Rise of the Runelords 3.75

Secrets of history await your gaze
Runeforge part 1

The scrolls have, indeed, led the party to Runeforge. Along the way to unlocking its mysteries the Heroes of Sandpoint fought and slew a white dragon named Freezemaw. The battle itself was glorious and although brave (ahem) Karrnath almost shuffled off this mortal coil, the combined might of the party was enough to defeat the dragon as he tried to escape and to pull Karrnath back from the edge of death.

The portal successfully unlocked, the brave heroes stepped across time and distance to Runeforge’s demi-plane to seek out her mysteries and perhaps some clues to the nature of the Seven Swords of Sin.

After slaying all of the inhabitants of the Iron Cages of Lust and the Halls of Wrath, the group made haste for the Shimmering Veils of Pride. There they encountered a variety of challenges and masterfully overcame each of them. Xan, in particular, had a most interesting way of dealing with one of those challenges…

Within the veils, the heroes also uncovered Vraxeris’ Notes which provided some insight into the recent history of Runeforge and, perhaps, some worthy tools to help defeat Karzoug.

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Dreaming...
A voice from beyond

As you drift off to sleep in Sandpoint, exhausted but satisfied after the party’s defeat of Mokmurian, you find that you will have no rest tonight.

Images of your recent adventures flash past at a mind-numbing pace. Freshly slain corpses, reeking of ghoul-stench, the Sihedron Rune carved in a bloody mess into their flesh or hordes of plague-infested rats swarming out of the walls of a broken down mansion.

The brutal deaths of your companions also flash by: a monk being savaged by a bloodthirsty barghest, a delicate elven man speared through the heart by a loathsome snake-woman, a child-like halfling, cruelly torn limb from limb by a slimy troll – it is almost too much to bear.

The ogrekin of the Sanos Forest…so horrible you wish you couldn’t remember the massive, disgusting mother of the clan, surrounded by buckets of her own filth, reeking of death and sweat or the brothers in the barn doing unspeakable things…but remember you do.

And then the dream changes, gone are the comforts of horrors you have already faced and survived and instead there is an almost crushing dread of things to come. You find yourself alone, small and defenseless in the chamber where earlier today Mokmurian was slain. You are looking around the room at the signs of your passing – blast marks on the walls, bloodstains on the floor and Mokmurian’s shattered corpse lying in a heap upon the floor.

It is there that your vision is fixed and, although you try, you find that you cannot look away as Mokmurian’s head swivels grotesquely from its final resting pose to stare directly at you with dark, lifeless eyes. His mouth moves in a mockery of true speech, but the words are crystal clear in your mind as a booming voice from beyond this plane begins mocking you.

“So you are the hero of the age. More like a gasping worm to me, soon to be crushed back into the earth when I awaken the armies of Xin-Shalast, when the name Karzoug is again spoken with fear and awe. Know that the deaths of those marked by the Sihedron – the giants you have so conveniently slain for me – hasten my return, just as your death soon will. Foolish mortals, is this all that you could manage in ten thousand years?”

Cruel, mocking laughter fills your head and soon the entire room as you try in vain to flee this accursed place. The bodies of the giants slain above pound at the doors to this room while the various guardians rise to life once more, seeking vengeance for their deaths. Bloody, grasping hands and claws reach for your face while you weakly try to scream for help…

And then you are awake in your bed, sweating and cold with fear and gut-wrenching nausea. You are safe once again, but for how long?

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Fortress of the Stone Giants
This may hurt a little...

After liberating the Seven Swords of Sin, the gallant heroes rushed to Magnimar to do some much needed shopping and then rushed northward towards Sandpoint hoping to fend off the impending attack. When the party arrived, they alerted the citizenry and immediately began making preparations. Soon, hasty fortifications sprung up around the town and a steady stream of non-combatants began flowing southward towards the relative safety of Magnimar.

At dawn the following day, the harsh thunderclap of stone breaking on stone alerted the town to trouble at the north gate. As the adventurers rushed to aid the soldiers stationed there it became all too clear that the invasion of Sandpoint by a stone giant army had just begun!

