Rise of the Runelords

Spiders, Staves, and the Sandpoint Sinkhole
Kuthona 31, 4707-Abadius 1, 4707

After sorting through Longtooth’s trove of valuables, the men quickly pocket the most portable of the loot and resolve to return. Rather than chancing a steep climb down the cliff face, Corvus uses his newfound robes to empower himself to re-cast his dimension door, and transports the men back to their phantasmal steeds. Gellius, of course, simply follows in eagle form.

Skirting around the giants who are breaking up their encampments, the men ride to the cliff overlooking the Mushkal River. Somewhere below lies the caves of the wyverns, and the heroes hope that their erstwhile foes were draconic enough to at least have some valuable loot. Gellius flies down to survey the cliff face. He finds a cavern on the cliff wall about 250 feet above the river banks. This cavern is very dark, and it is hard to see very far within the cave, but the cavern floor is a seething carpet of insects. Reluctant to explore this infested cave much further, Gellius flies down and finds another, wider cavern in the cliff face only 50 or so feet above the river banks. A strong, musty smell fills the cave, and large bones litter the entrance. Gellius flies into the cavern briefly, and can see something reflecting the sunlight back at him from near the center of the cave. He flies back to his allies and relays his findings to them.

The men spider climb down to the nearest cavern, thanks to Gellius’s spell, and debate what to do as Gellius flaps around. Zendo sends his dancing lights in to illuminate the situation, but the lights stir a stiff response! Globs of webbing are shot out of the darkness, entangling the druid (in hawk form) and nearly webbing Corvus, who quickly summons a shield from the rock itself. Zendo’s lights have disturbed a nest of giant spiders, but these spiders appear to be filled with thousands of tinier spiders, which boil out of them in a writhing swarm all around them!

Ragnar rushes to the attack (across the ceiling), suffering a nasty bite from one of the spiders, but his greatsword cracks open its decayed carapace. However, while this appears to harm the spider, it also allows more of the tiny spiders to stream out of its body and crawl up Ragnar’s legs. Zendo attempts to ensorcel one of the spiders, and finds that they have no mind to speak of! The spiders are Deathweb Spiders, undead giant spiders animated by a necromancer! Hikage leaps to the attack, striking the same spider and scampering around it to corner it between himself and Ragnar. Corvus unleashes a ball of fire at the spiders, destroying the damaged one and crisping the tiny swarms of spiders scurrying over their webs. The spiders smash Ragnar with their strong legs, knocking him from the ceiling to fall to the ground below, as well as striking Hikage and knocking him deeper into the sticky webs deeper in the cave. Ragnar and Hikage struggle to their feet as Zendo carefully lunges forward with his rapier to stab at the spiders, as Gellius wriggles free of the webbing. Threatened by the fire-wielding wizard, the spiders maneuver to attack him. One entangles him with webs, and the other scuttles across the webs to attack him, injuring him greatly.

On the back foot, Corvus unleashes a mighty spell, and incinerates both of the remaining spiders with a burning chain of fire. Once everyone has freed themselves from the webs, they carefully search the dense webbing at the rear of the cave. In addition to the dessicated remains of the spiders’ meals, they find some valuable full plate armor and a magical longsword, as well as several other weapons, many sized for giants or ogres. In addition, they discover a staff with a magical aura. It appears to be a spellstaff, though Corvus is unsure which druidic spell is still contained within. In addition, Zendo finds a cleverly concealed secret door at the very back of the cave. It leads to a small, winding tunnel deeper into the rock. Though several of the men are eager to explore it, others disagree. Zendo is concerned that the ‘violent fey’ that Conna warned them of might be violently opposed to Mokmurian, and this intrusion might anger them unduly. Ragnar doesn’t particularly want to explore a tunnel crouching on his hands and knees, and also warns that any fey that stood up to Mokmurian might be particularly nasty to face, especially single file in the dark.

The men decide to leave this tunnel for later, and use their spider-climbing abilities to explore the lower cavern. This cavern is much wider, and, as Ragnar explores it, he finds a large, but flawed fire opal setting on a pile of sand in the center. Smaller caves radiate outward from the central cavern, though these appear largely empty. A mounded pile of elk and horse bones fills up a small niche in the cave, but Corvus cautiously picks through the refuse with his mage hand. Revealed underneath is a dusty old chest and a wooden staff with a large gem held in a iron filligree. Within the chest there is a large sum of gold and silver, and Corvus determines that the staff is a Staff of Heaven and Earth, which Gellius claims.

Having finished their search of Jorgenfist, the men return within the fortress walls. They cautiously release the immense bear, Mokmurian’s former pet, that rests within the Feast Hall, and head back down into the warren of caves below to confer with their dwarven refugees and the Clockwork Librarian. The dwarven smiths hail from Janderhoff, and were finishing up their annual trade routes before the winter fell when they were ambushed by the Stone Giants. Zendo frets that he cannot escort them home, but can only offer them safe passage to Sandpoint. Ragnar offers the dwarves the large fire opal, which, while flawed, should fetch them enough gold to travel home safely. Corvus speaks with the clockwork librarian and uses his magics to mend some of the damage and wear the automaton has suffered over the many centuries of his vigil.

That night is the Night of the Pale, when legend has it that those who died over the last year revisit the earth, not for comfort or solace, but in bitter envy and anger over their loss. Most townsfolk hold a somber feast on the Night of the Pale, and leave out the remaining tidbits for the departed spirits, in hopes of placating their souls. The men, far from home, have no feast but the edible portions of the giants’ larder, and they set guards for the vigil over the night.

In the morning, Corvus prepares many spells of teleportation. He casts rituals which will allow him to return safely to Jorgenfist, then transports himself to Sandpoint with Hikage and two of the dwarves. Their sudden appearance startles Bethana Corwin, who is sweeping the drifting snow off the stoop of the Rusty Dragon. “Lords preserve me!”, she exclaims, stunned to find Hikage and Corvus, and two bewildered and debearded dwarves suddenly on her doorstep. As she goes to fetch Ameiko, Corvus returns to Jorgenfist. He recasts his ritual of safe return, then whisks two more dwarves and Gellius back to Sandpoint. At this point, the others have already moved inside to the warmer tavern, and Ameiko calls out a friendly greeting to Gellius and a question: “Where are you getting all these dwarves?”. Corvus, who remained outside, cannot answer, and transports himself once again to the fortress of Jorgenfist, there to safely teleport the last of the dwarves, Ragnar, and Zendo back to Sandpoint with him.

Once in Sandpoint, the men quickly greet their friends and associates at the Rusty Dragon, and begin swapping stories. Zendo wishes to see Rynshinn Povalli, so he gathers the dwarves on the pretext of taking them to the tailor for new clothes. The half-elven seamstress greets him warmly, though she is surprised by the sudden influx of business. As the dwarves busy themselves sorting through her wares for winter garb, she asks Zendo where his adventures have taken him, since he left on her birthday. She also inquires if he came back because of the sinkhole.

Though interested in this new development, Zendo is carefully diplomatic with his would-be paramour. He says little of their mission against the Stone Giant tribes of the Storval Plateau, mindful of rumor and panicking the town. He inquires about Rynshinn’s gifts, and she confirms her father’s presents were once again discovered. Zendo presents her with a magical silver ring, though he does not tell his beloved that he took it from the hand of an ogre sorceress, but only ‘found it on my adventures’.

Rynshinn tells him what she has heard of the sinkhole. Two days ago, around mid-day, Sandpoint had a small earthquake, which, while uncommon, is not unknown in the region. Townsfolk took shelter to wait out the tremors, but at the height of the quake, a sinkhole appeared in the middle of Tower Street, right beside the Garrison! Part of the garrison wall collapsed into the hole, which opened up wide enough to block most of Tower Street and even part of Main Street! Luckily, there were no prisoners inside those cells, and no one was hurt, but the Sheriff had to rope off the whole of Tower Street between Main Street and the garrison, to keep curious locals from clambering down the hole!

Earthquakes sometimes have tremors for a few days later as the earth settles, so the mayor wasn’t planning on filling in the hole immediately. However, last night, people said that a scary moaning, or a spooky howling, came out of the hole. Rynshinn doesn’t live close enough for her to have heard the sounds, but some of the townsfolk said it was the ghost of Chopper, or maybe the ghosts of the Goblins, or even the ghosts of the Giants!

Rynshinn doesn’t know what is down in the hole, but she knows that the merchant from Magnimar who bought the Glassworks wants the Sheriff to find out. Amander Malonial closed the sale from Ameiko on the Glassworks just a day or two after Zendo and his friends left, and the Glassworks reopened almost immediately. The merchant has hired a lot of workmen from the docks and some from out of town to work in the Glassworks, but they were clearing out stuff from the basement. The workmen reopened the tunnel entrance north of Junker Beach and they have been carting off stones and heavy stuff onto boats there. The locals are mystified as to why anyone would carry the stones that far instead of bringing them up the stairs, but don’t really know what Malonial is up to. Amander has closed off all the access to the ‘hidden ruins’ beneath the town, explaining that he can’t have all sorts of people wandering around in his factory. However, after the sinkhole, the merchant asked the sheriff to send men down into the hole, as some of his own hired help had gotten injured down there. However, the sheriff isn’t budging, as he says that , “If Malonial wants everyone else to stay out, then he’ll have to take care of it himself. If the ruins are public property, then the town watch will patrol them, but we aren’t anyone’s personal guard.” That’s what Rynshinn has heard, anyway.

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Between a roc and a hard place
Kuthona 31, 4707

The next morning, as Gellius greets the dawn and prays for spells, Corvus quickly prepares his own spells, thanks to his mastery of cypher magic, and continues researching in the library. Once the heroes are prepared, they make their way out of the underground reaches of Jorgenfist and begin to ascend the pit.

Unfortunately, the immense rocs which inhabit the spire of Jorgenfist have descended to feast upon the remains of the giants and bears which litter the courtyard, and they screech menacingly at the heroes, flapping their huge wings. Gellius is prepared, and quickly charms one of the huge birds, approaching it calmingly.

However, Mokmurian’s wyvern allies are not so easily charmed, and launch themselves into the air to attack the men. Hikage quickly moves to the courtyard, while Corvus moves towards Ragnar, who looses arrows at the serpentine wyverns to little effect.

Gellius casts a spell allowing him to speak to the rocs, and asks his charmed companion to allow his friends safe passage. The roc sides around its meal threateningly, but does not attack the men.

