Rise of the Runelords

OK, so THAT's a Runelord!
Pharast 21, 4708

After equipping themselves with choice selections from Viorian Dekanti, Most High Ceoptra, and Khalib, the Avengers search around for signs of Karzoug. Exploration of the Pinnacle is largely fruitless. The unexplored rooms are either bedchambers for the Rune Giant wardens, or empty stone cells.

The only mysterious site is a large, barren room at the end of the curving halls overseen by Khalib. Behind the double doors of this stone chamber lies a strange sight. The area which should comprise the outer wall of the room instead is a wall of swirling, golden mist. Vague shapes can be seen looming in the golden mist, but no details can be made out. The Avengers are mystified by the strange field of golden light, but, given the fact that even Viorian Dekanti declined to make a stand here, the heroes reason that, whatever the golden mist is, it is not particularly important to Karzoug or his release.

Instead, the Avengers focus on the immense orb of gold within the chamber guarded by Most High Ceoptra and her allies. The immense sphere radiates powerful transmutation magic, but the pillar of light which emerges from it to illuminate the vaulted ceiling radiates conjurational magic instead. Zendo tries shooting an arrow through the light, with no effect, and cautiously reaches a hand out to the slowly flickering flames bathing the golden sphere. Though he does not touch the flames themselves, the bard notes that the heat, while apparent, is much less intense than one would expect from the flames licking the evidently molten gold.

While Corvus examines the entire construction with his magesight, Hikage carefully ascends the stairs to the platform at the meridian of the globe, and then climbs the stone ramp that arches to the top of the structure. Though he senses nothing amiss as he climbs the ramp, when he steps onto the platform atop the golden sphere, Hikage is momentarily dizzied by a strange sensation. His view of the room and his allies is overlain by a vision of a massive darkened cavern of some sort, lit dimly by a reddish glow emanating from the floor. Gripping his temple sword tightly, Hikage can feel the presence of Karzoug ahead of him in the cavern, from the waves of antipathy coursing through the hilt of the weapon. The monk also feels strangely light-headed, as if his spirit was being tugged upwards out of his body towards the ceiling.

Quickly stepping off the platform, Hikage’s sight is still blurred by the overlay of the weird vision. Facing away from the north, the dark chamber seems to open up and brighten, but is still illuminated by a glowing redness. Blinking his eyes and shaking his head do nothing to free him of the double vision, but Hikage does notice that the swirling flames of the golden orb, unlike everything else in the room, remain unblurred and in focus.

The men are at a loss on how to proceed, but Ayruzi offers a solution. As an angel, he can speak with the recently deceased, if they are not unwilling to discourse. Ceoptra and Viorian both refuse to speak with him, but one of the Cloud Giant Warden’s spirits proves to be more amenable.

The cloud giant tells Ayruzi that the chosen ascend to the platform and touch the flames. They are instantly consumed by fire, but Most High Ceoptra says that such devotees go to serve Karzoug beyond. He says that none have returned from such a passage, but Most High Ceoptra says that no one shall return from beyond before Karzoug the Claimer, when he returns in triumph. The Avengers are dubious of this information, and Hikage voices his concerns that Ceoptra is simply duping others into a sacrifice to power Karzoug’s return. The spirit of the Warden says that Wardens of Thunder and Wardens of Runes have passed beyond during his time in the Pinnacle. Ayruzi asks the spirit why he served Karzoug, and the giant tells him that the Rune Giants have within them the magics of the giant race of old, and can ensnare and command the will of lesser giants quite easily. Freed in death, he knows this, but in life, he was enspelled and had his will bent to another.

The heroes now realize why the spirit answered in such dubious tones, himself not fully trusting the words of Ceoptra. However, they know of no other way to pass beyond to Karzoug. Zendo and Gellius ask Ayruzi if he will accompany them on this quest.

With evident embarrassment, the angel demurs. He has been entrapped upon Golarion for many days, unable to enact his duties or return word to his allies. Now he is free to return to his place in the heavens and take up his own mission again. The chamber beyond which traps Karzoug may be another prison from which he cannot escape. Though he recognizes the importance of their mission, his own duties are clear, and he cannot shirk them, particularly not when, in so doing, he may be further estranged from his calling. Hikage and the others thank him for his assistance, and the monk requests an unexpected service from the planetar.

The Sword of Greed, Chellan, is beyond the capacity of the Avengers to destroy, and, filled with malign intent, it is too dangerous to entrust to a museum. Though some of the others may argue that it should be remanded to the Pathfinder Society, Hikage requests that Ayruzi take Chellan with him to the Great Beyond, where it may be safely held outside the reach of Karzoug or his adherents. Ayruzi is honored by the task entrusted to him, and agrees to vouchsafe the sword from mortal men. With a few words, the angel fades from view, hand raised in farewell.

The Avengers quickly ascend the ramp and crowd onto the small platform. Each readies his Runeforged weapon in one hand, and, taking care to coordinate with the others, thrusts the other hand into the flames.

After a moment of intense, agonizing pain and searing brightness, the Avengers find themselves standing in a tight knot beneath an arch of metal and stone. The stone platform on which they now stand leads, up stairs to the left and right, to a larger, stone alcove, where Karzoug the Claimer sits on a throne of gold! Taking in the chamber at a quick glance, the platforms of stone drop a hundred feet or more into a sea of lava. To the right and left, other stone platforms are suspended from columns of red-hot gold which rise form the lava below. On the platforms to the east and west stand glowering Wardens of Thunder, while ahead, but below Karzoug, a massive Warden of Runes stands watch. In front of the Rune Giant, a runewell of molten gold rests atop a raised dias, and an immense green-glass lens is supported on an armature high above it. Karzoug is seated nonchalantly on the throne, but a bejewelled ranseur with a blade sheathed in flames rests beside him. A huge blue dragon coils to his right, like an obedient cat.

Karzoug smiles. “Truly, I am surprised that you have arrived so promptly! Your futile peregrinations have sped my return immeasurably. Your juvenile vandalism of the Leng Device has altered the schedule, but, ultimately, the timeline is not yours to alter!”

He incants a spell and a quartet of blazing meteors streak from the sky, slamming into Ragnar with brutal force, their burning aura scorching most of the Avengers quite badly. He then grips a silver rod with one hand, and his outline blurs slightly. Suddenly, a shield of force protects him and the Avengers find themselves engulfed in a pool of boiling hot tar! A few of the men find their footing readily, but Ragnar and Corvus stagger to their knees in the burning mess. Corvus calls out to the others, “He stopped time! He can stop time for himself!”.

