Scott's Rise of the Runelords Campaign

The Breaching Festival
The Fellowship travels to Korvosa

Season witch

The trip back to Fort Rannick was not one of the easiest journeys for the Heroes of Sandpoint, but the turning weather made the trip considerably more comfortable. Spring was finally turning to summer and the rich Varisian foliage was coming to life. Although Variel’s spell made the trip instantaneous, the warm rays of light that reflected off the stone walls of Rannick made the group feel at home.

Of course, as always, news was waiting for them on arrival.

Dmitri, recently installed as the Fort’s chaplain – his desire to go adventuring seriously hampered by his sojourn into the realms of the beyond, as well as his new elven form, approached Moagh.

“I have had bad visions, friend,” he began, his deep eyes set with the melancholy of a man who has spent time only too recently with the dead. “Your mother, she is very, very close to passing. If you wish to say goodbye, I urge you to travel to Janderhoff.”

Moagh nodded at the shaken priest, noting how Dmitri’s symbol of Sarenrae didn’t seem to shine with the same light it used to, and moved inside. No one would accuse Moagh of cheap sentimentality.

The Fort’s castellan, Jakardros approached the group – bearing news of a visitor. A courier, from the metropolis of Korvosa was calling for each of them personally, and he had put him up in one of the empty guest halls until the party returned.

At dinner, Jakardros introduced them to Grolk. Grolk had envelopes for each member of the party – personalized invitations for a certain annual contest help in Korvosa, the Breaching Festival. Held at the Acadamae in Korvosa, the Breaching Festival challenged students of the fabled magical school to attempt to enter the Hall of Wards, and with it, claim fortune and glory. Unfortunately, the contest was as lethal as it was difficult.

Not only were the challenge grounds now littered with the corpses of those who had tried, no one had successfully won the contest in 150 years. This year, it seemed, the school was intent on finding a winner, which was why invitations were going out in addition to the usual invitation for Academae students. The party’s renown had grown – and the Headmaster, the prestigious Toff Ornelos wished them to come to Korvosa, for him to personally meet them and invite them to participate. Grulk himself had a magical scroll which could take them there tonight. The Festival was to begin in the morning.

With little to no time to prepare, and a number of individual reasons why the party wished the visit the gotham of Korvosa, and after dining on a meal, they entered the portal, and found themselves within the ivory towers of the Academae, in front of one of the greatest wizards of the age, Toff Ornelos. Even Variel himself found himself slightly in awe – it had been a long time since he had walked with an equal in the arcane.

Toff ornelos

“Welcome to the Academae, heroes…we are honored to have you…and now I will tell you of the contest…”

Toff provided the instructions on the Festival – they could not interfere with other students, there would be several traps located around the school, and once they conquered them, they would be able to enter the Hall of Wards. He had no idea what they might find there, but if they could overcome any challenges in the Hall, they would receive 150,000 pieces of gold, as well as a lasting fame throughout Korvosa – adding to their already significant prestige. He explained that before he gave up the reins of leading The Acadamae, he was determined to have a winner – and he also explained only one could win, though there were no rules for helping each other out, or even working as a group – which was why he had opened up the contest.

He had great faith in the heroes that they could succeed where so many others had failed.

He then bade them farewell, and he would see them in the morning, at the crack of dawn to begin the contest. The heroes joined the other competitors for a drink before turning in for the night in the school staff’s quarters. The other competitors were a hardy dwarf named Knur, a shifty, peevish halfling known as Fatmire, a human thief Illia Ean, and an Acadamae student, vivacious and welcoming, known as Maganrad.

After the drinks, as the heroes were retiring, a scream echoed from one of the main halls of the campus. An unlucky conjurer had lost control of the being she had willed into the Prime Material, a nasty, 8-legged Retriever whose eyes could burn, electrocute or turn to stone. Still – it was little match for the heroes of Sandpoint, who after they had saved the young student’s life, stood passively by as Toff Ornelos arrived and made her promise to pay for the damage caused by an indentured servitude to the school.

Finally, the group slept.

In the morning, the grounds of the school were overrun by those who had come to see the contestants of the Breaching Festival try their hand at this most dangeous game – even Queen Ileosa, flanked by a number of burly bodyguards, had come to the Festival, though she seemed too preoccupied to watch the show.

Toff began the proceedings as the sun cracked over the rim of Golarion, and bade all the participants good luck, and instructed the contestants that in order to breach the Hall of Wards, they would need a key-light, and he displayed a shimmer gold sphere that shined with an arcane light. There were 7 key-lights hidden throughout the campus in each building of the major schools and each one would likely be guarded with a trip. First-year Academae students set off an impressive round of fireworks and the contest had begun…

The party first entered the The Hall of Induction, where they didn’t find a key-light but found the mangled and exploded body of Knur. Next, they went to The Hall of Seeing, where they were vexed by a strange group of mirrors. Although Kasirith solved the riddle, and got the key-light, it wasn’t without cost, by touching one of the mirrors, the visions that he had seen took a terrible toll on his psyche, and he seemed seriously damaged to the group.

They regrouped, however, and began to head for the next school building.



For this session, Kasirith receives 8,000 XPs, Variel, Jesail, and Moagh all receive 7,250 XP.

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The end a a Tyrant

Adventure Log – July 19
The party was fighting a headless undead lord. After a contentious battle, a forge fiend dropped by through the wall and munched our anti-cleric. Undead rose up, but Variel dropped a fireball and burned them to ash. Dimitri was cornered by the lord and forgefiend, but Mohg snuck up behind the undead lord, cleaved its back and dropped it. The fiend then retreated, and the group recovered.

The party then discovered a sturdy and overtly magical door, whose keyhole matched the pendant Varial obtained. Before attempting to open it however, they checked nearby rooms, where they found another room full of smoothed corners that has become to crumble with age. Beyond this, they finally came face to face with the leader of the army, a stone giant with formidiable magic abilities. With his three fell houds, the giant engaged in fierce combat with the heros. Geth, pulling magic from his divine patron, nullified all magic around himself to protect the party, and for a moment the battle went well. However, the Forgefiend returned with a vengeance, appearing from the wall and turning poor Dimitri to stone. The heros dispatched the construct, but their Cleric of Serenrae was out of commission. Turning to the giant, the heros charged forth, summong magic and mosters and wearing him down. A clever silence spell disabled his casting, but drew the ire of the giant. Geth and Moagh took him on in martial combat, but a lucky blow crushed the life out of poor Geth. Jessail unleashed hell in retribution, showing the giant with deadly missiles until he was no more.

Tragically reduced, the party were at least relieved that the main boss was done, but in their spoils they discovered and ancient Thassilonian library. Varial has begun research with the others, and soon they return to sand point, searching for a way to restore their fallen comrades.

