Rise of the Runelords

From Dam to Damned
The Session in which the Campaign went to Hell

Our session begins at the Skull’s Crossing Dam, where our group still faces the decision of what to do about the pit fiend in the ward. Without negotiating with the devil, we have no other apparent way to stop the dam from bursting and killing more of the citizens down the river at Turtleback Ferry. With the group at a perplexed standstill, Eric settles on an idea and cryptically asks Wallace to follow behind him. The only clue as to what he had planned were the words, “Enough of this.”Pit_fiend.jpg

He heads back into the room and opens the portcullis between us and the pit fiend. Without any more hesitation, Eric charges the devil with his earth breaker. By the time any of the others in the group can do anything other than gasp at this decision, the pit fiend flies up toward the ceiling, pokes Eric with his claw, and makes the paladin disappear. He claims to have sent him “home.” Wallace reports what he saw and heard to Zazz, who believes he must’ve been sent to another plane. The pit fiend offers to bring Eric back to us eventually if we’re willing to free him and pay him a high price. We consider this offer in stunned silence, wishing Eric would simply reappear.

After being touched, Eric finds himself in pitch darkness where the heat is oppressive and everything feels profoundly wrong to him. Luckily immune to fear, the paladin lights the area with a divine bond on his earth breaker. He sees a giant vault 50 feet tall in front of him, covered in infernal runes. Four nasty creatures who stand seven feet tall and look pissed are in this room with him, and they’re more than happy to take the fight to him.

Back at the dam, the pit fiend and Zazz get into a war of words about how long the pit fiend can afford to wait in his cell and how long Eric will last in the horrible place he sent him. Zazz mentions how it looks like a pit fiend in the other ward didn’t fare as well, which sparks a crazy idea for Wallace. He opens the other portcullis and walks into the ward. Zazz follows him, but Aella knows better than to mess around with dangerous magical structures. As a result, she hears a buzzing from the room with the dam controls. She makes her way over to the controls, seeing a sudden glowing green button. She hits the button, causing agonizing pain to both Zazz and Wallace as their life forces are magically drained to power the dam. Meanwhile, the pit fiend is completely disintegrated to dust. The dam is powered back up and the water drains from behind the dam. The town is saved for now, but we’re still quite Eric-less.

Back in the vault, Eric prays to Torag for aid as he fights for his life against the bearded devils. He holds his own for an admirable time, but their ability to teleport all around him and whittle him down with their flanking and reinforcements from spiky quilled-creatures eventually knocks the proud paladin unconscious and drags him off to whatever awful fate awaits him in this awful place.

Back in the material plane, the rest of the group decides to leave the dam after determining we can’t help Eric from there. We trek back to Fort Rannick before nightfall, hoping to continue on to Turtleback Ferry the next day and ask around for help and advice. After spending the night at the fort, Wallace is awoken by the arrival of his mentor Baroque. Baroque claims a fortune teller in Magnimar told him that Ragathiel himself wanted the cleric to go help an adventurer lost in hell. He tells Wallace he made his way to Turtleback Ferry and followed our trail to the fort. He pledges to help us go find Eric, but we still need to obtain enough diamond dust to cast a plane shift spell.

We return to Turtleback Ferry, sell off some of our most recent loot, and speak briefly with Mayor Shreed. We pool our gold to stock up on supplies for the upcoming trip to hell that none of us are looking forward to. Aella in particular is quite reluctant to go traipsing off to hell to save a paladin who brought this mess upon his own head. In the end, however, her inner heroine wins out and the group of us shift planes to the first layer of hell.

fires_of_hell.jpgAs expected, it’s a grim place. Armed only with our new supplies, the knowledge that we’re looking for something called a hellmouth that will enable us to descend to the next layer of hell, and our best estimate from a divination spell that Eric is likely trapped on the third layer where the vaults of the greedy demon lord Mammon await in Erebus, the group takes in the barren landscape. Everything is red, dark, and horrifying here in this terrible place, and it’s only the first layer. The landscape seems to stretch off into infinity, but we can see a river and fortresses out on the horizon. Much closer is a figure 100 feet away that makes its way towards us when it spots us. We’re all on edge, but it winds up being a spectral halfling who begs us to help him. Naturally suspicious because of where we are, we neglect to offer much aid, and the halfling flees away. The devil and hounds who were pursuing him catch him, rip him to shreds, and then carry off the pieces.

We start to walk toward the fortress, encountering a bearded devil and four hell-hounds of our own on the way. Considering we’re in hell, we win this fight more easily than we expected. We loot the devil’s corpse, finding some weapons and an odd item Zazz identifies as a soul gem. We smash the gem to free the soul trapped within, and are reunited with Longjiku Kaijitsu. A descent into hell has not made Ameiko’s father any less of a douche-nozzle, but the old codger follows us at a distance despite his dislike of our group because he has nothing better to do.

We continue on foot until we’re really tired. Day and night don’t function here, as time just continues to pass without change, but we decide to bed down for the “night” in Zazz’s escape-rope camp set up in an old smashed suit of armor. Other than Longjiku setting us all on edge by climbing up the rope and laying down near us, nothing particularly awful happens as we rest. When we awake, we continue our quest and cut through a cratered area. Jets of flame shoot up and scorch us, and Wallace is quite grateful that Baroque’s presence means two channelers can heal the group together now.

Continuing on, we spot four black-winged erinyes in an aerial dogfight with an elvish flying wind spirit. These fallen angels are ganging up on an azata, and we race in to assist the good being. This turns into a much tougher fight than the devil and the hounds, and Zazz has to dimension-door Wallace away from the erinyes before they can kill him. The azata tells us to flee before exploding to take one of the fallen angels with him. Baroque is fine with leaving this battle behind, but Aella’s rage is just getting started. She roars back into the fray, taking down one angel and severely injuring another. The fourth angel teleports away, while the combination of Zazz’s telekinetic fist and his summoned rhinos take the last one down.

We have no time to catch our breath after this battle before we hear a rumbling noise coming closer. An army of thousands of sludge devils is coming straight for us, as if our luck wasn’t bad enough already. We start running, dodging fragments of rusted weapons raining down on us as we flee. The chase is on, and there are plenty of obstacles in our path. Zazz literally flies through the path with little trouble. Aella maintains a safe distance between her and the approaching army, but Wallace struggles for a time until he casts blessing of fervor to speed himself up. Even with the added speed, he needs help from Zazz in the form of suppressing a wall of flames to make it a safe distance from the nightmarish army.

Everyone has survived to this point, but we’re now in what seems to be a decrepit treasure vault. Baroque stumbles upon a hidden door that reveals a staircase leading down into the darkness. Zazz casts light on Wallace’s face, and the group heads down 100 feet to a room containing a black obsidian pedestal. A box sits atop the pedestal, and it radiates strong magic. Zazz intimidates Longjiku into going to open the box. Doing so sets off a trap that hurts all of us but completely obliterates the Kaijitsu man’s soul for good. We almost feel bad for the old grouch, though in the end we might’ve saved him from a worse fate here in hell. Zazz steps forward and takes the pouch that awaited within the box. Inside, he finds a deck of tarot cards. Ominously, none of us have any idea what these 22 cards do. As we begin to camp out for another sleeping session, Zazz examines the cards more closely. A voice in his head asks him if he wishes to draw some cards, but he resists for now.

After sleeping, we wake up to find the river and the other fortress seem closer than they were before. Another long walk finally brings us to the river. Like everything else in this foul plane, the river isn’t quite right. Nothing grows here, and the water’s currents are all strange. After a short examination, we’re pretty sure this is the River Styx. We also know we don’t want to touch the water. As soon as we start thinking how helpful a ferry boat would be, a ferryman appears. He generously offers us passage across the river for two gold apiece, and we accept. Of course, he decides he wants to renegotiate halfway across and asks us for one of our souls. We’re all rather attached to our souls, however, and are in no hurry to sign an agreement. He asks us to make a counter-offer, and after some back and forth decides to challenge us to combat. He gets our souls if he wins, but has to drop us off on the other side unharmed if we win.charon__ferryman_of_the_river_styx_by_the_emperors_finest-d4x5fvb.png

The group works together well in this fight, but the ferryman is no pushover. He inflicts negative levels on both Aella and Wallace, and we have to close our eyes while fighting to avoid having to make will saves against his terrifying gaze. Aella does a great job injuring him, but it’s hard to say whether it’ll be enough. In this desperate hour, Zazz pulls out his deck of tarot cards and draws one. It’s the card bearing scales, and it reverses his alignment to lawful evil. None of the rest of us know yet about Zazz’s paradigm shift, and continue to battle back against the ferryman.

At last, our Styx navigator decides we’ve proven ourselves and he yields. He drops us off on the other side of the river and hands off his staff to Wallace with the request that we not forget him. We bed down shortly after, and Wallace awakes the next morning feeling frigid and horrible. Baroque takes a closer look and diagnoses his student with the devil chills. Wallace pulls out his remove disease scroll and manages to cure himself of the awful disease before it can grow any worse.

The fortress awaits next time on Rise of the Runelords as we continue this branch off from the main quest. We will continue to search for our lost friend even as Eric undoubtedly faces horrors all his own. Whether any of us will manage to continue surviving our vacation in hell remains to be seen, but it’s sure to be a harrowing tale as we search next session for the hellmouth that will take us deeper into the most awful place we’ve ever been.

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Well, Dam
Session 12

As we return to our story, in media res, our heroes find themselves looking upon a great tentacled sea monster known as Black Magga. black_magga.jpg Taking to the rooftops to avoid the flood waters below, the heroes watch as Black Magga throws her powerful body into Turtleback Ferry’s church of Erastil. Luckily for those trapped inside, the sea serpent spots the adventurers atop a nearby building and swims over to engage in battle.

Unluckily for the heroes, the monster casts a cloud of confusion over them, rendering them largely helpless. As the monster takes advantage of their confused state, throwing them around and grappling them, the party members take to throttling one another. Zazz and Aella do a dance of axes and magics as the wizard desperately tries to avoid a mighty killing blow from the bloodrager. Eric and Wallace do a similar dance and must also contend with Black Magga herself, who seems to prefer the men in shiny armor.

Though the moment is bleak as the heroes prove to be each other’s worst enemy, the paladin manages to direct some of his confused fury at the sea serpent, landing a blow. Unappreciative of the earthbreaker’s might, Black Magga flees back into Claybottom Lake and disappears into its depths.

When the heroes come to their senses and stop trying to knock each other’s brains out, they make their way over to the church to check on the townsfolk. As they head over, the floodwaters begin to recede, as if drawn away in concert with Black Magga’s retreat.

The town now drying out, they find the mayor and head priest and inquire about the damage. Though the town sustained some losses, it surely could have been much worse if Eric had not driven away the monster with his mighty hammer of Torag.

Thanking the group for their efforts and for saving the town, the priest fills them in on the legendary creature they just faced. Black Magga, a monster perhaps older than the gods themself, was said to reside in the Storval Deep, a large lake to the north of Turtleback Ferry. However, Black Magga’s presence along with the water surge seem to indicate that something has happened to the dam which secures the Deep’s waters.

Agreeing to investigate the dam, the heroes first spend the rest of the day assisting townsfolk in need and patching themselves up. In the evening, the people throw them the best feast they can scrap together after such a disaster.

When morning dawns, the party heads to the north to investigate the dam. On the way, they stop by Fort Rannick to check on their Black Arrow friends. The water thankfully didn’t make an appearance near the fort and the guard is able to give the heroes some information about the dam.

Known for being troll territory, the guard advises the group to find acid or fire to ensure the trolls will not rise again once put down. Some alchemist’s fire is exchanged hands and the heroes head off to the north once more.

Though the first part of the day transpired without incident, the party soon finds itself at a bridge. Before they cross, they detect a poorly concealed giant who gives up its stealth attempt and demands a human sacrifice before allowing them to cross. As Zazz converses with the large oaf in its’ native tongue, an old enemy strikes at the wizard from the shadows, throwing the scene into chaos!

