Rise of the Runelords

Loot for 3/15/15

-300 gp for restoration on Lor’s ability drain

super awesome mirrors worth 96k gp each that are totes in seris’ bag and still worth all the monies (false)

6 ring of protection +1

6 cloak of resistance +2

6 noble’s outfits worth 200 gp each

golden peacock 800 gp

books weighing 200lbs worth 1500 gp as collection

evil robe of the arch magi – 75k

journal of improved clone worth 15,000gp

headband of vast intelligence +6 – Lor

Ring of Wizardry II -

Cape of the Mountebank -

A tome of leadership and influence +2 -Maove

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Into the Shimmering Veils of Pride
The stuff of illusion

Into the pool of Elemental Arcana! Seris splashes about and Lor tries to recharge her wand. It comes out glowing, Seris wades into the water and places her wand of mirror image into the pool. It pulses with energy and explodes suddenly, bathing the room with electricity. Rickben, unaware of the growing energy, is caught in the blast and it incinerates him and Timber unceremoniously. Daania is able to revive Rickben, but not Timber, and he perishes.

Lor manages to dispel the magic and wades into the water. She invites the others and the magic of the pool suddenly reactivates. Shrieking with panic, she feels her soul slowly pulled away and flees the pool in a panic.

Maove flings their wand of cure light wounds on the end of a fishing pole and it lands in the water. They cast it back several times, and then it explodes, ruining the wand and casting both they and Ormr in an inferno. Deciding this is not a site to be trifled with, they flee.

They rest overnight and nurse their wounds and then begin a new day to travel to the Shimmering Veils. Krac and Daania go on recon into another area, and the rest continue down the corridor. Maove and Seris walk into the corridor of mirrors and then two duplicates appear. Seris and Maove immediately begin attacking. They move to action and begin to fight back against their opponents.

Maove’s doppleganger charges Rickben with murderous rage and begins hacking at him. Seris cries out to her friends that her doppleganger stands before her and begins hacking. The copies’ blood spills to the floor. Rickben fires against Maove and Seris’ doppleganger unleashes a flurry of blows onto him. A grievous blow nearly downs him, but Maove intervenes with Shelyn’s grace and the wound appears upon their chest. Maove clearly struggles with the moral issue of her clone attacking her friends, and moves to save them.

Maove’s doppleganger continues to lay into them, “Your friends are weak, and you are not strong enough to save them. Their blood will be on your hands!” Maove is incredibly distraught at the notion that her friends are suddenly dying before her.

False Ormr downs Lor, and Maove’s doppleganger downs Rickben.

Lor rallies and heals herself, but is hoof-punched in the face and falls unconscious briefly. She feels a surge of energy and awakens to launch lightning in the faces of her enemies, and they both fall to the ground and dissipate. She cackles madly with the sudden rush of energy, and feels invigorated beyond measure.

They continue to explore the shimmering veils wing, and encounter several simulacra of the former master of this wing—Vraxeris. The clones are easily dispatched and they enter into a secret area beyond. Within they find a journal cataloging the ravings of a man afflicted by dementia and struggling to find a method of cloning himself to keep him alive. They skim through the journal and find a few exceptionally valuable details before finding a repository of dead clones—hundreds of them piled with reckless abandon in a side room. Finally, they uncovered Vraxeris’ bedroom, where six simulacra of his former demon lover Delvahine patiently waited for his return. They dispatched them and resolved to continue to the next wing: The Iron Cages of Lust where Delvahine resided.

Link to journal here: https://rise-of-the-runeloords.obsidianportal.com/items/vraxeris-journal

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Loot for last 3 sessions

12/14

2 Scrolls of Plane Shift -bag of holding

Scroll of Binding -

Undead Books

10 Lenses 100 gp each

Research Books (10,000 gp)

+3 chain shirt

+1 humanbane dagger -Seris

amulet of natural armor +2 -Rickben

cloak of resistance +1

146 gp

02/22/15

Staff of Hungry Shadows 10 charges -Lor

bracers of armor +5 -Lor

headband of vast intelligence +4 (knowledge nobility and spellcraft) -Seris

ring of protection +2 -Daania

contigency statuette worth 2000 gp

1200 gp

11 spellbooks – 70000 gp

ever smoking bottle -Seris

golembane scarab -Maove

3/1/15

Staff of mithral might

Cloak of resistance +1

Pearl of power 2nd level

rod of metal and mineral detection

500 gp in diamond dust

Ordikon’s stuff.

Books worth 10k

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Background on Dwarven Traditions
Information Maove Probably Mentioned During a Walk

Maove is a rivethun dwarf. This is a third gender / transgender tradition within traditional dwarven societies transfeminine individuals. Some rivethun dwarves identify fully as women, while some identify along a more non-binary identity. Maove is one of the latter. However, while rivethundwarves do have history in the Sky Citadels, families are not always ecstatic to have their progeny follow those paths, much like how some families are unhappy with their children choosing to be adventurers or poets. Maove, however, has not informed their family of their transition, having left home at a young age to travel with a friend as a missionary for Shelyn. This departure was, in part, out of fear that their family would reject them. Having eventually met their wife, Lillin, on the road, Maove has not had the time to return to Janderhoff, though their parents have been encouraging them to visit following the death of Lillin out of concern that Maove was choosing to hide their grief. The rest of Maove’s correspondence has been with their family has been through letters, which allows Maove to hide the transition and makes them even more hesitant to return home.