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Frozen Fortress?
Time to tie up some loose threads.

Variel private log #***5

I am not sure what kind of magic can freeze an entire fortress in time, but that is the only explanation I can think of for what happened; That, or the gods just said “Frak this area in particular”. It seems as we can back track up and down the places we have been, but can not proceed further into the fortress. Moagh tried attacking some of the frozen denizens to no avail. Jesail and I used some combination of arcane mark and permanent ink paint to graffiti some of the monsters, much to the disapproving glares from the clerics (not that it stopped us).

With little else to do, I teleported us back to Fort Rannick to discuss our plans. The priests were able to divine that there would be a fairly evident sign that we should get back to stopping the now frozen giant army. As for me, I was bent on uncovering the mysteries of the coral key and finding and reforging Shadowbringer. We needed a break from ‘epic adventure’ anyway, some time to do some personal training, maybe even take over a town or 2….

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Variel saves the day (again).
Web and web some more.

Variel Private log #****

While the human priests tried to locate the kidnapped residents of Sand Point, the tiefling and I scoured the mountain sides surrounding the stone giant fortress. Finding a few possible secret entrances over the days was vastly relieving; Not even I believed it was possible to storm the keep with that large of an army surrounding it. But first a daring rescue…

I teleported us to secluded spot in the woods and set up the first ambush. Even though the giants noticed the ambush, due mostly to the clerics inability be silent for any given amount of time, they did not react quickly enough to avoid being entangled in my magical web. It was extremely amusing to watch these giant creatures try and break free, only to be caught again. The rest of the party did their respective duties, Moagh chopped things, Jesail pin-pricked things, Dimitri fire bombed things and healed things (mainly us), and the other one did…whatever he does. Just for kicks, I summoned a trio of mighty lions, who proceeded to pounce on and destroy the remaining giants. Afterwards, I teleported the grateful peons back to their homes in Sand Point.

The second ambush followed a similar path. The “war cleric” was smacked around a bit, much to my amusement, but thanks to more amazing webbing and summoned dinosaurs, we won the day again. The few giant prisoners were not very talkative, but that was to be expected, they seem to be a fairly closed mouth species. I returned the extremely grateful villagers to Sand Point once again, but was also pondering the fate of the Scarnetti treasure. One thing that I shall look into a more…opportune, time.

On to the caverns, one of which was a dead end (so to speak), we decided to take the bug infested one first. I was very interested in observing the rumored creatures known as Death Webs, and they did not disappoint. After a timely fireball from yours truly, Dimitri put up a fairly nice wall of fire; however, the beasts just retreated back into the cavern, so we were forced to do some melee combat, assisted by Dimiti’s timely blessing of fervor. Moagh waded in and hacked and slashed the remainder, which is always fascinating to watch. At the end of the cavern, there was a trapdoor on the ceiling, Jesail did not find any traps, as he was standing on the ceiling, so I opened the door from afar.

Of course, nothing is ever that simple, as a bunch of red caps dropped down and layed into Geth and Moagh. After a short but bloody battle, the remaining red cap gave us all the info we needed to enter the stone giant fortress (after a little ‘persuasion’), as long as we bypassed his village and their women. The keep, and Mokmurian, await us.

P.S. Geth! If I find that you have been sneaking and poking around my belongings again, I will suspend you above a pit of velociraptors!

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The Giants Defeated?
The heroes are tasked to rescue the hostages
Stone giants raid sandpoint2The assault on Sandpoint began at the north garrison. Boulders torn from the Varisian hillside were turned into missiles that tore apart the northern gate. The untested guard at the north gate froze at the attack – after a year which had included both an attack by goblins, the town’s glassmaker encased in a death cage of his own glass, the horrible retching sinspawns that dragged themselves from below the depths of Sandpoint – work in the militia had ceased to be a desirable prospect.

These raw recruits, now faced with an assault by what looked like moving pieces of the mountains themselves, screamed for the town’s protectors – the heroes of Sandpoint, the detectives of Magnimar, the lords of Fort Rannick.

Where could they be? They had come to the town’s aid before, and must be expected now, if this idyllic, once-peaceful town perched atop the white coastline’s sudden cliffs was to be saved.

Again, the heroes must come.

Again, the heroes must face the horrors of Golarion.

Variel – the dark, enigmatic elf who spoken in arcane tongues and whose disapproval could court one death. Geth, the holy man of Abadar whose sunken eyes and stern dispotion betrayed a callous, cold, unyielding commitment to justice. His brother in spirit – if not deity – Dmitir, who had befriended the town’s own priest. Jessail, the newcomer, an elf that seemed to smell slightly of sulfur and avoided all eye contact, but whose skill with bow and arrow was even deadlier than Shalelu Andosana, herself. Moagh, the foulmouthed and poor-manned dwarf whose strength with sword and weapon was matched only by his consuming rage. This was the party, and as always, they came, running, to the aid of Sandpoint once again. Once more, into the breach.

Giants had breached the northern gate but were quickly put down. Giants were wading through the Turandarok river to the east, the heroes raced to meet this new threat -

and then the sky lit up in fire. Crimson flames against the morning sky. The scream of an ancient creature.

Red dragon.smallOnly Variel knew what it was. He had never heard one, but had read of them countless times in the dark, eldritch and ancient tomes which had become his only, true friends. This was a dragon. By the sound – young, by the brashness which it flew over the town, probably untested in combat with such as these heroes. He had taken one of the stone giants from the north’s body hostage, but he began to finger the jar which now held the giants soul – if only, if only, he could trade it – what a price the soul of a dragon must be.

He and Jessail raced to meet it, while the rest of the party did battle with the horrible, spiked Dire Bears and stone giants attacking from the east.

Longtooth. A red dragon. A creature of myth – the sire of countless years of myth, fear, respect. Such an ignominious way to go, such a horrible way to meet defeat. His soul struggled against the magical container, enraged at the spell which had entrapped him. He knew he would be dead soon – and so called out to Mokmurian in his mind.

“Kill them. Avenge them for me, my master. My master, Mokmurian.”

The town was saved, but the threat was not finished. Two groups of stone giants that the heroes had not been able to defeat had destroyed the Two Knights Brewery – its large brewing vats torn asunder and Moagh adding his own tears to the beer drying in the noonday sun – and had ransacked Scarnetti Manor.

Worse, the giants had taken hostages. Gaven Deverin had been taken from brewery and Titus Scarnetti, and much of the Scarnetti family fortune, had been pulled from his home. The heroes must track these giants down.

Sheriff Hemlock and Mayor Deverin implored them to bring them home safely – and if possible – find out what could provoke the usually reasonable, peaceful stone giants of the Storval Plateau to attack.

