Rise of the Runelords, Final PC Sheets Part 2

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Balekh Scrollseeker

Male Human Cleric 3 / Diviner 3 / Mystic Theurge 10

NG Medium humanoid (human)

Init +2; Senses Perception +9


AC 25, touch 13, flat-footed 24    ( +1 Dex, +10 Mithral Breastplate +4, +2 Ring of Force Shield, +2 Ring of Protection)

hp 134 (3d8)+(3d6)+(10d6)+32

Fort +10, Ref +7, Will +18


Speed 30 ft.

Melee quarterstaff (two handed) +10/+5 ((two handed) 1d6+3)

Special Attacks Channel Positive Energy, Hand of the Acolyte, Spell Synthesis

Deity: Nethys. Domains: Knowledge Magic


Str 14, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 22, Wis 22, Cha 16

Base Atk +8/+3; Combat Manuever Bonus +10; Combat Maneuver Defense 23

Feats Arcane Armor Mastery, Arcane Armor Training, Armor Proficiency, Light, Armor Proficiency, Medium, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Craft Wondrous Item, Empower Spell, Extend Spell, Leadership, Quicken Spell, Scribe Scroll, Shield Proficiency, Simple Weapon Proficiency, Spell Penetration

Skills Acrobatics +1, Appraise +4, Bluff +12, Climb +2, Craft (Armor +10, Stone +10), Diplomacy +8, Disguise +3, Escape Artist +3, Fly +6, Heal +11, Intimidate +3, Knowledge (Arcana +25, Dungeoneering +11, Engineering +11, Geography +11, History +25, Local +11, Nature +11, Nobility +11, Planes +12, Religion +25), Linguistics +12, Perception +9, Perform (Untrained) +3, Profession (Librarian) +12, Ride +1, Sense Motive +6, Spellcraft +25, Stealth +1, Survival +6, Swim +2,

Languages Abyssal, Celestial, Common, Draconic, Giant, Infernal, Thassilonian

Special Qualities Arcane Bond, Bonded Object (Staff), Cantrips, Channel Energy (6/day, 2d6, DC 14), Combined Spells (1st-5th level), Divination School, Diviner’s Fortune (9/day, +1), Enchantment Opposition School, Forwarned, Hand of the Acolyte (9/day), Necromancy Opposition School, Orisons, Spell Synthesis, Spontaneous Casting

Possessions Amulet of Wisdom +2; Boots of the Mire; Cloak of Resistance +1; Dagger (alchemical silver); Robe of Runes (+4 int), Mithral Breastplate +4, Explorer’s Outfit; Staff of Heaven and Earth; Sihedron Ring of Force Shield; Scroll Case (several scrolls); Crossbow, Heavy ; Handy Haversack (many wands and potions); Ring of Evasion; Rod of Extend Metamagic; Rod of Quicken Metamagic; Robes of Xin-Shalast; Sihedron Tome

Haggor “Da Crusha” Irongrip

Male Half-Orc Monk 16

LN Medium humanoid (orc, human)

Init +3; Senses Darkvision (60 ft.), Perception +18


AC 32, touch 28, flat-footed 29, Improved Evasion, Combat Expertise ( +3 Dex, +5 Deflection, +4 Bracers of Armor, +10 Monk AC)

hp 176 (16d8)+48

Fort +16, Ref +16, Will +18


Speed 80 ft., Abundant Step, High Jump, Slow Fall

Melee unarmed strike +23/+18/+13 (4d8+10+1d6/19-20; Necromancer Bane)

Melee flurry of blows +25/+25/+20/+20/+15/+15/+10 (4d8+10+1d6/19-20; Necromancer Bane)

Special Attacks Flurry of Blows, Ki Pool, Ki Strike (Magic, Lawful, Adamantine) (13), Stunning Fist (17/day, DC 23), Quivering Palm (DC 23)


Str 30, Dex 16, Con 16, Int 13, Wis 20, Cha 11

Base Atk +12/+7/+2; Combat Manuever Bonus +27 (Improved Grapple, Improved Disarm, Greater Trip); Combat Maneuver Defense 54

Feats Blind Fighting, Combat Expertise (-4 attack/+4 AC), Combat Reflexes, Greater Trip, Improved Critical (Unarmed Strike), Improved Disarm, Improved Grapple, Improved Trip, Improved Natural Attack, Improved Unarmed Strike, Lunge, Medusa’s Wrath, Spring Attack, Stunning Fist, Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike)

Skills Acrobatics +16, Acrobatics (Jump) +52, Appraise +1, Climb +21, Craft (Untrained) +1, Escape Artist +9, Fly +3, Handle Animal +5, Heal +5, Intimidate +9, Knowledge (History +5, Religion +5), Perception +18, Perform (Act) +6, Profession (Cook +11, Fisherman +11, Gardener +11, Sailor +11), Linguistics +7, Ride +7, Sense Motive +17, Stealth +8, Survival +15, Swim +18, Use Magic Device +14

Languages Common, Giant, Orc, Thassilonian, 5 unselected

Special Qualities Abundant Step, AC Bonus, AC Bonus, Diamond Body, Diamond Soul (SR 26), Fast Movement, High Jump, Improved Evasion, Intimidating, Maneuver Training, Orc Blood, Orc Ferocity, Purity of Body, Slow Fall, Still Mind, Therassic Runes (Heroism, Fireball, Fire Shield), Weapon Familiarity, Wholeness of Body

Possessions Amulet of Mighty Fists (shocking, jealous); Belt of Giant Strength +6; Bracers of Armor +4; Cloak of Minor Displacement; Gloves of Dexterity +2; Headband of Inspired Wisdom +2; Explorer’s Outfit; Ring of Resistance +3; Sihedron Ring of Protection +5; Robe, Monk’s; Bag of Holding (type IV), Portable Hole; Ring of Freedom of Movement

Rise of the Runelords, Final PC Sheets Part 1

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Taeva Nix

Female Gnome Rogue 15 / Barbarian 1

TN Small humanoid (gnome)

Init +15; Senses Darkvision (60 ft.), Low-light, Perception +22


AC 33, touch 23, flat-footed 25, Evasion, Improved Uncanny Dodge, Two-Weapon Defense ( +1 size, +8 Dex, +9 Celestial Armor (Small), +1 Shield, +3 Ring of Protection, +1 Mark of Wrath)

hp 212 (15d8)+(1d12)+90

Fort +16, Ref +26, Will +11


Speed 30 ft.

Ranged crossbow (light/small) +25 (1d6/19-20)

Melee sword +1 (short/small/adamantine/shock) +26/+21/+16 (1d4+4+1d6/19-20)

Melee two weapon fighting +23/+23/+19/+19/+14 (one sword is Abjurer Bane)

Special Attacks Bleeding Attack, Opportunist, Sneak Attack +8d6, Slow Reactions, Surprise Attack

Innate Spell-Like Abilities: dancing lights ( 1/Day) ghost sound ( DC 12, 1/Day), message (3/day), prestidigitation ( DC 12, 1/Day) speak with animals ( DC , 1/Day)

Magic Item Spell-Like Abilities: fly ( DC 14, 1/Day)


Str 16, Dex 32, Con 20, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 14

Base Atk +12/+7/+2; Combat Manuever Bonus +15; Combat Maneuver Defense 38

Feats Armor Proficiency, Light, Armor Proficiency, Medium, Combat Expertise (-4 attack/+4 AC), Combat Reflexes, Double Slice, Improved Feint, Improved Initiative, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Martial Weapon Proficiency, Shield Proficiency, Simple Weapon Proficiency, Two-Weapon Defense, Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Finesse

Skills Acrobatics +27, Appraise +9, Bluff +21, Climb +6, Craft (Locks +14, Traps +8), Diplomacy +10, Disable Device +37, Disguise +12, Escape Artist +15, Fly +11, Heal +1, Intimidate +17, Knowledge (Dungeoneering +6, Local +8), Perception +22, Perception (Trapfinding) +29, Perform (Untrained) +2, Ride +11, Sense Motive +21, Sleight of Hand +20, Stealth +32, Survival +14, Swim +8, Use Magic Device +7

Languages Common, Giant, Gnome, Orc, Sylvan

Special Qualities Defensive Training, Evasion, Fast Movement, Fast Stealth, Gnome Magic, Hatred, Illusion Resistance, Improved Uncanny Dodge, Minor Magic (Message), Keen Senses, Obsessive, Rage (7 rounds/day), Slow Reactions, Surprise Attack, Trapfinding, Trap Sense +5, Uncanny Dodge, Weapon Familiarity

Possessions Amulet of Health +4, Boots of Dexterity +6; Belt of Strength +4; Celestial Armor (small); Goggles of Night; Hat of Disguise; Masterwork Thieves’ Tools; Outfit (traveler’s/small); Sihedron Ring of Protection +3; Cloak of Resistance +5; Slippers of Spider Climbing (not worn); Sword +1 (short/small/adamantine/shock); Sword +1 (short/small/adamantine/shock/Sadistic); Bag of Tricks (Tan)

Veshenga Smythe

(Veshega Quida Tranger Marime Loweben Dolce Rhode Smythe)

Female Half-Elf Ranger 16

NG Medium humanoid (elf, human)

Init +11; Senses Low-light, Perception +15


AC 33, touch 24, flat-footed 22, Evasion ( +11 Dex, +3 Bracers of Armor, +6 Buckler +5, +3 Ring of Protection)

hp 224 (16d10)+64

Fort +17, Ref +24, Will +9


Speed 40 ft.