Xanesha, the lamia matriarch from the dilapidated clock tower in Magnimar has returned to take on the heroes once more. Xanesha.jpg Sporting her signature golden mask, the lamia and the giant team up to take down the group. However, the heroes refuse to fall prey to their attempt.

While Wallace and Aella focus on bringing down the giant, Zazz and Eric dance around Xanesha. Having a particular hatred for wizards, the lamia strikes repeatedly at Zazz until he is able to dimension door his way across the river and out of her reach. In the meantime, Eric continues to follow her around the battlefield, attempting to crush her with his mighty blows.

As Eric and Zazz deal with Xanesha, Wallace finds himself in trouble as the giant’s blows strike home and the lamia dashes in to throw some quick jabs his way on occasion. Eventually the cleric is beat into unconsciousness as Aella does her best to take down the giant as quickly as possible.

From the other side of the river, Zazz notices his friend’s plight and throws out a dusting of glitter in order to blind the giant before he can inflict a killing blow. Taking advantage of the giant’s blindness, Aella finishes him off as Eric dashes in and revives Wallace.

Seeing that her giant ally is down and the cleric is standing once again, Xanesha begins to move toward the river. Having had enough of these lamia foes, Eric throws a prayer skyward to Torag and charges the matriarch with all of his paladin fury. With a mighty swing of his earthbreaker, Eric crushes Xanesha once and for all and rids her from the team’s lives forever.

Not stopping to celebrate Xanesha’s demise for too long, the team patches itself up and begins the trek to the dam once again.

After a short walk, the heroes finally make it to the dam just as night begins to fall. From below, they spy what appear to be a group of ogres atop the structure. Deciding to deal with the new threat in the morning, they camp out in Zazz’s extra-dimensional space for the evening.

The next morning, the party follows the pathway into a cave in hopes of reaching the top of the dam. Inside, they discover a two-headed ettin bent on destroying them. Luckily, the foe doesn’t have time to deal any significant damage with his twin flails as Wallace, Aella and Eric team up to take him down.

Undaunted by the ettin, the heroes climb through the rest of the cave and find themselves atop the dam. As they emerge into the daylight, they spot five ogres nearby. Though the enemies all seem rather tired, they lumber over to attack the heroes.

Thanks to the drowsy state of their foes, the party is able to dispatch of the ogres with relative ease.

From there the team heads into a chamber atop the dam. As they emerge through a set of double doors, they are greeted by the sight of dead ogres and some ugly trolls. The trolls don’t appear too inviting and Eric rushes in the room to begin the battle. Aella soon joins in and cleaves her mighty greataxe through three of them as Wallace approaches and deals some damage of his own. In another stroke of luck, the trolls seem to have poor aim and miss over half of their strikes. So, in due time, the party takes down all four trolls and uses acid and fire to ensure that they will never rise again.

The path now leading into the depths of the dam, the team descends to discover what lurks below. At the bottom of the stairs, the heroes discover a chamber with an algae-filled pool of water in the middle. Too murky to see into the depths, Eric picks up a pebble and tosses it into the water. Immediately, a trident shoots out to stab him.

Not wanting to take the fight to the foe in the water, Eric wanders over to a nearby door and opens it. He finds himself in the presence of Skull Ripper, a hideous scorpion creature made partly of skulls. SkullRipper.jpg Unappreciative of the paladin’s intrusion, Skull Ripper slams the door in Eric’s face, leaving him slightly bemused.

Knowing when he’s not wanted, Eric turns back to the others as the aquatic troll lurking in the pool hops out onto land with his trident in hand. Aella, Wallace and Eric make quick work of him and hack him into pieces. It seems he should’ve stayed in the murky depths.

Free of that danger, Eric returns to Skull Ripper to discuss his displeasure at having a door slammed in his face. The others join their teammate and do their best to avoid the fearsome sight of the creature and its poisonous strings. Zazz however is spooked by the scorpion’s horrifying visage and flees the room, but not before summoning a Hound Archon to aid in the battle.

As Eric and Skull Ripper wrestle, Aella, Wallace and the Hound Archon take advantage of its distracted state and begin whittling away at the foe. After some back and forth, the heroes manage to bring Skull Ripper down and crush its skull-plating to dust.

When the dust settles, the group inspects the room and spies what appear to be the dam’s controls. They try to open some of the valves to release the pressure on the structure but it seems that there’s not enough power to open the skull-shaped releases.

Frustrated but determined, the group heads back into the chamber where they killed the aquatic troll and remove a pile of skulls stacked against a door. Once the skulls are out of their way, they open the door to find the dam’s power room. Within however is something none of them expected.

The small room is flanked on either side by two magical circles created by a very powerful practitioner. In one of the circles is a pile of dust but in the other is a weak and trapped devil. This powerful creature would normally send the team running for the hills but in its emaciated state, they stick around to find out what’s happening in this curious and terrifying place.

Striking up a conversation with the devil, Eric learns that he was summoned a long time ago to help power the dam and that he knows all of the structure’s workings. He then claims that if the group releases him he will tell them how to power the dam. He also promises to do them no harm, which sends eyebrows shooting skyward all around the party.

Unsure of whether or not they can trust the devil and having some moral qualms about doing so, the heroes leave the room to finish exploring the area while they mull it over. In the remaining room, they find another pool of water but little else.

Having explored the bottom chambers of the dam, the group returns to the devil to try and decide what to do. It’s clear that the dam will not hold for much longer and they need a solution to their power problem if they hope to contain the water and prevent Turtleback Ferry from permanently drowning downstream.

A real dilemma on their hands, the heroes take a break to think over their devilish predicament.

Next time on Rise of the Runelords: Trolls, Ogres and Devils, Oh My! will the team release the devil or leave it to die? Will they ever get rid of their Wisdom drain? And will Wallace ever get a break? Tune in in two weeks to find out these answers and so much more!

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De-ogre-izing Fort Rannick
AKA Making a Serious Racket

The day after cleaning out the Graul Farmhouse, our group starts the day at the Bottoms Up Tavern. Together with Shalelu and the three Black Arrow Rangers, we discuss strategy options for retaking Fort Rannick. After quizzing the Rangers on our options and how their last attempt to retake the fortress failed, the group narrows our strategies down to either sneaking through the shocker lizard-infested tunnels or climbing up the cliffside to the eagles’ nests above the fort. After weighing the pros and cons, we opt for the eagle nests.

Zazz asks for the group to chip in so that he can create enough scrolls of spider climb for all of us to make it up to the nest in spite of our lack of natural climbing abilities. Once this preparation is complete, our group treks to Fort Rannick. Along the way, we speculate on the fact that the constant rain coming down seems to be due to someone casting spells to control the weather. While this could prove to be ominous news, we’re more preoccupied with the ogres for now.

View_of_Fort_Rannick.jpgOnce we make it to Fort Rannick, we can tell immediately that ogres are on patrol on top of the walls and that we will need to climb the cliff from a far enough distance from the fort to avoid being noticed. We ford the river, some more successfully than others. Luckily, Aella quickly throws out a rope to Wallace, Jakardros, and Vale before they can get swept too far downstream. It’s a miserable climb up 600 feet with the rain continuing to fall, but we all make it up into the apparently-empty nests. We look down to see approximately eight ogres on patrol, and try to sneak down the cliff and into the fortress courtyard.

Of course, stealth has never been our party’s strong suit, and a couple of the ogres see us coming. They promise us a “good ole ogre welcome,” and mount the attack. Jakardros sinks a few arrows into the ogre at the front of the line and brings him down. First blood is ours, but we’re facing a gauntlet of ogres coming straight at us. Karly-Lop responds to his fallen ally with a vicious attack that nearly guts Kaven. The ogres also focus on the fire pelt, knocking the kitty unconscious. Eric steps into the fight and kills an ogre in one blow by exploding its head with his earthbreaker. Not to be outdone, Aella brings down Karly-Lop by charging him, climbing up his body, and hacking off his head. Wallace focuses on healing, channeling to restore Kaven and bring Kibb back to consciousness. Of course, Minktuck charges in and cripples Kaven a couple seconds after he was healed, bringing him back to the danger zone.

Zazz singes a few with a scroll of fireball, and Vale takes a serious beating while Aella mutilates and than bisects Minktuck. The battle rages on as we start to gain the upper hand. Ogre bodies drop as Zazz slows a bunch of them and Jakardros continues to fire arrows into the fray. An enlarged Aella takes the fight to the remaining lieutenant on the field. Eric and Aella finally take damage as one of the ogres bypasses Aella’s mirror images and Jolly slices Eric’s neck. Eric smites him and takes him apart by hammering through his stomach. With a flurry of blows, the group polishes off the remaining ogres and the battlefield finally falls silent.

Wallace heals the group before we all move on to the keep itself. Aella kicks down the door and we head inside to find the ogres have made a royal mess of the place. The first door we come to reveals two ogres wrestling. We spring in and attack. We have the upper hand from surprise at first, but reinforcements crowd their way into the halls on either side of us. We have to split our group down the middle to battle both fronts. Gregavan the ogre kills the fire pelt while Eric and Aella lead a trail of bone and gore on the other end. Silas steps up after Gregavan falls and nearly kills Wallace in one particularly vicious blow. Zazz intervened at the last second to grant the cleric cover via a clever floor trick, or Wallace would have met Ragathiel on the other side. With Wallace out cold, Zazz greases the floor beneath Silas to buy time for Eric and Aella to fight through a room and emerge on the other side. They both dash down to finish Silas off just after he stands up and knocks Vale unconscious.ogre.jpg

Eric heals Wallace with his lay-on-hands, and the group pauses for more healing. Jakardros also mournfully drapes a sheet over his fallen animal companion. Keen on some vengeance, we continue down the hall and explore the area. We find dead Vincent in the infirmary with his entrails spooned into a disgusting bowl in a grisly scene, but the floor is otherwise empty. We find stairs going up and down, Eric choosing to lead the way down. At the bottom, Eric opens a door to find a strangely luxurious room that seems very out of place. Equally out of place is a beautiful red-haired woman who begins to speak when she sees Eric. Detecting that she is evil, Eric dashes in to attack without even allowing the female to finish her first sentence. While we are initially surprised by his aggressive attack, she is quicker on the uptake. She sidesteps the paladin and reveals her true form as another lamia. Aella has Eric’s back, following up with an attack that hits her. As she attacks, Aella notices the sihedron rune amulet the snake lady is wearing. She stabs Aella viciously with her knives, proving herself a worthy adversary.

Kaven enters the room next, and the snake lady asks him to take care of Aella. He agrees and stabs Aella in the back, proving himself a traitor and likely the instigator behind the success of the ogres’ initial assault on Fort Rannick. The room erupts into battle as the Black Arrows and Shalelu vie to be the one to take out their turn-cloak former friend. Aella beats them to it, rounding on Kaven after Snake Lady vanishes. She educates him swiftly on why one does not just simply betray our Shoanti friend when she beheads him.

Zazz’s summoned bat points us toward a secret door that reveals the tunnels with the shocker lizards. Not seeing footprints beyond the door, we double back and go up two flights of stairs. The first room we come to up here is a chapel, but we’re more distracted by the biggest ogre we’ve ever seen waiting for us. This is Pappy, and he doesn’t seem overly pleased to see us. He hooks Eric with his massive weapon, while Wallace spots Snake Lady behind him with his invisibility purge. Zazz casts black tentacles, which don’t affect the lamia much but do grapple Pappy long enough for us to land some precious blows.

The Snake Lady sneaks past us again and sends in more ogres from the next room. We’re suddenly embroiled in yet another battle. Eric finishes off Pappy with a spine-crunching hammer blow, while Hookmaw steps out and hits Vale twice. The Ranger falls unconscious, and Aella and Wallace hurry to engage this new ogre. Eric dashes into the southeast room to take the fight to the Snake Lady with Shalelu not far behind. Zazz and Jakardros are effectively taken out of the fight by the sudden emergence of Dorella Kreeg who casts a spell to confuse them. The two of them suddenly want to fight each other with physical and telekinetic fists while the rest of the heroes face off with the ogres.