Only a handful of giants were assaulting the north gate and the party was dealing with them quite readily, when another, much more menacing, threat soared into view – a red dragon! The draconic menace landed briefly on the cathedral roof (a bit too close to Caable’s perch for comfort) and then began bathing the town in its fiery breath!

Caable strategically withdrew from this perch and concocted a cunning plan, while his companions rushed past to deal with another band of stone giants and their pet dire bears fording the river near the lumber mill. Soon more stone giants began crossing the river further south and it seemed that the plan was to cause mayhem, destroy property and kidnap the good citizens of Sandpoint!

At that moment, one of the river raiders began a mad dash into the heart of Sandpoint, apparently headed for the Old Light. The heroes were hot on his trail, with fiery combat in the skies above, determined not to let him reach his objective.

The combat seemed a bit grim when Verredus and Caable finally wore the red dragon down and slew him as he attempted to retreat. With only a portion of the northern buildings in flames, a few bucket brigades seemed likely to take care of the problem in short order. When right at that moment, a ruckus arose near the Two Knight Brewery. Rushing to investigate, the party handily defeated a pair of stone giants intent on taking one of the most precious treasures of Sandpoint: the last few barrels of Winter Ale!

Just when it seemed that victory was theirs, a plume of smoke arose from the mansions to the south. Some of the group stayed in the main part of town, helping citizens and finishing off the few remaining threats, while the rest travelled south and quickly slew the giants there, who seemed intent on helping themselves to the possessions of Sandpoint’s wealthiest citizens!

At last the battle was won and the townsfolk saved leaving the troupe to ponder why the giants would attack this peaceful settlement in the first place. Each of the defeated giants bore a tattoo of the Sihedron Rune, but none were alive to reveal their secrets.

Some savvy investigation (and a map found on one of the dead raiders) pointed the way towards a mysterious location known as ‘Jorgenfist’, a stone giant stronghold of some sort. Caable hit upon a brilliant plan to teleport the party there to catch them by surprise, before the giants could learn of the defeat at Sandpoint. Undaunted by his lack of knowledge of Jorgenfist’s precise location, or his complete lack of detail surrounding its leader, Mokmurian, Caable attempted to scry on this evil mastermind and gain the information he needed to transport the party safely.

This scrying did not go precisely as planned, but after a slight detour to an unknown island with a massive stone monument of a seated king, the party eventually arrived, in one piece, at the river cliffs (and caves) south of Jorgenfist.

The heroes bravely ventured into those caves, seeking a subterranean entrance to the fortress above…

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After Hook Mountain
Far, far away from the banjo music

With the defeat of the covey of hags hiding within Hook Mountain, the weather has become a bit milder, although the deepest part of winter now grips the region. The ogre raids around Turtleback Ferry have ceased altogether and much of Varisia has settled in to their homes to wait for the first hopeful signs of spring.

Far from Sandpoint, in the Storval Deep region, giant activity has increased and farmers report missing livestock, damaged property and telltale giant footprints in the snow. It would seem that a storm of a different kind is brewing and the peaceful dark of winter may soon be shattered by a much larger threat…

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The Secrets of Kaer Maga
Curiouser and curiouser...

After settling in to the fort and beginning the long, arduous process of cleaning and repairing the damage done by the previous inhabitants, another ogre raid forced our heroes to travel far afield to Hook Mountain, to bring an end to the source of these attacks.

After retracing the raiding party’s steps, the ragtag band of adventurers encountered an ancient stone giant stronghold – massive caverns running deep into Hook Mountain itself. Within, they discovered (and slew!) the covey of annis hags responsible for the unseasonal weather and their undead ‘pet’, along with the stone giant general who had directed the original raid on Fort Rannick.

Their victory came at a heavy price though, with brave Erredus slain at the stone giant’s hand, reduced to a mere grease spot on the floor with one mighty blow. The loss is even more tragic, in light of the fact that Erredus’ long lost twin brother, Verredus, was on his way to reunite with his brother and aid him in his struggles.