The same cannot be said for its mate, who abandons any attempt at threatening Zendo and swoops down into the pit towards him. The wyverns remain in the air, and fly by the heroes, stabbing at them with their poisonous stingers. Those stingers cannot penetrate Ragnar’s armor, though the Ulfen seems to have the same difficulty with his arrows penetrating their scaly hide. They cannot land a telling blow on Hikage, who dodges them deftly, nor Zendo, but they succeed in stabbing Corvus and pumping him full of painful venom. Though Corvus feels weak, he launches bolts of fire and magical missiles at the wyverns, burning and blasting them.

One wyvern swoops down at Hikage, intent on tearing him apart, but the wiry monk leaps into the air and grapples with the beast, bringing it down to earth. Another wyvern turns tail after being burned by the wizard, and Ragnar finally brings it down with several arrows. Zendo turns invisible to escape the immense Roc, but reveals himself in time to slash at the wyvern still circling Corvus.

Seeing Corvus staggering from poison, Gellius quickly transforms into a bird, charms the second roc, and flies to his friend’s aid. Ragnar’s arrows bring down the menacing wyvern as the druid neutralizes the venom in his companion. Hikage has pinned the last wyvern to the ground, the draconic beast writhing ineffectually as the monk determinedly throttles it, but Ragnar looses a final arrow into the melee and ends its life before Hikage can do so.

Now that the courtyard is again theirs, Gellius speaks to the rocs as the others wait a bit nervously. The rocs have nested in the tall spire since before Mokmurian and Longtooth arrived (who they refer to as ‘the first stone man’ and ‘the red lizard’). The wyverns (the ‘blue lizards’) have hunted in the area for a long time but did not nest in the cliff face until Mokmurian dealt with them. Mokmurian and his giants did not bother the rocs, other than to drive them away from the mammoths and bears, but the giants allowed them to hunt the horses and smaller animals on the plateau, and fed them many scraps. The harpies (or ‘feathered men’) lived in the Black Tower before the rocs arrived here. The harpies smelled foul and sick, and the rocs won’t eat their flesh even now. The rocs are content to eat the carrion in the courtyard, though one of the dead giants has a hard shell and is too hard to eat. Gellius agrees to remove the armor of Galenmir, and promises to allow the rocs to eat undisturbed if they will leave his companions alone.

Searching the bodies of the harpy monks, the men discover each bears a ring of protection, and Galenmir wears a magical breastplate and carried a magical shield, as well as a powerfully enchanted magical pick. His belt pouch also contains a small amount of coin, and a potion of gaseous form and a vial containing oil of darkness. Now that time is not of the essence, the heroes carefully search the Bear’s Hall, where they encountered the Frost Giants. Hidden in a large leather sack amongst the giant’s bedding is a large amount of gold and silver, as well as three hazel garnets, a platinum ewer, and a mithral idol of a rearing bear.

Having scoured the courtyard, Corvus summons phantasmal steeds to carry them to the cavern that comprises Longtooth’s lair. The cave is high up on a sheer cliff face, and the shattered bones of men, giants, horses, and wyverns testify to Longtooth’s former residency. Rather than attempting the arduous climb, Corvus uses dimension door to transport most of his allies into the cave, while Gellius uses his druidic powers to assume the shape of an eagle and fly into the cavern. The cave is quite wide, but appears to be a mere gap in the rocks until Zendo sends dancing lights into the depths. As the magical lights float into the deepest recesses of the cave, the darkness suddenly springs into glittering reflections! The deepest part of the lair is carpeted with a layer of coins! While most are copper, silver, gold, and even platinum sparkle amidst the lesser coinage, and hundreds of thousands of coins lie strewn about. Many small gems, as well as a fine blue diamond, a water opal, and a black opal, glimmer amidst the treasure. A linen tapestry rolled in one corner is found to depicts monks sparring in a courtyard, and a series of solid silver idols stand on a ledge at the back of the cave. The silver idols depict a wyvern with rider, a warrior trampling a demon, an armored centaur, and a leaping, fanged fish. The final idol is revealed to be not silver, but solid platinum, and depicts Runelord Karzoug! The men will have much work ahead of them to transport this much bounty back to Sandpoint.

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To the victors, the spoils
Kuthona 30, 4707

After witnessing the demise of Mokmurian, the heroes bind their wounds and tend to their grievously injured comrade, Hikage. The monk awakens to the pain of his magic-scoured body being treated by Zendo and Gellius as the last of the vile mists fades from the air.

After a brief respite, the men begin to search Mokmurian’s lair thoroughly for clues to his (or perhaps Karzoug’s) plans and resources to stop them. On the desk rests a decomposing Ogre head, incongruously trapped in a golden birdcage. This may have been the Headless Lord’s severed head, which would explain how Mokmurian was able to be prepared for their assault.

Scattered among the battle tactics and invasion plans littering his desk is a single piece of paper depicting the Lost Coast: Mokmurians_Note.jpg

The men have no idea what, or where, Runeforge is, but they recognize Xaliasa as the commander of the Hellstorm Flume that underlies Sandpoint.

The piles of papers and equipment scattered across the large room represent a valuable collection of books on arcane matters, spell components, and laboratory equipment, but a large chest under Mokmurian’s desk contains more easily transported treasure: large amounts of gold and platinum, as well as an amber and sapphire necklace, ivory runestones, and a magical scroll. Mokmurian’s corpse is also a source of great wealth, as the wicked transmuter possesses magical goggles which allowed him to peer through the fog, a wand of bear’s endurance, a magical club which can store spells (such as the vampiric touch which drained Ragnar), a scroll of limited wish, a strange, star-ended key, and a set of red, rune-inscribed robes which defy Corvus’s attempts to recognize their magic. His knapsack, while heavy, is actually magically larger on the inside, and contains his spellbooks, which Corvus eyes with interest.

After spending a great deal of time investigating the lair of their enemy, the men decide to attempt admittance through the large, bronze double doors in the outer hall, presumably leading to the library of Jorgenfist. Zendo cautiously approaches, and utters the name of the architect Viosanxi. When nothing occurs, the bard carefully slots the star-tipped key into the tiny indentation at the center of the silver Sihedron that spans the bronze doors. Rather than unlocking, the doors shift and separate, withdrawing in seven sections into recesses in the stone walls. Within is a luxurious domed room, furnished with overstuffed leather chairs and polished oak tables, illuminated by glowing crystal lanterns. A circular shaft descends from the center of the room, its walls composed of shelves holding thousands of books and scrolls. Zendo is taken aback as a bronze clockwork automaton approaches, but it hesitates and does not cross the threshold.

Overcome by curiosity, Corvus cannot restrain himself and strides into the library. The automaton greets him in Thassilonian:

Which volume of lore would you like me to retrieve for you? There are currently 24,491 volumes, scrolls, pamphlets, and unbound manuscripts available. Please indicate your wish by author, title, subject, or date of acquisition by the Therassic Monastery.

After a bit of experimentation, it is discovered that Zendo can also speak to the librarian in Elvish, and Ragnar can speak to it in Giant. Speaking to the clockwork librarian, Corvus discovers that the construct has been maintaining its vigil, and itself, for almost ten thousand years. Mokmurian has been the only patron of the library, and even then, only for the last few years. Mokmurian has not removed any documents from the library, the librarian explains, as the Therassic Monastery’s library is preserved from the passage of time by powerful magics which maintain all inorganic matter and inhibit the processes which might break down any organic material. Anything leaving the room would suddenly experience ten thousand years of arrested aging, crumbling away to nothing.

Mokmurian’s research in the library was wide-ranging, from the history and geography of ancient Thassilon (and the realms of Shalast and Bakrakhan) and many and varied magical researches, mostly of necromantic and transmutational magic. According to the librarian, Mokmurian did not request any volumes specifically on Runelord Karzoug, nor on Xin-Shalast itself, though the clockwork servant can rattle off a wide array of titles on both subjects. The Therassic library contains thousands of volumes of invaluable knowledge, previously thought lost to the ages, the men realize, but very little in the way of immediate clues.

The heroes decide to make their way back to the surface of Jorgenfist, taking their time to strip the bodies of their foes as they progress. The Headless Lord and his zombie giant minions prove to be a source of many suits of masterwork plate and half-plate. Though sized for giants, these suits of armor are of such a quality that many private collectors in Magnimar might desire them, as well as the enchanted full plate of the Headless Lord himself. The runechill hatchets wielded by that undead monster could be wielded by men as battleaxes, though Ragnar disdains them for his trusted greatsword.

The strange, magical cauldron continues to bubble away, the flames beneath springing from solid rock. The men all agree that this rune cauldron is undoubtedly vile and evil, but even the adamantine edge of Ragnar’s sword proves unable to gouge a furrow in the ensorcelled iron of the thing. Perhaps there is some way of destroying it, but given the foul smell and acrid smoke of the boiling contents, the men are wary of simply spilling the noisome contents onto the floor.

The troll guardians, Hurek and Durek are stripped of their enchanted breastplates and magical ranseurs. Hurek’s worthless treasure is discarded, but the valuable armor that Durek collected in his bag are added to the loot, and Zendo notices a small, but magical gem hidden inside an inner pocket of one of the suits of mail.

Searching through the corpses stacked like cordwood in the cavernous temple of Lamashtu, the men come across more of the crudely constructed and enchanted ogre hooks and hide armor, as well as Lokansir’s huge, but powerfully enchanted club. The vicious little kobold barbarian Enga Keckvia possessed a magical buckler and breastplate, as well as a powerful, if tiny, magical spear. Her strange necklace of golden orbs, taken by Hikage as it reminded him of his own golden prayer beads, is revealed to be a highly explosive necklace of fireballs, and the monk quickly removes it from his neck and hands the deadly jewelry to Corvus, who has the least to fear from fiery death.

The lamia priestesses were both equipped with masterwork leather armor for their human torsos, as well as enchanted falchions, and magical rings of protection. Each lamia wore an enchanted headband which inspired wisdom in them, and these are distributed to Gellius and Ragnar. After searching the bodies, the heroes explore past the cave-in caused by Lokansir and discover his grim lair. This large, regular chamber is decorated with an enormous Sihedron bas-relief on one wall, and many rune-carved stakes imbedded in the ground. The stakes, the shackles attached to them, and the braziers and brands beside them, leave no doubt that this room is where Mokmurian branded his servants (and Karzoug’s sacrifices). Strangely, the stone room has a floor of loosely packed earth, but persistent investigation reveals nothing of note about it.

The men now cautiously venture towards the haunted Shrine of the Ancestors, seeking to make contact again with Conna the Wise. The old, angular giantess steps out of the room, seemingly expecting the men. “I knew that you had slain Mokmurian. You have my thanks.”

When questioned, Conna explains that she knew Mokmurian was dead because she could no longer feel the presence of her husband’s spirit. Only the death of his tormentor would have freed his captive soul from the site of his demise.

