the room, so any such transformed objects would assume their original form when removed from that location.

To permanently bind such powerful magics to each and every room seems profligate, but the men muse that such a spell would have allowed the transmuters of the halls to live and experiment in comfort without the need for additional resources.

After finding another elaborately decorated fountain room (the former ‘home’ of one more of the stone golems), the men discover a large library and laboratory. Hundreds of books and scrolls rest in the shelves covering one of the long walls of the chamber, while a monkey, a snake, several rats, and two cats pace restlessly in small cages on the many tables in the center of the chamber. A recently deceased dog lies on one of the tables, its hindquarters transformed into metal. Crates of various dry goods and materials are scattered underneath the tables, and sets of double doors lead out of the room in two other directions.

Gellius transforms into a huge dire gorilla and communicates with the monkey in the cage. After Gellius agrees to release him, the monkey tells him that the ‘metal man’ kept him captive in the cage, along with other animals. That ‘metal man’ was mean and hurt and scared the animals, and never fed them. The monkey has no memories of a time before being captive in the cage, but he does remember that there used to be other men (not metal, however) who worked with the metal man, but they have been gone for a long time. The monkey also remembers that Ordikon sometimes spoke to someone in the room beyond the laboratory. The little monkey does not know who dwells in the halls beyond, but Ordikon has spoken to him recently. After freeing the monkey, Gellius feeds him a bit of food, and the men debate freeing the other animals. Gellius is insistent that even if the animals can’t venture out of Runeforge, it is better to let them free here than keep them caged up, but he agrees to leave them in the cages while they explore the mysteries of the ‘voice’ in the rooms past the laboratory.

The heroes carefully open the double doors leading deeper into the Vault and are aghast to find an immense boar-like demon awaiting them within the room inside! However, the huge monster speaks to them, telepathically, and assures them that it means them no harm! Zuvuzeg tells them that he is bound to guard the rooms beyond, but that he wishes to be free, and he will reward the men greatly if they can do so. Though the demon is immense and hideous, the room within is ornately decorated. The floors are marble, and the walls are wood and gold. The halls are illuminated by crystal lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and golden warrior statues line the walls.

Zuvuzeg is very gregarious, and very willing to talk. He explains that Izomandakus, the master of the Vault of Greed, bound him here ten thousand years ago, only to be free when he had made the wizard laugh, cry, and shriek, using only his stories. Zuvuzeg had succeeded in getting the taciturn mage to laugh and cry, and had only needed to trick Izomandakus into shrieking to earn his freedom, before the wizard was killed, preventing Zuvuzeg from being freed.

Izomandakus was Ordikon’s master for a long, long time, but a few years ago, the runeforge pool ‘awoke’, and during some confrontation spurred by that event, several of the wings of Runeforge came into conflict, with the Abjurant Halls being destroyed. During that conflict, Izomandakus was killed, though Zuvuzeg knows not how, as he was confined here.

The demon explains that the room beyond holds the Pool of Elemental Arcana, constructed by the wizards of Greed. He offers the men a valuable boon if they will only free him from the spell binding him to the room. When Corvus steps into the room to examine the statues, he realizes that they are incredibly lifelike and hollow. Zuvuzeg explains that the ‘statues’ were once gilded soldiers of the wizards, paralyzed by spells and held immobile as molten gold was applied to their bodies. The corpses decayed long ago, before the demon had even been summoned.

Zuvuzeg bargains with the men, saying that he will tell them all he knows of the Runeforge, and the Vault of Greed, and Izomandakus, and Ordikon, and the Pool of Elemental Arcana, if they will agree to free him. He tells them that he will grant them a wondrous prize if they can free him, a prize so valuable any mortal would value over any amount of gold. When they press the demon as to the nature of his gift, he chortles, and soberly responds, “If you free me, I will grant you the greatest gift you can receive from a demon: my indifference. Set me free and I shall pay you no more mind.”

Despite the obvious evil of the demon, the men agree that this is, indeed, a valuable gift, and, given Zuvuzeg’s obvious familiarity with the Vault, they discuss the merits of his offer. However, as Corvus appears to be wrestling with the arcane minutia of freeing the powerful demon, he attempts to inobtrusively step back through the threshold of the chamber.

Alarmed at the possibility of his ‘liberator’ fleeing beyond his reach, Zuvuzeg stretches forth one massive, taloned claw and seizes the wizard, though he does not crush Corvus. “I will not hurt you, wizard, but I do not trust you to keep your bargain when I am trapped within!”. Though Corvus insists that his intention was not to flee, the others take this as a hostile action and surge to attack Zuvuzeg. Corvus struggles to use his spells to escape from the demon, but the powerful monster jostles him, spoiling his incantations. Zuvuzeg attempts to magically slow down the heroes, perhaps to buy him time to negotiate with them, but they shrug off his magics. As Zendo uses spells to hasten their steps (and swords), Hikage leaps around the demon. As inky tendrils of blackness writhe around Zuvuzeg, Hikage smashes him with powerful strikes, Zendo’s spell lending speed to his fists. Ragnar takes a painful smash from one of the demon’s giant hands before slashing his sword across the demon’s wide belly. Zuvuzeg releases the coils of darkness around him, seeking to destroy the resolve of the men by driving them mad with hallucinations, but each of them stands firm, and he crushes Corvus in his fist as he bites and claws at the monk, whose own fists have caused him so much pain. The huge demon uses his own magics to retreat from Hikage and Ragnar, but his bindings prevent him from fleeing the chamber, and Ragnar steps forward and slices the boar-demon into messy viscera with several slashes of his sword.

After banishing Zuvuzeg, the men explore the hall behind him, leading to the Pool of Elemental Arcana. When Hikage and Ragnar open these doors, they find a huge, domed chamber, housing a forty-foot wide pool of blue liquid. Gouts of flame and flashes of lightning dart across the surface of the pool, and it ripples and swirls as if stirred by something within the depths. Hikage steps closer and feels waves of exhaustion and nausea washing over him. Though he withstands long enough to gaze into the pool, the monk quickly retreats, telling the others that the pool radiates some sort of fell aura which tries to sap his energy.

Corvus examines the pool carefully with his magics, standing behind Ragnar and Hikage’s wary forms, and the wizard can see that the pool is not enchanted water, but seems to be composed of magic itself, distilled down into some strange fluid. Zendo takes out a vial and Gellius, still in the form of a dire ape, agrees to venture into the room and fill the vial with a portion of the pool. Gellius feels the same malignant draining as Hikage, and he carefully fills the vial and rapidly retreats from the room.

Unsure what the Pool is, or why the transmuters would have guarded it so strongly, Zendo feels compelled to investigate further. He tosses a copper into the pool, but it does not react at all. He then uses his mage hand cantrip to carry his wand of silent image (long ago taken from the goblin bard at Thistletop) into the pool. It glows brightly, and, upon examination, seems to have recovered a few spent charges! No one today knows how to recharge a wand!

In excitement, Zendo again dips the wand into the swirling blue pool. This time, the wand emerges coated in a thick rime of ice, freezing cold to the touch, and seems to have been drained of most of the additional charges. Zendo convinces Corvus to allow him to immerse the wand of identify (long ago taken from the hidden necromancer Cairlazu Zerren) into the pool, and it is drained of all magical energy, turning into no more than an unremarkable stick. Despite this unfortunate event, Zendo convinces the unimpressed wizard to allow him to experiment with his wand of magic missiles, but it suddenly explodes, swollen with an uncontrollable influx of magical power. Hikage leaps out of the way, exposing Ragnar to the icy blast, and Corvus takes the brunt of the explosion, nearly knocking him senseless.

After retreating to a safe distance, Zendo heals his comrades and apologizes sheepishly. However, he cannot resist experimenting with another wand. The others move safely back into Ordikon’s library, but Zendo crouches carefully behind the corner of the hall and meddles with the pool further. His own wand of magical missiles glows brighter than a torch, and regains all of its spent charges! With curiousity sated (at least for the moment) , Zendo joins the others and helps Corvus explore the plethora of books and scrolls in the library. The library is a valuable archive of many wide-ranging topics of transmutational magic, including the transformation of lead into gold.

After several hours of poring over the many works, however, the wizard and bard find material of more interest to the Avengers. Izomandakus and his mages were tasked with research to help Runelord Karzoug survive any sort of cataclysmic end to Shalast, or Thassilon. By constructing a ‘runewell’ larger than any ever created, Karzoug could place himself in a sort of magical stasis between our reality, and the nightmare realm of Leng, where he could survive indefinitely, existing outside time in a manner. Once any crisis had ended, his apprentices could enact rituals to enable Karzoug to emerge from this stasis back to Golarion. The men remember that Mhar Massif, the supposed location of Xin-Shalast, was rumored to be a place where the veil of reality between Golarion and Leng was thinnest. Perhaps, this ‘runewell’ was constructed on the Massif itself, somewhere within the heights of the Kodar mountains!

After their long research, the men decide to retire back to the hopeful safety of the abandoned Abjurant Halls. When they emerge from the Vault of Greed back into the center of Runeforge, Hikage notices that he can no longer see the bright, coruscating light at the end of the tunnel which connected Runeforge to the halls within Rimeskull. The men go to explore the tunnel, and Zendo realizes that the tunnel seems much longer that it was before. Hikage draws his glowing sword and rushes forward in the tunnel. As he runs through the dark tunnel, lit only by his magical sword, he swiftly sees a light looming before him and runs up to the group from behind! The tunnel appears to be some sort of magical loop! Zendo explores forward with his dancing lights as well. The lights never seem to stop hovering in front of him, but when he moves forward far enough, he (and the lights) reappear behind the group. The men realize that they might be trapped within Runeforge!

Corvus explains to the men that he could possibly banish the men from Runeforge magically, forcing them, as extraplanar visitors, back to their home plane. However, such a strategy would only work for the others, who would have to return to Rimeskull to reopen the gate to free him. More troublesome, banishment only returns a traveler to his home dimension. The men might find themselves on Golarion, but might find themselves in the middle of the Thuvian desert, or the Worldwound, or the Mwangi Expanse! Indeed, if the moon or the wandering stars in the sky are inhabited, as some claim, they might find themselves on another world entirely!

The men are worried about their plight, but are resigned to exploring the remainder of Runeforge in any event. Zendo suggests that they might clamber up a rope into the small, but secure space afforded by Corvus’s rope trick, but Gellius suggests that he might be capable of producing something a bit better. With a few words and hands clasped in prayer, Gellius creates a small ring of toadstools on the shattered flagstones of the Abjurant Halls. While the others are unimpressed, the druid wryly suggests that they step within the fairy ring. As each man does so, he vanishes from sight! The Avengers find themselves within an idyllic twilight meadow, bounded on all sides by an impassible grove of fruit and nut trees. Shyly, small humanoids with the features of rabbits, deer, squirrels, and racoons appear to help the men divest themselves of their armor and otherwise make them comfortable, even bringing them delicious fruits and nuts from the trees. Gellius explains that the meadow is unreachable from the outside, so all within are safe, and it will last long into the next day.

The men sleep soundly in the tranquil meadow, not even needing to set a watch. In the morning, after being timidly awoken by the woodland creatures, the men prepare themselves, as HIkage offers to consult the Revelation Quill. The monk grasps the arcane implement warily, and focuses his mind on exploring Runeforge. The quill dances within his hand and scribes out a long passage:

In the luxuriant baths of the Halls of Repose
The least of the Wardens of Sloth
traded soul and heart for unending indolence
and he festers like a canker
in the center of the maze

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The Vaults of Greed
Calistril 2, 4708

Gellius magically controls the winds within the area and sends them forward to disperse the magical mist. Once the men can see clearly through the greenish mist, they hear high-pitched complaints.

“Oh, no! More fleshies coming to slobber in our pool!”

The whale is revealed to be a massive ice sculpture within a large silver basin. Also within the basin are several water mephits, minor elementals with long, drooping ears, pointed noses, bat wings, and generally irritable demeanors. They moan and complain about the presence of the heroes and lament the absence of the pretty green mist. However, the room itself is magnificent. The floor is paved with ivory tiles, each one engraved with a silver rune depicting a claw grasping a gemstone. The walls and ceiling are of polished marble, and the water flowing from the sculpture seems clear, cold, and refreshing. There are two exits from the room, but the men despair of getting any useful information from the rude and exuberant mephits, who mock and berate them. Gellius, tiring of the encounter, draws himself up and warns the mephits that he serves a powerful storm god, and he will smite them with lightning if they don’t cooperate!

This cows the mephits entirely, more than might have been expected, and they meekly hide under the water, begging his pardon and peeping over the edge of the basin nervously. Irritated by the disrespectful little elementals, the men move into the left passage, and follow the intricately decorated hallway until it turns a corner. There, they can see another elaborate chamber, decorated with a large fountain filled with goldfish. The fountain features a tall stone statue of a wizard, with one hand grasping a staff and the other producing a spray of water. However, the water soon stops, as the statue reveals itself to be a stone golem, and it advances menacingly on the men!

Zendo can hear other heavy footsteps echoing through the hallways, and Hikage is sure that he hears stone footsteps not only ahead, but behind them! He quickly advances on the golem and strikes it a stiff blow, for the golem’s durable stone body to absorb much of the force of his strike. Ragnar follows behind him more slowly, and, unable to dodge, takes a stout blow from the stone staff of the golem. However, Ragnar’s sword proves more capable against the stone skin of the construct, and his angry retort shatters the statue in half.

Ragnar and Hikage move up quickly to the hallway on the other side of the fountain room, while Gellius quickly summons a stone giant to guard their rear. Corvus uses his wand of false life to grant the others a bit of magical protection, as they can all hear the sounds of approaching stone golems. Hikage again takes the lead in striking the next one which appears, and Ragnar again suffers a nasty smashing blow before he can get a clear shot at the golem. However, he falters slightly, and this second golem is not so easily cloved in twain. Though the golem is no match for his adamantine sword, Ragnar is not sure he can survive another such hit, so Zendo shatters the golem into rubble with a blast of magically created sound.