Hikage struggles free from the tar and activates his ioun stone, lifting himself over the tar pool. He frees a potion of haste from his pack and prepares to quaff it. Before the others can react, the Wardens of Thunder unleash their control over the storms. Each of the Storm Giants hurls a coruscating blast of lightning at the Avengers. Though the men weather the blasts, most are wounded to some extent or other. The blue dragon unfurls its wings and swoops over towards them men, unleashing another gout of lightning breath, further wounding the heroes.

Corvus desperately dimension-doors the men to one of the side ledges, seeking to avoid the onslaught of Karzoug and his minons, while Gellius heals the worst of Ragnar’s wounds. The wizard and druid conjure up magical protection from the heat and electricity, while Ragnar drinks a potion of healing himself.

Unfortunately, though his wounds had knitted, they are soon unwoven, as the Rune Giant moves up and unleashes a mighty blow from his sword, battering through Ragnar’s defenses. Hikage drinks his potion and flies towards Karzoug, but before he can reach the Transmuter, Karzoug imprisons his allies in a tomb of ice. Zendo and Corvus are able to leap out of the way before being fully encased in ice, but are still losing vital warmth to the freezing ice that clings to their limbs. Gellius and Ragnar are completely encased in ice nearly two feet thick, and may suffocate before they can freeze to death!

Karzoug again utilizes the small silver rod and stops time, summoning a mass of writhing tendrils around Hikage and transporting himself across the chamber. The storm giants close in on Hikage and Zendo as the monk curses in frustration. The runelord laughs and fells Corvus with a barrage of magic missiles, the wizard dropping a healing potion as he passes out on the floor.

Zendo unleashes a finely modulated Great Shout, injuring the rune giant, but shattering the ice encasing Gellius and Ragnar without injuring either of his comrades at all. He then dashes forward and heals Corvus of the worst of his wounds, restoring the wizard to consciousness. Ragnar slashes his blade at the Rune Giant, but the cold and his wounds numb his limbs, and he fails to land a telling blow against his huge foe.

“We have to retreat!” shouts Corvus. “I think I can get us out of here, Hikage!”.

The monk reluctantly abandons his pursuit of Karzoug, twisting his way out of the black tentacles with the blue dragon snapping at his heels. He attempts a contemptuous kick at the Rune Giant, but is dismayed when the Giant’s immense greave absorbs the force of the blow. Corvus, still laying prone, fumbles a scroll out of his pack and quickly recites the arcane syllables, parting the ways between the worlds and depositing them in the snowy rocks outside the Pinnacle of Avarice, within the Occluding Field that enwraps the heights of Karzoug’s palace.

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The Golden Fane
Pharast 21, 4708

After defeating Khalib, Corvus is eager to rifle through the exasperating (and deadly) transmuter’s worldly possessions, but reluctantly agrees with the others that Viorian Dekanti could return from his extradimensional maze at any time. Knowing that the deadly swordswoman has the ability to teleport, she could go almost anywhere after her return.

Hikage and Ayruzi make the best time rushing down the halls to the area where Corvus imprisoned the warrior, with Gellius, Zendo, Corvus, and Ragnar running behind them. “There had actually better be someone down here this time!”, blustered Ragnar, tired of hauling ass in full armor down the halls only to miss the opposition entirely.

No sooner than Hikage arrived at the far end of the hall, Viorian appeared from thin air. The monk rushed at the gold-armored woman, hoping to strike her from her feet, but her thick armor and massive metal shield protected her from his fury. As Ayruzi and the others bear down on her, Viorian sneers at Hikage. "I’m not making a final stand here, “hero.”, and vanishes from sight, leaving a fuming Ragnar to clatter down the hall for no good reason, once again.

With the swordswoman once again vanished, the Avengers return to examine Khalib’s body. As Corvus uses his spells to carefully inspect each item of Khalib’s possessions, Hikage cautiously inspects the massive sarcophagus within the pagoda.

Khalib has one of the now-ubiquitous Sihedron Rings, as well as a magical amulet of armork and powerful magical robes, robes which sadly have detrimental effects on wizards of less corrupt nature. However, Corvus is happy to discover that Khalib has a staff of size alteration, and promptly uses the staff’s own magics to shrink it to the size of a wand, to store it inside his own bandolier. Corvus also loots Khalib’s spell component pouch to replenish his own, and is pleased to find that the transmuter has stashed powedered gemstones worth thousands of gold within!

Hikage is dismayed to find that the sarcophagus is entirely empty, neither containing Karzoug’s body, nor any hint to his whereabouts. Ayruzi, his angelic flesh healing rapidly, gently inquires as to the goals of his allies. “Truly, I do wish to repay you for my unwilling attempts upon your lives, but I have been pulled away from my own duties for many days. I am willing to assist you in your attempts to find this Karzoug, but, despite his menace, I cannot agree to stay here indefinitely.”

The Avengers, still eager to have the assistance of the towering planetar, explain that Karzoug must be somewhere within the Pinnacle of Avarice, and Ayruzi agrees that he will gladly stay until the Pinnacle has been searched for this menace—but once the great spire is free, he must go back to the service of his goddess.

The heroes examine the golden force field protecting the golden double doors to the west, and make their preparations. Hikage and Ragnar ply their dominant weapons against the shimmering energy, and it seems to crumble quickly against the onslaught of the weapons forged to defeat a runelord. Hikage pushes the doors open wide, only to be confronted by a familiar, unwelcome sight: Viorian Dekanti, illuminated by the swirling flames that rise from an immense sphere of gold behind her.

As if that weren’t trouble enough, three immense Wardens of Wind loom between pillars of gold that rise to the ceiling, morningstars at the ready, and behind the three cloud giants, prowls the leonine form of Most High Ceoptra! While her upper body is that of a beautiful giantess, her lower body is that of a huge leonine creature! The high priestess is warded by a profusion of mirror images, and spectral apparitions of other lamia swirl around her protectively. A Sihedron rune, composed of glowing force, shields her unarmed side, while she clutches a wickedly curved dagger. Having obviously been alerted to the arrival of the heroes, she incants a few words and Hikage is assailed with dozens of wounds! The monk senses that if he had not been prepared for such an assault, he may well have been wounded much more deeply.