The men ask Conna to help them convince the tribes to disperse. They wish to go outside and show the giants that Mokmurian is defeated, and to encourage the giants to resume their peaceable nomadic lives on the Plateau. Conna agrees to accompany them, but asks how the men plan on avoiding the hungry rocs. The gargantuan birds have been feasting on the bodies in the courtyard, and have long associated smaller beings with food. Considering their depleted resources, the men reconsider this plan, and ask Conna to speak to the tribes as an elder. She agrees to do so, and reminds the men that Galenmir’s chambers hold his treasures, and a passage to the smithy where the dwarves were enslaved. She grimly advises them to keep the dwarves out of sight, as relations have long been unfriendly between the dwarves and the Plateau People.

Conna strides out of the caverns and ascends the pit with Mokmurian’s severed head in hand. She confidently walks through the heaped dead in the courtyard and climbs the stairs in the gatehouse, before stepping onto the battlements. Lifting her deep voice to the skies, she calls out to her people:

Hear me and despair, Plateau People! Mokmurian is no more!

She throws his severed head out beyond the walls, and gasps and cries of alarm and anger are heard.

Mokmurian dared to assume the mantle of the Ancient Ones, and thought to harness their craft and lore! He presumed to return us to the High Road as masters, not slaves! His folly has claimed his life and those of his men.

The Ancient Ones did return! They returned to claim their black tower and their black pit! They have walked among you unseen and slain our people at will! Mokmurian’s command of their magics was weak, but their rule is strong, and they have shown their wrath.

Only I survive! I survive because I am an elder and I hew to the Low Road! It is as I warned you before Mokmurian rose to rule! He will doom himself with his plans and doom us all as well.

The Black Tower is cursed! This valley is cursed! Let us flee from the valley before the magics of the Ancient Ones kill us all or their iron cauldron enslaves us! Go now from the valley and never return! Seek not the High Road of old, for it leads only to death and enslavement! So commands Conna, eldest of the Kavarvatti!

The men listen intently to Conna’s words, and hear the anguished cries of alarm of the stone giants. Conna descends again into the courtyard and harnesses the mammoths in the stables before raising a hand to the men in farewell.

As Conna departs, the men quickly search Galenmir‘s personal chambers. The commander of Jorgenfist has many trophies, from scalps and bits of armor to many shields and a collection of dwarf beards, each bound with a silver ring. All of the shields are marked with a name and a heavy steel one, marked ’Anstan’, proves to be a arrow catching shield. Behind hanging furs lies a narrow passage through the stone, which leads back towards the stone giant barracks, tannery, and smithy. Inside the smithy, the men find five soot-covered, rather mournful looking dwarves, all of whom have had their beards roughly shaven off. The heroes free the dwarves, and help the former slaves to equip themselves as best as possible with the armor and shields from Galenmir and the trolls. Warning the dwarves of the perils above, they lead them to the great cave and kitchen, so that the freed captives may eat, though much of the giant larder is humanoid flesh!

After assuring the dwarves that they will assist them in returning to the civilized lands of Varisia, the men return to the Therassic library to engage in research. Zendo helps Corvus to skim through the many books and manuscripts, and Ragnar tasks the librarian with finding the volumes of lore necessary. Though Gellius and Hikage are willing to help, the language barrier proves to be insurmountable for them, and they rest and relax as the others spend long hours, poring over (or toting around) ancient tomes. The heroes have three primary concerns:

What can be learned about Karzoug?
Where is Xin-Shalast?
What is Runeforge?

After research that stretches into the late hours, and even to the early morning beyond, Corvus and his assistants assemble the following information:

Karzoug, the Runelord of Greed, was an Azlanti human and said to be the most gifted manipulator of Transmutation magic in all of Thassilon. Karzoug was reputed to have lived for hundreds of years, ruling over Shalast in Thassilon, over 10,000 years ago. His armies were composed of giants who followed his every command. Those giants were ruled over by towering Rune Giants, themselves pawns of the runelords. Karzoug courted other powerful allies, however, including blue dragons, immense lamia harridans, and eerie denizens from the nightmare realm of Leng, including the blood drinking scarlet walkers. He focused his magical research on Transmutation, magic associated in Thassilon with the virtue of wealth, or, in his case, the sin of greed. Among the runelords, his mastery of Greed magic was unrivaled, but in the schools of illusion and enchantment (related, in Thassilonian magic, to the sins of pride and lust), his skills were greatly atrophied. Many believed that ‘dominant weapons’, infused with illusion and enchantment magics, would be potent against Karzoug, but there is no record of anyone successfully attacking Karzoug with such a weapon. Karzoug warred with his neighboring runelords, but none more so than Runelord Alaznist, the Runelord of Wrath and ruler of Bakrakhan. Between their nations, on a ridge known as the , Karzoug built immense sentinel statues to watch over Bakrakhan while Alaznist built towers called Hellfire Flumes to incinerate invading armies. Both nations worried that the war between the runelords would escalate to the point where they might bring about the end of the world. As the war between Karzoug and Alaznist escalated, and hostilities between runelords deepened, the runelords devised methods to ‘escape’ the world and enter a state of suspended animation, riding out cataclysms to be awakened by their minions afterwards and reclaim their empires.

Xin-Shalast is a legendary lost city, rumored to be hidden somewhere in the Kodar Mountains, said to be paved with gold and with buildings of gemstones, under the gaze of a mountain that could see. Xin-Shalast was the capital of the empire of Shalast, one of the seven empires of ancient Thassilon. Legend holds that Xin-Shalast lay at the headwaters of the sacred River Avah, but no records of where this river flowed exist today, and most scholars believe the river itself to have been destroyed during Earthfall. The River Avah was believed by the Varisians to lead to an earthly paradise sacred to Desna. In the final centuries before Earthfall, Xin-Shalast was ruled by Runelord Karzoug. The architects of the city were tribes of giants, ruled over by the powerful rune giants. The spires of Xin-Shalast stand upon the mythical mountain of Mhar Massif, which pierces the skies above the Kodars, and is said to be the highest mountain peak in the entire Kodar range, all stupendously inhospitable mountains. Mhar Massif was saidto serve as a bridge to realms beyond Golarion, notably, the nightmare realm of Leng. The connections with Leng were said to infuse the realm around the peak of Mhar Massif with dangerous eldritch energies.

Runeforge was created as a place where the agents of the runelords could gather to study magic. The runelords wove wards around it that barred entrance to the runelords themselves, and any direct agents of theirs, in order to keep the research within free from sabotage. Runeforge’s magics sustained those within without the need to eat, drink, or sleep. The final project of the operatives at Runeforge was the development of ways that the runelords could escape the imminent fall of their empire. Each faction developed a unique answer based upon their underlying principles of that faction’s magical traditions.

However, even within the shelves of the library, there exists no records of the location of Runeforge. Evidently this was not entrusted to the Therassic monks, nor to few others not implicitly trusted by the runelords themselves.

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Make Haste to Mokmurian
Kuthona 30, 4707

Seemingly uninterested in the gigantic, magical, rune-covered cauldron, the men press onward. Hikage gingerly advances into the hallway and peers into the next room cautiously. A series of suits of armor seem to be displayed on preserved or frozen hill giants. The room is not as lethally cold as the Black Monk’s sepulchre, but the air is cold enough to fog Hikage’s breath. Corvus uses detect magic to examine the room closely. The giants radiate an aura of necromantic magic, but Corvus notes that both the animation of the dead, and the preservation of dead tissue, radiate necromantic energies. Perhaps the giants are preserved like the colossal giant the heroes found atop Hook Mountain. Another magical aura is radiating from an unseen corner of the room, but Corvus spends no time examining it, as the men are quite concerned about the possibility of zombie giants.

Still, the only way appears to be forward, so the men advance. As they do so, the hill giants shudder to unlife, and slowly advance on the party. The men are now able to see the hidden corner of the room, and it conceals a gruesome foe: a headless ogre chieftain, clad in plate armor and wielding two huge hatchets! As the lumbering zombie giants move menacingly forward, the Headless Lord gestures, and summons twitching, snarling human zombies to surround the entire group! Suddenly surrounded by a wall of undead flesh, the men unleash their offense. Gellius summons a pack of snarling wolves to hold off the giant zombies, while HIkage begins to dismantle one of the huge Hill Giant zombies with his skillful attacks. Corvus bathes a second giant zombie in flames, and Ragnar slices apart three of the human zombies with quick slashes of his sword. Zendo sends a wave of magical energy through his comrades, hastening their blows. Though a few of the zombies land clubbing strikes with their rotting fists on Corvus, Gellius, and the wolves, the remaining human zombies quickly fall to Zendo and Gellius, who is still in earth elemental form.

The Headless lord and the remaining Hill giants destroy several of Gellius’s summoned wolves, but the wolves savage the zombie giants before they are destroyed. Ragnar begins to hack apart the Headless Lord, but the gruesomely beheaded ogre releases a wave of fear over the men. They stand their ground, but all are shaken. Ragnar, however, is indignant, and his quickened blade slices apart the Headless Lord, the damaged giant fighting Hikage, and one of the two remaining zombie giants fighting the wolves. The last wolf, still fighting, tears apart the final zombie giant before it can retaliate.

Zendo urges the others to press onward while his spell of haste still lingers, and the others see the wisdom of his words. The men quickly rush out of the room, taking the larger, northern hallway, which passes several collapsed passages before twisting northward into a wider corridor. Ragnar takes the smaller southern passage and announces that it is clear. Gellius, still in elemental form, passes through the stone of the walls and enters the grand hallway through the stone itself.

The hallway is quite long, and the walls are covered with lines of runes in the distinctive Thassilonian script. Double doors are located on the northern and southern walls, while the eastern wall appears to have collapsed. The western wall terminates at two large bronze doors, marked with the seven-pointed sihedron rune. The doors seem to have no handles or hinges, but only a tiny, many-pointed indentation in the center. Though this appears to be the library, and of much interest, Ragnar points out that the men will waste their ‘speed’ spending time figuring out how to pick the lock. He hacks apart the doors on the north wall, revealing only another set of doors. Zendo runs up and opens those, only to reveal a wall of blank stone. Hikage rushes to the southern wall and opens a set of doors there, only to reveal another collapsed passage, filled with rubble.

Unfortunately, Corvus has spent time reading the runes on the walls. In Thassilonian, they compose a prayer to the Peacock Spirit, a mysterious deity of ancient Thassilon, beseeching the spirit for serenity for research. The prayers have a miraculous calming effect on Corvus, and, despite his haste, he becomes detached and dreamy, much to the annoyance of the others, who are still eager to find Mokmurian quickly.