Off went the heroes – some tracking the giants, while Variel pored over one of his necrotic maps, tracking the dragon’s most prized possession – all roads, all paths led the party to…

Jorgenfist.

“The mountains give way here to a wide valley perched on the upper edge of a cliff overlooking the Muschkal river. At the western edge of the valley entrance, a lone watchtower stands upon a low hill, but this structure is overshadowed by the larger one that looms in the valley proper. Here stands a ring-shaped stone wall, fifty feet its height and surrounding several buildings, the most impressive of which is a looming black tower with bladelike crenellations that overlooks the river gorge. Within the ring, a one-hundred-fifty-foot-tall stone spire rises, surrounded by three low buildings. Apart from the black tower, five smaller towers are built into the fortress wall – one of these towers is wider than the others and seems to be the only gateway to the courtyard within.

For this session, all adventurers receive 8,000 EXP points.

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Sandpoint Under Fire
Who has rallied the stone giants of old?

RannickWinter was cruel, if productive. We pieced back together Fort Rannick’s defenses and set in order our holdfast. Ominous dreams plagued me and had me resisting the revelation of the book of swords to Variel. I can only pray that order is maintained by the acquisition of other swords to counter the evilest and most destructive of them. Nonetheless, I am pleased that we have brought greater order to the region.

With spring Shalaeluh returned and she thanked us further for saving Jakardros from his unnatural state. But word of the roving bands of Stone Giants reached us and we returned to Sandpoint with her to see to the looming threat.

The Statue, dear Abadar, the statue portraying us as heroes was very garish. At least Dmitri was portrayed as the most noble amongst us. I gave of my blood for Sandpoint, so I feel that my representation was not at least too unfavorable.

More or less it was a happy return, we spoke with the play wright, informed him of the gnome’s demise and that he had best re-write the ending to include the death of Arcus (albeit with some poetic license).

After a marvelous breakfast from our host we went to see Sheriff Hemlock, finding a seemingly oblivious Horatio there. The Sheriff was well aware of the lack of man power in Sandpoint and the failure of nearby municipalities to send aide, thankful for our arrival he sent us on our way.

After much soul searching, I relinquished the book to Variel to relieve us of our obligation of a “favor” to him and in hopes that his knowledge and power would aide us in finding a counter balance to the destructive sword that has come so close to falling into his hands.

As we slept and prepared ourselves for the morning, the attack came. Stone Giants at the North Gate.

With Variel’s magic and our steadfast action, we took on the assault from the north. Yet the attacks came on multiple fronts and I and the others rushed to meet the threat to the East as soon as it seemed the north gate could be secured.

Leading the charge, I bolstered myself further for battle and goaded the beasts to me. By the might of Abadar I stayed the foe. As bears tore at me and Giants swung, we held. Variel’s ensorceled giant contributing its might in creating confusion amongst the foe.

Weathering the attacks of the dire bears and the giants, we whittled down the attackers as a cloud of smoke and fire appeared above the garrison and a new threat materialized in the south.

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Chaos in Rannick's Courtyard
...and what of Jakardos?

Variel began his magical assault by summoning several Pterodactyl and directed their attacks against Grendel. During the initial confusion he jaunted over to the captive party members and released Dimitri, who in turn summoned a trusty lantern archon to teleport Geth’s manacles away. Geth added the the confusion by summoning a spiritual cross bow that fired repeatedly at Grendel further distracting the cult leader.

Battle of minas tirithSuddenly overwhelmed by the chaos, Grendel could no longer keep the magical binding spell he kept a constant concentration on. With his enchanted bonds weakened, Moagh violently worked to force them apart. Half of the guards sent in to retrieve Jessail ran to aid their leader, leaving the remaining four vulnerable to Jessail’s rapid marksmanship. Variel cast again and directed the shadows themselves to envelope the cult’s leaders and Moagh.

Far too consumed in his rage, Moagh ignored the grabbing and gashing shadow tentacles as he broke the bonds that held him and waded toward Grendel. Dimitri blasted the approaching guards away with a well placed fireball. Lackia was lucky to avoid the black tentacles and dispelled the lashing spell to save Grendel. Grendel took the opportunity to summon a bearded devil from the nine hells and commanded it to kill the flying beasts attacking them. One by one the Pterodactyls fell from the sky, however before the last one fell Variel cast a orb of silence onto Moagh as he pounced upon Grendel.

Grendel’s end was near. The ball of silence prevented him from commanding the devil any further. Even if the silence had ended, Moagh’s massive hands locked around Grendels throat. Lackia fell to the combined efforts of the rest of the party. Sernia watched in horror as her beloved leader had the life shaken from his body. The devil simply watched; devilishly amused that the priest who dared summon him could no longer command him any longer. With Grendel dead, the devil gone and the silence dismissed, the group now approached Sernia who fell to her knees.

“Not the baby!” she cried, “Please spare the child!”

Deeply confused but no less angry, Moagh calmly walked up to Sernia.

“Your child is within me, please spare…”

Moagh’s hand had already taken the one life it desired. He carried Sernia’s unconscious form into the keep’s dungeon. He laid her down gently in a cell with the surviving cult members. He would decide her fate and the fate of the rest of the fanatics later.

Jakardros could no longer control himself. His dreams and nightmares had shown him the only path to his continued survival. He had to reach the old shrine. Shelelu pleaded with the clerics to accompany him to the ancient varisian place. None of the heroes knew of this place and had no way of finding it. So vivid were his dreams that Jakardros’s feet already knew the way, and so the Lord’s of Rannick followed their friend for a day and night until they found the hidden grove. Jakardros approached the shrine, tore the gem from his forehead, and placed it in the stone.

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The Dark Cult of Magrim
The Group is Abducted by A Dwarven Cult
Gary gygax dmg adventurers meet maiden near forest pond Weary, soaked to the bone from the cold Varisian winter – the party was headed home at last. Back to Fort Rannick, to toast their victories over cold ale, warm meat, and a comfortable hearth. Sure, there was much work to do – but there was also time for rejoicing, and to heal wounds both physical and in the soul. Home was too far away as the party left the lands of the fey and began the trek through the now clear, but much colder, Autumn.

It was not to be.

The approaching party had been welcome. Here was Horatio Codswallop, riding with other riders, laden with fresh game and bulging wine and ale sacks. Presents and tribute from Magnimar. Turtleback Ferry was saved! These spoils was from Lord-Mayor Grobaras himself.

The party feasted. Most drank. All ate. Horatio, in his stumbling manner, attempted to regale them with the legends and myths that were now being told and chanted about their party. Moagh sat with his suspicious eye locked on the young soldier. Variel drank the sweet, vicuous wine mumbling small incantations to detect if there was any arcane seasoning in the liquid.

The night continued on. And the party fell – an undetectable, untasteable toxin slipping through their system. A poison so powerful even the constitution of the warrior Moagh was unable to keep it from flowing through his blood.

