The curtain draws closed. The game ends. The players go home.
Thank you for making this game your favourite, but it ended some time ago.
The curtain draws closed. The game ends. The players go home.
Thank you for making this game your favourite, but it ended some time ago.
Sunday the 20th of Gozran 4708 AR
As his companions made their way through the Pinnacle’s now vacant halls, the disembodied spryte searched the tower’s remaining souls. Upon isolating that of one of the dozen Denizens of Leng still remaining, he used his changeling glamour to possess its body so as to gain further insight into their nature and the mysterious device they were working on. As best as he could figure, the Denizens were in the process of calibrating it so as to focus it on a moment in time when the Thassilonian empire was at its height some one hundred centuries earlier. The purpose of this task continued to elude Denizen-Aubrey however until his companions opened the door to speak with the other eleven inscrutable creatures. An odd stilted parlay ensued.
When questioned, the Denizens readily revealed that they were scholars and researchers of a sort, vying to link their machine to the distant past so as to directly study that era for no other purpose but to sate their curiosity. The Denizens went on to explain that, through the device, they could directly observe the tower’s residents in the distant past but could not yet hear them. When pushed, they claimed to have no allegiance or even association with the Runelord or his forces. The Sihedron were initially befuddled by the inscrutable Denizen’s motives and alien reasoning. After some consideration however, the group decided that the risk of linking the present with a fallen, though dangerously powerful ancient empire was too great a risk and so implored the Denizens to give up their task willingly. Initially unmoved by the Sihedron’s reasoning, the Denizens were eventually forced to reconsider when told that the chosen locale for their experiment would soon be made uninhabitable.
Having reached a consensus amongst themselves, the Denizens finally relented. The alien beings proceeded to quickly and efficiently pack up their device; many of its parts magically folding, collapsing and stacking themselves throughout the process. A few moments later, the Denizens fell in line and one by one left the chamber via a magical portal that they’d opened; their folded up device dutifully following behind them on its own. Denizen-Aubrey vacated his host’s body just as he was stepping through the portal.
That done, the Sihedron briefly toured the Pinnacle’s chambers to collect a few odds and ends before leaping off the interior landing to safely descend the tower’s prodigious height thanks to the newly embodied spryte’s glamour. Outside the occlusion field they found a pile of some two score Sihedron rings; abandoned by the Pinnacle’s departed giant and lamia residents. Once outside the Sihedron’s architect-turned-adventurer, Kivu, carefully studied the thirty or so massive stone pillars which supported the tower’s full weight. Although a marvel of stone giant engineering, Kivu didn’t need Aubrey’s Second Sight to determine that the tower’s 2,200 hundred foot height was supported more by magic than mere stone. After a brief consultation, most of the Sihedron vacated the area as Ainsel withdrew a long metal tube from her magical wind sac and passed all of her magical items to Aubrey for safekeeping. Carrying the odd metal tube (and nothing else) to the base of the tower, the folletti opened it to reveal the erratically malfunctioning rod of magic cancellation the Sihedron has carefully collected and contained from the Runeforge’s Halls of Envy. A light jostle is all that was required for the rod to emit a pulse of queer energy which engulfed one of the massive stone pillars; instantly stripping it of its magical reinforcements. To its builders’ credit, the tower continued to stand until Ainsel had repeated the process on four of its adjoining pillars. With its four northernmost pillars crushed instantly to dust beneath the towers’ prodigious weight, the entire Pinnacle of Avarice first listed then came crashing down along Mhar Massif’s southern face as the folletti swiftly fled. And thus was brought down the planet’s highest reaching structure, the late Runelord of Greed’s seat of power and an enduring symbol of the Thassilonian empire’s might.
Once the dust had settled over the city below, the Sihedron regrouped and, with the Spryte’s glamour, magically traveled into the lair of the blue dragon he’d reconnoitered during his previous explorations of the city. The group found it abandoned by its owner; it most likely being the wyrm in Karzoug’s company which they’d slain earlier. With nothing to impeded them, the Sihedron claimed the dragon’s hoard for their own.
Sunday the 20th of Gozran 4708 AR
Already grievously injured by the spryte’s magical storm and lost in the folletti’s fog of war, the remaining five rune giants were quickly dispatched by the Sihedron members’ combined onslaught; thunderously crashing to the ground one after another. The victorious heroes barely had time to catch their breath however before the third wave of enemies appeared in the late Runelord’s sanctuary.
At first, oddly enough, neither side could perceive the other due to the enshrouding fog and the distances involved. As both groups tentatively approached each other through the fog, the Sihedron first saw their foes (the tower’s remaining pair of rune giants and the large armoured woman they’d noted earlier) and attacked. As Ton and Elshbeth struck and Kivu and Treana peppered the invading trio with arrows, Aubrey wove glamour about himself and fell into torpor. Enacting his changeling ritual, the spryte abandoned his body to formlessly seek out the most powerful soul in the chamber. Unexpectedly, he discovered that a pair of powerful souls somehow linked together. Opting to focus on the strongest of the two, Aubrey supplanted the soul with his own.
And so it was that the disembodied spryte came to embody the sentient golden scimitar being wielded by the armoured woman. Through his link to the woman, Scimitar-Aubrey learned that the powerful magical blade (known as Chellan, the Sword of Greed) had been mentally dominating the Thassilonian woman (Viorian Dekanti, the Runelord of Greed’s Champion) for ages. Although intrigued by this revelation, Scimitar-Aubrey wasted no time in forcing the woman’s wrath against her rune giant cohorts; cutting the battle short as she decapitated one with the blade while the Sihedron dispatched the other.
In the battle’s aftermath, scimitar-Aubrey forced Viorian’s surrender while the Sihedron (with Aubrey speaking through Viorian) discussed how to proceed. According to the warrior herself, Viorian had been a resident of Xin-Shalast during its height who’d sought the coveted position of Runelord’s Champion; unaware that it would entail her enslavement to Chellan’s will. She’d subsequently lead Karzoug’s armies in countless battles against the forces of neighbouring Bakrakhan in the years before the empire’s collapse. Viorian had then been placed in magical torpor by the Runelord ahead of Earthfall. The Champion had only recently been awoken by the Runelord so that she might defend the Pinnacle of Avarice against a possible attack by the Sihedron.
Choosing to take both Viorian and Chellan prisoner for later judgement, the Sihedron confiscated the Champion’s gear before Ainsel presented her with a note from Aubrey’s cap; the reading of which placed the woman into magical torpor. Aubrey, having next abandoned Chellan, took spiritual refuge in Ainsel’s aerial form while his companions gathered valuables from the chambers’ dead. The entire lot, including the Runelord and his apprentice’s bodies, were placed inside the group’s portable hole for safekeeping. Then, gathering near the spatial tear they’d created to enter the otherworldly sanctuary, the Sihedron waited while Ton repeatedly struck the large crystal artifact hovering above the Runewell; Aubrey having determined that it was the focal point of the pocket-dimension and a receptacle for what remained of Karzoug’s immortal soul. Once the great crystal had been shattered, the group rushed out through the closing rift as the pocket-world behind them collapsed and, along with all that it contained, was consigned forevermore to oblivion.
