Rise of the Runelords

Thistletop (Part Deux)

After clearing out the main level of Thistletop, the PCs delved deeper into the island fortress descending down to the first sub-level. After finding the Warchief’s stable of wives – and quickly dispatching them – the PCs encountered a human mercenary by the name of Orik. After Kurama’s initial attempts at diplomacy via the threat of violence were unsuccessful, Ostarian tried a softer hand and was able to sway the wayward warrior to drop his arms and offered him a chance at redemption. Giving the PCs the few details he knew of, he left Thistletop for Sandpoint, hoping to turn over a new leaf.

Continuing on, the PCs made quick work of most of the rest of this first subterranean level, dispatching the “dangers” with ease. Kurama was even able to exact revenge on Tsuto, as the group made short work of Nualia’s lackeys.

Finding a not-so-secret door, the group descended down to a second subterranean level where, after deftly outmaneuvering a trap, they encountered Nualia. It became readily apparent that she was beyond redemption and after a brief struggle, were able to put an end to her evil plans. Exploring the rest of the dungeon, Verthas was able to find the mechanism for a concealed door that led to a hidden wing.

After searching the rooms here, the PC unfortunately stumbled upon an imprisoned barghest who proved to be more than a match for the weary PCs. Verthas was the first to fall but, after some quick thinking from the group, was saved as Kurama gave his life for his friend.

Tired and weary, mourning their friend, the PCs set out for Sandpoint with the goblin threat officially neutralized. Vowing to return one day to avenge their fallen friend…

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Thistletop
Part I

After emerging from the Catacombs of Wrath, the PCs were quick to seek help in investigating their findings in the hidden complex. Half the party set out to seek counsel from the Thassilonian scholar Brodert Quink in regards to any knowledge he had regarding the strange pool. The other half sought out Father Zantus for any information he could share in regards to Lamashtu.

With the machinations in place to hopefully quell whatever evil remained inside the walls of the long forgotten Thassilonian shrine, and with Sheriff Hemlock back from Magnimar with his reinforcements, the PCs were quick to catch him up on the proceedings from the past few days. Once fully up to speed, the decision was made for the group to head to Thistletop – the base of operations for the plots against Sandpoint – for the PCs to face this foes once and for all and restore peace to the region.

With Dwarin’s help the group was able to locate a trail used by the goblins comes to and from Thistletop. Upon finding a hidden entrance to the compound the PCs dealt with a number of goblins as they twisted their way through the maze of bramble, finally arriving at the bridge that would lead them to the curious round island of Thistletop.

Once safely across the PCs methodically worked their way through the ground floor of the complex, dispatching most all of the Thistletop tribe. Finally, they encountered the leader of this band of goblins, Warchief Ripnugget. A failed attempt at diplomacy followed and a skirmish quickly broke out due to the Warchief’s high opinion of himself. The goblin chief and his brethren were no match for the group and were quickly dealt with.

What lies deeper in the island still remains a mystery at this point in time…

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Kindred Spirits

Kurama limped down a side street towards the Rusty Dragon. Despite the warm glow from a corner street lamp, he could feel the cool breeze on his face. The battle in the catacombs had taken its tole. While no longer as disciplined as he once was, years of battle ensured that he hadn’t lost all of what he learned during his monastic training.

To an extent, pain can be controlled. Like many of his order, certain breathing techniques can be employed to harness one’s inner energy and gain mastery over their very being. Pain can be suppressed, denied. He paused under the lamp and focused on his breathing. Beads of sweat formed on his brow and began to slide down his face. All the while sweat mixed with blood. Had anyone been watching they would have seen his body tremble with the exertion. What once was easily accomplished, now caused Kurama to strain under the effort. He could feel his chakra chaotic and unbalanced. Previously an unbreakable line of chi that ran from head to toe was now frayed and damaged. Stubborn, he continued to push through what should have been a routine exercise. Sweat poured down his face as he continued the battle in his mind’s eye. Strands of energy continued to slip through his fingers as he attempted to bring order to the chaos. He almost succeed several times only to lose control at the very at the last moment.

What seemed like an eternity later, he was forced to accept this was now beyond him. He staggered but managed not to fall over. His body had reached it’s limit and he painted the ground with vomit. He hadn’t healed his wounds or fully erased the pain, but he had managed to at least dull it to something more manageable. He took a few moments to collect himself before he entered the inn.

The bloodied Tian entered to room with a far less pronounced limp. Several of the patrons stared in shock and awe as he made his way to the bar. Too tired to make out their words, he understood he was the topic of their hushed whispers. He could only imagine what he looked like .

