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As some of you may know, in addition to Pathfinder one of my primary hobbies is playing on, DMing for, and administrating for a Neverwinter Nights persistent world, Cormyr and the Dalelands (username there is Edge). Starting about a year and a half ago, I began running a highly modified version of Rise of the Runelords set in Faerun as a series of semi-weekly events, each about 2-4 hours long. After a long absence on Paizo, I've decided to cross-post my summaries of the events in a journal here.
Note that this will be highly modified from the base Runelords plot between the change of setting and an intent to connect it to a much larger, overarching plot involving all the Runelords.
So with that... let's begin =D
Book One: Burnt Offerings
Characters of Importance:
Zander Jaredson - Male Half-Gold Dragon Human Paladin of Torm
James St. Bell - Male Human Paladin of Torm
Velenya Tevlanos - Female Half-Iron Dragon Human Eldritch Knight
Tessela Kennemen - Female Human Cleric of Kelemvor
Paythin Alderan - Male Human Fighter/Weapon Master
Sophia Leonsbane - Female Half-Elf Fighter/Weapon Master
Azonis Fulgate - Female Half-Elf Bard/Arcane Archer
Trent Dy'nei - Male Human Fighter/Weapon Master
Jason Fletcher - Male Human Fighter/Purple Dragon Knight
Cassandra Rosewood - Female Human Rogue/Shadowdancer
Quest One: Burn! Bobonga! Burn!
A cry for help came from the village of Collinwood, not far from the city of the Eveningstar, claiming goblins were attacking and the city was burning.
The party - composed of a combination of concerned or curious adventurers and locally-stationed Purple Dragons - heeded the call, routing the assault and tending to the fires and wounded. They discovered on some of the fallen goblins a curious seven-pointed star that none were able to identify. Goblins have always been a problem in Cormyr, especially in the forests around Arabel and Suzail, but to so brazenly attack the city was unprecedented, and especially the bizarre emblem they wore. Suspicions began to fly immediately that there was more to this than simple goblin troublemaking....
Quest two: Mystery of the Forest
The party began their investigation at Collinwood, gathering information from the local soldiers about the recent attacks. Velenya produced the amulet taken from the goblins before, and Trent volunteered to test it. He allowed Paythin to punch and Velenya to cast a spell on him, which lessened the effect but plunged him into a deep rage. Velenya warded his mind, which calmed him; James confiscated the amulet.
The party proceeded to the goblin lair as tracked before, and deep within the cave, they discovered a gateway covered in Netherese runes. Velenya determined them to say "Darkest hearts breed darkest deeds, to breach the gate, darkness appeased." They puzzled over the way to activate the gate for some time before Trent finally managed to step through, mind filled with wrath and armor covered in blood. The others eventually puzzled their way through and emerged into an ancient ruin overgrown with the ages.
Exploration soon revealed a red-marble statue of a statuesque woman holding a ranseur, perfectly preserved and bearing the seven-pointed star amulet. The first open area of the ruin showed them trees bearing what appeared to be severed heads, identified as Vargouilles, a creature whose venom begets newborns of its kind. Tessela made certain to immediately treat any bites the party received.
Breaking off from the group, Trent and Sophia came upon odd twisted creatures that melted into an angry orange goo upon death. Turning down a hallway yielded a chamber clearly designed for torture containing more of the beasties, the floor strewn with empty potion bottles, which Velenya theorized were a concoction to turn the drinker into undead. This seemed more and more probable as they discovered a room full of terrified prisoners from the surrounding towns. The party paused to assess the situation, deciding to make their first priority to escort the civilians to safety - Velenya opened a gate to Thundarlun to allow them through, letting them report a brief summary of the situation before returning to finish clearing out the ruin.
One of the prisoners, noting that the fiend who has been experimenting on the group speaks to the statue, raised a concern to the group - the statue clearly could not be left behind. Moving forward revealed undead and a curious goblin, larger than most and almost sharklike, with a third arm. They discovered an altar in the alcove by which the altered goblin had been standing - which Tessela and Trent identified as one to Demogorgon, though the Doomguide was quick to warn others not to speak the name.
The final door of the complex led to a long, twisting tunnel that opened into a surprisingly pristine temple, arcane energy from a glowing pool singing away the overgrowth of ages. There, they found the fiend in question - a highly hostile and magically capable quasit - guarded by a small army of the twisted beasts from before. The fight spilled into the pool itself where the party soon discovered that blood spilled in the liquid created the beasts anew. Once the creatures were finally dispatched, Tessela attempted to purify the well, earning an angry flame to the chest for her efforts. Paythin recalled seeing similar in the past when aiding Timothy Skyraven, identifying the pool as a "runewell" and the leader a woman rather than the Prince of Demons. The party returned to the ruin, still convinced the matter was tied to Demogorgon, Tessela collapsing the tunnel to prevent goblins from tinkering with the pool. The resulting explosion shook the foundation of the ruin, forcing a hasty retreat.
Quest three: Memories of Green
Ameiko Kaijitsu, one of the rescued prisoners from the ruin raid, finally tracked down Velenya - the most memorable and identifiable of the rescue party, given she was the only one not in PD uniform - and expressed her thanks while sharing some information about her captors. She told the story of her capture along with her traveling companions - the elven ranger Shalelu, who the group met, and two others they didn't, Ameiko's brother Tsuto and a priestess named Nualia.
According to Ameiko, the group was taken to the runewell and several spells used on or near them by the quasit Erylium, then Nualia was selected, dunked in the runewell a few times, then a glowing light rose out of the water and absorbed itself into her body, causing Nualia to start speaking in an unfamiliar language (High Netherese, Velenya eventually deduced) and ordering the goblins, sinspawn, and Erylium around. She then dominated Tsuto and kept him around as a bodyguard, then sent the other two to be stored with the other prisoners.
Velenya agreed to pass the information along to Zander or someone else in authority in the Purple Dragons, and took a pair of spectacles belonging to Tsuto to use as a scrying focus in hopes of tracking him down. She agreed to inform Ameiko and/or Shalelu if any new information arose, as well as advised her to go to a temple and see if any lingering but incomplete spells remained on the pair after what Erylium and the possessed Nualia had done to them.
Acting on Ameiko's information, Velenya gathered the party and headed to Collinwood. They were met by Ameiko and Shalelu, who explained that two of their companions, Ameiko's brother Tsuto and his lover Nualia, had been taken for a different purpose - and that Nualia had been the target of a ritual dedicated to a shrine to Demogorgon, after which her behavior changed drastically. They had yet to hear word of their deaths or otherwise and thus begged the party to help find them. The PDs got what information they could use from their contacts while Velenya went off to discern location. End result: they were to teleport to a place called Thistletop, the site of a failed attempt at a village.
Alas, their presence (or someone's) was anticipated, and they fell victim to a teleport trap that dropped them in the middle of the nearby swamp. They fought off the waiting goblins and approached the remnants of the village. Once there, they made short work of the goblin chieftain and his guards, though his final words were cryptic: "Malfeshnekor devour you."
Entering the catacombs within the mausoleum, they found more goblins, soon coming across a pair of mercenaries who were none too pleased to find themselves facing a squadron of Purple Dragons and were all too happy to exchange information for their lives. They confirmed that they had been hired by Nualia. They teleported away with Zander's permission (and Velenya's scroll).
Setting off a trap brought Tsuto running, and Velenya quickly recognized and removed the domination from which he suffered. Tsuto begged them to help Nualia, that something was inside her, claiming to be a ruler of some sort. Velenya was able to recall some sparse details from Netherese history about the Runelords, practitioners of Sin magic.
They found the being in Nualia's skin sacrificing goblins at the altar, sending their essence into the runewell beside. The party attempted to reason with her to no avail - the spirit of the Lord of Wrath had full control. Negotiations turned hostile, and Zander and Paythin fell. The rest of the party ducked around the corner to regroup. Tsuto, hearing the noise, ran to aid the party and save Nualia. Sophia attempted to grab the priestess and maneuver her out of the room, but a harm from Nualia forced her to release her in order to heal herself and Nualia made a break back for the shrine. The Lord of Wrath, tiring of the mess and knowing they wanted Nualia, stabbed her vessel and escaped into the runewell. Nualia fell, sorely injured; James hurried to heal her while the others roused their companions. The cavern began to shake, and the party fled.
Quest Four: Mystery of the Past
After rescuing Nualia and Tsuto, the party returned to the caverns of Thistletop, venturing deeper into the passage where the ambient auras abruptly shifted from evocation to transmutation. They were beset upon by a sentry hellcat which kept vanishing into the walls and lights, only to reemerge later (Cats after all do have nine lives). They discovered a series of sealed Runewells, which curiosity bade them open... allowing the creation of Greedspawn into the ruin. The party deduced that while the previous ruin had been of Wrath, this was of Greed. Paythin discovered the key to the passage downstairs - an offering of wealth (a coin through a convenient slot). He then attempted to rob the nearby Runewell of its offering, creating more Greedspawn. He was advised to return the gold.
Proceeding downstairs, they were harried by shadows risen from the slain before them. They then entered a long-abandoned laboratory, which Azonis identified as being awash with transmutation magic. A badly damaged projected image depicting a finely-dressed man in green holding a glaive or halberd continually repeated a broken message in Netherese, speaking of "Alaznist's petty wrath" and boasting of its own power. They eventually came to the prison they sought, Velenya noting the warding runes barely functional as the barghest within - Malfeshnekor - attempted to bait them inside. It spoke of Alaznist and someone named Karzoug, and, upon discovering the party was the reason his prison had ceased to weaken, it charged the barrier and shattered it; the party slew it, then raided the chamber within, recovering treasures and books from the ruins before departing.
Book Two: The Skinsaw Murders
Characters of Importance:
Nazakra el Akhazen - Female Half-Yugoloth Human Cleric of Kossuth
Blackhair - Male Half-Demon Human Fighter/Weapon Master
Mirabell Rivenstone - Female Gnome Wizard
Kimbell Tane - Female Human Wizard/Red Wizard
Nina Siv - Female Elf Rogue
Siris Tylnel'fein - Male Elf Fighter/Rogue/Ranger
Beryl Raralith - Female Elf Ranger/Divine Seeker of Rillifane Rallathil
Dais Orochi - Male Half-Blue Dragon Human Monk/Fighter
Quest One: A Strange Happening...
The party answered a summons from the Watch in regard to a double murder of a merchant and a local girl. Captain Grimes informed them of the girl's father as well as a few others that might be potentially involved - one, Ameiko, named in a note signed "Your Lordship."
Opting to investigate the crime scene first, they discovered one of the bodies, at the center of the mess, had a carving in his chest that Mirabell and Kimbell identified as a Sihedron rune. Nazakra noted the smell of rotting flesh; the party soon deduced the murderer to have been a ghast.
Recalling Grimes' mention of a potential suspect from a similar previous case, they then went to the Selunite temple where the very ill man - one Grayst Sevilla - was kept under watch. They recognized his ailment as ghoul fever. Nazakra cured him, much to his immediate thanks and praise, and he told the party the details of the previous murders near Waymoot. He also passed on a message "given from His Lordship" (who Sevilla could not identify): "Come to the Misgivings soon, to meet the Pack, for they have something wonderful to show you. The bodies you are finding are signs and portents. When we are done, you shall be remembered forever: a perfect queen, and the Misgivings shall be your throne!" The fire priestess bid him travel to her mountain shrine and gave him a pamphlet teaching the word of the Firelord before the party moved on.