Standing once more in the heart of the Pinnacle of Avarice, the group paused within their fog of war as folletti-Aubrey wove glamour to augment and multiply his voice forty-fold. Speaking first in Thassilonian and then Giant, he thunderously declared Karzoug’s defeat to all of the tower’s remaining denizens. The spryte-turned-air-elemental further offered the survivors the opportunity to leave the mountain unopposed if they abandoned their weapons, left immediately and later abandoned their Sihedron rings upon leaving the occlusion field. Keeping covert watch upon the tower’s sole exit, the Sihedron observed as the remaining sixteen cloud giants and eight storm giants dropped their titanic weapons into a pile before embarking on the long descent. Although the twelve surviving lamia harridans attempted to coax their giant allies to stay and fight, they eventually gave in to peer pressure and themselves joined the exodus out of the Pinnacle of Avarice.
It seemed that only the mysterious twelve Plateau of Leng natives yet remained for the Sihedron to confront…
Sunday the 20th of Gozran 4708 AR
Holed up in a small unused side chamber in the heart of Karzoug’s Pinnacle of Avarice, the Sihedron quietly considered their options. Musing about the onyx-studded rings all of the tower’s denizens appeared to be wearing, Aubrey believed it likely that they were similar in construction and purpose as the Sihedron medallions they’d found on most of Karzoug’s followers; granting the paranoid Runelord the ability to perceive anything their bearers witnessed. Furthermore, the spryte conjectured that the handful of spectral images of Karzoug he’d observed throughout the surrounding chambers might also be a means by which the Runelord could monitor the goings on within the tower and possibly even coordinate his followers’ efforts. Lastly, having been warned about the Rune giants’ ability to see that which any of their lesser giant followers saw led to one grim conclusion: as soon as they made their presence known to any of the Pinnacle’s denizens, the rest of them would be immediately aware and they’d lose the element of surprise.
The wily sprite went on to described how an odd green crystal lens he’d seen in the grasp of a golden statue of the Runelord appeared to be some sort of magical gate or portal to a sheltered locale; the very sort of pocket-dimension which Ordikon had been charged with creating to safeguard Karzoug’s life. Knowing that it had been carefully crafted with the Runelord’s favored sinful greed magic, Aubrey went on to theorize that the crystal lens might be particularly vulnerable to the inspiring enhancements they’d added to their weapons and bodies through the Runeforge and that they might be able to force the gateway open by touching one of them to the crystal.
Having agreed to try the Spryte’s idea in hopes of finding and confronting the Runelord first, the Sihedron girded themselves for battle as Aubrey and Ainsel together wove countless preparatory spells over the group. When ready, Ainsel, Elshbeth, Kivu, Ton and Treana returned to the portable hole while Aubrey, once more in his earth elemental form, gathered up the hole’s silky fabric and plunged down into the floor. While the earth-spryte moved swiftly unseen beneath the giants’ feet, inside the hole the folletti continued using wands to bolster her companions.
Rising up into the wall adjacent to the back of the golden statue, Aubrey glanced invisibly into the chamber beyond and saw that the quartet of lamia harridan guards and their leader Ceoptra remained as they’d been. Stealthily weaving a quick glamourie of a featureless wall a finger’s width in front the real wall in which he hid, Aubrey unfurled the portable hole he carried in the gap between both; thereby opening it. His companions, having been rendered invisible and silenced by the folletti, emerged unseen through the illusionary wall behind the statue. Stowing the portable hole once more, Aubrey invisibly emerged from the wall and resumed his fey form as Ainsel carried him over to the statue. Once gathered invisibly around the statue’s base with his companions (inlcuding Ton and Elshbeth who’d been magically enlarged), the spryte touched his rune-marked flesh to the green crystal lens.
The space before the statue suddenly riven open, the Sihedron hurtled through the breach before the harridans knew what was happening. After a moment of tumbling through the void between worlds, the group alighted safely on an immense stone floor lit by a circle of pillared braziers in the eye of a tempestuous cyclone of fog. A few dozen paces away were the severe countenance of the Runelord himself floating next to a large crystal above an elaborately-shaped pool, a huge blue dragon coiled menacingly to one side and an unfamiliar human wizard lurking next to a burning brazier on the other. All three occupants appeared surprised at the sudden incursion into their sanctuary.
Taking advantage of their surprise, the wily spryte wove a powerful spell to quell all magic around himself while his faithful folletti companion carried him swiftly to the Runelord’s side. With all of his magics suddenly and violently stripped from him, Karzoug sunk down to alight atop the pool as Kivu and Treana shot a pair of arrows into his unprotected body. Rushing forward in a blur, giant-Ton quickly closed the distance between them and struck the infamous Runelord’s deathblow. And so fell the ancient would-be tyrant of Varisia.
Giant-Elshbeth charged the surprised dragon and smote it with her mighty holy avenger as Kivu and Treana peppered it with arrows. Regaining its senses, the dragon retaliated by exhaling a devastating bolt of lightning at the three ladies; which all three either dodged or endured harmlessly thanks to the spryte’s warding magics. Aubrey and Ainsel quickly flew to the remaining human, who Aubrey guessed might be the late Runelord’s former apprentice Khalib. With his magic similarly stripped from him, the panicked apprentice could do little to escape giant-Ton as the monk rushed in to slay him. The blue dragon fell thereafter to the combined assault of Elshbeth, Kivu and Treana.
Just then, as Aubrey dismissed his magic-quelling effect, the air opened up and disgorged the five lamia harridans guardians along with a sextet of rune giant reinforcements. Releasing Aubrey, Ainsel invisibly rushed forth into the midst of the new arrivals and pulled free the stopper of a magical bottle she carried; unleashing a torrent of smoke which quickly obscured the battlefield. Thankfully, due to the wily spryte’s foresight, the Sihedron members had had their senses magically enhanced beforehand; allowing them to pierce the smoke and so outmaneuver the now sightless defenders. The disoriented and outmatched harridans soon fell to a rain of arrows and sword blows from Kivu, Treana and Elshbeth while Aubrey and Ton confronted the rune giants. The spryte unleashed a raging storm of acid rain, burning winds, bone-chilling gales, resounding thunder claps and scorching lighting strikes on the giants while Ton struck powerfully at their vulnerable spots with feet and fists. Retaliating, the giants released a shower of burning sparks on Aubrey and Ton; which the pair either evaded or harmlessly endured thanks to Aubrey’s potent magical wards. Surrounded by the giants, Ton deftly dodged most of their blind swings, enduring a few unlucky though painful hits, while battling on.