Melee koruvus’ prize +21/+23/+18/+13 (1d8+5/19-20; Evil Outsider Bane)

Ranged longbow +1 (composite/holy/shock/strength rating+4/Dominant) +28/+23/+18/+13 (1d8+5+1d6/19-20/x3; Holy; Transmuter Bane)

Special Attacks Favored Enemy (Aberration +4, Evil Outsider +4, Giant +4, Undead +2), Rapid Shot, Point Blank Shot, Manyshot, Deadly Aim, Vital Strike, Pinpoint Targeting


Str 18, Dex 32, Con 18, Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 14

Base Atk +16/+11/+6/+1; Combat Manuever Bonus +27; Combat Maneuver Defense 43

Feats Agile Maneuvers, Armor Proficiency, Light, Armor Proficiency, Medium, Deadly Aim (-5 attack/+10 damage), Endurance, Improved Critical (Longbow), Improved Precise Shot, Manyshot, Martial Weapon Proficiency, Pinpoint Targeting, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Quick Draw, Rapid Shot, Shield Proficiency, Shot on the Run, Simple Weapon Proficiency, Skill Focus (Stealth), Vital Strike

Skills Acrobatics +14, Appraise +1, Bluff +10, Climb +12, Craft (Untrained) +1, Diplomacy +10, Disguise +4, Escape Artist +16, Fly +7, Handle Animal +12, Heal +7, Intimidate +12, Knowledge (Dungeoneering +10, Geography +10, Nature +14), Linguistics +4, Perception +15, Perform (Dance) +9, Ride +18, Sense Motive +11, Sleight of Hand +17, Spellcraft +5, Stealth +21, Survival +16, Survival (Follow or identify tracks) +24, Swim +10

Languages Abyssal, Common, Dwarven, Elven, Thassilonian, Varisian

Special Qualities Adaptability, Camouflage, Elf Blood, Elven Immunities, Evasion, Favored Terrain (Forest +4, Mountain +2, Underground +4), Hunting Companions, Improved Evasion, Keen Senses, Multitalented, Quarry, Swift Tracker, Track, Wild Empathy, Woodland Stride

Possessions Amulet of Health +4; Belt of Giant Strength +4, Buckler +5, Cloak of Resistance +4; Gloves of Dexterity +4, Koruvus’ Prize; Bracers of Armor +3; Explorer’s Outfit; Sihedron Ring of Protection +3; Ring of Freedom of Movement; Snakeskin Tunic; Handy Haversack; Efficient Quiver; Longbow +1 (Composite/Holy/Shock/Strength Rating+4/Dominant); Ring of Greater Cold Resistance; Boots of Striding and Springing

Shayliss Vinder

Female Human Infernal Sorcerer 13

LN Medium humanoid (human)

Init +2; Senses Perception -1


AC 19, touch 15, flat-footed 17 (+2 Dex, +2 Bracers of Armor, +3 Ring of Protection, +2 Amulet of Natural Armor); Arrow Snaring

hp 91 (13d6)+13

Fort +5, Ref +6, Will +7; Resist Fire 10, +4 vs. Poison


Speed 30 ft.

Melee dominant staff of mithral might +9/+4 (1d6+3; Transmuter Bane)

Special Attacks Corrupting Touch (8/day, 6 rounds), Hellfire (1/day, 13d6, DC 21, 13 rounds)

Spells (CL 13th, Ranged Touch +8, DC = Level + 5, +2 for Charm or Evocation)
6th (4/day)—Chain Lightning, Planar Binding (Devils only), Suggestion, Mass
5th (7/day)—Dismissal, Dominate Person, Elemental Body, Mind Fog
4th (7/day)—Charm Monster, Dimensional Anchor, Fire Shield, Phantasmal Killer, Wall of Fire
3rd (7/day)—Fireball, Flame Arrow, Protection from Energy, Suggestion, Tongues
2nd (7/day)—Detect Thoughts, Eagle’s Splendor, Flaming Sphere, Pyrotechnics, Resist Energy, Scorching Ray
1st (8/day)—Burning Hands, Charm Person, Mage Armor, Magic Missile, Protection from Evil, Protection from Good
0—Dancing Lights, Detect Magic, Flare, Light, Mending, Message, Prestidigitation, Ray of Frost, Read Magic


Str 12, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 8, Cha 20

Base Atk +6/+1; Combat Manuever Bonus +7; Combat Maneuver Defense 21

Feats Blind Fight, Deceitful, Eschew Materials, Greater Spell Focus (Evocation), Greater Spell Penetration, Improved Counterspell, Quicken Spell, Silent Spell, Spell Focus (Evocation), Spell Penetration, Still Spell

Skills Acrobatics +1, Appraise +17, Bluff +24, Climb +1, Craft (Untrained) +1, Diplomacy +10, Disguise +8, Escape Artist +1, Fly +9, Handle Animal +5, Heal -1, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (Arcana) +7, Perception -1, Profession (Shopkeeper) +6, Ride +1, Sense Motive -1, Sleight of Hand +1, Spellcraft +8, Stealth +1, Survival -1, Swim +1, Use Magic Device +8

Languages Common

Special Qualities Corrupting Touch, Infernal Resistances, Hellfire

Possessions Amulet of Natural Armor +2; Circlet of Charisma +2; Bracers of Armor +2; Gloves of Arrow Snaring; Ring of Counterspells; Sihedron Ring of Protection +3, Staff of Mithral Might

Rise of the Runelords, Epilogue


Turtleback Ferry, Midwinter

Great bonfires burn away the afternoon chill, visible for miles across the frozen lake. The townsfolk were initially suspicious of a “the Dam’s Still Standing” party, but gave in to the fun once the Varisian music began to spread across the village just ahead of the smell of festival food. They started arriving the night before on boats, with a dozen more that couldn’t make the trip on their own spilling out of the very air this morning on the wings of the theurge’s teleports. The half-orc has been wandering across the ice to check the food every hour and add a new winter fish to the dinner, then racing back out to keep trying to ice fish through a surprisingly large hole.

But now the party is in full swing. Over half the movers and shakers of Sandpoint mingle with their counterparts in the village, in between helping a Tianish girl unload new kegs of Rusty Dragon Stout. A gaggle of middle-aged Varisian women fuss over the commander of Fort Rannick, who is smiling in a way that the locals have never seen while talking animatedly with a Varisian hunter of her own age who only has eyes for her… and, occasionally, for a probing glance at the Shoanti warrior tearing up the dance floor with his daughter. A redheaded gnome also watches them, trying to decide whether to join in the fun. She, in turn, is watched by a young gnomish man, trying to decide if it’s safe for him to ask her to dance.

Daylight quickly fades, but the party rages on into the night. Faeries from the nearby marsh glitter through the air, curious what the fuss is all about. A Black Arrow dances for the first time in thirty years. The Sheriff and Mayor of Sandpoint have a very frank discussion about what it means to have heroes as full-time residents. An ancient Varisian seer pontificates to her distant cousins, a cup of tea in one hand and a mug of ale in the other. And a Shoanti mage and his beautiful bride watch the moon rise across the frozen lake, holding each other as if for warmth despite their potent protections against the elements.

In a moment not far away, this will be over. Perhaps only to the true elation of one of them, a dangerous ally has sent word that she is coming with answers. Again, they’ll have to worry about what is to come: missing gods, tainted bloodlines, a mysterious key, and a sinister pogrom against the last true lords of Cheliax.

But, now, there are food and friends, music and family, and great fires to ward off the cold and darkness. It is enough. Their problems will keep for tomorrow.

