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


DEFENSE

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


OFFENSE

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


STATISTICS

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


DEFENSE

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


OFFENSE

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)


STATISTICS

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


DEFENSE

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


OFFENSE

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)


STATISTICS

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


DEFENSE

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


OFFENSE

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


STATISTICS

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


DEFENSE

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


OFFENSE

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


STATISTICS

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

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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!”

FIN

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.

Haggor

(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.”

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