As the Sihedron surrounded and advanced on the giants, the first of the six finally succumbed to his grievous injuries and crashed thunderously to the floor as the battle raged on…
Pharast and Gozran 4708 AR
During the days following their return from the otherworld which was once the Thasilonian university of Runeforge, the Sihedron moved quickly by mystical means between their home at Oaktop, their townhouse in Magnimar and their library at Jorgenfist with a few stopovers in other familiar haunts. In Magnimar they approached friendly clergy, craftsmen and merchants in hopes of trading their newly acquired loot for commissioned items they’d need for the next leg of their mission.
To Jorgenfist they delivered the lot of ancient tomes they’d brought back with them from Runeforge along with fresh supplies for the scribes and scholars currently residing there. The former was entrusted to the tireless clockwork librarian to catalog and integrate into the library’s permanent collection. To the latter was introduced the more than 10,000 year old Nelevetu Von, ffollowing the revivification of his torpid body by Aubrey. Now being kept alive by the library’s life-prolonging magics, everyone was aware that the library’s newest resident might never be able to leave his new home. It was the Sihedron’s hope that the former soldier and prisoner could find some measure of happiness in scholarly pursuits within the library. Brodert Quink, himself a scholar on all matters Thassilonian, was eager to meet with this latest arrival. To further secure the library, Elshbeth set the iron golem she’d acquired within the Halls of Wrath to guard the ancient chamber.
At Oaktop, the Sihedron clustered together around the relocated Runeforge so that Aubrey could finish inscribing mystical runes of Inspiration on Kivu and Treana’s bows, Ton’s fist, Ainsel’s wispy substance and his own fey flesh. Later, beneath the ever-vigilant gaze of the stone golem, the spryte mystic spent many late evenings in the crypt; continuing his ongoing questioning of the recalled spirits of the lamias Xenesha and Lucretia, the stone giant Mokmurian and the human traitor Xaliassa. To these he added the spirits of the crypt’s latest additions: the lost headmasters of Runeforge — all in a bid to learn ever more about Karzoug and his holdings within the lost city of Xin-Shalast. Aubrey compared their answers to the lore contained in the Sihedron’s library and to the memories of the group’s living Thassilonian allies; Erylium the penitent quasit in the Hells prison of Magnimar and Nelevetu Von at Jorgenfist. Calling upon his magical Ring of Revelations and his own potent glamour, the spryte further mused over the sum of this precious lore while formulating his plans to defeat the ancient Thassilonian Runelord of Greed.
Sunday the 20th of Gozran 4708 AR
Eventually, his research having plateaued, Aubrey set forth out of Jorgenfist heading east with his companion Ainsel. Together they swiftly rode the winds high above the Storval Plateau and up into the towering Kodar mountains in search of the fabled city of gold; Xin-Shalast. Following the directions laid out for them by the deceased spirits, the pair found and followed the sacred river Avah to a place once known as “the Top of the World”. There, at the Avah’s headwaters, the pair paused to fast while waiting for the full moon to rise. During the lunar conjunction, as the barrier between worlds thinned, the pair crossed over into the twisted otherworldly realm known as the Plateau of Leng.
Flying over the frozen mountain lake known as the Fen of the Icemist, the pair were hailed by a friendly nymph who introduced herself as Svevenka. Claiming to be a cousin of the late Myriana, she and Aubrey discussed the state of nearby Xin-Shalast, her hate of the giants that dwelt within and what she knew of the Pinnacle of Avarice. Parting on good terms, Aubrey and Ainsel continued on their way while studying the area’s topography and multiplanar nature. The pair were witness to a great range of mountains with breathtaking sheer cliffs and blossoms of stone dotted with both glaciers and smouldering volcanoes; all lying in the shadow of the world’s tallest peak: Mhar Massif. The spryte concluded that the mountain’s towering peak had pierced the barrier between worlds into the dark and twisted landscape of Leng and beyond into a third plane of menacing shadows known as darkest Kadath. The three realms had bled into each other and so formed a unique planar nexus in which the earliest Runelords of Greed had chosen to found their capital city.
Flying over the surprisingly intact city itself, the pair were witness to enormous towers and spires of many-colored stone nestled in a narrow valley and flanking a great central thoroughfare of paving stones with a golden sheen. The eastern slope of the valley had been partially subsumed by an ancient glacial flow—nearly a quarter of the city appeared to lay buried beneath it. Rising ever higher, the city’s northernmost districts were dotted with great structures of truly titanic proportions. At its far end, the city abutted the lower slope of Mhar Massif itself with its Golden Road rising up the mountainside, leading to the final and grandest buildings of all. The top-most of these structures was a magnificent 2,000-ft tall tower-palace fashioned of white stone and perched high upon the mountainside: the Pinnacle of Avarice. Its topmost spires ended just below the great face of Karzoug himself—carved into the peak of the mountain and overlooking the city far below. The city streets seemed largely devoid of life except for a few lurking giants, a lamia, a blue dragon and an ice devil squatting in the ruined buildings; all of whom Aubrey and Ainsel avoided for the time being.
Ascending up the slopes of Mhar Massif, the pair eventually found their path blocked approximately a mile away from the palace’s base by an immense invisible dome of force which appeared to encompass the entire mountaintop. Experimenting, Aubrey easily circumvented the barrier by passing beneath it in his earth elemental form. Doing so, however, immediately subjected the earth-spryte to a potent occlusion field of mind-and-body-twisting torment. He remained inside the field for some few minutes, enduring the horrors as best he could in a bid to discern its nature and how he and the Sihedron might eventually overcome it. The earth-spryte collected a few stone and ore samples from within the mountain for later study before finally exiting the occlusion field in haste. A few successive magical experiments revealed that the occlusion field further prevented teleportation and scrying magics from penetrating within. After musing on the matter, the wily spryte concluded that the force dome was likely a defensive feat of wizardry while the occlusion field was a natural planar phenomenon of the Plateau of Leng which the ancient the Runelords of Shalast had merely exploited. Unable to safely reach the Pinnacle of Avarice at that time, Aubrey and Ainsel retreated to the lower city to discretely observe some of its residents before abandoning the Plateau of Leng for their own world.
Morning, Wealday the 7th of Desnus 4708 AR
After roughly a month and a half of preparation following their return from the now defunct Runeforge, the Sihedron awoke early and sat down together to share a faerie feast magically conjured by Aubrey. After the delicious meal, at Treana’s suggestion, the spryte pulled his grandfather’s Harrow deck from his stocking cap to perform a Harrowing. He began with the Choosing, drawing cards from the suit of Charisma to reflect the sovereignty which they sought to deny Karzoug in their imminent quest.