Dorella continues to wreck havoc, putting Aella to sleep. Wallace finishes off Hookmaw and wakes up his friend. Eric puts the hurt on Snake lady before she poofs away again. Eric, Aella, and Wallace gang up on Dorella together, slowly whittling away her mirror images while she valiantly fights back with lightning bolts. At last, the paladin finishes her off just after she manages to confuse Aella. Eric and Wallace dogpile on top her and wait for the spell to run its course.

Once the spells are finished and the ogres all lay dead, we begin to heal up again and loot the area. The second floor’s biggest revelation is that the Commander apparently was writing love sonnets to a nymph named Marianna. Jakardros and Vale recall that the Commander went out into the Shimmerglens before the attack, and that he hasn’t been seen since. We finish exploring the rest of Fort Rannick before joining the Rangers in burying their dead friends and burning ogre corpses. This takes much of the night, and we rest for a time before starting to head back toward Turtleback Ferry.

We leave Shalelu and the Rangers behind after promising them we would look into the Shimmerglens to see what happened to the Commander. On the way back to town, however, we come across a terrified guy on horseback who informs us that Turtleback Ferry is flooding. We make haste for the town and try to help the villagers in the chaos. Our first noahs-great-flood.jpgorder of business is saving a boat of students and a teacher from an attacking boa constrictor. The snake almost kills a student before we finish it off, and we only have time to catch our breath before Wallace notices the floodgates surging and a tree headed for the church suddenly being violently submerged. Our jaws collectively drop as a giant tentacled monster emerges from the water beside the church.

Our group will have to react to this new monstrosity if we are to save the poor souls of Turtleback Ferry. As to how we will tackle the creature, evacuate the citizens, and figure out what on earth is going on around here, we will have to wait for our next session in a week. For now, things look as bleak as usual for our intrepid heroes.

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Incesticide
You Got a Purty Mouth

Having reaped our rewards of gold and freedom, we all turn to spend our new found wealth on much needed upgrades. Weapons are reforged, armor is bolstered and items of magic and wonder are purchased by all. Soon enough our pockets are lighter but our abilities more mighty.

Having spent to our content, we all decide that we’ve earned a break from the action and take a few weeks off, each of us heading in a different direction. Aella returns to the Calphiak Mountains to reconnect with family. Zazz travels back to Sandpoint to visit his sick friend. Eric visits a Temple of Torag to work at the forges. Wallace visits a new friend in town to try to find solace after his near-death experience at the hands of the Lamia Queen.

While apart, each of us undergo curious experiences. Aella notices a great number of giants heading to the East. Zazz’s friend and Munin seem to share a moment where they swap streaks of hair color; Munin earning a violet feather and Zazz’s friend developing a black streak in his hair. Wallace relies on Baroque and succeeds in both annoying and winning-over his new friend. Eric perhaps has the most curious experience of us all.

One day, at the Forges of Torag, Eric falls into a strange vision. A Master Dwarven Blacksmith announces his presence with a mighty hammering and summons Eric. Unsure of these events, Eric goes to the Dwarf and finds him to drawn to the powerful and mighty Smith. Torag.jpgTogether they spend what feels like days hammering away at the forge as the Dwarf invites Eric to learn about the ways of the hammer. Eventually, the Dwarf turns to Eric and says that it is his turn to be reforged in the might of Torag. With mighty blows, he hammers out Eric’s impurities and strengthens his resolve. Eric awakes from the vision changed. He has a mighty beard and braided hair, much like a dwarf, his armor has been strengthened by the burning coals of the forge and he finds a new and mighty hammer waiting for him. Accepting that he has been visited by an avatar of Torag himself, Eric takes up his new calling as a hammer-master.

This time away cannot last forever however, and one day we find ourselves summoned back to Magnimar by the Lord-Mayor. Leaving our friends and family, we make the journeys back to the city and reunite in the Mayor’s office.

We quickly discover that this is no social call and the Mayor asks us to investigate Fort Rannick up in the small town of Turtleback Ferry. The Fort has fallen silent and the Lord-Mayor is concerned for its safety. He tasks us with discovering what has befallen the Fort and promises payment for our efforts. Having rested and been away from the action long enough, we jump at the chance to get back into the fray and accept with little hesitation.

Immediately we head to the docks and secure transport up the river and to Turtleback Ferry. While the money is exchanging hands, the elf-archer Shalelu appears and asks to join us on our trip. It seems she has ties to someone at the Fort and wishes to check on them. We agree and get our week-long journey underway.

Luckily for us, we sail the waterway with little incident. Stiff-necks and restless horses are the biggest worries on our journey and we arrive at the town of Turtleback Ferry a week later, relieved to be on solid land once more despite the dreary drizzle. turtlebackferry.png

Heading straight for the town hall, a Temple of Erastil, we find the head priest and inquire about Fort Rannick. He reveals that the Fort fell silent about three weeks ago and that a scouting party sent to investigate never returned. He can’t tell us much beyond that, only mentioning that the town relies on the Fort for its survival.

As we set out to begin our trek to the Fort, Wallace notices a man in town sporting a Sihedron Rune tattoo. The Cleric approaches the man and inquires about the marking. Initially denying it, the man comes clean when Wallace grabs him and reveals the tattoo. The man claims it was a mark allowing him entrance to a gambling ship that sunk. Unsure of how to handle this claim since none of us are especially good swimmers, we turn back to the task at hand and set off for Fort Rannick.

The trek is clam until we cross the bridge over the river. There Aella detects an animal’s cry and the five of us head to investigate. We discover a firepelt caught in a bear trap and Shalelu and Aella head to help it, attempting to calm it with their words and rations. Before we can extricate the creature however, the sound of approaching dogs and a dim-witted creature stop us. We prepare just in time for a pack of wild dogs and an Ogrekin, a half ogre – half human monstrosity, to appear. The ogre seems to be in pursuit of the firepelt but he and his canine companions turn on us when we interfere.

The battle is short but fierce. The mutts fall easily to our weapons and the now-battered Orgekin takes off back the way he came.

Turning back to the firepelt, we free it from the trap. Immediately it begins pawing at Aella as if to suggest it wants us to follow it. We oblige and head off in the direction the Ogrekin fled, the feline as our guide.

In short time, we come to a dilapidated farmstead. As we approach the buildings, two Ogrekin, one of them our foe from before, rush us from the nearby cornfield. Though they strike with mighty blows our six-to-two numbers overwhelm them and they both fall soon enough.

After looting the bodies, the firepelt leads us up the path and we find ourselves between two buildings: a farmhouse and a barn. Aella opts to tackle the house first and we all head to the front door. As we approach, its clear that this isn’t a typical farmhouse. farmhouse.jpgLargely in disrepair, the doors and windows appear boarded and a smattering of bone decorations, some human, hang from the porch.

As Eric tries the front door, we’re greeted with a sharp and painful trap. Already annoyed with the house, Eric steps in the room beyond and immediately has to dodge a pit that swallows half the room. The Paladin decides that he’s done with this entrance and so we head back out and around to a side door.

From what we can tell, this entrance seems safe enough, but as Eric opens the door, two Ogrekin lying in wait strike out. He manages to enter the room, a grotesque kitchen, to do battle with one of the foes while Aella and the firepelt step in to take on the other. The rest of the party hangs out outside the house as Eric and Aella, aided by the feline, bring down the Ogrekin.

The battle frees up some room and the entire group shuffles into the house as we start to explore the foul place, searching for booby-trapped doors along the way. Eric is caught by a few of the traps and suffers some cuts and bruises for it, but we comb our way through the house, greeted by sights of severed heads, items made of bone and blood-spatter. Every room is a new and disturbing sight but the house proves to be mostly empty. The last room on the main floor changes that however.

As Eric opens the door to a filthy bedroom, three zombies lash out from the closet. Behind a curtained four-poster, a creature begins to work her magics. Pushing one of the zombies into the room, Eric gives the rest of us space to enter and start hacking the undead to pieces.

When near enough to the bed, Eric pulls back the curtain to reveal a putrid and obese spell-caster we can only describe as Mammy. She summons a spectral hand and uses it to place a curse on Aella, sapping some of her strength. She also tries to give Wallace a contagious disease but he thankfully overcomes the attempt. Zazz summons a large crocodile to contend with Mammy as we all begin to gather around the four-poster.

Much to our displeasure, she’s shrouded by mirror images and we spend precious time and swings destroying them before we’re able to get to her. However, when we finally destroy the last of the images, we unleash our full fury on the disgusting creature and eventually Aella drives her greataxe so deeply into her belly that only blood and gore remain of Mammy.

Covered in who knows what, we head upstairs to investigate and find some minor treasure in a booby-trapped chest and a room of trap-making horrors. Glad at least that the top floor is empty of foes, we begrudgingly head into the farmhouse’s basement, a veritable taxidermy nightmare. Though Aella seems some familiar-looking rabbit corpses, she pushes the sight from her mind as we explore the lowest level.

Eric runs into another Ogrekin accompanied by two large rats and does battle largely on his own due to the confines of the hallway. He suffers some blood loss for it but he, along with assistance from Wallace, Aella and Zazz eventually defeat the creatures.

Having only a set of double doors left to explore, we head through and come to a second set. Beyond this pair we find ourselves in a large room that houses a giant plant creature. Mistaking its vast size for immense power, we’re delighted to discover that it’s easily hacked to pieces as Eric and Wallace team up to take it down in short order. Finally done with this house of horrors, we loot one remaining chest where we discover three sets of gear, one with a white bow that Shalelu seems to recognize. We bring the items in hopes of finding the owners and leave the house back into the fresher air.

Wanting to leave no stone unturned, we head across the way to the barn.barn.jpg Three more Ogrekin wait inside and Zazz quickly drops one in a pit. Eric and Aella charge the other two and begin to battle. The beasts don’t prove to be too difficult to defeat and are quickly taken down. In typical Eric fashion, he finishes off the one in the pit by throwing himself down atop of it, the weight of his impact reducing it to a gore pancake.

A secondary room in the barn is locked and we’re forced to approach it from the two catwalks, split three and three on each side. When we enter the back room from above, we find a gigantic spider in a web waiting. In one of the cages in the room, we also spy three unconscious people. Dealing with the spider first, we hack and slash the arachnid to pieces in short order.

Now foe-free, we cut through the webbing and approach the captives. Shalelu recognizes one as the friend she’s been seeking, a member of the Black Arrows of Fort Rannick. We rouse the men and let Shalelu’s friend vouch for the others, also Black Arrows. Not wanting to stick around the unsettling farmstead anymore, we head back toward the bridge and the town.

Along the way, we ask the Black Arrows about the fate of Fort Rannick. They reveal that while they were on patrol and the Fort’s commander was away, a group of well-organized ogres struck. It was the opportune time for such an attack, inside knowledge suggesting that one of the Black Arrows turned on the fort. The three and a few others attempted to take back the fort from the ogres but failed. Eventually, they were capture by the Ogrekin as they fled the area. They also reveal that a decent amount of smoke has been seen from the Hook Mountains nearby. There is certainly evil afoot and the Fort is now in the hands of thirty-some ogres.

We travel with the men back to town where they can heal and replenish their strength. Once ready, they agree to help us take down the ogres and reclaim the fort. The next task then, is to plan an attack strategy.

For now though, dinner and rest calls and we will have to rejoin our heroes next time on Rise of the Runelords: Deliverance Part Deux. Tune in in two weeks to see if our heroes can retake Fort Rannick! Will they discover who’s organized the ogres? What does the smoke on the mountain mean? Is there anything to the giant migration east? And will Munin ever figure out why his feather turned violet? All this and more to come!

