Goeth Before a Fall

After allocating all the gear harvested from the den of Lust, the party leaves behind the warily circling alu-fiends and takes another left turn into the domain of Pride. Within, perhaps as expected, mirrors are everywhere, making the entire structure seem immense… and populated by unlimited clones of the party members. Compensating for the feeling of infinity, they exit on what seems to be an actually immense room. In the center is a dais to a conception of the Peacock Spirit, which appears to be a wyvern-sized peacock. They quickly realize it’s an illusion and, as they step into the room, four figures step from behind it to tell them to stop. Each of these beautiful, blonde-haired young men is identical and, after some examination, also an illusion. As the party ignores them and enters, they begin rushing around the room flinging illusory spells: if a real individual were mixed in, this could have been quite the trap.

The soon find out why there is not a real individual with the illusions after bursting into a secret study at the back of the mirrored cathedral. There, the long-dead corpse of a similarly-attired individual molders, an open journal in its lap. Investigation of this room reveals that this was the last surviving member of the runemages of Pride, who had kept himself alive for the intervening millennia through a succession of clones. Unfortunately, an innate genetic frailty caught up to him before he could make another clone this time, or put into effect his plan to stop Karzoug from waking before his own master. This plan, however, proves quite helpful to the party. Apparently, the signature elements of two adjacent sins in Runeforge can be used to enhance a weapon to oppose their opposite: specifically, Lust and Pride could forge weapons to overcome Greed’s defenses. The mage also mentions that a secret way out is hidden in the halls of Wrath.

Assembling this research, the party heads out to the runepool. Haggor decides that he’d rather have a weapon that opposes Necromancy, given all the necromancers and undead they’ve fought, and so a toy from Lust and silver liquid from the pool in Envy are combined in the pool. He dips his monk’s amulet into the golden water and withdraws it covered in glowing Thassilonian runes. Veshenga is next up and does, in fact, want a weapon that opposes Greed. The proper components are added and she enchants her bow in the golden pool. However, this particular enchantment seems to have drawn Karzoug’s attention: his statue moves and speaks. They banter briefly with the risen runelord, scoffing at his attempts to get them to set aside their quest and ally with him. He seems utterly unable to conceive of why they would even oppose him. As they attempt to ignore the statue and continue with their plans, he proves that he can make it attack. It takes several mighty blows upon them before they are able to destroy it, using fighting techniques that their ultimate foe is now fully aware of.

After taking a breather to recover from the fight, Taeva decides that she would like to have access to the effects of a weapon opposed to Envy, as it is fueled partially by Wrath and deals deadly damage to anyone shielded by protective magics. This will require components from the two wings they haven’t entered yet, so they go ahead and take the next left into Wrath. Within, Taeva feels excellent inside, and gets even more excited when the guardian golem, instead of stopping her, offers her a lift to the next level of the area. The rest of the party waits, obviously not likely to have as much luck with the golem, while she scouts ahead.

It doesn’t take long for her to return, having found a teleporter that took her to a room full of warriors and sinspawn in training. The rest of the party teleports past the golem while Taeva distracts it, and they all pile out into the room of Wrathful warriors. After a moment of tense standoff, Taeva challenges one of them to a duel. They ask if she wants time to buff, and while the eldritch warrior enacts a wide range of illusion-based defenses, Balekh simply gives Taeva True Seeing and Greater Invisibility. The fight, once begun, lasts precisely three seconds as the warrior erupts into a fountain of gore. Taeva asks, invisibly, whether anyone else wants to fight, and one of the warriors rushes off to notify their leader.

Not too long after all of her buffs have expired, the runner returns and invites them to their leader’s sanctum. The woman there is densely muscled, weaved with a latticework of scars, thoroughly armored in the gear of an eldritch knight, and wielding a flaming ranseur. On her shaved head is the sigil of Wrath. Not wasting time for pleasantries, and since Balekh is out of spells, Taeva demands no time to buff before the fight. The violent-looking woman shrugs and accepts.

What follows is a furious barrage of attacks. Taeva rages and throws herself at the woman, initially attempting to feint but ultimately just settling to whittle her down with adamantine flurries. The mage initially begins with immense evocations, only to see Taeva blithely dodge out of the way or absorb them on her pre-existing resistance to fire, and also settles on a barrage of attacks. The two women trade blows, most of them landing on armor, for longer than the party can ever recall even being in a fight. Finally, Taeva attempts a feint that works, opening up the scion of Wrath to bleed, and then dances away, waiting for the woman to fall to the wound. Before she succumbs to the blood loss, the woman unleashes a pair of lightning bolts that Taeva narrowly dodges, and then the fight is over.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the other warriors prevent Balekh from healing their leader, declaring Taeva to be their new lady of Wrath. As the old leader finally gives her last shuddering breaths, the rune upon her head fades, instead blazoning it upon Taeva’s brow. Somewhat confused at their new army, the party takes a tour of the Wrath wing, determines that they’re in the process of turning the sinspawn back into humans, and encourages them to keep working on it. They also tell them that the fleshwarping pits have to go as soon as the sinspawn are people again. However, it looks like it may be years before the evocation-focused wizards figure it out on their own, and Balekh doesn’t have time to help them right now. Instead, they take their new army to make quick work of the guardians of the Necromancy wing, gathering the last of Taeva’s components. After getting her Envy-opposed weapon (and making two more Greed-opposed weapons for Balekh and Shayliss), they’re ready to leave Runeforge. Taeva tells her squadron of magus-warriors to wait for them, because they’ll return soon to gather them for the final assault on Xin-Shalast.

With that, Balekh plane shifts them away, back to the snow-covered mountain that hides the ancient workshops, and, thence, to prepare, themselves, for the ultimate battle with Karzoug.