Lastly, they returned to the Citadel to question the other parties. Ameiko confirmed that she had no idea who this "Lordship" was or why he was fixated on her. Kimbell showed them the Sihedron, which they confirmed they recognized. Nualia told them a little of Sin magic, gleaned from her possession by Alaznist (though she didn't reveal that part, since no one asked). The party set off to mull over their information and plan their next move.
Quest Two: A Prayer to the Road That Leads
The party arrived at the Citadel to find a drunken old man called Maester Grump ranting about moving scarecrows killing people. Mostly to make the talking stop, they agreed to investigate the farms.
Arriving at the fields, they saw fires and scarecrows moving exactly as Grump had said; after fighting them, Naz identified the scarecrows as disguised ghouls. The village they found was likewise infested and aflame. Inside one of the buildings, they found another corpse with the Sihedron rune carved into his chest; Nina recovered a key in his pocket... and another key, this one to a place called Foxglove Manor, in the possession of the leader of the ghouls infesting the area. The first key fit a lockbox found in another house, wherein they also encountered a flesh golem, likewise marked with a Sihedron.
Inside the lockbox, they found thousands of gold in coins and banknotes, far more than a simple farmer could earn. With Kimbell's insight on Netherese Sin magic, they surmised that Greed was a factor in the deaths.
As they prepared to depart, a flaming horse - identified as a nightmare - raced by. Pursuing it, it spoke to them of a Runelord, that he would be waking soon. Unimpressed, they slew the beast. The party discussed their options for a time, deciding to pay a visit to the manor, which they knew to also be locally called "the Misgivings", in Mouth o' Gargoyles, particularly after remembering what Sevilla had said about a "throne of misgivings."
Quest Three: Silent Light
The party met in Mouth O'Gargoyles, soon making their way to Foxglove Manor, and quickly found it to be severely haunted but oddly deserted. Each room appeared to sustain a specific memory, forcing the party to relive them, even to the harm of their companions - a dance partner decaying to death, a frightened child fearing his parents seeking each others' end, an angry woman discovering a secret.
Eventually making their way to the attic, they slowly uncovered the manor's history - many years before, it was the site of a failed attempt to become a lich. In the attic, they discovered a tiny hidden room...
... where they found the revenant of Iesha Foxglove cowering behind a crate out of sight of the mirror. Hiding the mirror and providing her with her old scarf (conveniently while behind the mirror), they allowed the creature to lead the party down to the manor basement, where they found a wizard's laboratory, and from there down a tunnel dug into the floor to a cavern beneath the manor.
Quest Four: Underground Cesspit
They found themselves in a secluded, overgrown chamber marked by the symbol of Velsharoon. Touching the symbol allowed entry into the rest of the cavern. Following the path - and Iesha's revenant hunting sense - led them to the ghoul that was once Aldern Foxglove, now the Skinsaw Man. Blackhair restrained the revenant long enough for the group to confirm that a) he was after Ameiko and b) responsible for the murders before unleashing the undead to her vengeance and assisting her in killing him.
Naz convinced Iesha to return to life (and gave her a Kossuthian pamphlet), and Iesha was able to identify a key Nina found as unlocking their Suzail townhouse, which Siris found mentioned in a letter to Aldern from a mysterious "Wanton of Nature's Pagan Forms." After finding the shattered remains of a failed lich phylactery (from Iesha's testimony, likely dating back several generations of Aldern's family), Kimbell gated in a Radiance Elemental to purge the remaining taint of necromancy from the grounds, which (to Naz's delight) restored fire's power, allowing the manor to be burned.
They returned to Arabel, Iesha in tow, to explain their findings to Captain Grimes. They then parted ways, intending to follow the trail from the rendezvous point in Suzail.
Quest Five: A Hidden Truth
The group gathered in Suzail to follow up on their lead from Iesha regarding the Foxglove family townhouse in Suzail. Questioning the innkeeper pointed them to the residential district. Asking directions from one of the local Purple Dragons, they found the house in question and explored it using Aldern's key. Inside the abandoned home, after fighting some Invisible Stalkers they encountered in the ransacked upper floor, they found an old journal of Aldern's referring to a local sawmill owed a monthly rent and deeds stating that the townhouse's ownership would revert to a person called Ironbriar after a century past Foxglove's death.
Upon arrival at the sawmill, they were attacked by Skinsaw cultists and animated table saws, and soon found the back room populated by a Cyricist cult. Naz discovered more letters from the being calling themselves "Wanton of Nature's Pagan Forms" written in Loross. The group mused on what Netheril had to do with any of this; Kimbell theorized that the Sihedron of Sin Magic heralded a connection to its ancient archmages, perhaps one trying to return. Nina led them through a hidden passage where the forlorn Cyricist Ironbriar expected them.
Ironbriar spoke to them of being impressed by their power if irritated at their destruction of the manor's phage before expanding on his motives for the cult's actions, elucidating at length how a single murder can so strongly and so swiftly change the course of life and fate, as well as his connection to the servant of the sin mages, the author giving them instruction via letters. Kimbell seized on the opportunity to express her curiosity about the practice, which led Ironbriar to soften his demeanor and tell them that his patroness kept her lair in a clock tower in the southeast of Suzail, also informing them of the secret entrance for maintenance (after Naz pushed Mirabell into the hallway as the sole objector). Naz argued that they should be compensated for the lack of bounty they would collect on his head, and Ironbriar agreed to pay them off for his continued survial (packing up and running for Marsember the instant the party left). Naz decided to tell the Watch of the warehouse, deciding if he was clever enough to buy them off, he was clever enough to run.
Quest Six: The Brink of Time
Naz caught Siris and Beryl up on what they had found, reminding the party of their quest - the abandoned clocktower. After finding a way inside the condemned building, they encountered a strange flesh golem before continuing on. After an assault by invisible stalkers, they found a small hole in the wall. Mirabell investigated with gaseous form, finding a snake within but also several forking paths, opting to return to the group rather than risk it. Further exploration yielded the rookery of messenger ravens, where they surmised their message had gone, though none of the birds bore one at present.
They were met by the illusion of a woman introducing herself as the Wanton of Nature's Pagan Forms, Xanesha, who told them she had received their message. After questioning them for a bit about their motivations, she bade them meet her at the top... as Siris destroyed one of the crystals aiding her projection. Delving into some of the side rooms led them to a journal filled with names... several crossed off; these Beryl recognized as being reported dead, branded with a seven-pointed star. Continuing on, Siris reacted just in time to push Beryl and Mirabell out of the way of a suddenly falling bell.
They finally came face to face with Xanesha, who taunted their belief that she would teach them anything as she knew they would not serve her master, the "Lord who would claim the land that was rightfully his." She shed her form, revealing herself to be a yuan-ti, and summoned the many snakes living in the walls of the ruined building while unleashing her magic on the party, but fell in battle. Kimbell asked Naz to keep the head intact for questioning about Sin magic "whether she wanted to teach or not." Naz decided to push the angelic statue they found out of the window.
|John Napier 698|
Book Three: Hook Mountain Massacre
Characters of Importance:
Aidraug Elaina - Female Wild Elf Druid/Shifter (NWN's version of Master of Many Forms)
Tharag Turnskull - Male Half-Orc Fighter/Bard/Dragon Disciple
Rossel Laurina-Taure - Female Elf Wizard
Cylanduril Miritar - Male Elf Sorcerer
Nola Throkadun - Female Dwarf Barbarian/Battlerager
Rose - Female Aasimar Monk
Rosalor Silverbow - Female Elf Bard/Arcane Archer
Valdis Brandrsdottir - Female Human Barbarian/Blackguard
Quest One: The Undersea Palace
Answering a summons for aid, the group met with Horace Fielding, an agent of Lady Winter, at the Eveningstar tavern regarding the recent wreck of the riverboat Paradise. Winter requested the group to seek out what remained of the ship and the causes of its ultimate fate, mentioning what survivors had called a "private collection." Traveling north toward the wreckage, they spoke to a local trapper, who warned them of a vicious snapping turtle called Ol' Glutton. They continued alone until they spotted clues to the wreck - bits of driftwood, a weathered boulder suggesting mooring. Rossel identified fading auras of illusion and necromancy.
They dove down into the water, fighting through agitated fish toward the wreckage. Rossel's senses detected evocation and stronger necromantic auras on the vessel. Once inside, they discovered the remains of the unfortunate, finding on one of them a strange tattoo: a seven-pointed star, which the wizardess identified as being related to some strange field of study called Sin Magic. They continued their investigations, finding an infestation of kelpies. In what appeared to be the ship's office, they found what appeared from its dress to be the ship's hostess, while Valdis found a curious journal which she carefully wrapped and stowed away rather than open it underwater. They returned to investigate the center of the explosion, which Rossel identified as being caused by a series of delayed blast fireballs. Additionally, Aidraug found a telltale leaf on one of the bodies which she identified as tekkil, all but confirming what the "private collection" was.
The party returned to the surface with their findings, disappointed to find the sad state of the book from days of exposure despite their precautions. Rossel noticed a faint aura of transmutation on the star emblem across the cover, identifying the spells as fabricate, polymorph any object, make whole, and hardening. Afraid a dispel might damage it, they opened the book, finding the text utterly ruined and illegible, then opting to take the text to Lady Winter. They handed over the book and reported on the Sin Magic tattoos and the sabotage, though they did not yet know a reason for it, hoping the book held the answer... if it could be repaired.
Winter explained that she was familiar with the tattoo - the ship's crew gave it to regular customers as a form of identification - and offered to attempt to examine restore the book, musing at the oddness of placing the enchantments only upon the star and not the book itself. Rose and Rossel refused her payment and offered to aid the survivors; Rossel and Cylanduril their services in examining the magic and studying what they could find on Sin Magic.
Quest Two: Those Who Lost the Will to Live
At Fielding's summons, the group convened in Waymoot to discuss the silene of Fort Rannick, a small King's Wood outpost manned by a group of rangers called the Black Arrows that had not reported in for about two tendays. He warned them of the local troubles the Arrows had encountered - orcs, ogres, fey, and the like, expressing hope that the courier had simply gotten lost.
Shortly after deviating from the beaten path, the party heard the sound of a wounded bear, those with sharper ears also hearing a particularly unsubtle hunter singing about eating bear. Aidraug found the wounded bear caught in a trap and quickly determined that it was someone's animal companion. As the hunter approached, Aidraug instructed the bear to hide while they confronted him. They soon put down the hunter, an ogrillon called Rukus Graul, learning of the nearby farmstead he claimed to own. Traveling on soon found the farm, a decrepit mess of slain humans in ranger uniform, and another ogrillion trying to chase away crows. After a brief attempt at conversation ending in the ogrillon's death, they learned that the bodies belonged to those fleeing Fort Rannick after an ogre clan named Kreeg took control of it.
