Moonday, Harvester 24, 552 CY (50 AN)
Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna walk through the forested hills until they track the demonic essence to a deep, dark cave, emitting stinking vapors. The smell of rotting meat and offal emits from the dank hole. Undeterred, the Shields of the Sorrowfell light a sunrod and investigate, illuminating several rock formations and a couple of bone piles buried in the cavern. The general impression of movement is also conveyed — Peren notes the flitting of shadows along the ceiling, and the movement of something large toward the far side of the cave, currently blocked by a large stone formation.
Peren grabs the sunrod and enters, surprised to see the twisted, physical form of a wounded creature that must be Physandos, as well as a large, adamantine dragon. Despite being a metallic dragon, the dragon looks entirely too unfriendly — Peren suspects the demon has ensared this creature. After shouting a warning to his fellow Shields, the launches himself at Physandos, hoping to break its hold over the dragon so that the fight might end quickly. Although he manages to keep the demon preoccupied, he does not slay it immediately. Torinn leaps into the fray after Peren, hoping to keep the dragon busy so that the others may handle the demon. He brandishes his axe and breathes lightning at the creature. As Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna enter the cave to get clear sight lines so that they may begin casting spells at Physandos, several wispy, demonic things swoop down upon them. While some merely claw at them, but some of them extend their essences into the Shields, attempting to control their minds and infesting them with Abyssal energy. Although they manage to resist possession, the creatures still weaken the casters significantly. Wounded and close to death, a very upset Bezaldooz leaps into the fray, killing two of the demon wisps with icy rays, and summoning Abyssal energy of his own to smite two more before slaying the last with a well-placed magic missile. The dragon attacks Torinn, who is easy prey as he has been stunned by the beast’s terrifying roar, but Torinn still manages to roll with the worst of the blow. Valna, meanwhile, banishes Physandos. It does not break the demon’s hold over the dragon, but it does give the Shields vital seconds to regroup and prepare for the demon’s arrival. When he does, they unleash their might upon it, finally slaying the demon.
When they do, the dragon sits, requesting parley. Introducing itself as Urthix, and indicates it has been ensorcelled by this demon for centuries. Thanking the Shields for freeing it, it bids them to help themselves to its horde — several gold coins and gems worth over 9,000 gp, two potions of vitality. Bidding the dragon well, the Shields return to the torrian village. With the looming spectre of Physandos gone, they agree to uphold their ancient oaths and return to Argent. Gruthow explains that it will take several days for the torrians to pack and make their way to Argent on foot, but he and a couple of the other elders can return to Argent with the Shields by way of the Argent Portal ritual. After discussion, the Shields agree to return to Argent immediately. Bezaldooz enacts the ritual, and the scene shifts.
All is quiet in Argent as the Shields arrive in the magic circle on the Mall. As they head toward the Guardian’s Tower, however, they hear a faint rumbling. Soon, the faint echo of booming voices joins the rhythmic tremor. Speeding to the Tower, they see Obanar on the balcony, overlooking the city.
As they ascend to Obanar’s chambers, they find him consulting a mystical map of the city. He explains that giants are sieging the city — although most of the city’s defenses have kept them at bay, two strike teams are assaulting gates to the east and south. He recommends they begin at the landing platform to the east, as the giants have already landed there and are assaulting the gate. While the Shields keep them busy, he will attempt to reactivate the offensive capabilities of Argent’s wards. With their objective at hand, and leaving the torrian elders in Obanar’s capable hands, the Shields head east.
As the Shields approach the fifty-foot-tall walls of Argent, they hear the pounding of the enemy at the gates. Ascending the walls, Torinn and Valna make enough noise to be noticed, while Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Peren manage to ascend stealthily. Four giants — three soldiers and one dressed as a shaman — pelt the gate with stones and spells. Past them is the landing platform, and then a great expanse over a gorge. Circling over the gorge is a giant bird of prey, a roc. When the shaman sees Torinn and Valna, he taunts them, and begins his assault. The shaman throws flaming curses at Torinn and Valna. Peren, concerned about a bird large enough to carry giants across a chasm, takes aim with his Carcosan blaster rifle, stunning the bird and sending it falling into the chasm far below. With the threat of the roc neutralized, the Shields focus on the giants besieging the gates. Peren leaps down onto one of the giants and begins savaging the massive humanoids. Torinn follows suit, careening down onto the shaman with his axe. Coupled with spell support from Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna, they manage to defeat the shaman and one of the giant soldiers.
And then the beating of wings sounds from the chasm.
Peren, hearing the distant sound of wing beats, was preparing for this moment. His panicked cries of “Bird!” resound as he continues to assault the giants. The roc swoops down and snatches him in a taloned claw, preparing to drop him over the edge — Peren barely manages to swing out of its grasp and leap back onto the platform, pulling himself over the edge. One of the giants attempts to knock him off the edge, but still he clings to the side. It is only the second attempt by the roc that succeeds, as the creature drops him onto a rock ledge 200 feet below.
Shocked at the horrific death of their comrade, the Shields still hold the gate against the giants. The roc swoops down into melee, pecking at Torinn before grabbing him and dropping him from forty feet in the air. While the Shields finish the giants, the roc attempts to tenderize another meal, attempting to grab Bezaldooz who is much too swift for the creature. The roc finally manages to grab Bosabrieln and drop him onto the rock ledge. Bezaldooz, Torinn, and Valna back away from the eastern edge of the wall, and seeing no way to get past the magical barrier around the city, the roc swoops into the canyon to feast on its meal.
Thinking quickly, Bezaldooz, Torinn, and Valna determine a plan to retrieve their comrades’ bodies. Torinn grabs Bezaldooz’s rope, as well as his own and Valna’s rope, and begins tying them together. Bezaldooz borrows Valna’s bag of holding and casts a spell to levitate, allowing him to float down into the chasm. Torinn ties the three lengths of rope together, tying them to his waist and giving Valna a line to climb most of the way down into the chasm.
As he passes, Bezaldooz drops Bonatos onto the roc. Bono attempts to ensorcell the roc, but to no avail; it becomes distracted trying to preen its feathers against the intrusion, and Bezaldooz takes the opportunity to begin shoving his companions into the bag of holding. As Valna descends, she attempts to set the creature aflame. While it is otherwise engaged, Bezaldooz conjures a serpent of lightning to harry it and slow it down. Torinn, halfway down the gorge, tries to leap on the roc, but misses, falling to the bottom of the chasm. Bezaldooz finishes shoving his companions’ bodies into the bag of holding, and then the group prepares to leave. However, the roc descends, ready to get some manner of meal out of this encounter. However, the combined effort of Bezaldooz, Torinn, and Valna manage to drive the thing away in search of an easier dinner.
Taking a moment to catch their breath, Bezaldooz, Torinn, and Valna begin the arduous task of ascending the gorge so that they can reenter the city and defend the gate to the south.