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Sunny Times in Magnimar
Sessions 8 and 9

Having just defeated the imposter Aldern and Iesha Foxglove, we are armed with the Foxglove Manor Deed and the knowledge that Foxglove paid the Sevens Sawmill every Oath Day for his wife’s trip to Absalom. Wanting to better understand the connection, we decide to pay the Sevens Sawmill a visit. The only diversion from this course comes when we visit the Copper Cornet for Zazz to purchase a new spell from a blonde gnome lady. While we wait, Aella plays with a skunk while Eric and Wallace people-watch outside.

Not too long after that, we arrive at the island in the southern area of Magnimar where the sawmill awaits. It looks to be several stories tall, but we approach and knock. There’s no answer and the door is locked, so we head to the second story door after Munnen confirms from his flight to an upper window that there are people inside.

Our knocking brings a worker, and Wallace attempts a mostly-pathetic bluff about the Deverin family wanting a tour of the premises. The worker isn’t having any of it, telling us that they need to get back to work and shutting the door in our faces. While we puzzle over our next move, we aimlessly tour the city. Unfortunately, we’re not in the best section of town, and Wallace eventually realizes that the person who bumped him stole his wallet. Everyone takes off after the thief, which leads to a dramatic chase. We all figure out quickly that climbing is none of our strong suits, but Zazz manages to catch up to the thief in the middle of one of the streets. Wallace isn’t too far behind, but Zazz makes the first attack on the thief. This prompts other local thieves to gather and defend their friend.

Our first fight of the session is on, and Zazz turns himself invisible before all the thieves can gang up on him. Wallace runs over one of the others in his desire to catch the one who robbed him and winds up getting stabbed by one of the others. Aella arrives on the scene in time to see her friends in trouble and wrecks mayhem. By the time all four of us are in the fight, we manage to cut down the thieves without much trouble. By the end, the only thief left alive is the one that robbed Wallace. We elect to turn her over to the authorities, who seem a bit dismayed at the mess we left behind us.

We continue exploring the city the rest of the day, seeing some of the monuments in town. After darkness falls, we return to the sawmill to try our luck again at gaining entrance. We essentially repeat the same process of Wallace knocking on the door and the workers saying that they are busy. This time, Eric alerts the cleric via a significant tap on the shoulder that these workers are giving off some seriously bad ju-ju, and Wallace demands entrance to the building. The workers step back to allow them entrance, and a most uncomfortable introduction begins as we all step into the sawmill.sawmill.jpg

Before the others can come up with any sort of real plan, Aella pulls out her weapon. This prompts the workers to don creepy masks and war razors. They attack us in one of the most dangerous places we’ve yet fought. We overcome the threat of the workers, seeing a couple of them mutilated by the sawmill equipment when we defeat them. After looting the one body left in one piece, we notice that the two levers down here that we thought might turn off the equipment have completely rusted through.

We head back up to the main floor, and Eric feels justified at this point in taking down the doors when no one responds to our knocking. The main floor seems empty, so we head for the staircase. Rather than stop to explore on any of the levels we climb to, we continue climbing all the way to fourth floor. Here, we finally stop as we see that a ton of cultists await. They are armed and ready for battle, but Zazz begins the fight with a stinking cloud that nauseates many of them.

We battle a few cultists that approach us, but this fight continues to be the Zazz show as he creates a pit in the middle of the room that traps a couple of our enemies. With the room torn up, the other three can simply hold their weapons and wait for an opportunity to attack. For a time, it looks as though we’re going to sleepwalk through this fight, but eventually the pit disappears and we head further into the room to find more bad guys led by an ornately-robed cultist. This guy is clearly the leader of the group, and he casts a spell that confused Zazz. In his confusion, Zazz thinks that Wallace is an enemy and greases his sword. The cleric of Ragathiel continues to feel the love as Aella is confused and attacks him. Eric knows this guy is serious and runs down to engage him in combat.

It looks perilous as half of us are confused and this Ironbriar cultist is doing his best impression of a honey badger in fearlessly tearing us apart. Finally, Aella returns to her normal state of mind and cuts down the last other cultist. It’s down to just us vs. Ironbriar, and Aella and Eric manage to finally knock the cultist out. Aella coup de graces him, finally ending our Sawmill battle. Given a little time to breathe and take a closer look, Wallace realizes he recognizes Ironbriar from somewhere but can’t quite place him. We explore the area a little bit, finding a trap-door leading up and a journal that we believe belongs to Ironbriar but is written in a coded language that is hard to decipher. Before we can go any further, the city guard arrives on the scene and takes in the sheer devastation we’ve left in our wake. They arrest us on charges of slaughter. Our attempts to talk our way out of the situation are useless and we are hauled off to prison.

We all pass horrible nights in jail cells, never able to relax in the nasty conditions. The next morning, we’re fed bowls of thin gruel and then have to wait a few hours longer before finally being led to a meeting room and strapped to chairs. A tense twenty minutes passes before a corpulent blonde man Wallace recognizes sits down. This is Lord Mayor Gorbaris, who introduces himself and asks us to explain ourselves. Wallace attempts to tell the mayor the full story, but is obviously still too tired from the last several hours to be coherent enough. Aella takes the lead, pointing out why we came here, what leads we’ve discovered, and why we killed Ironbriar (who turned out to be one of the Magnimar justices).

At the end of the story, the Mayor offers a choice between life in the prison known as the Hells or completing our investigation and stopping the murders here in Magnimar while operating under probation and reporting in once a day to the guards. None of us really regard this as much of a choice, and decide to continue the investigation.

Our first day is mostly one of recovery, as we clean up at Wallace’s house and shopping for supplies in wake of the loot we collected. Back in possession of Ironbriar’s journal ledger, spellbook_ninokuni_003.jpgZazz locks himself in his room to study and decipher the thing while we decide to investigate one of the recent crime scenes in hopes of finding a new lead.

This crime scene is located in the Docklands, and the body belongs to a merchant selling rather substandard barley. The body bears a holy symbol of Abadar, as well as the carved sihedron rune on his chest. His throat is slit, and we curiously find no sign of a previous struggle. The only other interesting thing about the room is that some of the bags near the body on the shelves bear furrows that look like they were caused by a creature bigger than the average human. The guard on the scene tells us this body belonged to a Mr. Raylos, who was the owner of this merchant establishment. This makes us wonder if there’s a common link among the victims, so we head back to the city guard HQ and receive a copy of the casualty list by asking nicely. Wallace recognizes approximately half the names as belonging to city merchants, and we decide we need to speak with Wallace’s brother and get his thoughts on the list and the Brothers of the Seven.

Wallace is clearly uncomfortable back at his house, not wanting to believe that his brother was in any way involved in what was happening in the city. While the others began a lunch of quail eggs, Wallace spoke privately with Rafford. The talk reveals that the Brothers of the Seven have scattered, none of them remaining in Magnimar. Rafford also confirms that most of the victims were merchants and gamblers.

Deciding we need more information about the victims, we travel to the local temple of Pharasma to attempt to speak with the most recent corpse. We run into a genial fellow named Brother Karsh there who allows us to ask two questions of the dead guy. We ask who killed him, and he replies that it was a “creature unknown in a mask of gold.” His answer to our second question reveals that he doesn’t know anything about the Brothers of the Seven. By now, all three of us are ready to go hit something out of frustration at our inability to hunt down the murderer.

We go back to the Deverin House to speak with Zazz, who is now somehow covered in ink and muttering in various languages. We ask him what he knows about gold masks, but we don’t find out much beyond what we already knew – that this all ties into the god of secrets, Norgorber. Now running desperately low on leads, we decide to research the perfume we smelled at the scene of the last murder. Knowing it is a perfume generally given as a gift to one’s mistress, we poke around for the brand in the Naos district. We identify the scent as “Orem’s Best”, finally acquiescing to Eric’s idea that we ask around in the local brothels. Eric talks to plenty of people, trying to gather gossip on Ironbriar and who he might’ve been sleeping with lately. We learn that he stopped frequenting the whorehouses about two or three weeks before the murders began, and that someone saw him heading into the worst part of town recently in the Underbridge.

Realizing this is odd, we excitedly head for the Magnimar ghetto. The sun doesn’t shine here, and we all look ludicrously out of place. Aella dons her hat of disguise to blend in with the locals and tries to talk with some of them about Ironbriar. Wallace and Eric realize as they walk around that nobody is approaching a creepy clocktower, and we start to head that way. Aella’s conversation with the locals leads to the clocktower as well, and all three of us meet up there. Aella removes her hat and we circle the tower. We find only one set of doors, which Aella slowly opens with a creak. We see footprints in the middle of the first floor, some of which are quite big. Generally creeped out by this place and realizing that further investigation without Zazz is probably a bag idea, we slowly back away and settle for staking the place out.

During that time, Aella notices some of the dirt being displaced on the ground in front of the door, and activates her ability to see the invisible. She catches a fleeting glance of what looks like a large snake before it disappears. Not much else happens during our stakeout, and we head back to the Deverin house. We bring Zazz (who is still covered in ink but now has added a second color) up to speed on our recent investigation, asking him about the large snake-like humanoid. Zazz figures it might be a lamia, but can’t know for certain since he didn’t see it.

We rest up that night before allowing Zazz one more full day of study on the journal. Once that’s finished, all four of us journey back to the Underbridge and make our way to Shadow Clocktower. We don’t immediately perceive of threats, so we head inside the doors. Wallace starts to look into one of the rooms on this floor before he is attacked by a large mass of body parts that Zazz identifies as a flesh gollum. This thing packs a mighty punch, knocking even the mighty Aella back as we attempt to bring it down. Eric’s ability to smite evil comes through for us, as he manages to defeat the monstrosity before it can kill any of us. After some healing and aid from the hound archon Zazz summoned, we start to climb up a rickety staircase spiraling around the building and leading slowly upward. We have to keep some distance between us because the foundation is weak in this building. the-shadow-clock.png

All goes smoothly until we’re about halfway up and someone up top cuts one of the massive bells loose. The bell clatters down and hits Aella and Wallace while taking the floor out from beneath Aella. Our Shoanti friend plummets to the ground below, but thinks quickly under pressure and casts feather-fall on herself to soften her fall. We wait for her to return to us while each of us attempts a dangerous jump across the gaps left in the floor by the bell. Aella makes it across one of the gaps in her path, but comes up short on the second jump. Zazz uses a spell to web her to the wall so that we toss her a rope and haul her up on the right side of the staircase. We continue climbing, our adrenaline pumping from these heights and the fear that more bells may rain down.

We make it up to the top without further incident, but then find ourselves up against what looks like Aella, Zazz, and a hypothetical spawn of Eric and Wallace’s. We recognize quickly that these creatures mean us harm and are similar to the fake Foxgloves from days before. This fight proves difficult, as they get up in Zazz’s face and grapple Aella and Eric. Eventually, we manage to subdue all three monsters. Wallace leads the way up a rickety staircase that actually curves outside of the building. The next flight up reveals nothing but old equipment, but Wallace leads them up one more floor to the roof.

Before Wallace can even think about casting invisibility purge, he is shanked by an invisible snake-like woman who promises that we are to be her next victims. After hitting Wallace, her invisibility goes away and the boss fight is on! We start with buffing, as Aella increases her constitution and Wallace casts bull-strength on Eric. Eric takes the fight to the woman, but her mirror images protect her from taking much of any damage from us. She recognizes that Zazz’s magic could threaten her, and she attempts to remove him from the fight by turning him to stone. He shakes it off at the last second.

We press the momentum and Aella roars in triumph as she records a critical hit… until she realizes it was on a mirror image. We think we’ve gained the upper hand when we knock out her mirror images, but she moves away to threaten Zazz and casts mirror image again. In frustration, all of us maneuver to catch up to her again. When Wallace attempts to sneak around behind her, she lashes out and almost hits him in the heart with her weapon. Only the holy symbol of Ragathiel stops him from dying, but he’s unconscious.