The party continued into the farmhouse, battling and slaying the hideously deformed and inbred Graul ogrillons as they encountered them, including the bloated clan matriarch Mammy who, as she fell, told the party they'd "never get 'em out of the basement." The group eventually battled their way down, finding the three survivors of the fort: Jakardos Sovark (the bear's companion), Vale Temros, and Kaven Windstrike. Once they'd killed the prisoners' guardian - a gargantuan funnel-web spider - they freed the men and brought them out, then questioned the men on what they knew.
The rangers explained that they had been ambushed on patrol and captured - and were crestfallen to learn that the Kreegs held the fort. Jakardos mentioned that the Kreeg patriarch Jaagrath wore a strange seven-pointed star symbol. Rose, meanwhile, noticed Kaven's secretive body language and pressed him - revealing that he recognized the symbol as being connected to the sunken pleasure boat Paradise... not meeting his CO's eyes as he explained his secret gambling habit, revealing his Sihedron Rune-shaped tattoo marking him as a frequent member entitled to special perks. Comparing dates, the rangers noted the ship had sunk mere days before their capture.
Rossel examined the tattoo, noting its tether to his soul - should he die with the mark on his body, his soul would be drawn to the source of the tether (with rather terrible implications for the shipwreck). She determined the mark could be removed with an erase spell, which she had not prepared, or destroyed by mundane means such as cutting it out or marring it with an overlapping or replacement tattoo; she then turned to burn the farm to the ground as the group advised. Aidraug, meanwhile, called upon her druidic magic to do what she could to heal the land to a point that it could repair itself. The group then teleported, with their rescuees, back to Eveningstar, where Jakardos intended to report in personally to Lady Winter.
Quest Three: Courage and Pride
The party met with Jakardos Sovark just outside of Waymoot with the intention of aiding in the retaking of Fort Rannick from the Kreeg ogre clan. Jak filled them in on what he could, and they set off into the Storm Horns. Fighting through the infestation of shocker lizards, they eventually reached the keep, where they set Aidraug to invisibly scout in wyrmling form. Aidraug reported a way inside from the parapets. Rossel called upon her familiar to lure some of the ogres away to cover their entrance, and they slipped inside.
They fought their way through the ogres, discovering the unfortunate fates of many of the Black Arrows, eventually coming face to face with a wizardess who seemed irritated at the Kreeg's demise, wondering who had sent them and mentioning that one of the rangers they had rescued, Kaven, was her "pet." Rose demanded an explanation, and the mage Lucretia simply stated that it was to send greedy souls to her master Mokmurian, of which they need more to open the door and allow the Lord of Greed to claim the land. When the party turned hostile, the mage turned into a snake and ran for backup, confronting them with the aid of Jagraath, leader of the Kreeg, both ultimately falling at the party's hands.
Searching the yuan-ti's body found another Sihedron medallion as well as a series of racy love letters from Kaven...with information on the keep's schedule. Examining Lucretia's medallion, Rossel caught the briefest glimpse of a frowning dark-haired man...with seven ioun stones in his head. As the image faded, so did the magic within the pendant. Cylanduril guessed this was a scrying of some sort. With little idea of where to go next, the group decided to report their findings to Lady Winter...
Quest Four: A Shot of Crisis
Convening in Immersea, the party soon moved to discuss the downpour with Anastasia at the nearby temple to Selune. Shortly after their arrival, they received word of a hydra attack at Mouth O'Gargoyles and rushed to assist, where they encountered Ameiko Kaijitsu and her company - Shalelu, Tsuto, Nualia, Iesha Foxglove, and Grayst Sevilla. They aided them in chasing the beast off then, wishing to learn more of the recent flooding that supposedly chased the hydra to the town, set off along the Starwater.
They soon discovered evidence of a damaged dam, sabotaged by ogres bearing the Sihedron. Entering the cavern before the dam, they encountered an ettin marked with a scar shaped like a troll's skull and a pair of magical pillars, one crumbled and both inscribed with binding runes. Rosalor mused that this perhaps meant that something had escaped or died, a creature of the hells by the style of the runes.
Proceeding through the dam and the trolls that had taken up residence within, they eventually found an explanation for the pillars - two runed circles, one with a pile of dust (later discovered to be bone dust and red flesh ash) and the other with an incapacitated pit fiend, Avaxial. It tried to negotiate its release, and after considerable debate between the various members of the party about what to do, Rosalor summoned a spider out of frustration to complete the disrupted link, opening the floodgates to divert the excess water away from the Starwater and killing Avaxial in the process as the circle drained the last of his fading life.
A curious light then appeared, asked their identification and the date, then faded away with the statement of reporting to "Master Vangerdahast..."
Quest Five: At the Bottom of Night
The party arrived in Waymoot, only to be met by an excitable pixie called Yap who sought the brave heroes who killed the ogres who killed her mistress after kidnapping her human lover. She begged them to help bring the nymph to rest and restore her grove to normal, leading them into the depths of the King's Wood to an area known as Whitewillow.
Yap led them through the forest, where eerie shadows came to malevolent life, wounded trees laughed while bleeding blood and sap, and swampy waters emitted by warped reflections. They found a bizarrely wrecked ship with a ghostly captain playing strange melodies on a darkwood harp, and recovered waterproof parchments documenting the unusual and unfamiliar music as well as nautical charts of alien seas. They were stalked through the swamp by a ghostly hound that only appeared behind them and vanished as soon as attention went its way.
Yap finally parted ways with them, too afraid to continue on into his Mistress's direct presence in her current state, and urged the party forward. With some reluctance they entered the final glade, where they were attacked by the vengeful, tortured ghost of the nymph Myriana. After dissipating the hostile spirit once, she reformed slightly more coherently and demanded to know the reason for their presence.
Once Yap's involvement was revealed, Myriana opened up a little, explaining that the ogres had taken her mortal lover, a commander of the Black Arrows rangers named Lamatar, up to Hook Mountain in the northeastern Storm Horns from whence they came, and had tortured and killed her when she'd attempted to pursue. She demanded he (if alive) or a piece of him to be reincarnated (if dead or undead) be brought back to her. She also revealed that the foul magic of a powerful necromancer could be felt even at this distance from Hook Mountain, and that this entity - who she called "the magus" - was responsible for all the recent reprehensible acts of the Kreeg ogres, the involvement of the "serpent" (the yuan-ti Lucretia, no doubt), and the unseasonal rains plaguing the King's Woods and surrounding areas. She advised the party that if they wished to put an end to the situation, the magus needed to be destroyed.
After she dissipated from sight and the group began discussing plans of action, Aidraug used her Staff of Elemental Water to try to commune directly with the spirit of the nymph, along with a heartfelt prayer and promise in Sylvan; moved by her action, Myriana revealed her intent to reincarnate Lamatar and bring him back to life, despite knowing this would put her ghost to rest and cause her to move on to the afterlife. Determined to see a "happy ending" for the pair, Aidraug decided to not only recover Lamatar but also retrieve Myriana's bones from the bottom of her pool and reincarnate them both herself.
Quest Six: The Magus
Arriving in Eveningstar, the party was soon greeted by Lady Winter. They apprised her of their findings regarding the Magus in the Storm Horns, and she advised extreme caution in proceeding. After some discussion, they set forth on their quest to climb the mountain. Cresting the highest plateau, they discovered an ancient giant ruin littered with bones and a burning pit filled with corpses of the recently sacrificed, all marked prehumously with the Sihedron rune. As they examined the unfortunates, Nola noticed the bones quivering... before they formed into the shape of a skeletal dragon. After it was destroyed Rossel determined they must hurry before it reconstructed itself, and into the crypt they went.
They fought their way through more ogres working a gigantic smithy and happened upon a hag coven where they found a curious totem of body parts and a hostile wight which Aidraug suspected from Myriana's description to be her missing lover, the Black Arrow commander Lamatar. She took a hand that appeared to match the original flesh for a later attempt at reincarnation to reunite the lovers (though after a miscommunication, she ended up taking the whole corpse, strapped to her back while in Minotaur form).
Proceeding further into the mausoleum yielded tombs far too big for ogres marked with Sihedrons and strongly warded against the elements and the ages, a largely abandoned shrine to Grolantor haunted by more undead ogres, and lastly, an enormous stone giant necromancer called Barl Breakbones who claimed to be a servant of Mokmurian, himself a servant to the Runelord of Greed. The group, determining this to be "the magus" of which Myriana spoke, dispatched him after a short fight then puzzled over his mentions of Shalast, which Rossel and Rosalor identified as a lost, near-mythical city of immense opulence with "streets of gold and windows of gemstone crystal in every building".
They teleported out, and ventured to Myriana's grove. After speaking to the nymph's ghost, Aidraug cast two spells of reincarnate on the pair, returning nymph and human as elf and genasi. Myriana and Lamatar expressed their thanks to the party (if not in so many words, in the ex-fey's case) and bid them fair travels and the welcome of the forest before returning to their grove to see to righting the wrongness of the place. The party in turn went their own ways, many intending to return to Eveningstar for celebration.
Quest Seven: Kingdom Trial
Following the events of the attack on Fort Rannick and the ensuing troubles that plagued the Eveningstar, King's Wood, and Storm Horns area in association with the ogres and their masters, and the evidence gathered by the adventurers, it was determined by Lord Tessaril Winter that Kaven Windstrike, one of the surviving rangers recovered from the Graul farm, was fit to be tried for treason against Cormyr for his actions and involvement with Lucretia and the documents recovered from her postmortem. Rose, one of the adventurers who helped bring an end to the Kreegs and Grauls and eventually Barl Breakbones himself, offered to serve as the young man's representative.
The counsels and spectators met in Eveningstar and entered Lady Winter's tower, wherein the court was held.
Xavier Grant, local wizard in Lord Winter's employ and prosecuting counsel, called upon the defendant's superior officer Jakardros Sovark and Kaven himself.
Rose, defending counsel, called upon the defendant's mother, the defendant, and a War Wizard for magical evidence.
Many of the observers conversed quietly amongst themselves or observed the non-adventurers among the crowd.
In the end, after several hours of questioning and discussion as well as a time of recess, Winter deemed Windstrike guilty, but chose not to execute him for his crime due to the mitigating circumstances of his youth, potential charm magic involvement, and a choice for mercy. Instead she gave him a twenty-day grace period to put his affairs in order and bid his farewells, then sentenced him to exile from Cormyr. This decision was met with mixed responses from the crowd - with one observer interrupting her closing declarations with an enraged response, while others acknowledged that the boy's guilt or innocence was irrelevant in the face of Cormyr needing to make some recompense to the deceased. Both counsels found the sentence respectable and offered no objections nor appeals.
While this ends the story for young Windstrike, and the course of events turns away from his fellow rangers as well, this is not the last the servants of the Runelord have in mind for the Eveningstar area...