Elshbeth first drew the Tyrant, an ominous card reflecting the crucial need for her to prevent the evil Runelord from further harming innocents. Ton drew the Unicorn, an enlightened card highlighting the monk’s resourcefulness and ability to provide them the key to success during their upcoming challenges. Treana drew the Betrayal; a shrewd card hinting that the ranger should remain vigilant against a duplicitous person who might seek to betray them. Kivu drew the Courtesan, a cryptic card that, like Treana, suggested she’d best keep watch for an ingratiating person seeking to hide their true self or purpose. Ainsel next drew the Marriage, a card highlighting her dual nature as a air elemental dwelling in a material world and the special gifts she brought to the Sihedron. Finally, Aubrey drew the Theatre; a prophetic card revealing that Aubrey’s insight into unfolding events gave him the ability to orchestrate the group’s success should he act wisely. And with that, the Choosing was at an end.
An ominous Harrowing.
That done, Aubrey reshuffled the deck and began the Harrowing in earnest. In the left-hand column, reflecting the set and unalterable past, he drew the Twin in the positive position, the Forge (truly aligned) in the neutral position and the Keep in the negative position. The spryte interpreted the cards to reflect elements from Thassilon’s ancient past. The Twin represented the corruption of the seven Virtues into Sins; the philosophy to which Karzoug had wholly dedicated himself. (The Keep) represented the white tower of the Pinnacle of Avarice within which the Runelord had long ago sought refuge from the empire’s fall. (The Forge), most importantly, was the Runeforge itself; the ancient source of magical artifice from which the Sihedron had forged disparate elements into weapons which could, in part, pierce the evil wizard’s magical defenses.
In the center column, reflecting the evolving present, the spryte drew the Locksmith in the positive position, the Survivor (in partial alignment) in the neutral position and the Sickness (truly aligned) in the negative position. It was Aubrey’s belief that each card represented a different facet of Karzoug current state of being. At the center of all was the Survivor; the Runelord personified as an enduring remnant of a lost empire. The Sickness; his adherence to the debased philosophy of wanton Greed. And, The Locksmith; the corrupt power of the Runewell through which he hoped to reclaim his ancient glory.
In the right-hand column, representing the malleable future, Aubrey drew the Liar (in partial alignment) in the positive position, the Foreign Trader (also in partial alignment) in the neutral position and the Unicorn (Ton’s role card and also in partial alignment) in the negative position. The familiar lamia of the Liar card revealed that the Sihedron would need to confront one or more of the beguiling creatures in their quest for Karzoug. The Foreign Trader hinted however that the Sihedron might encounter a person who could offer them some crucial aid in the challenges ahead though, as per their role cards, Kivu and Treana should remain vigilant against deception and betrayal. And finally, during the Sihedron’s darkest hour Ton, embodying the Unicorn, would deliver unto his fellows that which they’d most need to prevail; though possibly at great personal cost. And with that, the Harrowing was at an end.
As a follow up, Aubrey asked the Revelation Quill they’d claimed from Xaliasa whether their entry into the Pinnacle of Avarice would prove fortuitous for the Sihedron. The Peacock Spirit’s written response was elusive and ultimately nonsensical; possibly due to the nature of the occlusion field shrouding the white tower.
That done, the Sihedron girded themselves and entered the chamber into which the Sandpoint catacombs’ triangle-shaped scrying pool had been relocated. Reaching out mystically to the pool, the spryte attempted to link it to a similar master pool which Erylium the quasit had lead him to believe lay within the Pinnacle of Avarice. Whether due to it being inactive or non-existent, Aubrey’s efforts failed. Undeterred, the tiny spryte drew a pair of magical scrolls along with a copper tuning fork he’d had fashioned from the ore collected from within Mhar Massif. The group joined hands as the spryte read the eldritch scrolls and rung the fork; thereby transporting them all across the gulf of worlds and into the Plateau of Leng itself. They appeared together atop a nondescript outcrop of rock overlooking the fabled city of Xin-Shalast below and to the east; untouched by the cold thin air of the realm. After studying the view for a few moments, Elshbeth, Kivu, Ton and Treana settled inside the group’s portable hole while the spryte clambered into his stocking cap. Taking up both, it was the folletti who carried the Sihedron swiftly across the mountain valley and up the slopes of Mhar Massif.
Ainsel barely paused as she plunged through the force barrier (inured to it by the Rune of Inspiration inscribed upon her gaseous form) and into the occlusion field (adapted as she was to the hazardous effects of Leng thanks to the magic scroll which Aubrey had had commissioned for just that purpose). Arriving swiftly at the base of the Pinnacle of Avarice, the air elemental saw through countless archways that most of the tower’s massif interior was empty save for a winding staircase rising thousands of feet up into the darkness above. Continuing ever upwards, Ainsel spiraled around the central shaft until it narrowed to a curving ramp and finally ended at an enclosed landing of sorts. Inching cautiously around the curving corridor, she spied a handful of hulking cloud and storm giant sentinels.
Remaining discreetly out of sight of the giants, the folletti traded places with Aubrey in his stocking cap. Adopting his earth elemental form and rendering himself invisible, the earth-spryte stealthily circumvented the guards by plunging himself directly into the tower’s interior walls. And so, navigating the walls themselves as if they were a hidden series of pathways, Aubrey swiftly reconnoitered the massive tower’s single habitable floor. Inside were a collection of some sixty lavishly appointed and decorated chambers, alternatively large or truly vast; all adequate in size to accommodate even the most massive of giants. This was fortunate for its residents for, all told, Aubrey counted eight mountainous rune giants, eight towering storm and sixteen cloud giants and seventeen house-sized feline lamia harridans. Aside from these were a single heavily armoured human woman in the Runelord’s throne room and a dozen industrious alien beings toiling away at some strange device in a relatively small side chamber. Aside from a handful of illusionary figures and a trio of representative statues, the Runelord himself was nowhere to be found.
Taking refuge in an unoccupied side chamber, Aubrey opened the portable hole to brief his waiting companions on all that he’d seen thus far. Together, the Sihedron then discussed their next move.
Morning, Starday the 22nd of Pharast 4708 AR
Awakening from his dream, the earth-elemental-spryte described the contents of the Halls of Greed and Halls of Sloth to his waiting companions. Upon agreeing to assault Ordikon, the school’s lone remaining headmaster, the group girded themselves as Aubrey morphed into the towering Shemhazian demon. Then, with a quick invocation of the Cricket harrow card, the Sihedron were whisked into Ordikon’s presence. The mithral-fleshed mage fell quickly beneath the hail of arrows and sword and fists blows which the group brought to bear against him.
With no one left to oppose them, the Sihedron explored the opulent Halls of Greed. Of particular interest were the late headmaster’s arcane tomes which the group gathered up for later study; the hope being that they’d contain valuable information concerning the means employed to safeguard Karzoug’s life before Earthfall. With Aubrey in his more manageable elemental form, the group progressed through the Hall’s various chambers. They paused to investigate a group of deceased victims which had been transformed into morbid metal statuary, the large crackling pool of unstable magic (which elemental-Aubrey declined to test for the moment) and to converse with the quartet of mephits (who claimed to merely be visitors from the elemental plane of water and no friends of the late Ordikon). Satisfied, the group attempted to walk out of the Halls of Greed, only to have Kivu disappear in a magical fog. Backtracking, the group were informed by the mephits (a little too late) that Kivu had likely been transformed into one of the many fountains’ goldfish. Collecting some of the goldfish into a glass, the group attempted to exit the wing once more. Upon doing so, the curse affecting the fish was broken and Kivu was restored to her human form alongside the handful of fish-turned-centipedes which had been keeping her company in the glass.