Aella and Eric take out more of the mirror images and manage to inflict some damage on her, while Zazz recognizes that we’re in the fight of our lives and summons a lantern archon that grants Wallace enough temporary hit points to return him to consciousness. The cleric focuses on healing himself while Eric smites and Aella rages. The evil lady smacks Zazz for a big sum of damage, and he casts a spell that turns himself into an air elemental that can fly. He’s able to retreat out of harm’s way, leaving Eric and Aella to continue to hammer and cut her. She hits Eric with enough wisdom drain to turn him into someone similar to LeRoy Jenkins. She also casts mirror image again, officially earning her the title of most infuriating enemy we’ve yet fought. By now, Wallace has healed enough to be to rejoin the fray. The three of them and the lantern archon knock out the remainder of her last mirror images, and we prepare to finally kill this ho-bag once and for all.

Realizing she’s on her last legs, the snake-woman withdraws and leaps off the roof. She casts feather-fall on herself a la Aella, and flees. Zazz attempts to chase her and bring her down using his wand of magic missile, but she’s just too fast and gets away before any of us can finish her off. We are frustrated that she got away, but grateful for the opportunity to heal up before any of us keel over. We loot the treasure chests up here on the roof and find a note among the valuables. The note appears to be from the sister of the nasty woman we just fought, who is writing from Fort Ranick. She speaks of marking her victims “more elegantly” while also commenting on the greed that can be harvested from souls. She concludes by mentioning the mayor as the “cream of the crop” in Magnimar. This fight has left us with more questions and fears that matters could be even worse where this sister is.

We carefully make our way back down to the bottom of the clocktower and head to Baroque’s shrine. He heals Allea’s con damage, while Eric staggers down the street to a Temple of Torag and pays a large sum of gold to have his wisdom replenished. We spend the night at Baroque’s after Wallace explains to his mentor how we came to be in this state. The next day, we return to the mayor and bring him up to speed on our activities. He reads the note we found and confirms that last night was the first night in which there were no murders. He pardons us of our crimes, rewards us with plenty of gold, and invites us to a feast celebrating our victory.

It appears that we have at least temporarily stopped the murders in Magnimar, but none of us are feeling overconfident. Our enemy managed to escape us, and we know we will face her again. We know that more threats await, and while we have some time now to catch our breath and stock up on supplies that can enhance our chances of survival, we are far from safe. Our adventures will continue, but will have to wait until our next session.

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It's Never Truly Over
Session 7

We rejoin our intrepid adventurers as they’re picking themselves up after their encounter with Iesha Foxglove. Wallace, who stepped in her way, takes a moment to heal himself back up with his clericy goodness and restore himself to proper order. Lesson learned and wounds healed.

Undaunted, but perhaps a bit wiser, we traverse back to the basement where we use the key to open the locked door. Beyond, we find a room lined on one end with a bookshelf and the other covered with two stained glass windows. One of the windows depicts Vorel Foxglove who seems to have been pursuing becoming a Lich. While we take in the surroundings, this image begins to animate in a most sinister manner. Before any of us can react, the window mystifies Eric who suddenly becomes convinced that his “baby” is in need of saving. The paladin sprints from the room with Wallace hot on his heels. Having none of it, Aella grabs a book off one of the table’s in the room and throws it through the window where it plummets into the surf below. The jewel-colored glass pieces rain down, now still and immobile, but the damage has already been done. Before they join the other two, Zazz lights the books in the room aflame while Aella stands guard. Burning-book-001.jpg

As the pages being to curl and smoke, Aella and Zazz turn their attention back to their fellow comrades and race out of the room in pursuit of Eric and Wallace. The enchantment convinces Eric to sprint all the way back up to one of the previously-explored bedrooms. Luckily, when he arrives, he overcomes the notion that he has a child in danger and is able to rejoin the rest of us. This particular room is the same one which tricked Aella into nearly clawing her face off and so we are spared another bout of face-mauling, much to everyone’s delight.

Quite tired of this silliness, we return to the basement and make our way past the burning books and into a back room where we discover a staircase winding down into unknown depths. metal-and-stone-spiral-staircase.jpg After Aella shakes off a quick vision, we descend into the darkness below. At the bottom, we discover a snaking cavern with multiple branching paths. We opt for the newest-looking pathway first and quickly stumble upon a giant bat creature that is most displeased by our presence.

Things quickly get hairy as the creature renders most of the team useless with its paralytic bite and stunning screech. Absorbing a lot of damage while veritable statues, Eric hangs on long enough to break free of his paralysis. Noticing his friend coming to, Zazz immediately enlarges the paladin and stands back as Eric steps forward to beat down the bat. Giant Eric 1 – Bat Demon 0.

Discovering that this path holds no other secrets, we turn back and find a gaggle of ghouls waiting. Thankfully, they prove to be fairly inept when it comes to landing blows and we manage to mow them down with little incident.

Continuing our exploration, we wind through passages until we stumble upon a spiraling room leading down to a pool of water. Along the pathway, we see Iesha Foxglove pounding at a stone door and four goblin ghasts lying in wait. Content to let Mrs. Foxglove, who seems to be calling for her husband’s blood, do her thing, we make sure to give her a wide berth as we head to tackle the ghastly problem.

Quick to act, Zazzy opens up a pit in the floor below three of the goblins. Although one dodges it, the other two plummet into the trap. The remaining unaffected one is easily turned to slush. The dodger unwisely leaps over the pit to confront our party but quickly finds Wallace’s boot in his face and is kicked down to join the two in the pit below.

Perhaps weary with the dangers of the Misgivings or just giving in to his inner-crazy, Eric then takes a flying leap down the pit and onto a goblin ghast. Not to be outdone, Wallace follows suit and falls atop the helpless fiends below. Survivors are immediately diced and minced by the two and they rise back up as the pit dissipates covered in ghast innards and seemingly self-satisfied.

As we take a moment to patch up injuries, Iesha Foxglove finally breaks down the stone door across the way and tears down the tunnel beyond. Viewing her as a tentative ally in our fight with Aldren Foxglove, we reluctantly follow her down the pathway and find the fiend waiting for us. No longer his usual self, he has gone the way of his late wife and is now a powerful ghast. Taking in his attackers, he spots Aella, for whom he left all the deranged love notes, and begins attacking her in earnest. All of us, including Iesha, start fighting back.

Focusing solely on Aella (because she’s the only living creature with boobs in this party), he manages to paralyze her and deal damage in her helpless state. Striking over and over, it seems that all of our efforts prove rather futile as he side-steps most attacks with ease; even Zazz’s summoned leopard. However, Wallace, Eric and Iesha very slowly begin to deal damage to our foe, but he begins to lash out at all who strike him. As he starts to harm her friends, Aella’s rage increases until it boils over and she breaks free from her paralysis in time to scalp Aldren Foxglove and send him to the hell that waits beyond. As he perishes, Iesha Foxglove also dies and goes on to what is hopefully a more peaceful rest.

As Foxglove falls, we only have a moment’s reprieve before another horror in the room springs to life. A box, marked with the Sihedron Rune, sihedronRune.jpg begins to rattle. It immediately puts Eric, Aella and Zazz under its spell and convinces the three of them to consume an oddly human-shaped growth of moss in the corner of the room. Aella and Eric immediately go over and start chowing down while Wallace attempts to restrain Zazz. However, the wizard goes invisible and slips Wallace’s grasp and joins the other two at the fungus buffet. After we’ve had our fill and the effect wears off, we come to our senses just in time to start projectile vomiting the tainted moss.

As we vomit ourselves out, we take a look at the now-ruined box and discover that it was most-likely a Lich phylactery. Perhaps the phylactery Vorel Foxglove attempted to use in his pursuit of Lichdom. Gathering everything of interest in the room, we head back out into the larger cavern. Not wishing to leave any stone unturned, we head back to the staircase via the last unexplored pathway where we stumble across some yellow mold. Spores kick up into the air and choke Wallace and Eric for a moment but we flee before any major damage can be done.

Finally done with this house, we make it back out through the front doors and breathe in the fresh air. However, the smell of flowers does not meet our noses and instead we catch a whiff of something putrid. Circling above us are swarms of undead ravens hungry for our flesh. flock_starlings_field.jpg Although Zazzy attempts to flee to the horses, the rest of us stay put and begin hacking away at Munin’s very dead and very foul relatives. We pound them all into paste in due time.

Eventually, inevitably, freaking finally, we climb on our horses and ride back to Sandpoint. We head straight for the Cathedral and Father Zanthas’ healing hands. The Sheriff meets us at the church and we fill him in on all of our dealings at the Misgivings. Being his rather unperturbed self, he takes it all in stride and thanks us for ridding the haunted place of all of its evils. When he leaves, we turn to the good Father for help and spend the night in the Cathedral’s infirmary.

In the morning, Wallace and Aella’s wounds are leaking pus and Zazz has a cough and fever. Now up to speed on healing diseases, Wallace is able to cleanse himself of his ghoul fever while Father Zanthas takes care of Aella’s. Zazzy’s illness, however, remains a mystery. Out of healing for the day, we let Zazz hack and cough as we head into town to sell our wares and buy a few items. We then putz around town for a day and, the next morning, let Fr. Zanthas take another crack at healing our wizard. Running out of ideas and spells, the father and one of his acolytes remain baffled by Zazz’s condition. Never one to leave a friend in pain, Wallace steps forward and with some mighty healing juju banishes the disease plaguing Zazzy once and for all.

Now that we’ve put ourselves back in order, we turn our sights on Magnimar. Foxglove’s final note mentioned something occurring at the Foxglove Townhouse in regards to a greater master that Aldren served. Wanting to see this thing through to the end, we ride off to Wallace’s homeland.

First thing we turn in a head we collected as a bounty and then make our way to the Deverin family home. The house is the definition of opulence and has multiple servants, including some Shoanti. Aella tries her best to keep her disgust in check.

The next morning, Wallace has breakfast with his brother who strikes up a conversation about our latest adventures. As Wallace fills him in, Radford (?) reveals that Sihedron Rune murders have been taking place in Magnimar as well. He also mentions a Brotherhood of Seven, bringing our attention back to the Skinsaw Man’s (Foxglove’s) note which spoke of an Order of Seven. Finding all of this odd and not the least bit coincidental (as Eric reminds Wallace), we file the knowledge away and head out for the Foxglove Townhouse.

After seeking advise about the legality of entering the boarded-up home, we decide to investigate with or without the law’s consent. We find that one of the keys retrieved from Foxglove’s body unlocks a side door to the house. As we step over the threshold we are greeted by a very-alive-looking Aldren Foxglove and Iesha Foxglove.warning-mass-confusion-ahead.jpg Thoroughly confused, Eric detects faint evil on Foxglove and springs into action. The paladin begins slamming Aldren around the room demanding to know who he really is while the rather-calm man simply contends that he is, in fact, Aldren Foxglove. This move surprises Wallace but falls directly into line with what Aella was thinking and she lets Eric slam Aldren around and question him for a bit. Aldren merely assures Eric his is legit and eventually the paladin turns him over to Aella who attempts to intimidate the truth out of him.

At this, Iesha Foxglove claims she’s going to fetch help but really gives up the act, revealing herself to be some kind of shape-shifting monster. Aldren then follows suit. Aella, obscenely tired of Aldren Foxglove, quickly destroys his monstrous counterpart while Eric dances with Iesha in the next room. Once Aldren goes down, we rush to assist Eric, but find him very capable of destroying Iesha.

Leaving the corpses behind, we fully explore the house and find that another one of Foxglove’s keys opens a secret mantle compartment. Inside, we find the house’s deed and a ledger, both of which mention the Brotherhood of Seven and Seven’s Sawmill. Knowing that this is where our mystery leads, as all signs point there, we exit the house through the back door before any town guards come to investigate.