Book Four: Fortress of the Stone Giants
Characters of Importance:
Dana Wise-Song - Female Half-Tome Dragon Human Cleric of Sardior
Raptiir Driiquar - Male Avariel Rogue/Ranger/Duelist
Baszo - Male Half-Orc Fighter/Barbarian
Lashayal Faenar - Female Half-Fiend Human Cleric of Beshaba
Hyldrek the Executioner - Male Half-Giant Fighter/Bard/Dragon Disciple
Anianne Anavarenn - Female Elf Fighter/Weapon Master
Rossel Laurina-Taure - Female Elf Wizard
Quest One: Rhythm of Wind, Sky, and Earth
The group arrived in Eveningstar on alert due to a call for help in response to some attack. Shortly after their arrival the ground began to quake and boulders rained down on the city's west edge; a group of hostile Stone Giants then surged into the city and attacked, killing a few local guards (including a Purple Dragon who had just announced his impending retirement, poor foolish soul) before the adventurers could put the attackers down. Lord Winter joined the fray, focusing primarily on escorting the citizens to safety, while the adventurers moved north following the sounds of more attacks.
They fought wave after wave of giants assaulting from the north, making their way to the edge of the forest along Redhand's Pool and discovering a familiar sigil on the corpses of the giants after the battle - the seven-pointed star Rossel identified as the Sihedron rune. After several battles with giants had drawn them some distance from the city, however, the group was passed over by a Red Dragon bound back for Eveningstar, having used the giants to lure the heroes away from its target. The group rushed back and confronted the creature, which swiftly rebuffed any attempts to converse and went immediately on the attack. It fled after a long battle left it grievously wounded, while more giants began attacking from the west again.
The group cleared out the next few waves of giants as well as a second attack by the now-healed dragon, who once again fled before it could be slain, this time not to return. The party continued westward, leaving Eveningstar and moving out into the more rural homes and fields, where they encountered more stone giants. These were demanding things like "greedy merchants" and "all your booze, beer, and wine", which Rossel - familiar with the Sihedron and its associated lore, pointed out as associated with the sin of Greed, and thus with the magus Barl Breakbones and his master Mokmurian that her prior group had encountered... a name that came up again in the battles, as some of the giants would call out Mokmurian's name in their chants. She and Raptiir identified "Mokmurian" as a semi-common name for stone giants with magical capabilities, an honor reserved for them due to stone giant clans being led by their sorcerers.
Moving on from the city and the outlying farms and plains led the party to a wide rocky path leading to a well-used quarry, where they fought many more giants who were happy to use the surrounding rubble as ammunition. At the heart of the quarry they found yet one more giant, a huge brute with a whip named Teraktinus, who was searching through the quarry and gathering stones for a reason the party couldn't discern. He struck down one party member and badly wounded several others, but it wasn't enough to even the odds and he eventually fell beneath their combined assaults. At Dana's recommendation, Baszo severed Teraktinus's head and gave it to the priestess for interrogation via speak with dead back in town. She and Rossel also confirmed that the giant's soul was gone, siphoned away by the Sihedron rune to somewhere else by a combined magical effect primarily transmutation-oriented but laced with enough necromancy to allow it to perform the task required.
Their information source in hand, the group allowed Rossel to teleport them back to Eveningstar to aid with the cleanup from the giants' and dragon's destruction and to set up to begin their interrogation.
Quest Two: Primitive Mountain
Pursuing the leads provided by Dana's questioning of the giant leader's severed head, the group gathered at High Horn Fortress and from there departed into the mountains of the Storm Horns, bound for a place deep within the range known as the Valley of the Black Tower. After a great deal of traveling and dealing with inclement weather, they found themselves under attack by ogres that seemed to have been derailed away from the giants' gatherings and taken up cattle rustling in the meanwhile. The giants were easily dealt with; however, shortly after this point a heavy rain began, interspersed with slushy snow, making ascending the mountains more difficult for the party.
Eventually the group encountered a few scouting parties of Stone Giants, and following their back-trail led the way deeper into the mountains along paths the smaller humanoids could manage to scale without magic, flight, or climbing sheer walls. Along the way they battled more giants, noting that the Stone Giants they encountered had, along with the Sihedron tattoo, marks that identified in Gianttongue which clan they had hailed from, signifying that Mokmurian had managed to gather his followers from many different giant families.
Continuing deeper into the mountains led to areas with molten rock flowing freely as the group neared their destination, and led to further encounters with giants accompanied by gargantuan bears used as hunting companions much like smaller humanoids might use dogs or wolves. They also began encountering fiery traps and barricades, clearly put up by the giants to dissuade approach by unfriendly forces. The group nevertheless managed to strive the remainder of the way through, destroying one of the barricades and bypassing the rest, and ascending up the final stretch of mountain rise to face off with the Fire Giant priestess who guarded the entrance to the Valley itself, along with her entorage of Fire and Stone Giants attacking from above.
The group passed through the entrance beyond and overlooked the Valley of the Black Tower and the giant encampment of Jorgenfist below....
Quest Three: Black Dream
Passing through the entranceway of the Valley of the Black Tower, the party was almost immediately faced with a barricaded checkpoint, this one manned by a surly Taiga Giantess with a scythe and her two Ettin underlings. The group swiftly put an end to the pair and identified the Sihedron tattoos they bore, then continued on down the slopes of the mountain path to the Valley below, drenched in ash so thick it resembled snow.
The sharper-eyed among the group noted the passage not just of giant patrols but also the dusting and scattering signifying the presence of large winged creatures; delay while considering this fact led to the party being noticed and attacked by a pair of the Night Wyverns the giants were breeding in the area. More Wyverns as well as Stone Giant patrols harassed the group as they descended several layers down the slope before ducking into a cavern from which some of the Wyverns had emerged.
The cavern within was not only thick with the scent of the reptilian creatures but also home to a great deal of spiderweb, courtesy the many Deathwebs - reanimated undead funnelweb spiders - the Giants had stationed there to guard the tunnels against intruders and troublemakers. The party fought their way through these and several more Wyverns, save for one female that Dana managed to calm with friendly Draconic speech and food bribery, and left to keep watch over the Wyvern rookery they passed as they moved through the tunnels.
The far end of the cavern did not emerge onto a lower tier of the slopes as expected, but rather into a larger and hotter cave that the party quickly discerned to be inhabited by the red dragon Longtooth that they had faced in Eveningstar. However, a short conversation quickly revealed that Longtooth was unhappy and annoyed with his arrangement with Mokmurian and that expectations had recently changed between them, especially in light of the failed attack on Eveningstar; in exchange for his wounded pride and a great deal of bribery from the party, Longtooth elected to share information with them and allow them to undermind Mokmurian's plans.
Longtooth explained that Mokmurian would not be found within the fortress of Jorgenfist, but rather in the tunnels below, from whence he had gleaned much of his magical knowledge and power, as well as summoned and bound creatures from beyond to serve and protect him. He also explained that Mokmurian was not truly the one in control, but rather that his will had been suborned by another, a powerful entity from "outside time" that Longtooth regretably and annoyedly did not have further knowledge of. He did know that this entity was the one who had given the "broken star emblem" (clearly the Sihedron) to Mokmurian and enlightened the giant as to its use and purpose, as well as providing him with much of his magical prowess. Satisfied that the party now had enough knowledge to ensure a successful revenge, Longtooth allowed them to depart unharmed and go about their business, recommending that they enter the eponymous Black Tower - a place that, despite Mokmurian's brashness encouraging his followers to come to the Valley, the giants still would not dare enter itself - and to be wary of the strange songs that echoed down from its pinnacle.
A few more giants attacked as the group made their way down the last of the slope from Longtooth's lair and soon found themselves standing before the Tower, the echoes of distant song still faintly perceptable above, prompting Rossel and Jezra to ward the party's minds against any compulsions the music might cause. They were right to be wary, as the source of the song was quickly revealed when the party neared the Tower's entrance - a trio of harpy monks lurking along the rooftop, singing their enchanting songs of doom and despair then picking off any foolish or weak-willed enough to be enticed. The party managed to put them down with a slight struggle and made their way into the Tower itself.
Just inside, in a large open chamber lit by green glow and with Sihedrons painted large on the floor, the group was addressed aggressively by a disembodied voice speaking in Netherese, which the party could not understand without aid and which seemed to not be able to understand their Common in return. After a bit of fruitless back-and-forth between the voice and the handful of party members with magic to expand their linguistic perceptions, the source went on the offensive - an undead monk, legless and floating by unknown magic, bound in black leather straps and clutching a strange adamantine tube the size of his own head. After a fair bit of struggling the mummy was destroyed by Lashayal's magic, leaving only the wrappings, the canister, and mummy dust behind.
With the aid of their spells and a shared intellect, the party was able to decipher the Netherese runes on the sides of the canister, use the riddles therein to decode the five complex locks, and open the tube to reveal The Emerald Codex of the Therassic Order, a script associated with a monastic group from ancient Netheril that followed the teachings of a forgotten entity called the Peacock Spirit. The writings were collected up carefully for later examination, and the party pressed on, planning to descend through the Tower into the ancient catacombs below....
Quest Four: A Far-Off Promise
The party continued through the rest of the Black Tower, making their way through the empty halls of the ancient structure and searching through the dust for signs of any other inhabitants. After a few dead ends, they found a room with several glowing crystals and a magic circle containing a Sihedron with the Greed rune alight; Rossel determined everything in the room had a strong Transmutation aura, and that the three candelabras there were under a polymorph any object spell. She dispelled this on one of the candelabras, and it transformed into a young human woman who lasted only a few seconds before aging rapidly and dissolving into dust. They decided to leave the rest of that room alone.
Further exploration led them to a room blocked off by a wall of force, which Rossel likewise destroyed with a Mordenkainen's disjunction. Inside was a well-preserved library with scrying apparati and several other unusual arcane objects. Dana and Bazso went too close to the mirror at the rear of the room and caught a glimpse of a tall, thin human(?) man in long green robes, holding a flaming halberd and with several gemstones embedded in his forehead around a deep widow's peak of black hair. He vanished moments later, giving Dana only enough time to say that his weapon was nice-looking. Rossel determined many of the books in the room were on Transmutation, and several of them were magical; however after the incident with the mirror the party decided it was time to move quickly on.
They ventured up and out of the Black Tower and into Jorgenfist proper, where they found several giant bears penned like mounts or beasts of burden; the hostile animals unfortunately had to be killed to keep from overrunning the party. As they moved further in, the smoke from an active feasthall caught their attention, and they entered to investigate only to be confronted by a Frost Giant and his Winter Wolf companion. The mighty giant managed to fell Baszo, Lash, and Dana before being put down by Raptiir and Rossel, who then hurriedly brought the other three back to consciousness; a quick examination determined this giant was not of Jorgenfist and did not bear the sihedron rune, but rather wore armor designed with the emblems of Icegloom, a Frost Giant fortress located in the distant Sunset Mountains on the opposite side of Cormyr. It seemed Mokmurian had even reached out that far in his search for giant allies....
The party rested and recuperated in the safety of the Feasthall for a short time, stealing a bit of the food provided, then found a descending stairway into a cellar area that was connected to the catacomb-like tunnels underneath Jorgenfist. There they passed through a kitchen-like area before confronting a patrol of Stone Giants they quickly battled and put down, and the pattern of finding the sihedron tattooed on each fallen foe resumed.
After this first battle, however, they encountered yet another unmarked person - a female Stone Giant who approached the party unarmed and showing no hostile motions. She identified herself as Conna and asked to speak with the party somewhere safer, allowing them to keep their weapons and spells to prove she had no intent to double-cross them. She led them a short distance through the caves to a shrine of Skoraeus Stonebones, the patron titan of stone giants and god of subterranean places and wanderers. There Conna went into a little more detail, saying she was willing to aid the party in overthrowing Mokmurian and provide information as she would not be able to fight him, being seen by her tribe as a "defeated opponent" who could not honorably challenge Mokmurian - later revealed to be her son - to a rematch.