Note: The only reference within Golarion lore appears in the Shardra Geltl Meet the Iconics blogpost. Most of this background is taken from the comments section where the author continues to expand some of the lore, but may be inconsistent with later publications.

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Headless Giants, Oh My!

As we looked at the strange rune inscribed on the wall, a strange creature came from the wall. It appeared to be a demon made of a forge with a fire in its belly. Likewise, Seris appeared to have disappeared around the corner of the hallway and into the next room. What happened there, I do not know, but as I moved away from the fire forge demon, I saw several undead zombies in the next room over. Seeing the number of creatures, I called upon Shelyn to bless my allies’ blades. A small flock of doves exploded from my beard as I did so, leaving it quite a mess and showing Shelyn’s blessing upon our party. While only one of those also worships Shelyn that I am aware of, she granted several of them the resolve to defeat the undead. Of course, most of them targeted the large, ugly giant without a head.

Almost immediately, headless giant began summoning. We were unable to interrupt his spell, and he brought into this plane nine additional zombies which moved faster than any undead I have previously seen. The fire forge demon vomited lava over the floor, making it difficult to walk through and trapping Ormr on the other side. She attempted to charge through the cloud, damaged the fast zombie that was on my side, but remained in the sickening cloud after that. One of my allies – I cannot remember from the heat of battle, but I believe it was Rickben, slew the forge fiend demon as we moved to attack.

As my allies’s blades hit, they passed through the skin of the headless zombie as though his skin was made of paper. Seris was able to hit with a particularly effective hit, downing him. Of course, we still had three giant undead beasts and five additional quick-moving zombies to manage before we could move from the room. Ormr spent most of her time looking quite ill and damage, watching while the other creatures fell.

Seris then opted to examine the finds on the bodies, determining that the full was enchanted with a +1 bonus and that the hand axes were also magical, though I did not pay much attention to them, as I could not use them. While Renza healed me and Ormr, the others scouted ahead, finding some empty rooms.

The next rooms again contained those seven-pointed rune stars, which I have not yet been able to identify. The next rooms, I fear, will hold a difficult fight. I must learn to conserve my resources, though, as I feel Shelyn’s blessings are running thin for today. Our upcoming fight against McMurrian will be difficult indeed, which means that I must save those blessings for that fight.

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Ending the Hook

A darkened hallway loomed beyond the group as they made their way further in. Seris announced they needed to confront Lamatar Bayden so she could finish her goal of returning some of his remains to Myriana. Shortly after stepping beyond the hags’ chamber, Krac and Lor began to feel dizzy, and then collapsed to the floor.

Confused, the group surrounded them and attempted to determine the cause of their collapse.

“It must have been the dying hag’s hex—” Shalelu mused aloud.

Jakardros looked around at the others grimly. “We don’t have the time to waste. Hide them in the cave and we’ll press on.”

A murmur of agreement rippled through the companions and they stashed their friends’ unconscious bodies in the enclosed cave.

After rounding the corner into the cave beyond, they found Lamatar Bayden skulking in the darkness. His body was caked in rime, his left hand a wicked claw formed of frigid ice, and a crown of frost adorned his head. With a malevolent howl, he loosed a volley of arrows. Seris found herself in the wrong place and caught several with her body. The remaining allies poured into the room to engage him.

As Jakardros entered, Lamatar’s gaze narrowed and he turned his unbridled rage upon him. The arrows flew faster and with greater accuracy. Jakardros reeled from the blows. Bahram and Seris swarmed Lamatar to keep him from destroying their friend. As they landed hit after hit on the undead creature, he dropped his bow and tore free to eviscerate Jakardros.

Before Lamatar could reach him, the two landed simultaneously blows, and the wight collapsed into a pile of frost and bones.

“Who was that?!” Bahram asked.

“Shit—that hurt,” Jakardros winced, and dropped to one knee.

Seris chimed in, “He was the leader of the Black Arrows—Lamatar.”

They collected themselves and continued back up and out of the small adjacent cave and into the next chamber. Before entering, Seris cautioned the others to wait and allow her to scout ahead. She cloaked herself in a veil of invisibility and ventured into the chamber. Immediately to her left, she noted a stone giant standing with his greatclub raised. She peered around to assess any other threats and then ventured back out and relayed her intelligence.

The giant yelled out back up the stairs in his native tongue, “They’re not coming!”

Seris gathered her companions and instructed them to surround the giant and strike on her command. She channeled arcane energy into her allies and they disappeared from view and quickly poured into the room. She cried out the command and they suddenly appeared in view; lines of blood appeared on the giant’s legs and Rickben’s arrows buried deep in his chest. The giant struggled and futilely flailed about, but fell suddenly in a pool of his own gushing blood.