“You dare profane this holy temple? You are unworthy to gaze upon it, much less soil it with your boots!”

Battle is joined! Ayruzi, then Corvus, then Hikage, scour the giants with conflagrations of flame, burning them all greatly, but the Giants dutifully step forward and block the advance of the heroes, swinging their mighty flails at Hikage and Ragnar.

Before Viorian can react, Hikage focuses his ki and disarms the swordswoman with a perfectly timed strike. She fumbles for her golden scimitar, screaming “Chellan!” in a tone of desperation. The monk tries to take advantage of her confusion to lay her low, but even without her sword, Dekanti is an able combatant and blocks most of his blows with her golden shield and a field of blurring magic that surrounds her. She then turns the tables and batters Hikage mercilessly with the shield itself, attempting to knock him backward. He stands his ground, despite the bruising he receives.

Zendo takes the opportunity to seize the golden scimitar with his magic, bringing it to his hand. The blade is strangely heavy in his hands, and a bass voice thunders in his head! “I am Chellan! We serve the Runelord of Greed! Strike down the interlopers!” With a heroic effort, Zendo forces the presence from his mind and tosses away the scimitar. “It’s evil!,” he shouts, warning his friends, “Keep away from it or it will try to take over your mind!”.

Ayruzi stuns one of the cloud giants with a single word of power, protecting Hikage from harm from that quarter. Gellius summons one of his most powerful incantation to smash Ceoptra with boulders, but the druid is crestfallen when the spectral lamias swirling around her protect her from harm. Corvus, wary of expending his more powerful magics, uses a wand to scour her with flame, but the apparitions protect her from most of his scorching flames, and her magical mirror images absorb the rest. She replies by hurling another prayer of harm at the wizard, who avoids the worst of the destructive magics. Ragnar cuts down one of the cloud giants and Hikage pirouettes around Viorian to seize the opportunity to strike down the other before it can regain its wits. Ragnar is not fooled by Viorian’s magical displacement, and cuts down the unarmed warrior without mercy—evidently in recompense for avoiding his duels so many times.

Affronted, Most High Ceoptra pounces forward and plunges a sword-sized dagger into Ragnar! The leonine priestess is fast and powerful, and uses her foreclaws as well as her deadly dagger to good effect. She also quickly incants a spell of silence, muffling the area in front of the doors, and forcing Zendo, Corvus, Gellius, and Ayruzi to move if they wish to use any further magics. Ragnar crosses blades with the immense lamia matriarch, and, though his skill is greater and his weapon more deadly, her mirror images consume much of his wrath.

Ayruzi steps forward into the fray, but rather than unleashing his holy sword, he once again incapacitates the remaining giant with a single word of power, seeking to protect his allies from harm. Zendo steps forward gingerly, seeking a space free from the magical silence where he can encourage his friends and offer them magical assistance. Gellius and Corvus retreat to the far side of the silence, and ply their magics to expend the mirror images around Ceoptra, using rays of fire and discs of adamantine to shatter the illusions. However, the swirling spirits of her ancestors protect Ceoptra from the worst of their barrage. She once again launches a flurry of slashing strokes at Ragnar, whose armor cannot stop all of them. Bloodied, but resolute, he is given inspiration by Zendo, who joins his mind magically with the warrior.

Ceoptra steps back to hurl a spell of blindness at Corvus, who heroically resists the fell enchantment, as Hikage circles behind her to strike down the last of her Wardens of Wind as the giantess reels from Ayruzi’s word of power.

The swirling spirits of her ancestors cannot protect Ceoptra from Ragnar’s gleaming greatsword, and, despite wasting a choice blow upon an illusory double, his deft swordsmanship proves fatal, thanks to a timely inspiration from the bard. Ceoptra’s torso is cleft by the bloodied blade, and her ancestral spirits howl their frustration as they dissipate.

With the threat neutralized, the men examine the vaulted chamber. Pillars of gold rise from the obsidian and golden floor to the arched ceiling overhead. The northern wall bears a detailed mural of Xin-Shalast at the height of its glory, with the face of Karzoug atop Mhar Massif appearing to address its citizens in magical runes and spirals of energy. All this magnificence pales to the spectacle of an immense orb of gold slowly rotating in the center of the room. The sphere spans thirty full feet, and sluggish flames dance across the surface, spiraling slowly A stone stairway leads to a walkway that abuts the sphere of gold at the widest part of its circumference, and, from there, a stone ramp rises above the surface of the golden orb to a stone platform that rests atop the sphere.

Though the men cannot locate the source of the illumination from their vantage point, the circular platform emits a shimmering pillar of golden light that rises to the ceiling above. During the commotion of the fight, Hikage noted that the color of the light changed from a golden shimmer to a sparkling green on five occasions, and, upon reflection with the other Avengers, it is recognized that the pillar of light reacted to the deaths of each of the guardians of the room.

Turning from this mystery, the Avengers strip the bodies of Dekanti and Ceoptra, as well was the Wardens of Wind. The high priestess possessed an unholy dagger far too large for any to wield, much like the weapons and armor of the giants. Each wore a Sihedron ring, and Ceoptra bore golden ankle bands on each paw, and a gold and sapphire choker worth a lord’s ransom. The Most High also wore an enchanted headband, a necklace that provided her with fresh air in any circumstances, and a ring that shielded her with the Sihedron Rune.

Viorian bore powerfully enchanted plate armor and a similarly enchanted shield of golden steel. Her bow bore minor enchantment, but her belt is magicked to boost strength and health considerably. Her boots were the source of her magical teleportation, and were eagerly claimed by Hikage, while her cloak was the source of her magical displacement. Viorian’s headband served to powerfully focus her will, and Gellius chooses to make use of it. Her Sihedron ring is truly superfluous to the Avengers at this point, but she also possessed a ring of freedom of action, and a scarab of protection from negative energy. A purple ioun stone that no longer circles her head still contained an unreleased spell of flying. Ragnar removes his own magical belt and armor, and finds hers much to his liking, while the other artifacts remain unclaimed, as yet.