Conna revealed that Mokmurian's rise to power and desire for hostile conquest came as a result of being exposed to an "Old Spirit" of the deep mountains from her people's legends of the "Lost Times", an era where "spirits of the sky descended to the earth and enslaved our people". She named the spirit in command of Mokmurian as "Karzoug", a name from those old legends, and claimed Karzoug was the source of much of Mokmurian's magical power and new strange knowledge pulled from times of long-forgotten yore. She also revealed a bit about the dangers that would lie ahead: that Mokmurian had a "ratcatcher" who had heavily trapped part of the tunnels, that he had bound outsiders and "those of the before-time" to his will with magic, that he had a "great iron husk" that he used to create undead from giants who had died without the sihedron on their bodies, and that (as the party already knew at least in part) any that died with the "spirit's star" on their skin would give power to the spirit Karzoug, allowing him to more swiftly "awaken from his ancient slumber". She also told them of the "serpent creatures" Mokmurian had invited in, how they had charmed a pair of young Red Dragons, and how they had been allowed to set up a "bloody temple to their hungry god" because they apparently served Karzoug as well. After sharing what she could and answering a few questions, Conna bid her farewells, warning the party not to linger around the shrine - it was haunted by the restless spirit of her husband, Mokmurian's father and the former chieftain of their clan, and would become hostile if creatures came into his presence without her there to calm him.
The party swiftly moved on, making their way through the tunnels and fighting off more giants as they encountered them. They found the trapped tunnels as Conna had mentioned and Raptiir was able to dismantle most of them and dodge the effects of the few he missed; in the chamber beyond the group was attacked by a vicious Kobold with an axe and several scythe-bearing Redcaps and forced to battle the five opponents while dodging yet more traps placed into the bone-littered ground.
Beyond the "bone hall" the party found several dwarven captives, their feet shackled together at the ankles so they could still move freely to labor at the smithy and tannery the giants had placed there for them but preventing them from moving swiftly to fight or escape. The party left them for now, intending to possibly come back for them later, and advanced on, fighting more giants - including a gargantuan Hill Giant covered in bolstering runes - along the way.
They eventually reached the end of the tunnels, which narrowed down to heights and widths that would be quite uncomfortable for the giants; the smaller humanoids were able to make their way up through them easier, though the place stank of reptile musk and blood, and found themselves in the middle of a massive, bloody shrine to some kind of snake deity, its image replicated through the room by a stream of stones winding about great obsidian spikes that had been used to impale sacrifices, judging by the blood pooled around their bases and splattered over the nearby stones. Before they could move far into the chamber, they were discovered and attacked by Econtredor and Sulaminga, the two Red Dragons Conna had warned them about. The party was ready, however, and as Raptiir, Baszo, and Dana held the wyrms at bay, Rossel cleared the minds of one and then the other.
Freed of their enchantment, both dragons immediately abandoned attacking the party and swept deeper into the cavern. The party hesitated a moment before following, but found the two wyrms had immediately set to attacking the Yuan-Ti priestesses - the "serpent creatures" of Conna's warnings - at their shrine deeper in. The party quickly ran to join the dragons in the fray, even going so far as to heal their wounds as the Yuan-Ti had expended some of their worst spells against the unexpected attack of their former slaves, and the battle was quickly routed. Econtredor and Sulaminga tore the two Yuan-Ti apart, making off with all of their magic items (many with the associated limbs still attached) before quickly departing the cavern, seeming to pay zero mind to the adventurers.
The party took a few short moments to recuperate and re-assess the current situation, but fairly certain the dragons did not intend to return to turn their wrath on them now that the Yuan-Ti were gone, they decided to continue on, delving further downward - and leaving the winding caverns for deeper levels of worked stone....
Quest Five: Tyrant's Lair
Descending past the lair of the yuan-ti priestesses led the group to their makeshift temple, a green-lit chamber with an altar to Merrshaulk/Sseth also marked with a sihedron rune. The lower chambers were not only clearly worked and manmade but also strangely warm, and only grew more so as the group continued further in. Rossel detected a guards and wards effect in the area but the group determined to press on, moving further into a room with a strange nauseating effect on entry as it appeared to stretch and warp in unnatural ways. Shortly after arriving the group was attacked by a Sanderig, a lava/metal elemental creature that bathed the room in fire before melding into the ground; Rossel attempted to turn it away with a command word she'd learned from reading and researching through the Emerald Codex, but it was unclear if the word had the desired effect.
The group found deeper passage blocked first by a powerful hill giant covered in carved runes, then by a pair of aggressive trolls, plus the constant re-appearance and occasional reproduction of the Scanderig, which seemed to be able to devour suits of armor and other sources of large quantities of metal, then regurgitate a copy of itself.
Beyond these first chambers the group found a small room dominated by a gigantic cauldron spewing foul smoke; as they approached a huge giant made of literal stone climbed out and moved to attack the intruders. Destroying it took quite some time, and even once it was finished it was clear the cauldron was preparing to create another; Jezra attempted to use a disjunction on the object, but its artifact-level power caused the spell to simply fail to have an effect. The party wisely decided to just leave it be for now, and moved on through the halls, having another battle with the Scanderig and destroying one of its offspring while the main creature managed to temporarily fell Dana before fleeing.
Moving on, the sweltering heat of the complex suddenly dropped to nearly freezing as the group moved into what appeared to be some kind of gallery or showroom of armor in designs for ogres, trolls, and giants arrayed for battle. After the guards and wards harassed the group deeper into the room with an acid fog effect many of these sprung to life thanks to their undead inhabitants - as predicted by several members of the party - and were then joined by the largest specimen, a hulking suit of ogre armor lacking a head. The party took some wounds in the process but managed to slay all the undead and carefully move on.
The chamber beyond this was a huge stone silo, and the party paused a moment as they were so struck by its dizzying height; this allowed the Scanderig to reappear and lash out at the party, as well as for the guards and wards to drop a stinking cloud in the middle of the group. The party did eventually make their way through the other exit, which opened into an elaborate, clearly ancient and well-warded library. The first doorway they found after this was covered in a mirrored sihedron and, after some examination and discussion, determined that this was the door Rossel's password was meant to open.
The chamber beyond was more of the library, this time staffed by a mechanical man who approached the party and eagerly addressed them in the Netherese tongue. After some debate and discussion they did learn the construct also spoke Elven, Dwarven, and Draconic, and eventually elected on the latter to primarily converse in. It told them a bit about the Therassic Order and the Library, as well as of Mokmurian and his desire to research Runelord Karzoug and Shalast. The construct agreed to gather up all the relevant texts that were available and encouraged the party to occupy themselves while it worked.
The group moved on into the next chamber - and here noticed something that had been bothering some of them for some time, that many of the corners of the walls and ceilings and floors in the entire complex had been rounded, even so far as to include the doorways. The door and room ahead, however, were built with normal corners and angles, and the reason became all too clear as the party entered - mist seeped from the walls and coalesced into the forms of Hounds of Tindalos, Far Plane creatures said to dwell in the "angles of time" instead of normal "curved" space. The battle involved some struggle, as the Hounds seemed adept at paralyzing and confusing the party to prevent them from actively attacking, but they were eventually routed and slain.
The party paused to examine the vast door that stood at the far end of the Hounds' chambers, and after a little examination determined that it was covered in alarm spells and a few greater planar bindings specifically located along the door's corners, likely to attract more Hounds if disturbed. After some discussion Jezra disjunctioned the door as a whole, destroying the wards and allowing the party to descend further.
The lowest level of the complex revealed a massive library and arcane laboratory, where after another encounter with the Scanderig led into a chamber with a massive desk covered in books, mage materials, and the undead head of an ogre (likely missing from the Headless Lord in the armory room) who was in a hushed conversation with the smallest stone giant the group had seen thus far, whose imperious bearing and glowing green sihedron on his forehead quickly identified him as Mokmurian.
A few choice short words were exchanged, ending with Mokmurian declaring "you stand between Lord Karzoug and the return of a ruling Netheril - no, a ruling Shalast! - over this pitiful tiny realm. Come! There is no further place for words! MY RUNESLAVES, TO ME! FOR KARZOUG, THE CLAIMER!" Aided by a large squadron of Runeslave Giants like the one encountered near the entrance of the complex as well as the Scanderig, Mokmurian unleashed his arcane fury on the party, severely injuring several and even throwing Raptiir into a maze for a short time, before being eventually felled in battle.
The party quickly cleaned up the last of his present allies, then began scouring the desk for information. The undead ogre head spoke up, confirming it did indeed belong to the headless ogre from the armory and that Mokmurian had been comparing old maps to new in a search for a place Karzoug wished him to find called the "Rune Forge". After confirming the information should be available in the books, and that his willingness to help came from a desire to spite Karzoug for what Mokmurian had done to him, he allowed Baszo to destroy him.
Upon searching the chamber beyond, the party recovered several pieces of treasure and examined a large scrying orb surrounded by crystals. After a few moments, all but the green crystal dimmed, and an image appeared of that same pale-skinned, dark-haired man with the widow's peak and head full of gems, who Dana and Rossel surmised was certainly Karzoug. Like before, he allowed himself a moment to study the interloping adventurers before cutting the connection with a clenching of his fist; this time however the severance destroyed the scrying orb and deactivated the green crystal. Their goal in mind, the group gathered up the information found in Mokmurian's study and provided them by the Clockwork Librarian, and settled in to begin researching and attempting to track down the so-called "Rune Forge".
Book Five: Sins of the Saviors
Characters of Importance:
Mirabell Rivenstone - Female Gnome Wizard
Aidraug Elaina - Female Elf Druid/Shifter
Tharag Turnskull - Male Half-Orc Fighter/Bard/Dragon Disciple
Beryl Raralith - Female Elf Ranger/Divine Seeker of Rillifane Rallathil
Raptiir Driiquar - Male Avariel Rogue/Ranger/Duelist
Dana Wise-Song - Female Half-Tome Dragon Human Cleric of Sardior
Rossel Laurina-Taure - Female Elf Wizard
Siris Tylnel'fein - Male Elf Fighter/Rogue/Ranger
Cylanduril Miritar - Male Elf Swordmage (Yes I know the Book Three roster has him as a Sorcerer, he rebuilt between then and here as the Swordmage class was added to our server in the meantime.)