Also of note within Hook Mountain, the group discovered dozens of ogres enslaved and forced to craft large-sized weapons for several months. There were shipment manifests that indicated the weapons were being sent to supply an army, location unknown, somewhere on the Storval Plateau. Even more disturbing, they encountered a reference to the presence of several very powerful swords being ‘attuned’ by another lamia matriarch within the ancient city of Kaer Maga.

They departed at once and encountered an unusual dungeon winding its way within and beneath the very walls of the city. A variety of disturbing creatures made their home within, all somehow bound by the lamia matriarch at its heart and empowered by the arcane essences that seemed to seep from the very walls.

Upon reaching the heart of the dungeon, they found its mistress in the process of completing a ritual with 7 mystical swords. She was guarded by an armored woman of exceptional skill, whose cheek was branded with the Rune of Greed. With the ritual completed, the armored woman took the freshly awakened sword (of Greed, they would later discern) and teleported away, leaving the matriarch alone to be quickly cut down by the heroes.

Through careful arcane research, the group was able to determine that these swords were, in fact, the legendary Seven Swords of Sin, somehow gathered up from the four corners of the earth. The lamia had only managed to awaken two of the swords, however. Greed, which was taken by the armored woman, and Lust, which is now in the party’s possession. The ritual to unlock the other swords in unclear, but the sorcerer studies diligently, hoping to learn more.

Hidden behind the ritual chamber, the party found a war room, indicating that the swords from Hook Mountain, and the awakened Swords of Sin, were going to be sent to a location known as ‘Jorgenfist’, somewhere in the vicinity of the Storval Deep. Of much more immediate concern, however, was the scrying device that was attuned to watch over Sandpoint, along with battle plans that indicated that a raid of the small town was imminent!

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Winter Comes to TurtleBack Ferry

Winter has come early to southern Varisia this year and icy storms lash the coast with unseasonal fury. The little town of Sandpoint is quiet, with many residents preferring to remain indoors to avoid the weather and memories of recent disturbing events.

To the south, in Magnimar, the heroes now known as The Sandpoint Five are enjoying the comforts of the city and seeking to soothe the pain of their recent losses. Unaware of the thread of fate that has begun unraveling in their hands, they raise a glass in memory of those who have fallen and gaze quietly into the hearth-fire at the inn, seeking warmth and solace.

To the northeast, the little frontier town of TurtleBack Ferry has problems of its own. Earlier this month, the town’s only real tourist attraction, the gambling river barge known as the Paradise, burned and sank mid-river drowning dozens in a freak accident. Both residents and visitors alike have gone missing in the past month and wild animal attacks from the Sanos Forest have grown more frequent.

To make matters worse, no one in town has heard from their unofficial protectors, the Order of the Black Arrows, in the past few weeks. The Order is stationed in Fort Rannick, which overlooks Ember Lake, but recent messages sent to the fort have gone unanswered and a small foot expedition sent to investigate has not been heard from since.

Freezing rain hammers the region, swelling its lakes and rivers and making many roads and footpaths impassable. With the wind and rain, almost no one can hear the twang of ominous banjo music from deep within the forest…

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Honor the fallen
Gone too soon...

Father Zantus shook his head sadly as he completed his prayer for the souls of the departed. The Heroes of Sandpoint – the original ones anyways – were all gone now. The brave adventurers who had so valiantly defended his beloved seaside town of Sandpoint had met the typical end that awaited most adventurers.

He lit two candles today and as each small flame flared to life he thought about the soul it represented. Although he hadn’t been present at their passing, he had heard the tales through gossip, eyewitness accounts and even an amateur bard song.

First, brave Aable had valiantly (if a bit foolishly) leapt, blade first, at the scrag known as Wet Papa Grazuul. The aquatic troll had been harassing the party from a pool of water within the Thassilonian Skull Dam. Frustrated by their inability to strike at the troll effectively, Aable grabbed his trusty blade, Alonian, and threw himself headlong at Grazuul. His blade struck true, but in response, the scrag sunk his claws into Aable’s tender flesh and ripped him in half. Alas, so much potential, such a noble heart, lost forever.

