The newest writers comment from Dynamite is a tag-team affair as James L. Sutter and F. Wesley Schneider talk Pathfinder: Runescars #5. But we'll start off with a cover by Jonathan Lau with interiors by Ediano Silva.
James here! I'll be taking you through the first half of the book, then handing it over to Wes to bring things home.
I'd had this image in mind since the outlining of the series as a whole, because of course the first thing Merisiel's gonna do if you give her a hippogriff is see if she can ride it upside-down or no-hands. It's not enough to just ride a giant horse-eagle across the sky — you gotta do it with style.
As with last issue, my favorite moments in this series are the character beats, and Valeros wrestling with his own mortality is a nice change of pace from his usual bombastic leap headfirst into trouble. In a lot of ways, both sides of this argument are actually Valeros — Merisiel's simply voicing his usual cavalier attitude.
This was a nice chance to dig into a fact we never talk much about, which is that Merisiel is Forlorn — an elf who lives her life among humans. Since elves live so much longer, that means she's undoubtedly outlived a lot of her closest friends (even ignoring the fact that adventurers and thieves don't live particularly long by anyone's standards). Merisiel often seems a little manic and ambivalent about the future, but I think it's a direct response to that inevitable pain of knowing you're going to see everyone you love wither away while you stay the same. Given that, focusing on the present moment is the only sane choice, no?
A lot of RPG fans mistake erinyes devils for demonic succubi, since they're both traditionally illustrated as attractive winged women, but they couldn't be more different. While succubi are all about seduction, erinyes are more like the classical Greek Furies (from which they take their name), or evil valkyries — they're the embodiment of battle and rage.
Which, admittedly, probably only makes them hotter to Valeros.
Another thing about erinyes devils is that, while people usually focus on their flaming weapons or magic spells, they've also got a magical rope they can use to snare people, kind of like Wonder Woman's lasso. I felt like we don't see that illustrated enough, and as it turns out, entangling a creature that needs its wings to fly can be pretty nasty…
RIP Beaky the Hippogriff (August 2017-September 2017). We hardly knew ye.
Also, I adore writing banter like this between Merisiel and Kyra, as I feel it represents both how players talk to each other at the table, and how a lot of the best romantic couples I know talk to each other. I think giving each other a certain amount of good-natured grief is a key part of a healthy relationship.
That last panel came out perfectly. It's such a simple gag, and yet the pacing and their expressions totally sell it.
Also, you'll notice that it's now evening. That shift from day to night is something that came about to help fix a problem that arose during pencils. As you'll see, the last page of the book was written as a sunset scene, and Ediano did an amazing job… but then I realized that if it was sunset, the party was actually riding east — the wrong direction to get back to Korvosa. In order to avoid changing the entire composition and losing that great image, we tweaked the timing to make it a sunrise instead. That required us to go back through and make sure the day gradually shifted to night during the course of the comic (which worked out just fine, because the trip to Mundatei was going to take quite a while anyway, even aboard hippogriffs). So what could have been a minor but aggravating continuity issue turned into some lovely sunset coloring, and everyone was happy!
With Lazku's outfit here, we wanted something that was reminiscent of Seoni's costume without being too on-the-nose. For me, the important part was that she still look like the Hellknight she is, which is why her top is a cutoff version of the padded arming jacket you'd wear under a Hellknight's plate mail, the skirt looks like it's made out of a Hellknight cape, etc.
That's not just an old hellhound — it's a Nessian warhound, hence its enormous size and armor. Lazku probably used some serious magic getting that guy here.
Poor Valeros. We put him through so much, but it's just way funnier to see him get zapped than any of the other characters. Except maybe for Merisiel.
I love how Panel 4 turned out — I had told Ediano that I wanted to go for something stylized and Quentin Tarantino-esque, with Seoni just casually putting her staff in the hellhound's mouth and blowing him apart. The contrast of the silhouettes in 4 and the bloody staff in 5, plus her totally flat expression, really sells that. She's totally got that Uma Thurman in Kill Bill vibe.
…and that's it for me! Wes, you're up!
Thanks, James. Hey, I am Wes and here we go!
Lazku reappears amid the chaos, now covered in her stolen tattoos. She's fully immersed in the ancient Thassilonian magic now, a fact pretty obviously conveyed in panel two where her eyes are overlaid with Sihedron runes — the symbol of the Runelords.
Her magic, which has been colored in green for much of the series, turns crimson, in part because of its violent power, but just as much because it's no longer her own.
Seoni looks back into herself, into her memories, and into the root of her own conflict with and misunderstanding of her magic. We've revisited the memory of Seoni's grandmother marking her with her tattoos several times throughout Pathfinder comic series. Each time, Seoni's understood that moment a little better, changing it from a terrifying memory to something like a lesson. Now she realizes that her tattoos don't just mark her as different, they're a gift from her people, a protection to keep her safe. They're an iteration on the old Thassilonian magics, an evolution. Time has not remained still for the Varisians as it has for fallen Thassilon.
Seoni and Lazku square off. Lazku comes to face Seoni's revelations in the hardest, most disappointing way.
The heroes' victory is short-lived, though. DiViri and his Hellknights show up to reclaim Lazku and the Runescar Stylus. They don't have a reason to cut down the adventurers who so recently presented such as hassle—but maybe DiViri can talk Valeros into giving them one.
A brief appearance by a character from deep Pathfinder lore, Maidrayne Vox, Mistress of Blades of the Order of the Nail, one of the highest ranked Hellknights in Varisia, and a centaur. She's one of Pathfinder's first named Hellknight characters and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give her a moment or two of screen time.
Repeating a trick from an old friend, Quinn lets Tanin's magical silver raven fly after it's recorded DiViri's bile. Quinn's got the lictor between a rock and a hard place and Merisiel's only too eager to step up and rub it in.
DiViri redoubles his attempts at getting Valeros to draw his sword — giving the Hellknight the old "self-defense" excuse. Valeros keeps it together, though, even if Seoni and Kyra are willing to share some magical "discretion" with him if needs be.
Quinn shares a few life lessons with Valeros. Largely: stop looking for what you should have and appreciate the treasures you've got. Seoni steps in and, in timely fashion, seconds Quinn's good advice.
Nothing's ever easy, though. Lazku work up something old and nasty with her use of the Runescar Stylus and something older and nastier took note. But that's a story for another time.
Thanks for checking out Pathfinder Runescars! The issue's not quite over yet, though. We've got one last world lore article and a final Pathfinder RPG mini-adventure, both written by Paizo Developer Jason Keeley. Make sure to check those out and to keep your Runescars comics handy for your next Pathfinder RPG campaign!