Jezra Westerbrook - Female Human Wizard
Jelena Dawnlight - Female Dhampir Monk/Ranger
Cassandra Belavante - Female Half-Fey Human Bard
Mista Aermane - Female Aasimar Sorcerer/Fighter
Nola Throkradun - Female Dwarf Barbarian/Bard/Battlerager
Rose - Female Aasimar Monk
Rosalor Silverbow - Female Elf Bard/Arcane Archer
Kimbell Tane - Female Human Wizard/Red Wizard
Nina Siv - Female Elf Rogue/Assassin/Invisible Blade
Dais Orochi - Male Half-Blue Dragon Human Monk/Fighter
Morghan Tentazione - Female Tiefling Cleric of Tymora/Fighter
Quest One: Zealot's Palace
The group gathered at the Forest Edge Inn to discuss their various recent discoveries and compare their interactions and experiences with the cult of the Sihedron and the Runelords. Will the barkeep and inn owner spoke up, asking if the group was intending to look into the situation regarding the earthquake from the prior night; the group affirmed it was indeed part of their plan, and asked a few questions trying to locate the source of the disturbance. After conferring a bit with Will and having Raptiir fly up to get a bird's-eye view, they were able to take note of a plume of dust and smoke rising to the southeast, and headed in that direction. What they found there was a massive sinkhole, recently collapsed, with several ropes descending down into the darkness - proof of the passage of Arabellan guards and rangers sent to investigate the quake the morning before.
The group descended down into the sinkhole and found a series of catacombs filled with mist, and with the walls, floors, and ceilings adorned with writing in a bizarre combination of Abyssal and High and Low Netherese. Most were bizarre random statements, such as "Duality in all things" or "The tide is rising ... this is the shape of things to come". Exploring lead to a sealed door impassable and bound with irons, while another entrance led to a large pool of water radiating evocation and transmutation auras strongly influenced by Chaos and Evil. The group wisely decided to leave this be, but took note of the large etching in this room: "If magic bright is your desire, to old rune forge must you retire - for only there does wizard's art receive its due and proper start." The "Rune Forge" was a term that had brought the groups together in their searches for information on the Runelords and their plots, and thus this place seemed to have become a way for them to acquire the knowledge they needed.
Upon descending further into the cavern, they encountered a man in ragged clothing with wild eyes and a bladed gauntlet; he emerged out of the mist as if once part of it, and made aggressive questions and demands for information from the party in Loross. Dana, Jezra, and Rossel were able to use tongues and comprehend languages to understand the man, who ranted about the Runelords and demanded to know who was in charge of the outside world. When the party informed him Netheril had fallen, the man's demeanor seemed to change sharply, becoming more aggressive and feral, and he laughed madly while proclaiming himself "Free at last!" and able to serve his "true allegiance" before vanishing into the mist.
Continuing deeper into the cavern led to an actual constructed chamber, a large but partially-collapsed sanctuary dominated by a shrine to Demogorgon, the two-headed Prince of Demons. The etchings and writings on the walls, floor, and ceiling here proclaimed more comments like those previous, their connection to the nature, desires, and dogma of the Maws of Madness all too clear now. The group paused at the entrance of the temple to decide what course of action to take next; their delay was long enough for the shrine's guardian, a powerful Glabrezu, to manifest and charge the party, inflicting heavy damage before it was dispatched.
The group proceeded first to the left, finding themselves in a partially-collapsed chamber that was some kind of meditative room, with a partial carving of another Demogorgon idol on one wall. Another mysterious riddle awaited them there - "On eastern slope of shining glacier, at end of day when dusk is nearer, where seven faces silent wait encircled guards at rune forge gate" - though the party seemed not to take much notice of this one when they were attacked by two-headed semi-reptilian dogs, which Dana and Rossel identified as one of the many, many results of Demogorgon's penchant for breeding new and terrible monstrosities to serve him.
Returning to the temple, the group proceeded next through the right passage, leading to a large chamber where a great and bloody battle had taken place, leaving the chamber littered with corpses of Arabellan patrollers. More dogs attacking and another encounter with The Scribbler occurred here, though the party learned little more than that the Scribbler intended to sacrifice the group to Demogorgon unless they "made themselves useful" to him in some way; when Tharag and Dana became aggressive, he chose to retreat, leaving them to his hounds. Another riddle - "Each stone the grace of seven lords, one part of key each ruler hoards; if offered spells and proper prayer, take seven keys and climb the stair" - awaited them in the next chamber, along with a kennel of the two-headed hounds and hidden traps amidst the mist.
More winding tunnels, more dogs, more traps, and another piece of the puzzle - reading "On frozen mountain lost king awaits, his regal voice the yawning gates keys turn twice in star sevenfold, occulted rune forge waits below" - awaited the group as they made their way towards the end of the cavern. In the chamber bearing the last, the group passed between a pair of small boulders with eyes carved into their surfaces; when the last of the group, Raptiir, passed through, the stones activated their trap, infiltrating his mind magically to plant a suggestion that his allies had been replaced by doppelgangers or agents of Demogorgon, and that he needed to immediately dispatch them and find his true allies. He began attacking Dana, and nearly slew the dragon priestess before being stopped by the rest of the group and his mind healed of the infiltration.
In the final chamber they found the last piece of the riddle - "And now you've come and joined the forge, upon rare lore your mind can gorge; and when you slough the mortal way, in rune forge long your work shall stay" - as well as another dead Arabellan ranger and a table covered in alchemy supplies and exotic inks, as well as a quite fancy and magical quill pen made from a peacock feather. In the center of the room, not far from these, was a pool of brackish water used for drowning sacrifices to the Prince of Demons. Furious at the intruders for reaching his sanctuary, The Scribbler appeared again and attacked along with a quartet of his hounds, but the party was able to rout the ambush and destroy the cultist and his monstrous servants.
Dana revived the ranger and made a few inquiries of him, while Rossel examined the Scribbler - interestingly, among his many tattoos and body-writings, she found not a single sihedron - and then the table, soon identifying the purpose and function of his revelation quill. Aidraug, Raptiir, and Siris left to secure the last tunnel, but found it empty and devoid of threats. After a bit of discussion, they agreed to assist in the recovery and possibly restoration of the other dead Arabellan watchmen, then Mirabell teleported them out of the catacombs and back to the safety of civilization.
Full list of notable writings:
Duality in all things.
Bury foes in brack, blood, or bile. The drowning depths shall feast.
If magic bright is your desire, to old rune forge must you retire - for only there does wizard's art receive its due and proper start.
Mortal man is but a shell, a template upon which greater things may grow.
The tide is rising ... this is the shape of things to come.
With one hand he unmakes, with one hand he reshapes! With one gaze he mystifies, with one gaze he shatters minds!
On eastern slope of shining glacier, at end of day when dusk is nearer, where seven faces silent wait encircled guards at rune forge gate.
Death cannot stand before him. Pride cowers under his might. Even lust kneels at his side, subservient!
All the beasts below chant his names in ecstacy and insanity!
Where water foams, he is there. Where swamp stirs, he listens. Where rot festers, he feasts. Where decay arises, he draws strength.
Each stone the grace of seven lords, one part of key each ruler hoards; if offered spells and proper prayer, take seven keys and climb the stair.
The time of the soft sun-kissed man is short. The beasts of scale and claw shall again rise, and name him prince of all worlds!
From the water we did rise, to the water we shall return.
His gaze watches both land and sea, seeing all!
Kneel before your prince!
On frozen mountain lost king awaits, his regal voice the yawning gates keys turn twice in star sevenfold, occulted rune forge waits below.
Offer up souls and blood to the Prince of Demons! His thirsts know no bounds!
Rise, oh ancient serpent of the depths. Wake, oh sleeping horror of creation. Look and see, oh fragile man, what the gods have left behind, echoes of the blasphemies they have wrought!
Oh entwined lords of madness, turn your gazes on the realms of your servant, he who rules the darkened depths! Wake the great sleeper entombed within his domain!
Those who dare may reach their hands, but the secrets of the deep are beyond your reach.
And now you've come and joined the forge, upon rare lore your mind can gorge; and when you slough the mortal way, in rune forge long your work shall stay.
Quest Two: The Sealed Door
After Jezra and Dana spent some time analyzing the clues provided by the Scribbler's etchings and writings, the parties convened in Thundarlun to discuss their next move. The clues, combined with some cross-referencing of Mokmurian's maps and texts with their modern counterparts, pointed toward a mountain known as Rimeskull, high in the Thunder Peaks. The group gathered supplies and disembarked, fighting their way through the resident kobolds and other hostile mountainous frost creatures as well as the hostile climate of the high mountains in their attempt to reach the plateau under Rimeskull, where a circle of carved stones known to climbers as The Seven Sages were said to reside.
The group immediately recognized the carving of one of the stones as the visage of the man they'd come to know as Karzoug, Runelord of Greed; the others - three other men and three women - were unfamiliar by name, but the party was able to quickly identify their roles among the Runelords and the associated school of magic that needed to be cast on or near the stones to release the "keys" the Scribbler's riddle said they needed. This turned out to be a simple enough task at first, with Rossel, Jezra, and Dana quickly identifying the necessary effects and Beryl collecting up the keys - actual literal keys, forged of some unknown metal and color-coded to match the slight glow of each of the stones as they were activated - until about halfway through the group was interrupted by a deafening bellow from above as a large form was disgorged from Rimeskull's namesake carved dome.
This, perhaps predictably, was the mountain's most famed resident, Arkrhyst, a white dragon also known as Freezemaw, who was in an exceptionally surly mood and paid no heed to Dana's attempts to talk him down, accusing the party of disturbing his rest and coming to raid his hoard before attacking. He felled and scattered several of the party and locked into battle with the rest before Mirabell got lucky with a baleful polymorph and turned the dragon into a chicken; confused and perplexed by the unfamiliar magical assault, Arkrhyst immediately fled. The party mended their wounds, raised their fallen, and re-established their wards, then finished casting the necessary spells on the Seven Sages and, seven keys in hand, began to ascend the Giant's Stair - a series of terrace-carved stone plateaus, enormous in size, winding up the cliff toward Rimeskull.
Climbing the Stair led to several encounters with local protective elementals, but were nothing the party couldn't handle, and they reached the face of Rimeskull without any further complications. Inside the cavern beneath the old carving, however, they found an enormous ice-slathered chamber, clearly Arkrhyst's lair, inhabited by more elementals, winter wolves, and yetis that had been surviving off the dragon's scraps for some time while he slumbered. The party carved their way through these (save one yeti that Aidraug temporarily befriended) and proceeded toward the deepest part of the cave, where they found Arkrhyst again, standing sentinel before his hoard.
With some quick talking, Dana and Jezra managed to convince the dragon of their honesty when they said they didn't have any interest in fighting him or looting his hoard, and merely were passing through looking for something and would only bother him for information if he wished to share. Unwilling to engage in a battle again with the group at this time, Arkrhyst relented, and informed the party after some questioning that what they sought was an old portal gate further into the cavern, surrounded by seven pillars that "won't freeze". The dragon was paid in magical shards and rings for his information, and added the trinkets to his hoard with visible pleasure, deigning to let the party pass unmolested, for now.
The group found the pillars-surrounded pit with little trouble, and were quickly able to identify which sin - and thus which Runelord - was associated with which pillar. Beryl set to putting each key in its place, turning twice as the Scribbler's rhyme instructed, which caused the pillars to glow as the Sages had. When all seven were activated, a blinding white light heralded the transformation of the depression in the ice into a descending staircase, leading to an archway inscribed in High Netherese with the words "Runeforge Welcomes You, Servants of the Seven".
The group quickly sent word to their allies and cooperants from the three prior investigations - the investigators looking into the Skinsaw Murders, the liberators of Fort Rannick, and the infiltrators of Jorgenfist - before descending into Runeforge en masse, intending to divide and conquer whatever forces of lost Netheril remain within, and learn what they can about the Runelords and their plans....