The second flame flickered weakly for a brief moment before catching hold and burning bright. Ah, Durgrim, we hardly knew ye. The taciturn dwarf had seemed a bit of enigma to the aging priest. His actions had been heroic, at least in a larger sense, but his attitude had been, well…Father Zantalus shook his head again, it was wrong to think ill of the dead. The dwarf, however unusual, had helped to save Sandpoint more than once and he would certainly be missed.

Being slain by a party member, even one suffering from the effects of a Confusion spell was certainly a disappointing end for a hero of any stature. He wondered if poor Baable (Aable’s less cultured sibling) was weighed down with guilt after that incident. Perhaps he should make a point of offering him counseling when (and if) the group came to town again. Even better, perhaps he should consider making the trip to Ft. Rannick when the weather cleared. Yes, a journey and the chance to offer guidance might be just the way to honor the first thaw of spring in a few months.

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In Memoriam: Alonian Tyrinx
Defeat of the Skinsaw Cult

To The Sandpoint Five it seemed like the loss of their beloved companion Tellorn was far too fresh to be committing another companion to the fire, and yet here they stood in the marble hall of the Magnimar temple of Calistria, watching as the priestess called the magical fire that would consume the mortal remains of Alonian Tyrinx. As the chants continued around them, each of the Five had only their own thoughts for company as they waited for the ritual to end.

Karrnath’s mind was deeply troubled as he recalled the events of the previous day. Their plan had been tactically sound, but they had underestimated their foe’s strength and resources and, in the end, it was only Karrnath who remained conscious to deliver the deathblow to the lamia matriarch known as Xanesha. At the time, he had been wracked with indecision, wondering whether to flee a seemingly hopeless situation or to try and fight this powerful foe. Although it was his hand that sent the old clock bell careening downward, knocking Xanesha from the air even as it crushed the life from her, he had to wonder if he had done enough. If things had gone differently, could he have saved Alonian?

Dorn barely noticed the activity in the hall as his mind worked over their encounter with the Skinsaw Cult. Certainly, this group of murderers and assassins had been working the service of several evils, but he could not make out their connection to recent events. He contemplated their interrogation of the cult’s leader, Justice Ironbriar, replaying the conversation mentally as he searched for answers hidden in the evil elf’s words. Was there something else there that they had missed, that could have better prepared them for the fight at the Shadow Clock?

Aable marveled at the sinuous movements of the priests and priestesses as they danced and chanted in Alonian’s honor. Although he normally found it difficult to distinguish between the genders when looking at fully-clothed elves, he noted that in their scant ritual garb, the difference was clear enough for anyone to see. Even their funeral dirge had a sort of erotic quality to it that Aable found disturbingly arousing. This agitation led his thoughts once again to poor Alonian, who had barely stood a chance as that horrible snake-lady had pursued him through the air, stabbing again and again with her wicked spear. Although enveloped in silence at the time, Aable had imagined that he could hear Alonian’s final scream as the spear pierced his heart. Even though he had been the only party member who was unable to fly during their encounter with Xanesha, Aable wondered with a broken heart, was there something else that he could have done to save his lovely friend?

Durgim wondered if Sprinkles was alright penned up in the inn’s exotic animal stable and hoped that all this wussy-dancing and singing was going to be over soon. Would Sprinkles be upset at being penned for so long?

Kedrith stood slightly back from the rest of the group, not wanting to intrude on their mourning. He had never met this Alonian fellow and he was mainly here out of respect for his new adventuring party – they had even made him a provisional member of The Sandpoint Five! He guessed that their fight at The Shadow Clock with this flying snake bitch had been a tough one, since one of them had been killed, but so far his time with the group had been great. After he had been recruited, they went back to the clocktower and killed a gross-looking flesh golem in about 20 seconds – excellent! Kedrith tried hard to keep his excitment in check and project only respectful silence while he composed an appropriate toast to the fallen for after the funeral. There would be drinks after the service, right?

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Something Wicked This Way Comes
It was a dark and stormy night...

While still in shock from the loss of their respected monk companion, Tellorn, the Heroes of Sandpoint were approached by Sheriff Hemlock with disturbing news. He required their assistance with a recent grisly double murder at the sawmill.

