Rise of the Runelords

Sword turns out to be mightier than the Pen.

Abadius 2, 4707

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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