Grimly girding themselves, the Sihedron turned their attention to the numerous undead plaguing the Halls of Gluttony which they’d so far ignored. Venturing inside, the group embarked on a grand tour of the labyrinthine catacomb; using a combination of magic and stealth to surprise the isolated groups of mummies, wraiths, ghasts and zombies lurking inside. A half-dozen separate battles and fifty slain undead abominations later, the exhausted group emerged victorious. Although most of the undead had been dispatched easily enough, a pair of exceedingly powerful wraiths had succeeding in gravely injuring and draining away poor Elshbeth’s vitality. With them the Sihedron brought a trove of laboratory equipment and necromantic books along with a few valuables pilfered from empty crypts.
Wearied by their morning’s labours, the group paused in the school’s central rotunda to rest, tend to their wounds and share a simple noontime meal. It was there that Shemhazian-Aubrey revealed his thoughts on what they should do with the school’s titular Runeforge; besides which they sat. Referring to Vraxeris’ journal, the spryte-turned-demon affirmed the late headmaster’s belief that Karzoug would be vulnerable to magics which stood in opposition to those of his magical philosophy of sinful greed. Aubrey however denounced Vraxeris’ conclusion that further sin magic was the key to defeating the Runelord. Refusing to delve into the debased sin magic at all, Aubrey postulated that the ancillary virtues magic, developed by the lost nation’s founder Xin, could prove to be a viable and possibly superior alternative to sin magic. Seeing as how the Runeforge predated the debasement of Emperor Xin’s righteous philosophies, it was the spryte’s belief that the great font could be turned back towards its original purpose by a knowledgeable user. To that end Aubrey proposed using the dust (from the dissolved cage) and ashes (from the spent scroll) gathered when they’d restored and freed Nelevetu as a symbol of the virtue of Fertility. Alongside it he proposed to use the glittering dust produced by grinding the shards of a broken mirror from the Halls of Pride; it being symbolic of a dignified rejection of foolish vanity.
With the group in agreement, the Sihedron approached the magic font. Reaching out mystically to the pool, Aubrey mixed both glittering powders together and cast a measured amount out over the Runeforge’s prismatic surface. Stepping forth first, Elshbeth brandished her sword Hell Reaver and dipped its adamantine blade into the well. Upon its surface the bubbling Runeforge etched a mystic rune combining the virtues of Aspiration and Dignity into a symbol of Inspiration. Then, without warning and as if taking offence at their activities, the huge stone statue of Karzoug standing watch over the Runeforge animated and charged the group. Elshbeth took the brunt of its wrath before hulking Shemhazian-Aubrey mystically interposed himself so as to shield the wounded paladin. In short order the statue was felled by the retaliatory assault of the Sihedron. For good measure Shemhazian-Aubrey put his demonic might to good use and went around the room smashing the remaining six Runelords’ statues into rubble.
Opting to better secure the Runeforge pool before continuing, Shemhazian-Aubrey invoked the Keep harrow card to encase the well in a protective layer of stone. The Sihedron, along with their two golem servitors, then spent much of the afternoon carting treasures, books, equipment, furnishings and the many whole and piecemeal bodies strewn throughout the otherworldly school into the central rotunda; stacking or piling the lot atop the sealed Runeforge well. Shemhazian-Aubrey then invoked the Empty Throne harrow card to speak to some of the dead, along with his second sight, so as to identify and sort out the remains of the school’s seven late Headmasters. When ready, Shemhazian-Aubrey used his hulking demonic body’s massive strength to pick up the entire lot; Runeforge well and all. A single word brought he and his burden into the grand chamber in the Halls of Wrath to regroup with the rest of the Sihedron. Stepping together into the great runic circle inscribed upon the floor, Shemhazian-Aubrey spoke another eldritch word to activate the circle; transforming it into a portal back to the windswept circle of statues at the base of mount Rimeskull; bringing to an end the Thassilonian school’s more than ten thousand years of sinful operation.
Once back on Golarion, Shemhazian-Aubrey invoked the Wanderer card to whisk the sealed Runeforge well along with all the group’s newly gathered belongings to their chambers beneath Oaktop islands for safekeeping. Returning to mount Rimeskull, Aubrey then wove glamour to encase his own demonic limbs and maw in solid stone before abandoning his host’s body for his own spritely form; a split second before his readied companions executed the now helpless and disoriented demon. The Sihedron paused to stand in silent vigil as a group of summoned earth spirit next went about the grim task of interring the remains of the defunct school’s countless dead along with the gargantuan demon carcass near the remains of the white dragon who’d been entombed a day earlier. Their task complete, Sihedron then disappeared from the lonely windswept promontory overlooking lake Stormunder as Aubrey wove glamour to take the Sihedron home. Elsewhere, in the demiplane once known as Runeforge, the quartet of lone water mephits continued to frolic in their pool; lords of their own little world.
Morning, Starday the 22nd of Pharast 4708 AR
Waking briefly, the spryte related what he’d learnt of the school’s Halls of Wrath to his waiting companions before renewing his spells and resuming his statue-like dream-state. This time out the dreaming spryte reconnoitred the ancient school’s Halls of Gluttony. Inside Aubrey discovered a confounding labyrinth of twisting passageways, countless secret doors and bizarrely shaped chambers. Decorated as a catacomb, most of the wing’s chambers proved to be empty. Those that weren’t included numerous necromancy laboratories, crypts and rotundas; many of which contained undead occupants—mostly mummies, ghasts, zombies and wraiths. Indeed, there didn’t appear to be a single living soul left in the Halls of Gluttony. Only two undead, a dread zombie dissectionist and the necromancer lich (which Aubrey took to be Kazaven), were active; busy as they were with the grisly task of cobbling together additional undead abominations.
Awakening, Aubrey resumed his sprytly form to brief the rest of the Sihedron. Having formulated a plan of action, the group girded itself for battle as Aubrey and Ainsel wove spells around them all. Once ready they joined hands as the wily spryte invoked the Cricket card from his Harrow deck; delivering the Sihedron into the company of Headmistress Athroxis a split second later. Although they group succeeded in surprising the warrior-wizard, the group was in turn caught off guard by the presence of her sparring partner; a gargantuan demon the size of a three-story tower known as a Shemhazian. While Elshbeth, Kivu and Treana slew Athroxis with blade and arrow, the wily spryte desperately wove spells to circumvent the Abyssal fiend’s natural magic resistance as Ton distracted it. As Athroxis fell to Elshbeth’s blade ‘Hell Reaver’, the sinful rune of wrath on the headmistress’ forehead mystically transferred itself to the paladin’s own brow; reforming as it did so into the virtuous rune of justice. Finally, in bid to subvert the demon’s will, Aubrey cast its consciousness into the fire opal he carried and assumed direct control of the Shemhazian’s monstrous body; his own vacant spryte body falling torpid to the ground.