It was Dmitri, who was the last to go under the effects, watching as dark, cloaked figures came out of the woods, surrounding the group, closing in – Dmitri drew his weapon in the cold night air, the starlight reflecting off his steel . a sound behind him

he turned, saw the dark, youthful eyes of Horatio alive with an ancient evil for a second, felt something penetrate into his skin, and he too – feel into dreamless sleep.
Grendel
Variel

Variel awoke on the dirty dusty dungeon floor. He could not see, and his hands were shackled. The smell, whereber he was, was disturbingly familiar. He had been here before. He shifted onto his knees, the tough burlap cloth scratching his fine elven skin. His clothes – were gone, replaced by whatever makeshift robe he was wearing.

He struggled, shifted his weight, found himself locked in – and the old hate, the fear, the anger, the sickness of being caged in settled over him, and he became a wild animal – thrashing, hurtling himself at the wall, screaming into the gag around his mouth, biting enough to draw blood.

When he calmed down, when he listened to the dark silence, he finally let himself sink. Sighing heavily, but with an air of the old family arrogance, and so no one could see – he smiled. Moving to the far wall he began a voiceless incantation, weaving the arcane arts with his mind alone, bending the power inherent in the dungeon itself into life. An arrow made of acid flew out and began to melt the cage on his head. Another and another, the acid splashing over himself, giving him new scars – scars he knew he would repay. With interest. Eventually free of the cage and manacles, he cast a spell to open a door to other dimensions and began to search this area for his spellbook, clothes, and magical arsenal – this place, that was…was…Fort Rannick, itself.

Geth

“Dear God, don’t let them kill me!” Brien Gilbrickus whined against the far side of Geth’s cell. Geth could barely believe this was the same Brien Gilbrickus who had kept his congregation in Magnimar’s holy temple of Abadar in thrall. This beaten, half-starved wretch in front of him was barely recognizable – still Geth would not soon forget the sound of Brien’s voice, how its golden honey had put its spell on so many.

“What are you doing here?” Geth growled.

“They say they’ll kill me if you don’t fight?”

“Fight? Fight where?” Geth looked around at the dingy cell. He knew where he was – the cells of Fort Rannick, but he didn’t know what had brought them here or why? To fight, to die in a ring? He had no love for Brien, but also didn’t wish anyone to die – the absence of the weight of his scimitar felt very real. He wanted to mete out justice, and he couldn’t wait until he found out who was doing this.

Dmitri

The halfling children marched out, chained together with leg irons. Their sallow, empty faces – bereft of hope or light – stayed in Dmitri’s mind. They had told him if he didn’t fight, the children would be massacred. Fighting was old hat to Dmitri, he had now become too accustomed to bloodshed. He’d seen Moagh cut down ancient creatures of the deep, Variel massacre a hundred cultists, even his fellow Cleric build magic weapons out of the air istelf and strike down men, beast and fey alike. If he had to fight, he would – he looked down at his hands, and wondered, am I doing Sarenrae’s work. Was this what I was meant for.

Jessail

“I don’t understand – why don’t you get me out of here,” spat Jessail at the dark, mysterious figure in the corner.

“You march in here – tell me to fight in the arena, and march out – why not release my chains, and I will join you – I have much to do in Magnimar!” he shouted, his voice ringing through the quiet cell block.

“You must prove yourself. Calm yourself, Jessail. There are powers here well below your reckoning for now – there are players and pawns and many, many wonderful changes coming. Here. In Magnimar. In Korvosa. Your secret is out,” said the figure pointing now at Jessail’s revealed horn and dull crimson skin. “Prove you are worthy to travel with the Dwarf Lord, and in time, you will be rewarded. And rewarded.”

The words fell on deaf ears. Jessail was not thinking of fighting in the ring. He was thinking only of spilling the stranger’s blood. He had been used too many times on the filthy streets of Magnimar. He had been free, he wished to be again, and no coin slipped too him in a dirty cell would make him a puppet again. He watched the stranger leave. He wondered where he could bury the knife.

Later, as the sun began to set on Fort Rannick, all the prisoners were brought forth into the Chapel of Fort Rannick. It had been horribly defiled for the second time. Where the ogres had shattered candelabra, stained glass, smashed pew and altar alike for Lamashtu, the dwarves in the room had begun to repair it, under the banner of Magrim, their own god of death. Painted in what looked like a dark blood was the Magrim symbol – a dwarven skull with black, black eyes.

The prisoners filed in, with the glaring exception of Variel, to be greeted by a sight they could never have expected.

In the middle of the chapel, on a throne of golden decadence, with a crown of deep rubies, emeralds, and amethysts, sat Moagh Drakensang, lately of their party. His face showed no emotion at all, and he did not even seem to recognize his presence. Only Jessail could recognize the one emotion that Moagh could not entirely hide, that in many ways, defined him – rage. It was there just under the surfact, just waiting to be free of the golden leg irons and manacles that bound him tight to the throne.

“Welcome, welcome – friends of the Court of Magrim,” said a dwarf resplendent in dark purple robes, wearing a skull mask and adorned with ancient dwarven glyphs. “You are, heh heh,” he seemed to split blood as he talked, “surely wondering why you are here.” At his side, appeared the two most beautiful dwarven women that the party had ever seen – to the point, it took even Geth a second to realize they were dwarves.

Whatever dark powers they prayed to, whatever dark arts they practiced had thoroughly soaked their being. They both seemed to glow an aura of dark ebony, and in their eyes hinted dueling qualities of seduction, death,and…something else….amusement?

“I am Grendel and this is Sernia and Lockia, and we are here to determine which of you is fit to travel with the Dwarf Lord, Mighty Moagh of the Drakensang. The destroyer of the meek, the bringer of the darkness. Here and forever, the One who is prophesied to bring the weak into slavery, and his followers to Glory.”

Sernia and Lackia finished this proclamation with a trill of song, creating a melody that even Jessail wasn’t sure she would be able to get rid of in her nightmares.

Grendel read from the Prophecy, an ancient Thassilonian text that was all revelation to the party. Written in the strange runes and dialect of the fallen civilization, the passage which Grendel emphasized was

“…and in the times of the great Awakening, when old Gods lay dead should rise to reconquer the weak peoples of the New Age after the fall of Aroden, one will stand in his way and his name will be the storm, he will wear a crown of slaughter and his thirst shall be unquenchable. His sword will be the unmaker, the blade which cleaves light from the world and he will be cut down by his own bloodkin or he will be known as the King of Darkness.”

Grendel put the scroll down.

“From our translations, we understand two will help the Dwarf Lord of old, and two will betray him. We will, through combat, have the traitors cut down, and the heroes to support him, will be revealed. And then we will have done the work we have been here for, the work Magrim has asked us to do, to deliver Moagh to his destiny.”