In the distance, a voice shouts in triumph from across the ice, followed by a faint but unearthly howl. “Guys! I think I caught it!”


The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 3

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What are you doing here?

As Karzoug’s minions begin testing the walls of their hastily erected fort in the gateway to his demiplane, Balekh hurriedly applies magical protections to the party. As prepared as they’ll ever be, they all prick their thumbs, smear the blood on the crystal lens, fight against the nausea caused by seeing two planes at once, and simultaneously thrust their hands into the mystical brazier.

Their sight clears, and each is standing spread about an immense, circular stone platform, having apparently been decanted from one of several burning pyres arrayed about its circumference. Behind them, surrounding the platform, are sheer vertical walls of swirling soul-stuff. In the center of the platform, a tremendous, glowing blue pool lit by its own pyres must be Karzoug’s runewell. Centered is a massive, gold-bound purple gem, pulsing with light and, above that power focus, the Claimer himself.

The exact instant of their appearance was apparently a surprise to each. Though each side has had time to prepare, when their feet hit the floor, the Saviors of Sandpoint react moments faster than the lord of Greed. Haggor and Taeva fly into the air, held aloft by Balekh’s magics to surround the mage while the others throw arrows and spells. Weathering the barrage, the runelord gestures and time seems to crawl.

In what seems only a second to the heroes, Karzoug is now standing in two places: his original location and across the platform. Deadly mist, grasping black tentacles, and viscous grease have appeared at the feet of the land-bound heroes. Unfortunately for Karzoug, this is where it all starts to go wrong. Balekh’s vast array of spells has virtually immunized the entire group to such effects (perhaps, Karzoug thinks, in ways that they shouldn’t have for a caster more firmly tied to normal spell theory). Shayliss saves the killing cloud to affect her later, Balekh declares the black tentacles not a threat, and Veshenga is simply to agile to worry about a slippery floor.

Not caring about the obvious image, Taeva and Haggor again charge after the flying tyrant while Veshenga lays into him with arrows and Shayliss flings spells. Balekh waits for the archmage to cast, and, when he does so, unleashes a synchronized ray of the two most destructive spells from each of his spheres of study. Unable to complete his main working, and reeling from the attacks, Karzoug does manage to float back and use his rod to fire off a Wish for healing.

This merely delays the inevitable for a few more seconds. Now in easy grasping range, Haggor frees his full fury in a blinding barrage of blows, pulverizing the primordial prognosticator. Taeva slips forward and calmly detaches a kidney. Then Veshenga ends it with a single arrow into the eye.

As the once-mighty corpse of a man who had styled himself god-king of Shalast dessicates as drifts to the ground, the party is subjected to a blinding light from the crystal at the middle of the chamber. When they can see again, the room is no longer a demi-plane, but lodged at the base of the runelord’s tower. The runewell is frozen over in the frigid cold, its magic dissipated into the aether, and the walls of souls are gone. They take a moment to strip Karzoug’s corpse down to his shirt and then flee the mountaintop as the archmage’s lieutenants descend, returning to their bolt hole with the skulks.

Over the next few days, they watch as Karzoug’s last apprentice and chief priest fight over the remains of the domain, splintering loyalties and losing most of their rune giants, and then sweep in to eliminate the victor. Without their ancient taskmasters, most of the giants break free of the mystically-enforced loyalty and begin the long trek home. Once again, the dead city can become a myth, ruled only by the distant cousins of the Varisians who have no need of its immense wealth.

The party returns home to a society that will never appreciate the true enormity of the evil from which it was just saved, and prepares to celebrate victory.

The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 2

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To the Face!

Seeing signs of giants inhabiting the ancient city, the party decides to do reconnaissance before making a direct move for the mountain, which they assume is their ultimate destination. Sneaking into an unoccupied house near the edge of the city, they wait until dark. Without enough magic to protect against the weather, Taeva, Haggor, and Shayliss have a hard time sticking out against the freezing cold, as the party does not wish to make a fire and draw attention. By the time darkness falls early in the evening, the rogue and monk are very happy to start moving.

From Balekh’s divinations earlier, they know that the western edge of the city closest to them has been set up as a tent city for various giants that appear to be engaged in construction projects around the city. Taeva and Veshenga set out and skirt the edge of this city, passing between in at the foreboding fortress that guards the main road through town. Past the giants, they find little sign of life in the southern half of the city. After seeing some of the sights, including a building guarded by what could only be abominable snowmen, Taeva decides to return to camp, as she is feeling the chill profoundly in the open air. Veshenga, protected by magic against the cold, continues on. Shortly thereafter, she sees the glacier to the east give way to a tangle of giant fungi and strange plants running right up to the main road, and the air warms. She figures these are likely benefiting from some kind of volcanic hot spring, and sneaks forward across the main road to cast magic that will let her communicate with the plants. From them, she learns that the tangle runs deep and is deadly to those that venture too deep. The plant, however, does clue her in to the native inhabitants of the city, which it calls Skulks.

As she continues on into a section of the city featuring even more massive construction than the rest, likely the abode of giants, she begins to sense that she is being followed. She hides in an alley and waits, and is soon rewarded by another shadowy, humanoid figure moving after her. After it appears to give up on finding her and turn back, she creeps up on it and grabs ahold. The flabby creature struggles then gives up, and once Veshenga introduces herself and promises not to harm him, he introduces himself as Morgiv, indeed one of the denizens of the city called Skulks. However, on getting a better look at him, Veshenga recognizes a similarity in appearance and language to the strange man that makes her feel that he is, if anything, from an aeons-lost tribe of Varisians. These individuals, who Morgiv calls “Providers” must have adapted to the city over the last ten-thousand years. He seems happy to see adventurers that want to defeat the “god-king” and make the city once again safe for his people to roam, as they have retreated into their glacial tunnels.

Meanwhile, Haggor is exploring exactly these tunnels. He found that the glacier only goes so deep, and conceals an ancient lava flow that must have wiped out half of the city during the fall of Thassilon. He passes warning glyphs without knowing what they are warning against, and then quickly finds that they indicate sections of tunnels still swarming with the angry dead from fallen Xin-Shalast. Fortunately, Haggor has been preparing his magical gear precisely to handle the undead, and after he bodily tears several wraiths and spectres apart, they begin to leave him alone. He further explores the tunnels, finding evidence of inhabited sections guarded by pairs of humanoids (who he will later learn are the same Skulks as Morgiv). He remains hidden and doesn’t bother them, instead exploring the rest of the dangerous tunnels and then heading back to camp.

He arrives at about the same time as Veshenga and Morgiv, and introductions are made with Veshenga translating the Skulk’s strange patois of Thassilonian and Varisian for the rest of the group. The creature tells them that he can easily lead them to a secret way atop the mountain to Karzoug’s seat of power, but that the mountain is protected by a powerful obscuring field that none can penetrate without the right magics. He indicates that the Sihedron rings that three of them wear, gathered from various lieutenants and dungeons of Greed, are the required tokens. However, they do not have enough for everyone. According to Morgiv, most of the emissaries that dwell on the mountain have the rings, and they could be assaulted when they leave the mountain, but they usually do so in great numbers. The only denizens of the lower city that he believes have the rings are a dragon and a demon that are tentatively allied with Karzoug. The party, after some deliberation, believes that these will be the targets whose defeat will be least likely to immediately raise alarms.

Sneaking into the tunnels with Morgiv, he provides them a safe area nearer the north of the city to rest during the day. The next evening, they enter an ancient coliseum shaped as a Sihedron star where they are told the “demon” lives. After bypassing a number of traps and minor threats, they come upon the being’s dwelling in one of the boxes for nobles of the city. Instead of a demon, they find that he is instead an Ice Devil, guarded by two Bone Devils, and is prepared for them. Negotiations very quickly fail. Amidst ice storms and walls of ice, the party batters through the guardian devils and charges the lead devil, who teleports away, realizing he is outmatched, after threatening to remember their faces. Balekh immediately follows him with a scrying and teleport, emerging only seconds behind him. The party finishes the being off to realize that they are still inside the city in an abandoned house on the mountain not far away. They dimension door back to the creature’s lair and gather up its ring and various other treasure before heading back to the tunnels.

The next night, they sneak into an ancient tax collector’s treasury, emerging on the lair of an ancient blue dragon. Negotiations go longer than with the devil, but the dragon is not at all swayed by their suggestion that the world would be better off without Karzoug, instead deigning to lecture to them about the grandeur of the renewed Thassilonian Empire that is soon to commence. Deciding that they are unlikely to win this particular argument, the party attacks. The dragon unleashes lightning and phantasmal duplicates, nearly crushing Veshenga and dealing terrible wounds to Haggor and Taeva. However, like most of the party’s foes without time to prepare or room to maneuver, the fight is over quickly and decisively. As Haggor stashes the creature’s neatly organized hoard into their portable hole, Taeva skins the beast (Haggor insists that the skin go in a bag of holding that will not result in it rotting on top of the rest of the treasure).