“Sweet barleybrew! You’re a mess! What happened Kurama?” She dropped her bar rag and rushed around the bar to greet him. Despite the pain he managed a smile. “Breathe easy. It looks worse than it is.” She applied light pressure to his midsection which elicited a grunt. “Nonsense.” She admonished. “You’ve cracked at least a few ribs you idiot. Why haven’t you seen a healer?!?” Kurama simply shrugged, “Still had things to do. Besides, didn’t I promise to check in on you?” She shook her head in disbelief. “What am I supposed to do with you?” She took his hand in hers. “Let me take a better look at your injuries. I have healing kit in the back.”

Ameiko lead Kurama to a small office behind the barroom. “Take a seat on that chair while I see what what we have to work with.” Quick to comply, he gingerly lowered himself onto the chair. He watched as she rummaged through her stuff. “My injuries aren’t bad. They’ll heal quickly. I’m more concerned with yours.” He noticed she stopped but didn’t turn around. He pressed on. "So much has happened so quickly. Your father and brother.” He watched her shoulders tremble for just a moment or two before she regained composure.
“I’m fine”. She answered. “I’ll just need a few days to wrap my head around it all. It’s not like I was terribly close to either of them…haven’t been for a while”. He could hear the pain in her voice. With the kit in hand she turned to Kurama. Her eyes glistened from withheld tears. He frowned slightly; unsure what to say. “Hey, I know what it’s like to lose loved ones. I wont push, but you don’t need to to do all this on your own. I’m here if you need anything. You just have to ask.” She paused halfway to the bloodied monk and cracked a small smile. “Maybe I should check you head for injury as well…getting soft on me Kurama… careful, or a girl might start to get ideas.” She circled behind him. Likely to hide her face he supposed. After a few moments she moved around front once more and audibly tsked. Their eyes met.

“Your shirt is ruined.” Concern evident on her face. “Take it off so I can get a better look at you. When we’re done I should be able to mend your shirt with a minor spell. I’m no wizard but I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way.” Kurama grew visibly uncomfortable. "Uh… " he mumbled. Before he could say more she had already begun to cut his shirt from him ensuring she didn’t aggravate his wounds further. “Wait! Stop.” He pleaded too late.

Once she removed his long sleeved shirt the room took on a warm pink glow. "Kurama! Your arms!” Exposed, his arms pulsated with a warm pink light. Occasionally either arm would crackle with some kind of mysterious energy. He watched her face, mouth slightly agape as she looked at him for what seemed like the first time. Each arm from the shoulder down looked like it was sculpted from rose quartz. He studied her expression as he removed his gloves. Like his arms, his hands were the same. “It’s still me.” he quietly stated. He wiggled his fingers for emphasis. She watched him tenderly flex his arms. They certainly moved like normal limbs. “Can…can i touch your arm?” She inquired. The young Tian simply nodded in confirmation.

Slowly she moved her hand closer and touched his arm with her finger. He humored her prodding until she grew more comfortable. He could feel the palm of her hand and her small warm fingers explore his left arm. “They feel like crystal but give off warmth?” She said confused. “I don’t understand. I thought you were of Tian decent like me?” He whispered but not sure exactly why, “I am Tian. Just like you… or my sister. But I have the blood of celestials coursing through me as well. Some manifest halos, radiant skin, wings, or a melodic voice. My gift” he said with derision, “were these accursed arms. My family thought they had been blessed. I was a gift from the angels they had said. Growing up it was always the same. Kurama, my business isn’t doing well please share your blessing. Kurama, My child is sick, please heal her. Kurama, pray for a good harvest. I had no real gift. When things worked out I was praised, but when they didn’t, I was selfish, lazy or cruel and uncaring. It was miserable Ameiko, and lonely. I don’t know where I would be if it hadn’t been for my sister. She was my only friend. My hero… She saved me.”

“She was the gifted one. Heideko wanted to explore the world and make a difference but our family forbade it. As far as they were concerned, her role was to train and protect me. I wasn’t allowed to leave the estate. She worked so hard to be recognized but nothing she ever did could compare to their special boy.”

“It took weeks of planning in secret, but we managed to obtain passage and sail away from our home in the early hours of morning. I wasn’t ready, but she wouldn’t leave without me. So I joined her. What choice did i have? I followed my only friend so she could take the spotlight and finally realize her dream.” Anger crept into his voice and a few tears slid down his cheek. “But I wasn’t strong enough and she was killed.”

“Shh…” Ameiko gently whispered. “I need you to stay still so I can clean your wounds.” Time passed as she tended to the broken monk. A few times Kurama felt soothing healing magic flow over his head and back. After a while he began to feel more like himself and her administration of healing became secondary to their continued conversation that carried into the early morning. Neither had noticed Kurama hadn’t touched his flask since he entered the tavern.

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The Catacombs of Wrath

After Tsuto escaped down the Smuggler’s Tunnel, the PCs conducted a quick search of his room locating two important objects. The first was Tsuto’s journal warning of an even bigger raid planned on the town, the mention of another force hidden away in the smuggler’s tunnel, and worrisome news that apparently Nualia – the “deceased” adopted daughter of Father Tobyn – was apparently alive and well. It seems she is behind this next planned raid on the town and an apparent scheme to transform herself into a demon.