The third golem has approached from the rear and trades blows from its stone staff with the stone club from the stone giant. However, the giant protects the rear of the party, until the others can redeploy. As the giant fights the golem, a strange looking wizard appears from thin air. Standing a safe distance behind the golem, the bald wizard appears to have skin made from some shiny, supple, silvery metal! He identifies himself as Ordikon, and threatens the men with magical destruction. “You inferior men of flesh might have ambushed my master Izomandakus, but a true man of metal cannot be bested without such trickery!”. When the giant smashes apart the stone golem with a mighty blow of his club, Ordikon is prepared. He unleashes a bolt of lightning which blasts the stone giant to death, and badly injures Gellius, though Hikage dodges it deftly. He then casts a spell and flies into the air, lifting himself above the fourth and final stone golem, before landing safely on the floor.

Zendo protests that they wish to talk, but the stone golems attacked them, but Ordikon insists that any who invaded the Vault of Greed should be regarded as intruders, particularly those of lesser perfection. As Hikage and Ragnar try to shift forward to engage the wizard, he unleashes another bolt of lightning, which burns Ragnar and nearly kills Gellius. No wonder the mephits were so afraid of lightning!

Gellius falls back to heal and summon assistance, while Hikage, Ragnar, and Corvus try to move forward to press the advantage, though the golem stops their advance. The stone guardian is no match for Hikage’s speed and Ragnar’s sword, but it gives Ordikon time to unleash a third coruscating blast of lightning, which nearly kills Corvus, and destroys the quivering mephits huddled in the fountain! Corvus casts a spell of disintegration towards the wizard, but it only grazes the metallic mage and injures him.

Having finished off the final golem, the men menace Ordikon, but he threatens to unleash his greater magics if they do not retreat. Zendo senses he is bluffing, and urges his allies to press onward as he heals Gellius, who has summoned a wooly rhinocerous to the fight. Ordikon, menaced by the speedy monk, who he cannot seem to strike, summons a bevy of mirror images to confound Hikage’s fists, and pierces the monk with a bevy of magic missiles. Zendo and Gellius ignore the illusory duplicates and pierce Ordikon with their own series of magic missiles until the wizard quickly summons a magical shield to absorb them and thwart other attacks.

He then wraps a defensive spell around himself which shocks anyone who strikes him, though Hikage steels himself against the jolts. Corvus realizes that Ordikon is not a golem himself, but appears to have magically transmuted himself into metal, perhaps even mithral, and warns the others not to use fire, as it might heal the wizard in the same way that fire heals an iron golem. He then uses a powerful spell to destroy several of the magical wards protecting Ordikon. Though the mage’s mirror images remain, his most powerful protective wards have been stripped away. Most of Hikage’s blows only shatter the mirages, but the monk does land some painful strikes on the wizard, while Ragnar’s deadly blows slice through the illusions alone.

On the defensive, Ordikon retreats, but transforms the floor into burning hot obsidian! The rhinoceros, Ragnar, Corvus, and Zendo are all trapped and burned, though the fire wizard takes but little damage! Zendo, in his frustration, unleashes a powerful Resonating Word against Ordikon, staggering the mithral mage. Sensing his enemy’s vulnerability, Hikage springs forward and destroys the last of the wizard’s illusory duplicates, before hitting the wizard several times.

Imperiled, Ordikon unleashes a powerful blast of magic at Hikage, attempting to transform him into a frog! Hikage unleashes a final killing stroke, which not only brings down the mithral mage, but also stuns himself as the energy of the mage’s defensive spell courses through his arms.

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Entering Runeforge
Calistril 2, 4708

In the morning, the Avengers awake and prepare for the day. Corvus hikes back up to the circle of stones outside Rimeskull to cast a spell allowing the men to magically retreat there if they are overmatched, and the others make preparations.

Once the heroes are prepared, they experiment with the keys to Runeforge. Gellius selects the key of Envy and inserts it into the pillar marked with similar runes. Consulting the Scribbler’s rhyme, the men decide to turn it twice clockwise. As Gellius does so, the pillar glows and gives off a soft tone. They key also glows, but disappears. Slivers of ice shiver off the stone column as it vibrates gently, but nothing else happens immediately. Gellius had theorized that the key would reveal the real contents of the nearby stone chamber, but this appears to not be the case.

Quickly Corvus, Zendo, and Gellius use the other keys on each pillar, clockwise, as Hikage and Ragnar watch the stone hallways for signs of life, but nothing happens. As the final key is turned in the last pillar, the large central pillar begins rippling with a spiraling rainbow of light. As the lights spiral up and down the twisted pillar, it begins to shift and straighten, becoming a seven-sided obelisk and revealing a oval portal within, though the bright lights of the pillar make it difficult to see far into the tunnel revealed. Cautiously, the heroes clamber through the portal and explore the stone tunnel.

The tunnel proceeds for roughly 150 feet before opening up into a large, circular chamber, engraved with an immense Sihedron rune across the center of the floor. The center of the sidhedron is occupied by a raised dias with a pool filled with bubbling, prismatic fluid. Tall stone statues of the seven Runelords stand around the pool, each in front of an arched passageway, similar to the one through which the heroes entered. Karzoug is represented as a tall man with gems set in his forehead and hands, wielding a burning glaive. Krune is depicted as a short, smiling man with a hooked nose, wielding a spear. Belimarius is carved as a heavyset, sneering woman wielding a halberd. Xanderghul is represented as a handsome man with a closely cropped beard, wielding a lucerne hammer. Alaznist is depicted as a gothic beauty with wild hair and wielding a thorny ranseur. Zuth is carved as an obese man with rotten flesh, wielding a scythe. Sorshen’s statue is the only one depicted in the nude, and the seductive, voluptuous woman depicted is wielding a double-headed guisarme.

The men carefully examine the bubbling, glowing liquid within the pool, but other than determining it is magical, they find out little. Corvus dips the end of his staff within the pool, but elicits no reaction from the many-colored waters.

Zendo wishes to explore the halls of Greed, assuming that this will be where Karzoug awaits, but Corvus chooses to consult the Revelation Quill, focusing his mind on exploring Runeforge. The quill seizes control of his hand and scribes:

The Abjurant Halls hold but a singular foe,
but Envy’s fall holds magic’s woe.

Realizing that the Halls of Envy must hold but a single enemy, the men finally decide to explore that area first. They use several enchantments to protect themselves as they enter, with Corvus guarding them from evil, and Gellius boosting their stamina with his wand of bear’s endurance. As they enter the passage behind the statue of Belimarius, a graven mouth appears on the ceiling of the shaft. It booms a warning in Thassilonian, which Zendo and Corvus translate as “These are the Abjurant Halls of Eager Striving! YKnow that your powers will be crushed and you shall die! You are not worthy!!” Dismissing it as little more than a boastful parlor trick, the heroes proceed down a long corridor before a strange sight stops them from descending a short flight of stairs.

Ahead of them, they can see a large, partially caved-in chamber. The murals and bas-reliefs on the walls appear to have been blasted and shattered by some magical cataclysm. Sooty bones are scattered across the floor, and flames flicker across the walls and floor intermittently. These flames serve to illuminate the room, as do the lightning sparks sputtering from a silver rod protruding from the floor of the room. The rod appears to be fused with the floor, and the men approach it carefully as Corvus uses his spells to detect the type of magic it is emitting. The wizard can recognize the magic pulses as abjuration magic, but does not recognize what type of spell or effect the sparking rod is emitting. Zendo explores to the left, finding a largely intact room illuminated by lanterns past a crumbling, collapsed tunnel. Hikage explores forward, keeping near the bard, but only finds blasted walls and collapsed tunnels. Ragnar explores to the right, and finds a hallway ending in a T-junction, but reports a powerful, vinegary smell in the area. Gellius approaches the strange rod and gingerly touches it.

Immediately, a bright, spherical pulse of magic passes through the room. The heroes protective spells immediately collapse, and several of their magic items ‘short out’ and cease to function. Zendo’s wand of enervation crumbles to powdery dust in his bandolier (as does one of Corvus’s more powerful scrolls of True Resurrection, as they discover later). Hikage’s haversack, suddenly disenchanted, rips apart under the strain of the items contained within. The rod has suppressed, or even disenchanted, many of their magic items! As the men groan with dismay, a new threat approaches with a slopping burble.

Rangar is suddenly beset by a hideous odor, as an immense, yellowish goo squishes forward towards him from the darkness! Corvus recognizes it as a mustard jelly, a dangerous dungeon ooze related to the lesser ochre jelly, but Zendo sees that the jelly is not merely a mindless ooze, but is acting with a fiendish intelligence. The bard warns the others that the jelly has been corrupted by the foul powers of the Abyss, and might be resistant to fire and other forms of attack. The stench of the beast is sickening, and Ragnar and Zendo gag and retch. Ragnar slices deeply into the jelly, which, despite its oozing form, does appear to have some sort of skin which can be cut, but he is suddenly grappled as the mustard jelly extrudes several long tentacles and wraps them around his body. He cries out as the yellow ooze burns his skin like acid.

Zendo quickly casts a spell of haste, which helps fight off the incapacitating smell, and Corvus unleashes a greenish ray of disintegration, which makes almost half of the ooze simply disappear into thin air. The others are concerned for Ragnar, clutched in the grip of the ooze, but the Ulfen simply drops one hand from the hilt of his greatsword and draws the dagger in his leg sheath. He drives it into the center of the remaining bulk of the jelly and slashes hard from one side to the other, slicing apart the ooze and scattering its remains.

The men quickly retreat from the chamber and heal the worst of Ragnar’s wounds, as Zendo carefully strips down to his non-magical clothes and takes his masterworked ‘tools’ with him. Thus bereft of magic, Zendo carefully approaches the rod and examines it. Though the device appears to be physically merged with the floor, the bard can carefully pick and saw away at it, disassembling it into fragments and removing it, without triggering another pulse.

Now that the rod is removed, the men explore the chamber more thoroughly, after Zendo re-equips himself. In the direction where the mustard jelly had lay in ambush, they find a stinking chamber caked in (non-animate ooze. The keen-eyed Hikage notices a hidden panel in the wall, and finds a rusty lever and a small stash of useful potions. Examining the rusty level reveals nothing, and even Zendo is at a loss to determine what it triggers (or triggered). Perhaps it was used to deactivate the silver rod?

In the other direction, Gellius is the first to explore the room lit by lanterns. Within, a tiled floor leads down to a silvery surface. As the others come to examine this find, Hikage notices that their footsteps cause the surface to ripple slightly. The room contains a pool of silvery liquid! Corvus can tell that the liquid is magical, and it radiates abjuration magic strongly, though it is only a shallow pool of liquid spread across the floor. Unwilling to touch the strange, silvery fluid, Zendo uses a bit of twine to fill an empty vial with a small amount of the liquid. Ragnar, a bit less wary, kneels down and fills his empty hip flask with the silvery substance, shaking it off his hands where it contacts them, but he seems to suffer no ill effects.

Unsure what to make of the blasted rooms, the men are at a loss. Ragnar suggests that someone must have attacked these wizards, but no one has claimed their hall. Since the Runeforge was a wizardly workshop, the silver rod may have kept them away. So long as no one knows that the rod has been removed, perhaps other intruders will stay away. The men might be able to use the Abjurant Halls as a convenient muster point, if the other inhabitants of the Runeforge avoid it.

After a bit of preparation, the men decide to explore the Halls of Greed (or Transmutation). At the end of another long stone corridor, Zendo sees an iron door glittering faintly at the edge of the group’s lights. He approaches it stealthily, and sees that the door, mounted to the left side of the tunnel, is studded with dozens of colorful gemstones. Though it appears to have no latch,a depression in the center contains a keyhole. Zendo moves up to the door to listen, but when he presses his ear against the door, the entire door shoots outward at him!

The bard tumbles backward quickly to avoid injury as the iron door shoots forward, stopping only a hairbreadth from the opposite wall. The ‘door’ is not a door at all, but an immense iron slab mounted on a piston. The slab retracts into the wall after being triggered.

Now much more cautious, Hikage examines the dead end of the tunnel, and notices a faint pattern in the stone. Moving up carefully, he opens a secret door in the end of the hall which reveals a beautiful tunnel of polished wood inlaid with gold and silver runes. The men move through the hallway, marveling at the extravagant nature of the woodwork and inset precious metals. The hall stretches for a hundred feet before it is obscured by a greenish mist sparkling with silver motes of light. Beyond the mist, the men can faintly see a huge, glassy sculpture of a whale, spraying water from its blowhole, in the center of a large fountain.

Corvus intently examines the green, sparkling mist, and determines that it is some sort of bound transformational spell, polymorphing those who breath the mist into goldfish!

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Ancient Tien secrets, indeed!
Calistril 1, 4708

Trapped in the jaws of Arkrhyst, Gellius unleashes a blast of lightning from his wand, which miraculously penetrates the ancient drake’s spell resistance and coruscates across the dragon’s body.

Sensing his vulnerability, Gellius whirls to the attack in elemental form and grapples with the dragon, seeking to use the whirling winds of his assumed shape to bring the beast down to earth. HIkage hovers in midair and meditates upon his course of action, as Ragnar laboriously climbs through the air towards Freezemaw. Zendo flies upward to Gellius and heals the transformed druid, who braved the dragon’s claws in his attempt to pull him from the air.

