Rise of the Runelords

Session 14: The Legends That Never Were

Fortress of the Stone Giants

 
Castle Korvosa, Dining Hall. Three months after the wedding. 

Queen Ileosa: Husband dear, I received a strange requisition order today. Vencarlo has somehow managed to get in a demand to the palace about any and all remaining information on the Swords in the Wind band. It seems that he believes the crown is withholding details about them, including the current whereabouts of all three main adventurers. I am not sure what I am to do with this demand, given that I have no idea where to even look for this information.

King Eodred: And so you think that I have been hiding some sort of secret vault of documents from you eh? My dear, I love you to much to hide any such secrets from you.

Ileosa: So then what should I tell him? He will not be satisfied with such an answer.

Eodred: Well, as it happens, I do know of the fate of the Swords. I will tell you what I found out, and you can relay the info to good Vencarlo.

Ileosa: Very well my husband, my ears are all yours.

It seemed that the misadventures had come to an end. The Swords in the Wind went back to Sandpoint to await information they had requested, as well as check up on old friends and projects. The newly resurrected Shalelu and the warblade Tirion roamed the countryside and found traces of ogres and giants around the town. This was quite troubling news as giants were a much greater problem. While the two patrolled, Libra used his new found wealth to buy the rest of the Glassworks. His first task was to move all the members of his Voices of Reason guild to Magnimar, where there he had a raid planned on the mayor’s manor to recoup the gold that had been promised to The Swords.

After only a few days in Sandpoint, word got back regarding Karzoug. Many thousands of years ago, he was known as the Claimer and he ruled the ancient kingdom of Thassilon with his fellow Runelords. His body now lay dormant in some unknown location. That was all that could be discovered.

As the messenger left, the sound of cracking stone echoed from outside. A quick glance by the Swords, noticed stones flying through the air and crashing into the wall of the town. Only stone giants could be so accurate. As they ran to the wall, Libra mentioned that the attack seemed more a distractionary tactic, but the threat still had to be neutralized. Sure enough, as they gazed out through the tundra, several massive forms glad in armor were lobbing boulder after boulder through the air.

Jakardros and Shalelu prepared their bows to fire, when suddenly their keen ears picked up the sounds of screams elsewhere in the town. From their vantage point they saw that, in another part of town, three dire bears and two stone giants had already infiltrated the town and were massacring people.

Tirion used his boots to teleport closer to the immediate threat. Vala meanwhile dimension doored herself, Libra, and Jakardros near the bears and giants, while planning on flying back to help Tirion after. Splitting up the party was always a bad choice, yet in this case there seemed no other option.

Tirion charged at the three giants, and they all seemed to be caught off guard as their lazy swings missed him completely. Shalelu fired her arrows, but the brute’s plate armor deflected most of the barbs. With his healer far away, Tirion still threw caution out the window and caught one giant with a slash to its knee, while placing himself in a dangerous position amongst all three. And the well trained giants made the warblade pay, hitting him five time in a span of only a moment. Feeling pain as much as he had ever felt, Tirion could only retreat back to the wall. By then Vala had arrived and she reached out a healing hand to him, one which he couldn't grasp as two boulders thudded into his back to drop him down. Realizing her precarious position, Vala used her vanishing cloak to go into invisibility. She then ran to her fallen friend and healed some of his wounds. Looking up, she was relieved to see one of the giants drop from a lucky arrow hit through its eye slit. There was no way to get to Shalelu without wasting precious magic. And so, Vala dimension doored herself and Tirion away, leaving the elf to fend for herself.

In the meantime, Libra and Jakardros were faced with an even bigger challenge as dire bears and giants towered only a few feet from their position. One of the giants spotted Jakardros in his hiding position and sent a rock into the ranger to let him know he had been discovered. Libra charged into the fray, and became a dervish of dodging steel. As a giant lunged in and missed, Libra dove under the strike and opened up a sizable gash in the giant’s thigh. He then scaled the giants back and stabbed it hard through the neck, dropping it in an instant. Jakardros was distracting the other giant and bears with arrows, but he wasn't having much success. Libra then scaled one of the bears and stabbed it repeatedly in its chest, dropping it to join its master. At this, the dire bears simply ran away. The remaining giant looked back at the fleeing mammals for only a second. That second was just enough as Jakardros aimed an arrow at the base of the beast’s helm where no armor protected. The fletchling severed its spine, and it dropped like a rock. Jakardros and Libra were victorious in their little battle.