Also in his room was a key to the locked room next door which, upon opening, held a barely conscious and badly wounded Ameiko. After some quick healing and a short conversation about her brother’s involements, Kurama helped escort her back out to the surface as the rest of the group called it a day.

Regrouping the next morning, the PCs set out down the smuggler’s tunnel to track down Tsuto and whatever else lie in wait there. Tsuto was long gone, but they did meet a druid – and acquaintance of Dwarin – who was searching the tunnel for goblins after being inadvertently tricked by Tsuto. Joining forces, the group then set out to explore the branches off of the man tunnel, eventually coming to find the Catacombs of Wrath – a long forgotten shrine to the Runelord Alaznist.

After dispatching the various inhabitants of this hidden dungeon and silencing a minor artifact, the group headed back up to the town to report all of their findings, hoping Sheriff Hemlock had finally returned with reinforcements from Magnimar – and praying that it would be enough should this second goblin raid come to fruition…

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Local Heroes & Investigating the Glassworks

In the aftermath of the goblin raid on Sandpoint, the PCs made their presence known in town over the next few days, helping to assuage any lingering fears the townsfolk had. While patrolling the town and searching for clues the PCs were approached by Sheriff Hemlock for a meeting at the chapel with Father Zantus – the door of the Father Tobyn’s burial vault was ajar. After some quick reconnaissance – and a run in with 2 skeletons – the disturbing news that the late Father’s remains had been stolen was discovered. Grimm news indeed, and something both Father Zantus and Sheriff Hemlock thought would best be kept quiet for the time being given recent events.

The next few days were spent milling about around town patrolling and taking care of minor issues that arouse throughout town until Dwarin spotted his acquaintance Shalelu. She had returned to town from her scouting duties in the surrounding wilderness with dire news of the goblin tribes uniting, something that meant someone or something more powerful must be pulling the strings. This prompted Belor to travel to Magnimar for reinforcements before the PCs could run off investigating.

Resuming their duties for the time being, the PCs quickly became involved in another mystery – the disappearance of Ameiko. After talking with the halfling maid Bethana, they were given a note she found to Ameiko from her estranged brother Tsuto asking for a meeting at the Glassworks.

Wasting no time, the PCs went to investigate and promptly broke in. It wasn’t long until the hear the excited shrieks of goblins. A fight ensued and after a few goblins were slain the rest turned and ran, leading the PCs to Tsuto in the process. Tsuto and Kurama traded blows but numbers were on the PCs side and as Tsuto became more and more wounded he was able to flee down a passageway avoiding capture or death…

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Memories with a dash of curry

Kurama moved to and fro gathering ingredients from with the Rusty Dragon’s kitchen. After the day’s recent events he needed some quiet time to reflect. Collecting some salmon he couldnt help but dwell on the goblin incursion. Blood was spilled and buildings burned. “Not again… I thought I finally escaped this kind of stuff. So much death.”

“Kurama what are you doing?” From the sound of Ameiko’s tone she may have asked the question several times. He stopped dicing ingredients and adjusted his neck to meet her gaze. “Hm? Oh, restless mind; I thought I’d get an early start and help prep for the day”. The attractive bar owner could only chuckle. “I didn’t mean why are you cooking, but why you’re doing it while wearing your gloves?”

He couldn’t help but chuckle a little nervously. “Don’t worry, I made sure Verthas cleaned them before I got my hands into everything.”

“How long have we known each other other Kurama? A few weeks? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without your arms fully covered.”

“That’s true, you haven’t. No one has in a long time. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the question. In fact, I’m surprised you haven’t asked the question before now.” He couldn’t help but offer her a teasing smile. “You’re bardic curiosity must have been driving you crazy.”

Ameiko laughed and shared a most unladylike snort. "Kurama, regardless, I’m glad you decided to visit Standpoint. Our people are rare in these parts and it’s good to be able to share with one of our own. That last sentence had its desired effect. Kurama was wracked with guilt. She had opened her home to him and kept him fed. He had to admit that this recent time with her had been nice. She reminded him of the home he was too ashamed to return to.

“Let me tell you a different story my most generous hostess.” Kurama stopped what he was doing and propped himself up on a counter. “I always loved to cook. It always brought me a sense of peace. I used to cook for my sister all the time when we would travel. She always insisted I had a gift, but I think she was just being kind. To this day I always try to keep a wide assortment of spices and exotic flavors. We live in a dangerous world, but around a campfire my cooking always brought a smile to my friends’ faces. It was in those small but perfect moments where we could bury the days events and enjoy family and friends.”

