Rimeskull mountain foothills
Dusk, Fireday the 21st of Pharast 4708 AR
During the spring equinox, following the few months of blessings required to transform Elshbeth’s adamantine blade ‘Hell Reaver’ into a fabled Holy Avenger, the Sihedron attended a modest ceremony by the church of Erastil in which she received the sacred sword. Afterwards, having girded themselves with the various new or enhanced magic items which they’d had completed during the winter months, the Sihedron disappeared from their island home of Oaktop. In an instant they mystically traveled more than a hundred leagues to arrive at the base of Rimeskull Mountain far to the north. With the sun setting across Lake Stormunder and the full moon beginning to rise above the horizon, Aubrey entered the circle of seven towering Runelord statues perched upon a low rise. Following the directions laid out in the Peacock Spirit’s rhyme, the spryte wove glamour over each statue in turn. With each successive casting, a resounding tone bonged and the corresponding Runelord’s effigy would open its mouth to reveal a golden key. After Aubrey had collected the seventh key, a huge white dragon emerged from the cave near Rimeskull’s summit and swooped down threateningly towards the group.
Alerted to the threat by his folletti familiar, Aubrey Flitted swiftly over to his companions while calling out a warning to the quickly approaching beast. Hastily drawing the Brass Dwarf from his Harrow deck, the spryte wove glamour over he and his companions — just in time to ward off the dragon’s freezing breath as it strafed the group. Unhurt by the hail of arrows and shuriken launched against it, the dragon was sent crashing into the hilltop by a turbulent gust of wind conjured by Aubrey. Elshbeth and Ton charged the prone dragon, but their attacks likewise failed to penetrate the beast’s magically warded scales. Lashing out in turn, the dragon failed to strike the pair though succeeded in finding purchase so as to avoid falling into the sinkhole which the spryte had opened beneath the beast. As the archers continued to rain down arrows upon the white dragon without effect, Ton’s nerve broke and he turned to swiftly flee the rampaging beast. Desperately weaving glamour together, Aubrey struck the dragon with a second gust of whirling wind just after Ainsel had cursed it with ill luck. And so it was that the dragon plummeted again; this time into the depths of the earth. Reaching into the future to snatch himself a bit of time, the wily spryte channeled glamour into the Keep card from his Harrow deck so as to cover the top of the sinkhole with a thick layer of stone; thus entombing the dragon. There was naught but a fracturing of stone and the seeping of blood from the earth once Aubrey had subsequently dispelled the sinkhole.
Turning their attention towards the mountain’s ascending stone stairs up which Ton had fled, the Sihedron saw that the monk’s swift passage had called forth a trio of towering earth elemental guardians. Too late to prevent Ton’s trespass, the three stone colossi assumed defensive positions upon the stairs. Approaching the closest of the three, Aubrey offered the elemental a respectful greeting in terran; further inquiring about the three’s purpose. Confirming that they’d been guarding the stairs since before Earthfall, the wards that had roused the elementals were easily circumvented by an illusionary sihedron rune and a Thassilonian oath improvised by the wily spryte. Climbing up past the stone sentinels, the group found Ton waiting inside the mouth of the titanic stone head of Emperor Xin carved into the mountainside near Rimeskull’s summit
Once Aubrey had mystically explored the expansive though unoccupied caverns riddling the mountain, the group descended into its depths to investigate the dragon’s lair in person. There, amidst another seven rune and ice encrusted standing stones encircling a large conical monument, they found its expansive treasure hoard; which they gathered. Using his second sight, the wily spryte discerned that the late dragon had been named Arkrhyst Freezemaw. Then, opting to return home to rest for the evening before continuing on, the Sihedron mystically departed as easily as they’d come.
Reappearing within the ancient Thassilonian war-machine once known as Thistletop, their home, the group gathered around for a Harrowing to foretell what might come to pass were they to enter Runeforge. Pulling his grandfather’s deck from his stocking cap, Aubrey began with the Choosing, drawing cards from the suit of Intelligence to reflect the ancient knowledge supposedly housed within Thasilon’s magical repository.