Vala and Tirion were hiding behind a tannery, away from the fighting. There, Vala was able to heal more of Tirion’s hurts. There too, they saw something that disheartened even the warblade. For upon monstrous wings flew a red dragon, breathing fire everywhere it went. As it landed among the frightened populous, it scooped up two citizens and popped them into its mouth like a pair of honeyballs. The two heroes decided to make themselves as small as possible in the shadows so as not to be seen by the great wyrm.

Soon Jakardros and Libra heard screams of their own, but it was not those from the dragons victims, but rather from more townsfolk being slain by a trio of stone giants who had wandered into the middle of the town. One among their number was obviously the leader of the force against Sandpoint that day. As the two ran towards the new threat, they spotted their two friends in the shadows and signaled for them to follow. And so the Swords in the Wind entered the invisible gates of hell towards the three armored foes that would prove to be their greatest challenge yet.

Sensing the direness of the situation, Libra cast keen edge on his rapier as the four snuck up on the giants, while Vala cast her protective bubble. The nearest one took the halfling’s rapier right in the gut, while Tirion moved behind it and gave a wicked slash across its spine. Jakardros' arrows bounced off solid steel armor and Vala used a mass cure light wounds to heal up everyone to 100 percent. The leader giant whipped out two huge picks and hit Tirion with a roundhouse swing from one of them. Tirion countered with a Mithril Tornado on all three giants. The technique placed him right in the middle of gray-skinned carnage as the giant’s swords and picks rained down upon the mighty man. Still he stood though, and Vala was able to heal many of his wounds from a distance. After seeing this, the leader said to his minions to "Kill the woman."

Libra, who was the only one who understood this, relayed the warning to his friends. He stabbed a giant hard in the knee, the magically keened blade biting deeper than it normally would have. Yet the heavily armored foes were tough for the Swords to find purchase on flesh. Meanwhile, in the sky, flaming death continued to rain down from the dragon upon the town.

With the power of her protective bubble, Vala was able to keep only one giant away. Yet even one was all it took as these foes were stronger than any they had faced as of yet. Sure enough, an unaffected giant moved through the magical protection and used all his might to cleave Vala nearly in two. The other giant took a sweeping sword chunk out of the halfling. The leader, whose name turned out to be Teraktinus moved towards Vala but somehow missed her ducking form. With so many people wounded, Vala chose Tirion to mend a few of his wounds as he was weaker than everyone. He thanked her by nearly cutting the nearest giants foot off. Libra meanwhile snuck up from behind Teraktinus and hamstrung him, knocking the behemoth to the ground. That opened the way for Jakardros who send two arrows into the fallen foe.

The skirmish was a veritable blood bath as everyone was hurt badly.
Vala used a mass cure light to help her friends, yet the giants were hitting a lot harder than her spells could heal. Teraktinus was able to get to his feet an hit Tirion in his ribs. The warblade was able to get in a quick stab of his own but it seemed only a glancing blow. Libra, now flanked by the other two giants, couldn't find purchase with his blades on any giant flesh. Seeing the advantage, the giant going for Vala turned on Libra and slashed the halfling twice with all its might. Its friends capitalized on the wavering halfling and used its might to slash the halfling two more times. The last swing was one that decapitated the little man. And the Swords in the Wind were suddenly down one important blade.

With everyone injured and one dead, Vala was faced with an incredible decision. She had the power to bring back her fallen friend to life, yet she knew the cost would be high if the giants continued hitting her friends. Yet with Jakardros failing to connect against his hated enemies, and Tirion wavering on the edge of death himself, she decided to use her magic to bring back their fighting chance to life. It was almost as if Teraktinus was waiting for just that. For before Vala could lay a second healing hand on Libra to bring him to his feat after she had brought him to life, the leader of the giant’s laid Tirion low with a pair of massive pick chops. After the hits, the giant commanded his soldiers to finish the job, while he continued the mission he had come to Sandpoint for. And with that, he ran off deeper into town. What that mission was, know one knew for sure. The giants responded by hacking Jakardros to ribbons in a two second span.

Vala moved to Tirion and healed some of his wounds. As the warblade’s eyes opened, he saw how insane the situation had become. Praying to any god that would listen, he swung with all his might at the closest giant, not daring to rise at the risk of a dangerous return swing. His blade bounced harmlessly off the closest giant's ankle plate. It didn't even bother to turn, as its attention was fully on Vala. A rock came from its friend to hit the healer in the chest, staggering her. Its friend capitalized on her momentary lapse in defense and swung his sword with all his might. Vala's body dropped, severed from right shoulder to left hip.