Spurred by their collective sneak attack, the group ascended massive stone-hewn stairs up into the chamber beyond. The gigantic room extended into darkness; above, the ceiling opened to the slate gray sky above. As they rounded the corner, the heroes spied Barl Breakbones sitting atop a massive stone throne. As they came into his vision, he stood—hefting his massive earthbreaker—and intoned a spell. A glowing bead sped down the steps.

Down the hill, the darkness streaked with orange flame, and engulfed Bahram. Seris, Rickben and Timber dodged out of the way. Barl reacted quickly after the exploding fireball and sped up into the air. Rickben responded with a volley of arrows. Jakardros and Shalelu joined Rickben, and unleashed arrows into the sky as well. The others gathered around and prepared for the giant to return to the ground.

As their arrows bounced against an invisible shield, Rickben’s arrows occasionally pierced the barrier. With each strike, Barl roared in rage. The arrows flew wildly, and Barl fixed his gaze upon the mounted halfling. He cried out and charged down from the sky, swinging for the tiny target. The earthbreaker connected, and the halfling felt like his body was being pulverized. Barl landed and swung again—this time connecting with the tiny ranger and knocking him from atop his mount. The force of the impact shattered his bones with a sickening crack and Rickben crumpled to the ground, utterly dead.

His companions rallied and surrounded the giant, ending his life before he could surrender. As he fell to the ground, his blood mixed with Rickben’s as it slowly pooled and ran down the massive steps.

Timber nuzzled his master and licked his bloody face. His companions gathered around and laid him atop his wolf. They ascended to the throne and searched the giant’s body and treasure for clues. They found a note indicating an imminent raid on Sandpoint.

Noticing the gear and recognizing some of his fallen comrades’ belongings, Jakardros asked the heroes if he might reclaim some of the treasure to help restock Fort Rannick.

Seris tersely cut him off, “No.” She surveyed the remaining belongings. Her allies gently prodded her, and she acquiesced after removing one piece of armor for herself. They collected themselves and their sleeping allies—who seemed to begin to rouse after Barl’s deat—and began the slow, somber trek down Hook Mountain back to Turtleback Ferry.

Bahram mentioned to his allies that they leave as soon as possible to warn Sandpoint about the attack. Seris interjected, “After we return this lock of hair to Myriana and find a way to restore Rickben. I have an idea.”

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Scaling the Hook

Invigorated with purpose, the group set out to face the Hook Mountain ogres they knew resided atop the pass. Jakardros, Vale, and Shalelu accompanied them to exact revenge on the ogres for their deeds at Fort Rannick and ensure the heroes succeeded against overwhelming odds.

As they climbed higher and higher, the heavy rain turned to thick gobs of wet snow. At the peak of the mountain stood two ogres idly standing guard in the cold. When the group climbed over the ridge, a melee broke out. They quickly dispatched the ogres without incident.

They continued on through the mountainside caverns and found an immense skeleton lining the entrance. Undeterred, they marched through and found an enormous forty-foot tall statue looming over the cavern. He wore majestic armor, gilded and encrusted with gems, and gripped a towering glaive in his armored fists. Around his neck hung a giant medallion of a seven-pointed star.

Seris grinned and began climbing. The others looked on with bemusement. As she reached the top of the statue without incident, she lifted the huge medallion off the giant’s neck. As the loop left his stone neck, the statue groaned and cracks visibly snaked across the stone. With a great crash, the statue disintegrated and Seris floated gracefully to the floor with the medallion in hand.

Jakardros yelled angrily, “Now they all know we’re here!”

They quickly gathered themselves and continued further down into the caves. Vale took point and motioned for them to follow. As he rounded the corner down the stairs, he cursed.

“Fuck. More ogres!”

Another melee broke out in the corridor. As they spilled down into the stairwell to engage the ogres, they noticed a hill giant behind them that lumbered forth. The rangers unleashed arrows upon them and managed to dispatch an ogre. As the other ogre fled, the hill giant stepped in and brought its club down upon Vale. Too slow to twist out of the way, the massive club connected with his face and smashed it into the ground with a mighty swing.

Jakardros’ eyes went wide as he saw his comrade dispatched. Vale’s blood slowly dripped down the floor. A flurry of arrows connected with the hill giant and the fleeing ogre. Shalelu growled and directed her arrows at the giant.

The massive thing fell with a crash, but the ogre fled down the steps into an adjoining room.

They gave chase, but when they rounded the corner they found a forge filled with alert ogres. They picked up their incomplete weapons, shimmering and white hot from the forge and brought them to bear on the intruders.

Lor stepped forward, channeling the destructive power of fire, and unleashed a fireball into the room. Dumbfounded, many of the ogres were incinerated by the blast. Only a few managed to find cover to survive the sudden blazing heat.

