Sunday, January 27, 2019

Rise of The Runelords Chapter 11: The Crumbling Tower

After uncovering a cult of madmen, and finding their leader was a prominent judge in Magnimar, our heroes might be in hot water. If they can stop the cult's plans before they come to fruition, though, they may find themselves on the right side of the law when all is said and done. Can they do it in time?

If you're just now joining us, here's what's happened up till this point.

- Chapter 1: Blood and Butterflies
- Chapter 2: Murder and Glass
- Chapter 3: The Sin Pit
- Chapter 4: Tussles in The Tangle
- Chapter 5: The Assault on Thistletop
- Chapter 6: Secrets Behind The Curtain
- Chapter 7: Murders At The Mill
- Chapter 8: Halflings and Ghouls
- Chapter 9: Fox in The Hen House
- Chapter 10: Something Rotten in Magnimar

So what do our heroes do, surrounded by bodies and spattered with blood? They do the natural thing, of course... seek out the mayor.

A Moment of Your Time, Lord Mayor?

Leaving the scene locked behind them, our heroes made their way into the more opulent district of Magnimar's social "servants," including the offices of the Lord Mayor. With a few deft words from Zordlan and Zhakar, they quickly found themselves standing in front of the jovial, though perplexed, mayor. Curious as to what would prompt such a motley band to be standing in front of his desk, he lit his pipe and asked them the nature of their business.

Please, make yourselves comfortable in my humble offices.
In response, Zordlan produced a letter found among Judge Ironbriar's possessions. A letter specifically mentioning that the Lord Mayor was the next target of the cult's assassination plans, and that they have a means of tracking the head of the order and preventing their attempt on the mayor's life. All he needs to do is to provide Zordlan and his companions with a writ, and to give them the next day or so to handle this problem for him. No city funds need be accepted, no questions need be asked.

Though he blustered about protocol and procedure, such things seemed much less important when it was his own life on the line. Providing the writ, he left with the group, taking care to avoid windows as much as possible while informing his secretary he was going to call it an early day. Appointments should be moved to the following morning, pending the outcome of a matter of importance.

Into The Shadow, as The Pigeon Flies

With the mayor's endorsement, the party returned to the mill. The machinery was silenced, and no recently resurrected men leaped at them from the shadows. Above the room where Ironbriar's cooling corpse sat in a drying puddle of its own blood, there was a coop. Taking a bird, the party gently carried it down to the street. Then they mounted, and released it.

Fly, you glorious plot fowl!
The pigeon made its way to Underbridge, fluttering onto the top floor of the leaning tower that nearly pressed up into the underside of the Irespan. A rickety and uncertain structure, there was no telling what awaited them inside... or even if the building itself would withstand a battle in its upper stretches. Though there was a gate on the ground floor, that seemed too obvious. There was a window half a dozen stories up, but even from where they were they could tell it was barred.

Drawing a wand from his bandolier, Zordlan crouched and tapped Bostwick's feet with it. Zhakar drew the dull gray longsword from his hip, and handed it to his small-sized companion. Bostwick scrambled up the wall, with a knotted coil of rope at his hip. Though the bars on the window were firmly stuck, the adamantine blade sliced through them like spun sugar. Bostwick slipped through, secured the grappling hook, and tossed down the rope.

Keeping an eye on the roof, as well as on the street, his companions followed. The stairs sagged beneath Thok's weight, and they quickly staggered themselves out wider to reduce the stress on the wood. With a flight or more of space between them, and lightly armored as they were, they managed to begin the ascent with relative stealth.

When one of the bells fell from the tower, clearly aimed at two of the companions, that was when they knew the element of surprise had been lost.

The Lady of The Tower

Though the ascent was dangerous, all of them gained the top of the tower without injury. They found themselves face-to-face, so to speak, with more of the faceless assassins they'd squared off with back at the Foxglove town home. The creatures fell without so much as a cry, twitching as their ichor dripped through the floorboards.

Past these guards the heroes found the second coop of pigeons that had been sending messages... and they found the individual behind the assassination attempts. It was not exactly what they expected.

And who are you to enter my domain?
The creature that signed itself Xanesha on its letters was curled round a plinth, looking down on the mortals who had tracked her to her home. She did not ask who they were, or why they had come to her. Such things were beneath her concern. She merely lashed out with her magic, intending to slay those who thought themselves her equal.

Thok leaped aside, his eyes narrowing as he took in the sinuous movement of the matriarch, and the way her armor seemed to glide with her. Zhakar raised his right arm, shielding himself from the worse of her spell. As arrows flew, and Zordlan slipped another wand from his hip, it was Bostwick who leaped onto her perch. With a focused shout, he drive his fist into the creature's side just below her armpit. Her breath caught in her throat, and the wicked-looking spear tumbled from her grip. She fell, stunned, to the ground.

It was their chance. Zordlan rushed forward, snatching the spear from the ground and hurling it over the side of the tower, his hands stinging from even that brief contact with the weapon. Thok charged forward, his spear leaping into his hand as he drove it into the creature's flesh. Zhakar wasn't far behind, his short blade slicing into her side. Then, just as it seemed she might rise, Bostwick leaped from above, slamming into her, leaving her stunned once more.

Before she could rise again, the light in her eyes was doused by cold steel.

What Else Is There?

With the creature that called itself Xanesha slain, and the back of the Skinsaw cult broken, Magnimar seemed safe. The machinations were brought to an end, and the head seemed to have been cut off the serpent, so to speak. But is there more lying in wait for the heroes of Sandpoint? And when it comes, what form will it take?

Tune in for the next installment of Table Talk to find out!

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