Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

Revenge of the Giants, Part 11

??? (c. -150 CY)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna press forward. Opening the doors, they find a hallway stretching to a dead-end to the left and rounding a corner to the right. A set of doors sits straight ahead, and the gem glows and pulls in that direction. Peren, however, expresses a desire to try the righthand passageway, and after some deliberation, the rest of the Shields agree.

The passageway cuts left and immediately terminates at a closed door. After opening it, Peren and Valna note a trap in the floor, probably some manner of spiked floor; they point it out to the rest of the group, and Torinn (having found a set of thieves’ tools in the previous room) disarms it, although not before Peren leaps over it. Proceeding to the door past the trap, they open it and the elves immediately notice another trap. This one appears to be focused around faint, arcane sigils on the floor. Bezaldooz deduces it’s some manner of fire trap and disarms it. Beyond the trap is a brief hallway coiled around a drop down the tower. A staircase leads further up the tower. With the gem still tugging back toward the unexamined room, the Shields decide to go there and then return to the stairway once they have finished.

They open the door and find a library. Three tables sit, each covered by a model of something appearing to be a tomb complex. Bosabrieln surmises this is likely a prototype for Acererak’s legendary Tomb of Horrors; it does appear to be some manner of tomb complex. The Shields also notice a pile of bones between two of the tables; the elves note the bone pile appears to be moving slightly. They additionally note that two of the bookshelves bear skulls; their eye sockets glow with pinpricks of firelight. Bosabrieln feels the stone tug toward the right. Torinn approaches one of the skulls while Peren goes to investigate the bone pile. Hoping to get the element of surprise, they attack; Torinn gives the skull a vicious chop while Peren savagely attacks the bone pile, which rattles and clatters ominously at his approach. As Peren retreats, the spellcasters make short work of the serpentine skeleton. However, Peren is surprised as two translucent warriors step out of the wall — evidently some manner of ghost. As their swords slash at him, he feels weaker, as if his essence is slowly leeching away. The skulls catch fire and fly into the air, cackling and trading quips about what they think their master’s grand design should be called. One unleashes a torrent of flame that blackens the model and singes the Shields of the Sorrowfell, but leaves them still in fighting condition. The combined onslaught of the Shields makes short work of the flaming skulls and the ghosts.

With the enemies destroyed, the Shields begin investigating the room. Bezaldooz sets about searching for books and such, while the others examine the wall. There appears to be a secret door in the bookshelf; they wait and stand guard while Bezaldooz spends roughly a half-hour pouring through tomes. He finds three scrolls — clairvoyance, passwall, and plane shift — as well as a book, History of the Fabled Realm, which covers the early history of the empire of Bael Turath and has been lost for centuries in their native time. It is likely worth something to a collector in 552 CY.

Once they are satisfied, the group opens the secret door and finds a room filled with statues depicting an adventuring party. In the center of the room is a pedestal with a piece of sky-metal. They deliberate for a moment about precautions before Peren just walks in, grabs the sky-metal, and exits without incident. The gem starts pulling out of the room, and the group decides to follow; it leads them out of the room, down the hallway, past the deactivated traps in the floor, and up the staircase.

Upon reaching the top, they find two cupolas joined by an uncovered bridge. The first has a large pit in the middle, matching the shape of the staircase they have been climbing. The elves notice several of the tiles on the first cupola appear to be oozes disguised as stone; they inform the other Shields to keep an eye out. A bridge covered in sigils and runes connect the first to a second cupola, bearing two magic circles and a large, arcane device at the end. A human wizard in red robes works at the device. Without turning, he says, “I offer you one chance to avoid my wrath, you cowardly thieves. Throw yourselves from my tower and I shall allow fate to determine whether you live or die. Otherwise, prepare to truly understand why I am numbered among the greatest wizards of Bael Turath. I am Acererak of the Scarlet Robes, and this is my home!”

The Shields have no desire to throw themselves from the tower. They decide to battle the wizard instead.

Valna steps forward and begins navigating the tower, but the wizard painfully zaps her with a lightning bolt for her trouble. The others begin to move forward as a ghost emerges from one of the magic circles. As it moves to antagonize the group, Peren engages it. It is quickly slain.