“I didn’t know you had a sister Kurama. Trust me when I tell you I understand complicated family dynamics.” She was almost too afraid to ask her next question; almost. “You speak so fondly of her, where is she now?”

A profound sadness appeared on his face. Without being aware, Kurama took another drink from his hip flask. “She’s dead Ameiko. She died along with the rest of my friends the Jade Lions. She died because I wasn’t strong enough to protect her. To save her.”

She could see his body language change as the tale unfolded. She was concerned she had asked him to share too much.

“Our group had been sent to combat World Wound incursions. The land had been torn apart and ravaged. We had reasonable success in dealing with the hordes of demons. We quickly earned a name for ourselves. But quickly we grew over confident and took increasingly difficult missions. Unbeknownst to us, our recent guide had already been corrupted. We were led into a trap and ultimately betrayed. We all fought valiantly against insurmountable odds. We never had a chance. It all happened so quickly that we never had the chance to establish a proper defensive. Fighting back to back with my sister, we watched our friends quickly overwhelmed. One man was pulled In half by massive clawed pincers. I watched as my friends become nothing more than viscera.

My sister Heideko fought valiantly as she roared praise to Iomede. I tried to support her but we both knew we weren’t getting out of this alive. The last thing I remember of that night was her summoning her horse. I was confused until i blacked out. she knew the same thing as me. She knew I would never leave her side. I’d have rathered die with her. She stunned me, and threw me over her horse and covered my escape. We didn’t make far. Within minutes her mount dissipated and I fell to the ground paralyzed and rolled like a rag doll. She died so I could live. With no other choice I slowly crawled away seeking a place to hide and recover. I traveled south for days until I could endure no more. My body gave out and I was sure I was dead. I woke up later and found myself recovering in a bed owned by a family of famers. They had found me near dead, brought me back and nursed me back to health. I had spent months here working the farm as I tried to find answers to my many questions.

Eventually I left and continued my journey south; to be left alone as a broken man. It was in Riddleport I met Verthas. We recognized the pain and loss in each other and quickly became friends. He would pick the job and I’d help ensure our treasure venture was successful. He gave me purpose once again. Treasure hunting is easy. There’s nothing at stake. No one innocent gets hurt. I suppose you know how the rest of the story goes from here.

With a smile but sad eyes, Ameiko couldn’t help herself. She placed a comforting hand on his shoulder and leaned against him. Had her focus not been elsewhere she might have noticed how odd his arm felt. “Trust me when I tell you that I’m well versed in the structure of a good story. I promise you that yours isn’t over yet. Where do you think your story will go next?”

Kurama stared into Ameiko’s large eyes. “Im not sure. I know two things. I’ll die before I allow Standpoint to see the horrors I’ve beared witness to. That and for the time being I don’t think I’d rather be anywhere else…or with anyone else.”

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The Swallowtail Festival

Sandpoint was abuzz with excitement and merriment as the Swallowtail Festival had finally arrived. It was a new chapter in the town’s history with the new Cathedral set to be consecrated. The streets were bustling early as vendors set up shop, the inns and restaurants started cooking the days meals and refreshments, games were being set up, and the final touches were being put on the central stage in front of the cathedral.

Not long thereafter, the locals and visitors alike – including the PCs – started making their way out in preparation for the opening speeches and a day spent enjoying all that Sandpoint had to offer. Once the speeches concluded, the festival officially got underway.

Mingling about the town the PCs drank in the festivities – crossing paths a number of times as they ate, drank, and played. A bit of a friendly rivalry developed between Dwaren and Savanni while Ostarian and Kurama seemed to develop a bit of a rapport – thanks in large part to Ostarian “buying” Kurama drink after drink!

As the sun started to set in the Western sky, the crowd started migrating towards the Cathedral for the consecration ceremony. As the PCs intermingled in the crowd, Father Zantus took the stage. Using a thunderstone to draw the crowd’s attention, the good Father took a second to gather his breath only to be interrupted by a shrill scream from somewhere in the back of the crowd. This was echoed by another, then another, and another as a cacophony of voices – both human and other – rose from around the square.

Suddenly, it was pandemonium. Festival-goers were running in all directions as a full out goblin assault had taken Sandpoint by surprise. Jumping into action, the PCs quickly teamed up and dispatched the goblins in the immediate vicinity before moving on to a second group. As they continued on, their attention was drawn to a cry for help only to find a lone nobleman corned by a pack of the filthy little creatures. Taking the goblins by surprise, the PCs easily handled them, rescuing a man by the name of Aldern Foxglove.

By this point, the assault was all but over. The town guard and militia had rallied after the initial surprise and had vanquished what remained of the goblin forces, forcing those left alive to flee back north in the wilderness.

After a quick chat with Sheriff Hemlock, the PCs then returned to the Rusty Dragon for a meal and some drink before deciding how to proceed…

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