Rise of the Runelords

How I met Your Marm

Alden and the Teacher Part 1: One in every crowd.
by Eli and loren
Soaked to the skin and chilled to the bone, Alden trudged ashore, hauling the makeshift barge well out of the water. He caught the eye of the schoolteacher as he dropped his tether rope and she chivvied children from the raft and onto even higher ground. The look was brief, but her gratitude was apparent.

And then it was gone.

“You,” came the voice from one side, “what do you think you are doing letting that thing destroy our homes? Now where am I supposed to live?” The man who owned the voice—a grating voice made more irritating by agitation—pushed Alden to add emphasis.

Alden was so incredulous as to be stunned. He opened his mouth to reply, but the complaint was so misplaced as to render Alden unable to respond. He stammered gutterally in search of a reply, but was beaten to a rebuttal.

“Hold your tongue, Mister Berrow,” said the schoolteacher, smearing a hank of hair back from her face as she rallied to Alden’s defense. He noted oddly that her rain-soaked clothes clung to her in a manner that was not altogether unattractive, but she was speaking, and so he paid attention.

“This man did everything he could to save both myself and near every single child in this village,” she had a finger out now for emphasis, and wagged it in Mister Berrow’s face. “So don’t you dare go whining like your old mule at plowtime.”

“Thank you," Alden began, feeling his rhetorical bearings start to return.

“No, thank you, sir sword,” said the schoolteacher. “I can only—”

“Oh indeed,” interrupted Mister Berrow. "Look at you, big man. This is twice now a woman tried what you cannot. The first was the one you left to face that beast alone, the second our own Miss Tannyr as she comes to your defense. It’s pathetic it is, a man who needs a woman to fight his battles for him.” He was still laughing a nasty bullying laugh even as he turned to see who was tapping him on the shoulder.

Lilliayn’s fist caught Mister Berrow solidly in the face. He gave an ungainly squawk, his knees buckling as he crumpled, flopping in the mud twice he staggered back to his feet. Lilliayn had already stormed away, and for her part Miss Tannyr stood with her arms folded, daring Mister Berrow to say anything further.

“Perhaps,” said Alden, “you should think twice before belittling women in front of a female Iomedan spirit of justice.” he clapped Berrow affably on the shoulder, the man visibly flinching. “Just a thought.”

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expanding horizons.

Upon arrival in magnamar, Alden realized that with the plans the team were making he would just be in the way. So alden decided to take in the sights, maybe see what he could find in the way of work. While walking through the trade district of the city he sees the smith practicing a form of smithing he was not familiar with when asked the man explained that it was a practice he learned while visiting the rootwalkers a race of sentient plants. When asked, the smith was happy to allow Alden to help around the shop in exchange for teaching the way of these treefolk.

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The Final Demise of Mammy Graul, at the Hands of a Bard

Mammy Graul, the hideous floating mass of veined fleshy folds and matted crusty bedsheets, clearly recognized she was outmatched. Too many blades were about her, the zombies of dubious heritage that had served as decoration and bodyguard were put down, and she was cut off from immediate retreat.

She wove her hands into intricate motions once more, arcane energy crackling into the room as a tiny vortex kaleidoscoped open beneath her. Her words of power quickly climbed in timbre, but Urist was faster. The skilled musician matched her pitch, and anticipated it, turning her arcane delivery into a duet of a few bars, he filled the tenor space her last syllable should have occupied perfectly, leaving space within an impromptu chord for a higher tone above.

The distraction drove Mammy’s final syllable into a higher register, and the error, for Mammy, was disastrous. The vortex grew beneath her, spinning motes of color taking on glittering diamond edges. The piercing light arced into and through her instead of enveloping her as she had planned, and the grotesque once-woman came unsewn. Great swathes of pimply flesh peeled away, freeing vile gobbets of pustulent fat that roped into the air. Gouts of blood and shredded viscera followed, throwing great stripes of gore across every nearby surface. Bone splintered into sickening shrapnel, slapping into the walls like a single great spit of hail, pinging from armor and shields. The nightmarish wave was thick and foul, spreading through the room in an instant, and just as quickly done.

There was a moment of eerie silence then, filled only by the sloppy drip of Mammy’s remains sliding down the walls to puddle on the floor. Antio had thrown his hands up against the wave, ineffectually shielding himself, and now blinked away the filth that ran into his good eye. Across from the swordsman, Marcus had been taken even more by surprise, and spat violently to rid himself of a particularly unwelcome piece of Mammy’s remains. Both were drenched in gore.