Gellius advances to the last set of doors in the hall, on the north wall. They are partially collapsed by the same destruction that shattered the end of the hall, and he can peer into the room beyond. The druid is surprised to see huge round eyes glowing back at him from the darkness, and the sight he beholds threatens to tear away his sanity. Within the room beyond, three strange beasts lurk in wait. Their eyes are overlarge, and reflect back the light of the heroes’ flames and swords. Their strange eyes, combined with a gaping maw of needle-like teeth, give the quadrupeds the semblance of a deep-sea fish, which is only heightened by their silvery, transparent skin. However, the beasts lope on four legs, though the front two are longer by far, like those of a hyena, and all four limbs terminate in sharp, curved claws, like those of a predatory cat. The beasts leap to the attack, snapping and clawing at Gellius.

Ragnar rushes to his friend’s defense and the Ulfen struggles against the maddening gaze of the ‘hounds’, but slashes at them, cursing, “Damn you dogs and your eyes!”, before the beasts suddenly disappear. Hikage leaps into the fray, and is dismayed as the strange guardians suddenly reappear in front of him. The monk has little time for more than a shouted cry before the otherworldly gaze of the beasts slices flesh from his limbs! It seems like their gaze is otherworldly in an actual sense! The remaining wolf is also badly slashed by the reality-warping gaze of the hounds. Gellius finds his rocky fists have small effect on the rubbery, glistening skin of the beasts, but the glowing greatsword of Ragnar and Hikage’s ki-enhanced strikes both seem capable of dispatching the howling, slavering beasts. Zendo is loathe to view the horrible creatures, and Corvus seems more interested in the architecture than the deadly combat. Finally, the bard is reduced to slapping his ally back to his senses. Before Corvus can unleash any magics against their weird foes, the others have dispatched them, with the summoned wolf proving its mettle by tearing the throat from the last of the monsters.

Corvus hastens around the corner to examine the bodies, which evaporate in spitting, fuming bursts like mercury on a skillet. Taking in their bizarre anatomy and the strange contours of the room, which is even more rounded and organic than any of the previous hallways, the wizard identifies the creatures as Hounds of Tindalos. These otherplanar entities can seldom intrude into our world, and can only travel between the worlds through sharp angles. The rounded rooms may have been intended to keep them out, as many wizards who experiment with magics involving time and teleportation have found the hounds to be attracted to such disturbances in the ether. On the other hand, the smoothed corners and sinuous walls may have also acted to trap the hounds here on the material plane, as well.

The heroes quickly explore the strange, rounded chamber, and Ragnar throws open the doors on the western wall. A brief glimpse is afforded to the party of Mokmurian, standing atop a platform at the opposite end of a huge, high-ceilinged hall, lined with columns, before the stone giant gestures imperiously and a billowing cloud of fog fills the doorway!

Hikage is the first to dash into the cloud of mist, but he finds that not only does the cloying mist block his vision, but the dense fog clings to him, slowing his steps. The others gamely follow, though Corvus remains behind to cloak himself in greater invisibility, and Gellius decides to flank their enemy by shifting through the walls themselves. Though he cannot see his foe, Hikage thinks himself safe, as Mokmurian cannot see him either, but a glowing green ray penetrates the fog and fills the monk with terrible agony. Only by the sheerest force of will does Hikage faintly cling to life after taking the full force of Mokmurian’s attempt to disintegrate him!

As Zendo and Ragnar grimly force their way through the fog, they see that Mokmurian has donned bronze goggles which appear to allow him to see through the fog. “You meddling, troublesome, whelps!”, he mutters. “You have vexed me and spoiled much of my planning. This ends here!” As Ragnar rushes at Mokmurian with his sword drawn, Gellius bursts through the wall and unleashes a devastating disenchantment, which strips Mokmurian of his magical protection from harm, his flight, his ability to see invisible foes (like Corvus) and his resistance to fire!

Enraged at this insult, Mokmurian levels another ray of disintegrating energy at the druid, but Gellius’s stony form proves to hard to destroy, and the beam only injures the druid. Corvus, responding in kind, attempts to disintegrate Mokmurian, but only succeeds in injuring the sturdy giant wizard. Ragnar is finally close enough to launch a desperate assault on Mokmurian, and lands a grievous blow, but not before Mokmurian clouts him with a stout strike from his own club, which also magically drains some of Ragnar’s own life force to heal Mokmurian’s wounds. Zendo heals his friends to keep them in the fight, but the fight seems to be what Mokmurian wishes to avoid.

The canny stone giant carefully creates a dimensional door and steps outside the room, on the other side of the fog. Unsure what has happened to his foe, Ragnar slashes desperately into thin air, hoping that the giant is merely invisible. The strident barking of Gellius’s remaining wolf reveals to the druid that Mokmurian has fled the hall, and he quickly relays this to his allies, before summoning a huge lightning elemental to give chase!

Unbeknownst to them, Mokmurian wastes little time preparing a counter-offensive. As they struggle through the solid fog, he launches a greenish cloud of poison into it! The poor wolf succumbs at once, and the elemental, Corvus, and Ragnar all find themselves weakened and sickened by the caustic vapors. Corvus hurries through the killing cloud and invisibly secrets himself safely out of Mokmurian’s reach, as Gellius travels through the wall itself, and rains down blows on Mokmurian with the assistance of his Lightning Elemental.

Rather than being cowed, Mokmurian unleashes a spell which transforms the stone floor into a molten pool of tar, trapping both Gellius and his elemental, burning them badly. As they struggle to escape, Ragnar emerges from the mists, and assaults Mokmurian again, striding through his foe’s clubbing blows to slash at him. Corvus unleashes a burning serpent of fire against Mokmurian as well, and it seems they have him surrounded, until the stone giant uses his arcane trappings to recast his dimension door, transporting him back into the safety of the hallway, much to their frustration!

Zendo, Ragnar, and Corvus struggle back through the cloying fog, careful to avoid the greenish, poisonous mist that pools in the center of it, as Gellius and his elemental struggle to extricate themselves from the pool of burning tar. Corvus attempts to immobilize Mokmurian with magic, but the strong-willed wizard shrugs off the spell. Ragnar and Zendo are slowed struggling through the mists, but Zendo calls forth his magic and hastes them again, but his strategy is short-lived, as Mokmurian casts a spell which slows them, negating the magic. As Gellius’s flying Ligntning Elemental moves within range to strike, the druid, finally free, summons a large Mud elemental directly onto the platform with Mokmurian, preventing the evil wizard from maneuvering any further.

Seeing his opportunity, Ragnar launches himself at his foe. Though Mokmurian smashes him again with his stone club, the warrior lands blow after blow, with a little magical assistance from Zendo, and buries his sword deep in the short giant’s breast.

Though Mokmurian should by all rights be dead, his head turns to gaze upon his conquerors, and an emerald radiance shines from his eyes. He speaks with an accented voice unlike his own deep speech:

So, these are the heroes of the age? More like crawling worms in the ruins of greater works -to be crushed back into the earth when the name Karzoug is again spoken with lamentation and worship. Know that the deaths of those marked by the Sihedron-the giants you have conveniently slain for me—hasten my return, just as your own deaths soon will. Fool, all of you. Is this really all you could muster in ten thousand years? Pathetic.

The voice stills, and the emerald light fades from Mokmurian’s eyes, as he breathes his last impaled on Ragnar’s sword.

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Little Problems and Big Enemies
30 Kuthona, 4707

After quickly searching the giants and binding wounds, the heroes debate pressing on. Gellius and Zendo favor ‘clearing the tunnels’, but Corvus reminds them that Conna, the only remaining giants in this region would be the old, irascible cook. Gellius is concerned with amount of magics he has expended, but Ragnar insists that the men can’t give Mokmurian time to recruit new guards.

They decide to press onward, down into the depths. The only way forward is down, through a sloping passageway lined with bear furs. Corvus, consulting the crude map drawn by their ally Conna, warns the men that trolls are supposed to guard the passageway. Perhaps not taking the wizard’s warning fully to heart, Zendo approaches the nearest bear fur to check behind it for traps or alarms. He is unpleasantly surprised to find a troll waiting there, with a ranseur! The guard, one Durek, by name, chortles as he nearly impales the unwary bard.

Hikage rushes down the corridor to assist his friend, as the narrow gaps in the stone walls are too small to allow passage of anything much larger than the painfully sharp ranseurs. He is brought up short, however, by the flashing of another spear point, as Durek’s counterpart, Hurek, proves to be lurking behind the stone wall on the other side. Zendo and Corvus fight the resulting fight a bit frustrating, as they end up trying to blast the trolls with wands of fire through the small gaps in the wall, while avoiding hitting their friends Ragnar and Hikage, who have engaged the trolls in melee.

Ragnar proves quite deadly to Durek, slicing and dicing him with his greatsword, but the Ulfen has no means to counter the troll’s regeneration. Hikage’s blows against Hurek are less cataclysmic, but the acidic vapor wreathing the monk’s fists prevents his opponent from recovering. Gellius is initially as frustrated as the wizard and bard, finding it difficult to target the trolls in their defensive positions behind the wall, but he eventually changes tactics and summons a small magma elemental. Durek is reluctant to burn himself clawing or biting the molten elemental, and Ragnar uses the distraction of the elemental to strike him down, and the magma elemental quickly sears the troll into a corpse. Hikage’s fists of elemental acid prove too caustic for Durek to survive, and the men search the trolls for loot. Hurek proves to have been rather simple-minded, and only has a bag of pretty rocks, while his brother (?) Durek seemed to be more canny, and has a collection of armor in his satchel, some of which seems to be magical. Both trolls were equipped with magical ranseurs and breastplates, suggesting that their positions as guards were appointed.

The men move into the deeps. They descend a sloping, curving passageway, which gradually changes from rough stone to smoothly worked walls. The corkscrewing tunnel drops hundreds of feet into the depths of the earth. When the tunnel ends, it deposits the men in a forking hallway of precisely worked stone. The stone walls, floor, and ceiling are all smoothly carved and blend into one another, leaving no sharp angles between the surfaces. The construction is strange and subtly alien.

Zendo sends forth dancing lights to illuminate the passages. To the right, a large room awaits, with a set of double doors opposite the hallway entrance. To the left, the hall proceeds only a short way before ending in a collapse of stone and rubble, but it appears that another passage may branch off before the blockage. The men go left, and examine the rubble as Hikage steps into the side passage to investigate.

