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.