Teo had raised his shield to cover his face, but his unprotected lower body now looked as though he had waded in blood. Colhad peered out from behind his shield where he had instinctively hunkered at the outset of Mammy’s nightmarish demise. He was largely undefiled by the creature’s eruption, though her jawbone had embedded itself in his shield. A gobbet of some unidentifiable organ hung from the semi-toothed arch. Urist had flung his own shield forward against the flow, but had been bowled over by the force of the disastrous spell failure, and he now lay on his back in a sticky puddle. Alden was on one knee behind Antio, having been taking a moment to regroup when Mammy’s remains flooded the room, and while he was not as befouled as many, his snowy white surcoat would never be the same.

Lilliayn stood still, trying to process the filth that had just passed through her incorporeal form to paint a charnal masterpiece on the walls of the repugnant Graul homestead.

“What,” she stammered at last, “was that?”

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While Lies Below
Adventure Hook

While not successful in Antio’s eyes, the group leaves Magnimar with a definate lift to their step. It’s not every day you can destroy an evil cult, after all. Urist plays his harp to help pass the time, but as the group passes through a small fishing village a few miles outside of Magnimar, and unhealthy smelling fog rolls in quickly from the sea.

Urist stops playing, a coldness settling into his heart, as he hears the small voice of a young boy singing a strange sea chanty:

The sea is dark, the sea is deep
down below is where they sleep
cold and dark, beneath the foam
they wait for us but never alone

Urist quickly hauls on the reins as a the boy steps in front of the wagon, nearly getting run over. But he appears lost in his song, and just keeps up the chanty, walking on. Just before he gets out of sight, he is joined by another young boy, singing the same chanty in perfect time.

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Several Shades of Grey

“Are you serious?” Antio was incredulous.

“About this, most assuredly,” replied Lilliayn. “It’s not as though we’re dealing with Rovagug, or Zon-Kuthon, or even Urgathoa. Norgorber’s motivations aren’t always violently evil. He’s mysterious, no doubt, and untrustworthy by the likes of us, but he approached you directly. Like it or not, you’re doing him a favor. We all are, by shriving this cult of his.”

“But if we were actually advancing a sinister plot, surely you’d have been warned,” Antio sat back, uncertain.

“That’s what led my thought this way,” Lilliayn said quickly, almost excited. “Typically, I have feelings one way or another on many activities. Here, I have none. It’s as though Iomedae waits to see what will happen.”

Antio thought a moment before venturing “So we’re pawns.”

Lilliayn shrugged. “Aren’t we anyway? Mortal perception of the games gods play is always limited. The best we can do is move with faith.”

“So,” Antio shifted thoughtfully, “just so I understand, you’re proposing that I stay open to the possibility of further contact from Norgorber, since he may ask me another favor, which would theoretically provide some clue as to what might be going on?”

“Yes,” Lilliayn nodded, for the third or fourth time. It had taken several explainings to get Antio to put the pieces together.

“Why don’t I just ask?”

“Ask?” Lilliayn blinked. “Ask the Reaper of Reputation for another task? Um…”

“No no,” Antio waved a hand to dismiss the notion. “I mean just ask him what he’s up to? Should he contact me again, that is. After all, I’m doing him a favor. Why not call it in?”

Lilliayn started to speak several times. “That sounds dangerous,” she ventured at last.

“More dangerous than whatever else he might ask me to do?” Antio smiled grimly. “I’ll take my chances.”

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The Irespan - an Anecdote

A History of Dread
in 4623 AR, Magnimar’s second lord-mayor, Varnagan Draston-meir, ordered that stone for the newly planned city wall and rising Arven-soar be quarried directly from the Irespan. While the decision
unnerved many—especially laborers faced with mining 300-some feet above the ground—work soon commenced in earnest. Within days of setting to work, quarrymen proved the long-held rumor that
the giant’s Bridge was a hollow structure, revealing partially col-lapsed hallways at the span’s end. the discovery, however, did little to stall the bridge’s demolition.