Corvus warily approaches the golden scimitar, lying where Zendo had discarded it. Hearing the name, the wizard is struck by a sudden inspiration: This is Chellan, the Sword of Greed, one of the Alara’hai—as the Seven Blades of Conviction were known to the Thassilonians. These were the weapons wielded by the champions of the Runelords, distorted over the eons to be known as the Seven Swords of Sin. Chellan was the most opulent of the Alara’hai, forged of gold magically hardened to the strength of adamantine. Enchanted to the limits of the wizard’s art, and supernaturally keen and unnaturally dense, the sword could transform those it slew in a single stroke to statues of ruby or emerald, but this was not the greatest of the powers of the sword. Chellan was imbued with intelligence and fanatical purpose, and could itself sustain its bearer, all in order to serve the true Runelord of Xin-Shalast. Indeed, the weapon could only be destroyed under the direct command of the Runelord! It is a prize beyond measure, but a prize that cannot easily be claimed, as Chellan can see and hear all that transpires about it, and can usurp the will of the weak and unwary who seek to wield it.How it came to Viorian Dekanti may forever be a mystery, he muses.

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The Demon, Dekanti, and Khalib
Pharast 21, 4708

After resting, the wizard and druid prepare their spells for the challenge ahead, as does their newfound ally, Ayruzi. While Corvus prepares a magical getaway, Ayruzi casts a prayer that allows him to monitor the condition of the heroes. Once the men have prepared themselves, Zendo magically quickens them, and Corvus teleports the entire group into the Pinnacle of Avarice.

The group quickly hastens to explore the eastern wing of the Pinnacle, Hikage stopping to listen carefully before the golden doors blocking their path. He can faintly hear the echoes of male, female, and deep, grumbling, voices. When he opens the door, he sees an immense, curving barracks of some sort, but also sees a glimpse of Karzoug as well!

Sure that the Runelord is another projected image, Hikage quickly advances and takes cover behind the corner of one of the curving hallways. Ayruzi, however, enters brashly, and swells with divine power, growing to a towering height and shining with an inner light. “Khalib! Your judgement is at hand!” The angel soars off down a hallway on his mission, and the others call out not to leave them too far behind.

As his comrades advance, Hikage, bracing for the worst, steps around the corner and narrowly dodges a black ray of negative energy hurled by the menacing Karzoug. The monk deftly rolls to one side and evades the attack, before thrusting his temple sword into the image and dispelling the projection of the Runelord.

Gellius and Ragnar run past Hikage, each taking one of the two curving halls to advance. The druid draws closer to the planetar, while Ragnar continues down the other hallway alone, though he can hear metal-shod sollerets clashing on the stone as he advances.

Ayruzi calls out to the men, warning them that Khalib has summoned a demon to bar his advance. The demon is hidden from sight, but not from HIS sight, and he warns the wizard that his wrath shall not be diverted. Zendo and Corvus start their dash towards the conflict as HIkage quickly speeds past them, and even Gellius. The monk can see no demon, but he skids to a halt as a huge, draconic beast appears in thin air, uncoiling a serpentine body and flexing eight sets of clawed limbs. The strange beast blocks Ayruzi from the cringing form of Khalib, who attempts to banish the angel with his magic, but fails to do so. “You could call me up, but you cannot put me down so easily, conjurer!,” the angel mocks.

Ragnar rounds the hallway that he chose alone, and catches a glimpse of Viorian Dekanti as she runs towards him. Upon seeing him, she stops short, and grimaces. “No time for you, today,” she mutters, and clicks her booted heels, disappearing.

Corvus is startled to see the golden-armored warrior appear within arm’s reach, blocking the exit, and he quickly banishes her to an extradimensional maze once again, for his own safety. He and Zendo move forward to join the fight.

Ayzuri intones a single, portentous word, and the coiling dragon-like serpent reels as if struck, standing numbly as the angel soars past it towards some unseen menace beyond.

Hikage witnesses an immense, slaving demon appear. It seems to be a horrific melding of wolf, spider, mantis, and lizard, all moulded into a roughly humanoid form. It lunges forward at Ayruzi as it appears from midair. Though its slavering jaws find no purchase on his form, the demon’s claws and pincers tear at the planetar, ripping shreds from his flesh. Whipping a segmented tail at the angel, the horrifiying demon growls, “Long has it been since I tasted angel flesh. For that, this servitude is well-recompensed.” Hikage and Gellius are horrified to see the deep, vicious wounds that have been torn into the planetar’s form. Surely, no being can withstand much more of such punishment!

While Ayruzi defies his demonic foe, Hikage advances on the blue serpent-dragon. Gellius warns him that it is a behir, a deadly reptilian monster that, like a blue dragon, can breath lightning, but, like a serpent, can swallow a foe whole. The monk is determined to bring down the beast before it can recover from Ayruzi’s word of power, but finds that the scaly beast is truly resilient. Before it can recover, however, Zendo’s magics ensnare its will, and hold it fast.

Ayruzi steps toward his towering, demonic foe and lashes out with his immense, holy greatsword. The blade flares with divine light as it slices into the demon, and despite the wounds marring his pale green flesh, the planetar slices apart his opponent and banishes the demon back to the Abyss more directly than with spell.

As Ragnar rounds the corner, he only witnesses the dissipating essence of the demon sizzling on the floor, as Hikage has used the magical respite to banish the summoned behir with his own fists as well.

Khalib is nowhere to be seen, as the evasive transmuter has teleported away, only to reveal himself by disintegrating a nasty chunk out of Corvus’s left shoulder from behind. The wizard, staggered, but not felled, responds with a spell of suffocation that leaves Khalib gasping for air. He limps forward towards Gellius, who intones a powerful prayer and heals the wound completely, as if it had never been. Ayruzi wheels in the air and speeds towards Khalib like a thunderbolt, leveling his sword at the wizard and announcing “Your doom, delayed, is at hand!”.

Nonplussed, Khalib teleports away from the angel, who curses in frustration. Hikage, however, witnesses Khalib reappear in the ‘temple’ at the far end of the hallway. This huge room holds an immense statue of Karzoug at one end. The statue’s hands are shaped as if gripping an unseen object, and heatless fire illuminates it from a brazier underneath. Beyond the statue are two immense doors of stone, warded by a flickering field of golden energy. The immense chamber also holds a stone ziggurat with an open portal, from which Khalib appeared, and into which he has retreated. The blocky chamber houses two smaller statues of Karzoug, and a giant sarcophagus graven with his image. Khalib hovers in the air within, thinking himself safely out of reach.