Max and the arenaThe party was returned to their cells.

That night, Moagh was approached by Sernia and Lackia who offered favors and power beyond his ken. His rage held him in check, but overcome by a desire to have control, he and Sernia bonded in the dwarven way – both had scars left by the lust. It was a small outlet for his rage, but it did not change the revenge brewing in his ancient heart.

In the morning, the rest of the party awoke, and were taken to the arena. The arena was a hastily constructed arcane field with a magical wall. Geth would be first to fight.

Into the ring he went, facing off against three humans whose pale eyes shone red in the Varisian sun, some sickness had oertaken them. They charged Geth.

He brought the divine power of Abadar’s judgment upon them – hoping to cure them, instead the divine fury overwhelmed them and they were reduced to cinder. Geth left the ring. Jessail would be next. He too fell his attackers, but would not leave the ring. Before the Cult’s soldiers could forcibly retrieve him, Variel attacked from the shadows.

And Hell broke loose in Fort Rannick’s courtyard.

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Moagh's brush with death.
Wherein the heroes fight a fat giant.

BarlbreakbonesMalodorous black smoke hung thick in the air of the expansive cavern, filling the atmosphere with a choking acrid stench. Carefully, the party creeped forward, mindful of the massive rib bones jutting haphazardly from the cave walls and floor. Any light from the mountain peak was quickly smothered out by the stinging cloud plunging the enormous depths into darkness.

Despite this, the cave provided a welcome respite from the incessant rains that had plagued the group for weeks.

Moagh trooped ahead without worry, knowing that any opponent who approached would face pitiful odds against his blade. The others though felt more trepidation, as stone giants by and large were a much more dangerous foe than any ogre could prove to be. Dimitri reached out and grasped Moagh’s shoulder, halting his advance.
“Let Jesail scout ahead.” The cleric whispered to his stout companion.

Jesail’s perceptive ears twitched as he heard the whispered suggestion and nodded his assent. He was one of only two in the party who could traverse without something to light the path. Though his companions still did not know his true identity, they ceased to question why, for example this so called ‘elf’ could navigate the shadows with perfect precision, where his kindred elf Variel could not. Perhaps it was a ranger thing.

Jesail slinked forward, silently hugging the wall and deftly weaving between the protruding bones. Soon he slipped out of sight of his allies and into the foreboding depths of the winding crack in the mountaintop. Everything about the cavern was oversized; openings to tunnels gaped like toothless mouths, ramps dipped at precarious angles, and simple stone steps reached up waist high or higher. Still Jesail creeped onward, craning his neck to peer around corners and cupping his ears to catch even the faintest sounds of stirring. At last he heard life, down a tunnel to the east he could hear voices. Two male, one female. Ogres. A disturbing coquettish giggle and coy intonations revealed that somewhere down the tunnel, ogres were flirting with each other.

Returning quickly, Jesail reported what he had heard, asking the others what their recommended course of action would be. Unfortunately no one seemed able to formulate a plan beyond ‘go shoot at them and lure them back here’. Variel cast a short yet familiar enchantment, and quickly vanished from sight. With the rest of the group following close behind him Jesail crept back toward the ogres and, taking a vantage point on the wall of the cave with the assistance of his magical boots fired a short volley at one of the ogres.

It was a mistake. Immediately the second male ogre who was not injured pulled out a metal gong and struck it furiously with his weapon, sounding the alarm. The other two turned to face his direction. The struck ogre bellowed furiously and charged toward him, but could not see the elf clinging awkwardly high up on the wall. Momentarily confused, his eyes alighted upon a hated sight— the dwarf, Moagh.

The dwarf stood stout against the charge, his wide greatsword poised and ready. A roar, and the singing of metal through the air and the great form crumpled before him.
Down the tunnel to the south where the sounds of pickaxes rung quietly more noise began to stir, soon, a group of ogres charged through in response to the panicked banging of the gong.
One, who lingered slightly behind the others, yelled orders that only one member of the party could understand.
“Don’t stand there, cowards! KILL THE INTRUDERS!”

Picked out as the leader, Variel’s quiet voice whispered to the eldrich energies. That one, he decided, would be the next to perish.

Stone giant bear1From the great ether a thick, noxious cloud sprang forth into being in front of the ogres crowding and growling in the tunnel. Almost immediately they doubled over, seized with choking gasps and coughing spasms. Thick, calloused fists wiped at eyes and fanned ineffectively to disperse the mephitic gas. When they discovered this would not work, they instead ran, breaking into different directions. A few charged at the awaiting party, before being felled by arrows, mace and sword. Most of the others, their leader included, were routed, disappearing through the tunnels to the north and south. All told, six ogres were slain outright. Of the adventurers, only Geth had sustained any significant injury.

“Shall we follow them north, or south?” Dimitri asked, pausing to tend to his fellow cleric, who stood leaning against a wall, breath ragged from injury. His hands hovered over his companion’s body, and a soothing, white light penetrated his armor to knit his battered flesh back together.

“The cloud will travel opposite wherever I am. If we go north, we will not have to concern ourselves for now with what lies south.” Variel said, crinkling his nose at the faint acerbic scent the cloud left in its wake.

Thus decided, the party turned north, heading up in elevation. The winding passageway twisted and broke into several forks. Two turned west, one east.
“Which way do we go?” Asked Geth, turning to his fellows.

Jesail held up a finger indicating silence. Holding perfectly still, he turned his perceptive ears down the tunnel they stood before. He could hear his companion’s breathing, the soft shifting of their fabrics, the tinny clanks of armored pieces rubbing against one another. But beyond that, in front, the susurration of incantations. He could pick out three distinct female voices, haggard with age, though the words were lost in the echoes of the cavern. Also, the stench of the smoke grew intensely down this tunnel. He turned around,
“This is where the smoke emerges, and where we are likely to find our friend Lamatar.” He said.
“Let’s waste no time.” Geth said, striding into the lead down the tunnel.

This passage was shorter and narrower than the others. Trying to hide their presence, the adventurers crept forward. Soon a wide but short room opened up. There, just like the mirror had revealed, the room with the hags. A large enchanting circle was drawn, and the runes glowed with profane magics. Around a great bubbling cauldron, the three living inhabitants stood, jointly casting their magic on the putrid mixture within. So engrossed were they in their ritual, they did not notice the party creeping closer behind them.

Off to the side, organizing the bottles on the shelf, stood the withered and desiccated body of the former black arrow known as Lamatar. He had undergone a horrid transformation into an undead creature, and though his face bore resemblance, his body was twisted into a new form, most noticeably in his right hand, where the flesh had extended and frozen into long icicle claws.

