Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

Truth or Consequences, Part 6

Waterday, Sunsebb 5, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn enter the misty portal through the archway.

They emerge into a welcoming hall featuring a statue of some giant deity. There are archways to the left, right, and center. The deity’s head is held back in laughter, with his arms open and outstretched, a gesture similar to the common benediction given by priests of Pelor. An enormous plaque on the statue is written in Giant, reading, “Enter the Temple of the Storm Giant King, Stronmaus. Announce Stronmaus’s Gift as You Enter and be Joyful.” The three exits also have plaques, similarly inscribed in Giant. The lefthand archway reads, “Hall of Mirth — Receive the Joyful Signs of Stronmaus and let only Annam’s Children See Our True Face;” the righthand archway reads, “Hall of Portent — When Stronmaus Speaks Heed the Omen as You See It;” and the archway straight ahead reads, “Hall of Honor — Watch for the Presage of Annam’s Return and Prepare.”

This place has obviously lain long undisturbed, but fresh footprints are visible in the dust. Most are booted humanoid feet, but a number of the prints are larger, bearing claws. Peren suspects more of the draegloth he saw earlier.

After examining the footprints and the room, the Shields of the Sorrowfell decide to walk to the archway ahead.

The next room is lined with massive statues of storm giant champions — three on each wall — each of which bears a plaque, proclaiming its deeds. The far wall bears two enormous double doors. As Peren and Torinn enter, two of the massive statues fall, but Peren and Torinn are able to catch them and heft them back into place. There is, perhaps, an eerie feelings as the Shields enter the room, but it is quickly dismissed. Torinn listens at the double-doors and hears nothing. As such, Peren and Torinn decide to heft the doors open; after some straining, the stone doors grant access. Faint chanting can be heard down the giant-sized stairs. The Shields move quietly and descend into the dark.

Creeping to the bottom of the stairs, the Shields find a heptagonal ritual space. Six archways lead into additional chambers — tombs by their look. A group of four drow priestesses, surrounded by blue eldritch energy, intone a ritual in the middle of the room. They are surrounded by faint auras of energy and roiling clouds of fiendish spirits. A rotting dark elf wizard, mostly skeleton, stands at the forefront; a living drow wizard stands at the back of the room. Two rotting storm giants flank the lich, while a massive, dark-skinned giant emerges from a tomb adjacent to the door. A large demonic beast, part drow and part spider — the draegloth Peren expected, a vile crossbreed of drow and demon — stands at attention.

Strangely, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn find they are unnaturally terrified of these giants, and refuse to approach. Bosabrieln manages to break whatever grim enchantment hinders Peren with a remove curse spell, and he rushes into the crowd, blades flashing. Bezaldooz follows Peren’s entrance to the fray with a sunburst spell, blinding many of the drow spellcasters and lashing all the foes in the room with radiant energy.

When the dark elves finally gather their wits and react to the intrusion, battle is joined. Although the engagement lasts less than a minute, it is grueling and vicious, one of the toughest battles the Sheilds of the Sorrowfell have fought in recent memory. Bosabrieln lifts the curse from Torinn, allowing him to enter the fray. Peren, having engaged the lich, and binding his magic with a well-placed silence spell, stays on the foul spellcaster. The blind drow magus gropes in the dark, trying to direct the black-skinned giants as they creep forth from their tombs. The chanting drow priestesses summon forth necromantic energy both to heal the giants they’ve raised and to break the bonds on the tombs, raising additional dark-skinned giants.

As Torinn has the chance to enter the fray, Peren gets paralyzed by the lich’s touch surrounded by giants. Torinn sweeps into the throng to assist, and though he fights mightily, Peren is overwhelmed and falls. Bosabrieln picks him back up with a healing word, but he only manages a brief engagement before he is again felled. Bezaldooz continues to hammer the ritual space with spells, although none seem able to penetrate the ritualists’ wards — Bezaldooz surmises they have erected some manner of globe of invulnerability to defend against spells, and they are protected by demonic spirits in case warriors wade into melee. More importantly, Bezaldooz manages to perform countersigils against every spell the lich casts, leaving him vulnerable to blade and spell.

