Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

Truth or Consequences, Part 5

Freeday, Ready’reat 28, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn begin walking northwest to Beeheath. Their walk is interrupted after a few moments by Bezaldooz, who receives a sending in his mind. He recognizes the sender, a wizard from Duchy Jepson by the name of Polarion the Thaumaturgist. He was an alchemist known to the local student body as someone who could potentially acquire study aids on the sly, among other services. The addled wizard’s sending conveys the following: “Oh shit! I forgot to tell you, there are two messages coming for Torinn. Pay the entities a gold each and there will—Wait, shit!” Bezaldooz acknowledges the message and asks for clarification; none is forthcoming. He conveys what little he learned, and with nothing further to be done, the Shields of the Sorrowfell continue walking. Within a half-hour, the group is approached by an invisible presence carrying a letter. It drops the letter and begins attempting to access Torinn’s pack; presuming this is the messenger sent for him, he pulls out a gold piece, which the thing takes before leaving, flying wherever it may. Bezaldooz thinks the thing was an invisible stalker, an air elemental tasked with retrieving a specific object; as part of their symbolic programming, they can find their target without error, hence why it was able to find Torinn despite several teleportations.

Torinn reads the letter, and eventually it passes to the others. It is a printed form letter from some man named Barnabus Sleet, Muscle Wizard, challenging Torinn to a one-on-one duel. He has apparently been hired to kill Torinn, but is instead offering a best two-out-of-three match fight against the dragonborn. He will supply components for resurrection so long as Torinn brings his own cleric.

The Shields have a long walk to discuss the matter and determine what to do regarding this. Roughly an hour later, a second letter appears, also delivered by invisible courier. Torinn pays this one a gold piece, and reads the second letter. This one is hand-written, and admonishes the Shields to come to Sleet’s castle and discuss matters, as he suspects one of his friends is planning to destroy their world.

After passing this letter around, they continue their debate, eventually moving into a rather heated argument about the whole thing. They finally come to the idea that they’re going to continue with the original plan — head to Beeheath to get an accurate description of settlements closer to the Bloodstone Crags, teleport there, take out Clan Deadmoon, and then track down Caveghost Clan — and if this Sleet guy shows up, they’ll deal with that when it happens. They may visit him when they’ve completed this slaver tribe business. (Incidentally, nobody recognizes his name, but Bezaldooz recognizes the “Muscle Wizard” school: a strange variant school made by wizards who trap the n-dimensional hypersigils of magic in their muscles rather than their minds, allowing them to cast spells through their bodies. They engage in modified calisthenic routines rather than sleeping, and are universally kind of eccentric. They’re relatively unknown in the Sorrowfell Plains, but the secrets of the Muscle Wizard school are known on other planes. He’s basically some plane-hopping weirdo who is going to punch spells at you.) There is a brief debate as to whether they should hunt the rocs on Mt. Vogelberg — rocs are well known to potentially leave valuables in their nests, and that’s ignoring the value of any eggs they could potentially recover — but they decide against climbing the mountain in favor of sticking to the plan.

As they approach Beeheath, Bosabrieln casts seeming so the Shields can masquerade as trappers. They arrive as the settlement is starting its day, and they head to the local tavern, The Wicked Rose. The place appears to be staffed by a halfling family. There are a few assorted patrons inside, including one well-dressed foreign man. Torinn is immediately suspicious of him, and makes inquiries, learning he is some foreign noble looking for exotic food ingredients. After breakfast, they are directed to the Market Square to make inquiries. They spend most of the morning asking around, and they learn of two settlements. One, Tovelka, is located in the mountains and is a known spot to traders and merchants. A series of herders and nomads live in the area. The other, Dead Man’s Hollow, is discussed only in hushed tones and has something of a grim reputation. Located in the shadow of Cursewood, only the desperate go there; it appears to be a haven for criminals.

When the Shields reconvene, they decide that Tovelka is the better starting point, as it will likely have a better infrastructure for taking care of any escaped slaves they recover. (And they’re not terribly keen on Cursewood at the moment.) They find a secluded place for Bezaldooz to cast teleport.

The Shields emerge in the ruddy, rugged terrain of the Bloodstone Crags, completely out of sight of any signs of civilization. Peren can orient them directionally, and maybe make a vague guess as to where they are, but the teleport appears to have misfired and dropped them in the middle of nowhere. West will lead them back to the Sorrowfell Plains. They decide to start traveling in a spiral, expanding their search radius to try to pick up goblin tracks, whereupon they can hopefully find Clan Deadmoon. They start marching.

Shrouded as they are by magic, they come upon a lone orc who has not yet noticed them. He is massive, larger than even a typical orc and bearing fearsome tusks. He wears plate armor and carries a greataxe as well as a full pack. Bosabrieln and Torinn approach, still disguised as trappers. They give greeting, but the orc still seems to feel superior and a tad predatory until Peren appears behind him with no warning. That mellows him somewhat.