They quickly rounded up the remaining ogres and ended their resistance. They healed, regrouped, and forged further down into the caves. As they rounded the corner, they discovered three Annis Hags laid in waiting for them. The hags lashed out from their small hiding place, unleashing blasts of magical energy. One of them landed upon Shalelu, who suddenly transformed into a squirrel. Another blast of energy materialized as a fog cloud and rippled through the chamber.

Confusion and frustration gripped the small grouping of heroes. They pushed through and focused on bringing down the hags. They surrounded and downed one of the monstrous women. One of them grabbed ahold of Krac. Seris darted forward, sneaking among the shadows, and slashed the hag across her arms and head. It crumpled to the ground, with its arm still holding on to Krac.

Rickben mused, “I wish you guys tried this hard when something grabs me.”

“You always manage to wiggle out of things though, Rickben,” Seris retorted.

The remaining hag surrendered, but they failed to notice as she weaved a spell upon the group. Lor and Krac crumpled to the ground in a deep slumber.

Seris stepped forward and threatened the woman. She introduced herself as Briselda, and begged to be spared. Seris indicated her life was only worth the information she could provide.

As the hag poured out information about the plans concocted to sink the village, Seris demanded new information from her to spare her life. The hag stammered, claiming she had no further information for them. They bound and gagged the hag, and the group began scheming their next plan.

Seris asserted they should form a plan to push the giant down the hole further up the cave. They argued over the validity of her plan, until Rickben butted in.

“I still don’t see how we can push a STONE GIANT down a hole.”

Seris asked the hag if there was anything she could share that would reveal information about the stone giant beyond, Barl Breakbones. Suddenly worried, she started grasping at anything she could offer, but Seris was unimpressed. Her only useful information related to the man beyond, Lamatar Bayden, and

Clearly annoyed, Seris just leaned down and stabbed the hag between the ribs.

She gasped, staring incredulously. “You…said…” and then died. Seris shrugged in response and walked out of the small cavern to meet the others.

Krac stepped forward and channeled Sarenrae’s grace to restore Shalelu. The elf materialized before them, and thanked Krac profusely.

“That was awful, thank you!” Krac just grinned toothily and nodded.

She patted Rickben’s nearby head, “And thank you.” Rickben beamed.

They gathered and readied themselves for the two rooms beyond.

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Skull's Crossing
Dam those trolls

Seris, Rickben, Renza, and Bahram agreed to ascend the foothills of the Hook Mountains to uncover the reasons behind the dam breaking.

Krac and Lor remained behind to help the townsfolk recover from the recent flooding, promising to come at the first sign of distress.

Atop the mountains, spanning the great breadth of the gorge was Skull’s Crossing. The massive wall of stone held back the waters of the Storval Deep. Thousands of skulls were carved into the dam’s face, with five larger ones decorating the middle length. The easternmost of the skulls was obscured by a steady flow of cascading water pouring through what appeared to be a recent break in the dam. At the moment, the ancient dam seemed to be holding its own against the Storval Deep, but unless the rains ended soon, the recent flood would be a minor event in comparison to what awaited Turtleback Ferry.

They spied several dark shapes moving upon the dam as they ascended the mountainous climb up a set of stairs sized for creatures far larger than they. At the apex of the stairs awaited a darkened cave with a fifteen foot sheer wall up to the darkened cave beyond.

Seris turned to Bahram, “Give me a boost up so I can get a better look.”

He acquiesced, and heaved her up so she could scan the room. Seris spied a lumbering gigantic creature with two heads that seemed to be talking to itself in Giant. Seris turned to the others and formulated a plan. She uttered a simple spell and disappeared from sight and did the same to Rickben. The two of them stepped into Bahram’s arms one after the other and then crept into advantageous positions.

Seris suddened appeared in view behind the creature, her scimitar drawing a deep red line of blood across the backs of his calves.

It bellowed, “YOU NO BRIBE ME! I SMASH YOU FOR SKULLTAKERS!”

Rickben snuck around further down the cavern and aimed his bow. Renza vaulted up as well, leaving Bahram and Timber below.

Seris tumbled beneath the Ettin and attacked again. Renza launched a bolt of searing light at the creature and it howled in agony, clearly maimed. Rickben suddenly appeared in a flurry of archery, and the ambushed giant dropped dead to the floor.

In the giant’s chambers, they managed to find:
693 gp
1,240 sp
A velvet pouch containing six 100 gp pearls
A phylactery of positive channeling
An ivory scroll tube inset with strips of jade worth 300 gp and containing:
scroll of Cone of Cold
scroll of Hold Monster
scroll of Telekinesis

They continued above, which led to the rain-slick span of the Skull Crossing dam. As they forged on, flashes of lightning illuminated ogres standing upon the precipice. A battle erupted, and they made short work of the exhausted ogres.

Ahead, a large skull-shaped structure perched atop the dam concealed a passage further beyond. Without the strength to force open the jammed stone doors, they climbed through the eyes of the skulls, which led to a darkened chamber within. Bahram stepped forward and opened a door beyond.

Inside, piles of rubble dominated the large room, along with bits of flesh, broken weapons, splashes of blood, and a few dead ogres that’d been torn from limb to limb. Thick sheets of ropy green fungus grew along the walls here, but more immediately concerning were the four trolls who turned their attentions upon the interlopers, hissing in rage and leaping to attack.

