Game Time: Late Fall, 4708
Real Time: May, 2010
After a few days of rest and study, Balekh enlarges Taeva, passes around spells of strength, loads the girls down with sacks of money from the dragon’s horde, and then teleports them all to his house in Sandpoint. Haggor remains behind for now to keep studying, expecting that it will take Balekh several days to get all the wealth home. After carefully setting down several hundred pounds of coins in his upstairs room, the group wanders downstairs to ask his father-in-law if they can store their treasure in the basement. Vin, for his part, wonders why they didn’t teleport there first, but is very happy that his son-in-law is actually bringing home money. He also suggests that they all go investigate the sinkhole that opened up in town a few days past.
The north edge of the town garrison is completely destroyed, fallen into a thirty-foot pit that has opened up right in the middle of the road. Hemlock comes out to meet them, and they soon discover that the sinkhole happened following a localized earthquake roughly the same time as when they all heard Karzoug’s taunts. He sent a few men that haven’t reported back yet, and he’s worried that they’re dead. Veshenga sights towards the glassworks and estimates that they’re directly over the runewell that they shut down on their very first adventure. Perhaps “shut down” was too strong a phrase. After an unhelpful divination, they decide to explore. Shayliss stands guard at the edge of the pit while Balekh, Taeva, and Veshenga descend into the sinkhole. They emerge, sure enough, in the room where they fought the quasit long ago, now mostly collapsed but with the destruction clearly centered on the runewell. A crack in the floor runs through a room that was once a closet, and leads them into a broken, spherical room that was once a levitation space where strange Thassilonian words scrawled across the walls. Now, it is completely inert, but a large hole continues into the ground below. They decide to go get Haggor before progressing.
The next day, Balekh teleports back to the Therassic Library with Brodert Quink, the local sage who had looked twenty years younger at the thought of getting access to such a trove of knowledge. They leave him locked in the library with a week’s worth of supplies and teleport away, hoping they’ll be back to retrieve the strange old man. They catch Haggor up once they return to Sandpoint, and the group warily heads back into the catacombs of Wrath and into the new shaft.
They emerge in a mist-filled room where walls, floor, and ceiling are all traced with scrawlings in Thassilonian, very similar to the runes once in the broken meditation cell. These are in all manner of inks, or blood, or carved into the very stone. Most seem to be various prayers to Lamashtu, the Mother of Monsters, and they can make out what appears to be another temple in the next room. However, one set of writings appears different, and turns out to be a rhyming quarto, apparently the start of a riddle about a Runeforge.
After the party looks at the riddle, a gravely voice begins emanating from the very stones, asking questions about the fall of Thassilon and the current political climate. Taeva notices that, as the voice speaks, its words are also being newly written upon the walls. After some debate about talking to the spectral entity, they answer a few of its questions and confirm that it calls itself the Scribbler. Its questions grow increasingly worrisome, more the inquiries of an invader than of a confused spirit trapped for eons. As they explore the strange temple of Lamashtu, they find more riddles and increasingly ignore the Scribbler’s questions. Soon, the spirit grows irate, and begins carving prayers to Lamashtu into their skin in a tremendously painful manner, like being written on with invisible razor blades.
They push on despite the taunts and inquiries of the hostile spirit, finding fresh blood, gore, and shattered gear that could only belong to the missing guards. As they gather more of the quartos, beginning to piece together the whole riddle as to the location of the Runeforge, the Scribbler taunts them that they don’t even know why they’re looking for it. Distracted, Taeva misses a magical trap on one of the doors deep in the sanctum, and as Haggor steps through his mind is assaulted by a suggestion that the others have been corrupted by Lamashtu and are, even now, taking him to be sacrificed. He runs away, hiding himself near the front of the dungeon and barricading himself in a room.
After several minutes trying to communicate with the half-orc through the door, baffled at his new mania, Taeva slips back and, herself, tries the door, becoming similarly afflicted. She runs north into the deepest room of the complex, finding a sanctum of inks (including a very interesting pen made from a peacock feather) and the mutilated body of one of the guards that she recognizes, his flesh covered in razor-sharp text and contorted as if he died in agony. Balekh and Veshenga suddenly realize that Taeva is gone too, and Balekh goes to get her while Veshenga remains outside Haggor’s door.
The party split up, the Scribbler renews his questions, hoping that someone will answer him about the fate of the Runelords, but even magically compelled to distrust one another, they trust the spirit less. He finishes incanting the prayer to Lamashtu he had been scrawling on their flesh and suddenly a howling reverberates off the wall; the same howling the townsfolk had reported coming from the sinkhole every night. From the shadows, huge, dark, spectral hounds emerge, one or two for each hero of Sandpoint, they leap forward to rend and tear.
However, even separated, the heroes are more than a match for these particular beasts. They take a few hits, but quickly tear the creatures into scraps of evaporating shadow. Balekh reaches Taeva and suppresses her compulsion, then taunts Haggor out of his hiding place and does the same for him. Fully dispelling the compulsion magics, the party finishes exploring the temple and sets out, leaving behind the Scribbler’s increasingly plaintive bargains that he will tell them the secrets of the Runeforge if they leave him be in his temple.
Obviously not going to do that, the party immediately makes a trip to Magnimar to gather the components for a Hallow spell, and then return and spend the next day fending off the Scribbler’s attacks until they finally destroy the taint upon the ancient dungeon. Against his fading wails, the icons of Lamashtu crumble and the writing disappears, phrase by phrase, from the walls. They gather the strange pen and what they can of the dead guards, and return to town.
After a bit of time confused about the locations mentioned in the riddle, the party finally determines that the pen is a divinatory relic that can answer questions, but that the location and secrets of the Runeforge are heavily warded against such magics. However, they can use them to narrow down the clues presented, and, finally, Balekh and Veshenga remember a likely location in their geography lessons. After a bit of research back in the Therassic Library (and retrieving Brodert), they are ready to attempt entry to the Runeforge, hoping it contains secrets that can help them defeat the recently risen Runelord.