Although surprised by this odd turn of events, the Sihedron quickly recovered as Ainsel collected the spryte’s now comatose body into his own stocking cap for safekeeping. Then, taking hold of Shemhazian-Aubrey’s proffered claw, the group braced themselves as he once more sent them leaping through space into the Halls of Gluttony. Appearing suddenly from behind, Kazaven the lich could do little to defend himself against the Sihedron’s unexpected onslaught. In the end it was the demon-fey’s massive claws that rent the undead apart—though not before Kazaven had mentally alerted the dread zombie in the adjoining chamber. Rushing to its master’s defense, the zombie was quickly dispatched by Ton, who grappled it as it entered, and Kivu, who swiftly filled it with arrows. Knowing that they needed to locate the lich’s phylactery, the Sihedron investigated the trap door in the floor that dream-Aubrey had noted earlier and identified one of the three sarcophagi in the chamber below as Kazaven’s phylactery thanks to the Elshbeth’s sixth sense for such things. The paladin proceeded to rive the sarcophagus in twain after Kivu had first inspected it and disarmed a trap built into the vile container.
After looting the three adjoining chambers, the Sihedron attempted to lure a sextet of mummies known to be in the next chamber over by calling out taunts, but to no avail; the undead refused to budge. Since Shemhazian-Aubrey was simply too massive to squeeze through the human-sized passages, the Sihedron opted to mystically return to the more spacious Halls of Wrath to attack the albino warrior-wizards and their wrath sinspawn brethren; leaving the Halls of Gluttony’s remaining undead for later. Starting with the barracks area, the Sihedron appeared shrouded in silence and launched a surprise attack on the Hall’s remaining denizens. With most isolated and unaware in their individual cells, it was a simple matter for the group to slay each warrior or sinspawn one by one.
Approaching the now vacant chamber’s teleportation circles, it was then that Elshbeth realized the rune she’d inherited from Athroxis granted her insight into and control over the Hall’s many such circles. Stepping inside, she along with Kivu, Ton and Treana were whisked away instantly to the isolated flesh-warping laboratory with its nine remaining albino warrior-wizards. The quartet quickly dispatched the surprised wrath-warriors in a hail of arrows, fists and sword blows before being rejoined by Shemhazian-Aubrey and his folletti familiar Ainsel. Together the Sihedron then made their way down to the Hall’s entry chamber. Following a hunch, Elshbeth approached the female iron golem archer openly to parlay. Her gamble paid off; as the new bearer of the Hall’s mistress’ rune of justice the golem now obeyed the paladin’s every command.
While the rest of the Sihedron put their latest construct acquisition through its paces, Shemhazian-Aubrey wove glamour so as to first transform himself into a small earth elemental and then depart once more to reconnoitre the school’s two remaining Halls in dream-form. The Halls of Sloth turned out to be another labyrinthine collection of corridors and chambers; all of it full of mouldering refuse mounds, festering cesspools and an ever-present corrosive fog. It appeared as if nothing beyond vermin now endured in its Halls; they having been left abandoned for untold ages.
The Halls of Greed stood in stark contrast to the previous festering labyrinth. Its corridors were opulently appointed and a study of tasteful symmetry. Most every chamber contained polished wood paneling, tiled marbled floors, vaulted or domed ceilings and gilded or bejewelled fixtures. Five chambers contained large fountains with decorative statues spraying coloured water high into the air. A hall lined with golden statues led into a vast domed chamber containing a mysteries pool alive with eldritch energies. The Hall’s only occupants included a quartet of frolicking water mephits, some small caged lab animals and a single human man with flesh like mithral busily reading in a laboratory. Dream-Aubrey surmised that this could be none other than the wizard Ordikan; the Halls of Greed’s headmaster.
Morning, Starday the 22nd of Pharast 4708 AR
Three of the slain succubus’ alu-fiend daughters answered their mother’s call by magically appearing in the boudoir; only to be decimated before they could act by a hail of arrows from the Sihedron’s archers. Ton and Elshbeth charged the remaining alu-fiend; quickly dispatching her. Aubrey, peaking beneath a silken divider, mystically invoked ‘the Lost’ Harrow card on the nude stone giants in the next room. Having succumbed to the spryte’s chaotic magic, the mighty titans never reached the boudoir; having either beaten each other to death or having been felled by blows dealt to them through the silken dividers by Elshbeth and Ton.
After pausing to search the pavilion, the Sihedron ventured over to the gilded cage containing the hall’s only surviving prisoner; a well-groomed Thassilonian man who’s sanity had been shattered by eons of demonic torment. Opting to help the man, whom Aubrey mystically determined was named ‘Nelevetu Von’, the group agreed to sacrifice a precious prayer scroll they’d been keeping to help the poor soul. A few minutes of soothing speech from the charismatic spryte along with the paladin’s calming presence were sufficient to approach the cringing man in his cage. After a brief mystical prayer, Aubrey touched the man; subjecting him to the most powerful healing spell the blessed spryte could muster. Then, with a word and a flourish, the spryte turned and caused the gilded cage in which they stood to dissolve into glittering dust. And so was Nelevetu Von reborn to sanity and freedom.
Now clothed in a nobleman’s outfit offered to him by Aubrey, the ancient Thasilonian related how he’d once been a renown soldier in the Eurythnian army. Having been captured following a failed revolt which he’d led against the nation’s ruler, Runelord Sorshen, he’d been condemned to the Runeforge’s Hall of Lust as a sex slave. Given a new life by the Sihedron, the ancient soldier could not find the words to properly express his gratitude. Having recognized the time-defying magics shrouding the hall in which they stood, Aubrey detailed the unfortunate circumstance in which Nelevetu’s now found himself; were he to leave the hall’s youth-preserving interior, he would quickly succumb to the ravages of the hundred centuries he’d so far evaded. All was not hopeless however; the spryte went on to explain that Nelevetu could be brought, should he choose, to the Sihedron’s library beneath Jorgenfist; which had similar time-defying magics in place. There he could entertain scholarly pursuits amongst Varisia’s most impressive collection of new and ancient books alongside other researchers. The ancient soldier accepted eagerly. Having read a note offered to him by the spryte, Nelevetu willingly succumbed to the magics it contained; falling into a timeless slumber which would keep him alive until the Sihedron could follow through on their promise and transport him to Jorgenfist.