Hikage finds only a small side chamber, seemingly bereft of function or fittings, but as he looks around, an ominous red glow appears in the far wall and a massive, metallic creature looms into the room, emerging through the stone itself as if it were no more than water or mist. The bizarre entity snarls at the monk with a round head full of sharp metal teeth, but a second, much larger maw, bisecting its protruding belly, vomits forth a burning cascade of molten metal and slag. Hikage quickly dances around the red-hot pool, avoiding injury, but before he can do more than shout in alarm, the bizarre creature withdraws back into the stone wall, leaving no trace of its passage.

Hikage describes his encounter with the alarming creature, and Corvus recognizes that it sounds like a creature from Dwarven ‘ghost’ stories. The forgefiend reputedly plagues some ill-fated mines and foundries, devouring ore and consuming metal. He can remember little else about it, but this sets Zendo’s mind abuzz.

The men move onward into the southern room. This large room is composed of blocks of smooth, greenish marble, and a strange illumination plays around the stones themselves. Entering, as they do, from the hallway, the men do not notice the strange tricks of the eyes that the walls play until they have entered the room and spied its guardian, a Hill Giant covered with runes, as they have encountered before. As the bewitched giant lurches to the attack, the arcane nature of the room becomes evident. Space is strangely bent and shifted in the room, and walls seem to shift and move in the men’s peripheral vision. Most of the heroes fight off the sensation, but Ragnar and Corvus become dizzy and disoriented. Their sensation of shifting space is no illusion, however, as both men shrink to the size of Halflings!

With both the fighter and the wizard temporarily incapacitated with vertigo, the fight looks to be much harder, but Hikage gamely leaps into combat with the rune-covered Hill Giant. Zendo approaches more carefully, and Gellius seems to hold back, but the druid is only transforming into a massive Earth Elemental! Unfortunately, as the men begin to wear down their giant foe, the forgefiend emerges from the stone wall again! Zendo calls out the name “Viosanxi” to the metallic brute, but it only laughs with a grinding croak and tells the bard, “Fool! I am no clockwork, and no librarian either!”.

Though menacing Corvus, the forgefiend sees the Earth Elemental and Gellius is forced to resist a transforming wave of magic which threatens to turn him into unliving stone! The druid resists, however, and smashes his rocky fists against the forgefiend, denting its metal skin and driving it to retreat back into the wall. Zendo is frustrated that they have no recourse to land a telling blow on the forgefiend, but seeing it in action himself unlocks a childhood nursery rhyme, told to him by a dwarven child:

“For every bit of ore you waste, a scanderig is making haste.”

The forgefiend, known by the dwarves as a scanderig, is an elemental being from the planes of elemental earth. The cruel, clever outsiders will sometimes manifest through concentrations of stone into our world, and thrive on seams of metal (as well as worked metal). Dwarven communities dread the scanderig, as it can denude a mine of ore, as well as creeping into the forges at night to consume their handiwork. As the scanderig is, functionally, a walking, talking furnace, it is quite immune to heat, and possessed of a malevolent cunning.

The rune-scarred giant is defeated, and the scanderig has retreated. Corvus is exasperated by his diminished size, but it will have no effect on his magic. However, a shrunken Ragnar is unacceptable to all, particularly Ragnar. Corvus uses an Enlarge Person spell to undo the magic. Zendo listens at the door and hears a crackling, bubbling sound, like stew simmering on a fire.

The men open the doors, and cautiously proceed down the hallway. The room they see is dominated by a huge cauldron, bubbling over an incongruous, smokeless fire in a shallow pit in the floor. The room is filled with runes. Runes coat the surface of the cauldron, and march in rows across the walls. A huge stone statue stands motionless in one corner, with glowing blue runes incised into the brow of its skull-like face. Gellius, still in the form of a stone elemental, strides into the room to investigate. He can see an exit to the east, and a collapsed passageway to the north, but little else of interest, though some bones are strewn around the rim of the huge cauldron in messy piles on the floor. When Hikage steps into the room, however, the stone statue rears to life. It is a stone golem, and it advances on the monk with graven fists raised to smash. Hikage tries to smash it down, but the unyielding stone of its construction is resistant to his fists. Corvus quickly incants a spell and flings Ragnar across the room at the golem. Under the strokes of his adamantine greatsword, the stone form of the golem is quickly rent asunder.

However, before the golem is completely unmade, the scanderig makes an appearance! Unable to menace the heroes from the safety of the wall, it has to step fully into the room. The scanderig’s sharp claws rend at Hikage, and the crushing, grinding mouth in it’s midriff nearly clamps down on Zendo. Corvus bathes it in flame, unsucessfully, but Gellius blasts it with lightning, and Hikage quickly batters it, striking the vulnerable joints of the metallic monster. With the scanderig reeling from their sudden assault, only a final stroke of Ragnar’s sword is necessary to end its ambushing menace. As the scanderig collapses, it groans out a furnace-hot sigh of relief. “Free of this accursed prison! Free!” The forgefiend dissipates into a cloud of foul smoke, leaving only hot ashes and stinking slag behind.

As the men muse on this, Zendo explores the strange cauldron, but quickly discovers his mistake. Though ‘simmering’ on a low boil, the noxious smoke of the cauldron burns his eyes and sears his throat. Blinking away tears and coughing uncontrollably, the bard backs away from the strange device. “Whatever’s in there is no good,” he croaks.

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Enga Keckvia and a Giant pain in the ass
Kuthona 30, 4707

As Ragnar, Corvus, and Zendo pull themselves out of the rubble, a high-pitched ululation echoes through the cavern. A crimson-scaled kobold, wielding a spear two-handed, hurls herself at Hikage. His bemusement at his diminutive opponent is quickly dispelled as the fiesty kobold nearly runs him through with a powerful stab of her weapon.

Enga Keckvia is powerfully enraged, and screeches curses at the invaders. She calls Hikage the ‘bald monkey’ and, before he can retort, she stabs him again and again. Realizing his peril from the sharp spearhead of the raging kobold, Hikage quickly assumes a defensive stance and rains down a series of painful blows upon Enga.

Chastened, Enga abandons her reckless attacks and darts around Hikage, aggressively jabbing at him. His defenses prove sound, and she has difficulty landing any more damaging blows on the monk. However, Enga’s own twitching, darting combat style proves difficult for him as well.
Gellius hurls lightning at the tiny barbarian, and Corvus seizes his wand and sends a jet of flame coursing at her, but both miss the little frothing warrior.

Hikage receives healing from Gellius, and reenters the fray, finally landing a few solid strikes to his scaly assailant. Enga dashes back warily and catches her breath, seeming to recover some of her vitality. Now wary of her spear, Hikage advances on her carefully and, after several false moves, slams his fist into Enga’s throat, ending the threat of the small, but deadly warrior. Mokmurian certainly encountered no ordinary kobold during his travels!

The men, now recovered from the cave-in, make use of their magical reserves of healing as they strip their opponents of items likely to be of use. The magical rings of the lamias are taken, as well as their enchanted headbands, and the curious necklace of golden globes worn by Enga. Other valuables, such as the magical swords of the two priestesses, and Enga’s own magical spear and armor are left behind, under the assumption that the heroes will either be able to return to claim them, or will be dead, and in no condition to do so.

The men carefully advance from the lair of the charmed Red Dragons into the temple of the Lion Sisters itself. Smoky incense fills the air, and the lurid paintings on the walls depict the worship of Lamashtu in no uncertain terms to the experienced eyes of the men. Other images on the walls depict horned bats and winged serpents, but Hikage does not recognize them. A stone altar rests in one corner of the room, and silvery sconces hold the burning incense. Hikage notices scrapes across the stone of the cavern floor, suggesting that the entire altar might be moved to reveal a passage or cavity. Ragnar attempts to shift the heavy stone altar, but meets with no success.

As the men examine the room, they hear commands being bellowed in a deeply pitched voice! Lokansir has returned, with reinforcements!

The men quickly assemble for battle, and four ogres, reeking of the tannery and wielding too-familiar ogre hooks fan out through the passages to the south. Gellius waits until the ogres are reinforced by Stone Giants to unleash a blast of chain lightning. Corvus ignites a gout of flame which spreads to several of the ogres. Hikage is in the thick of things, dodging the ogre’s clumsy attacks and striking at them left and right with his fists. Oddly enough, Ragnar is content to stand back and pepper the ogres and giants with arrows, though this seems to work quite well.

The ogres and giants try to focus their attacks on the wizard and druid who unleashed the devastating lightning and fire, but Hikage and Ragnar whittle them down as they press forward. Almost all of the giants and ogres are down before Lokansir hurls his massive form through the passageway and into the shrine. He bellows a threat at Hikage and Zendo and his immense club whooshes through the air above their heads as they frantically duck to avoid it. Corvus bathes the immense, rune-scarred giant with fire and Gellius blasts him with lightning, as Hikage and Zendo try to keep out of his reach. Finally, before Hikage can land the fatal blow, Ragnar shoots into the melee and brings Lokansir down with an arrow.

Once the fight has ended, the men take stock of the situation. Most of the giants’ gear is too large to be easily carried, though some of it appears to be magical and valuable. Ragnar and HIkage struggle to move the heavy stone altar, and Ragnar finally succeeds, once he figures out the right direction to push it in. Underneath are a series of books, illustrated in a skilled, but demenented hand, detailing methods of torture and murder for giants and other humanoids. Though macabre, Corvus insists on taking the tomes as they may be valuable for information or to some other researcher.

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Paralysis, Blindness, and Cave-ins.
Kuthona 30, 4707

After a night sleeping in bedrolls in a strange, extradimensional space in the Black Tower, the men get up and begin their preparations for the second phase of their mission to stop Mokmurian.

Gellius and Corvus confer with the others in order to prepare the magics most useful to the mission, but the wizard prepares several spells for his own curiosity. Though a spell of mending is most often used to repair minor damage to garments and gear, the magics work just as well to restore the brittle vellum of the unspeakably ancient scrolls. Able to safely unroll the wyvern-hide scrolls safely, Corvus is surprised by their contents.

Eight of the scrolls contain powerful spells of divine magic, scribed by a powerful cleric in time immemorial. These scrolls of greater restoration, heroes’ feast, order’s wrath, regenerate, resurrection, scrying, symbol of stunning, and true resurrection will prove most useful, if he or the bard can wrap their minds around the foreign magics inscribed upon them. The next scroll holds a greater, if more prosaic, surprise. Translated from the Thassilonian, it reads:

Writ of Entrance and Access

To be presented to the Clockwork Librarian of the Therassic Library for the securing of full access to all archives held within.

Ware the shining guardians, for they guard the library without bias, and any who would enter are counted thieves and vandals to be slaughtered.

Speak aloud the name of the Master Architect, Viosanxi, afore entry is attempted via the bronze doors, if thou wouldst avoid their blinding wrath.