Variel’s malicious smile went unseen by his companions as he quickly broke into a routine much familiar. Web.

Thick ropy sticky strands of spider webbing erupted from the floors and walls, tangling everything in the room into a white sticky trap. The hags shrieked in surprise, but were unable to react in time to avoid the magic strands. They were caught, as Lamatar, immobilized.

The next incantation was almost interrupted as Variel could hardly contain his malevolent laughter for his second most favorite spell. Fireball.

The room was enveloped in bright yellow light. The eldrich fireball expanded, though there was no sound, nor wind. Only heat brushed the faces of the adventurers as the hags were consumed in the flames. The panicked shrieking grew in volume and fervor as the webs that bound them were set alight, searing patterned wounds into their deformed hides. Still the hags could not move, as though the strands were burning, they were not completely vaporized.

Moagh was next to act, charging headlong into the room. One slash, and the first hag’s body was cleft in half, though it was held suspended in the burning webbing. It would be a few seconds longer before the webs could no longer hold her weight and dropped her lifeless and charred body to the floor.

Arrows and a mace downed the second hag without much fuss. Lamatar unfortunately could not withstand the flames and crumpled to the floor without being able to act.

Seeing her two sisters slain, and her pet reduced to cinders, the last hag collapsed to her knees.
“Please! Spare my life!” She crowed, sliding closer to one of the humans,
“I will tell you whatever you want to know.” She slid between the adventurers. Frantic eyes darting back and forth between impassive faces.
“L-lord, the Lord Barl Breakbones has come and he enslaved the ogres of this mountain.”

“What spell is this circle for?” Variel queried, stepping forward from the back of the ranks toward the boundary of the runes.

“Well,” The hag began, standing shakily under the watchful eyes of the adventurers. She sidled up to the wizard elf and batted her eyelashes at him. It took a herculean effort not to retch at this broken, blistered hag attempting to put the moves on him. The smell of singed skin and pus was hardly more than he could stand, and he shot the hag a withering look. “This is where he ordered us to control the rains.”

Variel twitched noticeably, “It’s time for the rain to stop.” He glowered at the hag and shifted away from her, pointing a long, thin finger toward the circle.

“Yes yes, if I stop the rain, will you let me leave?” She asked, folding her twisted hands together in a pleading manner.

“We will also need more information on Barl Breakbones.” Dimitri piped up, “But please, stop the rain.”

She did as she was told, shuffling toward the center of the circle of runes. Lifting her hands, she spoke a few soft words in an old tongue. Briefly, the runes shone brighter, then were snuffed out. Inside the room, any change could not be felt, but Variel quickly noted that the magic had ceased.

“Tell us of the leader.” Geth commanded.

Ice hags 3 final“Yes yes. I do not know much about him, other than the fact that this mountain top used to be an ogre den, when Barl and his tribe came and enslaved them. He wields powerful dark magic, and forced the ogres to mine under this cavern for ores to smith weapons and armor for himself and his clan members. Now please, let me leave.” She pleaded, turning to Geth.

“So he’s a necromancer?” Variel asked, to which she nodded.
“Do you swear not to warn Barl of our presence here?” Geth asked, she nodded again.
“I never wish to set foot in here again, I will leave and never return.” She stated earnestly.

The adventurers parted to each side and allowed her egress through the tunnel. Variel strode toward the devastated figure of Lamatar.
“Someone help me put this into my bag.” He said. Moagh strode forward to lift the singed corpse off the ground. Variel opened the lip of his bag and cinched it closed when the body had been placed inside. Somewhere under his breath, Jesail heard the muttering of having to wash it out later.

After a quick discussion, the party decided to head on forward to confront Barl himself.

Unfortunately any attempt at stealth was quickly thwarted as Barl’s booming voice echoed down the tunnel.
“Welcome adventurers. I see you have caused me a good deal of trouble.”

The scale of this room put all of the others to shame. The high ceiling vaulted at a steep angle and at the pinnacle, a skylight broke through, revealing for the first time in weeks, a blue sky. The stone on the floor was slick with rainwater, though no new rain emerged to reveal that the hag had kept her word. Connecting to the tunnel was a wide pathway leading upward, where on either side of a six foot high ledge great stone heads glowered down at the path menacingly. At the end of the path the floor and the ledge evened out, though about thirty feet beyond that, another ledge broke the room in half. Atop this, and surrounded by two giant bodyguards sat Barl himself.

The throne on which Barl sat seemed to be part of the mountain itself, having the rock face around it carved away but without separating it from the wall or floor. Still, it was a simple throne, though huge. The leader reclined lazily against an armrest, himself as cold and grey as the mountain in which he reigned. Still, the most distinct feature about Barl was that, for a giant, he was quite overweight. Still, even his bulging gut seemed firm and stiff, much like the rest of his body. His two guards stood before piles of great boulders, with arms crossed, standing perfectly still. Two ogres stood beside these guards as well, but they shifted about nervously.

“Still,” He continued as the party came into line of sight, “I could use more with your strength and abilities. Join me, and you will be rewarded handsomely, I can make you the lords of the states after we usher in a new age of darkness under Mokmurian.” He said, “If you refuse, you will face either death, or slavery.” This last bit twisted his gravely countenance into a sinister smile.

The adventurers all looked at each other in bewilderment momentarily. Jesail was the one to speak up first,
“Lords of state? Can you sweeten the deal at all?” He asked, catching astonished looks from his companions. Barl smiled at him,
“Well, we also have donuts.” He said, smiling.
“Really?” Asked Moagh, incredulous.
“No.” Barl answered, his face downturning.
“Whaat? Screw this you donut-lying asshole!” Variel shrieked, immediately diving into an incantation. From the ether another poisonous cloud broke forth into the room.

Immediately the poisoned atmosphere broke into a flurry of activity. The ogres, as before, coughed and retched miserably, though unfortunately the stone giants seemed less affected. Barl rose his ponderous mass from the throne and began casting an incantation of his own. Instantly, he vanished.
When the ogres recovered enough to run through the cloud toward the party, Moagh leapt forward to counter them, charging headlong into the center of the great room. Jesail nimbly scrambled up the ledge to his left to take cover behind one of the great stone faces, and Variel backed up slightly.

Dimitri grasped hold of his holy symbol of Serenrae, and called forth her blessing of fervor to aid his companions, though Moagh had just run out of range of her holy grace.

For the first time in many months, the party quickly found themselves facing an enemy that actually halted their destructive advances. Despite being peppered with arrows and slashed brutally, even the lowly ogre stood his ground for several tense seconds. Time seemed to run in slow motion as spells were fired off back and forth, and the giants charged forward to intercept the closest threat.