Less than a week into the project, events occurred that ended any current or future intrusion upon the megalithic monument. Toiling with pick and hammer, workers revealed a vast, darkened
chamber within the bridge. mere moments after the discovery was made, a cacophony of shuddersome skittering heralded an out-pouring of hundreds of ravening spider-legged things. scrambling
forth, the man-sized spidery monstrosities invaded the community. Hundreds of Magnimar’s citizens were killed, maimed, and taken, as the ravenous things preyed upon them. only the heroics of
the twin wizards Cailyn and Romre Vanderale and an adventuring company known as the eyes of the hawk saved the town, rallying the local militia, driving the flame-fearing spider horrors back into the bridge, and collapsing the gap to the chambers within.

Ever since, all tampering with the giant’s Bridge or building
within 50 feet of it has been forbidden by law. still, historians and
daring youths frequently report strange vibrations upon the irespan
and low, scraping sounds emanating from within.

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The Voice of the Inheritor

“Clear us some room, gentlemen,” said Antio, though the tavern patrons were already pushing benches and tables aside before he completed the request. The air in the great room, typically heady with spiced meats, spilt ale, and strumpets’ perfume, took on a different tang as space cleared around the black-garbed man with the eyepatch and his foe, the finery-clad alchemist Banx. This new current in the room’s swirl was much deeper and earthier; the scent of impending violence personally offered and immediately accepted.

Banx had begun simply enough, entering the tavern like he owned it and calling out Urist for his scurrilous personal defamation-in-song. Antio claimed to be employing Urist, and Banx had no recourse but to challenge Antio on the spot. Antio had smiled grimly at the social trap sprung on the alchemist, but Banx could afford to show no fear.

Per the rules of Magnimar’s elite, Antio chose the time. He chose the immediate. As the patrons moved furniture for fighting room, both men proceeded with the acquisition of seconds. Banx had brought a half-dozen bodyguards, selecting one as his man for the duel. Colhad was ready before Antio even looked his direction, and responded only with a jut of his chin and single nod.

And now Banx took full advantage of his right as challenger, selection of the weapon. A box was produced, fine dark wood whorled in deep rings and a skillfully tooled pattern. It was a shame that something so beautiful should hold such deadly instruments. For within the box lay two knives. Not typical knives, however. These were single-edged razors. Each was 6 inches of gleaming honed steel with a sheepsfoot point, delicate in a fashion that belied the danger of the cut, on straight handles polished bright to complement the blade. They were tools of pain, chisels in the kit of a sculptor in flesh. The divine dedicated devices of Norgorber—Father Skinsaw himself. And Antio was offered his choice.

Antio had fought many duels. His upbringing in Korvosa effectively ensured it. He was no stranger to this style of blade, and he had expected to be denied his heavier rapier regardless. Still, he heard Lilliayn’s mental gasp as he examined the razor.

Be careful, my love, she breathed in his mind. This is a thing of evil you hold. Take care how you use it.

I understand, he acknowledged. Right this moment, though, I don’t much care. Now would be a good time for Iomedae to show me something.

Don’t mock.

I don’t mock, he replied. I’m going to kill this man. If Iomedae wants it done a certain way, now’s the time for her to let me know.

Justice, not vengeance, came the reply. But the timbre of Lilliayn’s voice had changed. This response of hers carried her tone, but rang in a deeper part of his mind, sparking a warmth behind his eyes that flared into his chest. Only a moment, a clean, crisp moment of silver clarity, and it was gone. Antio could not name it, but it was something, and there was no time now to contemplate.

“Up, then, sir,” said Banx, and Antio’s full focus bore on his foe.

Across the space between the men Antio darted, the razor coming across his body and into a slashing backhand that took Banx along the cheekbone below one eye before the man could bring up a guard. Antio followed by stepping in close to Banx, inside the usual swing and in tight for knifework, but Banx’ own skill with the small blade paired with his wincing retreat to pull Antio off balance.

Banx swung clumsily in recovery, blinking against the sting as blood welled from his cheek, and Antio regained his balance in time to catch Banx’ wrist and twist hard to the man’s outside. Trying to move in the unnatural direction of the twist sent Banx’ feet wrong, and Antio swept his leg, sending the alchemist to the ground.

Banx was back on his feet in moments, though now Antio could see the fear in the man’s eye. The alchemist had underestimated the night’s danger, and knew he was undone. With a shriek of blended rage and fear and zealous exultation, the alchemist flung himself at Antio, swinging madly, and Antio kicked him hard in the cods, doubling Banx over and backward.