Quest Three: The Keeper's Dome
Group One: Dana, Jelena, Mista, Cassandra, Jezra
The group manifested within the heart of the Runeforge, with Dana taking the time to explain the situation to the unfamiliar newcomers while waiting for Jezra to arrive. Mista seemed somewhat familiar with the Runelords - all seven depicted in elaborate statues near the entrance - from her time in Netheril in the ancient past, but knew little past general titles and rumors, and seemed to consider them all with disdain. They then examined the large multicolored pool in the center of the hub room, determining it to be the actual forge of Runeforge, a swirling and bubbling cauldron of raw arcane energy made to be shaped and imbued into magic items by even an untrained novice, if only the proper materials were available. Seeing most of the passageways forward sealed save that into the Vault of Greed, the party elected to take the available path for now.
Almost immediately after entering the wing, an iron door slammed shut behind them, then began to move forward, extruding a head and arms to attack the group with while moving inexorably forward to try to crush them. The group was able, with a great amount of effort and expended magic, to beat the wall back and destroy it before it could do the same to them. Moving forward presented them with a new obstacle, however - several halls and a large room filled with a silver-grey mist that would attack anyone without a Greedy soul with repeated baleful polymorph effects. Dana was the only one of the group so unaffected, so the others - through sheer fortitude and spell mantle wards - hurried through and managed to get past without anyone being transformed.
Moving forward, the group found a large room filled with a pool fed from a small portal to the Elemental Plane of Water. Upon crossing the room toward the opposite exit, a trio of Water Mephits emerged and harassed the party, but were quickly dealt with and Jezra closed the portal with a dimensional anchor spell temporarily, cutting the flow for the time being. Past this, they found a hall filled with stone statues of warriors, which immediately animated upon Jelena entering the hall to scout and moved to attack the party, but were likewise swiftly put down.
The room beyond was yet another extravagant fountain, this one filled with colorful eels. Dana noted a set of cubicles along one side that would allow apprentices to freely practice fabricate spells, but noted anything that left the area would revert to its original materials and form; this was purely for practice purposes. After a little examination - and noting that the unnamed statue didn't resemble anyone among the statues of the Runelords at the entrance, but was similar in clothing style and appearance to Karzoug and thus may have been a student or apprentice or even a prospective successor - they continued on.
The next path brought them to a fork - one leading to a closed door that showed the only inward traffic among the latent tracks, the other to an open room with ten golden statues and several signs of a large number of departing figures. After a fair amount of whispered debate, the group decided to investigate the closed room first, and found a ramshackle arcane and alchemical laboratory, with several more stone statues flanking the entrance, many extremely messy desks alight with various magical studies and experiments in progress, and a dead dog partially transmuted into iron, with several other animals in cages nearby. All this was loomed over by a tall, bald man in draping green robes, with skin apparently made of or covered in a bluish mithral alloy.
The man conversed in Netherese with Mista and Dana for some time, revealing himself a student of Karzoug's preparing for the Runelord's awakening. They learned a little from him - that the "Iron Cages" (the realm of the servants of the Runelord of Lust) had been overthrown by their succubi slaves, and that the "Abjurant Halls" (presumably manned by the followers of the Runelord of Envy) had been destroyed. However, when the group made a few flippant comments about Mokmurian, the man grew suspicious, and quickly discerned from the treasures Dana and Jezra wore that they'd slain the giant and were not the allies of Karzoug he'd thought them to be. He called the petrified corpses to life and commanded them to attack, then went on the offensive with spells of his own.
The battle was hard-fought and several were felled or knocked unconscious in the fray, but the party did eventually down the Mithral Mage and his constructs. Examining the room they found several notes on the Runeforge (including that the Lords of Greed were working on making their own, so they wouldn't need to share with the rest of the wings of Runeforge) and a large amount of materials and supplies, plus extensive arcane texts and volumes on Transmutation, some of which were collected by Mista and Jezra. Dana was also able to discern that the constructs were indeed made by petrifying then reanimating corpses, noting signs of rigor mortis and similar postmortem effects on the "carved" musculature.
Moving into the "trophy room", however, she discerned these ten statues were not made the same way; rather, the still-living victims were paralyzed then lowered into molten gold, after which they were posed as the gold cooled and hardened. Chipping one open she found it hollow save flakes of desiccated skin and bone dust. The party shared a moment of gruesome disgust before moving on through the final door, marked with a declaration of Karzoug's power and authority and an adage to "remember your place, mortals" before the Runelord. Beyond this final barricade was the private Runeforge the Lords of Greed had attempted to make, but all the casters in the group noted it was a poor imitation at best, a flawed and failed copy constructed by subpar makers compared to the true Runeforge back in the hub. They also noticed that it had an affinity for greedy souls, already being occupied by several ripped from their dead or dying bodies, and its allure even almost pulled Dana in before the dragon-priestess was able to resist its siren call.
The group puzzled over the false forge for a while, but eventually determined that dispels and disjunctions would only suppress its magic for a few hours; destroying it would require using up all its available energy. This answer didn't particularly please Jelena or Cassandra, but the casters explained there was really no other way other than collapsing the chamber, an idea that wouldn't work well as Runeforge was located within a demiplane rather than open space on the Prime.
Interrupted by a loud grinding noise, the party noted that likely another wing of the complex had opened up, and began to backtrack to investigate (and to get Dana away from the allure of the false forge). And thus the infiltration and investigation continues....
Quest Four: The Chase
Group Two: Rosalor, Aidraug, Nola, Rossel, Rose, Cylanduril
Entering the newly-activated archway, the party examined the entry chamber, specifically the seven statues and the bubbling prism of the runeforge. They examined the statues after Rossel's investigation warned them away from the pool, then set forth into the halls... promptly discovering a number of traps the old-fashioned way before being attacked by guardian golems in a room with a statue of the Lady of Wrath riding a red wyrm.
Their path soon led them to a pair of teleportation circles, each one-way. They determined which would carry them further and set off, soon encountering more traps as well as spellcasting warriors in spiked red and black armor and twisted creatures called Sinspawn, including a lab detailing incomplete studies into how to reverse the transformation thereof, as their numbers had recently been depleted to the point inbreeding would become an issue.
The passage, blocked by an illusory wall of smoke hiding a few more traps, ended in a largely deserted room with a single denizen - Highlady Athroxis, servant of Alaznist - who greeted them politely, speaking of the return of her "lords" - the Runelords of lost Netheril. She offered them a place in the service of the Runelord of Wrath. The party declined, and Athroxis promised them they "would burn" when Alaznist razed all that would oppose her and scoured the earth clean of her enemies, then called forth a balor to aid in her assault. The party put down their assailants. Nola, landing the killing blow, soon found her forehead itching, where she now bore the mark of Wrath.
Quest Five: Remains of Factory
Group Three: Beryl, Siris, Kimbell, Nina, Dais, Morghan
Passing through the archway, the party was soon increased by one as Theavos sent Morghan to bolster their numbers. They inspected the statues of the Runelords and the Runeforge, determining that they would not be able to do anything to the artifact at this junction - whether to use or destroy it. They ventured on through the halls, braving traps until coming across an immense glyph in blue lights, which Kimbell identified as the Rune of Sloth, the school of Sin Magic tied to Conjuration. Determining that the passage forward required such, the group allowed Beryl to cast a healing spell, and the wall gave way.
The labyrinth they discovered - later identified as the Festering Pools of Sloth - was a sodden, putrid system of tunnels overrun with oozes and so saturated with conjurative magic that it was prone to spewing offensive magical clouds from its many geysers and spontaneously summoning groups of hostile, powerful mephits. These they determined to be warped invisible servants or the like, damaged from centuries of disuse and decay. They made their way through the muck and damp to emerge back into their chamber of origin, essentially going in one huge disgusting circle, then set off to explore the other fork.
Immediately, a magic mouth declared them unworthy of entering the Abjurant Halls of Eager Striving, which Kimbell identified as the wing associated with the sin of Envy. A malfunctioning and recurring disjunction effect, caused by a broken rod of cancellation, made travel difficult, as did the rubble from what appeared to be a relatively recent conflict. However, peering through the wreckage allowed a glimpse of a room. Dais and Siris sifted through the rocks, allowing entry. Once inside, they discovered a pool of ethillion, which the mages determined would drain the enchantment from an item to create a potion for increased magical ability. Beryl and Morghan gathered a bottle each, and as they renewed their wards, they heard a thundering crash echo through the halls.
Rushing to investigate, they came face to face with Arkrhyst, the white wyrm the group had discovered earlier; the dragon declared Runeforge its "new lair" and ordered the "tiny morsels" to reveal what they'd discovered thus far. Unintimidated, the party went on the offensive rather than surrender their findings to the dragon. After a difficult battle, the dragon was felled, and a rumbling signaled that another wing had opened....
Quest Six: Confusing Melody
Finished with their exploration of the Catacombs of Wrath, the party returned to the central hub of the Runeforge to discover a new wing available to them. Which was soon determined after they were attacked by stone giants marked with Lust - enchantment. It was immediately determined that they should cast mind blank before proceeding through the silk-lined passageway.
Within, they discovered an opulent cathedral to the Runelord of Lust... and four half-succubus women eager to see their new playmates with particular emphasis on "the male", much to Cyanduril's consternation. After the party failed to accept their pointed invitation, Cylanduril unleashed an ice storm, and the women attacked. Three dimension doored to safety before they could be felled, but the fourth found herself surrounded and overcome, and crumbled to dust upon death.
They proceeded onward, coming to a dungeon of forcecages, one of which contained a living man, quite mad from centuries of torture. After some significant examination and attempting to question him by Rose, Rossel, and Cylanduril, Aidraug healed his mind, which sadly had the opposite effect once his mind cleared and his sanity returned to truly comprehend the past thousand years of succubic torture, prompting the screaming man to run headfirst into the oncoming guards' assault rather than face the memories of what had been done to him any longer without the comforting concealment of madness.
Continuing onward, they discovered the mistress' chamber where the succubus Delvahine waited with the three of her daughters that had survived. Ordering them to attack "but leave the male alive," there was little use for words. The fiends fell, Delvahine leaving a corpse while the three alu-fiends joined their sister as so much dust, and the party soon returned to the central room.
Quest Seven: Morning Sunlight
After exploring the Halls of Greed, the group returned to the center of Runeforge and discovered the next open passageway - a hall of mirrors and opulent decor with tiled floors and elaborate peacock-themed chandeliers lit with continual flames, clearly the entrance to the wing they would come to know as the Shimmering Veils of Pride. Shortly into the hall most of the group noticed some of their infinitely-looping reflections in the mirrors were moving of their own volition, and moments later the group found themselves under a series of attacks from reflective-skinned outsiders from the Plane of Mirrors known as Nerra. They were able to defeat these opponents and make their way toward the official entrance of the wing without too many losses along the way, and though the glass-shard weapons and spells of the Nerra did take some toll, it was nothing Dana couldn't heal.