Dimitri’s heart grew colder as he saw first one ogre, who fell, than a second, and a stone giant, and finally Barl himself close in and surround Moagh. Despite the dwarf’s stoutness and supernatural seeming deftness when facing Giants, hit after hit struck him true. Blood poured from Moagh like a torn water skin until his entire body seemed to be one reddened, slick mass. His life dripped down from his own armor to mingle with the water on the damp floor, making the area a slippery mess. Still Moagh fought on like a cornered animal, snarling incomprehensibly as his rage caused him to linger where lesser men would have been killed outright.

A last great swing from Barl’s club finally was what brought the mighty barbarian down. The party’s eyes grew wide as the club cracked down on his skull, rending it with a sickening crunch that resembled a melon being split apart. Moagh staggered, his eyes rolled back as he first collapsed to his knees, then dropped to his face in the growing pool of blood beneath him.

“Goddess,” Dimitri whispered under his breath, witnessing for the first time Moagh the unstoppable being brought down by the great stone tower known as Barl Breakbones. His heart skipped as he wondered whether this may be a fight they would not be able to win. Marshaling the courage that once inspired him to be a paladin, Dimitri broke into a run. He had to reach Moagh, he had to save him, lest his friend’s fire be snuffed forever.

“WAIT!” Variel commanded in an uncharacteristically loud shout from behind him. Dimitri immediately stopped dead in his tracks, halted from his fevered task to yield to someone smarter than himself.
“Geth, grab Moagh and pull him away, NOW!”

Geth, who stood close enough to Moagh to be standing in his blood puddle sprung into action. He was caught once by Barl’s backhanded swing and knew exactly how that club felt. He deftly ducked under Barl’s lumbering form and grabbed the dwarf’s unconscious body, heaving it with all his strength away from certain destruction.

Variel’s hands and mouth was a flurry of action, weaving unknown symbols and ancient incantations he had never cast before in a last ditch effort to save the others. It was not immediately apparent what he had cast, but as Barl turned around, and brought down his club to try to end Geth’s life as well he stopped just a few inches short, bouncing off an invisible force.

“What?” He growled, astonished, a second swing proved just as ineffective. He reached out a thick hand to touch his obstacle as his two retainers chucked boulders past him. They cracked and shattered but went no farther forward than Barl’s club had.
“You idiots! This is a wall of force. Do not waste your strength on this, you cannot break it.” He commanded.

Dimitri ran forward toward Moagh’s body, as Geth laid him on the floor, revealing himself to now be stained thoroughly with Moagh’s blood. He looked down at himself in horror.
“Do something! For the love of Abadar, save him!” He cried. Dimitri stood tall and raised his arms toward the beam of light streaming in from the roof.
“Serenrae help this man, help my friends. Help us!” He pleaded. Immediately his body began to glow with a pure, white light. It radiated out from himself, and upon touching Geth and Moagh, began to stitch together their wounds and repair their bruises.

Moagh groaned miserably as the light ripped his mind back from the bliss of unconsciousness and into painful reality. He became at once aware of the cold, wet floor, the metallic taste of blood in his mouth, the stabbing agony of his broken ribs, the fire of his protesting muscles, and the intolerable pounding of his rising blood pressure on his battered brain. Gods, he was tired, but with the returning of his mind brought the awareness that the fight was not over. He heard his companions voices and panicked yells though they wavered with the pulsing rush of blood in his ears. Slowly, he pushed himself back up and staggered to his feet.

Once again, the pure waves of white light embraced his body, and each respective pain lessened, his mind cleared as it wiped way the fogginess of concussion, and he became aware again of his great sword dropped to the side.

A great boulder landed beside him with a great crash as the giants tried to lob the massive stones over the invisible wall to crush the people on the other side. Fortunately, their aim was off, and several stones bounced off when they aimed too low, others went wide over and missed entirely.

Barl continued to cast spells, magic missiles leaped over the wall and unerringly found their targets on the other side. Frustrated, he even cast fly on himself, implausibly lifting his great bulk up and over, to land on the side with the adventurers to continue his warpath.

This was a mistake, his enemies regrouped and refreshed met him with a barrage of attacks. From Dimitri, a searing bolt of divine fire melted his toughened skin. Arrows found chinks in his armor and pierced the places where he was softest, heavy mace swings cracked his stony exterior, a coruscating ray sapped his energy, leaving him weakened, and Moagh, revived, grabbed his vicious war fork and attacked with renewed vigor, though each of his swings also caused grunts of pain from himself. And through all his, he was alone, as his loyal guards could not bypass the wall as he had.

In desperation, Barl took off vertically, reaching for that opening in his chamber to freedom. In the end, he could not reach it before a final few shots from those who could reach snuffed his own perilous grasp on life and brought him down like an avalanche, crashing into a lifeless heap on the floor.
Almost immediately, the remaining ogre threw aside his weapon and surrendered, pleading for clemency because he had no choice in obeying Barl. Barl’s stone giant guard was suddenly recalcitrant toward the heroes.

“I thought stone giants were usually neutral, why did you follow Barl?” Variel asked the giant.
“Barl offered us glory, a chance to retake our lands from you disgusting humans.” He said bitterly, staring at the fallen form of his leader. Jesail and Variel both resisted the urge to remind him that they were not all humans.
“But you have a chance at redeeming your image before the minds and hearts of people, if you behave that way, you can reclaim your honor without others resisting you.” Dimitri offered helpfully,
“There is no honor in acquiescing to thieves!” The giant shot back. “Even though Barl is dead, and I have failed we will succeed.”
“How? We just cleared out your tribe.” Jesail asked, incredulously. A deep rumble emerged from the giant as he chuckled bitterly,
“You think our whole tribe is here? You have no idea.”
“How many?” Geth asked. The giant shot him a cold glare,
“We are armies.” He straightened up, “But I am disgraced, I could not protect Breakbones, and cannot return. Kill me, as my life no longer has worth.”

Moagh shrugged, and before anyone could stop him thrust his military fork straight into the giant’s eye sockets, letting him crumple to the floor beside his leader.
“Why did you do that? We could have asked him more.” Geth snapped at the dwarf.
“He asked for it.”

Variel spent some time picking over Barl’s corpse for magic items.
“You.” Jesail said, pointing to the ogre, “Tell your buddies what’s up. And know this, we have slain Barl, and those who attacked Fort Rannoch and those who beset Skull’s Crossing. If you attempt to betray us, you will find no mercy.”

The ogre nodded enthusiastically “Yes I will tell them, you will never have trouble from us again, saviors!” He said, scurrying out the tunnel and down to the south.
The party followed behind, catching up with him as he addressed his clan. All around there were looks of relief mixed with sadness as those who worked through the battle down in the mines saw the corpses littered on the floor of the barracks.