With sufficient rings on hands, the next evening the party takes Morgiv’s secret route up the mountain, dispatching a guardian roper on the way. Reaching the top with the aid of the rings, they find a nearly abandoned set of buildings, with signs of life only in the immense tower that soars nearly half a mile high, nearly to the face on the mountain itself. After scouting the main route into the tower, Balekh finds that it is heavily guarded by giants. Instead, they decide to enter via a hole near the top of the tower, at it at least appears to not be immediately guarded and to allow them some control over the terrain. The party flies up and enters the small (by giant standards) side room. Just as they’re getting their bearings, an emanation of Karzoug appears in the room, spectral as he forces his way into this dimension. He asks them once more if they will set aside their foolish quest to defeat him and nods sadly when they once again reply with only impudent remarks and insults.

The vision fades and the party begins to prepare for battle, assuming that the alarm has been raised. Sure enough, less than a minute later sounds of armored foes are heard rushing down the hallway. As Haggor throws open the door to attack the threat, he finds three foes. The first is, though enlarged and covered in massive armor, by her sword and face clearly Viorian Dekanti, the pirate queen from Riddleport last seen driven mad by the sword of the champion of Greed. Flanking her are two immense giants, covered in runes, that appear to be the evolved form the creature that emerged from the cauldron in the Therassic Monastery. The battle is furious, with Karzoug’s champion and the giants cutting into Haggor again and again with thunderous blows. However, Balekh is on hand with healing magics and the rest of the party is giving better than Haggor is taking. Viorian is pummeled, disarmed, tripped, and stabbed with a bleeding wound, rolling away to try to save herself only to be finished off by Veshenga. The first giant fires a massive shower of mystical sparks from its runes before it falls, and the second tears into the party before it, too, falls to a focused assault.

However, as the last giant falls, the party has only a moment to breathe, as the next wave of foes is howling down the hallway. Forming up for the new threat, they see a quartet of giant-sized, armored women with the lower bodies of lions. They are clearly another kind of Lamia, and Balekh wastes no time trying to thin them out with a synthesized spell of holy fire and arcane lightning before fleeing around the corner. The creatures respond with twin columns of holy fire of their own and a wall of gnashing blades. However, most of the front line easily avoids these spells (though Balekh takes nearly as much punishment as he dealt), and charges forward to destroy the beasts. Haggor smashes two into the walls to make room for the rest of the party to unload a barrage of arrows and spells down the hallway at their sisters. As they fall, everything becomes momentarily quiet. Apparently, there were no other tower guardians immediately nearby.

The party takes the reprieve to recover, loot the bodies, and explore. They find an immense throne room, dwellings for dozens of giants, and, most importantly, an ornamental sepulcher for Karzoug that faces a very ornamental emerald and gold lens illuminated by a magical brazier. Suspecting that they’ve found the way into Karzoug’s sanctum, they consult the divinatory quill they found in the Scribbler’s lair and determine how to enter the domain. Balekh uses the last of his spells to wall off and arcane lock the entrances to the room, and they all hope that it will be enough to allow them to grab enough rest to assault the Runelord fresh. This proves to be a good plan, as they have just finished their morning studies when they hear pounding begin on the newly created walls. They steel themselves and prepare to face their ultimate battle.

The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Vignettes 3

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Letter to Valeria (by Haggor’s player)

Dearest Valeria,

We’ve only met a few times but I hope you’ll remember me. I am Haggor, the half-orc monk. We met first in Sandpoint and later in Magnimar. I took you as a stalwart woman of determination and purpose. It is for these reasons and another that I am writing to you. This last year of adventuring has led us on a trail to Xin-Shalast to face the Runelord named Karzoug. He is an evil, powerful tyrant from thousands of years past, and, if he’s allowed to reawaken completely and regain his powers, he will conquer all the lands and enslave all of the world with his vile magics. I wanted to write to you and warn you, for by the time you receive this letter we will have entered Xin-Shalast and be working our way to facing him. I wanted someone outside our group to be prepared should we fail, and your face came to me in my dreams.

I will do my best to retrace our footsteps. Enclosed with this letter you will find some maps I created to try and help you as best I can. The first map is to the location of the Runeforge, where you can use its power to craft weapons that can be used against the Runelord himself. The second map is, as near as we can tell, the route to Xin-Shalast. I wish I had more time to explain how we came to possess this knowledge or any other knowledge that might help you. But know that the Runelords are of an ancient civilization that once ruled all these lands, 10,000 or more years ago. They wield power beyond comprehension and, near the end of their reign, nearly destroyed the world itself before going into sleep.

If you do not hear from me in 1 month’s time you will know that we have failed, and that my final thoughts were of you. Know that, upon first having set eyes upon you, I was entranced by you. I wanted to go with you off to wherever your travels took you, but I am duty bound to see this quest to its end. The world will suffer under the chains of slavery and tyranny if we should fail, and I cannot just look aside. If I do not see you again in this life then I will seek you in the next.


(signature drawn with little eyes and fangs in a smile in the O)

The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Vignettes 2

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Reunions in Light (via chat with Veshenga’s player)

It was later in the evening when Veshenga wandered into the Commander’s office. No longer a scene of destruction, nor decorated as a lamia’s boudoir, the room was currently in a very uncluttered state. Only a desk, piled high with papers, marred the clean lines of the room. That, and what at first glance was a bearskin rug flopped out in front of the roaring fire. At the desk, light from the fire and several candles glistened on the older Varisian woman’s bent head, showing off new streaks of gray. As Veshenga crossed the threshold, the “rug” glanced up and rumbled a greeting.

Veshenga reached out to Kibb as she crossed into the room. He was given a rub behind his ears, and Veshenga glanced at the woman behind the desk. There were new lines of gray in her hair, her calm face was stooped away from the candle-light for the most part. There were still some features available to see. Just seeing her face set Veshenga at ease. She could not describe the sensation, or even why it was there. “I hope I em not disturbing you, Commander.” Veshenga spoke up softly, she did not want to be intrusive. “I wanted to see you before the night was out. We leave tomorrow.” Veshenga’s eyes wandered, the new chamber really was nice and different. She felt at home here with the Commander.

The Commander finished writing something on a paper, then looked up at Veshenga with a smile. Dark, human eyes met hers from across the room, distraction from the fact that her face was otherwise like a mirror for Veshenga’s own. Perhaps that was why she had not noticed it months ago. “Not at all. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it down. Running this place turns out to be more work than I’d expected,” she glanced at the half-elven woman’s clothing, not quite disturbed as they would be from the ride to the fort, “I was going to ask if Vale took care of you, but…” she grinned, more peace and warm emotion displayed in fewer words than Veshenga had seen during the entire previous ordeal at the fort.

Veshenga was fast to cancel any gape that could have come from the Commander’s comments, and instead beamed broadly as she released an embarrassed titter. “Well, I suppose you could say that,” she cleared her throat, and moved a little deeper into the room. She adjusted her tunic momentarily. “You appear well!” She recovered from her blush, opened her arms to the Commander. “I wish I could be at peace like you,” she shook her head, that smile faded as the gray in the Commander’s hair, “but my mind is heavy, Commander.” She barely knew this woman, why was she confiding in her?

The woman pushed the documents to the side and gestured with a practiced grace to a wooden chair placed in front of the desk. She was clearly used to having these kinds of talks with the men, or at least so she thought. “It’s a peace born of routine, dear. It’s amazing how fast the mind adjusts back to normalcy. What’s on your mind?”

Veshenga eyed the chair guardedly, glanced the Commander’s way, thought about it another second more and snagged the seat. She was not really sure – “Where to start,” Veshenga smiled nervously. “All of these farewells. I never really thought about what could happen if I never cem’ back from these… adventures. What I would be missing,” she rubbed the back of her neck, she was cringing. “Who I would be missing. I could not even bring myself to say good bye to my own father right. Well, he’s… not my father, but he’s my father,” she shook her head, dismissed the foggy tangent. “It’s a long story…”

Tessa leaned back and nodded for Veshenga to go on. Her eyes betrayed a growing experience with serving as a sounding board for young recruits, but she was warring with an inkling that it was, however, strange for the half-elf to confide in her this way.