He gives his name as Obash, and indicates he was with a tribe called Grummsh’s Teeth. Separated from his unit, he reluctantly admits he’s gotten a bit turned around in the mountains. The group reveals they’re looking for Clan Deadmoon — a brief flash of fear crosses Obash’s face, which he quickly hides; though an orc fears no goblin, Deadmoon have access to strange magics — and he says he will accompany them on their hunt. When Peren suggests their bearings to Obash, he indicates he thinks Clan Deadmoon is to the southwest. Bosabrieln then decides to reveal themselves to him, and they are revealed in their splendor — Obash learns he is traveling with the Shields of the Sorrowfell. He clearly recognizes the name, but since they don’t seem terribly keen on killing him, he’s fine with it.

Obash is again surprised when Bezaldooz falls into lockstep with them, but they begin their march. His next little surprise comes when they camp for the night, doing so in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion. He quickly grows accustomed to this, as well, especially when it becomes clear they have access to a nine-course feast every night.

The next day is similarly quiet, as they find the trail of a great number of goblin tracks through the mountains.

It is on midday, Sunday, Sunsebb 2, when they see smoke over the next rise. Investigation reveals a camp in a valley. Only a few goblins are visible, apparently acting as guards; it seems reasonable that the rest of the camp is asleep. Several tents have been erected, including one more ostentatious than the others at the head of the camp. The center of the camp is filled with cages, some for slaves, and some for the worgs and giant rats the goblins keep as beasts of burden and attack animals. The goblins don’t notice the Shields as they survey the site, and Bezaldooz determines four points where it would be safe to lay down a meteor swarm without causing a rock slide or injuring the slaves. Since he can shield several from the blast, Peren, Torinn, and Obash position themselves near the edge of the goblin camp.

The attack starts. One of the goblin guards notices the falling stones a split second before they hit, but there is otherwise little warning. The camp erupts into a cacophony of sound and a maelstrom of destruction. Obash is screaming, but invigorated. Obash, Peren, and Torinn emerge from the flames; Peren unleashes a horde of javelins upon the caged animals with a well-placed conjure volley spell. All but three worgs are slain; the panicked animals quickly break free of their cages and flee into the countryside. The slaves are initially terrified, but quickly surmise what’s happening.

In a few seconds, the entire camp has been destroyed. Only a handful of goblins remain, easily intimidated into submission by Obash, Peren, and Torinn. All told, there are roughly fifty slaves and thirty goblins; Peren and Torinn give command of the goblins over to Obash, who relishes the role. Most of the goblins are non-combatants, with maybe five warriors and a single surviving boss among them, Hurm da Worm. They spend the rest of the afternoon keeping the goblins in check, scouting around for any remaining treasure (they find several piles of melted slag that clearly used to be precious metals, as well as a couple of bloodstones), and making certain the former slaves are healthy and have all they need. They camp in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion for the night.

Getting their bearings with the assistance of those who were abducted locally, they determine they are roughly three days from Tovelka. They spend the next two days traveling without incident. It is the morning of Waterday, Sunsebb 5, when they encounter a lone fire giant, prepared to antagonized the refugee train. The monster is quickly slain by the Shields. Searching its pouch, among the stones it is prepared to throw, it has 135gp (at his request, Obash receives a share of the treasure), and a single, small coffin, roughly child-sized. After some worried discussion as to what to do with it, they open it to find dust and bones inside. It appears it was some manner of coffin the giant exhumed for unknown reasons. They bury the coffin and say a few words before continuing on their way.

Dusk approaches when they see the village of Tovelka in the distance, still a few miles away. Black clouds gather over the village, apparently centered above a nearby hill. The people local to the area claim the storms are often here, centered around the giant ruins on the hill, although it is only a recent occurrence that they grew to encompass the village. They give offers of milk and cheese to the “little god” of the mountain.

As they approach, they see a lone figure moving through the mountains. As the figure becomes apparent, it is a lone elf woman in traveling clothes, bearing a pack but no weapons. Bosabrieln gives greeting, and she returns it. She introduces herself as Galothel, and quickly surmises she is speaking to the Shields of the Sorrowfell. She seems pleased that they are bringing liberated slaves to Tovelka, and that they appear to have destroyed Clan Deadmoon. (She also asks if she can flip Bezaldooz’s hood down, and she seems pleased to learn the rumor that he is a vampire is untrue.) She asks if she may accompany them to Tovelka, and though Torinn — and, admittedly, everyone — is quite suspicious, they allow it.

She is a bit cagey about herself, and a trifle eccentric enough that Bosabrieln mistrusts her, but she indicates she’s from the Hoarfrost Ridge originally, but she likes to travel and gather stories, rather like Bosabrieln. She’s been in this region and away from civilization for a little while, so she hasn’t heard much news of late. She seems very pleasant and personable, though. (One thing catches Bosabrieln’s attention, though: when the Shields are similarly cagey around some of her questions, she apologizes and hopes she isn’t prying too heavily, as war is always traumatic. Since this matches the “official” story that the Shields are probably suffering from PTSD after fighting against the giants, and subsequently performed a terrorist attack against Scandshar, it deepens Bosabrieln’s mistrust of her.) When asked, she does note the last rumor she heard of Caveghost Clan is that they attacked Pottsdam, a small village on the River of Tears, about four months ago. It’s not much, but it gives them a place to start.