Hikage, however, harnesses his ki, and ascends the very walls like a spider, before launching himself into midair and seizing the wizard! Unable to support this much weight with his spells of flying, Khalib and Hikage tumble to the ground, taking only incidental damage. However, the transmuter is unable to focus his concentration as the monk grapples with him, and cannot use his magics to escape. As the others gather around to block off his routes of retreat, Ayruzi advances on Khalib and strikes him a deep, bleeding wound with his sword.

Choking blood, Khalib screetches, “Be done with it—angel!”, but twists and shifts his form into that of an elephant! Hikage is unable to restrain the pachyderm that the wizard has become, but rains a series of blows on the elephant’s thick hide nonetheless. Unconcerned by the elephant in the room, Ayruzi slices his enemy apart and reveals the tattered corpse of Khalib in death. The men stand over their opponent in triumph, though Corvus frets that Viorian Dekanti, though banished to an extraplanar maze, could soon return for her revenge!

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Leng, and the Devices and Denizens Thereof...
20 Pharast, 4708

Hikage and Ayruzi find themselves facing off against a dozen of the robed, enigmatic Men from Leng, who have turned away from their manipulation of the Leng Device. Before they can react, Hikage has leapt among them and unleashed a gout of flame, burning several of the unprepared denizens badly. The monk remembers the advice of his ‘allies’, the Leng Spiders, that the denizens of Leng are resistant to cold and lightning.

The Device in question seems to be a huge stone ring at the far end of the room, which projects some sort of energy field that gives a view of the city of Xin-Shalast outside. However, the view is a strange one. The ‘window’ created by the device does not show the haunting, desolate cityscape that Hikage knows to be outside the Pinnacle. Instead, it depicts a Xin-Shalast of vibrant color and activity, seemingly teeming with giants and other residents, overflown by blue dragons and other, smaller beasts. The lava flow that buries the eastern districts is nowhere to be seen, and, more strangely, hints of music and traces of the aroma of food and smoke dance through the air, as if the field sustained in the stone ring were more an open window than a scrying pool.

The stone ring itself is connected by sturdy cabling to a variety of tables and cabinets scattered about the sides of the room. Each table or cabinet is cluttered with dozens, if not hundreds, of small lever and switches, as well as other sorts of appurtenances. It looks almost as if an alchemist’s laboratory had been mated with a clockwork assembly. Strange calipers and other devices, seemingly unsuitable for human hands, litter the stone and metal slabs.

However, the overwhelming feature of the room is the horde of robed, snarling denizens of Leng who quickly mob Hikage and bar access to Ayruzi. The men, if they are indeed such under their swaddling robes, move strangely to Hikage’s eyes, and their limbs possess entirely too many joints. The men’s hands, when revealed are coated in sparse, coarse hair, and tipped with sharp, short claws. The denizens of Leng claw and swipe at the monk, but few can gain purchase in his flesh, as Hikage’s ki has strengthened him against such assaults. More gruesomely, the men from Leng distend their jaws, revealing probing, oily tongues too large for their mouths, and Hikage is careful to dodge their disgusting touch.

His acid-wreathed fists strike against several of the wounded denizens, smashing them to the ground unconsious, but he notes that the burns and breaks he inflicts heal with dismaying speed. He calls out to his angelic ally, Ayruzi, and is amazed when the Planetar unleashes a holocaust of holy fire which burns nearly all of the denizens, some quite seriously, setting many on fire, and consuming the corpses of the fallen. As Ayruzi’s storm of fire subsides, the Leng Devices sparks and whines, the field within the ring distorting and wavering.

Corvus and the other Avengers, trapped within the extradimensional maze generated by the black stone doors leading to the Leng Device, face down their phantasmal terrors again, and the wily wizard quickly figures a way out of the strange trap. They find themselves behind Ayruzi and see Hikage being mobbed by a group of the Men from Leng. One of the men is able to pierce Hikage’s defenses and his unexpected assault proves quite painful. A fireball from Corvus immolates many of the men from Leng, but as each falls, the strange device emits distressing whines and the images of the field grow more distorted and disorienting.

Hikage finishes off several of the burning men, and Ayruzi speaks a single word which strikes several of them blind and wounds most of the twisted humanoids. One of the beings from Leng, more resistant to the magic than others, lunges forward at the men, screeching, ’There will be others! This is not the end!". It proves to be his end, at least, as Ragnar deftly slices him apart from shoulder to hip with his greatsword. In the end, the men from Leng are no match for the Avengers and their angelic ally, whose divine wrath burns most of them utterly from existence.

Left behind is the enigmatic Leng device, which continues to generate a field of swirling, smeared images and light. The Avengers look about for some quick way of disabling the construction, but Zendo’s careful manipulations with Mage Hand and Gellius’s exploratory smite with a lightning-sheathed scimitar both prove ineffectual. Ragnar steps forward and chops his greatsword down brutally towards one of the cabinets, but a deafening blast of sound and wind is his only reward, and the Ulfen shakes his head, slightly concussed by the blast. Ayruzi steps forward and heals the warrior, as Hikage moves towards the stone ring at the far end of the room which seems to be the source of the wavering field. He smashes a fist into the stones, but only hurts his hand as it slams into the cold stone. Zendo tosses a coin at the image, but it passes through and clinks against the stones beyond.

The men are puzzled, but their puzzlement turns to dismay as an alien, unwholesome entity stretches the membrane of the field and pulls itself into the room. The foul creature resembles the Hound of Tindalos the Avengers fought in the halls below Jorgenfist, but this eerie monstrosity is far larger. Its dead, black eyes still confer the same painful rending sensation, however, and its translucent, needle-like teeth still convey the same aura of menace. However, the Hound, if that is still what it is, also manifests a vicious, bladed tongue which whips towards the heroes.

The Avengers, momentarily taken aback, soon regroup, and fearlessly smite the dimension-shifting Hound with blade, fist, and spell. Before it can do little more than pounce sinuously into the room, it has been forcibly eviscerated. But as soon as this happens, the distorted image within the stone circle brightens and disappears, like a flash of lightning, and a powerful charge of static electricity seems to build in the air. The wires and cables connecting the device to the cabinets crackle with sparks, and an audible whine builds in volume and pitch. With a sudden, startling pop, the electricity dissipates, and the room seems suddenly, surprisingly, mundane. Only the silvery corpse of the Hound, leaking acrid fluid, and boiling away like water drops on a stove, belies the sensation.