The portal at the wing's entrance brought them into an opulent-looking area that resembled a mansion more than a study wing, lit with more continual flames and decorated with all manner of art - painting, statuary, carvings, and many, many more free-standing mirrors. It didn't take more than a couple more attacks from the Nerra for Cassandra and Dana to suggest covering the mirrors up so the Nerra couldn't see them and emerge; while this wasn't the cause of their arrival - the Nerra can freely cross from their world to the Prime from any reflective-enough surface - covering the mirrors did do the job of keeping them from emerging, much to the reflective assassins' frustration on a couple occasions. The group also found themselves under attack from the statuary, archers and wyvern-sized peacocks that became hostile when the group got too near.
Emerging into the central, lavishly-decorated room of the wing, the party was attacked by four perfectly-identical men speaking in perfect unison, declaring that the master of the wing was busy in his studies and not to be disturbed, and asking the party to "keep your screaming to a minimum while you are punished for daring to venture this close to his magnificence". Upon slaying the four - by no means an easy task, and most of the party fell at least once before the joint assault - all four dissolved into piles of snow, revealing their identity as simulacra.
The source of the copies was found further in - a long-decayed, stinking, skeletal corpse clutching a journal that identified its writer as "Vraxeris the Illusionist, Master of the Shimmering Veil, High Apprentice to Xanderghul, Satrap of Cyrusian, True Heir of First Lord Xin, Runelord of Pride." Vraxeris had been at Runeforge at Xanderghul's behest for millennia, and had moved from project to project in that time, including his work with simulacrum and later a penchant for seeking immortality via the use of an improved clone spell. This latter was his obsession, as his life was frequently cut short by a medical malady that sunk him into the depths of dementia eventually, forcing him to let himself die and be reborn via his clone to survive and continue his work. However, after the Runeforge came to life and he became aware of Karzoug's impending return, he turned his attentions to seeking a way out of Runeforge to oppose the Runelord of Greed's revival and even possibly wake his own master; this delay, however, seemed to have been his downfall, as he was unable to complete the next version of his clone properly before dementia seized him again, for the last time.
The group determined via true sight that the mirror in Vraxeris's room was only an illusion itself, and the frame truly held an inactive portal; after ensuring it was safe, Jezra led the group through into a large chamber lit with a wine-colored light and ringed by mirrors on the upper halves of the walls. In the center of the room, aside a huge Rune of Pride, was a large machine surrounded by violet light. When the group got too close, Vraxeris's voice announced they "tread upon the hallowed ground of the Shimmering Veil" and "I will not have my greatest work trampled upon by mere commonfolk! Perish in the light, fools!"; this caused the mirrors to focus light and summon or create a Sunwyrm to attack the group.
Upon slaying the beast, Jezra then opened the chamber, which they had determined to be Vraxeris's cloning mechanism; a half-formed, mad clone remained incomplete inside, and attacked the party wildly when they disturbed it, but was quickly put down without too much trouble. After letting Mista study the machine for quite a while, they finally decided to let Dana destroy it. Jezra, poking around a bit while they worked, found a side corridor stuffed with identical skeletal corpses, and surmised these must be where Vraxeris had dumped all his previous bodies, leaving them to simply decay and pile up uncared for. Mista announced her intent to claim Vraxeris's journal and possibly seek to complete his work, out of sheer curiosity and love of all things Netherese if nothing else, and the group began making their way back toward the central hub of Runeforge.
Quest Eight: Delightful Spectre
Returning from the ruins of the Halls of Envy and Sloth, the quartet - accompanied by a Copper Dragon summoned by Kimbell - made their way into the potpourri-scented Ravenous Crypts of Gluttony, passing through a sepulchral foyer with the graves of the laborers that built it interred along the walls and battling a batch of wraiths that emerged from the portal leading deeper into the wing.
After slaying the ghosts and confirming the coffins contained nothing but corpses, the group passed through the portal and into a small room lined with iron doors and ringed by six elaborate statues marked with silver plaques etched with Netherese text. These declared the six to be Matriarchs and Patriarchs of several houses as well as their specialties in the kingdom of Gluttony: House Inib the Winemakers, House Chivvik the Bakers, House Gorryan the Cheesemakers, House Hawfrey the Butchers, House Aanstrin the Confectioners, and House Xerriock the Cannibals. Rather than electing to explore any of the adjacent doors, the group pressed on through the chamber and into the adjoining room, a gruesome abattoir filled with organized, orderly-placed, and expertly-dismembered corpses in gold robes. Beryl determined that the pieces removed from each corpse were not uniform, and Kimbell took the time to express her distaste for the slipshod work of the local necromancer. The group was attacked by a group of mummies from within the nearby sarcophagi as they investigated, but dispatched them without difficulty.
Moving through the abattoir led to another iron door, this one the group deciding to enter. The metal-clad hall within appeared to lead to some sort of alchemical laboratory, guarded by more mummies and staffed by a ravenous zombie that declared the party to be "more bodies for Master Kazaven!". Kimbell was unable to get answers out of the zombie before it was destroyed, but dominated one of the mummies and interrogated it for the information she sought - Kazaven was the name of the master of the wing, a lich and powerful mage who could be found working in his own laboratory not much further in.
The group entered Kazaven's chamber with care and caution, but were unable to evade the lich's notice; however, Kazaven did not seem to be spoiling for a fight, and seemed to be more curious than hostile, quizzing the party about the events of the outside world and making offhanded comments about the wakening Runelord of Greed. Kimbell approached and proposed a deal to Kazaven, that they would leave him be and even exchange information with him, his knowledge and expertise and access to his libraries in exchange for the knowledge and modern information he sought from outside. The red wizard talked long enough that the lich started to let his guard down, then promptly dominated him as well. Kazaven attempted to resist but failed several times as Kimbell instructed him to first tell them the location of his phylactery then to lead them to it.
Kazaven led them into a small chamber at the rear of the room and dismissed a trap that would have caused a large crowd of inert skeletons to fire rays of negative energy at anyone who entered the room. He informed them that of the three sarcophagi in this chamber, the central one was actually his phylactery in whole, and in his words was "nearly indestructible". More prompting from Kimbell - and more failed saves from Kazaven - got him to admit the two occasions he hadn't been able to fully defend against would be the introduction of a sphere of annihilation into the chamber or a foolhardy mage being willing to risk their own arcane capabilities to use a disjuction to destroy it.
With this information in mind, Kimbell asked the others to leave and Kazaven to remain by the phylactery, where he busied himself with seeing to some minor maintenance on his skeleton-ray trap. Kimbell hasted herself, stopped time, disjunctioned the phylactery, and fled as quickly as she could; this cascade of events destroyed the phylactery, causing Kazaven to break out of his domination just long enough to shout after her before he and the entire chamber were destroyed in an explosion of violent energy, followed by an implosion equally as devastating as Runeforge simply deleted the catastrophically-damaged chamber.
The group took a bit of time to recuperate from the chaotic climax, and Kimbell confirmed she hadn't lost her magical abilities in the exchange before thanking the others for letting her run her scheme against the lich rather than face him head-on in a typical battle of spell and sword. She then asked them to aid her in gathering up the remaining books and supplies in the wing while also noting that many of the undead had gone inert or been destroyed at Kazaven's death and that the desecrate effect that filled the wing had evaporated with the destruction of the phylactery, the lich, the chamber, or all of the above.
Quest Nine: A Premonition
Returning from their various excursions into the other wings, the group noticed that the Runeforge at the center of the demiplane had become active in their absence, and the more magically-inclined members of the party even noted that it appeared to be currently in-use. While they debated amongst themselves as to who could be doing so (as no one was visibly present) and for what purpose, lances of light and energy began bursting out of the forge, destroying six of the seven statues of the Runelords. Such a beam struck the seventh and final, that of the Runelord of Greed, but rather than destroy it the forge's energy brought the statue to life, as it took a few steps toward the group and examined them for a few moments. It then swept its hand over them and the Runeforge, swamping the area in a deep green glow.
The group found themselves transported into a forest composed of treasure - earth of precious metals, trees made of gems, animals made of coin and rare stone. They quickly determined it was a demiplane of some sort, and also discovered that thinking or acting on greedy impulses caused Sinspawn - specifically Greed-based - to appear or emerge and attack the party. They further encountered more greedy creatures: Nalfeshnee tanar'ri forged of greedy souls, undead Darnocs whose greed left them little more than a shadow of themselves as they withered away under their own avarice, Dandasuka Rakshasa whose hunger for wealth and profit spanned across lifetimes and reincarnations, undead wizened into childlike Cannibal Children by their undying desire to lurk in wait to seize the wealth and prosperity of others, and tiny Hoard Scarabs hidden among the many treasures that dotted the landscape of the demiplane and the great tower of jade atop a plateau of emerald they found at the end of the forest of gems and coin.
Inside the tower, the group was greeted by Loross writing in etched gem on the floor that rearranged to spell out a greeting from Karzoug himself, welcoming the group to the demiplane he called his "Eye of Avarice" and informing them they were to be the latest additions to his collection, and urging them to familiarize themselves with their surroundings and fellow-captives. Predictably the group refused, and continued up the tower, fighting and slaying anything hostile they encountered. A few more incidents, particularly regarding Dais, Beryl, and Morghan, discovered that the thoughts or actions didn't necessarily have to be motivated by greed to attract Greedspawn, but could also involve a threat to Karzoug's greed, such as stealing an item more out of spite than greedy want or threatening to wrathfully or envyingly destroy his possessions.
Reaching the upper tiers of the tower, they found several libraries packed with texts, mostly discourses on the uses of transmutation and construction written by Karzoug or his citizens of Shalast. Mista nearly lost her temper into a "holy smiter rage" on discovering a book that went into great detail on the merits of replacing the peasant class of civilization with constructs, possibly including the use of those very peasants in the creation of, construction of, and/or materials for said constructs.
Upon passing through a fourth such library and through some manner of magical engine, the group found themselves within an extensive vault; at the center of this, they found Karzoug himself awaiting them, though it was quickly discerned that while he was too on the demiplane, he was not physically present in their exact location. He greeted the party - in Common no less, though heavily accented - and expressed his surprise, admiration, and respect that they'd persevered so far through tenacity and optimism, but promised their deaths at this location before they could bring their weapons to bear on his Shalast. Mista requested access to his magical studies on transmutation, and Karzoug even laughed and said if she survived what was to come by some miraculous fortune and made the journey to Shalast, she might well have a chance to find what she wished. The rest of the group made threats, snarky commentary, or in one case (Dana) an incredibly bad pun that Karzoug didn't seem to understand.
The Runelord then vanished, leaving the group with the statue of himself from the Runeforge's heart, now empowered into a Mythic Stone Golem that attacked the party relentlessly, and even mended its own wounds when nearing too damaged to continue functioning. After a long, grueling battle however, the group was able to put the false Karzoug down and reduce it to rubble. A gemstone at its heart opened upon its destruction and unfolded into a portal back to Runeforge, whose gates had been opened not just to the many wings within - giving the group now-unrestricted access to all the resources contained therein - but also back into the outside world, opening Runeforge to Toril fully for the first time in eons.
The group now takes the opportunity to study the Runeforge in detail without risk of danger or threat, and to make use of the great forge itself to craft items suitable for preparing themselves to challenge Karzoug the Claimer on his own turf - Shalast, the lost Netherese vault of treasure and greed, the fabled City of Gold....