Next time on Rise of the Runelords: Please let Aldren Foxglove be Dead, will we head to Seven’s Sawmill and fight more undead horrors? Will we clue in to the Brotherhood of Seven? Will Wallace’s brother turn out to be villainous scum? Find out next time as we slice, sleuth and stumble our way through all the shenanigans!

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A Harrowing Account of Ghouls and Haunts

With our business concluded at Habe’s Sanatorum, we begin today’s session by heading off on our horses to the farmlands. It doesn’t take long for us to reach the massive fields of unharvested wheat, along with our first scarecrow. Remembering what the farmer said before about scarecrows carrying people off, Eric pokes the straw-filled figure with his warhammer. The scarecrow doesn’t react, and we head up a trail that we believe will lead toward a farmhouse and barn.-8220-harvest-of-evil-8221-garden-scarecrow-statue_2.jpg

The story takes a very Children of the Corn-esque turn as a ghoul-crow and what used to be a farming family viciously attack us. While we manage to kill the ghouls quickly, both Wallace and Aella sustain injuries with necrotic filth setting into the wounds. A little further down the path, we find the farmhouse and barn. We notice what we think is a Thassilonian ruin known locally as the Stone Warrior forming part of the barn’s structure. While we stare at the odd building, another group of ghouls comes out of the townhouse to welcome us to the farm.

This group is led by a particularly pernicious one-earred fellow who stinks to high heaven. Wallace takes more bites on his wrist, but the group succeeds in defeating the rest of the ghoul farm community in the immediate vicinity. The one-earred creature has the Foxglove family crest on him, along with a key. Our suspicions of Aldern Foxglove continue to mount, and we warily make our way into the farmhouse.

The house smells terrible, mostly owing to the decaying corpse of the farmer on the kitchen table. Like other recent murder victims, he has the Sihedron rune carved into his chest. Aella finds another creepy note with her name on it and wishes aloud that she had simply killed Foxglove when we went hunting together. Not wanting to risk attracting attention by heating water over a fire, Wallace and Aella clean their wounds with soap and cold water before we continue our investigation of the house. There isn’t much of interest, other than a locked coffer beneath a loose floorboard that contains the farmer’s silver stash. The barn proves even less interesting, with cracked bones being about the only surprise.

Eric builds a successful pyre to burn the bodies, managing to avoid burning down the wheat fields in the process. Wallace says a few words, and everyone has to step away from the smell as the bodies burn. While we watch the cremation, we recall as a group that the old Foxglove manor isn’t far from here. Before we investigate the mansion, however, we return to the Sanatorum to check on progress. Jimmy the Guard meets us shortly before the locksmith finishes freeing the two inmates. We all return to Sandpoint together, where we speak with the Sheriff and talk about our progress.

After selling off our most recently acquired loot, we enjoy a delicious meal at the Rusty Dragon. While Wallace and Aella re-treat their wounds with hot water, Eric heads off to the Cathedral to discuss our conditions with Father Zantus. The cleric of Desna agrees to magically examine Wallace, and determines quickly that the Ragathiel Crusader has Ghoul Fever. They elect to keep Wallace in the Cathedral Infirmary overnight in case his condition worsens.infirmary.jpg Eric stays near to “deal” with any behavioral problems from the cleric, and Aella stays in case she has the same condition. Zazzaxian pulls out a sleeping bag and sticks with his group of friends.

It’s a tense night, with Wallace dreaming that everyone around him is made of meat and he’s very hungry, but Father Zantus arrives in the morning prepared to remove the disease. After a quick breakfast in the Cathedral, we head out to the street only for Jimmy the Guard to find us and summon us to another grisly crime scene at the meat market. This time, it’s the butcher who is dead with a Sihedron rune carved into his chest. We look around and find more ghoul footprints leading toward the harbor, as well as yet another note from Aella’s not-so-secret admirer. With no further ado, we ride for Foxglove Manor.

We come to our destination on top of a hill on a cliffside. The mansion looks mildewy and forbidding even from the outside. The 80-year-old place is known as the Misgivings, and its bad reputation looks deserved. We try the key from the one-earred creature, unlocking the door to find ourselves in a room with a statue of a manticore. This place immediately gives us the creeps as we hear sobbing for a moment upstairs. Eric’s shoulder gets a serious workout this afternoon as he has to keep ramming the doors that have swollen with moisture in order to open them. Our first sign of trouble is a blind and diseased rat attacking Eric, but it’s soon to get much worse.

As we enter the next room, Aella notices that something invisible seems to be pacing the floor near the fireplace. Eric heads over to take a closer look, and his eyes glaze over. Unknown to us at first, he experiences a memory that isn’t his. He sees himself as a woman and Wallace as a child that he needs to remove from the house. He tells us the strange story when he comes to, but we press forward.

The next room proves to the first of many featuring stained glass windows. All the creatures pictured in these windows seem to be full of fear, and probably not just because we find a mummified monkey head in the room. We continue exploring, coming to a room with a scarf that mysteriously moves. Aella takes point here, grabbing the scarf. Despite her incredible strength, however, the scarf escapes her grip and begins to suffocate Wallace. The cleric has a vision that he is Aldern’s wife and that the husband is strangling him with the scarf. Eric has to lay on hands for Wallace to bring him back to consciousness after the near-suffocation.

After quick healing, we continue our tour of the ground floor of the haunted house, seeing stairs going both up and down. We start by checking out the basement. Eric opens a door to a swarm of rats that attacks us. While sustaining some itchy rat bites, Zazz blasts several of them with his burning hands attack while the rest of us bludgeon them to death with our weapons. Our exploration of the basement doesn’t take long, though we find one iron door that we can’t get through yet without a key. We set off for the second floor, hoping to find said key while avoiding these mysterious haunts.

That turns out to be extremely wishful thinking, however, as we come to a bedroom with a stained desk. As the others look on, Zazz is taken with a vision of having killed the one he loved the most. In his despair, he tries to slit his own throat with a dagger in the desk. Luckily, Eric notices what he’s doing and knocks the dagger away before Zazz can do a lethal amount of damage to himself. Eric heals him back to consciousness before we continue. We find more stained glass windows, along with a child’s bedroom in which Aella envisions her two “parents” trying to kill each other. Our Shoanti friend’s torment doesn’t ease up in the next major room, as she becomes convinced that a portion of the skin on her face is becoming tumorous and disgusting. Wallace and Eric frantically channel positive energy before Aella can rip her own face off from the haunt.

The next stop is another wash basin. In trying to investigate what might be within, Eric accidentally falls through the floor back to the first level. He rejoins us upstairs before we find a room that is completely destroyed save for a painting turned backwards. Never one to pass up a dangerous opportunity, Eric turns the painting around. He is struck by a wave of sadness and then fear. The haunt gives him a feeling of strong misogynistic rage, and Eric wants to kill Aella. He resists this urge, instead turning his rage on the painting and freeing himself from it.

Further exploration leads to a staircase leading up to an attic. The number of doors in this place continues to add up as we find eight more in the attic. Most of them lead to empty storage space, but one down the hall has stained glass windows depicting nasty necromancers. Before stepping inside what could be another dangerous room, Eric asks Aella to tie a rope around him that she and Wallace can hold. Once stepping inside, the paladin starts sweating and smelling burning flesh. He comes to the conclusion that he is on fire and needs to leap out the window. Wallace and Aella try to hold on to the rope, Eric swinging fists at them and connecting Aella. Zazz slows him down by greasing the floor beneath him, and Wallace’s curing wand eventually wakes him up. Running low on morale by this point, our group still explores the last two doors in the attic. The first is room full of books which gives Zazz memories of regret, but at least nothing terrible happens to him.

The last room seems to contain the sobs we heard earlier. Inside is a full-length mirrorUnknown.jpeg facing the wall. Out of patience for haunts and other horrors, Aella smashes the mirror. Behind the now-shattered mirror, the undead corporeal form of Aldern Foxglove’s wife Iesha reveals herself. Her voice causes Zazz and Aella to cower in fear, leaving just Wallace and Eric in front of her. She tells us to get out of the way, but Wallace resists. Eric lands one shot on her, inflicting damage as he smites evil. She steps up to the cleric and brings him down in one swift stroke. Realizing this undead wife means serious business, Eric lets her go and turns his attention on healing Wallace. The others emerge from their fear and the group is left alive but in shambles. Running low on energy, health, and sanity, the team has more work to do in Foxglove Manor. Whether their quest proves successful, whether they survive more encounters with the supernatural, and whether Aldern Foxglove awaits behind the locked door in the basement are among the questions that could be answered in the next bone-chilling episode of Rise of the Runelords.

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A Pathfinder Horror Story
Session 5: Nevermore

We find ourselves back in the arms of Sandpoint at the familiar Rusty Dragon Inn, what has become our home away from home over the last twelve days. However, it is the first morn since our return from the plundering at the Thistletop Goblin Fortress and we have many wares to sell and much loot to hock. Joyously we fill our pockets fuller than any of us have before and immediately turn to upgrade our equipment and armor. A frenzy of gold exchanges hands and we all come away slightly better off than we were when we waffles.jpg arose to the delectable smell of waffles.

After gearing up, we unexpectedly discover that we have almost two weeks worth of time to kill and all choose to branch out on different journeys. Aella visits her tribe in the Calphiak Mountains where she catches up with family, her heritage and her grandmother. Wallace and Zazz travel to Magnimar: Wallace to reconnect with his mentor and brother and Zazz to discover a destitute wizard in possession of a rare spell that has caught his eye. Eric is the only one that remains in Sandpoint and spends the first half of his time donating the proceeds from crafted goods to a local orphanage and the second half practicing for a performance at the town theatre. Thankfully, all of us make it back to Sandpoint just in time to see the opening night of: The Heroes of Sandpoint! Starring Eric “The Red” Oathborn! A splendid amount of cheese and wonder turn the performance into one worthy of raucous applause and praise. In his one and only theatrical debut, Eric proves that he’s more than just muscle and blind obedience as he dazzles the crowds and brings them all to their feet.

Our good fortunes are not meant to last however and the very next morning Sheriff Hemlock summons us all to his office where he grimly tells us about the serial killer plaguing the fair citizens of Sandpoint and the surrounding area. He even reveals an ominous note left about Aella; one suggesting love, desire, a mysterious pack and evil. Undaunted, we eagerly take up the task of investigating these horrendous crimes and head straight away for the site of last night’s slaughter.

At the town’s sawmill, we are greeted to our first glimpses of the carnage and violence with which these murders are taking place. We quickly notice that one of the two victims has a Sihedron Rune carved into his chest, the same mysterious symbol Nualia wore around her neck.

Thanks to some clever deductive reasoning and thorough footwork, we gather some clues about the scene of the crime:

  • A set of barefoot medium-sized humanoid footprints lead from the second story window. These prints bear an awful stench akin to rotting meat.
  • An axe with blood and the same raunchy smell lies on the floor.
  • This stench seems to suggest that the axe was used on the flesh of a Ghast with in the last day. Thanks to some knowledgeable party members, we know that a Ghast is a particularly powerful and smelly type of Ghoul. In particular, they are known to travel in packs and lurk on the edges of civilization such as near sewers or graveyards. The notion of a “pack” briefly draws our attention back to the note about Aella which also mentioned the word.
  • The outlying farms around Sandpoint have been awfully quiet as of late.
  • Ghouls transmit/transform others with Ghoul Fever. An infected person will generally rise from the dead the next night at midnight as a Ghoul them self.
  • The female body at the crime scene does not smell especially ghastly like the male body does, suggesting it was not directly attacked or injured by a Ghoul/Ghast. It’s also on the first floor near the saw blade, leading us to believe it was thrown down the log chute onto the spinning blades of death below.
  • After following the footprints from the second story window, we notice that they continue out across the pier and that they originated from the water. Even more interesting is the fact that there are two sets of prints, one distinctly heading to the saw mill and the other from it.

After our Scooby Snack worthy investigationscooby_snacks.jpg, we take the bodies to the Cathedral and warn Father Zanthas about the presence of Ghouls/Ghasts. He is able to confirm that some of the male’s wounds are indeed from the claws of a Ghoul.