“I,” her hands wrestled loosely with one another, they were restlessly rolling together, “lost my mother. My father was not my father, he was her friend. My mother was trying to save me, and so was he. He has raised me since.” Veshenga’s gaze was distant, her voice different. That merriment gone, instead there was a distracted imagery to her words. “I wonder how I would be missed if like her I never cem’ back. Who would be left behind. What Vale would feel. What father would feel. And more than that, I don’t want to leave them. I want to stay, but this has to be done. And for once the way for me is cloudy,” she narrowed her eyes, “and filled with so much doubt.”

She nodded, something about the tale bothered her… called to memories long buried. But the ranger rolled cleanly into the advice of a long time leader. “At some point, we all made a choice to give up the illusion of safety. Of turning our backs on the world to be with our loved ones. Everyone here has made that choice. Some because they knew that their actions had repercussions, choosing to commit crimes that led them here. Others, because they knew that the right choice was the hard choice,” she winces a little bit at this, clearly indicative of which story is her own. “You already made your choice when you started walking the path Desna and Erastil set before you. You can stop moving, but you can’t ever leave the road until you reach your destination.”

“You’re right…” Veshenga was not bright like Balehk, not even like Vale was. She could not have crafted items like Balehk, or breathed life into a ruin like Vale had. But she was a keen woman, and observant. Her smarts lay elsewhere, and such a wit had noted the Commander’s reactions. “I know you are right.” Veshenga took a steady breath, she knew her question was a personal one. “What was your choice?”

Tessa was caught out. Veshenga saw a flash of the walls trying to slam back down. To protect the still-broken core of the woman’s soul. But the question was fast enough, on the heels of doubt and memory, such that her lips were moving obviously before she could restrain them, “I gave up my last ounce of happiness trying to save it. But I failed. All I can do now is try to stop anyone from having to go through what I did.”

Veshenga was caught off-guard now, a surge of empathy, and an understanding she found difficult to place. Before she could recover, her eyes filled with tears. She shifted in her seat, no position was comfortable. Her own skin felt tight, her heart was slamming in her chest. No matter what she did, the tears eventually tumbled. She did not wipe them away, she did not want to acknowledge them.

“My father Danel gev’ me a family, Vale gev’ me a heart, my friends a home… I cannot stop until I know they are all safe. I suppose I will hev’ to find a way to not be so afraid, eh?” She stood from the chair. “In the end, I will say it was you that gev’ me this bravery,” she smiled sadly, and her eye contact faltered. “I hev’ kept your time, I do apologize.”

The woman had tried to pull back only to be baffled by the tears. On the verge of comprehension, she stood, staggering, having to brace herself against the desk, “Your father who ?”

Veshenga had turned to go, but stopped. Her head slowly turned, and those blue eyes probed the Commander’s bewildered look. “… My father? Danel.” She turned more fully to face her, instead of peering over her shoulder.

The woman was shaking, the urge to protect herself visibly at war with a hope that had burned her every time it had been allowed to shine in the past. Speech long polished to fit in with a predominantly Chelish organization began to fall away into a Varisian dialect, different from Veshenga’s but very close to her father’s. “Jour accent is Mierani. It must be. Vhere is your caravan from!?”

The change was startling to Veshenga, who retreated. She was on her guard, she was not sure what was happening with the Commander. Her emotional and vocal shift, however, set Veshenga’s heart to thundering again. She was caught up in the woman’s reaction. “Your voice,” she said, her own accent a faint echo of hers, “is changed,” she stammered, but righted her speech. “Beyond Riddleport, we camp near the Mierani Forest border.”

“But Danel is a family name from my tribe… vhy vould that be jour father’s name?”

Many Varisians were lost, in one form or a grim other, when the Korvosa patrols attacked, she remembered that part of Danel’s story. She could have been one of the many lost. Still, something was happening here in the office, something Veshenga was unprepared for. “Because Danel Tranger is my father. He rescued me from a Korvosan attack, he raised me. You,” she approached the Commander now, “you knew my father?”

The Commander fell to her elbows at her desk, weeping as she caught herself.

“Commander,” Veshenga said, unsure exactly how to proceed. She walked around her chair, and reached across the desk for her. It was an instant that passed, and in that instant, the Commander was around the desk and in Veshenga’s face. She grabbed her shoulders and shook. Tears flowed freely, “It can’t be. He is dead. Zhey are all dead. How old are you!?”

Veshenga held her, eyes pleaded with the Commander’s. “Almost thirty, uh, twenty-nine,” she answered swiftly, in the rush of the occurrence nearly forgetting her own age. “How did you know my father!? Answer me! Please!

Tear-blurred eyes stared at the half-elven girl, finally seeing, her frantic rhythm slowing, “He vas my friend. I gave him my baby girl to protect. I thought zhey only vanted me. I thought I could save zhem, that it vas the only way. But zhey showed me things at my trial. So many pieces of proof to break me. Get me to confess to killing him. To confess to killing jour father. Zhey told me you were dead,” huge wracking sobs broke her cadence, and shook Veshenga as the woman braced herself against her shoulders, “And I, a fool, for thirty years, believed zhem.”

Veshenga was stunned and silent for only a second. Suddenly, she grabbed the Commander’s face and held it up to her. There. She could see it, too. It really was like looking in a mirror. Small differences, but those hardly mattered. Veshenga was torn between smiling and screaming. She touched the Commander’s face. She touched her mother’s face. She held her shoulders now, and burst into tears. “I’m here,” she said as her mother collapsed against her. “I’m right here,” Veshenga held her tightly, her arms braided around her shoulders, secured her close to her heart. “You are a miracle to me here,” she wept, and she bowed her face into Tessa’s dark hair. “I thought you were dead, I thought I would never see you again,” she shook with her own sobs, her embrace tightened, her voice broke. “I thought I would never see you again…”

Kibb, nodding to himself in his very ursine way, pushed to his massive feet, walked across the room to nudge the door closed. He flopped down to keep it closed, giving the two women privacy as they sat in the middle of the fire lit room.

Sobbing into her daughter’s shoulder, Tessa Andrima managed to say, “My little Quida. My own little Quida.”

The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Vignettes 1

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Reunions in Dark (via chat with Veshenga’s player)

The sounds of conversation quickly faded, as Vale and Veshenga left Balehk and Taeva to fend for themselves. After only a dozen steps, the thick stone walls muffled their words to nothing. Or perhaps they had rapidly run out of things to talk about. Vale did not seem concerned as he gestured at various places that had been in a wrecked state the last time Veshenga was there. He was beaming like a madman.

“That one was tricky. One of those fireballs Balehk’s woman threw dug a short sword five inches into the stone. But we dug it out, patched it, and it’s almost good as new.”

Veshenga managed to keep up with him. Restoring the fort had obviously been a labor of love, this was the sort of thing Vale did. His steps were fast, his excitement was infectious and Veshenga soon cracked a grin.

“Shayliss? The girl has a mean throw,” Veshenga chuckled and followed him further on the tour. A half dozen more such repairs appeared at the end of the Shoanti warrior’s gesture, each paired with a reminder of the terrible battled that was fought in these halls less than a year before, now nearly completely erased by the diligent work of the rangers. It was odd revisiting the fort this way, the unrelenting work had nearly masked the signs of struggle, loss, victory, and carnage. Veshenga shrugged her cloak back from her shoulders, and leaned against one of the walls as Vale turned to her.

“I’m not boring you, am I?”

A sly, but warm smile stretched across her lips, and she shook her head at the inquiry. “Not at all. I am amazed by the work you and the Arrows hev’ done and in such short time.”

“Then I’ll show you my new favorite spot,” he grinned, and turned, heading north without any further explanation. One of Veshenga’s narrow brows arched over a quizzical blue stare.

“Favorite spot, eh?” Veshenga could not deny sticking close to a grin like that. She kept up with him as they wound through the fort. He appeared to be making for the storage closet, and then kept going. He walked down the set of stairs that had been a secret entry into a fort once occupied by ogre invaders. Every now and then he would hear the smallest laugh from her, obviously excited about this adventure. It was refreshing, considering most adventures were soaked in blood, painful, hard to shake. At the end of such adventures, Veshenga felt like a drink, but on this one? She felt like a child again, when she would run through the woods with her friends to secret hideaways. Some by the lake, some under willow trees or among thick, arched roots.