As they fought the creatures, the heroes noticed the trolls’ wounds healing before their eyes. Seris realized after a drawn-out battle that acid or fire would be necessary to halt their regeneration.

After Seris, Bahram, and Rickben collectively made short work of them with some well-placed blows, they dragged the trolls into the center of the room, and Rickben lobbed a flask of acid into the lot of the them. Their labored breathing ceased simultaneously, and they continued on.

To the west, a den contained a cache of finds, likely hidden by one of the trolls. In it, they found:
a cracked emerald worth 400 gp
a bent comb that looked like a behir (with its legs comprising the comb’s teeth) with tiny pearls for eyes worth 850 gp
a pair of lacy pink gloves of swimming and climbing that smells faintly of lilacs

A room to the south featured double doors covered with graffiti. In messy hand and in dried blood, the message in Giant read: “BELOW DWELLS WET PAPA GRAZUUL! ALL HAIL WET PAPA GRAZUUL!” Bahram and Rickben pushed open the double doors.

Stairs descended into darkness switching back and forth to doors one hundred and fifty feet below.

The cold, damp room featured a large pool in the floor, the edges of which were caked with pale yellow slime and fungus. The surface of the pool bore a similar film. The south of the room featured an impressive mound of humanoid skulls heaped against the wall.

As they filed into the room, a hulking aquatic troll with yellowed eyes, webbed hands, and finned extremities leaped from the waters and stabbed a massive trident into Bahram. Filmy water splashed about the room.

Renza reacted with a blast of searing light that squarely slammed into the troll’s chest. They scattered about the room to engage the troll, which remained in the relative safety of the waters and engaged the heroes. Grazuul, as they reasoned he was called, unleashed a flurry of stabs at Seris, who succumbed from the strikes and collapsed from her wounds. Bahram and Rickben ensured that the troll didn’t harm anyone else as grievously and the troll languished in the fetid waters, mingling with his own blood. Bahram dragged the creature from the water while Renza healed Seris back to consciousness. They lit Seris’ bedroll on fire and tossed the flaming thing upon the troll, which filled the room with the acrid smell of burning flesh.

Bahram hefted the troll’s Large +1 vicious adamantine trident off of his body.

In the adjacent room, they found a small replica of the dam guarded by a scorpion-like creature bearing the skulls of countless humanoids. Rickben entered the room first, and the huge clanging construct roared to life, the sounds of its legs clicking against the stone echoing throughout the otherwise silent chamber. It lunged at the intruder with a massive claw—entrapping Rickben within its grasp and lifting him off of Timber.

Seris and Timber both fled back up the stairs in terror at the sight of the creature. Rickben squirmed to try and free himself, suddenly concerned for his life.

The creature released him and clacked its claws together menacingly. Bahram moved into the room to engage with his new trident, and the creature responded with a lunge of its piercing, segmented tail.

Bahram could feel the poison quickly invading his veins with a burning fire, but he shrugged it off. The creature quickly grabbed Rickben again, constricting even harder this time. Rickben could feel his life slowly ebbing away as a few of his ribs cracked under the pressure. Renza darted in, calling upon her mastery of time to age the construct. Cracks appeared along the creature’s claw and snaked their way up to its torso.

It’s grip didn’t let up. Seris and Timber ran back to join in the battle. Timber desperately bit at the claw holding his master to the ground.

The creature pinned Rickben to the floor, squeezing even harder. It moved its other claw around his neck. Bahram hacked faster and harder, easily piercing the creature’s tough shell with his newfound weapon. Renza gripped the creature and held on, desperately trying to free Rickben from the creature’s grasp by corroding it.

It began to grow brittle, and Bahram lunged again. The fearsome scorpion crashed to the floor with a metallic clang and they took a moment to regain their senses.

An examination of the scale model revealed it radiated immensely powerful transmutation magic. The device was used to control the dam’s floodgates, but the source of its power seemed to have waned to the point where it no longer functioned.

Wedged inside a crack of the model, Seris spied a pale lavender ellipsoid ioun stone capable of absorbing six more spell levels.

Across the chamber, they entered another room filled with a small pool. Bahram activated a sunrod and dropped it into the pool. Rickben squinted and noted the framework of a hidden passage. Renza jumped down to explore and activated the panel. The door swung open to reveal another small chamber below, and when she swam into it to investigate she found another small button. It opened, revealing another small chamber. The door behind her swung close. Not interested in getting stuck underwater, she returned back through the door to the surface.

They returned to the pile of skulls and set about unearthing the door beyond. The narrow chamber within featured two curved alcoves enclosed by a dull iron portcullis. A winch next to each provided a way to raise or lower the gates, and beyond each portcullis a circle of runes glowed with a faint orange light on the floor. Inside the circle to the west was a pile of crimson ash, but inside the circle to the east was curled what appeared to be a long-dead devil, its flesh taught and dry on its bones.

When they entered, the devil reached out and feebly reached at Seris.