Leaving the good father to his work, we return to the Sheriff to report all of our findings. While there, the Sheriff, the first set of corpses and a saw mill worker clue us in to a few more pieces of this dastardly puzzle:

  • The victims of the first set of murders also had the Sihedron Rune carved into their bodies. A lone survivor from this grisly assault, a bodyguard, is currently in Habe’s Sanatorium to the south.
  • 4 of the 5 bodies have had their mouths ripped off which we realize is an attempt to prevent us from communing with them.
  • The saw mill worker who was on the first floor of the building when the attack happened reveals to us that the man and woman were intimately involved above while he worked below. The sound of the blade overpowered his senses and he didn’t realize anything horrifying was occurring until the female fell down the log chute and onto the saw blade he was working on.
  • The male victim was skimming off the books at the saw mill for the Scarzni.

After the two gruesome sights, we turn to an old acquaintance to tell us more about this Sihedron Rune that keeps appearing. The elderly man at the lighthouse, a scholar of ancient Thassalonia, tells us that it is a symbol of the 7 virtues of Thassalonian culture: Wealth, Fertility, Honest Pride, Abundance, Eager Striving, Righteous Anger and Rest. The 7 points on the symbol also correspond to all of the schools of magic except for Divination as the Thassalonians did not take much stock in its powers. The rulers of ancient Thassalonia were known for their corruption and for straying far from the 7 pillars of virtue of their culture. Their actions bastardized these pillars and transformed them into what we know as the 7 Deadly Sins. Finally, the old man tells us that the Runelords were powerful wizards that ruled the kingdoms of the Thassalonian Empire.

Briefly reviewing the evidence, we then realize that the female victim, Vin Vendor’s eldest daughter, still had her mouth intact and we race to the Cathedral to try and intercept Father Zanthas before he can hold the funeral. Mr. Vendor and his family are present to pay their final respects to their daughter, but we manage to drag Father Zanthas away just in time and urge him to postpone the proceedings. He agrees that communing with the girl’s corpse may yield some answers about her death and stalls the funeral a day so that we may use his magic to ask her a few questions before she is laid to rest.

The next morning we set about the task and the father works his magic to allow us two questions. We determine from the girl’s head that she and the boy were indeed killed by a Ghoul and that she was the one that attacked it with the bloodstained and reeking axe before being thrown down the log chute. Recognizing that she has endured enough torment, we leave the girl to Father Zanthas’ care and attempt to pursue other leads.

Immediately snatched away to the Sheriff’s office however, we meet a panicked farmer who tells us of walking scarecrows scarecrows-creepy-scarecrow.jpgand zombie-like creatures carrying people off in the night. Although Eric smacks the man into unconsciousness in an attempt to calm him down, we manage to gather the information from him and are sent by the Sheriff to investigate the farmland. All has not indeed been quiet in the countryside.

On the way to the farms, we decide to stop by Habes’ Sanatorium to question the bodyguard of the first murder victims. The owner/head of the facility is quite curt and insists that the man is not fit enough to be seen. After ushering us out twice and ignoring or insinuations that he is actively impeding a murder investigation, we send Munin to fetch the warrant he requires to allow us to enter his premises. Once obtained, he begrudgingly allows us to enter and takes us to the bodyguard, a man by the name of Greyest.

When we reach the top floor of the Sanatorium and are escorted to the man’s room, we find him to be quite disturbed. However, when Aella enters the room his demeanor immediately changes and he gives her a message from his “lord” concerning the mysterious pack and something called the “misgiving.” After his message is delivered, he launches into a crazed attack.

Zazz, our versatile wizard, color sprays the manic man and leaves him stunned and blind for a short time. During this interlude, Aella and Wallace beat him into unconsciousness, but not before one of the Sanatorium’s guards locks us in the cell with him.

Unperturbed, the three bashers turn to the locked door and hack it down only to find a Were-Rat waiting for us on the other side. Evil is certainly afoot in this standard horror-movie setting.

For a few frustrating seconds, we are forced into the confines of a hallway with Eric acting as a buffer between the team and the poisonous Were-Rat. Luckily, Zazz is able to use his telekinetic fist to eventually take the beast down and we emerge from the enclosure just in time for Wallace to behead a zombie that has wandered up the stairs.

Though there is clearly commotion on the floor below as more unknown foes lie in wait, Eric boldly rushes down to greet the horde. On this level, he discovers the two Tiefling guards, three more zombies and a necromancer. Unafraid of a battle, we all join Eric below and set to work dispatching of our enemies. The zombies prove to be disposable as Wallace’s positive energy and Aella’s mighty swings render them back to nothing more than rotting flesh-covered bones. Though the necromancer tries to get tricky by dousing us all in a nauseating cloud, we mostly overcome it and easily kill the Tiefling brothers as well.

During the momentary distraction, the necromancer seizes the opportunity to flee down the stairs, but we quickly regroup and give chase. We pound our way into the basement where he has taken refuge and begin hammering away at his mirror images. When he realizes his plight is hopeless and that he is cornered, the necromancer holds his hands up in surrender to our awesome might. Before we finish him off, we get him to reveal that the Ghoul activity is resultant of something lurking to the south of Sandpoint.

After exploring his chambers, we return to the main level to attempt to find Habes who disappeared when Greyest began his attack. Unfortunately, we are too late and he has already made headway to the south, toward Magnimar.

Refusing to dwell on the misfortune, we turn to explore the rest of the facility more thoroughly and also decide to permanently put Greyest out of his infected misery. While finishing the deed, we reflect on a name he uttered during his rant at Aella: Skinsaw. With some mental probing, we suss out that Skinsaw is an aspect of the god Norberger, a god of murder, assassination and secrets. Unsure of much more, we resolve to pry even further into the name when we are in a better position to do so.

Using Munin once more, we send for a locksmith and some guards to rescue two remaining patients at the Sanatorium and escort them back to Sandpoint. Our mission here then complete and the business of death foreclosed upon by our hands, we turn to face what lies in wait at the farmlands. However, that is a tale for another day.

Rejoin us next time for Pathfinder: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 8: Why Won’t You Die Yet!

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Dungeon crawling from (Thistle)top to bottom

Today’s session picks up just a couple of moments after our last one ended with our defeat of Ripnugget at the Thistletop Goblin Lair. We don’t stay in the throne room for long, instead setting off into the rest of the main floor in search of goblin foes and interesting loot. At first, we find only some goblin dogs that we relatively easily eliminate. Eventually, however, we come to a courtyard with a door that is barricaded with a mishmash of nailed boards. We’re concerned at the sight of the dead goblin corpses by the door, but Aella investigates and pries open the door to find a poor, malnourished, and abused stallion.

Her heart melting, Aella quickly gains the animal’s trust with a trail ration and soothing demeanor. She leads her new equestrian friend out into the courtyard to graze. Shortly after, our Shoanti-member also uncovers a stash of caged bunnies that she frees and sets in the courtyard after naming one Felix. Aella is on cloud nine for the time being.bunnies-chinese-new-year-28478085-1920-1200.jpg

After a little more exploration, we realize that the only way to press forward is to head downstairs into the dark. Eric boldly leads the way into a dark and cavernous conference room. We quickly identify plans for two separate goblin attacks on Sandpoint. One is the one that started our adventure, while the other is the ominous massive invasion we’ve heard could be coming. Before we have too long to contemplate these plans, we stumble upon a spell-casting woman in the next room who is in no mood to chat.

Wallace is slow on the uptake, but Eric and Aella rush past him to engage the woman before she can take us out. Zazz uses a great deal of foresight in predicting where the woman’s help will be coming from after she screams. When a group of goblins are poised to dash into the fight from the door behind us, he unleashes a web spell that traps most of the goblins. Not happy about this sticky situation, an unarmored bugbear sets the web on fire from behind. While his goblin allies roast, Eric and Aella kill the spell-casting woman, who uses her dying breath to call out the name of Tsuto (aka the suicide-by-pants fellow).

The group steps forward to face the bugbear, who is joined by a mercenary brandishing a bastard sword. The tight quarters in the hallway make it difficult for our group to fight strategically, Wallace often having to reach his longspear around allies and Zazz unable to utilize his deadlest spells. The group fights valiantly, but the mercenary overwhelms the mighty Aella with his sword and knocks her unconscious. Luckily, Eric is able to finish off the bugbear soon after so that he and Wallace can flank the mercenary and whittle down his health. The mercenary finally surrenders, casting aside his weapons.

Wallace heals Aella back to consciousness while Eric tightly binds the mercenary’s hands. Not in a pleasant mood after the rough fight, Aella does her best Dark Knight impression again as she slams the mercenary onto the stone table in the bigger room and begins to interrogate him. We don’t learn much, other than the fact that the mercenary is working for Nualia and that she is down even further below ground here. With the interrogation complete, both Eric and Wallace move in to execute the enemy. Eric shows greater initiative and kills him first.

After quickly looting the bodies, the tired crew presses on, finding plenty of hallways and doors that could turn around even the most experienced dungeon crawler. The paths eventually lead to the den of a strange and unfriendly tentacled monster. While this fight isn’t a breeze and Aella gets stung in the middle, we manage to kill the beast and wind up little worse for wear. Things grow more gruesome shortly afterward when Eric finds a room that contains goblin infants. Closing the door behind him so that he doesn’t risk the rest of the group’s disapproval, he snaps the infants’ necks in the name of Torag. Aella is suspicious of what happened behind the closed door, but the group presses on regardless.

With our exploration of this first basement floor almost complete, however, we wander into a much graver circumstance. We happen to waltz into a large room with a large statue of Lamashtu. The room is also populated by two demon dogs who look as though they’d like to eat us.Demo_Dogs_playing_by_nocturnalMoTH.jpg Eric boldly leads the way into the room to defeat the dogs. Their howls terrify Aella, who takes off running for the happiest place she knows in this fortress. Zazz holds out a little longer, but is soon also overcome by panic. While Wallace remains resolute, the dogs inflict a significant amount of damage on the cleric with their teeth and claws. Recognizing that this isn’t a fight we can win on our last legs, Eric bellows at Wallace to flee.

The two manage to escape the room, the demon dogs not pursuing past the door. Everyone returns together in the courtyard with the horse and the bunnies (which may or may not be multiplying as we explore). Realizing that we are all exhausted, we uneasily decide to find a spot to bed down for the night. We barricade ourselves in the room behind Ripnugget’s throne room. We all take turns keeping watch, but not much happens until Aella’s turn. She hears a scraping sound outside the door, and quietly wakes the rest of us. We are still not fully rested, however, and decide to continue to sleep unless the scraping turns into a worse sound.

When everyone wakes up, the scraping noise has stopped. However, it has been replaced by the familiar sound of goblin singing. Eric, knowing it’s time to do Torag proud, throws open the door and immediately triggers a trap as a scimitar previously balanced on top of the door comes down and whacks him. Wallace dashed out into the throne room, seeing all the goblins that almost caught him on the other side of the bridge. The cleric decides to take vengeance on the druid that almost took him out, but his path trips another trap that nails him with two javelins and takes most of his health in one fell swoop.

A mess of fighting ensues. The MVP of the fight is Zazz, who uses his web spell again to trap over half of the goblins on the other side of the room. Wallace has to keep healing himself (and his druid foe) to keep himself from dying. Eric and Aella make goblin paste out of many of the other minions, while Wallace finally takes out the druid’s fiery cougar companion. This really pisses the druid off, and he focuses all his attacks on Wallace until the cleric is knocked out of the fight. This leaves him open to attacks from Aella and Eric, and the paladin finishes him off. Eric heals Wallace, and everyone regroups in time for Zazz to set fire to his web while the goblins are still stuck. Many of them burn to death, and Aella quickly polishes off any stragglers.