They moved through the basement prison, now refreshingly wight-free, and Vale slowed down to carefully, quietly push open the secret door into the caves. Veshenga tread softly after him, her breath softened. She was present and silent, and stuck close to him as a shadow would. It was as warm and damp as she remembered from the previous visit, and the smell of ozone and distant flashes of lightning made it abundantly clear that the cave was still infested with the shocker lizards. Upon seeing the lizards, a startled smile lightened Veshenga’s features, but she kept herself from making any sudden noise.

“Now I’m never going to be as good with the little guys as you or the Cap… Commander,” he said in a low town, and then reached for a box hidden in a crevasse high up the wall, “but I’ve got my tricks.” Reaching into the container, he pulled out a handful of some kind of treat and flung it ahead into the pile of lizards. As they were fed, Veshenga snickered and shook her head. Small contented sighs quickly began to come from the pile.

“Clever, very clever,” she watched from over his shoulder. “Next thing I know you will hev’ them doing tricks.” She grinned up at him. “Maybe jumping through hoops? Dancing?”

His teeth flashed white in the shadows as he reached into the box and pulled out a candle and a striker. He delicately lit it and nudged the door closed. It became the only light in the darkness.

“Nah. I like these guys right where they are. They do their thing. I just want to make sure they let me do mine. C’mon.” He attentively shielded the candle with his hand so as to not disturb the lizards, then began to cautiously skirt the area they filled as he made for the far reaches of the caverns.

“Right behind you,” Veshenga confirmed, and journeyed further with him. That little light sat golden in the palm of his hand as the wax shimmered just beneath the wick. Even in that tiny brilliance she could see the fingers of the engineer. Not the digits of a noble; smooth, cool, and unused. These were rough, callused, warm fingertips she could not forget. Veshenga kept the thought to herself, buttoned it shut behind a bit lip. She pressed on, the candle light was a floating star in the blackness around them.

It did not take long to reach what would have seemed to be a dead end, a wrong turn, if not for the old, soft-looking blanket hung on the wall. The end of the corridor was small, barely big enough for two people to sit in. Vale handed Veshenga the candle as he spread the blanket across the rough cave floor.

“Here,” she said, and took the offered candle, “I got it,” she shielded the fluttering flame, the miniature radiance suddenly anxious now that Vale’s hand was gone. The candlelight settled, and the warmth against her palm was relaxing. Her eyes began to roam, the blue gaze coasted along the walls. Adventuring left her with the habit of checking every room she entered. Check the corners, know the exits. Eventually, her gaze settled on Vale again. Veshenga smiled fondly as he lay the blanket down, and she made a gesture as if to ask: May I?

She took a seat on the sprawled blanket, still conscious of the candle in her hand. She leaned back on her elbows, and extended her head back. The wild dark locks, some braided, some beaded, some free, spilled down from her shoulders to brush the blanket. She smiled, her face upside down. “Out with it – you missed me, didn’t you?” She played the reunion serenely, but the moment she had seen him she wanted nothing more than to embrace him.

The big man gingerly sat down next to her, snugly, winked and then blew out the candle.

“Quite a bit,” he said in the darkness, humor in his voice.

It took only a few moments for Veshenga’s half-elven senses to adjust. Smell came first, the scent of the extinguished candle fading to reveal Vale, breathing next to her, leather and stone charmingly covered with a quick scrub and a clean shirt. All he had time for on their unannounced arrival. Next was sight, or, moreover, the lack of it. The utter blackness of the cavern daunted her eyes’ attempt to account for even the faintest light. Finally, the absolute silence revealed its secrets; a thousand small creaks and vibrations running through the rock.

Vale whispered, “You hear it?”

She found him in the dark, her head rest against his. “I do,” her voice trailed into the black that had enveloped them once the candle was put out. There was more she wanted to say, but a moment like this deserved only a tender silence. She listened to him breathe and the floor shiver. Her eyes shut, not just to help her adjust to the darkness, but the rhythm of his breath was enough to let her drift in this instant. Soon, he felt her stir from their sweet stillness, heard a quick breath escape her. Her question was teaming with contained laughter. “What is that anyway?”

“Near as I can figure, this is the heart of the fortress. If you could draw a cutaway of the place from every angle, draw the direction each block of stone would go if it wasn’t stopped by another one, most of the lines would go through here. Thousands of tons of stone bearing down on this one point, then rushing over us like a river. Every time the wind blows, or someone moves, or the slightest thing happens to shift the fort, you feel it here.”

Veshenga gave a mirthful cry. “That’s amazing, I would hev’ never figured this out. Never,” she shook her head, the guffaw echoed around them. She reached for him, blindly, her fingers strayed across his cheek hesitantly until she was sure she would not poke an eye, or put a thumb up his nose. “You are incredible,” she said tenderly, and bowed her brow along his temple. He felt her smile, even if he could not see it. “But you knew that,” she smirked playfully.

His arm wrapped around her in the darkness. “I’m glad you like it. I wanted to turn that all into a metaphor about how I feel, but I couldn’t find the words. It’s just my favorite spot. And now my favorite person’s in it.”

She cradled his face, her fingertips were her eyes for now. “Not long before I came here, I thought of everything I would say to you. Everything. Now,” she kissed him, “all I want is to stay here, I don’t want to go,” he would hear a sad chuckle close to his mouth, she shook her head. “When we make it through this, I’ll be back again. You know this, too.”

“That’s what you guys do. You go straight through problems, like an arrow. Plus,” he chuckled, “I’m not cut out to organize a resistance movement to a magical god king, so you guys better take care of it.”

“Hey,” she exclaimed, “I hev’ this handled ! This would not be the first magical god king I hev’ hed to take care of,” she paused. “Okay, this may be the first.” She did not want to think about the struggle she and her friends would face. “Take this,” she unclasped the opal that usually hung low from her neck on a thin chain. She took his hand. “I want you to hev’ it.” The chain coiled on his palm and she folded her fingers over it. “Now,” she eased him onto his back, “I believe there is something we need to take care of…”

The Spires of Xin-Shalast, Part 1

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Game Time: Winter, 4708
Real Time: June, 2010

“I don’t even have hair.”

The party returns from Runeforge with a new sense of competence. Perhaps it was the magical emanations of the place or just the natural result of the accelerated pace of hazards over the past few weeks, but each of them feels as if they have leaped in power. Though the danger of the risen runelord is pressing, they all agree to take a few weeks to prepare. Perhaps stereotypically, Haggor and Balekh sequester themselves to learn new spells (Haggor, though the runic tattoos he learned about in the Therassic Library) while Taeva, Veshenga, and Shayliss expect to shop for magic items in Magnimar and then relax in Sandpoint… perhaps for the last time if they cannot stop their foe.

It’s only a day into this working vacation when Taeva is interrupted from home improvements by a somberly dressed and sober looking man that seems to have appeared from nowhere. He presents her what he calls a “bequeathment” in a small mahogany box adorned with the rune of Wrath. He is mysteriously gone again before shedding much light on the situation. Taeva immediately marches the suspicious parcel to Balekh, interrupting his and Haggor’s tattooing session. Briefly blinded by the evocation magic present in the box when he detects for magic, Balekh suggests that they open it far away from town. Doing so, it fails to explode, instead revealing a finely worked key in precious metals, its head and grip both stylized runes of wrath. Taking the key, Taeva feels a substantial power within, seeking a direction to lead her and settling on a metaphorical down. She can also feel the shape of the catacombs of Wrath beneath the town, and the presence of the Old Light. Haggor attempts to touch the key and pulls away moments before he sensed that it would not accept being handled by anyone other than Taeva. For now, the party decides to put this mystery off until after dealing with the current crisis.

Over the next couple of weeks, the girls make several trips to Magnimar, trading in superfluous loot found at Runeforge for more desirable items. When not so engaged, Taeva works on her house and Veshenga and Shayliss begin to develop a much closer bond than ever, largely based around Shayliss’ new interest in pub crawls that end in regular benders at some of the seedier taverns in town. Unaware of these goings-on, Balekh remains enmeshed in his studies and the creation of Haggor’s mystical tattoos, until one day he actually sees his wife in good light. Perhaps it’s the months of exercise and dangerous experiences, a natural progression in aging during the late teens, or maybe something with less of a natural explanation, but at some point the young sorceress has turned from a cute village girl to a stunningly attractive woman. Balekh seems inclined to assume that there is nothing abnormal going on and simply appreciate his good fortune, until Haggor notices that her hair has taken on a life of its own. Full and growing long faster than should be possible, they both swear they see it braid itself as she’s going out for a night on the town. Again, for now they assume this is a mystery that can be solved later.

