Brodert Quink, Sandpoint scholar and expert on Thassilon, sighs as he eases himself into a comfortable looking chair. “I’m not sure where to start,” he says. “Well, perhaps at the beginning. Well, what I have deduced was the beginning. Let’s see…”
Over ten thousand years ago much of Golarion was part of the Empire of Thassilon. The empire was ruled by seven tyrants, known as Runelords. They were wizards whose magic was aligned with what has become known as the seven mortal sins: gluttony, lust, greed, wrath, envy, sloth and pride. About ten thousand years ago Thassilon collapsed in a cataclysmic event, changing the face of Golarion to what we know now it to be.
More recently, just over five years ago, the giant-necromancer Mokmurian awakened Runelord Karzoug, one of the rulers of Thassilon, setting off the recent events. I suppose through hi magic Karzoug had placed himself in some sort of stasis.
In the catacombs under Sandpoint, the Runewell reacted to Karzoug’s awakening, sending out some sort of evil energy of Wrath. This lead to the events known as the Late Unpleasantness – affected by the pulse, Chopper murdered innocents and young Nualia burnt down the temple, killing her father and several others.
Meanwhile Karzoug began forming alliances and reforming old bonds. His underlings spread out across Varisia, preparing for his return. The lamia-matriarch Xanesha infiltrated the Skinsaw Cult in Magnimar, while her sister Lucilla began her work in Turtleback Ferry. There may be other agents we are not aware of.
In the following years, Nualia had gathered allies. After waiting for the right moment, she assaulted Sandpoint with her goblin army. The Heroes of Sandpoint, then new to the town, repelled the attack and hunted down the perpetrators. They discovered the catacombs under Sandpoint, part of an ancient structure built by another Runelord, Alaznist, and holding a Runewell. The tunnels were now dedicated to the worship of the Monster-Mother Lamashtu. The Heroes traced Nualia through the catacombs to Thistletop, an island which is actually the ruins of one of Karzoug’s defences. Although Nualia was only indirectly linked to Karzoug, her mind having been warped by the Runelord’s awakening, these events were the first clue of the Runelord’s return.
Soon after Nualia was put to rest, more murders occurred in Sandpoint. This time the Heroes tracked down the culprits to Magnimar and the Skinsaw Cult. The Cult was choosing greedy victims to sacrifice, carving the Sihedron Rune – the symbol of ancient Thassilon - on each victim. We now know that each sacrifice empowered the revival of Karzoug. This was the plan of Karzoug’s agent, Xanesha. The Heroes thwarted the evil plans, but not before many greedy souls had been sacrificed.
Next the Heroes were drawn northward to Fort Rannick, which was betrayed and razed by ogres. The ogres marched under the symbol of the Sihedron Rune, as Lucilla was behind the chaos. The Heroes learn that her ultimate plan was to gather as many greedy souls together in one place – on board her barge, the Paradise – and then drown them all, sending hundreds of souls to empower Karzoug. Once again the Heroes of Sandpoint minimised the loss.
Returning to Sandpoint, the Heroes were surprised to find the town the target of attack from stone giants. The giants were searching for a stone from the Hellfire Flume – or the Old Light as it’s known locally. The giants were under orders from Mokmurian. We don’t know why they were searching for a stone.
The Heroes travelled to Mokmurian’s fortress, Jorgenfist, where they discovered an ancient but inaccessible Thassilonian library. What I would give to visit that! In their battles there the Heroes were dismayed to find that every giant had been marked with the Sihedron Rune, meaning their deaths hastened Karzoug’s return.
Not even Mokmurian was spared this fate. Upon his death Karzoug himself spoke through the giant’s corpse, speaking of his return and his rule from the fabled city of Xin-Shalast. Did his speech indicate he had finally awakened?
The Heroes found Mokmurian’s diary, which mentioned his search amongst the Hellfire Flumes – which means there is more than one! – to find the traitor Xaliasa. Who he is we do not know.
What do I know of Xin-Shalast? Xin-Shalast was the capital city of Shalast, one of seven that composed the ancient empire of Thassilon. It is a legendary lost city, rumoured to be hidden somewhere in the Kadar Mountains. It supposedly lay at the headwaters of the sacred River Avah, which Varisian folklore says leads to an earthly paradise sacred to Desna. Unfortunately, no record of where this river may have once flowed exists today, and most scholars believe the river itself to have been destroyed during Earthfall. Stories hold that Xin-Shalast had gold streets and gemstone buildings, and sat under the gaze of a mountain that could see.
The Spires of Xin-Shalast stood upon the mythical mountain of Mhar Massif. This mountain of legendary proportions pierced the skies above the Kodars. Mhar Massif was said to serve as a bridge to strange realms beyond Golarion, notably, to the nightmare dimension of Leng. The connections with the nightmare realm of Leng were said to have infused the region around the peak of Mhar Massif with dangerous eldritch and otherworldly energies.
And Karzoug? He was – or now is again, I suppose – the Runelord of Greed. While he was, himself, an Azlanti human, he was a powerful man indeed, said to be the most gifted manipulator of Transmutation magic in all of Thassilon, and to have lived for hundreds of years. He ruled a region called Shalast, part of the ancient empire of Thassilon. He fought a series of wars with Alaznist, the Runelord of Wrath – along their shared border Karzoug built immense sentinel statues to watch over his enemy – one remains now as Thistletop – while Alaznist built towers called Hellfire Flumes to prevent Karzoug's armies from invading.
Karzoug's armies were composed primarily of giants who followed his every command – the giants were ruled by towering monsters known as rune giants. Karzoug counted other powerful creatures as his allies as well – tales speak of blue dragons, denizens from the nightmare realm of Leng, blood drinking outsiders known as scarlet walkers, and immense lamia harridans who towered over most giants. Most of those tales sound like nonsense to me.
Karzoug focused his magic on the school of transmutation, magic associated in Thassilonian times with the virtue of wealth. Turning lead to gold etc etc. Under his reign, though, this virtue of rule became more associated with the sin of greed. Greed influenced his tyrannical actions, leading to much evil throughout his realm.