Once Ainsel had finished collecting the glittering dust from the disintegrated cage, the Sihedron returned to their hidden cubby in the forge’s entry passage. There they paused to divest themselves of the various things they’d collected during their explorations. Meanwhile, at Aubrey’s urging, Kivu and Ainsel discarded their magical possessions and ventured into the ruined Halls of Envy. Having explored the area earlier, Aubrey believed that Kivu would be able to disarm a dangerously malfunctioning magical rod left inside. Following Kivu’s success, the rest of the group joined her and the folletti inside to investigate a mysterious pool of metallic fluid which the Spryte called “ethillion”. Having emptied the pool’s contents into a trio of waterskins, the Sihedron discovered the drowned body of a former resident of the Halls of Envy who Aubrey mystically determined had been named ‘Elortran’.
Ready to investigate another of Runeforge’s Halls, the spryte once more transfigured himself into an earth elemental to then leave his body behind as he set out in dream-form for the Halls of Wrath. In the entry hall the dreaming spryte found a towering iron golem standing guard. The colossus sported the rune of wrath on its breastplate and was armed with a great bow. Beyond the guardian lay a dead-end, empty save for a pair of teleportation circles etched into the floor. Figuring that the circles likely led to isolated chambers somewhere nearby, the dreaming spryte began spiraling outward from the chamber to explore the surrounding stone. Eventually, he discovered three other isolated groups of connected rooms; each seemingly linked to the others by additional teleportation circles. The first combined a mess hall, barracks and training hall housing six albino humans and six wrath sinspawn. The second consisted of a single laboratory chamber where nine other albinos were diligently carrying out some form of magical flesh-shaping procedure. The final pair of chambers included naught but an atrium and a great pillared sparing chamber with a flaming ceiling and large silvered Sihedron etched into the floor. Inside the latter was a lone albino warrior armed with a burning ranseur. Aubrey surmised that she must be Athroxis; the Hall of Wrath’s headmistress. Following some consideration, the scholarly spryte came to believe that the Hall’s occupant’s odd coloration hinted at the means they’d employed to survive the eons; a combination of intense inbreeding and magical flesh-shaping to counter the hereditary deterioration.
Morning, Starday the 22nd of Pharast 4708 AR
Aubrey looked through the mystical gem of seeing (which Elshbeth had found embedded within the unholy altar beneath the streets of Sandpoint) to study the great mirrored chamber in which he hovered. Quickly he determined that the great Peacock statue was a mere glamourie and that a group of four identical men seated behind it were simulacra fashioned of ice and clothed in shadows to give them a semblance of life. The spryte also made note of a secret door hidden behind a mirror in the far wall. In the hallway next to him Aubrey noted the presence of what appeared to be his companions standing in front of a magical mirror; which he determined to be a magical trap. Soon arrows flew and blood was spilt as Elshbeth, Kivu, Ton and Treana and their eight mirrored doppelgangers clashed in battle. Following a mystically whispered warning to his companions Ainsel and Aubrey hurled bolts of forces at one trapped mirror; destroying it along with its four associated doppelgangers. While his companions destroyed the second mirror and four remaining doppelgangers, Aubrey rose to confront the four simulacra who’d climb to their feet to threaten violence. Calling upon his kinship with earth, the hovering spryte wove glamour so as to pin the quartet with shafts of stone risen from the floor. As his companions rushed into the chamber the Sihedron destroyed the simulacra with a barrage of mystical lightning, arrows and fisticuffs.
Quickly forming up, the group proceeded to open the secret door in the far wall (hoping to surprise anyone hiding behind it), only to discover dessicated human remains in a musty old library. Aubrey determined through his second sight that this had been Vraxeris; the vain model and creator of the four simulacra and former head of the Runeforge’s Halls of Pride who’d died some two years earlier. According to the journal found in his lap, he’d survived nearly one-hundred centuries by magically cloning himself some two-hundred and four times; only to finally succumb to his chronic dementia and infirmity. The journal went on to detail how the school’s Runewell had initially reawakened following the stirrings of Karzoug, the brief panic and ensuing power-struggle amongst Runeforge’s seven divisions and Vraxeris’ own plans to forge weapons with which to attack the hated Runelord of Greed. A search of the wing’s remaining rooms turned up nothing more than the skeletal remains of Vraxeris’ previous two-hundred odd clones.
Agreeing that mystically reconnoitering the schools’ other wings before venturing inside them was wise, the Sihedron paused as Aubrey wove glamour to first assume an earthen form and then send his unfettered spirit off on a dream journey. In the school’s Halls of Lust the dreaming spryte discovered a single massive chamber housing more than a dozen gilded cages (most containing dead prisoners, except for one with a single living man) and a great silken pavilion tent. Inside the tent’s three seperate chambers were a quintet of naked stone giants (three males and two females), four (half-demon / half-human) alu-fiends and their succubus mistress Delvahine. In the neighboring Halls of Envy Aubrey discovered three ruined chambers; all that remained of that wing’s occupants’ attempt to seize the control of the Runewell and their subsequent destruction by the combined might of the school’s five other wings (all save Sloth). One chamber contained what appeared to be a dangerously volatile magical rod and another a pool of some substance resembling quicksilver.
Once Aubrey had returned to his body and briefed his companions, the Sihedron set out to assault the demons’ lair in the Halls of Lust. To that end, the group girded themselves with layers of magical protection and were mystically transported by the Harrowed spryte. Silently appearing next to the succubus in her boudoir, the Sihedron launched their assault on the surprised demoness. Although Delvahine attempted to quickly beguile the group telepathically, it was for naught as she soon fell to the Sihedron’s weapons; but not before she’d alerted the Hall’s denizens to the group’s incursion.
Dusk, Fireday the 21st of Pharast 4708 AR
During the spring equinox, following the few months of blessings required to transform Elshbeth’s adamantine blade ‘Hell Reaver’ into a fabled Holy Avenger, the Sihedron attended a modest ceremony by the church of Erastil in which she received the sacred sword. Afterwards, having girded themselves with the various new or enhanced magic items which they’d had completed during the winter months, the Sihedron disappeared from their island home of Oaktop. In an instant they mystically traveled more than a hundred leagues to arrive at the base of Rimeskull Mountain far to the north. With the sun setting across Lake Stormunder and the full moon beginning to rise above the horizon, Aubrey entered the circle of seven towering Runelord statues perched upon a low rise. Following the directions laid out in the Peacock Spirit’s rhyme, the spryte wove glamour over each statue in turn. With each successive casting, a resounding tone bonged and the corresponding Runelord’s effigy would open its mouth to reveal a golden key. After Aubrey had collected the seventh key, a huge white dragon emerged from the cave near Rimeskull’s summit and swooped down threateningly towards the group.