The draegloth and lich both fall, the former disappearing and the latter exploding into dust. As more of these fearsome, black-skinned giants emerge from their tombs, the blind drow magus orders them to flee. He speaks a word of power to teleport from the proceedings, prompting the ritual circle in the corner of the room to thrum with energy. As the giant zombies fall, the ritualists continue their ritual, raising more of these strange giants, creatures almost too large for this tomb.

Torinn has locked the first of these strange giants in melee, never allowing him to gain ground or retreat. When Torinn falls in battle, Bosabrieln manages to revive him. He grabs Peren’s body — the elf ranger having breathed his last during the chaos of the fight — and brings him over to Bosabrieln. With a touch and an intoned word of power, Bosabrieln uses power word heal to fully rejuvenate Torinn, who then rushes back into the melee.

The giants stream through the flickering portal, but Bezaldooz finally breaks through the defense of one of the ritualists and slays her. Torinn leaves the black-skinned giant to begin battling one of the other ritualists, wading through the tide of demonic spirits to engage the drow priestess. Torinn knocks her out with a well-placed axe blow. With all six tombs emptied — four of the black-skinned giants and one more raised storm giant zombie having passed through the teleportation circle — and the Shields pushing through their defenses, the remaining two ritualists flee. Once they do, they flickering connection closes, leaving the last dark-skinned giant in the tomb.

He is quickly slain.

Assessing the damage, Peren is dead and all six tombs were defiled. Four of those strange, summoned giants escaped. The escaped giant zombie, raised after the first priestess was killed, suggests the ritual grew weaker as it lost participants. Still, the Shields want more information. Torinn awakens their prisoner and Bosabrieln attempts interrogation.

As with most of the dark elves they’ve encountered, the remaining priestess does not wish to talk, but once she determines she is actively facing the Shields of the Sorrowfell, her horror is plain to all. She spits blood at Bosabrieln and laughs, saying that they’ve hardly won — the drow have agents on every continent, awakening the giants and seeking their own ends. Raising Piranoth was merely one facet of their plan. Even now, the dark elves who escaped return to their city of Cinlu Tlurthei with their summoned death giants, and from there they seek the Vault of Gnashing Teeth to incarnate one of their gods into the world.

Content with the information they’ve gathered, Bosabrieln gives the sign and Torinn hefts the priestess and begins swinging her. She screams, a shout finally cut short when he makes his way to the wall and dashes her against it, leaving a bloody smear.

After searching the few bodies that remain — recovering a couple of scrolls and some assorted money and gems — Bezaldooz memorizes the sequence on this teleportation circle. Then the Shields head back upstairs.

Before they leave, they decide to investigate the rooms they neglected. Bezaldooz examines the Hall of Portent, finding a room with benches and chairs where moving images hover in the air. Although they are engaging, he learns nothing further of this place from them.

The Hall of Mirth is lined with masks. A single pair of bootprints lead into the middle of this room, but none emerge from the chamber. The Shields decide to leave that room unexamined. They exit.

Dessa is inconsolable when they exit, all-too-aware that the crypt was defiled. She screams and rages, both at her own failings as well as those of the Shields of the Sorrowfell. The storm worsens, and the Shields wisely decide to descend the mountain.

Returning to the village of Tovelka, they find most of the village indoors and asleep. Only Galothel remains outside, meditating in the center of the village. Oddly, she has a smear of dried blood on her shirt; when the Shields approach, she explains some of the goblins started causing trouble. They find a tent in which to seek shelter so Bosabrieln can revive Peren.

When they meet up with Obash, he tells them much the same thing — he was alarmed to find Galothel over him, borrowing his axe. Apparently he fell asleep and the goblins started causing trouble, so Galothel slew one of them. It was one of the combatants; the non-combatants and Hurm da Worm yet live.

It takes Bosabrieln an hour to sing the song of awakening and perform resurrection on Peren. When he awakens, they inform Galothel, Obash, and Peren of all that transpired atop the mountain. They discuss a little of their future plans before everyone decides that it has been a very long day and it is time for sleep.

For the most part.

Bezaldooz and Peren both sleep, particularly given Peren’s bad mood over his defeat upon the mountain.

Bosabrieln stays up talking with Galothel, partially in an attempt to seduce her, and partially to try to figure out what her deal is. She expresses consternation over the prospect of being yet another exotic notch on his bedpost, and she gives him grief for his love poetry and pickup lines being a bit cliché, but they find a fine time and end up sleeping together. He learns the truth — Galothel is not her name, nor is she truly an elf, although she was telling the truth when she said she came from the Hoarfrost Ridge. In actuality, she is a silver dragon.