Struggling to avoid crashing, Freezemaw wrests himself free of the grip of the air elemental and, seeking to remain aloft, flies towards the nearby monk and warrior, who have struggled to even lay a hand upon him so far. However, Hikage’s meditations prove insightful, and the monk deftly slides through the air, evading Freezemaw’s fangs, and lands a blazing strike upon the dragon! A series of swift strikes follows. Though most fail to harm the immense dragon, Freezemaw cannot evade them entirely, and Hikage strikes him twice more, painfully.

Freezemaw is taken aback by the sudden turn of events, with the minute monk suddenly escalated to a major threat, but before he can reply, the enraged Ulfen finally reaches his target. Though Ragnar endures a vicious bite before he can ply his blade, he buries the greatsword deep in Freezemaw’s vitals, dealing him a dolorous stroke. Arkrhyst recognizes his position is untenable, surrounded in the air, but suddenly Gellius soars through the air and buffets him violently on the snout. Corvus, tiring of the drake’s resistance to magic, uses his wand to conjure an arrow of acid, which buries itself in the dragon’s wing, burning him painfully.

Arkrhyst has had enough, and turns tail, to flee these airborne marauders and retreat to his lair. However, his serpentine coils do not confuse Hikage. The stances and strikes of his ancestor’s martial brushwork align perfectly with the tableaux before him, and the monk strikes sure and true. A fist spears out, cracking Freezemaw’s scales and bones like brittle ice, and the ancient foe of the Shoanti plummets from the air, stone dead before he hits the ground with earth-shaking force.

Though they have triumphed against an ancient, epic foe, the Avengers do not even pause to dress their wounds, but make for the yawning maw of Rimeskull itself. Hikage alights on the icy landing in front of the cavern entrance, while Ragnar and Zendo fly towards the massive stone stair. Gellius assumes the form of an eagle and wings towards the stairs as Corvus, the only Avenger bereft of flight, strides quickly towards the base of the steps. When he steps upon the stone stairs, the icy rubble piled upon the landings shudders, and tossing off a crust of rime and bones, two massive earth elementals appear! They begin to stride down the stairs, but the men quickly unleash hell upon them. Corvus sends coruscating bolts of lightning at the elementals, as does Gellius, to lesser effect, while Hikage flies about the head of one and sends clumps of rock and stone flying with his powerful kicks. Zendo uses his wand to burn the one which approaches to threaten Corvus, but the group is puzzled when the elemental peers down at the wizard and turns away to retreat. Ragnar chops the other elemental apart with his adamantine greatsword and the ‘retreating’ elemental is kicked into harmless clumps of stone by Hikage.

Finally ascending the stone stairs, the men find that the ‘cavern’ of Rimeskull is the terminus of a long tunnel, wending deeper into the mountain. Zendo uses his bardic talent to heal the men with only a magically invigorating story. Using Zendo’s dancing lights to explore ahead, the men tread cautiously into the dark tunnel, finally coming upon two statues, each with one arm upraised in warning, and the other clutching a sword.

Warily, Hikage explores the statues, and finds that the stone floor beyond them is coated with a sheer layer of black ice, and slopes slightly and inexorably downward. A dozen yards away, the tunnel floor drops away entirely, vanishing over a sheer chasm. However, the keen-eyed monk spots a strange sight: flecks of snow and ice seem to hover over the floor on the left side of the tunnel. Exploring further, Hikage finds that an invisible ledge of stone hides here, allowing a safe passage that spirals down into the darkness. Rather than risking the slippery ice, the others leap across the slope and join him on the invisible ledge, allowing the monk to guide them down the steep, but traversable ramp, down into a massive chamber.

Within the chamber below, the walls glisten with ice. Seven pillars rise to a height of twenty feet at the perimeter of the chamber, each coated with ice and graven with Thassilonian runes. A larger spire rises in the center of the room to twice that height, though its seven sides spiral upwards without rune or other marking. Eight passages lead out of the chamber, though one portal is blocked by a massive mound of glistening coins, tapestries, jewelry, and other treasure!

Though the hoard of Arkrhyst seizes the attention of Ragnar and Hikage, the others insist on examining the pillars and scouting out the silent passages first. Corvus finds that each of the smaller pillars is inscribed with arcane formula relating to a single school of Thassilonian magic, but he and Zendo can find no distinguishing marks or illuminating aura on the central spire. Gellius suggests examining the pillars for keyholes, and Hikage is perhaps chagrined to find a small keyhole on the nearest pillar, roughly four feet above the ground. It appears that each pillar has such a keyhole.

Gellius is eager to insert the keys into the pillars, but Zendo and Corvus insist on examining the passageways (and not the massive hoard of treasure, weapons, and armor!). Ragnar strides into the nearest passage with some irritation, but finds that it proceeds roughly 150 paces before opening up into a substantial, but empty cavern. The walls of the cavern do not appear to be natural, but they are too smooth and irregular to be carved from the stone. While the cavern is a single chamber, there are irregular dips in the floor and ceiling, and uneven bulges in the walls. The men can find no purpose in the strange room, and each of the other passages leads to a similar, featureless cavern. Gellius proposes that the chambers might be empty at the moment, but magically ‘fill’ with rooms when the keys are turned.

Caution satisfied, the men now indulge their curiosity about Arkrhyst’s hoard. Though it is filled with substantial amounts of copper, silver, and gold, as well as casks of jewelry, tapestries, and even valuable furnishings, it is clear that a substantial portion of the hoard is composed of the gear of previous bands of heroes who journeyed here to slay the beast. Sets of mithral chain for halflings or gnomes lie with a fine suit of plate, emblazoned with onyx ravens, and an enchanted suit of half-plate with a wolf motif. A darkwood buckler from Kyonin lies beside an enchanted cloak of white fur, and a belt of giant strength rests beside ivory bracers of archery. Numerous vials of holy water, as well as a trove of healing potions, have all frozen solid in the cold, though two potions of cold resistance remain liquid. Wands of magic missiles, bear’s endurance, and curing light wounds are partially expended, and three magical scrolls remain unread. A magical adamantine warhammer, and a flame tongue longsword give mute testimony to past failures to kill the dragon. Zendo finds a teak box, padded with silk, with mysterious smooth stones inside. They are non-magical, but none of the Avengers can identify them until Corvus remembers Abstalar Zantus using a similar Thunderstone to signal the start of the Swallowtail Festival, a cherished memory that seems long past, though less than a year has passed. After distributing some of the gear, the men decide to make camp here in the main chamber, depending on Gellius’s powerful magics to create a magical grove to provide warmth, comfort, water, and food.

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Lord of Rimeskull
Abadius 26-Calistril 1, 4708

Beginning seven days before their intended voyage to Lake Stormunder, the heroes decide to ply the Revelation Quill for hints to their future, though none dare to utilize the full power of the quill to contact the enigmatic Peacock Spirit.

On the 26th, Corvus focuses his mind on the arrival of the Avengers at Lake Stormunder, and his hand, clutching the quill, quickly scratches out a brief phrase in an unfamiliar hand:

Magic frees the keys and awakens the sleeper.

The men are concerned, as they understand that magic is necessary to obtain the ‘keys’ to Runeforge, but all are uncertain who the awakened ‘sleeper’ would be? Is this Karzoug?

On Moonday, still alarmed about the ‘awakening’ that magic might bring, Corvus again grasps the quill and concentrates on a mental image of casting spells at the stone heads said to be at Lake Stormunder. Again, the Revelation Quill controls his hand, and scribes a short phrase on paper:

The lords shall sup of magic close, ere that be your intent or no.

The brief phrase worries the group, as perhaps the stone ‘lords’ can drain enchantments from their magic items, or even from their minds! Gellius, a bit more calm, suggests that the phrase may simply warn that any spell cast near the stone heads will be absorbed, even if that was not intended.

On Toilday, Corvus focuses on a more disturbing image. He envisions the heroes fighting a risen Karzoug, imagining the Runelord from his statues, and the magical image of him at Thistletop. The quill, clutched in his hand, writes an enigmatic phrase:

A lord in stone, bathed in gold, reaches from his throne

This sends the men into a fury of speculation. Clearly, Karzoug, being the Runelord of Greed, could be bathed in gold, and his rule over the stone giants could indicate a ‘lord in stone’, but how does he reach from his throne? Is Karzoug already ruling in Runeforge?

On Wealday, still worried about the prospect of fighting Karzoug, Corvus decides to seek a revelation about forging runeforged weapons. He envisions a massive forge where rune-carved weapons are created, but the strange couplet he scribes while holding the quill suggests something else:

Steeped in sin, the pool glows gold; steeping weapons in runes of old

On Oathday, Gellius decides to use the quill, and imagines the men embroiled in combat at Lake Stormunder, fighting against an imagined foe on the banks of the lake. The quill, clasped in his hand, writes of its own accord:

Ancient stone slaved to guard the stair, but death alights into the air.

This couplet is entirely unexpected, though the true import of it shall soon become evident to the heroes.

On Fireday, before the heroes depart on the morrow, Corvus makes one more attempt to gain some insight into the nature of Runeforge. He envisions the men exploring a massive forge complex, with a golden pool, perhaps to quench the weapons forged there. The Revelation Quill supplies a rather different image:

A nest of wizards astir like ants, by a lord now awakened, return to projects long forsaken.

With their questions heightened, rather than answered, by the Revelation Quill, the men make their final preparations and say their goodbyes to friends and loved ones in the town.

On Starday, the first of Calistril, Gellius gathers his friends together and weaves a spell upon them, turning them all into insubstantial wisps of themselves. So transformed, the men find that they can move slowly about in the air by themselves, but are able to summon a strong wind to speed them along in the sky faster than any horse could run. Alighting into the skies, the Avengers whisk themselves out above the Varisian Bay. In less than an hour, the heroes can see Windsong Abbey passing swiftly beneath their feet as they fly across the sky.

Within the hour, the men perceive the Fogscar Mountains on their right as they speed across the sky like scudding clouds before a storm. The coastal range hides the Churlwoods from view, however, and soon vanishes from sight as the men fly across the Varisian Gulf and towards Riddleport. The Cyphergate looms over the natural cove of the town, made more ominous by the men’s knowledge of Runelord Karzoug’s role in its creation. Life goes on in the busy port despite the presence of the mysterious runic arch, however, and the men land briefly to take a meal at a handy pub, before taking to the air once more. At their rate of travel, Gellius’s powerful spell will see them to Lake Stormunder long before the enchantment will expire.

The men follow the Velashu River northward until it curves away to the west, then they make for the modest heights of the Red Mountains, careful to avoid the unsettling Lurkwood to the east, with its trees mysteriously showing the full bloom of spring in the depths of winter. Several hours pass between their departure from Riddleport and the men’s passage over the last of the Red Mountains range, but eventually the heroes begin to fly over the stony plains known as the Nolands. Bandit activity here is everpresent, but the Avengers, far above, pass unnoticed and unremarked as they soar towards Lake Stormunder, faintly visible on the horizon.

Arriving in late afternoon, the men alight on the cold banks of the steaming lake. The geysers which roil and churn the waters of the lake send clouds of steam billowing across the surface, but that water soon chills and freezes, coating the dead grasses in a brittle cloak of ice. To the north and east, the Kodar Mountains rear up, but the men’s attention is drawn to the nearby features of Rimeskull. Though visible from miles away, the scale and features of the mountain are more starkly evident from here. The entire side of the mountain has been carved away into a single, enormous face, though time has weathered away all detail save eyes and mouth, leaving an ice-encrusted visage akin to a grinning skull. Stone stairs carved from the bones of the mountain itself wend down to a tall stone arch. This arch lies to the east of a nearby hill, on whose strangely flattened top rest seven massive stone heads.

The men approach the top of the hill in the fading daylight, and look over the stone heads from a safe distance. They recognize Karzoug and Alaznist from their statues, and identify the visages of Sorshen and Zutha from the descriptions provided by Lady Heidmarch. Belimarius is the only remaining female runelord, so her likeness is identified by elimination. There is some confusion between the smiling visage of Krune and the handsome features of Xanderghul, but Corvus soon identifies the close-trimmed beard of the Runelord of Pride.

Ragnar and Hikage take up defensive positions as the spell-casters approach a chosen statue to cast magic upon it. When the first spell is cast upon the stone head of Belimarius by Gellius, a bell-like tone rings through the air, so strong and loud that it seems to vibrate the very ground. As the note fills the air, the statue glows with a greenish-golden light, and a golden key, marked with the Thassilonian rune of Envy, appears within the open mouth of the statue. Gellius takes the key, and Corvus and Zendo hasten to cast their minor cantrips upon the visages of the remaining runelords.

Each spell brings forth a similar note, though Zendo notices that they descend in half-tones counter-clockwise across the circle. Each note is accompanied by the blazing light, and the light reveals a key within each mouth. Before Zendo can seize the final key, marked with the Rune of Pride, from the mouth of Xanderghul, a terrifying shriek fills the air.

The men are appalled to see a massive white dragon swoop down upon them, screeching in wrath. This can only be Arkrhyst, known to the Shoanti as Freezemaw! The subject of the ballads is alive, and angry! As the dragon checks its dive, its wings billow outward, and it roars a query in Shoanti that only Corvus understands: “What nomads disturb my sleep?”, though it does not wait for an answer and unleashes a blistering blast of icy cold, numbing the limbs of Ragnar and Zendo. Corvus is unnerved by the massive dragon, though he holds his ground, and Hikage masters his fear, focusing on his own ‘dragon style’.

Knowing the peril they are in, the men scatter, some running towards Gellius, who offers magical protection from cold, while others head to Corvus, who prepares a similar enchantment. Ragnar hurls a dagger at Arkrhyst, but the blade slides across the dragon’s facial scales without marking the beast. Though the wizard and druid protect their friends from harm, Freezemaw casts a spell and creates a huge wall of ice, splitting up the heroes from each other. Zendo becomes invisible, and Corvus rushes to the bard.