A mystery for now, though, at least in Sheriff Hemlock’s conception, is brought to their attention not long after. Apparently, since they’ve been back the guardhouse has had a significant upturn in Sczarni thugs and other criminal lowlifes turning themselves in bearing confessions and proof of their misdeeds. The garrison is filling up with hardened criminals that seem to have had a change of heart one night, then tried to recant (unfortunately ironclad) confessions the next day. Balekh swears he’s not involved, and suggests that spells such as that could be manifested by any number of spellcasters. Hemlock doesn’t seem to completely buy that, but figures that, as long as it’s just someone solving crime, he’s not going to worry about his good fortune too much. Later, Balekh asks Shayliss whether she’s been doing something, and she very convincingly denies any such suggestions.

Taeva is a little more interested, and begins asking around about who could be doing such things. It doesn’t take her long to realize that the confessions seem to have coincided with Shayliss’ pub crawls down at the docks, and, also, to realize that she hadn’t been invited (a realization that stings more when, on attempting to enroll her in surveillance, Veshenga admits that she has been a part of the fun). The Sheriff doesn’t seem to believe her, insisting that Shayliss is a “Peach of a girl that never caused any problems,” worrying Taeva that the sorceress has already gotten to Hemlock. Veshenga does promise Taeva that she’ll keep an eye on Shayliss the next time they’re out and watch for anything suspicious.

However, the idea of convincing people to do things for the good of all, even if they don’t realize it, has reminded Balekh that he’s afraid Karzoug’s destruction could mean the fall of Skull’s Crossing. He gathers the group to go suggest that Turtleback Ferry and Fort Rannick evacuate until after they’ve dealt with the runelord. This idea, when broached to the mayor of the town, does not inspire confidence; the mayor opines that evacuating town for a few weeks on a vague threat of danger right before winter would be incredibly dangerous to the town, possibly more so than a potential flood. Hoping to at least convince the rangers, Balekh is instead met with very solid reassurances by Vale that the dam is unlikely to fall apart catastrophically even if it’s being held together by the will of a great mage. Mollified by the warrior-engineer, they catch him up on the latest goings on. Balekh and Taeva hang out for a while as Veshenga takes Vale off for a more personal level of catching up. Haggor, for his part, hit the lake the moment they got into town, still hoping to catch Black Magga: the one that got away.

Later in the week, when Balekh has finally finished Haggor’s tattoos and almost finished his own spell research, Veshenga decides it’s time to keep an eye on Shayliss. That this involves a pub crawl doesn’t matter much to her. As it has previously, the bar hopping ends down by the docks, and Veshenga is more sober than she usually is in such situations. Keeping an eye on the sorceress, she does notice that the girl has been waxing philosophical on the idiocy of committing crimes in the hometown of a bunch of famous adventurers, and yet making fast friends of the scum in the bar. On one such announcement, a young man that Shayliss was looking at while she was talking says he goodbyes and leaves the bar. But Veshenga can’t see anything to prove about the whole thing.

Meanwhile, Taeva has been drinking alone, still not invited to the pub crawl. She gets bored and starts to mess with the key of Wrath, very interested in the sense of the dungeon beneath the town it gives her. She decides to wander up towards the Old Light that she can so keenly feel, scowling at the sound of revelry at the bar and scaring late-night passersby as she crosses town. As she walks towards the fallen tower, she thinks she can make out a faint glow on the old building. As she reaches the stones, she’s certain that a faint amount of witchlight is suffusing the rocks of the structure. She taps the structure with the key and a faint thrumming noise is heard, as the ground begins to gently vibrate, as if ancient magics were coming back online. After the glow and vibrating hum slowly grow, she decides to get help solving the mystery. Since she’s still somewhat convinced that Veshenga and Balekh are just as mind-controlled by Shayliss as the Sheriff, she goes to get Haggor.

Rousing the monk from a sound slumber, the two of them head back to the tower, where he is forced to admit that the tower does appear to be glowing and vibrating. As the drunken gnome taps the key against the tower to demonstrate what she’d done before, this effect intensifies. They both recall that some of the Thassilonian writings they’ve been reading recently refer to this as a “Hellfire Flume.” Taeva wonders if she could make it work again. Haggor thinks that would be dangerous. Taeva asks whether anything dangerous that happened would hit her house clear on the other side of town. Haggor doesn’t like where this line of questions is going, and suggests that they ask Balekh. Taeva thinks that he’s trying to manipulate her, and storms off home. Haggor goes and gets Balekh.

When the two men return, the magic of the structure seems to be subsiding in Taeva’s absence. Balekh worries that, with it as decomposed as it is, it would be far more likely to explode than to usefully direct gouts of fire at their enemies. Besides, the range in the books was only mentioned to be a few miles, and they don’t currently have many enemies at that short a range. They go to try to convince Taeva of this. The gnome is still sauced and surly, and picks an argument through her front door with Balekh. Haggor excuses himself to go check on Veshenga.

Back at the bar, the party is in full swing, and the girls are very happy to see Haggor join in. Veshenga has been noticing that Shayliss has developed a number of strange compulsive ticks that she claims are stress-related: turning her mug three times before taking a drink, only paying the tab in multiples of four coins. Calling her on it, Shayliss admits that she’s taken a lot of adjusting to the adventurous lifestyle over the last year, and thinks that maybe some of her stress will go away after they deal with the latest crisis and can settle down, which is why she’s so keen to make sure that Sandpoint is a stress-free place to settle in.

She goes and spends some time with her new friends, and as Haggor and Veshenga are discussing her and the latest kerfluffle with Taeva, they notice yet another guy excuse himself suspiciously. Since Shayliss still seems to be engaged in conversation, they take the opportunity to slip out: Haggor in a smooth glide, Veshenga in a drunken stumble. Even after hours of solid drinking, Veshenga is a match for the monk in stealth, and the two of them manage to follow the young man as he leaves his house with a satchel and heads right to the garrison. He walks up to a night guard that no longer seems surprised at Sczarni thugs showing up to turn themselves in, and begins taking the man’s confession. The two adventurers sneak across the street to listen at the window, initially thinking that the man is turning himself in for petty crimes and then gasping at his tale about slitting a merchant’s throat.

As they wander back, they meet Shayliss leaving the bar, and help her home. Subtle questions about the man are again met with completely believable explanations. Shayliss seems convinced that, if anything, she’s simply swayed the criminals with her words. After all, it would be obvious if she was using magic on them, right? The two buy it, dropping her off at home and then Haggor leaves Veshenga at her own house before wandering back out of town to find Taeva and Balekh in full-on argument about potentially detonating an ancient magical artifact inside the city. The gnome finally relents as Haggor has something more interesting to talk about. Balekh thinks, based on Haggor’s description, that magic is likely, but that he can’t exactly fault his wife for using it to get murderers to turn themselves in to the guard. He heads home and says goodnight to her after making her drink a glass of water.

The next morning, they leave Shayliss to sleep it off but make Veshenga get up, and all of them head out to pick up Brodert, who they’d deposited back in the Therassic Library on their return to Sandpoint. The old sage has useful ideas on Taeva’s new key, suggesting that perhaps, as the de facto final lieutenant of Alaznist, the key may, in fact, be meant to rouse the mistress of Barakhan from her own ten-thousand-year slumber. He thinks they should either attempt to hide the key—though such things have a way of not staying hidden&mdashor attempt to use it and defeat her before she can come to consciousness. They table that discussion for now, as Taeva doesn’t seem to like the idea at all, and move on to finding Xin-Shalast.

Brodert has come to the same conclusion as Balekh, putting together what is essentially a map without useful landmarks, the entire face of the world having changed since Thassilon fell, and with a number of common reference points taken for granted as well. He, however, remembers a woman he was in contact with several years back, a presumed pirate queen and known treasure hunter based out of Riddleport named Viorian Dekanti. She had, as he recalls, been especially keen on artifacts of Xin-Shalast, and might have more information on the search for the legendary city. They deposit him back in Sandpoint, get the address, and then make another jaunt to the pirate city.

It’s not long before they meet a young urchin with a bad leg and a squint that goes by the name Timmy, who is quite keen to lead them to the address for a tip. When they get there, they find a mansion clearly gutted by fire and looted some years previous. Timmy leaves them at a decent hotel, goes off to find out what happened, and returns with a tale of a woman, most likely Mistress Dekanti, who had gone mad a few years ago and murdered all of her henchmen and anyone in the street as she fled the town, swinging a glowing golden sword that had once been her prize treasure. This sounds to the party quite like the same timeframe as Sandpoint’s Late Unpleasantness: the surging of the runewells that seemed to coincide with Karzoug’s initial awakening.