“Please, release me from this prison,” it rasped.

“Why would I want to do that? You’re a devil.”

They turned to one another, puzzled.

“I’ve been trapped here for thousands of years—these gates sap my strength to power this structure.”

“Then why would we want to let you go?” Seris asked, shrugging. “We’ll just power the dam with your energy again.”

The devil rasped, “You cannot power it with me alone—a creature must offer energy within both circles. Let me free, and find two creatures to place in the circles. I am no longer needed here. Even a summoned creature will do.”

Seris still wasn’t convinced. Rickben voiced his opposition to the idea of letting the creature free.

Renza chimed in, “I will not play a part in this decision, as I do not want to free the creature. I won’t stop you though.”

“My name is Avaxial.” It stated plainly.

Seris looked at the pitiable creature. “We have no reason to free you at all,” she paused. “Avaxial.”

“If you do not activate the structure, this dam will break, and the village below will be utterly destroyed.”

Seris shrugged, “We have no way to power the dam anyway.”

The devil grumbled feebly. “Fine. Free me, and I’ll owe you a favor.”

Seris pondered this, nodding suddenly and grinning wickedly, and then stepped forward to attack the bindings that held the creature.

“What are you doing?” Rickben asked.

Convinced, Seris looked back at Rickben, “Freeing it.”

The devil grinned. “Very good.”

Rickben pulled the winch to open the other portcullis, stepped into the circle, and the structure grumbled suddenly.

The creature shrieked, and was instantly reduced to ash. Rickben felt some of his life force drained away, but was still able to stand in the circle. They could feel the rush of water and heard the roar of water beneath them.

Rickben looked at Seris, “We didn’t want to let that thing free.”

She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Fine.”

They returned to the pool of water in the room before and Rickben cast a spell that allowed him to swim faster through the water. His fingers and toes suddenly grew webbing. He continued down through the passage, swimming continuously until he had passed several compartments that closed behind him and opened before him. He felt like he was swimming forever, and his lungs ached with the need for air.

Suddenly he was free of the structure, and he swam for the surface, concerned he may drown here.

He popped up behind the dam in the Storval Deep, and swam for safety at the shore, somewhat disappointed that he hadn’t found anything more significant.

Back down in the chambers below, Rickben didn’t surface after several minutes. Timber whined desperately and paced around the pool. Renza glanced at Bahram and Seris—all of them wore a look of concern upon their face.

“Well, I doubt he’s coming back up through here. Maybe he found what he was looking for.” Renza called for Timber, and they all ascended the steps.

When they reached the top of the dam, they were able to pick out a small shape swimming for shore in the pouring rain and were suddenly relieved.

They called out to him through the peals of thunder, and Rickben swam for shore. A few minutes of climbing later, the group was reunited, and Timber licked Rickben’s face affectionately.

With the pressure behind the dam from all the rain released, they returned to Turtleback Ferry to share the good news with Krac, Lor, and Maelin Shreed.

He thanked them profusely and awarded each of the group 1,000 gold pieces for averting certain disaster.

“You’ll have to stop doing us favors soon enough,” Maelin joked, “or this town is going to be bankrupt.”

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Into the Shimmerglens
The horror of Whitewillow

Determined to investigate the mysterious lights shimmering across Claybottom Lake, Seris resolved to investigate without the burden of her constant companionship.

The Shimmerglens themselves quickly grew tangled and densely packed once Seris traveled out of sight of the swamp’s edge. As she meandered throughout the swamplands, drawn inexorably on the lure of ghostly luminescence, the silence was broken by a tiny, chattering voice.

A diminutive pixie appeared out of the darkness, and plaintively approached Seris.

“My mistress, she is…ill. Very ill. Death would have been a kindness. The land sickens with her heart, and it cannot be cleansed until her memory is purged. I cannot do this myself. Please, you must help her! You are friends with her human lover, yes? He wouldn’t want her left like this! I can take you to her—maybe you can do something. I have tried everything to cure her forlorn heart, but to no avail. She wails and moans in Whitewillow, and the trees and plants and nixies and frogs and everything are dying or worse! I can take you there! Please!”

Twisted black trees rose wretchedly from shallow pools, seeming to have lurched from the land, their arthritic branches curled into miserable tortured claws. A cold, dark mist loomed within the canopy of bone-bare branches above. Evil murmurs rode an unnatural wind that flowed forth from the glens, and shadows danced in the dark mists within.

The trees of the swampy region of Whitewillow, once beautiful and mystic with drooping boughs of sparkling ivory leaves, were dark and twisted with Myriana’s torment. Now, they shifted and moved when they should not. Shadows played cruel tricks on the sharpest eyes, and sanity shredding whispers caused even the canniest woodsman to lose his way. As Yap lead Seris deeper into the depths of Whitewillow, the degree of corruption seemed to grow. Spiders, languid and fat with poison, hung from trees. Dying birds twitched in the shallows. Slithering things with too many eyes squirted away through the water.