As Gellius summons a fire elemental, Corvus sends a blast of fire at the dragon, knowing the whites are normally vulnerable to heat. However, the ancient dragon shrugs off the spell, and the flames curl harmlessly around him. Ragnar draws his bow, but his arrows bounce off the thick scales of the drake without causing any harm. Freezemaw, swooping overhead, summons a blinding cloud of sleet, which turns the ground into an icy mess and blinds the men, as the freezing rain coats their eyelashes and runs into their eyes. Unable to see, the men blunder around, hands against the icy wall, as they feel their way out of the icy maze. Zendo hears the dragon land behind him, though he cannot see in the sleet storm, and he and the wizard flee from the dragon, but not before the half-elf is bitten.

Freezemaw dives down and seizes Gellius in his fanged maw, injuring the druid greatly. Zendo alights into the air, while Corvus brands his companions, wreathing their weapons in fire and their brow with flame. Zendo grants his friends haste, though he is unable to assist the distant Gellius. Arkrhyst bathes the captive Gellius in freezing cold, but the druid is able to transform into a huge air elemental before he plummets to the ground from a great height.

As Arkhryst circles again, Zendo quickly heals Gellius of the worst of his wounds, as Corvus grants flight to Hikage, only to see the dragon swoop down to snatch at him with his jaws. Though the monk is torn by Freezemaw’s bite, he is too quick for the dragon to seize. Gellius calls down a divine flamestrike on the dragon, but even this patters harmlessly against the dragon, unable to best the resistance of the monster. Hikage flies through the air, fists wreathed in mystic flames, and strikes the dragon, but the wily old drake has compensated for his vulnerability to fire with a magical spell which resists the flames. Corvus finally has time to grant flight to Ragnar, but the burly Ulfen is unable to climb into the air fast enough to charge the dragon before it circles and dives again, seizing Corvus painfully in his jaws and climbing into the air again. Fortunately, Gellius is able to unleash a powerful abjuration, negating the dragon’s protection from fire, as well as breaking the protective spell which helped to shield it from blows.

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A long, restful Abadius
Abadius 3-31, 4708

For the cold, wet month of Abadius, the Lost Coast Avengers spend a great deal of time in their (mostly adopted) town of Sandpoint, though the powerful magics of Corvus Albus ensure frequent trips to Magnimar and even the empty halls of Jorgenfist.

Of all of the Avengers, Corvus is perhaps the most enterprising during their unexpectedly long respite. The slight wizard has brought powerful artifacts and much lost knowledge to the Pathfinder Society, and is the only one of the Avengers with a ready means of journeying the lost distances involved. His teleportations to Longtooth’s lair and the chambers of Jorgenfist (assisted by the less sophisticated, but extensive lifting capacity of Ragnar) ensure that a steady stream of valuables and enchanted items (most of giantish proportions) flow into the markets of Magnimar. Though Zendo’s clever words and winning disposition certainly help seal many deals, the magical talents of the young wizard make what would otherwise be an arduous caravan journey to the Storval Plateau a matter of a few days work.

However, exercising his arcane talents for transportation utilizes little of Corvus’s attention. He spends long hours poring over the spellbooks of Barl Breakbones and Mokmurian, mastering many of the spells within. When he feels he has gleaned all the insights he desires from Barl’s tomes, Corvus contributes them to the archives of the Pathfinder Society, for generous compensation, but he retains the copious librams of Mokmurian, as the elder Stone Giant’s knowledge of magic was quite prodigious. Rather than coin, the Society remunerates Corvus with access to several other spellbooks, allowing the unquenchably curious wizard to further expand his mastery of arcane lore. Despite spending a substantial amount of his own considerable portion of the loot, Corvus finds it difficult to locate anyone within (or without) the Society who will acknowledge having mastery of several fell spells, though he does succeed in learning several powerful dweomers.

Corvus also spends many hours crafting a powerfully enchanted wand, capable of evoking bolts of lightning. Not content with crafting even the ‘basic’ version of such a powerful weapon, Corvus spends additional time and exotic components to infuse the wand with more powerful electrical energies.

In addition, Corvus spends much of his ‘free time’ in the Library of the Therassic Monastery, sending the clockwork librarian scuttling around the stacks in an effort to glean more information about the ancient dominion of Thassilon. Ironically, the problem is too much information, rather than not enough, and the wizard spends a great deal of time skimming over fawning hagiographies and boastful travelogues in search of concrete information. All in all, Corvus spends the least time in Sandpoint, and, even when in town, tends to isolate himself in his rooms for study.

In contrast with the bookish wizard, Zendo remains the most outgoing of the Avengers. His steady courtship of the aloof Rynshinn Povalli has persisted, to the point where most of the town dandies consider ‘the most beautiful woman in Sandpoint’ to be spoken for, and many of the gossipy women of the town are already nattering about the date of a wedding, or even a baby! Zendo does nothing but fuel the fire with his inquiries about town for property for sale, enough to build a mansion. His casual way of talking about sums of gold and gems that few Sandpointers would see in a lifetime fuel many stories about the fabulous wealth that the “Heroes of Sandpoint” have acquired on their fantastical exploits.

Those exploits form the basis of several packed audiences at the Sandpoint Theatre. Cyrdak Drokkus is happy to have the charismatic bard regale the villagers at his establishment, rather than ‘giving away’ a performance for drinks and dinner at the Rusty Dragon. Many of the town’s female population, hopeful that the aloof Rynshinn might once again dismiss a suitor, are a bit rueful about the situation, but both men and women turn out to hear the half-elf’s rousing tales of derring-do and adventurous exploits, though the bard is careful to edit out much of the demonic and necromantic details from his tales, focusing his stories more on the panoramic vistas, ancient sites, and fantastical magic and monsters that the Avengers have encountered.

Zendo does not spend all of his time rubbing elbows with the folk in Sandpoint, however. He makes several trips to Magnimar, speaking with Venture-Captain Sheila Heidmarch, and assisting Corvus in preparing a coherent narrative of the explorations of the Avengers. Zendo makes a subtle visit to the Lord-Mayor, and several less-subtle visits to taverns and Varisian camps in the City of Monuments, spreading word of the deeds of the Lost Coast Avengers, and keeping one pointed ear out for helpful rumors. He learns from several of the Shoanti outcasts in the rough-and-tumble gangs of Magnimar that the Shundar Quah, or Spire Clan, of Shoanti, have old legends of the Kodar Mountains near Lake Stormunder. The disaffected youth know that the quah called the mountain there Rimeskull, but long ago stopped wandering there, despite the presence of the warm springs even in the cold of winter. None of the surly Shoanti know precisely why Rimeskull was regarded as ill-omened, but those who abandoned their clans and traditions can hardly be expected to be the most well-versed in that lore.

Zendo also spends a little time assisting Corvus in doing research in the Therassic Monastery. Though the bard is fascinated with the idea of the realms of Thassilonian lore contained within, he has little patience for the long stretches of reading required, and is disappointed to find the Clockwork Librarian a poor (and literal-minded) conversationalist.

While Zendo focuses on the social, Gellius spends most of his time on the spiritual. The druid spends most of Abadius in Sandpoint, though he does accompany the others to Magnimar, but more to entertain Boudra Fullona than for any specific purpose. Gellius visits at length with the priests of the Sandpoint Cathedral, informing them of the dark temple lurking beneath the town, and of his own encounters with the monstrous priests and priestesses of Lamashtu in his adventures. His command of earth and stone grants him access to the malevolent shrine (thanks to some strenuous spadework from Ragnar) and Gellius invites the clergy to accompany him as he summons the powerful divine magics of Gozreh to cleanse and reclaim the evil temple.

The druid also spends a great deal of time in prayer and contemplation at the cathedral, seeking to reconnect with a quieter, gentler aspect of Gozreh, as provider and protector, than the fierce, implacable storm-god which has empowered his prayers of late. Though the cold, wet winter means that Hannah Velerin spends little time gathering herbs under the crust of snow, Gellius devotes time to assisting his old mentor in drying, smoking, and otherwise preserving the bounty of nature she has gathered in the autumn.

Gellius spends a lot of time with Boudra, making a concerted effort to share his ways and experiences with her, perhaps to broaden the provincial horizons of his small-town girlfriend. He sends word to his parents on their farm, telling them little of his harrowing exploits, but reassuring them that he is well, and successful.

Though not the social butterfly that Zendo is, Gellius also queries many of the well-traveled in Sandpoint about Lake Stormunder. Though he has never ventured there, Garridan Viskalai knows a bit of Shoanti lore about Lake Stormunder and the region. The Kodar mountains begin here by the Steaming River, and the nearby peak, named Rimeskull, is visible from miles away. Vesnutt Parooh even has a tinted etching of the moutain, which vagely resembles an ice-crusted, yawning skull. Garridan can barely remember a few snatches of an ancient Shoanti ballad about tribal heroes who rode upon Rimeskull to defeat a great beast named Freezemaw that raided the Velashu Uplands. The innkeeper apologizes for not remembering more, but explains that it is an old song, hundreds of years old, that his grandmother sang to him in the winter, and one she learned from Shoanti of another quah, who placed greater importance on the tale.

Being a bit more adept than the others with geography (with the possible exception of Ragnar, who seems to eschew maps in favor of constellations), Gellius also assists Zendo and Corvus in the preparation of several maps of their exploits, sketching out the location of Skull’s Crossing, the Hook Mountain Clanholds, and the extent of Jorgenfist in the Valley of the Black Tower. Gellius gets some supplies, and some helpful advice, from Vesnutt, who also encourages him to sketch his impressions of Lake Stormunder when he travels there.

Hikage spends a great deal of time in the company of women during his hiatus in Sandpoint and Magnimar, to the surprise of his comrades. In Sandpoint, Hikage visits with Ameiko Kaijitsu. As a long-time friend, he feels obligated to inform Ameiko about all the particulars of his encounters beneath Sandpoint, as ‘her’ Glassworks are connected to the fell temple, and Hikage hopes that the property can still be restored to the Kaijitsu family. Ameiko is frustrated and horrified that Malonial’s men looted the catacombs and (might have) awakened the Scribbler, but Hikage cautions her that there is still much about the situation that his friends do not fully understand. The recent earthquake and collapse may have happened regardless of whether the temple was disturbed, and though Amander is a disingenuous eel, he seems to have no connection to the cult of Lamashtu or to Karzoug.

Hikage also presents the monastic tapestry to Sabyl Sorn in a formal, almost ritualized ceremony. He praises Sabyl’s commitment to carrying on her father’s work at the House of Blue Stones. Though the tapestry predates the Sorn legacy, and, indeed Sandpoint itself, its recovery, and indeed, all of Hikage’s exploration, is due to the influence of her monastery and Sabyl herself. In presenting the tapestry to Sabyl, Hikage is not only acknowledging his own debt to her, but the debt which all monks owe to their monastic mentors and traditions.

In Magnimar, Hikage spends more time with Sheila Heidmarch than the other Avengers. While he is surprised to learn that the statuesque noblewoman herself is a student of the martial arts, Hikage is pleased to discover that another monk has thrived within the seemingly anarchic organization of the Pathfinder Society. However, Lady Heidmarch’s journey could not have been more different that Kibagame Hikage’s path to the Society. Daughter of a Thuvian merchant and a Korvosan aristocrat, she was fascinated by the battles and legends of Varisia from childhood and a chance meeting with Pathfinder Carnayvan cemented her goal to join the society. Sheila Heidmarch joined the Society in Absalom as an initiate during a business trip to Absolom, and her commission took her to Thuvia, and eventually to Mwangi, where she met Carnayvan again.

Unlike Hikage, Lady Heidmarch has little interest in the more esoteric disciplines of ki, but her own training as a warrior and monk has focused instead on a study of tactics and personal discipline. Although normally dressed as befitting a noblewoman, Lady Heidmarch is not averse to sparring with the curious monk. During their session, Hikage is aware that the Venture-Captain’s form is defensive, and her strikes are lacking the force of his own. However, her footwork is precise, and he is aware that while she might struggle to find an opening in his defenses, her own defenses are quite strong for her skill level. It appears that Lady Heidmarch may approach an opponent as an obstacle to be avoided, rather than as a challenge to be bested, or perhaps she has trained to fight as part of a group, delaying the enemy to allow another to defeat them.

Sheila Heidmarch confesses her regret that she herself was never able to indulge her childhood desires of exploring the hidden history of Varisia, but she is driven as a Venture-Captain to see that her homeland receives proper recognition as worthy of exploration, rather than as a wilderness filled with goblins and nomads. The extensive Thassilonian ruins documented by Quink and the Avengers fill her with satisfaction that her youthful suspicions were correct, though she does admit disappointment that each Varisian ruin uncovered reveals a Thassilonian heritage of cruelty and tyranny, rather than the enlightened golden age she had hoped to document. Even the fabled Therassic Monastery seems to have been ruled with an iron-fisted discipline rather than a humble devotion, if the Black Monk is any indication, That final guardian was not only denied entrance to his own sanctum, but was so slavishly devoted to his orders that he clutched the Emerald Codex for ten thousand years without even gazing upon its content, long after his order had disappeared.

Perhaps inspired by Lady Heidmarch’s interests, or possibly driven by a new-found sense of duty to the tenets of the Society, Hikage returns to Sandpoint eager to assist. Once the temple of Lamashtu has been sanctified, he approaches Brodert Quink for assistance in mapping and documenting the newly discovered layers of the structure, freeing Corvus and Gellius to spend more time documenting Jorgenfist. Quink is delighted at being granted access to the site again and his bristly demeanor at the vandalism quickly vanishes as Hikage shares their additional discoveries with him. The old sage seems eager to visit the library at Jorgenfist, but seems content enough to putter around the partially collapsed rooms of the Hellfire Flume for now, explaining, “That library’s not likely to collapse in the next earthquake, now is it?”