Alerted to the threat by his folletti familiar, Aubrey Flitted swiftly over to his companions while calling out a warning to the quickly approaching beast. Hastily drawing the Brass Dwarf from his Harrow deck, the spryte wove glamour over he and his companions — just in time to ward off the dragon’s freezing breath as it strafed the group. Unhurt by the hail of arrows and shuriken launched against it, the dragon was sent crashing into the hilltop by a turbulent gust of wind conjured by Aubrey. Elshbeth and Ton charged the prone dragon, but their attacks likewise failed to penetrate the beast’s magically warded scales. Lashing out in turn, the dragon failed to strike the pair though succeeded in finding purchase so as to avoid falling into the sinkhole which the spryte had opened beneath the beast. As the archers continued to rain down arrows upon the white dragon without effect, Ton’s nerve broke and he turned to swiftly flee the rampaging beast. Desperately weaving glamour together, Aubrey struck the dragon with a second gust of whirling wind just after Ainsel had cursed it with ill luck. And so it was that the dragon plummeted again; this time into the depths of the earth. Reaching into the future to snatch himself a bit of time, the wily spryte channeled glamour into the Keep card from his Harrow deck so as to cover the top of the sinkhole with a thick layer of stone; thus entombing the dragon. There was naught but a fracturing of stone and the seeping of blood from the earth once Aubrey had subsequently dispelled the sinkhole.
Turning their attention towards the mountain’s ascending stone stairs up which Ton had fled, the Sihedron saw that the monk’s swift passage had called forth a trio of towering earth elemental guardians. Too late to prevent Ton’s trespass, the three stone colossi assumed defensive positions upon the stairs. Approaching the closest of the three, Aubrey offered the elemental a respectful greeting in terran; further inquiring about the three’s purpose. Confirming that they’d been guarding the stairs since before Earthfall, the wards that had roused the elementals were easily circumvented by an illusionary sihedron rune and a Thassilonian oath improvised by the wily spryte. Climbing up past the stone sentinels, the group found Ton waiting inside the mouth of the titanic stone head of Emperor Xin carved into the mountainside near Rimeskull’s summit
Once Aubrey had mystically explored the expansive though unoccupied caverns riddling the mountain, the group descended into its depths to investigate the dragon’s lair in person. There, amidst another seven rune and ice encrusted standing stones encircling a large conical monument, they found its expansive treasure hoard; which they gathered. Using his second sight, the wily spryte discerned that the late dragon had been named Arkrhyst Freezemaw. Then, opting to return home to rest for the evening before continuing on, the Sihedron mystically departed as easily as they’d come.
Reappearing within the ancient Thassilonian war-machine once known as Thistletop, their home, the group gathered around for a Harrowing to foretell what might come to pass were they to enter Runeforge. Pulling his grandfather’s deck from his stocking cap, Aubrey began with the Choosing, drawing cards from the suit of Intelligence to reflect the ancient knowledge supposedly housed within Thasilon’s magical repository.
Elshbeth first drew the Wanderer, an insightful card reflecting the importance of her being able to distinguishing between vital facts and the trivial in the times ahead. Ton drew the Foreign Trader, a shrewd card highlighting the monk’s ability to uncover secrets, possibly through negotiation with others. Treana drew the Joke; a wily card hinting that the ranger could prevail in Runeforge if she were to rely on trickery and humour. Kivu drew the Raksasha, an ominous card that suggested she’d best keep a focused mind lest she find herself dominated by another while in Runeforge. Ainsel next drew the Inquisitor, indicating that the folletti would need to distinguish between falsehoods and the truth to prevail against those who might seek to deceive the group. Finally, Aubrey drew the Vision; indicating that his knowledge and eldritch might would be his most valuable assets while inside Runeforge . And with that, the Choosing was at an end.
An ominous Harrowing.
That done, Aubrey reshuffled the deck and began the Harrowing in earnest. In the left-hand column, reflecting the set and unalterable past, he drew the Tangled Briar (in partial alignment) in the positive position, the Trumpet (also in partial alignment) in the neutral position and the Eclipse (truly aligned) in the negative position. The Spryte interpreted The Trumpet to mean that the righteous Sihedron’s successes in untangling their ancient foes’s schemes (the Tangled Briar) had shaken those foes’ confidence and given them reason to doubt themselves.
In the center column, reflecting the evolving present, the spryte drew the Empty Throne (in partial alignment) in the positive position, the Courtesan (also in partial alignment) in the neutral position and the Fiend (likewise in partial alignment) in the negative position. It was Aubrey’s belief that each card represented a different foe who’s influence inspired the Sihedron’s desire to explore Runeforge. He took the The Empty Throne to be Xaliasa who, through his scribblings, had revealed the ancient magical repository’s existence to the group. The Courtesan he believed to be the lamia Icne, who had endeavoured to keep them out of Xaliasa’s lair. Lastly, the spryte indicated that the The Fiend was Karzoug himself; who yet threatened to bring suffering to the innocent masses if he remained unopposed.
In the right-hand column, representing the malleable future, Aubrey drew the Waxworks (in partial alignment) in the positive position, the Beating in the neutral position and the Brass Dwarf in the negative position. According to the spryte, the Waxworks was the Runeforge itself; a place of torture and imprisonment which would threaten, both physically and mentally (the Beating), the Sihedron from all sides with its sinful depravities. And yet the spryte believed that it held some shred of virtue worth pursuing due to its positive position in the spread. The Brass Dwarf indicated that their virtuous beliefs would leave them hale and whole in the face of adversity. And with that, the Harrowing was at an end.
As a follow up, Aubrey asked the revelation quill they’d claimed from Xaliasa whether their entry into Runeforge risked benefiting either Lamashtu or Karzoug. The Peacock Spirit’s written response was as brief as it was clear: “No.” The Sihedron subsequently retired for the evening.
Dawn, Starday the 22nd of Pharast 4708 AR
Having mystically returned to the now vacant dragon’s lair the following morning, the Sihedron wasted little time in activating the otherworldly portal contained therein. Kivu quickly found keyholes hidden in each of the seven rune-covered stone pillars. Fitting and simultaneously turning the seven keys which the spryte had collected the previous evening, caused the ancient magics to flare to life; opening a passageway which the Sihedron passed through together.
Arriving in a dead-end passage, the Sihedron followed its open end it into a vacant rotunda with naught but a bubbling Runewell, eight passageways and yet another septet of giant Runelord statues. After a cursory inspection, Aubrey drew the Publican card from his deck and, tossing a rope into the air, created an invisible cubby in which to store the group’s golem. The Sihedron then ventured down the corridor behind the statue of Xanderghul as Aubrey warned his companions to be wary of illusions and deceit. As the corridor walls around them began coruscating oddly, the spryte and his folletti familiar disappeared unexpectedly; leaving Elshbeth, Kivu, Ton and Treana to continue on ahead alone. Reaching an intersection in which the opposing walls were decorated with mirrors, the quartet was suddenly confronted by two sets of mirrored opposites stepping boldly out of the mirrors to either side of them. For their part, Aubrey and Ainsel appeared in a massive chamber decorated with countless mirrors, a quartet of chandeliers and a raised dais upon which rested a giant illusionary peacock.