As she meandered on, Seris first glimpsed tall, dark-robed figures in her peripheral vision. Nothing but chill silence surrounded her, and as she focused more on the figures in the distance, enlarged skeletal claws extended from their outstretching hands as if reaching for her. When she blinked, the hands appeared as no more than the gnarled branches of twisted black trees. Seris shook off the feeling of dread that seeped into her heart, too resolute and too curious to figure out who this Myriana might be.

She spied a natural pool of water created by runoff from the hulking dark trees standing in a clearing ahead of her. Seris noted no algae or larval insects dwelling in the pool, which she reasoned could mean it was poisoned. As she gazed into the pool, the gentle ripples distorting her reflection in uneven pulses, a sense of wrongness began to creep
up in the back of Seris’ mind. She froze, a spell springing to the tip of her tongue and prepared to fight or flee. Yet after several tense minutes with Yap’s persistent urgings the only sound, Seris shrugged the feeling off and pressed on deeper into the woods.

About fifteen minues of walking later, all around Seris ghostly translucent forms emerged from the trees. Fey of all sorts—spectral satyrs, ghostly grigs, phantom nixies, and sprightly spirits floated gently from the swamp around her, followed by a parade of phantom animals. The fey cavorted and frolicked as they marched, eventually washing over her. They caressed, danced through, and embraced her before passing. Seris found herself in the ghostly party’s path, riveted by the otherwordly spectacle, and was burned by their lingering malevolent energy. As quickly as they materialized, they disappeared.

Mystified, she continued through the gnarled woods. Deep in the swamp, she suddenly stumbled across a derelict ship, inexplicably located hundreds of miles from the Varisian shore. The vessel was badly worn and covered in thick dark green moss, but was completely intact and was obviously of a seagoing model. The ship was deserted, but in his quarters belowdecks, the long-dead captain sat at a moldering darkwood harpsichord carved with demons battling angels. Still dressed in his rotten uniform, he clutched in one hand nautical charts that seemed complete alien to Seris, and a silver goblet inlaid with opals in the other. A book of sheet music bearing several lyrical masterpieces sat on the harpsichord. Seris was delighted to discover the wondrous music contained within could be played to enrapture a group of listeners. When she emerged from belowdecks, a white dog sat on deck watching her with milky blind eyes. The dog stared but did nothing else, eventually wandering off into the swamp and leaving no trace it was ever actually there.

Seris then happened upon the mangled corpse of a beautiful dryad half-protruding from a tree whose limbs had been smashed from the trunk by massive clubs. As she walked closer to get a better look, she heard soft feminine whispers in her ears—”She should not have fallen in love—her heart brought this upon us—why won’t she let us go?” Seris suddenly found herself filled with regret, but also with an increased resolve to lift the curse that vexed the swamp.

The tangled swamp gave way to a relatively large clearing, a calm pool of unnaturally still water ringed by twisted, decayed willow trees. Wind blew, but the trees did not sway. It was as if the very land had died. Yap quailed at the edge of the clearing, “We’re here…my lady waits for you within. I dare not go any closer…” he said before stepping back to cower beneath a gnarled tree. A luminescent being emerged from the gnarled tree.

Clearly once soul-shakingly beautiful, the nymph was now a haggard, ghostly horror. her disembodied arms floated at her sides, exposed bone and sinew stretching toward her torso but ever too far out of her reach. Her lower torso faded away to smoke, savaged too cruelly by the ogres for even her insane ghost to retain. But her most terrifying feature was her eyes: wells of hellish horror, crying out silently in an agony beyond anything a mortal creature could ever know. She was beauty undone, and torment incarnate.

As she entered the twisted glade, the ghostly nymph rose with a howl from the waters. Her blinding beauty nearly robbed Seris of her sight as the creature came into view. In a shrieking, hate-filled voice, she lashed out at Seris.

“You have failed Lamatar! You have failed to protect Fort Rannick. YOU have allowed the Kreeg to take him! High into the mountains, he languishes!”

With a word, Seris winked out of sight and danced a few steps out of the feral spirit’s trajectory.

“Let me stop you there,” Seris scoffed, while also attempting to keep her location vague. “I’ve actually done quite a lot to make the Kreegs extinct I’ll have you know.”

Myriana spits at the mention of the Kreeg, angrily glaring off into the distance. For a moment, she seems lost in thought, but then her attentions snap back to Seris.

“Why are you here?! Why have you come? Do you have news of Lamatar?”

“Honestly? I’m not really sure why I’m here. If pressed, I suppose I’d have to say curiosity,” Seris replied, trying to keep her voice even. “Well, that and your damn persistent pixie.”

“Ah. Yap. He means well, and without him, you may never have found me. May never have arrived to help my dear Lamatar.” She pauses, suddenly irate. “You are here to help, are you not?!”

Seris considered that for a moment. She hadn’t been lying when she said she wasn’t sure why she’d followed Yap into such a dangerous place. In the middle of the night. Alone.

_“Damn it Seris, you fool of a sylph, you’ve gone and got yourself in the frying pan again. I suppose helping her is your only way out of this place alive, and you can always just lie to her. It doesn’t seem like she leaves these woods often.