Corvus is convinced that the Leng Device has been disabled, or turned off, at the least, but the other Avengers are not so certain. Hikage feels bound to destroy the device, as per the agreement with the Spiders from Leng, while the others are concerned that the arcane contraption could simply be restarted. However, no amount of fiddling with the controls, or assaulting the mechanisms, seems to result in anything other than occasional eruptions of some sort of force field. Examining the cabinets and consoles, Corvus recognizes the strange script as Aklo, but does not have a command of the language sufficient to read the runes. However, when he examines the stone ring of the inert Device, he feels a disturbing sense of recognition. Though much smaller, the stone ring resembles strongly the massive runic arch that spans the harbor of Riddleport. Corvus had studied with the Cypher mages there, whose intensive study of the magic of the runes influenced even his own methods of scribing spells. Though not identical, the stone circle of the Leng Device bears strong design similarities with the rune arch itself.

At a loss on how to destroy the seemingly impregnable artifact, the men reluctantly retreat from the chamber, but Ayruzi stops at the threshold, and lifts his huge arms in supplication to Heaven. With a low rumble, an earthquake begins to shake the room, and stone blocks tumble from the ceiling as the stone floor itself begins to crack and shift. The deafening blasts of the force fields boom through the commotion of the earthquake, and a choking cloud of stone dust billows into the antechamber where the Avengers stand, amazed. Truly, the forces of Good have sided with them today!

Hesitant to enter the room and risk a collapse of the ceiling, or floor, the Avengers decide to retreat via Corvus’s carefully prepared spell of teleportation. They convey the location of their sanctuary to Ayruzi, who agrees to exit the Pinnacle via the tunnel in ‘his’ room and seek them out once outside. Though it pains the men to allow Khalib and Viorian the opportunity to rest and recover, their own resources are also deeply spent.

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Guardian Angel
Pharast 20, 4708

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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They ran away!
Pharast 20, 4708

Our heroes, for the most part, lay sprawled on the carpet of rubies in the throne room of the Pinnacle of Avarice. Ragnar, thanks to his magical boots, has landed lightly on his feet, and Corvus floats overhead under his own power.

Two of the giants stand on unsteady feet, reeling from the wounds that have been dealt to them, and covered with the sticky, hot tar summoned by Gellius. The third giant, still entangled in the pool, is largely unharmed, while Khalib flies overhead, his gloating voice distorted by the deafness caused by Gellius’s storm of vengeance.

Ragnar, still massive from the magical power of his enchanted drinking horn, steps toward the relatively uninjured Cloud Giant and deftly slices the towering guardian apart, but is powerless to reach the other giants menacing his prone allies. Those giants, instead of clubbing down the others, quickly move to scrape the blistering tar from their legs.

Hikage quickly stands, and, begrudgingly, turns his anger from the floating form of Khalib to the two cloud giants. A sudden blast of his acidic dragon breath, harnessed from his ki, melts the face off one of the giants, while the splashing acid causes the other giant to collapse into the molten pool of tar.

Khalib prepares to incant a deadly spell of necromantic withering, but his ringing ears foil the spell entirely. The Avengers’ luck has not held out entirely, as Viorian Decanti reappears from her imprisonment within the extradimension Maze which Corvus had entrapped her. “You think to delay OUR vengeance? We shall extract it in blood from your hides, impudent burglars!”, she shouts, angrily.

Gellius quickly lashes her with magical disks of adamantine summoned from the ether. Corvus, wary of the ruthless woman’s revenge, conjures a pit to contain her, but the swordswoman nimbly leaps to safety. Ragnar thunders across the room toward Dekanti, whirling his sword around his giant form. “Time to die!”, he retorts, crumpling her golden armor as his sword smashes down her golden shield. His unexpected backstroke catches her off guard, and sprays her blood across the gems of the throne. Though badly battered and bloodied, Viorian withstands the Ulfen’s master stroke, and readies her own, golden, glowing scimitar.

Before Hikage, Gellius, and Corvus can pierce her strange resistance to spells, the defiant golden warrior is whisked away by Khalib. The transmuter darts down from his position near the ceiling to an arm’s length from his ally, and successfully incants a spell, despite his temporary deafness. As the two vanish from sight, Corvus identifies the spell as a short-ranged dimensional door, rather than the long-ranged retreat of true teleportation. Viorian and Khalib are almost certainly somewhere within the Pinnacle, but where?

Rather than recklessly rush into a trap, the heroes decide to quickly heal their wounds before exploring further. While most of the Avengers are fine, Ragnar and Corvus are quite banged up from their close encounters with Giants and Lamia-kin. Nothing can be done for the insidious, will-sapping effects of the lamias upon the fighter, wizard, and druid in a short period of time, so the men press onward.

As Hikage scouts around the corner, he encounters another of the magical projections of Runelord Karzoug. Karzoug sneers dismissively at the monk as he directs a magical ray of freezing cold at Hikage. “All your pathetic struggles are simply playing into my hands. All of my servants are marked with my rune. The more of them you slay, the more greedy souls you feed into the soul lens. Every step you take against me only hastens my resurgence!”

Hikage’s bountiful ki deflects the malign magic, scattering the spell’s effect harmlessly, and the monk swiftly moves to intercept the transmuter with his runeforged sword. “Then why do you try so hard to stop us?”, asks the monk as his gleaming weapon dispels the runelord’s anima.

In front of the Avengers rest a set of golden doors, which Hikage parts with a fingertip, marvelling again at the construction. Within lies an opulent foyer, with the gleaming obsidian and gold floor obscured by lavish rugs and silk cushions. Doors open to the left and right, as well as directly across the chamber. The chamber to the left is a filthy abbatoir, surely used by the gruesome and gluttonous Hungerers as a larder, den, and latrine. The chamber to the right is an elegant boudoir with piled nests of pillows and silks, evidently occupied by the lamia priestesses. The door across the room leads to a relatively mundane hallway, at least by the standards of insane wealth and opulence within the Pinnacle of Avarice. The Avengers eschew the plain stone door to the right and choose to explore the golden doors further down the hallway to the left.