“One more thing you can do to repay us for saving you.” Variel said, admiring the craftsmanship of the weapons on the wall, “Make armor and weapons for human size, to equal in number those here and deliver them to Fort Rannoch. Then your debt will be repaid. Though you do not have to kill yourselves with labor.”

The ogres agreed.

After resting for a night in the fort, the party made their way back through the fey lands toward where Miriana had sent them on their search for Lamatar. They found her incorporial form still weeping bitterly in the glen where she resided. When the form of her lover was presented to her, she cried out in joy.
“My love! Come forth and join me.” She said, resting his corpse in the center of her glen. A light shimmered around his body as a shadowy, ethereal figure of a handsome young man emerged from the battered remains. They entwined around each other. She gazed thankfully upon the group who had returned him.

“I promise, for hereafter, you shall always be welcome in my domain in the fey wilds.”

And with that, they vanished.


Fey portal thumb

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From the Realms of the Fey to Hook Mountain
What happened to Commander Lamatar?

The arduous trek through the Shimmerglens was one that the party was not wont to take often again.

Too close to the spirit realms, too touched by the unreal lights of the spectres, even the magical Variel felt uneasy in the realm, and for the first time in the woods, felt a fear he could not place. Moagh winced through the wet air, attempting to ignore the sickly warmth, and the strange cries in the distance. Memories of home he tried to shake off.

Dmitri clutched the holy symbol of Sarenrae he had worn for so long the edges were slightly chipped where his thumbs curled too tightly and he muttered prayers under his breath hoping his mistress would find them safe passage through this strange land.

Geth, reflecting on his reunion with Abadar, couldn’t understand the water here – it did not act like ocean or sea water, it seemed to have a life of its own, animated by what he knew must be the evil fairies that dwelt beyond his vision. He would be happy to be far, far away – he had heard these lands were enchanted, full of…

…seductive sprites and temptations that priests like himself need stay far from. But this place was…this place was corrupted, by what he knew not, but it seemed as if the mischievious soul of nature had its heart not only broken by torn out of its chest and put on display.

The whispers he heard from the side of the road were not welcoming but drove all pleasure of life from his soul.

Jessail kept his eyes on the road, but could not stop himself from seeing the hanging bodies of children.

Up ahead, skeletal figures blocked their path. Yap, the small pixie who had requested help for his dear Myriana, began to cower in fear. Variel’s unease of the place was quickly replaced by a now nearly lustful desire to strike back at this hand – these figures represented an opportunity – he knew how to deal with foes.

From his fingers leapt fire, and the skeletal fingers collapsed in an explosion of stale blood, and weeping cries – yet, these were not man, or demi-human, but trees whose sap had become stale blood. What the party had thought were fingers were curled up, tangled bark, now nothing but cinders.

Variel looked at the party – then drew his cloak’s hood tighter around his head, hiding his own apprehensions. Deeper then, into the fey. Hopefully, this blasted pixie, Variel considered, isn’t leading us to our doom.

Past a galley beached by the side of the road, past spiders who had poisoned themselve at the side of the road, beyond a pool with a light enchantment which showed bizarre briefs of the future, Yap led the party to a clearing.

“She is in there.”

“Well, ugh, let’s get this over with, yeah?” Moagh belched and strode in, followed by his fellow veterans.

And the sky, which had taken a break from the torrential rains, darkened. They were in Whitewillow. And Whitewillow was black as night.

Myrianna“Sooooo….the murderers of Lamatar Bayden have come to DIE,” cried the creature which rose from the depths of the swamps. Sinews and muscles shown through the reflected green spectral light – whatever death that had torn Myriana from this world might have made her grotesque and obscene, her command and charisma left them all sure, she must have been one of the most beautiful creatures to observe in the light.

“We are not murderers,” Geth replied. Behind him, Variel turned his eyes away.

“We have come to help you, your friend brought us here,” Geth continued.

She wailed, she screamed, and she recanted a tale which dispelled one of the many mysteries which had stalked the heroes. She and the Commander of Fort Rannick had been lovers – but she knew not what happened to him, only that the Kreeg Ogres had taken him. Her boney finger stretched out, the only light in the dark glen.

“Hook Mountain. He is in Hook Mountain.”

“Alive?” Dmitri asked.

“He is in Hook Mountain. Bring him to me. If he is slain, bring something that I can pull his spirit to me. If not, I will make sure your people burn like my heart, I will see your wives gnash their teeth and your children feast on their own entrails.”

Then she was gone, and the darkness lifted. The dark shadows that fell through the slats of the great swamp trees provided again a trifle of light to make their way towards Hook Mountain.

And to Hook Mountain the party, after a stay in the Inn at Turtleback Ferry, went.

The rains, the incessant rains, finally changed – the cold of winter began to slowly make its way known, and as the party ascended the Ogre trails which led upwards, turned to sleet, then snow, then merely ice.

“Are you all right?” Geth asked of the shivering Variel, whose eyes seemed to burn a crimson hatred of the weather, as his fingers played through his expanding spellbook – if he did not have a spell that could change the weather, he thought, perhaps he could cast a cloud of death at it.

“What was it you saw in your mirror?” Dmitri asked Variel.“What enemies can we expect?”

“Nothing I can’t handle,” Variel responded, shaking himself free – he hated it when the clerics cornered him, as they always seemed to do. A minute later, he had an opportunity to prove it.

6 Stone Giants, which stuck out like sore thumbs from the snow drifts around them, seemed to be contemplating something. In a warmer climate, the party might not have noticed them as they seemed carved from the rock itself, but out here, they were the only rocks not covered in powder.

“Well, Variel?” Geth said, lightly goaded the elf.

“Mmmmm,” Variel answered and ruffled through his pockets, pulling out a gem. Pulling the party back to safety, he mumbled an ancient incantation over the gem. Then he set the gem on light breeze and weaving his fingers, he sailed it to the group of giants and let it fall to the ground. At the same time, he, himself, collapsed to the ground, lifeless.

The giants finally noticed the gem, and one brave soul picked up the strange treasure. Immediately, he stiffened up, as Variel’s soul transferred from gem to the creature. He stiffened then began to strike out at the other giants, who responded to the violence in kind and threw him careening down the mountain. Another giant, recognizing the ancient curses that Thassalonians had often left behind them, kicked the ruby as far as he could away.

Lost caverns pic 550Variel returned to his body.

“Well, I got rid of two of them,” he said. The party looked at him with a mixture of astonishment and surprise. Shortly, the giants began to head up the mountain. Behind them, the party followed, up, up into the cold, the storm.

Finally, the giants walked past a pair of ogre sentries into a cave which was bellowing foul, foul smoke.

“This is it, then,” said Moagh, whose military fork seemed to reflect the dwarf’s own blood lust. The party entered, ogres collapese on them, and ogres fell. and fell. and fell.

Each member of the party receives 6,240 experience points.

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