After speaking to Zendo about what the bard learned from the Shoanti gangers in Magnimar, and learning from Gellius about the Shoanti ballad of Freezemaw, Hikage makes determined use of the historical records collected in the House of Blue Stones. Though Corvus can find nothing about Freezemaw in the ancient archives of the Therassic Monastery, Hikage finds several accounts of Shoanti nomads. A white dragon, called Arkrhyst, but named Freezemaw in the Shoanti tongue, plagued the nomads of the Velashu Uplands and western Storval Plateau for hundreds of years. His raids were legendary, and many of the quahs still sing songs of lament for those dark times, and the many bands of heroes who sought him out near Rimeskull to end his menace. The last of Freezemaw’s raids on the Shoanti appears to have been about two hundred years ago, judging by the age of the surviving songs, though Hikage can find no records of a heroic dragonslaying warband returning in triumph.

Of all the Avengers, Ragnar seems to suffer the most in his inactivity in Sandpoint. Although willing to assist with the physical labor involved with the clearing of the temple and the emptying of the coffers of Jorgenfist, the Ulfen seems to find himself adrift. At first, his companions, only partly in jest, suggest to each other that Ragnar might be suffering withdrawal symptoms from his sword, currently being plied with fell enchantments in Magnimar.

At first, Ragnar seems fine, knocking back mead and ale, and coupling so vigorously with Shayliss Vinder that several lodgers at the Rusty Dragon express concern for the structure, as well as their sleep. After a fortnight or so of such (mostly) nocturnal activity, however, even the famously licentious Shayliss starts to appear a bit peaked.

Though town gossip holds that Sheriff Hemlock had already delivered an ultimatum to Amander Malonial, Ragnar engages the suave merchant in a heated argument that escalates to a shouting match, ending with a vigorous headbutting that breaks Malonial’s nose and sees Ragnar banned from the Hagfish for a month, further irritating the sullen Ulfen, who complains that no one else serves ‘proper fish’. Uttered, as this was, in front of Ameiko, it might have insulted the Tien bard more had she not been so pleased that Ragnar delivered an “Ulfen kiss” to her antagonist. As it was, she only emptied Hikage’s tea, rather than Ragnar’s mead, over his head for the insult.

Evidently exhausting even the lusty Shayliss, Ragnar returns to employing the girls at the Pixie’s Kitten, to their evident delight (though whether at his performance, or his coin purse, the girls are too professional to clarify). Though her own reputation in town was quite scandalous, Shayliss takes this poorly, leading to heated confrontations all over town. Though the hot-blooded redhead seems willing to forgive Ragnar for each of an increasingly long stretch of ‘lapses’, Ameiko finally confronts him after a mug-throwing tirade at the Dragon.

“What are you playing at, Ragnar?”
“Shayliss has always run sails off her looks. The girls at the Kitten tack harder.”
“Then why go back to her? You’ve got the gold, I know.”
“She’s better when she’s angry.”
“What about my mugs, you lout?”
“Put it in a proper tankard. She can’t cast that hard.”

After a few weeks of walking into (or quickly walking away from) such incidents with Ragnar, Zendo finally confronts him about it, asking the Ulfen why he is so damned moody.

“There crept a beast; kill it. There sits mead; drink it. There prances the whores; screw them. There struts a fine beauty; bed her. I’ve killed and drank and screwed and bedded. What else am I to do in this town? I could do with a hard day’s work, but I’ve no need for small gold any longer. I could do with a proper knife fight, but the law is too fine. This whole month’s too long and this winter is too soft. Calistril comes, promising vengeance, and none too soon. What use have I for peace—what use has peace for warriors?”

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Sandpoint, Magnimar, and the Pathfinder Society
Abadius 1-2, 4708

After sealing off the temple of Lamashtu, the heroes climb back out of the sinkhole and, being near the Garrison, ask to speak to Sheriff Hemlock. When they share their information with him, Belor quickly decides that Mayor Kendra Deverin should be informed as well, and accompanies the men to the Town Hall to speak with her.

The Lost Coast Avengers inform the two town officials of their discoveries under the town. Both Belor and Kendra appear alarmed and upset. Sheriff Hemlock questions them closely about what they encountered in the hidden temple, and seems grimly determined when the men tell him about the blood, flesh, and corpse they discovered under the temple. One, or more, of the local dockhands must have been killed in the temple, and Amander Malonial has not informed the Sheriff of any mishaps. Though it upsets the Belor that Malonial has been looting the catacombs, the recently discovered chambers aren’t explicitly town property, and pilfering of the Old Light’s stones has been a long tradition in Sandpoint. However, Malonial’s behavior about his hired help is almost certainly criminal. Though Belor seems unconvinced that Malonial was in league with the Scribbler, the merchant has misled the sheriff about activity in the catacombs, and the death of one (or more) of his workers has occurred on his watch. He will face difficult questions from Hemlock.

The mayor seems more worried about the long-term repercussions of the Avengers’ adventures. She asks the men why Mokmurian was targeting the town, and whether or not he was acting under the direction, or control of Runelord Karzoug. Gellius and Corvus confess that they aren’t certain whether Mokmurian acted on his own initiative, nor can they say for certain that Karzoug will not send further agents to the town. The previous temple underneath Sandpoint was a grim enough realization, but the presence of a profane temple to Lamashtu under the town concerns her greatly. Gellius offers to consecrate the profane chamber, which should serve to nullify any lingering influence of the Mother of Monsters. Kendra expresses amazement that the young druid is capable of such powerful magics, but he assures her that he can do so. She suggests that he should visit with Father Zantus and the other clergy in the Sandpoint Cathedral, as she understands that such a ritual is lengthy and expensive, and she does not wish the Avengers to be forced into providing charitable assistance for the town they have served so ably.

Zendo and Corvus pore over the stanzas of Thassilonian doggerel that Xaliasa scribbled onto the walls of his temple. With the bard offering his insights into poetry, the wizard considers the meter and phrasing of the original Thassilonian, trying to put each verse in a proper order for traditional Thassilonian composition:

If magic bright is your desire, to old Runeforge must you retire.
Only there does wizards art receive its due and proper start.

On eastern shores of steaming mirror,
at end of day when dusk is nearer,
Where seven faces silent wait,
Encircled guards at Runeforge gate.

Each stone the grace of seven lords,
one part of key each ruler hoards.
If offered spells and proper prayer, take seven keys and climb the stair.

On frozen mountain Xin awaits, his regal voice the yawning gates.
Keys turn twice in Sihedron,
occulted Runeforge within.

Now you’ve come and joined Runeforge,
upon rare lore your mind can gorge.
When you slough the mortal way,
in Runeforge long your work shall stay.

Corvus remarks that ‘mirror’ is a common Thassilonian metaphor for lake, and Zendo recalls that Lake Stormunder in northwest Varisia, is heated by bubbling hot springs within the Lake. Perhaps the ‘steaming mirror’ refers to Lake Stormunder? However, even the well-traveled Zendo is at a loss to explain the ‘seven stones’ or the ‘frozen mountain’ where Xin awaits. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable of northwest Varisia might suggest nearby geographical locations? The men resolve to speak to Vesnutt Parooh and see if the gnomish cartographer has any insights.

Later that evening, Corvus uses his magic wand to identify the strange peacock feather quill found within the Scribbler’s chamber. The wizard finds that the quill will magically generate its own ink, but much more importantly, the quill can be used each day in a form of divination, as its magic will control the writer’s hand and scribe out a brief response to any question about the near future. More mysteriously, the quill can make contact with some form of extra-planar intelligence each week, inscribing the answers to more complex, far-reaching questions, though contact with such entities risks blasting the questioner’s intellect into temporary oblivion.

Some of the heroes, like Ragnar and Zendo, stay up with many of the Sandpointers for the revelry of Longnight, while others, like Corvus and Gellius, must retire early in order to be able to prepare their spells for the morrow. On the 2nd, Corvus teleports himself and the other Avengers to Magnimar, hoping to make contact with the Pathfinder Society again. Calling on the Pathfinders at Heidmarch Manor, the men are ushered past several small cottages to a large manor. Having only met the Heidmarches at a pavilion at the Lord-Mayor’s Menagerie before, the men are unsure what to expect, but they are escorted into a spacious meeting room where they wait briefly until Canayven Heidmarch and Sheila Heidmarch enter. The retired Pathfinders are polite, but distant, and inquire as to the purpose of a visit by the Lost Coast Avengers. Zendo explains that the heroes wish to join the Pathfinder Society, having made an important discovery. Canayven remains reticent, but Sheila smiles and politely explains that while she is not unaware of the Avenger’s recent exploits in Turtleback Ferry and their more recent escapades in thwarting a Stone Giant raid in Sandpoint, she is not aware of any discoveries they have made that would merit a rare field commission for even a single Pathfinder, much less a band of five.

Corvus brings up the Thassilonian dam known as Skulls Crossing, and Sheila explains that it is a known, if little explored, Thassilonian site of long standing. The wizard protests that the Avengers have explored it in detail, and discovered the ancient fiend imprisoned within that powers the sluice gates. When pressed, however, he admits that none of the men have made any maps, diagrams, or recordings of anything within, and that the ancient arcane mechanism is currently unpowered and inactive.

Corvus then brings up the catacombs beneath Sandpoint, to which Lady Heidmarch sharply retorts. “Those have been documented by Pathfinder ”/characters/brodert-quink" class=“wiki-content-link”>Brodert Quink, though his inexcusable lapses in organization have allowed the Aspis Consortium to control access to the site!" Wrongfooted, the men inquire about the Aspis Consortium, asking if Amander Malonial is somehow involved. Lady Heidmarch explains ruefully that Malonial is not only a successful merchant, but a ‘silver’ agent within the Aspis Consortium, a large trade organization operating in both Avistan and Magnimar. The Consortium is, technically, a group of merchants, but their ruthless and unethical business practices extend past unpleasant activities like war profiteering and tomb pilfering to fomenting insurrections and grave robbing. While the Society seeks to discover and preserve ancient artifacts and monuments, the Consortium seeks such sites for the purpose of looting them and selling such relics on the market, black or otherwise. Corvus explains that the men have discovered another level beneath that documented by Quink, and goes on to claim that the men have even spoken with the Thassilonian commander of the Hellfire Flume, Xaliasa. Sheila Heidmarch appears sceptical that the men have spoken with a thousands-year old Thassilonian within the ruins, and her scepticism only increases when Zendo admits that they have slain Xaliasa, so any further conversation is impossible.

For reasons known only to themselves, the heroes finally reveal that their travels have taken them to the Valley of the Black Tower, where they not only entered the Black Tower itself, but discovered a hidden library of Thassilonian works deep within the dungeons beneath. Sheila Heidmarch, in exasperation, asks the men if they are indeed claiming to have discovered the Therassic Monastery itself. When Corvus, intending to prove their claim, challenges her to ask him something that would have been known within the Monastery, she asks him, " The Therassic Monastery was reputed to have been the repository of the Emerald Codex. What scrolls comprise the Codex?" Corvus, realizing that he should have been more specific, stammers that he does not know, and explains that the preservative magics of the Monastery do not allow removal of the works within. Realizing that this sounds like another far-fetched excuse, the young wizard finally removes the cog-wheeled adamantium scroll-case from his haversack and presents it to Lady Heidmarch. Her eyes widen in amazement as she gasps, "You actually have the Emerald Codex?

Unaware of the provenance of his find, Corvus had been in possession of proof of the heroes exploits all along. He cooperatively shows her the complex cypher necessary to open the scroll-case, and allows her to gingerly remove the scrolls within, explaining that he used his magics to restore and indentify them. When the twin spindles of the strange enchanted scroll are revealed to her, Lady Heidmarch is plainly astounded to gaze upon the Anathema Archive, long considered little more than a pipe dream among even the most optimistic archivists in the Society.

Realizing that the young heroes sitting before her have chanced upon an almost inconceivably important trove of Thassilonian lore, Lady Heidmarch gathers herself and conducts herself as befitting a Venture-Captain of the Pathfinder Society. Her shift in demeanor elicits a response from her taciturn husband, and Carnayvan, though still quiet, begins to participate more actively. She urges the men to ‘spread their Harrow’, and lay all their cards on the table. “Clearly, you have witnessed and explored far more deeply and broadly than I had thought. Though your exploration has unearthed discoveries that I had thought may remain forever lost, I sense that I might still be of some service to your understanding. Spare no detail and omit nothing. Tell me all you have uncovered, and I will do my best to assist you to the best of my knowledge. Cooperate with me fully in this, and I can not only offer you a field commission to the Society, but I can endeavor to put the full weight of the Society’s resources behind you in this matter.”

The free-spirited Zendo is a bit wary of the strictures of the Society, and asks Lady Heidmarch to explain a little more about the society before they cooperate. As she had before, Sheila assures the men that the Society is driven solely by a desire to discover, document, and disseminate the breadth of history and geography of Golarion. A significant discovery, such as they appear to have made, freely shared with the Society, would secure a field commission easily. Society members are, of course, expected to observe the tenets of the Society: Explore, Report, and Cooperate. Society members are expected to engage in active exploration, unless they are desk agents, usually under the direction of a Venture Captain such as herself. Members are expected to report their discoveries, making careful documentation whenever possible, and to bring that information to a Pathfinder lodge, possibly for inclusion in the Chronicles themselves. Members are expected to assist other Society members in their own exploration. As any Pathfinder might find themselves in dire assistance some day, members are expected to offer such assistance when it is sought. She assures Zendo that it is possible to resign a commission, or even to retire from active service within the Pathfinder Society, as she and her husband have done, though she seems bemused that the bard has both sought membership within the society, and seems eager to assure himself that he can easily quit it.