Those wide golden doors swing open to reveal a truly decadent, but unoccupied bedroom. The elaborately tiled floor drops to a shallow depression in the center, which serves to restrain the silken and satin cushions which rise to a huge mound in the center. The frescoes and illuminations upon the walls of the chamber rise to a vaulted ceiling overhead, from which an immense, gauzy net of sheer silks descend, serving to encircle and obscure the immense ‘bed’ underneath. Other than the furnishings of the room itself, lavish beyond mortal measure, there appears to be little else of worth in the room, and the heroes decide to investigate the doors on the far side of the room before exploring a similar door to the right.

The room beyond appears to be some sort of a private chapel to Greed itself. A golden rune of greed is inlaid into one wall, and elaborately carved and painted murals make abundantly clear the ‘virtue of wealth’, or the sin of greed. A hierarchy of grasping wealth climbs from the smallest iconography near the floor to encompass staggering riches, culminating at the golden icon itself. A blocky, ziggurat-like altar sits on the floor in front of the rune of greed, consisting of bands of wood inlaid with slices of ornamental stone, gem, and bone. Corvus finds nothing inherently magical about the chamber, but Hikage’s keen eye, when investigating the altar, notices an incongruously scratched bit of filigree, and the monk uncovers a secret compartment within the altar. Within are several scrolls, which Corvus examines carefully. He informs the others that three of the scrolls contain powerful prayers of resurrection, while the fourth is enchanted to allow the reader to commune with powerful extraplanar spirits. While this holds the potential to unravel some of the mysteries of the Pinnacle, Corvus cautions the others that the scroll was probably scribed by the priestesses themselves, so its use would serve to contact the malign intelligences they venerate. The men decide to eschew the scroll’s use for the time being, and store them safely in Corvus’s pack. Also within the compartment is a large, ornate key cast from platinum.

The other door reveals itself to be a small antechamber, leading to two similarly appointed bedrooms. Both show no signs of recent use, but do not appear to be abandoned for any great lengths of time. Curious, Hikage carefully searches one of the rooms and discovers a few wavy red hairs and a tiny wisp of shed snakeskin. The monk concludes that, in all likelihood, this served as a bedroom for Lucretia, the red-tressed lamia of Turtleback Ferry, and the companion bedroom, most likely, was for the use of her sister, Xanesha!

However, the bedrooms reveal nothing of note to the group—other than the former presence of their defeated enemies. The Avengers regroup and retrace their steps to explore the plain stone door at the other end of the hallway leading into the large bedroom. When Hikage opens the door, the men find a bizarre creature lying in wait for them. The strange being is fully the height of an ogre, but has an emaciated form that resembles a cross between a man and a deep-sea fish, with a grotesquely distended jaw and immense, circular eyes. In addition to long, slender limbs tipped with needle-like claws, and a snakelike whipping tail, the strange abomination has writhing tentacles which emerge from its back! The creature’s flesh is silvery, but partly translucent, revealing purplish bone and black organs within. It gapes at them with goggle eyes and whispers hoarsely, “Intruders. Annihiliate.”

It gestures at Hikage and a ray of ‘black light’ emerges from its outstretched hand to wash over the monk, though Hikage’s control of his ki disrupts the life-draining magic. He and Ragnar move up quickly to engage the strange beast, as Zendo and Corvus wrack their brains to identify the unusual guardian. Gellius unleashes a deadly finger of death spell, only to find that the aberration is immune to death magics! Zendo does not recognize the strange being, but Corvus recognizes it as some form of daemon, supernatural beings which thrive on death and disaster.

To Hikage and Ragnar’s dismay, the strange, translucent being is difficult to even perceive precisely, and the daemon’s insubstantial, writhing form eludes many of their attacks. The daemon’s needle-like teeth and claws are terribly substantial, however, and the creature claws and bites at both Ragnar and Hikage, draining them of vitality as it rends their flesh. Despite the creature’s resistance to magic and total immunity to acid, it seems somehow constrained; fighting the Avengers in the crowded cell rather than making use of its disturbing flexibility and dismaying speed. The heroes blast it with magic and smite it with fist and blade, seeking to quickly down the beast before it can drain any more life force from the fighter and monk.

When the daemon is destroyed, Hikage and the others eagerly explore the two stone cells which it guarded so assiduously. The locked cells are easily opened by the platinum key discovered earlier, but both cells appear to be simple stone chambers, revealing nothing to careful scrutiny or Corvus’s detection of magic. The heroes are chagrined by the presence of an exotic outsider uselessly bound to guard empty rooms, until Hikage steps into the larger of the two chambers to examine it. His glowing temple sword fades into darkness, and the monk quickly leaps out of the chamber, his sword returning to golden light. Though the two rooms appear mundane, both are warded by powerful anti-magic fields! Though the prison cells are empty, such powerful enchantment would have allowed Karzoug to detain even the most powerful of spellcasters within!

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Maze and monsters!
20 Pharast, 4708

Finally, Viorian frees herself from the pile of rubble,somehow magically appearing with the Cloud Giants on the other side of the Force Wall. Ragnar and Hikage move to assist the others, with Hikage and Zendo dealing with the injured Storm Giant before dispatching the lamia priestess who healed her.

Gellius and Corvus have both been savagely mauled by the Hungerers, whose vile, drooling bites carry madness. Ragnar moves up to aid them and is also bitten, with the hungerer’s bites draining the wisdom of all three. Realizing their deadly threat, the men quickly work together to kill the horribly bloated monstrosities before their ravening jaws render one of the Avengers insane!

Though the Cloud Giants have been steadily working to smash the Force Wall with their massive morningstars, their progress proves too slow for Khalib, who brings it down with a disintegration spell, urging the giants forward down the hall.

As the giants stampede forward, weapons held high, Viorian teleports again, appearing right behind Corvus with her menacing golden scimitar held high! The wizard quickly responds, whisking the deadly swordswoman away to a extradimensional maze which, he hopes, she will be slow to escape from.

Hikage and Ragnar move up to bottle up the giants in the Hallway as Gellius summons a storm of vengeance to deafen, burn, and blast them. The massive storm deafens all the giants, as well as Khalib, forcing the wizard to risk miscasting his spells if he wishes to join the fight, but the giants force themselves forwards in the storm.

Khalib is able to magically dimension door into the room to escape the winds of the storm, but is forced to summon an immense Abyssal spider-beast to delay Hikage’s relentless pursuit. Though the many-legged predator appears deadly, the monk is able to dispatch it in a single flurry of blows.