Elshbeth first drew the Wanderer, an insightful card reflecting the importance of her being able to distinguishing between vital facts and the trivial in the times ahead. Ton drew the Foreign Trader, a shrewd card highlighting the monk’s ability to uncover secrets, possibly through negotiation with others. Treana drew the Joke; a wily card hinting that the ranger could prevail in Runeforge if she were to rely on trickery and humour. Kivu drew the Raksasha, an ominous card that suggested she’d best keep a focused mind lest she find herself dominated by another while in Runeforge. Ainsel next drew the Inquisitor, indicating that the folletti would need to distinguish between falsehoods and the truth to prevail against those who might seek to deceive the group. Finally, Aubrey drew the Vision; indicating that his knowledge and eldritch might would be his most valuable assets while inside Runeforge . And with that, the Choosing was at an end.
An ominous Harrowing.
That done, Aubrey reshuffled the deck and began the Harrowing in earnest. In the left-hand column, reflecting the set and unalterable past, he drew the Tangled Briar (in partial alignment) in the positive position, the Trumpet (also in partial alignment) in the neutral position and the Eclipse (truly aligned) in the negative position. The Spryte interpreted The Trumpet to mean that the righteous Sihedron’s successes in untangling their ancient foes’s schemes (the Tangled Briar) had shaken those foes’ confidence and given them reason to doubt themselves.
In the center column, reflecting the evolving present, the spryte drew the Empty Throne (in partial alignment) in the positive position, the Courtesan (also in partial alignment) in the neutral position and the Fiend (likewise in partial alignment) in the negative position. It was Aubrey’s belief that each card represented a different foe who’s influence inspired the Sihedron’s desire to explore Runeforge. He took the The Empty Throne to be Xaliasa who, through his scribblings, had revealed the ancient magical repository’s existence to the group. The Courtesan he believed to be the lamia Icne, who had endeavoured to keep them out of Xaliasa’s lair. Lastly, the spryte indicated that the The Fiend was Karzoug himself; who yet threatened to bring suffering to the innocent masses if he remained unopposed.
In the right-hand column, representing the malleable future, Aubrey drew the Waxworks (in partial alignment) in the positive position, the Beating in the neutral position and the Brass Dwarf in the negative position. According to the spryte, the Waxworks was the Runeforge itself; a place of torture and imprisonment which would threaten, both physically and mentally (the Beating), the Sihedron from all sides with its sinful depravities. And yet the spryte believed that it held some shred of virtue worth pursuing due to its positive position in the spread. The Brass Dwarf indicated that their virtuous beliefs would leave them hale and whole in the face of adversity. And with that, the Harrowing was at an end.
As a follow up, Aubrey asked the revelation quill they’d claimed from Xaliasa whether their entry into Runeforge risked benefiting either Lamashtu or Karzoug. The Peacock Spirit’s written response was as brief as it was clear: “No.” The Sihedron subsequently retired for the evening.
Dawn, Starday the 22nd of Pharast 4708 AR
Having mystically returned to the now vacant dragon’s lair the following morning, the Sihedron wasted little time in activating the otherworldly portal contained therein. Kivu quickly found keyholes hidden in each of the seven rune-covered stone pillars. Fitting and simultaneously turning the seven keys which the spryte had collected the previous evening, caused the ancient magics to flare to life; opening a passageway which the Sihedron passed through together.
Arriving in a dead-end passage, the Sihedron followed its open end it into a vacant rotunda with naught but a bubbling Runewell, eight passageways and yet another septet of giant Runelord statues. After a cursory inspection, Aubrey drew the Publican card from his deck and, tossing a rope into the air, created an invisible cubby in which to store the group’s golem. The Sihedron then ventured down the corridor behind the statue of Xanderghul as Aubrey warned his companions to be wary of illusions and deceit. As the corridor walls around them began coruscating oddly, the spryte and his folletti familiar disappeared unexpectedly; leaving Elshbeth, Kivu, Ton and Treana to continue on ahead alone. Reaching an intersection in which the opposing walls were decorated with mirrors, the quartet was suddenly confronted by two sets of mirrored opposites stepping boldly out of the mirrors to either side of them. For their part, Aubrey and Ainsel appeared in a massive chamber decorated with countless mirrors, a quartet of chandeliers and a raised dais upon which rested a giant illusionary peacock.