The men reach a tacit agreement to share their adventures with Sheila Heidmarch and spend the next several hours recounting their exploits in the greatest detail that they can remember. They share with her the password necessary for entering the Therassic Monastery, and show her the stanzas of the Scribbler’s rhyme, as well as his enigmatic enchanted quill.

After their lengthy recollections, Lord and Lady Heidmarch seem slightly dazed. Focusing on the most immediate issues, Lady Heidmarch tells the men that the enchanted quill appears to be one of the Revelation Quills, magical artefacts constructed by worshippers of the Peacock Spirit. The Peacock Spirit remains one of the most enigmatic of Thassilonian deities, and no representation of the god(dess) is known to exist. Even during Thassilonian times, the rituals and beliefs of the Peacock Spirit were hidden from outsiders, and revealed only to an inner circle of adepts such as those of the Therassic Monastery. The Revelation Quills were constructed to contact the Peacock Spirit directly, and should such contact still be possible, it would indicate that the god still endures in some inaccessible realm.

Though Lady Heidmarch does not recognize any known locale from the stanzas of the Scribbler’s rhyme, her husband Canayvan does volunteer that the eastern shore of Lake Stormunder, as it rises to the Kodar Mountains, does contain a strange, flattened tor with seven stone heads. Though he has not ventured to the site himself, he is distantly familiar with Shoanti folklore about the locale.

Lady Heidmarch can explain very little about the practices of Thassilonian magic, not being a practicioner herself, but through her studies of the political structures of Thassilonian government, she has some helpful information. Thassilonian magic, like much of that realm, was much more rigidly structured than modern magical practice. The entire empire of Emperor Xin was organized for the cultivation of seven Virtues of Rule, which were seen as the worldly benefits of enlightened rule: wealth, fertility, honest pride, abundance, eager striving, righteous anger, and well-deserved rest. After his passing, the Runelords, each selected to administer his realms, were drawn to these Virtues, and, over time, corrupted each into what we would now understand as the great sins of the soul: Greed, Lust, Pride, Gluttony, Envy, Wrath, and Sloth. Though Thassilonian wizards would not have viewed these as ‘sinful’ or perverse, they organized their ‘schools’ of wizardry to emphasize one virtue, and one type of magic that exemplified this virtue:

Wealth—-Greed—Transmutation (creates or increases value)
Righteous Anger——Wrath—Evocation (summons destructive energy)
Fertility———Lust—Enchantment (controls the base emotions)
Rest——Sloth———-Conjuration (produces from nothing)
Honest Pride——Vain Pride—Illusion (appearance over substance)
Abundance——Gluttony——Necromancy (stealing life to sustain)
Eager Striving——-Envy——-Abjuration (dominates other magic)

Thassilonian wizards trained to master an aspect of magic which most strongly resonated with their own personality and desires. This allowed them a great deal of mastery of that type of magic, but it also meant that magic which stemmed from virtues (or vices) they did not possess was beyond their own grasp. Lady Heidmarch indicates that while the Runelords themselves were incredibly potent wizards, Thassilonian wizardry was not inherently more powerful than modern magic (although perhaps more sophisticated), but that the deep specialization of Thassilonian wizards allowed them great command of their favored school.

The identities of all of the Runelords have been lost to time, but the work of the Pathfinder society has been sufficient to identify all of the Runelords extant at the collapse of their empire (as some domains were ruled by a succession of Runelords). Lady Heidmarch informs the men of the known runelords, and their domains (which are also the names of the cottages on her manor grounds):

Karzoug, the Runelord of Greed, ruled Shalast
Alaznist, the Runelord of Wrath, ruled Bakrakhan
Sorshen, the Runelord of Lust, ruled Eurythnia
Krune, the Runelord of Sloth, ruled Haruka
Belimarius, the Runelord of Envy, ruled Edasseril
Xanderghul, the Runelord of Pride, ruled Cyrusian
Zutha, the Runelord of Gluttony, ruled Gastash

This discussion of Thassilonian magic spurs Corvus to review the spellbooks of Mokmurian, and he notices a pattern which he had not identified before. Mokmurian, though his spellbooks are quite extensive, particularly in Transmutational magics, knows no spells, not even the least cantrips, of Illusion or Enchantment magics. Perhaps Mokmurian, having awakened, encountered, or even been possessed by Karzoug, was himself a practicioner of Thassilonian Greed magic!

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Sword turns out to be mightier than the Pen.
Abadius 2, 4707

Though the Scribbler is confident and menacing, layered with many protective spells and charms, his overconfidence proves foolish. Though the magically enlarged priest quickly kills Gellius’s summoned Fire Giant, the druid quickly strips away many of the cleric’s magical defenses. Hikage has difficulty landing a telling blow on the Scribbler, due to his many arcane defenses, but the Scribbler, in return, proves unable to hurt the monk at all!

After a few potent spells, the towering Scribbler is quickly cut down by Ragnar’s greatsword, leaving the men to search his corpse. Xalisa was equipped with a fanged falchion, a gruesome unholy weapon consecrated to Lamashtu, and the men also find a magical headband and an enchanted cold iron dagger. They search the room thoroughly, but find no other clues or exits. Following Gellius, who can penetrate the magical fog thanks to Mokmurian’s magical goggles, the men explore a warren of collapsed halls to find a ‘kennel’ for the yeth hounds, littered with blood and torn flesh. Within this gruesome galley, another Thassilonian couplet referencing Runeforge is found:

On frozen mountain Xin awaits, his regal voice the yawning gates.
Seven keys turn twice in Sihedron—occulted Runeforge waits within.

Exploring further, the men wend through a tight series of tunnels, partially blocked by ancient collapses. At the end of these passages, a small room, its walls covered with spiky Thassilonian script, waits silently. Suspicous of the dead end, the men remember that guards and wards spells cloak doors with illusions, and they quickly check the stone walls by touch, rather than depending on sight. Zendo finds a stone door, with another notable verse carved into the surface.

And now you’ve come and joined the forge, upon rare lore your mind can gorge,
and when you slough the mortal way, in Runeforge long your work shall stay.

The door, despite the absence of a lock, refuses to open, even to Ragnar’s crowbar, and Corvus realizes that it has been arcane locked. Zendo disassembles the hinges of the door and, with assistance, removes it from the passage, revealing another hallway of swirling mists. Gellius offers Zendo his goggles, and the bard passes through the doorway, carefully exploring the hall beyond. He finds more doors cloaked in illusion, though one merely opens onto another collapsed chamber. The other is magically held, and he beckons Ragnar. As the Ulfen enters the hall, Hikage notices a faint shimmering around his ally. As the other men prepare to follow Zendo and Ragnar, the tall warrior pauses. Ragnar suggests that he should ‘guard the rear’, as unseen enemies could cut them off deep underground. Though this is not foolish, it certainly does not sound like Ragnar, and Zendo can see that something else is troubling his friend.

Zendo approaches to express his concern, as Hikage and Gellius close in on the Ulfen from behind, and Ragnar suddenly whips up his sword, keeping them at bay. “You’ve been corrupted by Lamashtu!”, he roars. “Stay back! I don’t want to hurt you!”. Zendo tries to console, or at least, placate, Ragnar, but the Ulfen mistrusts the words of his silver-tongued comrade. Afraid of Ragnar’s ire, and unwilling to strike down their ally, the men carefully back away. Ragnar makes for the entrance to the temple, stopping to strip Corvus’s component pouch from him, hoping to nullify the wizard.

Corvus, however, does not need his components to break an enchantment, but though he strives mightily, the magical compulsion on Ragnar is too strong to lift. Hikage attempts to grapple and subdue his ally, but despite the monk’s incredible skill, Ragnar’s strength proves too great, and he casts Hikage back. Ragnar lunges for the holy symbol hung around Gellius’s neck, hoping to minimize the threat from the druid, but Gellius dodges out of the way. Corvus uses the powerful magics contained within Mokmurian’s robe of runes to attempt to break the enchantment again, but Ragnar’s mind, once made, appears to be set. Hikage once again leaps upon his friend, and finally succeeds in grappling him. Before Ragnar can attempt to break free, Corvus paralyzes him with an enchantment, giving the wizard time to carefully dispel the magic which clouded Ragnar’s mind.

When Ragnar is free to move again, he expresses amazement. He knows now that he was enchanted, but he was sure that his friends had been ensorcelled. Their pleas of innocence sounded like honeyed words of deceit to his ears, and all their efforts made him only more suspicious.

Once the men finally succeed in opening the magically hidden and locked door, they find a strange sight beyond. Hikage quickly enters to explore, and his body is wracked with stabbing pain! Corvus detects a magical spell upon the room, which forbids entry through teleportation, and magically assaults those whose ethics diverge from the caster. Inside the warded room is a table, covered with open jars of ink, and a pen formed from a large peacock feather. A slumped human form lies in the corner, appearing freshly dead, with limbs broken in multiple places. Hikage does not remember the unfortunate’s name, but he knows the man as one of Jubrayl Vhiski’s cronies.

The walls of the room are covered in Thassilonian script, written both in ink and blood, but Hikage has not mastered the language. Cautiously, Corvus enters, and doubles over in pain as the warding spell exerts its magics against him. He can decipher the messy script, and finds that, unlike the other rooms, very little here has any relation to Lamashtu. Instead, the scrawled passages seem to be very much concerned with the current state of the land, as if a traveler from far away (or long ago) was concerned with gathering intelligence on Varisia. Runeforge is mentioned several times, but it appears that all of Xaliasa’s sources know nothing of its current state or whereabouts, its existence lost and forgotten. Xaliasa’s notes also mention runeforged weapons, though little is explained about them. However, such weapons seem to be unknown to the modern world, and his inquiries show no evidence that any such weapons have been discovered or recreated. It appears that both Runeforge, and the secret of runeforged weapons, have been lost to the ages, though Xaliasa has evidently spend great effort inquiring after them.

The peacock quill is magical, but Corvus is unable to discern its properties within a short period of study. He takes the quill, and moves to take the vials of ink, but realizes that no bottle has a cork. Leaving the ink behind to avert a mess, the men realize that the illusions that hid the doors in this area might also cloak other portals. Searching carefully, they find several doors in the large antechamber they initially entered. Though the doors to the north reveal only hall leading to a domed room with a shallow pool of glowing water, the doors to the south reveal a hall of several doors. One is blocked by rubble, and another room, though decorated in honor of Lamashtu, appears to be nearly collapsed. The final room in this hall, however, reveals both an intact image of the jackal-headed goddess and another rhyme concerning Runeforge:

On eastern shores of steaming mirror, at end of day when dusk is nearer,
where seven faces silent wait encircled guards at Runeforge gate.

The men are most dismayed at the glowing pool of water to the north, as one of them recalls that cults of Lamashtu often use such pools as birthing pools, to ensure that the women within them give birth to babies twisted by Lamashtu’s taint into horrific aberrations. However, they have no means of immediately removing the offending architecture, and satisfy themselves with sealing the chambers off with stone. Corvus summons a wall of stone to block the entrance to the temple of Lamashtu, and the men retire to the world above.

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Speaking to the Scribbler
Abadius 2, 4708

Corvus and Zendo speak to the Scribbler, attempting to draw out the reclusive conversationalist, while trying to avoid revealing anything of note to him. Unable to understand the conversation, Hikage, Ragnar, and Gellius stand around in rising impatience as their two friends converse with the Thassilonian speaker in darkness. The men trade information with the Scribbler, though he complains about their evasiveness.

The Scribbler asks many questions about the rulers of the lands above, explaining that he himself was a commander of men, so that is where his interest lies. Zendo identifies “Deverin” as the ruler of the lands above, but also tells Xaliasa that Magnimar is a greater city lying to the south. Zendo also tells the Scribbler that Varisia is not ruled by any one ruler or city, but largely consists of independent regions. Zendo also tells the Scribbler that Lamashtu is still worshipped, but not venerated as much as the gods such as Desna or Gozreh. He also informs Xalisa that wizards are no longer the rulers of many lands.

The Scribbler asks whether the Runelords still draw breath. He inquires about Karzoug and Alaznist, as well as another Runelord, Sorshen. He asks about the works of the Runelords, such as the Irespan (in Magnimar) and reveals that the massive rune arch which spans the Riddleport harbor is a construction of Karzoug. When questioned about the massive dam of Skull’s Crossing, the Scribbler is momentarily confused, but replies that the lake now called the Storval Deep was simply a result of Karzoug ordering the unsightly quarries of Shalast to be concealed by the rising waters.

When asked about the quasit in the Chamber of Wrath above, Xaliasa names Eryllium and asks if she still lives. He seems disappointed that she was slain. He does not recognize the name of Nualia Tobyn, but Zendo senses that he is being deceptive when he says that he has had no visitors. Xaliasa recognizes the name of Black Magga, and names her as one of the Mother’s daughters. He had hoped to see her surface in the Storval Deep, but Karzoug was inconvenienced by Magga’s occupation of the lake.

During the conversation, he reveals that neither Karzoug or Alaznist worshipped Lamashtu, and that most of the Runelords held no divinity in greater respect than themselves. Xaliasa says that his service to the Mother of Monsters was his own true calling. He claims that he has not been imprisoned under the earth for all these years, but was awakened by Lamashtu and remade for her service. He does not know how long ago that was, as he no longer sleeps, and day and night have no meaning in the temple. He claims to serve her purposes as a quill serves a scribe, with no explanation of the master’s will.