The giants, relentlessly advancing into the hail of blades and spells to escape the storm, puts pressure on Ragnar, Zendo, and Gellius. The druid summons a firestorm to burn the giants, and then slows their advance with a pool of boiling tar, which entangles many of them. When Hikage breaks off his pursuit of Khalib to assist them, the powerful magics of the druid and wizard, as well as the martial efforts of the monk and fighter, have winnowed the cloud giants from an intimidating force of seven to three survivors, two badly wounded.

However, the malevolent Khalib reverses gravity, suspending the Avengers helplessly above the ground—easy prey for the flails of the cloud giants, who smash the helpless Corvus and pound Ragnar as well, turning the tables on the party at a moment’s notice!

Corvus uses his magic to fly, regaining control of his movements and evading his giantish assailant, while Gellius dispels the reversed gravity, freeing the other Avengers, but at the cost of dropping them prone to the ground, and at the mercy of their Cloud Giant opponents!

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Pinnacle of Greed II: Kill Faster!
20 Pharast, 4708

After the men have healed and rested within the magical mansion, Corvus and Gellius prepare their spells for another assault upon the Pinnacle of Greed. In an attempt to bypass the giant guardians, Corvus teleports the healed and rejuvenated Avengers directly into the antechamber on the other side of the golden doors. Before the giants can react, the wizard blocks off the eastern half of the curving hallway with a Wall of Force, which holds back the Cloud giant wardens, who are soon reinforced with other giants and their master, Khalib. Though the cloud giants batter the wall of force with their immense morning stars, the magical wall of force withstands their assault long enough for the Avengers to join battle with the defenders of the throne room

Upon entry to the throne room, the heroes find Viorian Dekanti seated upon the golden throne, flanked by her Storm Giant cohorts. As she stands and threatens the Avengers, Gellius conjures up two immense boulders, clashing Viorian Decanti between them, burying her in a pile of rubble and knocking one of the Storm Giant Wardens to the ground. The golden-armored warrior disappears under the rubble as the Avengers move to take advantage of the moment.

The storm giants blast the heroes with lightning, which some dodge entirely, and others weather stoically. Despite their storm magics, the two giant guardians are quickly brought low, with Hikage downing one and Ragnar sending the other into bleeding unconsciousness. Though the initial fight against the Wardens of Thunder goes well, Hikage is dismayed when a Rune Giant emerges from an annex to the north, slamming open the golden door and bellowing a murderous threat.

At the same time, the lamia hungerers emerge from the halls to the south, suspended in midair by magic! They quickly move to threaten the druid, wizard, and bard, snapping their foaming, slavering maws at the three spellcasters.

One of the remaining Storm Giantesses, knocked unconscious by her wounds, is healed by a more-cautious Lamia priestess, and, remaining prone, kicks out at Zendo, knocking him prone, and giving her room to rise. Zendo attempts to slay her and the lamia with deafening song bolts, but misses the giantess, who kicks him again, in the face!

Ragnar, who refused to finish off a downed foe, had abandoned the Storm Giantess to engage the Rune Giant, and the Ulfen cuts his adversary apart! Unfortunately, this reveals another projection of Karzoug, hidden behind the bulk of the Rune Giant The image of the Runelord unleashes a deadly spell at the Avengers, but Hikage dodges it entirely and Ragnar curses in anger as the magics rend his blasted flesh! Hikage curses at the necessity, but rounds on the apparition and dispels it with his temple sword.

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Khalib gets an eyeful of Hikage's Fists, or vice versa.
19 Pharast, 4708

As the fight continues, the lamia endeavor to heal the fallen cloud giants. The storm giants are greatly wounded, and Viorian Decanti (the woman in gold) proves deadly with her sword.

Hikage strikes Khalib in the face, permanently blinding the wizard. Corvus calls down a meteor swarm at a crucial moment, attempting to slay Viorian and the Wardens of Thunder before the group retreats to bind wounds and muster resources.

Again, any help on parsing epic moments of this fight would be very helpful, as it all blends together.

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Giants, Khalib, and the Golden Girl
19 Pharast, 4708

With the Rune Giant looming in the doorway, the heroes can see that the opulent room beyond curves to the left and right beyond their sight. It rises to an arched ceiling fifty feet overhead.

Wary of being bottled up in the antechamber as allies arrive, Corvus gathers his allies and dimension doors the heroes into the hallway, allowing Ragnar to engage the immense giant from behind. However, the men make a shocking discovery: within the curving hallway stands a magical projection of Karzoug! Though the image is wavering and translucent, the Avengers hear him clearly:

And so the fools have found me. I must applaud your tenacity. You are much more persistent than the worms I thought you to be. You are more like maggots in your endless squirming and writing to reach the death that awaits you at the core of your fate. I am that fate, maggots. I am your death.

Gripping his dominant temple sword firmly, Hikage can feel a strong sense of antipathy emanating from the blade. The monk clearly envisions himself plunging the sword into the image of Karzoug, disrupting it completely. He follows through with his strange intuition, and Karzoug momentarily flinches in pain, or surprise, as the runeforged weapon disrupts the magicks allowing the Runelord to project his will from his stasis.

The Avengers begin to feel that they may have the hall secured, until a imperious wizard appears around the eastern wall as the immense golden doors to the west swing open. The elegantly robed transmuter grips a golden staff in one hand and his high forehead and regal countenance mark him out as a Thassilonian like Karzoug. This must be Khalib, Karzoug’s loyal apprentice who descends from the Pinnacle to direct the lamia and giants. Khalib laughs lightly at the Avengers and announces his intention to defeat them and atone for his failure to his master.

As Hikage quickly moves to engage the ambitious wizard, the golden doors to the west open to reveal a quartet of Lamia Priestesses, and a golden light beyond. Though the Avengers have little luxury to gaze upon the opulent throne room beyond, the gleam of gold and silver within fills the air with light. More ominously, a gleaming throne within is guarded by three immense Storm Giants, each at the alert. Seated within the glittering throne, rather than Karzoug, is an attractive, athletic women clad in ornate, fluted golden armor. She swings a massive scimitar languidly, but when she stands with impatience, even the towering giants flinch away from her.

At the far end of the immense throne room, two bloated Lamia Hungerers drag their swollen carcasses from some adjoining hall or room. The fight is well and truly joined!

I will try to detail the fight, but I am not sure where to break it up between this week and the next. Any assistance with details is appreciated.

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