It appears to be a pass allowing access to some ancient library, perhaps the one under Jorgenfist which Mokmurian himself has discovered.

The final scrolls prove to be the most valuable. This scroll is unusually heavy, and consists of a long, supple parchment wrapped between two rods. When Corvus unfurls the scroll, he beholds a tangle of Thassilonian runes which writhe and squirm on the page before settling into a spell which Corvus has never heard of before, a rainment of command which cloaks the caster in an illusion, not only of appearance, but of authority, allowing him to appear to be a person of legitimate authority. Cautious of the strange scroll, Corvus rolls it back up, and unrolls the scroll to a different place, concentrating on a particular spell. He sees the runes begin to dance around the page, but he loses his concentration on their shifting forms, and the runes settle back into the same spell again.

Wracking his brain, Corvus remembers a story he encountered in his studies, a story which he dismissed as apocryphal, of a magical scroll which contained every arcane spell ever committed to memory by the ancients, as well as many dark secrets and bits of abhorrent lore. The scroll, called the Anathema Archive, could display any spell that the viewer could clearly understand, but would also display spells from its own masters if the reader could not force his understanding onto the page. However, the Anathema Archive, being penned by beings with greater understanding than our own, could also confuse and befuddle the viewer, slowing driving him mad through repeated reading. The idea of a single scroll which could contain any spell, or, indeed, perhaps all spells, seemed so ‘fairy-tale’ when Corvus heard it, but it appears that here, in his hands, he holds the Anathema Archive itself!

Corvus casts a spell which will allow him to teleport the others safely back here to the Black Tower if the mission goes badly, reasoning that the giants are loath to enter the tower, and that they will have no way of knowing where the men have gone in any case.

Rather than brazenly exit the tower through the massive stone doors, Corvus uses his magic to transport them to the tunnels underlying Jorgenfist, in a nexus near the pit itself. The men, not having planned quite as far as they had intended, get into a heated discussion in the large stone hallways, with Gellius wanting to confer with Conna, and some of the others advocating confronting Lokansir, while the remainder feel that they should push on to confront the Lion Sisters and their charmed dragons immediately. After a bit of raised voices, the heroes decide to press towards the Shrine of Lamashtu, since facing down the two priestesses and their dragons will be necessary if they intend to confront Mokmurian in his lair deeper within Jorgenfist.

Unfortunately, their discussions are easily overheard by the two young red dragons held in thrall by the lamias. Econtredor and Sulaminga have protected themselves using the minor magics available to dragons of their young age, and Sulaminga brashly leaps forward to protect her mistresses. Both she and her brother Econtredor seem fiercely devoted to the priestesses, and both bear Sihedron runes carved into the large armor plates between their horns. She breathes a scorching gout of flames onto the heroes before Gellius can protect them from fire. Belatedly, the druid wards his companions from the flames, forcing the two dragons to rely on their claws and fangs to defeat their enemies.

This proves difficult for the young dragons, as their foes are no ordinary men, but the Lost Coast Avengers and the slayers of Longtooth himself. Hikage quickly maneuvers past Sulaminga, not wishing to allow her to trap them all in the stone passageways, and engages Econtrador. Corvus and Gellius blast the dragons with lightning, before Ragnar hacks apart Sulaminga in a whirlwind of blades. Gellius summons a freezing cold to injure and stagger her brother Econtrador, who, despite his fangs and claws, proves to be no match for them.

Unfortunately for the heroes, the two dragons are not their only opposition. The Lion Sisters, two lamia priestesses of Lamashtu, enter the chambers from the far end. Zaelsar and Seleval seem unimpressed with the men, and greet them as new worshippers. Zaelsar pads through the chamber first, and uses a magical spell to paralyze Ragnar in place. The others hold back while Corvus casts magics to protect them from the evil magics of the two lamias, before moving to the attack. Seleval summons a greasy, choking cloud of evil fumes, which sickens Corvus, and burns the flesh of Zendo and Gellius, though Ragnar and Hikage seem less afflicted.

As Ragnar struggles against his paralysis, Hikage engages Zaelsar, finding the lamia as quick and nimble as himself, though less skilled in combat. The priestess, a bit wary of the monk, falls back towards the unconscious dragon, Econtrador. To the shock of the men, the priestess does not heal her ally, but drains his life force to empower her own!

Her sister, Seleval, casts a spell of blindness upon Corvus, to his dismay. The wizard had neglected to prepare a spell to dispel such afflictions, but he uses his arcane focus to dredge the spell up from his memory and remove his debilitating condition.

While Zendo and Hikage, and, belatedly, Ragnar, struggle against the Lamia priestesses, another threat has arisen. Roused by the battle, Lokansir has emerged from his chambers and is forcing his bulk into the narrow tunnel, roaring threats of murder and dismemberment. Gellius wisely summons a large frost elemental, blocking the advance of Lokansir with a massive, aggressive iceberg! The hulking hill giant, his body covered in runic scars, trades crushing blows with the ice elemental.

With the threat behind them delayed, the men concentrate on taking down the snarling, hissing leonine priestesses. Seleval retreats under the fury of Ragnar’s attack, using the respite to heal herself, but Zendo lunges forward and undoes her work with his own rapier. Zaelsar falters under the acidic fists of Hikage, who mercilessly punches and kicks the evil priestess into unconsciousness. Her sister soon follows.

Seeing his allies brought down, Lokansir roars in anger and frustration, and his rumbling bellow shakes the very walls of Jorgenfist. The stone passageway collapses in an earthquake! Rocks strike Zendo and Ragnar, and a boulder nearly crushes Corvus. All three men, and the ice elemental, are pinned by the heavy rubble. Lokansir has collapsed the tunnel, giving them a brief respite from his fury, assuming that no other enemies lie in wait…

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Frost Giants, the Black Monk, and ancient scrolls
Kuthona 29, 4707

Still flush with their magics, the men decide to ‘investigate’ the Frost Giant envoys Conna indicated were staying in the Bear Hall. Zendo and Gellius quickly heal Ragnar as the group flies over towards the smaller stone building. Hikage stays out of sight on one side of the door as Zendo waits cautiously on the other. Gellius and Ragnar stand ready in front of the door, as Corvus readies a minor blast of flame from the air for any attackers.

Zendo flings open the door to reveal a large room, decorated with scores of bear skulls and many notable bear pelts. The room seems recently converted to house guests, and the only guests within are two hulking Frost Giants, their bluish lips snarled back to reveal their yellowed teeth. The first of the two giants, seemingly ready for this sort of action, hurls himself at the whirling air elemental, which is actually Gellius in a wildshaped form. Sadly for him, his angry charge takes him past the unseen Zendo, who stabs at him with a rapier, and the waiting Corvus, who burns him with a jet of flame. Before he can contact the druid’s whirling form, Hikage leaps at him, and batters him further. Knocked off guard, the white-haired reaver is unable to land a blow with his greataxe before Ragnar steps forward and slices him limb from limb.

Seeing his compatriot cut down does not cow the remaining Frost Giant, but seems only to enrage him. He charges towards the flight, but his attempt to cut down Zendo is prevented by his wild swing, which contacts the stout oak of the doorway. Zendo is similarly hampered in his response, succeeding in stabbing the enraged giant once, but also stymied by the close quarters. Hikage succeeds in landing a stout kick to the giant, despite the close confines, and Gellius instead casts a spell, spitting a caustic poison into the giant’s eyes. Taking advantage of the blinded giant, Corvus scorches him with a fiery ray from his wand.

Though the giant’s massive frame allows him to resist the toxins coursing through his body, the stinging poison burns at his eyes, spoiling his aim as Gellius retreats to a safe distance. Ragnar steps up and waits a moment for the second Frost Giant to recover (but not long enough for him to attack) before brutally eviscerating him with his sword.

This threat eliminated, the men agree to fall back to the Black Tower as their protective magics fade. As they enter the immense structure of black stone, Gellius spots something unusual on the stone floor. The entire structure is very cold inside, even for the chill days of early winter on the Plateau, and a fine layer of ice crystals frosts the floor, but the keen-eyed druid notes a series of straight lines where no ice has accumulated. Zendo approaches the area carefully an examines it closely, realizing that the lines indicate an air gap between the stone floor and a set of finely constructed panels, which open to reveal a circular shaft descending into darkness below. Zendo summons a series of dancing lights, and sends them down into the shaft. Fifty feet below, the shaft appears to open into another room.

Making use of the flight granted to him by Conna, Hikage quickly descends into the room below. The chamber is a domed circle, with rounded alcoves studding the walls, each housing a featureless black stone plinth. Even more cold than the chamber above, this room chills the monk to the bone. However, as the monk flies into the room, he is taken aback by the sole occupant, and his own courage quails at the sight.

Floating motionless several inches above the floor is a wizened, dessicated mummy. Tall for a human, and inhumanly thin, the guardian clutches a large, brazen tube to his chest, with this arm and the scroll case contained under his wrappings. Even the mummy’s legs are tightly bound in fragile strips of linen, but one clawlike hand is free, and the mummy glares at him with eyes that faintly glow green in a mask-like face of darkened flesh, stained by some preservative ritual. The Black Monk murmurs something in a whispery voice, but his words are in a tongue unknown to Hikage. The monk quickly calls for assistance.

The heroes all swiftly fly down the shaft to aid their companion. Zendo remains in midair, wary of the Black Monk, as Gellius and Ragnar land to face him. Ragnar even lunges forward with his sword, but the monk evades his blow with the slightest of movements. Corvus, however, enters the chamber and is overwhelmed by the aura of despair. Though his friends resist it, the young wizard is paralyzed by the doom he feels certain to befall them from this ten-thousand-year old guardian. Only the wizard can understand the faint whisper of the monk, as it is in Thassilonian, a tongue unspoken for thousands of years. The Black Monk mutters faintly, as if to himself: “The light! The green light!”. He falls from the air to land heavily on the stone floor.

Hikage is not paralyzed by the doubts plaguing his friend, and he steps forward in a dragon stance. Summoning his Ki, the monk wreathes his hands in flames, and lands a mighty blow on the Monk, his foe’s dry skin burning readily. However, all of Hikage’s subsequent strikes go awry as the Black Monk, now prepared for this intruder, dodges them with ease.

The Black Monk smiles evilly, and coughs forth a choking cloud of black dust. Most of the men can feel their life force fading as the dust enters their lungs, particularly the hyperventilating Corvus, but Ragnar shrugs it off. He lunges forward with a wild swing, which the Monk dodges contemptuously, but then suddenly reverses his stroke and slices a devastating cut across the Monk’s body.