With the first fight of the day won, we head back downstairs. This time, we mentally and magically prepare ourselves better for our rematch with the demon dogs. Dashing inside, we find the dogs much like before. And as before, the howl of the dogs drives Aella into a blinding panic that sends her flying from the room. Eric calls upon the might of Torag and obliterates one dog in a single smite. Zazz manages to catch the other with an arrow, and Wallace finishes him off. Once we have properly explored this Lamashtu room (and reunited with Aella), we head down a previously secret staircase into an even deeper layer of Thistletop.

Downstairs, we find a creepy cavern with a slanted floor and with vandalized statues lining the walls. Eric narrowly avoids a nasty portcullis trap that the rest of us manage to vault across without incident. We hear someone casting a spell in the room to the north, and we decide to run guns blazing rather than buffing ahead of time again.

Inside, we find a woman who may have once been quite beautiful with her silvery hair and eyes. Now, however, those eyes are full to the brim with hatred and one of her arms ends in a gristly claw. We have found Nualia, who decides quickly that we need to die. She can inflict serious damage in every shot, and Wallace steps forward to parry her blows after Eric takes a big hit. Aella, facing her fears from before, takes on another demon dog and manages to bring the hellish beast down. Wallace holds Nualia off until everyone else can step up to continue the assault. Aella is the one who finally knocks the woman unconscious. After a brief agreement that Nualia is unlikely to tell us anything of use in an interrogation, we behead the evil woman.

Afterward, we look around the room and review sections of Nualia’s journal. We confirm that she set the fire that killed Father Tobin and learn more about the secrets in her past that led to her rage. After some quick healing, we continue our exploration of this level, pressing on to the south. This leads us to more statues. Wallace vaguely identifies the main statue as a representation of Runelord Karzoug, though he blanks on who exactly this is. We have little time for further inquiry, as Zazz notices a trio of shadows approaching. He hastily recommends that we run, and he and Aella make it away completely unscathed. The other two are not so lucky. Wallace has some of his strength sapped as he runs, but even he gets off easy compared to Eric. The paladin barely manages to stagger away as the shadows drain his strength.

Knowing those foes are beyond our capabilities right now, we leave this second basement behind and make our way back up to the main level. We gather up Aella’s new horse friend and each carry crates of the bunnies (who have definitely reproduced since we first set them free). We realize that the goblins were even more clever with the rope bridge than we thought, keeping another rope anchored below the original bridge. We cross over, nobody falling in this time, and carefully make our way through the thistles until we emerge on the other side. We find our other horses and set off for Sandpoint.

Our arrival is met at the gate by our good friend Jimmy. After a brief chat, we make our way to the Cathedral to discuss our quest with Father Zantus. He is disturbed by what Nualia became and about the shadows we left behind, but is proud of us for surviving and taking out some of the looming goblin threat. Once we’re finished speaking with him, Aella takes her horse to the stables and learns that he is Shadowmist. With his original owner killed in the first goblin attack, Aella is now his owner. She sells back the original horse given to her by Aldern Foxglove.

There’s more loot to be sold, and more information to be gathered. We have won a critical battle against the goblins, but much trouble remains. With one portion of our quest complete, we believe the next section awaits us in our next session of Rise of the Runelords.

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The Sheriff's Return means a Goblin Hunt

We’re relieved to begin this session with Eric no longer insanely enraged and with plenty of new loot to boot. Speaking of which, our next move is to sell off some of said loot around town. Being careful to avoid the General Store, we begin by speaking with Saba at the Armory. After selling some of the weapons we found, we promise to return before heading across town to the Boutique. Once we’re finished selling our non-weapon loot to Hayless, our next stop is the Cathedral so that we can cash in on our credit from the Armory.

While waiting for our gold, we speak with Father Zantus. He remains concerned about the evil pools we found the day before, and we promise to look into the matter for him. Before that, however, we use some of our newfound riches to make some purchases of our own. Aella buys herself a few items including a new cloak of resistance, but still has time to kill while waiting for Eric and Wallace to have their new armor fitted. She has lunch at the White Deer, entertaining the Shoanti children during and after the meal.

Once the fittings are done, the group returns to the Rusty Dragon. After dinner, Aella and Eric engage in a drinking contest, which is sure to lead to headaches in the morning but plenty of entertainment in the meantime. Wallace declares Aella the winner when Eric collapses after the sixth drink. Out of the corner of his eye, Wallace spots Shayliss Vindor heading up to the bedrooms, and discretely excuses himself from the festivities. He encounters the redhead in his bed, and does nothing to resist her.

The next morning, a hung-over Eric knocks on Wallace’s door, hoping the crusader might know a way to make his head stop hurting. While Wallace isn’t much help, Eric spies a female stocking on the floor and asks the half-elf about it. Deciding on the spur of the moment that he’d rather Eric not know that he’s still “diddling” Shayliss, Wallace doesn’t correct the paladin of Torag when he suggests Wallace enjoys wearing such garments in private.

Despite the awkwardness of this scene, the morning is fairly uneventful with a full breakfast for everyone. Aella and Eric don’t allow their headaches to stop them from performing the task Father Zantus set us, and we’re back in the tunnels below the Glassworks shortly afterward. We start by exploring the eastern tunnel that we bypassed last time, but it comes to a dead end beneath what we think is one of the rivers bordering the east end of Sandpoint.

Next, we make our way back to the creepy Sanctum where the pools await. We explore the area, finding that the pools are still giving off a cold aura of rage. Aella attempts to crack the stone around the pool with her axe, but even the mighty bloodrager isn’t able to damage the thing. She suggests that one of us drop our blood into the pool like the evil woman did before. Wallace reluctantly volunteers, cutting his hand with his dagger and allowing his blood to drip into the pool.Bleeding_hand.jpg Another sin spawn emerges, but we quickly kill it and find that the evil aura in the pool seems to have at least temporarily vanished.

We continue our exploration of the evil dungeon, Eric leading us back to the rounded electricity room so that he can grab the dead bird and the bottle of wine that still float within. Zazz briefly tries to communicate with the wall that sometimes posts words for us. It isn’t in a particularly cheerful mood, continuing to throw words for “kill,” “death,” and “enemy” at us faster than a gothic high school student on speed. Our next stop is in the room with the pits. Zazz dispatches the undead, while Aella climbs down one pit in order to see what’s at the bottom. She doesn’t find anything interesting beyond an old love inscription on the wall, and we move on. The rest of the dungeon exploration proves uneventful, which may be for the best. Our last stop is the nasty basin filled with unholy water that is dedicated to Lamatsu. Aella’s battlexe proves effective here, and she destroys the evil basin after two big hits.

With the tunnels sufficiently explored, we return above ground and continue patrolling the streets of Sandpoint. We hear rumors that Ven Vinder drinks cheap wine, and Aella learns from the speaker that the bottle of wine we recovered from the electric room is of a better brew. No other trouble presents itself, and we head back to sleep at the Rusty Dragon.

A couple of days later, we attend Lonjiku Kaijitsu’s funeral, and hear while we are there that Tsuto is finally awake in prison. We ask Jimmy to take us there, and he performs his duty as usual. Aella and Wallace go in to interrogate Tsuto in his cell, using their own take on good cop/bad cop. Tsuto is cheeky the entire time, even with Aella fiercely slamming him against a slab of rock and choking him. In spite of our best efforts, he won’t tell us much. Luckily, we still have his journal and take a closer look at what he has written.

We become concerned about the woman he describes as his lover – Nualia. She supposedly died in the fire that killed Father Tobin, but the journal claims she is alive and becoming some sort of infernal demon. We decide to speak with Father Zantus about her, and he talks a bit about the girl’s childhood and how she was treated differently because she appeared to have celestial heritage. He tells us more about the fire, and how they couldn’t really be sure that Nualia perished that night.

That evening, Aella extends an offer of help to Ameiko, but the girl declines our help in spite of the fact that she is clearly in pain and distress. The next morning, Jimmy wakes us all up in turn promising bad news. He waits until we’ve all gathered together to tell us that Tsuto hanged himself the night before. We head to the grisly scene, where Tsuto is still hanging from a rope made from his pants legs. The only clue as to his motive is writing on the wall in charcoal – “She will raise me.” With nothing much more to go on (and the plot thickening), we speak with Ameiko about how she wants to handle his burial arrangements. We attend the hasty funeral soon after, and then go back on patrol.

At last, Sheriff Hemlock returns to Sandpoint the next day. We head to the mayor’s office to speak with him, and he shares that Magnimar’s budget cuts mean he was only able to bring back a dozen new men. We’re concerned that Sandpoint can’t handle a barrage of 200 goblins right now, and so we decide to strike preemptively by heading out to tackle them. The Sheriff suggests we start with the Thistletop goblins.

We head out on the horses Aldern Foxglove gave us, ready to bring the fight to the goblins’ home base. Once Aella identifies a goblin trail in the Nettlewoods, we tie up our horses nearby and set off on foot. The trail leads to a thick wall of nettles. Initially discouraged, we finally find a curtain in the nettles that allows us to carefully pass through. Our path through the maze of thorns is slow, but we manage to avoid setting off an ambush. We bypass a group of chained goblin dogs, coming to a rickety bridge leading across the water.dangerous-rope-bridge-1.jpg

Eric is in the lead, and decides to charge across the bridge before the goblins in a guard tower on the other side can notice him. The rest of us follow, and Wallace’s weight proves to be the straw that breaks the bridge’s back. While the other three manage to grab ahold of the rope so that they can pull themselves up, Wallace plummets 80 feet down into the salt water. In dire peril, the cleric can only pull himself up onto the cliff face by letting go of his sword and shield.

As he attempts to climb back up, the other three reach the top of the hanging bridge just in time to be confronted by a horde of angry goblins. Archers atop the guard towers manage to inflict damage on our group, but any infantry units that attempt to harm them in melee are cut down quickly. Between Aella’s rage, Zazz’s scroll of flame sphere, and Eric’s glaive, the goblin body count rises rapidly on the north side of the bridge. On the south side, Wallace hears goblin shouts as he climbs up the wall. By the time he reaches the top, he can see a goblin druid with his pet cougar and many more voices approaching behind them. Deciding he can’t possibly best them all, the cleric starts climbing across what remains of the rope bridge as fast as he can.

Eric and Aella take down the front door to the fortress, now fighting with the other goblins within. Zazz roasts a couple of them with his flame, but the archers continue to be a problem. Meanwhile, Wallace struggles to hold on while taking fire from enemies on both sides of the bridge until the druid slices through the rope on his side. Wallace hangs on for dear life, finally manages to reach the top of the cliff, and dashes inside the ruined front doors to rejoin his friends.

There’s very little time to do more than catch our breaths before the group heads upstairs to finish the archers who inflicted so much damage on us. With that job finished, we head back down and make our way to what seems to be the throne room. Ripnugget awaits on his throne, introducing himself as the chief of the Thistletop goblins. We attempt a brief conversation, but Ripnugget isn’t too helpful with his answers. He asks Zazz to approach the throne to speak with him, but the wizard has other ideas and retreats into the hallway before turning himself invisible.

Ripnugget then invites Eric to step forward. The paladin bravely does, and then the goblin chief orders his hidden men to attack. We’re suddenly battling more of the goblins even as the chief saddles up on his huge gecko and walks up the wall.Tokay_geckoB.jpg The MVP of this quick fight is definitely Zazz, as he takes advantage of his brief invisibility to position himself and color-spray most of the enemies in the room. The other three quickly finish the other goblins, and all of us gang up together on Ripnugget.

The chief can’t withstand us all focusing our fire on him at the same time, and Eric finally bashes his skull in. We loot the bodies in the throne room, and have only a few moments to celebrate this particular triumph. We may have killed the chief, but we’re still in the middle of a goblin fortress. Among the problems awaiting us in our next session is any other nasty creatures waiting for us inside, all the goblins from the other cliff, and the big issue of escaping this island now that the rope bridge is severed completely. For now, however, we’re thankful just to all be alive…

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