The Sheriff was able to relate several clues to launch the heroes’ investigation, but the most disturbing detail was a note, written in fresh blood and pinned to the coat of one of the murder victims that addressed the dwarf, Durgrim, by name. Also of great concern, was the fact that these two murders appeared to be the second set by the same hand within the past week. Sheriff Hemlock seemed worried that another serial killer may be at work within Sandpoint and he feared that the townsfolk would panic should the details become public. The party set off at once to uncover the truth, stop the murderer and, hopefully, protect the dwarf from whatever dark fate the note had hinted at.

The scene at the mill was bloody indeed with the body of Katrine Vinder, the daughter of a local merchant, split cruelly by a saw blade and the body of the mill’s general manager, a greedy and ill-liked man by the name of Banny Harker, mutilated and pinned to the wall in a ritualistic manner. To the party’s dismay, on Harker’s chest was carved the seven-pointed star design that had been found on several of Nualia’s effects. A stench of rotten meat too intense for the freshly murdered corpses lingered about key areas at the crime scene.

After some consideration, investigation and clever deductions, our investigators turned their attention to Foxglove Manor, the ancestral home of a former benefactor, Aldern Foxglove. Upon arriving at the ruined mansion, a sense of unease and foreboding loomed over the area. The house itself seemed to be perched at the very edge of the sea, ready to leap to its death in a fit of despair. Cold, damp air drove a thick fog over the entire property and evil-looking carrion birds hunched like harbingers of death peering down from barren trees.

Inside, the manor house was equally unnerving, with thick, foul-looking mold covering most of the surfaces. Warped floorboards creaked and sighed with even the slightest motion and the structure seemed to moan pitifully as the ocean wind howled through the rotting walls. But the sense of unease that the group had noticed as they approached soon developed into full blown dread as it became apparent that the memories of past atrocities haunted almost every room promising doom and ruin with each new discovery.

After investigating most of the mold-encrusted rooms and experiencing first-hand the horrors that they had contained, the party came to realize that Aldern had murdered his wife by strangulation and had become something far worse than a mere murderer. Many deaths haunted these halls and a lingering evil from the Foxglove family past tied them all together in a macabre storyline.

Almost ready to quit this dark mansion altogether, our heroes stumbled upon the revenant of Iesha Foxglove, Aldern’s murdered wife, weeping at her reflection in an old mirror in the attic. Durgrim smashed the mirror and Iesha’s eyes flared with anger as she began to move swiftly and inexorably, towards her murderer. The hapless heroes did their best to follow, enduring some of the lingering horrors of this place as they passed, to eventually find Aldern, now a disturbing dread ghoul, in a hidden chamber deep below the mansion’s basement.

A mighty battled was joined between the revenant, Aldern and the adventurers, but soon the party was victorious as Aldern was slain and the revenant faded away. Amongst the ghoul’s effects, Durgrim discovered several of his items that had gone missing in recent weeks and a small miniature portrait of himself that Aldern had apparently commissioned and then worn in a small locket. Also amongst these items, they uncovered a note, signed by ‘Your Mistress, Wanton of Nature’s Pagan Forms’ that indicated that the next step on the trail would take the heroes to Foxglove’s townhouse in the city of Magnimar.

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The Skinsaw Murders
Evil Abides

s the muted tones of autumn blanket the land, icy winds from the sea foretell a harsh winter ahead in Varisia. Along the coast, the seaside town of Sandpoint recovers from a recent goblin raid and the echoes of even darker times in the not-too-distant past.

From within her modest walls, a group of would-be heroes has emerged, not only to defend Sandpoint in her hour of need, but to seek out future threats and end them before they can truly begin. Even now these heroes sit content, basking in their newfound glory, unaware that the threat is much greater than they can even comprehend.

The early cold frosts the breath of Sheriff Hemlock and his men as they investigate a grisly scene. Nature prepares to blanket the land with winter, even as the sheriff draws a blanket to hide a corpse horribly gashed, soaked with blood and pinned with an ominous note.

It seems that the region’s troubles are not yet over. In fact, as evil slowly awakens, they may have only just begun…

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