But she seems to be in so much pain, and not only that, but a pain we’re all too familiar with. Do you really mean to leave her to her desperation? Have you really grown that callous?”_

With a shake of her head, Seris replied to the ghost, “Help, yes of course that’s why I’m here.”

“Oh, truly?” Her face softened suddenly. “I know in my heart he is now dead, but when I tried to reincarnate him, foul magic prevented his soul from returning to his new body.”

She stared at Seris. “Find his remains and return them to me—I need not the entire body. A lock of hair or a single finger will do.”

“If you do this, I will grant you with the gift of my inspiration. I know this to be valuable.”

“Your inspiration, huh? Well, my fellow adventurers and I are headed further into the mountains, so I will keep an eye out for Lamatar, or his remains.”

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Down comes the rain
The Turtleback flood

The group stood around both Lor and Krac back at Turtleback Ferry, observing Maelin Shreed intone the rites that would return them to life and restore their vitality. When the ritual had completed, and the deceased were returned relatively unscathed to their friends, they returned to the Turtle’s Parlor and rested for the night, resolving to return back up the mountain to confront the Kreeg as soon as possible.

The following morning, they awoke to the sounds of screams outside of the inn. A man ran through the hallways banging on the doors exclaiming that the town was flooding.

As they roused and collected their belongings, the group fled out into the streets to appraise the situation.

The village of Turtleback Ferry was drowning. The muddy, surging waters of the Skull River tore through the center of the community to fill Claybottom Lake with a terrible fury—many of the buildings that once sat comfortably on the river’s banks were already flooding and in danger of collapsing from the rushing water. A group of children and a woman huddled aboard one of the old turtleshell ferryboats, the tiny flood-bashed vessel lodged up against the general store and threatening to capsize at any moment. Beyond, the town’s church stood sold, its foundations already three feet deep in flood waters.

They clambered atop a few buildings to escape the waters, and with a rustle of air about her, Lor took to the sky and flew over to the frightened schoolchildren. As she flew over, the waters carried the massive boa up onto the side of the ferry boat. It rose from the water with a loud hiss and attacked, constricting and then attempting to swallow one of the young pig-tailed school children. Their schoolmarm screamed out in terror, powerless to do anything to help the poor girl. The rest of the children joined her in screaming.

Seris wildly dashed off the top of the roof, and with a magic intonation she was magically transported next to the snake with a flourish.

Suddenly disinterested in the tiny girl within its grasp, the snake dove at Seris, instead coiling around her in a deadly embrace. Rickben and the others lobbed attacks from the rooftops across the street. Several of Rickben’s arrows slammed into the beast, and it released its vice-like grip upon her.

Seris uncoiled herself and brought her sword down to bear. Without ceremony, the snake slid off the boat and disappeared into the rushing waters.

Tillia Henkenson gushed all over Seris and the others as they ushered the schoolchildren to the roof. Seris and Lor clambered onto the roof with them while the others appraised their environment to determine what to do next.

They had very little time to react before a large black shape materialized out of the water. The floodwaters surged violently, and with a thunderous roar a fearsome creature emerged.

It bore a head like a plesiosaur atop a thrashing mass of tentacles and eyes. Seeing a gathering of creatures before it, the monstrosity opened its mouth and exhaled a cloud of foul-smelling breath all over Krac, Rickben, Shalelu and Bahram. All of them felt a momentary lapse in sanity and were overcome with confusion. The cloud clung to them, but after a fit of coughing, they began to fight back. Lor quickly found it was resistant to spells, and the others had much difficulty piercing its supernaturally tough hide.

It responded to the assaults with primary fury, lashing out at the others on the roof. As they begun to grow weary with wounds, the creature seemed to lose interest. It surged downriver, crashing into a few small homes and vanished into the depths of Claybottom Lake.

After the creature retreated, a cheer rose from the villagers who had gathered on the shores to watch. The floodwaters seemed to be receding. As the villagers gathered around the soaked town grounds and began to chatter, they overheard the villagers expressing relief that Skull’s Crossing had not yet burst, but the sudden rush of water seemed to indicate something dire had happened up in the mountains. Several locals recognized the creature as Black Magga from local legend and explained that the monster was said to dwell in the Storval Deep and not in the Skull River.

All signs pointed north, they explained. Something must have happened at Skull’s Crossing. When, in the past, storms threatened to spill over the dam, the structure’s floodgates opened automatically to release water pressure in a controlled flow. No one could explain exactly how the mechanism worked, as Skull’s Crossing had long been the den of a tribe of trolls known as the Skulltakers. As long as anyone can remember, the floodgates functioned without fault.

If the floodgates were malfunctioning, someone would need to brave the wrath of the Skulltaker trolls to determine what, if anything, could be done to repair the ancient Thassilonian structure before a cataclysmic flood washed the entire region away.

Maelin Shreed approached the heroes and explained that if they could solve the mystery behind the malfunctioning gate, Turtleback Ferry would offer an award of 1,000 gp to each of them.

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