She also inquires more heavily about some of their travels, and when they indicate they found the orc chieftain of the Thousand Eyes worshiped the Esteemed and Omniscient Peacock Lord as some manner of god, she finds that quite interesting, given that the figure is thought to be a legendary figurehead. She inquires deeper, and when the Shields remark that they found it odd that she seemed to be using arcane spells rather than clerical ones, Galothel inquires as to whether she might have been some manner of warlock. Would the Esteemed and Omniscient Peacock Lord then be some manner of warlock patron?

When they arrive in Tovelka, Obash and Torinn (along with the goblins) initially stay outside the village. As Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Galothel, and Peren enter, they are greeted by an elder herdsman and apparent leader, a man named Ashowg. Bosabrieln explains about the destruction of Clan Deadmoon and the recovery of the slaves. He gives Ashowg 200gp, and it seems as though some of the traveling merchants might be able to resettle the freed slaves in civilization.

While the group sets about treating and settling the refugees, Bezaldooz takes the opportunity to cast detect magic on Galothel. She radiates magic, not as any collection of items, but apparently as an intrinsic part of her being. (Or perhaps she is under a single, potent, persistent spell.) He quietly passes this information along. Bosabrieln, wanting to learn more about her, starts flirting with her, an act to which she seems receptive.

With the destruction of Clan Deadmoon, the herders and merchants hold a feast. (Obash and Torinn are invited for the village; Torinn is wary of the storm clouds, but agrees.) It is meager but hearty fare: brown bread, goat cheese, goat milk, and weak ale. Bosabrieln tells tales of their exploits against the giants, and then asks Galothel to tell a tale; she tells a story from Anhak, the fable of the King and the Medusa. The court of Good King Vyacheslav was graced by the mysterious Asra bint Nabil bin Zaahir al-Thaban, and over the course of many nights, they fell in love.

While the audience is deeply moved by this tale, the Shields largely miss the end of it, because Bosabrieln is called on urgent business.

At some point during Bosabrieln’s tale, Peren slinks away to scout the mountain. The storm gets worse as he ascends, causing him to tire and inhibiting his progress. He decides to use his obsidian steed to ascend the mountain, using its inherent ability to enter the Ethereal Plane to bypass the storm. The eerie twilight of the Ethereal Plane is unfamiliar to him, but much more navigable than the chaos of the storm. Partway to the top of the mountain, he finds a contingent of six dark elf corpses, clearly mangled by the storm with extreme violence. He happens to notice a partially-buried sack; he drops into the Material Plane to gather it, and finds a potion, a scroll, and a medallion depicting a hand (possibly some manner of holy symbol). He takes them and returns to his steed and the Ethereal Plane.

Flying all the way up the mountain, he finds a stone archway. The storm coalesces into a massive face, and throws lightning at him — this entity cannot affect him on the Ethereal Plane, but it can apparently perceive him — while announcing that she is Dessa, a storm giant keeper of a gateway to an old giant’s tomb. She claims, “I have failed once but I will not fail again!”

Peren, annoyed by her apparent attack, begins taunting her, prompting her to grow angrier and continue throwing lightning at him. He then uses the sending stone to contact Bosabrieln, letting him know there is a situation.

Now knowing that something has escalated, and similarly noticing that the storm is growing worse, Bosabrieln gathers Bezaldooz and Torinn to alert them. He sends another sending to Peren to check on his status, and Peren decides to return to gather them. To potentially appease the “little god” of the mountain, they acquire some milk and cheese, as well as a goat to carry it — Ashowg charges 50gp, which prompts an argument at the somewhat exorbitant price, but Bezaldooz ends up paying it.

It’s roughly the end of Galothel’s tale by the time Peren returns, and with the increased violence of the storm, the villagers begin returning to their homes. It’s quickly decided: Peren’s mount can take Peren and two others into the Ethereal Plane, so Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln will go with him. Galothel, Obash, and Torinn will stay behind and see to the villagers’ safety.

With that, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Peren sojourn into the Ethereal Plane and trek up the mountain. When they arrive, the face coalesces and is still incredibly angry, but Bosabrieln manages to talk Dessa down. She is evidently some manner of storm giant who has metamorphosed into a storm, and she was guarding this place, a tomb of the fallen empire of the giants. The drow managed to penetrate the sanctum, and Bosabrieln promises that they will take care of the situation here if she can see fit to let them pass. Her anger subsides, and she admits she allowed her rage to get the best of her. Returning to the Material Plane, they discuss with her, learning that dark elves have been attempting to gain access to the site for weeks, and they somehow just managed to penetrate the sanctum. Bosabrieln agrees to help, but she admonishes them to avoid looting anything when they enter the tomb; she will can reward them for their assistance if they wish it.

With the storm dying down, Torinn begins the trek up the mountain. Obash stays behind to watch the goblins — and the goat, which ends up being left behind — while Galothel continues her work.

When the Shields reconvene at the mountaintop, Dessa agrees to grant them access through the stone archway.