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!