Tirion knew that it was all or nothing. He had failed his comrades against the lamia, he had failed his conrads against the ogres. He had failed his friends against the crows. Not this time though. This battle would not be a defeat in the history books of the world of Golarioan. He felt his rage boil into a single point in his weapon arm. He used that rage to guide his strike, and connected on the giant that had slain Vala. His technique was perfect as the brute was stunned from the blow. The other giant, no longer impeded by the protective bubble, moved up and gave a glancing blow upon the warblade. Still on the ground, Tirion knew he had to take the chance to gain his feet, and did so at the cost of yet another stinging blow. One that left him calling for a medic that would never arrive.

Tirion prayed to Sarenrae for her to guide his strike, for he needed a lucky break. Yet sadly. unbeknownst to him, there existed a broken sealing pillar one mile below his feet. This pillar was one of the bolts that held the great prison shut. One whose only occupent was an actual God. His name was Rovagug, and it was Sarenrae who had in fact help imprison him where no light would come. And so the God of Wrath, Disaster, and Destruction heard the prayer through the small breach in the pillar. And he smiled and sent a single beam of his influence above, into Tirion's sword arm as it descended for the kill. Only Rovagug was not surprised when the blade connected on giant flesh, but bounced harmlessly away, nearly ricocheting back into the warblade's own flesh. The God smiled, for he knew what was to come next. If only the human warrior had known how close he was to the legendary sword Serithial, the legendary sword his lovable gugs were helping to protect.

But that is a story for another time…

A last sword swipe by one of the giants send Tirion down for the last time. Seeing that he and the halfling were still breathing, the very wounded giants took much delight in sending their foes souls to meet whatever gods would have them. After a few more minutes, they heard the horn of retreat, meaning they had succeeded in their grand mission. Soon Karzoug would rise, and the rebirth of Thassilon would begin. Soon the fires in Sandpoint were extinguished, the living gathering the dead for burial. Only three were brought to the temple, where there a spell of speak with dead was cast upon the corpses.

Father Zantus's voice echoed through the heavens, calling each Sword in the Wind by name. To each member, a question: "Do you wish to return to the world of the living?"

Vala had endured a lifetime of helping others, and had already been returned to youth once, only to be slain and brought back again. Now, death had claimed her for seemingly a third time.

A time too many.

In life she would continue to face a world of death, hardships, and failures. She would see her friends suffer and she would be there to take the pain away, only to see them suffer again. It was an endless cycle. But in her god’s arms, there was no such agony. Here in the afterlife, she was at peace. She finally admitted to herself that she had lived to long to deny herself such a wonderful gift. And so, her answer to Father Zantus was "No."

Tirion's blade slashed open the devils throat. It clutched at its spewing life's blood before falling to the ground. Another devil, wielding a glaive came up from behind, and this too Tirion cut down, his sword becoming wedged in the creature’s ribs. Now weaponless, the warblade called for another sword, and like magic a greatsword appeared in his hand.

He was not the only one fighting. Other warriors of the world were battling side by side against The Hoard. Many flying, walking, and even burrowing denizens were fighting them hard, yet already their numbers were swindling fast. The day would be won. As had the day before that. And the day before that. For even though the battles were won, the war seemed endless. Indeed it seemed as though Tirion's swinging battle arm had not ceased since the battle against a trio of giants so many years ago. It was a memory almost half hidden now. For Tirion, it was as though all his existence had been in the service of the one who had plucked his soul from the field of battle that day and conscripted him into service. And that person was Gorum, God of Strength, Battle, and Weapons.

Suddenly Tirion heard the voice of a mortal cleric from another world. He knew the name somehow as Father Zantus. He heard the question asked by the priest, and it brought to mind images of fighting a lesser battle. Of a simpler time when he had a half-dragon priestess by his side to heal his cuts, and of a halfling rogue whose presence seemed to be a hex upon the warblade’s existence. And then there was a memory of failure. They were memories that he did not want to revisit, nor was it a life that he wished to regain. In Gorum's service, he was an immortal warrior. For a warblade, such was a penultimate gift. And so, in between cleaving through a pair of shadow imps, Tirion's answer to the Father's question was "No."

Libra's soul was wrenched from his body and began plunging down into the surface of the earth only a few hundred feet. Though he was a spirit, he still felt the pain of his injuries in life. Now he found himself in a line of other souls, ones he recognized as the ones from Sandpoint, and even a few from Turttleback Ferry. Something burned hot upon his foot. It was the wizard mark that the lamia had placed upon it so many weeks ago. It was a magical cantrip that should have disappeared in death yet, still it was there. In fact, everyone in the line of people bore the seven-pointed star mark somewhere on their body.

In single file, hundreds of people walked in a slow cadence. It was evident that this was not a willful act as everyone's spirits stretched out left and right to try to break the hold that the infernal grasp had upon them. Libra was no different as he tried in vain to escape the thread of people. Although he had full movement of his arms and head, his legs remained rooted in the ever moving path of shuffling spirit feet.