Suddenly more cautious, the Black Monk begins to regard his enemies more warily. He begins to maneuver around, but Gellius summons a smoking Magma elemental to block his path. Still floating in the air, the Black Monk begins to levitate higher, twisting his bound body around. He carefully utters an incantation, and the floor is suddenly covered with a writhing mass of huge, black centipedes, biting and crawling over everything. Though bitten by the thousands of crawling vermin, none of the men succumb to their poison, and none are distracted by the loathsome sensation of millions of scurrying limbs all over their legs.

However, Zendo realizes that they must act fast before the swarms of centipedes swarm all over the prone Corvus! The Black Monk, still floating lazily in the air, maneuvers away from the flaming fists of Hikage and the burning stone form of the Magma elemental, to threaten the flying Bard.

Unbeknownst to the Monk, however, Zendo is prepared, and quickly sends a coruscating blast of flame from his wand to scorch the flammable form of the mummy before him. Thinking himself safe from Hikage and the burning elemental, at least, the Black Monk is unprepared for Hikage’s next action, which comes as a surprise to all of the men. Hikage musters his ki and unleashes it in a mighty blast, both battering the Black Monk, and burning him with fire! The Black Monk, unprepared for such an assault, collapses into a withered, smoking corpse.

Within the ashes of the body, the men find a magical belt which has greatly augmented the Black Monk’s strength, and the strange, metal scroll tube. Corvus examines it closely, finding hundreds of tiny Thassilonian runes engraved in five bands at one end of the tube. The bands pivot around the body of the scroll case, but each ring of runes interacts with the others in some fashion, as shifting one set of runes causes other bands, even those not adjacent, to move in unpredictable fashion. Paper rustles within the case.

This is an entirely different sort of problem. Despite the freezing chill of the Black Monk’s chamber, the men settle in to solve this conundrum. Ragnar helps Corvus keep track of the moving runes as the wizard puzzles out their meaning and conjunctions. Zendo casts a spell to assist Corvus in this taxing endeavor. After a few moments, Corvus has puzzled out one of the conjunctions, but there remain four others to solve. In working on the second band of symbols, Ragnar’s concentration lapses, but with further magical aid from the bard, Corvus is able to maintain the first conjunction and add another. Hikage steps in to help, and with the monk’s aid, and the magical focus provided by two more of Zendo’s spells, Corvus is able to solve the third and fourth conjunctions. The strain of keeping so many symbols aligned proves too hard for Hikage, and he loses his place and cannot offer any assistance to Corvus. Zendo’s spells are exhausted as well, and he can no longer aid the wizard either. The final, most challenging conjunction falls solely to Corvus’s own powers of concentration. At first, he thinks that he has solved the puzzle, but before he moves the final band more than a hair’s breadth, Corvus realizes that he has made an error, and he immediately reverses course and aligns the final band of runes, allowing the case to be opened for the first time in ten thousand years.

Sadly, the large sheets of wyvern hide within have become brittle and powdery after millennia within the cold of the Black Tower, and Corvus does not trust his numb fingers (nor those of his companions) to handle the delicate scrolls. A single error could cause the fragile documents to crumble to dust. Some sort of magical preparations will be necessary, to Zendo’s frustration. Corvus borrow’s Ragnar’s rope and creates an extradimensional space for the men to sleep and rest for the night. Even if the Black Tower is broached, the men will be hidden in relative safety.

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Flawless Victory!
29 Kuthona, 4707

As she sketches, she speaks quietly but quickly. " Before you go, let me tell you of Mokmurian, the instigator of all these ills. In my tribe, Mokmurian was born small and grew slowly. Among the Plateau people, this is a good omen, as those who are marked physically are those who have magic in their blood. Mokmurian was very small, scarcely taller than you folk, and it seemed a long time before his gifts manifested, but eventually his magics emerged. He brought his magics to the Kavarvarti for three decades before his wife discovered his charade. Mokmurian had no magics in his blood, but learned the magics of the small folk from their books. He slew his own wife to hide his shame, but he was found out. The elders burned his books, named him a traitor, and exiled him to the wilderness."

“Would that he have died alone in the wilds. Mokmurian came here, to the Vale of the Black Tower, forbidden to my people, and found ancient magics festering in chambers below the ground. His power grew from the dark knowledge that he mastered, and he roamed far afield from the Valley. When he returned, he returned with priestesses of the Mother of Monsters, and a greedy, rapacious dragon as allies. Though years had past, he returned to the Kavarvatti and defeated my husband in ritual combat, earning his right to guide us as an elder of the tribe. However, rather than tolerate Vandarrec, or even banish him from the tribe, he brought us here, under the guise of showing us what marvels he had learned, and sacrificed him here to his own dark goddess.”

“Now Mokmurian dwells apart from his people in the ‘library’ beneath this accursed place. When he left my tribe, he had mastered magics which allowed him to seem as one of the Earthtouched, like myself. He could summon stones, craft them with his hands, and speak to them, but his power seemed greater than mine. Now that he has returned, he commands all manner of strange magics. He can change his form, and that of others, and return the dead to unlife. He can change living flesh to dead stone, and pull secrets from the dead. Some of the Plateau people say that he is an Ancient One reborn in the form of a giant, to lead us to conquest over Varisia. They have forgotten the old stories, and the reasons why the Black Tower is taboo. The Ancient Ones ruled over us as slaves, and the monuments we raised for them were to their glory, not our own. "

She hesitates, then adds, “When he thinks himself alone, I have heard Mokmurian speak to another, one he names Karzoug. As an elder, steeped in the wisdom of our tribes, I know this name. Karzoug was one of the Ancient Ones, one of those who enslaved our people. I fear that Mokmurian, for all his petty vanity and greedy ambition, has somehow fallen under the influence of Karzoug, perhaps as a victim of some curse or long-dormant necromantic trap. If that is the case, then the plight of my people is truly grave.”

Conna agrees to help the men in their fight against Galenmir and the others. She uses her sorcerous magics to protect Hikage, Corvus, and Gellius with magical armor, and she grants Ragnar, Hikage, and Zendo the ability to fly through magic. Zendo bolsters the men with magical courage and haste, and Corvus enlarges them and grants them additional durability through his wand of false life, while Gellius blesses them all with the grace of wild cats. The men, laden with spells and enchantments, step into the pit to unleash hell upon the assembled giants.

Gellius summons three massive tigers, which quickly draw the attention of the cave bears patrolling above. While the tigers bound up the ramp from the pit, they are cut off by the stone giants and bears rushing to drive them back down. Before the tigers are defeated by the crushing blows of the stone giant’s clubs, they bring down several giants and succeed in dividing the forces of Galenmir’s troops.

Hikage soars through the air and lands a stunning fist on one of the harpy monks, who, surprised by the forceful blow, tumbles from the sky to her death. He then engages the bears and giants in hand to hand combat, striking down one of each.

Ragnar, less sure of himself in the air, simply flies to the edge of the pit, and grips his sword menacingly. The final harpy monk unwisely charges the enlarged Ulfen and he cuts her deeply with his sword before she can strike a blow.

Gellius then transforms into a large, whirling air elemental and flies to the attack, battering a cave bear with fists of elemental force. He steps back from the fight to unleash an electrical barrage of chain lightning, which misses the nimble harpy monks, but burns and injures many of the giants and dire bears.

Corvus follows Gellius, though he is concealed by invisibility. He immediately follows Gellius’s lightning with cascading chains of blazing fire. Though the nimble harpy monk dodges this as well, it further burns and weakens many of the giants and dire bears. Chagrined by his failure to destroy the hated harpy, Corvus then unleashes a flurry of magical missiles which bring her down, all while still cloaked in his invisibility.

The leader of the Stone Giants, Galenmir, orders his men to attack, unknowingly bunching them up into a more tempting target for the spells of the wizard and druid. He steps into the fray, wielding his pick two-handed, and roaring dire threats at the heroes. His first blow injures Ragnar greatly, nearly felling the huge fighter, and the giants rally, landing other damaging blows on the wounded Ulfen.

Ragnar, however, pushes through the pain and unleashes a devastating series of slices and stabs at the overconfident Galenmir, who is forced back by the strength of the blows. Ragnar musters the last of his flagging energy and lands a final, lethal strike on Galenmir, slaying the ‘general’ of Mokmurian’s army before he can land another blow, but leaving the staggering Ulfen vulnerable to the ire of Galenmir’s loyal guards.

Fortunately, Ragnar’s friends have not forgotten him, and Gellius unleashes a blast of holy fire to slay two of the giants while directing his last tiger to confront the others. Corvus casts a huge fireball which immolates the last bear and several of the injured giants. Hikage flies to cut off another giant, and strikes him down, while Zendo, using a literal ‘flying lunge’ wields his rapier against another. Ragnar foolheartedly charges a giant and slays him, leaving him open to a counterattack, but the quick actions by his allies lay low all of the remaining foes before any can retaliate.

It has been less than a minute since the heroes flew to the attack, but the courtyard inside Jorgenfist is littered with the dead and dying bodies of Mokmurian’s guards. Making the most of their fleeting enchantments, Hikage and Corvus (unseen) fly to the doors of the Black Tower. Hikage throws them open, but inside, he sees only a soaring chamber of black stone, glittering under a fine layer of frost. Corvus searches for windows or other exits, but sees nothing, other than the strangely cold stone of the room. Zendo quickly flies to his ally Ragnar and heals his deep wounds with one of his most powerful healing spells, while Ragnar fetches a healing potion and aids himself.

Their magical advantage is fleeting, but what will the heroes do?

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An Unexpected Reprieve
Kuthona 29, 4707

Hikage, badly injured by his harpy opponent, quickly disengages from her and spiderclimbs down the gatehouse wall to join his comrades. Ragnar curses and charges the badly wounded harpy who has knocked Corvus senseless, and quickly kills her, prompting shrieks of outrage from her fellow harpy acolytes.

As soon as he recovers from his drubbing, Corvus quickly slips back into the cordon of his allies and hastily casts a spell, concealing them all within a sphere of invisibility. The harpies, confused by this turn of events, look for them futilely, uncertain if the invaders have actually disappeared, or simply vanished from sight.

Gellius, however, provides the harpies with a crucial clue, as he chooses this moment to summon a fire elemental to harass them. As the winged monks hear his incantation, they shout to their stone giant allies that the intruders are still present, but only invisible.

The stone giants from the towers begin to descend into the courtyard, both to help subdue the rampaging mammoth and to assist the harpies in their search. The fire elemental attempts to harass the harpies, but both the elemental and his target, the harpy, are trampled by the angry mammoth, before she can take to the air to escape both the mammoth and the elemental.