The Scribbler explained that Karzoug and Alaznist contested not out of particular hatred for each other, but through the basic incompatibility between all the Runelords. This was intensified as their realms neighbored each other, and due to the wrathful, warlike nature of Alaznist. Karzoug had no better relations with Sorshen, but their squabbles were more political and economic, rather than the open warfare present on the Rasp. He served Karzoug as a spy and informer, rather than an assassin or saboteur, as Karzoug was ever wily and more clever than Alaznist.

When speaking of Runeforge, the Scribbler is most evasive. He explains that all of the Runelords sought to ensure that they could endure, even if their empires should fall. Such powerful rulers constantly strove against one another and their underlings and the Runelords always sought such defenses. Runeforge was conceived and created as a place where magical research could be conducted in cooperation, but no Runelord ever truly trusted another. Thus, Runeforge was warded and shrouded against the entry of the Runelords, and against their agents. So constructed, Runeforge grew and developed beyond their control, with entry to Runeforge a closely guarded secret.

The Scribbler chides Zendo and Corvus for their childish, impatient attempts to pry the location of Runeforge from him, in particular, Zendo’s attempt to do so magically, which has no effect. Xaliasa explains that only he was clever enough to not only discern the location of Runeforge, but also divine the method of achieving entry to it as well. He spent long years on this task, and shall not simply reveal it to those who have not suffered as he did for the knowledge. He explains that, as a place where the Runelords could not enter, Runeforge would have served as a haven for one who had betrayed a Runelord, such as he, particularly the Runelord of Wrath. However, the Scribbler explains that as a priest, he is bound to spread the word of his goddess, and of the wonders done in her name. Thus, he has decorated his temple with the blessings and prayers of Lamashtu, and of the achievements he has reached in her service. One has only to submit to the words to grasp their wisdom. Xaliasa invites the men to enter deeper into the temple and behold his scripture.

As Zendo sends his dancing lights further into the structure, he can see a large chamber with a high, arched roof. Statues of Lamashtu stand in alcoves in the walls, and a carving of a three-eyed jackal glows faintly from the floor. Hikage sees the Scribbler, a tall, rangy, bedraggled man, crouching slightly in the corner of the room. The Scribbler notices the monk and beckons the group into the room, which simply causes Hikage to mistrust him further. Xaliasa assures the group that he is the only servant of Lamashtu in the temple, but when Zendo’s lights reveal the bulk of a massive, four armed demon standing atop the dais, the Scribbler chuckles, saying that while he is Lamashtu’s only servant here, his own servants are also present.

Corvus recognizes the immense demon as a Glabrezu, and shouts to his colleagues that the towering, clawed demon is immune to electricity, and very resistant to most other forms of attack. The horned demon roars in warning, but each of the men hears a hateful voice echo in their heads. It is also telepathic! “”/characters/yerrin-ku" class=“wiki-content-link”>Yerrin-Ku am I named, and your doom shall I be!" As Ragnar and Hikage advance to protect their comrades, the Scribbler disappears in a flash of magic! While Zendo lends magical haste to his allies, Gellius summons a mighty Fire Giant to oppose the immense, clawed fiend. Corvus quickly gathers his magical might in an attempt to banish the foe, but he can feel the magical energies dissipate as they contact the spell-resistant demon. Realizing the threat that the wizard poses, Yerrin-Ku utters a single word of Power, stunning Corvus, who drops his staff and falls to the ground, senseless.

Ragnar bravely charges the demon, taking a nasty wound from Yerrin-Ku’s immense claws, before landing a heavy blow on the demon’s thick hide. Before Hikage can lend his martial might to the fray, the Scribbler’s voice drifts out from the mists swirling around a tunnel at the southern end of the room, and three horrific, man-sized demons appear. Looking like skeletons clad in form-fitting red leather, the babau (as Zendo names them) drip with acidic sweat and brandish wickedly sharp longspears. Hikage deftly stabs one with his temple sword before sweeping its legs from under it and smashing the demon across its horned temples, stunning it as well. Zendo shifts forward and stabs his rapier into one of the demons, impaling it in the vitals before burying the blade deep in one eye socket, destroying the monster.

Yerrin-Ku shifts and gesticulates with a smaller set of arms sprouting from between his two massive pincers. Ragnar, and the fire giant, recognizing the signs of spell-weaving, both strike the demon with stout blows, though the abyssal hide of the fiend absorbs some of their force. However, even this is unable to stop Yerrin-Ku, and the demon reverses gravity, sending Ragnar and the fire giant to slam into the ceiling far above. Zendo floats lightly to the lower ceiling of the smaller room, while Gellius and Corvus land painfully. Hikage, however, shrugs off the magic and remains in the fight.

From the ceiling, Ragnar and the Fire Giant can do little, so the giant remains prone, keeping out of the reach of the monstrous Glabrezu, while Ragnar launches arrows at the demon to little effect. Hikage swiftly dispatches the downed demon before it can regroup, and Zendo launches blasts of sheer sonic energy from his position on the ceiling, disrupting the other babau and wounding Yerrin-Ku. Hikage steps up to face the mighty Glabrezu and, despite the demon’s tough hide, rains a series of punishing blows down on it. Yerrin-Ku attempts to rip the monk limb from limb, but roars in frustration as Hikage avoids the worst of this onslaught, though one massive claw does rip his flesh. A final bolt of sonic force severs Yerrin-Ku’s hold on the material realms, and the demon hisses curses as it dissipates back to the Abyss.

With the Glabrezu gone, normal gravity reasserts itself, and the floating heroes find themselves falling back to earth, most quite painfully. The second impact shocks Corvus into action again, and the small wizard stands up quickly. As Ragnar and the Fire Giant climb to their feet, seizing their weapons, the unearthly howling emerges from the misty passage to the southwest. Even at such close range, most of the men are unphased, though Gellius, normally quite stalwart, is stricken by an unshakable panic. Before the druid can flee, Zendo’s reassuring words disrupt the horrible howling and Gellius composes himself.

Hikage moves quickly to the misty passage to block off the source of the howls, and is chagrined to find that the sound is the howling of multiple Yeth hounds. Larger and darker-furred than the scrawny predators encountered at Thistletop, these hounds also have a hooked claw at the ends of their long, ratlike tails. The monk wastes no time gazing at them, however, and calls upon the ki of the black dragon, burning the nearest hounds with acid. As Ragnar fetches his sword and moves up to support his friend, Gellius approaches and blasts the yeth hounds with coruscating chains of lightning, angry that their racket disturbed him so. After several of their number are slain by the lightning, the remaining hounds, bottled in by Hikage and Ragnar, are quickly dispatched as they loom out of the mist to bite and claw at them.

The misty tunnel is caked with dried blood and gobbets of flesh. Something, or someone, met a poor end here, though only Gellius can easily investigate, though he does not wander far. Zendo treats the bloody gash torn in Ragnar’s arm by the claw of Yerrin-Ku, and then joins Corvus in examining the Thassilonian script scrawled across the walls of the temple. Ragnar, Hikage, and Gellius stand guard, cautiously awaiting the return of the Scribbler, as the bard and wizard pore over the spiky runes for clues. Amidst the prayers and scriptures of the Mother of Monsters, Corvus discovers another couplet that seems out of place:

Each stone the grace of seven lords, one part of key each ruler hoards.
If offered spells and proper prayer, take seven keys and climb the stair.

Not long after finding this stanza and puzzling over the meaning, the Scribber reappears! Standing as tall as a giant now, and glowing with magical power, the Thassilonian cleric appears out of thin air, leveling a deadly blow at the unsuspecting Fire Giant with a massive, serrated falchion. “Now that you have entered the temple, unbelievers, you must be sacrificed!”, he roars.

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Delving into Sandpoint's Buried Past
Abadius 1-2, 4708

After speaking to Rynshinn Povalli, the men decide to consult with several other notables in the town, first among them being Father Abstalar Zantus. Zendo says a warm farewell to his paramour, and assures her that he will return to speak with her later, and they leave the half-elven seamstress with her dwarven customer (thanks to Zendo’s generosity).

The Desnan priest greets them warmly and inquires as to their adventures (or misadventures). The heroes tell him of their exploits against the Giants of the Storval Plateau and his eyes widen in amazement. Zantus tells them that they must be truly blessed by Desna to have wandered into such dark places and out again. He questions them about why Mokmurian bore such animosity towards the humans of Varisia, and they confess that they believe the stone giant to have been under the thrall, or at least the influence, of Runelord Karzoug. Father Zantus is aghast that such a legendary (and legendarily cruel) wizard might have survived down through the ages. He asks them if Karzoug has designs on humble Sandpoint, and the men tell him that Karzoug’s rival, Runelord Alaznist once ruled over the lands that now are called Sandpoint, though her rival’s realms were close, as near as Thistletop. Abstalar worries that the recent earthquake and sinkhole may have some connection to the Runelords, and reiterates his own view that the perfidious temple below should have been more than sealed off, but entirely filled in with rubble. Father Zantus agrees that the howling noises emanating from the pit are surely not natural but he does not know if the restless dead, or some evil spirit, is the cause.

He also has grudging praise for Amander Malonial. While Zantus is a firm supporter of the sheriff, he disagrees with Belor’s decision to allow the ruins to remain open and to allow Brodert Quink to do research in them. “No good will ever come out of those inauspicious halls. If Malonial has his workmen walling them off, it is all to the good, whether he does it from caution or possessiveness.”

Father Zantus inquires about the health of the men, and the status of their companion Ragnar, shaking his head in exasperation at the Ulfen’s likely whereabouts. “Though your friend is brave and deadly, I fear he is incorrigible.” Zantus gladly accepts a scroll from Corvus to dispel the lingering aftereffects of the life-sapping exhalations of the Black Monk, which the slight wizard has been unable to fully shake.

Heading from the Cathedral down to the Garrison, the men are greeted by many well-wishers from Sandpoint, eager to greet the Heroes of Sandpoint and ask them what they are going to do about the Haunted Sinkhole. On approaching the Garrison, it is evident that the sinkhole is quite large, if not terribly deep. An entire section of Tower Street has collapsed, dropping about 15 feet, and causing the outer wall of part of the garrison to crumble away. Looking at it closely, there is a slighter slope from the interior of the cells down to the ‘floor’ of the sinkhole, rather than the steep precipice on the outside. Zendo sees a deeper, darker crevice in the wall of the sinkhole, that appears to travel towards the Old Light.

Entering the Garrison, the men are greeted with relief by Sheriff Belor Hemlock. He too, inquires about their travels and adventures, and asks pointed questions about the motivations of Mokmurian and Karzoug. What, precisely, is being sought in Sandpoint? The men are forced to confess their ignorance, but share with Belor their suspicion that the traitor, Xaliasa, had some information or access to Runeforge that Karzoug wanted, and still believes to exist. The sheriff gives them his own account of the earthquake and sinkhole. He admits that the sounds at night are spooky, terrifying even, but that with guards posted and the pit roped off, there appears to be no immediate danger. His preference would be to keep the area cordoned off and, once the risks of aftershocks have diminished, to fill up the sunken area with stones from the rubble of the Old Light. “No matter what is down there, it’s not coming out, and it won’t come out with a few thousand pounds of stone down its gullet.”

Hemlock admits that he could order the town watch to explore the pit, but he is determined not to do so unless his hand is forced. He doesn’t trust Amander Malonial, especially given the suspicious way the merchant was able to reopen the Glassworks so quickly, and particularly given Malonial’s cozy relationship with Jubrayl Vhiski. Malonial hired a bunch of local ne-er-do-wells and troublemakers and has had them doing some sort of heavy lifting down in the tunnels, even to the extent of reopening the passage to the north beach. The merchant has closed off access to the chambers to everyone else, including Brodert Quink, and is doing something suspicious down there, he is sure. Now that there has been a cave-in and some alarming noises, Malonial wants the town to intervene, but still wants to control access to the site through his Glassworks. Hemlock feels that his hands are a bit tied, in that Malonial controls one entrance, and the other, at the north beach, is decidedly outside the walls of Sandpoint and the control of the town. So long as no one in town is in danger, Belor would rather let Malonial stew in his own juices than assist the uncooperative merchant.

Taking their leave of the frustrated sheriff, Corvus and Gellius go to the town hall, in hopes of speaking to MayorKendra Deverin, while Hikage detours to the nearby House of Blue Stones to confer with his former mentor, Sabyl Sorn. At his friend’s suggestion, Zendo strolls through town to the Fatman’s Feedbag to call on his childhood friend, Jubrayl Vhiski, in the hopes that the Sczarni rogue can shed some light on matters.

Mayor Deverin is glad to see the heroes, and inquires as to their recent adventures. After recovering from the shock and astonishment of hearing about the potential Giant invasion of Varisia, the mayor shares her own concerns with Corvus and Gellius. She is glad that the situation on the distant Storval Plateau seems to have been averted, but the sinkhole in town has her concerned. While she normally has a great deal of trust in Sheriff Hemlock and affords him a good amount of leeway in his enforcement of the law, the situation with Amander Malonial has her concerned. She confesses that she is not an admirer of the Magnimarian merchant, but the alarming noises emerging from the sinkhole are, to her mind, a clear public disturbance. Thus, while she understand’s Belor’s frustration, she feels the sheriff needs to ‘make nice’ to Amander and quickly investigate this situation. When pressed by Gellius and Corvus, Mayor Deverin admits that she regrets that Ameiko sold the Glassworks to Malonial in the first place. The Glassworks are a pillar of the local economy, and they had remained in the hands of one of the town’s founding families since the town was established. She is not lamenting the break with tradition, so much as the fact that Malonial isn’t a Sandpointer and doesn’t have any ties to the community. Despite his obvious business acumen (as he was able to get business up and going almost immediately after the sale to Ameiko), he made decisions that no native Sandpointer would have considered. Closing off access to the catacombs, while understandable from a safety perspective, meant alienating a valued elder, Brodert Quink, and inhibiting research that was poised to bring attention and coin to the local community. While there was no direct financial benefit for Ameiko to allow the old sage access to the ruins, it kept him (and thus, his circle of friends) happy, and gave Sandpoint another local attraction.