In half a heartbeat, conflict surged in Antio. He wanted to keep this going. Banx was no fighter. But he worshiped death. He wanted death. His mad charge demonstrated as much. And Antio could deny it, for a time. Antio could keep flinging him around the room until the man was broken and sobbing. He was momentarily reminded of a twisted joke he’d heard in his youth:

“Hurt me,” said the masochist, to which the sadist replied, “no.”

He could bleed Banx slow. He could assess penance to this fiend, this creature, this taker of life. He could hurt him savagely, and prolong the agony, making Banx feel every moment, denying him death until the fiend’s body simply could not continue.

Justice, not vengeance.

It cut through the red behind Antio’s eye and snapped him to focus. There was only one proper path here, as much as he might momentarily want another.

The heartbeat complete, Antio slid to his knees, following Banx to the ground. Before the alchemist could recover himself, Antio reversed his grip on the razor and stabbed it point-down into Banx’ throat. Indeed, he felt the razor’s drooping point crunch through trachea and between vertebra before sinking an inch into the wooden floorboard beneath.

Banx thrashed, his feet and hands flying out straight and drumming into the floor, his body’s response to the improvised spike fixing him in place. His face reddened and he feebly choked out a trickle of blood as Antio skittered away from the man’s death spasm. Banx caught his eye in the final moment, and Antio watched as it glazed over and the alchemist’s body gave a final sagging rattle.

Antio climbed to his feet and stepped to look down at the now dead Banx. He regarded his fallen foe a moment, then turned his good eye on Banx’ bodyguard-second.

“You tell his friends I’m going to line them all up beside him,” he growled.

And he turned for the bar, leaning on it to reach for his tankard, hoping his hand wouldn’t shake as he took a victory pull.

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Urist's Journal 9/25
From the Journal of Urist Silverharp

Our investigations led us to the Hambley farm, where we discovered that a pack of ghouls had attacked, slaughtering most of the farmers. After we dealt with the ghouls and rescued the survivors, we had an unexpected encounter on the road.

The Janderhoff branch of my clan, after having been informed of my disappearance, sent a search party to retrieve me, including a small army of guards and three clan higher-ups. I barely convinced my clan elders to allow me to continue my travels, arguing that I was adding more tales to the history of dwarvenkind.

After exchanging some parting words with my clan elders, we headed for Foxglove Manor. There’s something wrong about this place.

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Urist's Journal 9/4
From the Journal of Urist Silverharp

Nualia gave us a good amount of trouble, but a well-placed strike from Marcus took her down. I knew we could trust the lad. We searched the entire dungeon, but found hide nor hair of the demon Malfeshnekor. I can only hope that we didn’t miss something crucial. We gathered up everything that we could and made our way back to Sandpoint.

We’ve managed to repair our reputation in the town, partly due to Antio’s efforts with Ameiko, but mainly due to my expertly-crafted ballad about the battle with the goblins. I have no doubt the song will be playing in Korvosa within the month. I just hope that none of my kin catch word of it.

Our high spirits took a turn for the grim this morning. Sheriff Hemlock sent for us in the early hours of the morning and met us outside of town. He wants us to investigate a couple of grisly murders that have sprung up recently in the town. Hemlock wanted us to keep it as low-key as possible, feared that the murders might spark a panic. Apparently they had a similar issue a few years back and the paranoia nearly tore the whole town apart.

Our investigations first took us to the sawmill. It was a proper grisly scene: the sawmill operator and some tart, the sister of the little minx that accosted Colhad, had been butchered in the night. The entire building reeked of old rot, even though the bodies were fresh. Antio and Teo suspect some sort of undead; I’ll defer to their experience with such things. Whatever it was, it got in through the second story window and survived a nasty axe wound.

The most interesting thing about the scene was the millworker’s corpse. He had been strung up on hooks and had a seven-pointed symbol carved into his chest, like the one carved into the amulet we took from Nualia. I fear that these murders may be part of something much larger.

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Urist's Journal 8/27
From the Journal of Urist Silverharp

Beyond that forboding door stood a terrible ten foot corridor. Behind the next door, we found Nualia, half transformed into a demon, her pawn Tsuto, and another pack of those infernal hounds. The got off to a rather poor start, the beasts pinned us in the corridor and bombarded us with infernal magic, leaving our Iomedaeans hurting. We eventually managed to push into the main room, killing Tsuto and the hounds. Although Nualia is the only enemy remaining, I fear we still have quite a fight in front of us. I’m not a religious dwarf, but I can only pray that we make it out of this alive. Torag help us all.

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