And then there were the screams.

It was a constant in this dark world whose only light came from the dead. These screams were not random. Every ten minutes, a spirit would scream somewhere ahead. And then suddenly, the line of spirits would move forward two steps. Never was there a deviation in the routine, making for hundreds of faces becoming more and more fearful, the heroic locksmith being no exception.

Libra's advance soon brought him closer to where the screams were originating, and it was a sight that would have made even his friend Tirion weep in terror. At the point where the spirits moved forward, there existed a huge skeletal head. A spirit would be forced into its gaping maw, and the jaws would shut. Through the holes in the skulls peeled off flesh, one could see the spirit as the monstrous jaws chewed the soul to shreds, sending absolute agony into the spirit before it became: nothing. The soul was fully consumed, leaving no trace of anything left and nothing to go on to a proper afterlife.

Libra was as powerless as any other soul to stop the inevitable from approaching. Perhaps if he had given himself to Sarenrae or any other god, they might have been able to save him. Now, oblivion would be upon him in just a few short minutes.

And then he heard it, a voice he recognized as that of Father Zantus, and the question that brought phantom tears to Libra's eyes. If it meant escaping this strange place of peril, he most definitely wanted to be brought back to life. And gave a heartfilled answer of "Yes."

Libra's eyes opened to the world of the living. Beside him, his fallen companions rested under burial shrouds, with no life moving through their veins. Zantus confirmed that Libra was the only one who wanted to come back to defend Golarion from whatever forces were against Sandpoint and the surrounding areas. The others were content with their gods. Libra thanked Zantus and gave him his horn of blasting in recompensense. Yet in Libra's mind there was no question of resuming the fight for those that needed his blade. For he knew the fate that awaited him if he should die again. And he would die if he fought for Sandpoint. And so, without another word, he left his hometown to its own fate, disappearing to a place only the gods know where.

Thus would the history books record that Vala and Tirion died as heroes saving those they loved. So too would they contain a record of the halfling Libra: the hero who abandoned those he had sworn to save.

Not long after the events of Sandpoint, an ancient conqueror of old would rise up, claiming Sandpoint and the lands around as his kingdom. This was the ancient Runelord Karzoug the Claimer. And what his future plans for the region were, was reserved for his own mind to plan.

Ileosa: My Gods! Such a horrible and tragic end to the tale. It is no wonder I've not heard songs about Swords in the Wind in any taverns. There is simply no good to be said about them. It seems they tried so hard, and yet failed at every turn.

Eodred: Yes my wife, it is a sad tale, and yet it is a reason why there are so few adventuring groups around these days. The truth of the matter is, they simply do not work out in the end. Thankfully, we live in a world where their blades are rarely needed. There are few true evils in the world. And whenever a diabolical event does occur, the people affected simply adjust to the new situation. Take Sandpoint for example. Its people were killed by agents of Karzoug, and yet the survivors are now ruled by him. They could run to Magnimar if they wanted to, and yet they have chosen to stay.

Ileosa: Husband, you seem to be more of a scholar than a king today with such insights. Tell me though, how do you know of what the Swords in the Wind experienced in the afterlife?

Eodred: Well, like yourself, the Swords caught the curiosity of my heart. It is fortunate that Abadar smiles upon those willing to pay great sums of money to have questions only a God can answer.

Ileosa: I see. That explains the two percent tax raise you announced to the public the week before our wedding, disguised as a protection policy to pay for guardposts in the surroundings that will secretly never be built.

Eodred: (smiling) Ah, this is why I married you my dearest. You see me for who a really am. Anyway, I hope Vencarlo will be pleased with the information about the Swords. Be a dear and go to him in person, as it will perhaps make him look more favorably upon the crown.

Ileosa: I will do so tomorrow morning my King. Perhaps I shall bring a few servants and a grand breakfast with me to his school.

Eodred: A splendid idea my dearest. Now on to a more serious matter. One which you must be made aware of. There is another reason I sought your hand in marriage my dear. You see, it is my hope that your youth help with something.

Ileosa: Dearest Abadar, you scare me with the tone of your words. What ever do you mean?

Eodred: It saddens me to say this, but there is in fact a secret you were made unaware of when you took the crown of Queen, for I feared you would reject me. It is a problem the royalty of Korvosa has experienced for generations.

Ileosa: Husband, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish together. Whatever this hindrance is, we shall vanquish it together.

Eodred: That it my hope my dear. Indeed, I believe together we are strong enough. For it will take all of our cunning, and perhaps even adventurer that I plan to enlist to help rid our lineage from:

The Curse of the Crimson Throne

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