Valna then approaches Acererak and banishes him. He attempts to counterspell, but fails, disappearing. Torinn attempts to cross the bridge, but the trap there causes energy to surge through the bridge and slows him down. Bezaldooz disarms the sigils on the bridge, and then the group approaches the machine. As ghosts continue to surge through the magic circles, Peren and Torinn destroy the magic circles; no more arrive. Peren grabs the pieces of sky-metal used in the engine’s construction, and everyone waits for Acererak to reappear.

When he does, they show him no mercy. For all his power, he is quickly slain by the combined might of the Shields. The final blow is struck by Peren, who draws his soul into his helm of seven deaths.

The group makes certain they have everything, and when they are satisfied, Bezaldooz uses the stone to perform the teleportation circle spell to return to Argent.

Obanar asks if their journey was successful, indicating that it has only been a moment since they left; they have returned to Moonday, Brewfest 3, 552 CY. The Shields indicate they were successful, and give him the sky-metal so he can begin work on the Implements of Argent. Their next task is to research the divine engine to determine how best to find and protect the other pieces. Peren and Torinn decide to rest, so they go to find alcohol, while Bezaldooz researches in the Guardian’s Tower library and Bosabrieln and Valna go to pray in the Temple of the Dawn for guidance.

Bosabrieln and Valna enter the temple and begin to pray, clearing their minds and hoping for intercession. As they meditate, a dark presence enters their minds, trying to weaken them. They do not bend, and after additional prayers are offered, the altar is encompassed by a blinding light that resolves in the form of a large, gold dragon. It introduces itself as Edarmirrik, an exarch of Erathis, and asks why they have called upon it. Bosabrieln and Valna explain their mission and that they seek to hold Piranoth at bay. Edarmirrik understands, and explains what they need. Several divine engines were created in the Dawn War. Piranoth’s Bane, also called Klar’ekku, was designed by Erathis, god of invention, and Torog, god of imprisonment. Moradin, god of artisans, crafted the artifact. Designed to imprison Piranoth, it had to be used when he was defeated and unconscious. Once used, Kord, god of strength, shattered the engine into five pieces, each of which flew to a different corner of the multiverse. One piece was found by a champion called Deekon and given to the guardian of Argent for safekeeping in the vaults beneath Guardian’s Tower; this piece is now in the hands of the enemy. The other pieces are not known to Edarmirrik, although the astral giants are known to keep track of the divine engines, and the giants of the Temple of Inchoate Mysteries in the Astral Sea are foremost experts on Piranoth’s Bane. It is likely that they know how to restore the divine engine, as may certain exarchs of Moradin (such as the exarch Torugar). Finally, it is believe by some that Piranoth could be freed with only a partially complete engine; three pieces of the five may be all that is necessary, as long as another deity assists. If the primordial’s prison is unlocked in this mannner, Piranoth would return in a weakened state.

Bosabrieln and Valna thank the elder dragon, who dissipates in another flash of light. They then join Bezaldooz to see what he found.

Being by himself and only having an hour or so, Bezaldooz did not have that much luck, but it seems as though the conversation with the eaxarch was fruitful. The trio goes to find Peren and Torinn and discuss the next move.

Once found, it is clear to all that the Temple of Inchoate Mysteries is the next destination. They go ask Obanar about it; he does not know how to reach it, but when he was younger, the githyanki pirates of Black Harbor typically knew how to get anywhere in the Astral Sea. They should be able to find it; Obanar can send the Shields there. They agree to go on the morrow, after they’ve rested.

The next morning, Godsday, Brewfest 4, after the Shields have breakfasted and made their preparations, they arrive at Obanar’s chambers in Guardian’s Tower. Once ready, they enter the teleportation circle and prepare for teleportation.

They arrive in a teleportation circle within a bustling seaport. The air is warmer and more humid, and beyond the city walls lies a dense jungle. Many races walk around, although there is a relatively high concentration of the gaunt, greenish humanoids known as the githyanki. Three ships sit in the dock; two ships crewed by humans and halflings, apparently battle-damaged and undergoing repairs, and one strange, slender, ornate silver ship. After asking around, they decide to inquire about matters at the nearest tavern, the Drowned Rat.