Attempting to use the confusion of the trumpeting beast, and the fire elemental, Corvus slowly edges away from the gatehouse toward the pit. Moving too quickly risks making too much noise, but the slow pace also allows Gellius and Zendo to ply their wands of healing to assist their friends, though the badly wounded Hikage supplements their care with his own potion.

As the men move invisibly towards the deep pit, they are dismayed to see that three dire bears are emerging from cave entrances within the walls. Disturbed by the bears, flocks of ravens, crows, and buzzards squawk and wing their way into the air. Within the deep pit, the bones of humanoids and giants lie in tangles, as well as the corpses of four dragons, three being blue-scaled with yellow bellies and a fourth with crimson scales. A stern looking stone giant, armored and equipped with a huge pick, follows the bears, and demands a status update from the other giants. This, it transpires, is Galenmir, the ‘general’ of the stone giant army gathering in the valley. He commands the retreating stone giant back up the ramp to get his mount under control, and then, with growling and gestures, urges the huge bears up the ramp to sniff out the invisible intruders.

Fortunately, Corvus has led his compatriots, using the magics provided by Gellius, right over the side of the wall of the pit, and they stand quietly, between the prowling bears below and the stone giant searchers above. Galenmir berates some unseen reinforcements, and four more stone giant guards soon appear in another of the cavern entrances at the bottom of the huge pit. With his reinforcements, the ‘general’ marches to the top to organize his men.

As the men wait invisibly for the reinforcements to pass under them, a lanky, elderly stone giant female appears in the mouth of one of the caves below. From Galenmir’s harsh words, Corvus senses that the general disapproves of her, but Conna, as she is named, seems to hold the general in low regard herself. She does not obey his orders to aid in the search, but scans the area around the pit intently. Her flinty eyes narrow and she quickly casts a spell as Galenmir’s attention is elsewhere.

A gravelly voice whispers into Corvus’s ear. “I know not why you have come, but if you seek to kill Mokmurian, I am your ally.” Corvus utilizes the enchantment to reply. “We seek to end him, and his threat to Varisia.” Conna wraps her shawl around herself and motions the unseen party to attend her within the darkness of the caverns within the pit. Cautiously, the heroes follow her into the darkness.

Conna leads them through rough passages sized for giants, past a massive hall lit by a roaring fire. She motions them into a smaller side-chamber, whose walls are painted with primitive images of giants, bears, mastodons, and elk, as well as smaller images of dwarves, as well as figures that may represent humans, elves, and ogres. The cave paintings are lit only by a flickering oil lamp, but the men could swear that the crude figures shift on the walls when they are not being watched.

“This is a place of safety,” the old giantess informs them, “but you must never enter it alone.” She touches the wall, sadly, "My husband,Vandarrec, was killed here by Mokmurian after he took control of our tribe. His spirit lingers here, unwilling to leave my side, and tormented with the need for revenge against that spiteful viper. My presence will keep him calm, but he grows restive in my absence." She turns her attention to the heroes. “What is your purpose here?”

The men explain that they are here to stop Mokmurian, as he knows that he intends to march an army of giants down from the Plateau to invade the lowlands. Corvus tells Conna that he knows that Mokmurian has agitated the giants to war, and Zendo, perhaps more out of bluster than confidence, assures her that the various cities and towns scattered across the wilds of Varisia would unite to drive them off in a costly and unnecessary war. She sighs heavily and laments the influence of Mokmurian. “He has led the young and the hot-blooded astray with his promises of gold, and steel, and power. It is not our way. I try to plead for the path of caution and restraint, but I cannot gainsay him. Though he leads us to ruin, he took the rulership in the old manner. I cannot act against our traditions if I wish to draw our people back to them.”

“However,” she smiles, “I am an elder of the Kavarvatti tribe, and I can speak with whom I choose and walk where I will. I will tell you of his ways, and his home, and his allies, and you may act where I cannot.” She asks a sheet of paper from Corvus, and sketches a crude map of the caverns in her large hand, before handing it back to him to annotate.

“You have seen the buildings above, but they are the least of the halls of Jorgenfist. The mastodon stables are to the east of the pit, and the feasting halls to the west of the pit. Mokmurian’s own bear, Embers, prowls the feast hall, and is much more aggressive than the lesser bears you have seen.

“The round spire is a relic of the Ancient Lords, but has been long abandoned. A nesting pair of Rocs dwell within. They are not tame, but they are acclimated to the presence of the giants and our animals. Should they see smaller beings, they will view them as prey within the walls. This is doubly dangerous, as not only are Rocs dangerous hunters, but it will tell the giants outside the walls that something is amiss inside.

“The small stone building nearest the northeast wall is the Bear’s Hall. Mokmurian built this shrine to our tribal totem as dictated by tradition, but he has encouraged worship in other gods. He sullies it with emissaries from the Frost Giants of the Kodar Mountains. Mokmurian is negotiating an alliance with them before marching on Varisia. Though my people have been led astray, the Frost Giants are murderous, reaving bastards and you would do well to kill them both.” Ragnar agrees with this emphatically, an evil glint in his eyes.

The four watchtowers of Jorgenfist, as you have seen, are manned by stone giants loyal to Mokmurian night and day. Those guardians have seen what he is, and how he treats the tribes, and have thrown their lot in with him. They are better than Frost Giants, but not by far. The watchtower is guarded by the three (‘two’, Corvus corrects) harpies. They have sworn themselves to the service of the Black Monk, and they serve Mokmurian at his tolerance.

“The Black Monk, the harpies say, dwells within the Black Tower, which Mokmurian has intertwined with Jorgenfist. The tower is old beyond the memory of the elders, but it is accursed. The harpies allow none to enter the Black Tower and disturb their lord’s vigil, but they have no quarrel with Mokmurian.

“The dire bears dwell in caves to the east of the floor of the pit. They sometimes sleep together in one cave, or retreat to caves alone, but all of these caves are small and lead no deeper into Jorgenfist.

“The tree small alcoves under the ramp serve as guardposts for accessing Jorgenfist in times of alarm. If the guards are not on alert, they will usually be found in the Great Cave, the largest cavern, to the west, though their barracks are elsewhere, past the armory and tannery. Grumelda tends the fire in the Great Cave, and prepares meals from the larder there.

“Galenmir, jumped-up chieftain that he is, has a private lair accessible from the southwestern wall of the pit. He also has an ill-concealed exit from his chambers that connects to a passage between the Great Cave and the tannery.

“The area between the Great Cave and the Tannery is guarded by Enga, Mokmurian’s pet. Mokmurian must have found her on his travels, and the wicked little pest guards the warren of small tunnels beyond Jorgenfist, keeping down the vermin that grow within. There are a tribe of violent fey who dwell in those caverns, but Mokmurian tolerates their presence, though he sends Enga after them for tribute. I would avoid her, as she taxes the patience of even a stone.

“Past her ‘domain’ lie the Tannery, Armory, and Barracks. Galenmir allows some of the ogres to work within the stench of the tannery, as their own foul smell is at least as great. Within the armory, two stone giant smiths labor and oversee the work of some dwarven slaves. Beyond that is the barracks, and one of the entry tunnels to the lower level. Two trolls, Hurek and Durek guard the passages.

“To the east of this shrine, one passage leads to the sacrificial chamber, and then to the cavern of the Lion Sisters. These two priestesses of the Mistress of Monsters, Seleval and Zaelsar oversee the sacrifices in the pit. Mokmurian only allows his favored servants, and those he finds most bloodthirsty, to attend these ceremonies. His ally, Longtooth, has helped him to capture dragons to sacrifice in the past, and two such young dragons, both red dragons, have been charmed by the Lion Sisters to guard the passage to their chambers. Beyond the dragons, the Lion Sisters have their own “cathedral”, which also accesses the passages leading to the lower level.

“The other passage to the east leads to the Room of Stars. This room is the best preserved area on this level, and this is where Mokmurian indoctrinates his minions. Any who would serve Mokmurian are branded here with his seven-pointed star rune by Lokansir. He is a vile toady. Though the blood of our ancient forebears runs deep in his veins, Lokansir has thrown in his lot with Mokmurian and eagerly apes his master, going so far as to scribe the strange runes on his own flesh.

“Mokmurian has allies outside the walls of Jorgenfist as well. Though he seldom allows any giants to enter unsupervised, he has a powerful ally in Longtooth.” Zendo informs Conna that Longtooth is dead, slain in the failed raid on Sandpoint. She is pleased at the news, but warns the men that Mokmurian has also made an alliance with two large, vicious wyverns who dwell in caves on the cliff overlooking the river. The men show him their map, and she confirms that the distant cave in the mountain is Longtooth’s lair, but confesses that she does not know which, if not both, of the caves on the cliff, is inhabited by the wyverns.

Mokmurian himself, Conna tells the heroes, seldom spends much time in the halls of Jorgenfist, but busies himself in a ‘library’ on the lowest level. The men are eager to confront him there, but Conna cautions them. "I know of none that have gone into the lower levels unaccompanied by Mokmurian and returned whole. Those who have displeased, or failed him, have come back, but strangely altered. Their gaze is vacant, and they take no pleasure in food or drink. Their skin is marked with deeply incised runes which seem to cause them pain, but never heal. Those so marked serve Mokmurian with absolute dedication, but the runes multiply across their flesh until one day, they collapse. The giants live in fear of failing Mokmurian and becoming one of his “rune slaves”. Some of the elders have gone down to the lowest levels in the past, using their authority to brush past his guards. The few that ever returned were horribly burned and blinded, and lived only a few moments."

“No one enters the Library but Mokmurian, by his edict. I know not what guards the way, but not even his guards venture down to those realms if not in his company. He walks that way alone.”

She encourages the men to deal with the guards who are fruitlessly searching for them aboveground. “The stone wall sealing Jorgenfist will be torn down soon if the guards cannot find you, and Galenmir will return here and post the guards. Better to catch them unawares and unprepared than to push forward and be cut off below the ground with no escape.” Corvus assures her that he has a plan for that contingency, but the men agree that taking advantage of the confusion and keeping Jorgenfist sealed is a worthy goal.

They decide to make an assault out of the pit, aiming to eliminate Galenmir as the leader of the forces in the fortress. If hard pressed, they will fall back to the Black Tower. None of the giants will enter there, and the men can face off against the harpies alone, though the threat of the Black Monk is unknown. If necessary, Corvus can transport them to safety, but doing so will require falling back from Jorgenfist for another attempt on an alerted fortress.

They muster their magics and Conna offers to use her own sorcerous abilities to grant some of them flight. With spells of haste, flight, invisibility, and growth, perhaps they can fight the giants on a more even footing?

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