Greeting Sabyl at her home, Hikage bows deeply and waits calmly until invited in. Sabyl inquires as to his well-being, and Hikage modestly recounts his recent exploits, but he does share with Sabyl the discovery of a vast trove of ancient works in the Therassic monastery. Sabyl suggests that they might be brought to Sandpoint, but Hikage sadly tells her that, in the best estimation of Corvus, the magical wards which preserved the works would fail to protect them in that case. Sabyl suggests that the heroes might employ scribes from the nearby cities to trek to the Valley and copy the works within, to disseminate them more widely. The young monk notes the danger and distance of the journey, and admits that the men are most likely to contact the Pathfinder Society, who will have access to legions of adventurous scribes willing to risk the travel. Sorn regards the Society as glory-seeking treasure hunters more concerned with securing prestige and acclaim than honest inquiry, but does agree with Hikage that there would be few other groups with the necessary resources. In response to his questioning, Sabyl admits that she heard the unnerving howls last night, but did not find them as alarming as some nearby residents. To her disciplined mind, actual menaces, like the goblins, giants, and dragons were far more alarming than discomfiting noises in the night. However, she does intend on listening to the sounds more carefully tonight, to attempt to identify them, and determine how much threat they indicate. Being jarred awake last night left her unprepared to think about them in a disciplined way.

Finding Jubrayl ensconced, as is his custom, in the back booth of the Feedbag, Zendo greets his childhood friend, though both remain a bit on guard, as their paths have diverged considerably. Jubrayl evinces little interest in Zendo’s exploits, but seems more concerned with what has brought the bard back to Sandpoint. As to his own business, Vhiski admits that the recent unpleasantry had been bad for business, especially given Zendo’s own uncooperative attidude. Grayst Sevilla remains healthy as a horse and mad as a wet cat, but the recent Giant raids and the sinkhole have thankfully distracted the sheriff from visiting him overmuch, and Belor’s own intransigence about investigating the nighttime howls have weakened the popular sheriff’s appeal. Zendo asks his cagey associate about Malonial, and Vhiski seems quite fond of the merchant, or at least, appreciative. He admits that Malonial has hired a good deal of ‘his men’ for odd jobs in the Glassworks, but professes ignorance as to their work. “None of my business is good for business.” Jubrayl doesn’t know of anything unpleasant that happened during the quake or around the sinkhole, but ’I’m not a mother hen counting chicks, am I?" Vhiski cautions Zendo to keep his nose clean, and suggests that giant-slaying and adventuring is a better choice for the bard and his friends than street repair.

At the Rusty Dragon, the men meet back up with Ragnar, whose whereabouts in town were unknown, and, perhaps, best unremarked upon. Hikage speaks to Ameiko, and asks her about the Glassworks. The Tien bard vents her frustration to him and his friends, confessing that she feels ‘played’ by Malonial and irritated at her own gullibility. While Malonial seems to be doing a professional job running the Glassworks, from the word of the glassblowers and other workers in the factory, it is clear that his interest in the the Glassworks lies elsewhere. The scuttlebutt she has gathered from her former workers is that Malonial has laborers working somewhere in the catacombs. No supplies go in through the Glassworks, but Malonial has reopened her grandfather’s smuggling tunnels and small boats are rowing ashore from ships moored deeper in the gulf. Nothing is coming up out of the Glassworks either, though the workmen spend most of the day down there.

Ameiko isn’t too offended about the prospect of Malonial doing something extra-legal down there, but she feels that his high-pressure offers should have indicated to her that something was up. While she didn’t have the careful control over the business that her meticulous father did, it was mystifying to her how her suppliers and buyers in Magnimar dried up. She blamed her own incompetence at the task, which was one of the reasons she was finally willing to sell, but when Malonial assumed ownership, suddenly there were contracts ready and suppliers with shipments. In retrospect, though she got a fair price for the Glassworks, she thinks that Malonial manipulated the situation, and her, to get what he really wanted. She feels bad for Quink, as she had always allowed him access through the Glassworks, but didn’t think to specify something like that in the terms of sale, but she is just as upset about being hoodwinked by someone from the ‘big city’ like Amander Malonial.

Late that night, most of the men gather at the Garrison to witness the strange sounds from the sinkhole. Gellius does not join them, as he wishes to meet with Boudra Fullona and her family. The druid earnestly tells Boudra about his recent adventures, but explains to her his sobering realization. Gellius had hoped that the journey to Jorgenfist would avert the threat of a Giant invasion, and put the end to the villain masterminding the whole affair, Mokmurian. Dealing with Mokmurian was intended to protect Sandpoint and deal retribution for his wide array of offenses, from the murder of Katrine Vinder and Banny Harker, to the cult activity in Magnimar and Turtleback Ferry. He had hoped that, in dealing with the evil stone giant, the conspiracy would be destroyed and he could return to Sandpoint and put down roots. Instead, Gellius has discovered that the evil runs much older, and deeper. Ancient lords from the depths of time are involved, and the threat is much graver. Not only Sandpoint, or Varisia, but Avistan itself is at risk, and he cannot turn away from the danger. Boudra asks him why he cannot go to the Lord-Mayor of Magnimar with this grave news and let Haldmeer Grobaras find men to deal with it, but Gellius explains that this challenge has fallen to him and his companions, and he feels it is their fate to confront it. “Gozreh has given me this path, and I cannot deny it.”, he replies. The revelation is a bit of a mood-killer, and the remainder of dinner passes more somberly, though Boudra does inquire as to Gellius’s immediate plans. He is forced to admit that even those remain uncertain, as the ominous sinkhole in town must be explored. Boudra says that she has heard that there are monsters inside from within the earth, and they will come out if there is another earthquake, though she admits that is only talk among the townsfolk.

While Gellius spends the evening with Boudra, the others gather back at the Sinkhole as the light fades in the west. Well-wishers and hangers-on gather at Tower Street to chat with the men and hear tales of their latest conquests, but as the darkness deepens, the gregarious townsfolk find excuses to leave, citing the chill air and the lateness of the hour. As midnight draws near, the heroes find themselves alone in the lee of the Garrison. A mournful howling soon begins to emanate from the deepest crevice of the pit, and it billows into a chorus of overlapping wails. The heroes find the sounds eerie and disturbing, and poor Corvus suddenly snaps. “It comes for us!”, he cries, and rushes down the street in panic. Hikage quickly pursues his terrified ally, as Ragnar curses and spits into the sinkhole and Zendo listens carefully. Underneath the chilling howls, the sharp-eared bard can faintly discern screams of frustration or anger. Though he cannot discern the words, Zendo is sure that the words are shaped by a human (or humanoid) tongue, and not the yelps of some beast. Nothing emerges from the darkness, and the sounds, while unsettling, grow no louder, though they persist for several hours before fading away.

In the morning, Gellius and Corvus prepare their spells, and the men go out to seek Amander Malonial, to request his assistance in entering the tunnels beneath Sandpoint. Though they are granted a quick audience with the merchant, Malonial proves to be aloof and a bit condescending. He declines to allow the Saviors of Sandpoint access to his basement, explaining that he runs a business here, and allowing well-regarded local tomb robbers to tramp around in his storage space is not professional. When Zendo protests, pointing out their service to the town, Malonial parries, unimpressed. While the men are certainly rugged warriors, seeing off a goblin horde, and giantish raiders, they show no particular aptitude for careful investigation. Amander points out that the last time they investigated something suspicious, they burned down Foxglove Manor. When Gellius protests that the manor was infested with evil, the merchant points out that they would claim that, of course.

Zendo tries to appeal to Malonial, referencing the merchant’s own requests that Belor Hemlock investigate, but Amander shrewdly asks whether the heroes are actually deputized by the sheriff. When Hikage admits that they are not, the merchant replies that his intention in shutting off the access beneath his Glassworks was to stop well-meaning bumbling in the area, not allow it. The men, incensed, point out that they defeated an evil menace lurking under the town, but Amander points out that if, indeed, they believe there is something dangerous underground, then they were the ones who failed to find it, or stop it, the first time. He insinuates that they only wish to go into the catacombs to loot it further of valuables, as is their normal procedure. Hikage, in particular, is insulted, and Corvus, for himself, thinks that the merchant perhaps protests too much.

When Zendo warns Amander that the men will simply explore via the sinkhole, Amander replies, “Oh, so if I refuse you entry to the basement, where there has been no disruption, you will simply investigate the actual area where there has been some commotion? Say this is not so!”. Taking a curt leave of the mocking merchant, the men angrily march up Main Street. Though the slope down to the floor of the sinkhole is steep, Zendo leaps down lightly, trusting to his ring, and Hikage follows. Corvus, a bit petulantly, asks Ragnar to secure a rope and the towering Ulfen does so with exasperation, hammering a piton into the stone wall of the Garrison and tying off his rope securely.

Investigating the narrow crevice in the depths of the sinkhole, Zendo’s dancing lights reveal a slim passageway which seems secure. Though Ragnar has to squeeze tightly to fit through the crevice, he is able to pass through and the men follow him until the walls widen and the floor opens onto worked stone. The heroes find themselves in the collapsed remains of the Cathedral of Wrath, though most of the large chamber has collapsed, leaving only a narrow path down the stairs from the raised dais where they first found the glowing well. The doors to the cathedral have been sundered from their frames by the collapse, allowing easy access to the halls beyond.

Outside the Cathedral, the men are dismayed to find that the foul altar to Lamashtu has been removed. The black stone and its shallow basin of poisonous liquid are gone entirely. Exploring beyond, the halls show signs of recent passage, both of booted feet, and of dragged sledges. Moving to the entryway, the men see that the statue of Alaznist has been carefully chiseled away from the stone plinth and removed. Undoubtedly, Malonial’s own men have been looting the catacombs. Checking on the nearby passage towards the surface, the heroes find that the skull-encrusted pool where they encountered the vargouille has been removed as well. The blocked and collapsed spiral stairs towards the surface, however, remain sealed, though now, a fresh mortared wall, rather than just rubble, blocks the stairs.

Their irritation with (and suspicion of) Amander Malonial growing, the men find that the ‘prison cells’ remain undisturbed, but the nearby torture chamber is bereft of the ancient devices it once held. Even the cells which held the grossly disfigured skeletons of Lamashtu’s ‘chosen’ are empty, and the men realize that even these sad artifacts have been looted. The pits of the dead are silent and still, but a frame of wood blocks off the strange ‘levitation’ chamber that mystified the heroes on their first exploration. It appears that even Malonial was wary of disturbing the strange black energies that danced across the surfaces of that room. The passage downward appears to be blocked, but not by rubble. Instead, thick, ropy strands of webbing fill the spiral stair, and Gellius can tell that they were spun by no natural spider.

Corvus unleashes a jet of flame and burns away the webs, revealing the stairs to be clear, though the walls are marked by large, clawlike gashes. The men explore further, though Gellius must first burn away more webs as they descent. Arriving at a deeper landing, Ragnar announces he has found a dead end. Dubious, Corvus, Hikage, and Zendo all search the tiny chamber, seeking an illusion or cleverly placed secret door, all to no avail. In frustration, Hikage strikes the wall, but only succeeds in confirming that it is, indeed, stone. Rubbing his bruised knuckles, the monk gestures for Ragnar to follow suit, and the Ulfen’s adamantine sword slices deeply into the curving stone wall. Another such swing and the stone falls away! Ragnar has sliced not through a wall, but through a stout stone door, cleverly concealing a partially collapsed passage beyond.

The passage beyond is filled with thick mist, and Corvus finds that it is magical in nature. Not a simple spell of fog, nor a deadly cloud of poison, but part of a complex web of spells designed to guard and ward an area. The powerful spell cloaks doors with illusions, chokes passages with mist, and blocks stairs with thick webs. Magical alarms can alert the caster to intrustions, and various magical effects can be placed within the warded region. Clearly, someone was expecting intruders.

Gellius dons his Fog-cutting lenses and announces that he can see a wider chamber beyond the mists. The men file through the choked passage and enter a larger room. This room shows some evidence of collapse, though fog billows through a narrow crevice to the north. Zendo’s dancing lights reveal that the room continues further to the east, through a narrower hallway, also supported by pillars. Most unsettlingly, spiky Thassilonian runes cover the walls, ceiling, and floors. Most appear to be scribed or splashed with ink, though others appear to be drawn in blood, or scratched into the stone. Corvus and Zendo can see that most of the spiraling lines of script are prayers and scriptures to Lamashtu, but a short passage seems to have nothing to do with the Mother of Monsters:

If magic bright is your desire, to old Runeforge must you retire;
for only there does wizard’s art receive its due and proper start

Startled to find mention of the long-unknown Runeforge scrawled upon the walls, the men look around suspiciously and Zendo cautiously sends his lights down the length of the dark chamber. A soft, strangely accented voice, whispers in Thassilonian out of the darkness. “Who are the guests to the temple?”

Though they cannot see the speaker, Corvus and Zendo reply. The voice identifies himself as ‘The Scribbler’, though, in conversation, he admits that once he was the man named Xalisa. The Scribbler asks what has become of Thassilon, and what nation has replaced it. Zendo replies to him cagily, telling him only that Deverin rules the lands above from ‘water to water’. The Scribbler appears quite curious about the world above, and Corvus and Zendo resolve to tell him a little information in hopes of learning more of what he knows in return. Through experimentation, Zendo finds that Xaliasa cannot speak Taldan, nor does he understand Elvish, though he recognizes the tongue. This allows him to speak to his comrades while he banters with the sibiliant voice in the darkness.

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