All is not lost, as Timmy leads them to a shop where the books looted from the house before it burned completely would have been sold off. There, the party sees less of a library and more of the used bookshop of the damned: a hole in the wall of an old market street where makeshift shelves creak with the pressure of books rescued from the sea and jammed into any old order. The strange, weaselly proprietor seems to have no real regard for books, but points them to the shelf with Viorian’s things. Balekh soon finds a book that seems to be a treasure-hunter’s journal that does, indeed, promise to fill in a lot of the missing landmarks of the road to Xin-Shalast. After paying the owner and finding out a bit more context of Viorian’s madness, at least enough to recognize her should they run across her soon, they leave the city, tipping Timmy on the way out.

From there, it’s but one more day of preparation before they party is off, teleporting to the closest Storval Plateau settlement that Balekh can reach and then transforming into wind to speed their way into the mountains up the Kazaron river. As they climb higher and higher the river becomes somehow harder to follow, until they must turn back to flesh in the bitter cold and test their wills against some kind of palpable presence trying to keep the city a legend. But they force their way through, following the unmistakable tracks of giants and other creatures into a partial valley between some of the highest peaks in the region.

Cresting a rise, they look down upon an ancient city. An immense road runs through it, seemingly paved in gold. Massive buildings fill the entire space, even poking through an ancient glacier that has engulfed half of the ruin. All lead back towards a mountain so tall it seems to scrape against the very boundaries of the world, itself bearing a wizard’s tower and the unmistakable face of Karzoug carved into the very rock to survey all that he owns. They have reached the city of legend, even now stirring with the runelord’s recalled forces. They only hope that there remains time to put the Claimer down before he attains his full power and sweeps his army across the plains of Varisia, once again plunging the world into the tyranny of an immortal despot.

Sins of the Saviors, Vignettes Epilogue

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Hazy Epiphany (by Veshenga’s Player)

The arrow was in her hand before her intruder could even blink. It snapped out of the quiver, and notched to her forearm. The head steadied under a stiff index finger, her other tattooed digits coiled around the projectile. That metal point was level with the stranger’s neck, and a smile appeared through a shadowy coil.

Veshenga grunted tiredly. “I could hev’ killed you.”

Danel sat beside her, and shifted the dead hares off his shoulder. They thumped between them, bound together. “My little Quida,” he chuckled, “not even Dead Eye can match me.”

There is a flash of her dancing, the color red now a weightless, silk scarf, and she is so enticing. Her hips weave and caress the music. Even now, after Korvosa, you danced. There is a little bump in your belly, there is a little life there. I love you. You would not know it, but I love you.

“I can’t stay very long,” Veshenga propped herself up on her elbows, interrupted Danel’s thoughts. He cast her a bemused look.

“My girl is a haunting girl, a ghost in the Mierani Forest.” He tugged a leaf from one of her braids. “She still came to find me, though. Another face full of questions.”

“No questions this time…” What was she like? Tell me why you loved her. Maybe we can find her. Where would we start? “I wanted to see you before I returned to Sandpoint. We did what we could against the giants.”

Danel searched his daughter’s face, but like her mother, she was so secretive, and what expressions he gathered were mazes within mazes. Those blue eyes were strangers to him, shaped like Andrima’s, colored like Andrima’s lover. “What is on your mind, my little Quida?” He suddenly recognized that look, the one she sank into the swirl of leaves beyond her bedroll. He could not help but smile encouragingly. “ Who is on your mind?”

Ameiko dropped her chin into her hand, and watched as the returned adventurer celebrated the end of a long shift with a rowdy bunch. The tavern had been buzzing with conversation for the most part, but when Veshenga was off the clock ‘buzzing conversation’ had a habit of turning into roaring conversations and belly shaking laughter. The half-elf was definitely hitting the stuff harder tonight than usual, and Ameiko was not shy about addressing the matter when Veshenga tumbled over to the bar.“Ameiko, my lovely Ameiko!”

“Lovely? You looking for a raise or something?”

“Why?” Veshenga bounced a brow, and steadied herself against the counter. “Is this the way to do it?”

“Hardwork need not apply,” Ameiko replied with a wry grin.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Veshenga waved her hand in lazy loops, and Ameiko prepared the next round.

“You going to be good for work tomorrow, Smythe? You’re not being shy with the ale tonight.”

“I am not shy, Ameiko, I am not shy,” Veshenga giggled, her accent was thickening like the frothy heads on the ale Ameiko was pouring. “You think I am drinkink too much, y’eh? Well,” she whipped around, a patron ducked as her arm zipped by, “a round for everyone. I will share, I will not be shy,” she boosted her arms over her head, and bowed as the applause met her like a wave.

The ale was set on the bar, and the off-duty guards she had been catching up with dove for the brews. Veshenga swiped her own free, and slid out of the swarming boozers in one graceful step. Her movement carried her onto the closest table, where she stamped her foot and broke into an amusing jig. She sang songs of her tribe, the way Danel used to sing, and was even more entertaining when she put too much weight on one side of the table. The furniture tipped, and spilled Veshenga to the ground.

“The ale!” Was the last thing she said before she slammed to the ground, and was reduced to stupid giggles. Her leg had caught in the ladder of one of the chairs and brought it down with her, setting her hip at a weird angle. Still, the girl kept laughing.

Veshenga closed her eyes, the giggles jarring as she caught her breath and covered her face. Her hands moved through her hairline as if that could wipe away the sudden headache. The sudden memory of Fort Rannick. A flash of red in Tessa’s hands. As the tavern reverberated with sound and merriment, she could hear the music from the swamp’s festivities. Her giggling, her smiling faltered, and she breathed a suddenly saddened gasp, her eyes glass-like as they opened again to take in the guard holding his hand out to her. His skin was dark, his smile broad. In an ideal situation there would be oak leaves waving behind his head.

Later, he was kissing her behind the tavern. His uniform was nothing foreign to her, she was accustomed to shedding gear. What connected, what fastened. His breath was rich, alcoholic, that burning stench of liquor enough to intoxicate her again.“Come back to my place?” He asked against her neck, her pulse thundered under his lips.

But Veshenga’s eyes were on the stars above them. “What about right here?”

“In public,” he began to pry at her tunic as he watched her.

“Outside,” she slurred.

“I don’t give a shit what we do,” he pressed her to the wall, “just do it quick.”

Veshenga leaned away from an incoming kiss. He stared at her, and she looked back.

“But you want it like this,” he added, “you told me you wanted it like this.”

His skin was not as dark as she thought, that was a trick played by the evening. And that broad smile was nowhere to be found. Her disappointment was crippling.

“No. No, I don’t,” she ducked under his arm, and made her way for the street. She could feel his disbelieving glare pinning into the back of her neck. He whispered something under his breath, but she missed it. Hardly mattered what he had to say anyway, she had trudged too far to track him down, and Mvashti’s home was already in sight.

“Back so soon!” Mvashti called from her place at the table. There was a spread of cards in front of her and she gingerly sipped a hot cup of tea. She hopped a little when the door slammed shut. “Oh, and we’re trekking thunder in the house now? Since when do you slam the door, child?” There was no response as Veshenga briefly haunted the kitchen and returned with bottle of old wine. “Midnight snack, eh?” Veshenga nodded, and tipped over. Mvashti kicked out one of the nearby chairs. Veshenga slumped against it, and dipped the chair back on two legs before she recovered. Mvashti finally glanced up from her cards as Veshenga slid into the chair and dropped her head to the table. Her hands were sprawled in front of her, the fingers draped across the cards.

“You know what you didn’t warn me about?” Veshenga slurred, and began to blindly sift through the remaining pile of cards. Mvashti was put out as her cards were fumbled with, had anyone else been doing it… well, the outcome would not be pretty.

“And what is that, my dear?” Mvashti humored her drunken room-mate stepdaughter with a quizzical stare.

Veshenga occasionally peeked at the cards that surfaced in her lazy grasp. She finally found a lover card, and held it up for Mvashti about as pointedly as one half-asleep could. Mvashti’s face melted from the vague onset of elderly annoyance to a sympathetic, warm mask.

“Oh, my child.” Mvashti searched for the only thing she knew would aid her stricken gypsy girl, and in the end guided Veshenga’s bottle back to her lips. “Here. Drink! Drink!” Veshenga’s eyes widened briefly, and then she settled in. She laughed into the bottle of sloshing wine and leaned back in the chair as she gulped. The wine was sapped just as the chair angled too far back. Veshenga was spilled on the ground, unconscious and still. “Oh dear,” Mvashti mumbled, and began the arduous task of tucking Veshenga in at the settee.

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