While her confession is not definitive, it certainly checks out — silver dragons consider themselves friends to the small races, intrigued by short-lived folk such as humans and halflings and dragonborn. Regardless, she seems sincere in her confession. His curiosity and sexual appetites satisfied, Bosabrieln drifts off to sleep as she trances in the evening.

Meanwhile, Torinn goes walking through the mountains despite the rain, drinking from a fine bottle of wine he had lurking in his pack. It’s been somewhere between a half-hour and an hour when he spots four figures flying, illuminated by lightning. When they land, he sees they are some manner of bird-men — short, muscular humanoids with hawk-like features. They do not speak the common tongue, instead communicating in an odd, whistling language, but they give greeting and attempt to communicate with gestures. When he grabs a stick and scratches in the mud, they do likewise, sketching a map of the area. He surmises they’re trying to see if he is lost. They offer food, which he refuses, although he accepts their water. He offers wine to the leader, who tries it and clearly doesn’t care for it. They finally determine that they both understand the “thumbs up” symbol, which they use. As the birdmen are about to leave, Torinn gives them the turquoise bear figurine he obtained from the Jarl’s tomb on Frost Spire. They quickly confer among themselves and produce a strange, iron symbol depicting a pair of Elvish eyes in bas relief. Satisfied, they fly away. Torinn then makes his way back to Tovelka without incident.

The next morning, Peren awakens first, followed by Bezaldooz and then Torinn. Torinn is off to find Galothel. When he does, he finds Bosabrieln, nude, sprawled out on a bedroll; Galothel is also nude, meditating in the middle of the floor. Torinn averts his eyes and apologizes; Galothel gives greeting, then realizes her state and says she’ll be outside in a moment. She emerges in a tunic and asks Torinn what he needs; he wants to know if she can identify the symbol he found last night. She indicates it is the holy symbol of an obscure deity, Fenmarel Mestarine, god of solitude and outcasts, typically unknown to the “civilized” races as he is worshipped by wild elves, lone practitioners, and few others. Torinn thanks her and apologizes for being curt last night when she asked about him, which she says is perfectly understandable, as she was the one prying. She then notes that if he’s having trouble, he should speak to the rest of his adventuring company as that’s what they’re there to do. He turns and quietly says something to his axe, which seems to alarm her. He turns and takes his leave.

Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn meet for breakfast — specifically, the goat and cheese they purchased last night — eventually joined by Obash, although Peren is still sullen and tired from yesterday, and Bezaldooz excuses himself early to tend to some affairs.

When Bosabrieln awakens, Galothel asks him if she should be concerned about Torinn; Bosabrieln explains that his tradition is that his axe is inhabited by the soul of a relative, so he sometimes communicates with it. She notes that his axe is renowned to be a dragon-slaying axe, but Bosabrieln — finally understanding her consternation — reassures her that she has no need to be concerned about Torinn. The two then dress and go to breakfast.

When Bezaldooz slips away, he does so to summon Bonatos. After an hour-long ritual, the creature reappears. Bonatos chides him, then asks about what has occurred in his absence. Finally, at Bezaldooz’s request, he climbs Bezaldooz’s shoulder and turns invisible.

Once the Shields reconvene, they discuss their future plans. Galothel doubts she can protect the ex-slaves all by herself, but she can travel alone quickly; she expects she can make it to Duchy Jepson and recruit some of the guard to accompany her back to Tovelka and escort the ex-slaves back to civilization. The Shields ask her to report to Headmaster Jepson and explain what has occurred. The Shields plan on heading to Pottsdam and trying to pick up the trail of the Caveghost Clan orcs. Given their encounter with the drow here, they will no doubt use their pursuit of Caveghost Clan into the Underdark as a segue into hunting the escaped drow and their death giant allies. It seems as though they will leave Barnabus Sleet hanging for now, as they have more important things to do. Galothel asks if she can assist them in that matter, and Torinn quickly scrawls a note for her to deliver to Barnabus. He shouldn’t be hard to find; he apparently lives in a flying castle, currently parked near Jepson.