While the others find seats in the crowded tavern, Bosabrieln inquires with the barkeep about the ship in the port. He explains that it is the Gossamer Ghost, and it is captained by Akrathial, sitting in the corner, drinking. Bosabrieln buys a drink and has it sent to the githyanki.

After drinking for a bit, Bosabrieln goes over to speak with him. Captain Akrathial is a surly, drunken gith who seems to have little interest. He says he’ll transport them for 20,000 gp; Bosabrieln indicates it will take some time to gather than kind of money, and returns to his seat.

Before he can return to the table, a dark-skinned human man stands abruptly in his path. Rather confrontational, the man indicates that he thinks Bosabrieln has the look of someone from the Sorrowfell Plains about him. Bosabrieln agrees; the man asks if he has Scandshar background, and finally asks if he’s a slave-owner or otherwise affiliated with the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. Bosabrieln manages to calm him down, explaining that not only are they against Scandshar’s slave trade, but they recently killed several of the higher ranking members of the Peacocks. The man apologizes and lets Bosabrieln about his business. A few minutes later, he sends drinks over to Bosabrieln’s table.

Once back in coversation, Bosabrieln reports to the others about Akrathial’s price. Bonatos chides him, asking if he’s forgotten how to haggle. Bosabrieln and Torinn decide to return to Captain Akrathial for negotiations.

Akrathail seems less than thrilled to see them, but over the course of negotiations, Bosabrieln and Torinn determine that he is not actually an addled drunk, but a shrewd negotiator trying to appear uninterested. Additionally, he is nervous about something, and the pair manages to get out of him that he hopes to move the Gossamer Ghost and its cargo before the settlement’s mayor, Ruothvach, returns in the Crown of Cobalt. Bosabrieln manages to successfully use this information to haggle him down to 5,000 gp. They agree to be ready to disembark in two hours.

During that time, Bosabrieln introduces himself to the dark-skinned man. He indicates his name is Banda, from the island of ’Ichi. He was not a slave himself; instead, he is a pirate from Libertatia, who are committed to sinking any Scandshar slave ships that enter ’Ichi waters. Bosabrieln indicates that there is an abolitionist group in the Sorrowfell Plains called the Zookeepers, whom he is certain would be interested in assisting. Banda says he would like that, and Bosabrieln says he will tell them about the Libertatian pirates. Banda tells him to tell his allies to sail toward Libertatia with an inverted Scandshar flag, so that they know not to attack. The two part on good terms, and hope the alliance works out.

Meanwhile, Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn find three others — Basse Buck, a male halfling; Duli, a male dwarf; and Vadamerc, a female half-orc — for a game of Three Dragon Ante. Over the course of the next hour or two, Bezaldooz loses 75 gp, but Peren gains 120 gp and Torinn gains 150 gp.

When it’s time to leave, the Shields prepare themselves and head to the docks to board the Gossamer Ghost. The trip is uneventful, but strange — the Shields aren’t quite aware when they leave the mundane sea and enter the Astral Sea, they’re just aware of the gradual changeover to strange, alien vistas. They eventually come upon an ornate cathedral floating in the air. A set of stairs leads down to a single stone island on the surface of the water, the apparent dock for this place. Strange, silvery giants whose lower bodies disappear into vapor stand vigil on the stairs.

Akrathail indicates this is their stop and asks if they have the return trip situated. They say they do, and disembark. He bids them farewell, and the Gossamer Ghost heads into the Astral Sea.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell begin ascending the tall stairs. At the halfway point, the strange giants stop them, and speaking Supernal, tell them to turn back, lest they be attacked. Bosabrieln manages to convince the giants of their purpose, and the giants agree to escort them to the others so that they may make the same argument. Atop the stairs, another group of astral giants agrees to hear Bosabrieln’s plea for assistance. They agree, but warn Bosabrieln that their leader, Zanashu, has been acting strangely today. The Shields are not the first to come seeking information about Piranoth’s Bane; a contingent of drow arrived earlier to speak with Zanashu. The Shields look among themselves and prepare for a fight.

The astral giants lead them into the cathedral proper, into the skywatcher’s dome. A grand chamber, the room is dominated by a set of icons along the walls and a star-filled dome in the ceiling. Another large set of stairs against the back wall leads upward, further into the cathedral. Two astral giant guards stand at the front, while an astral giant dressed as a priest stands at the back. Four drow and a drider — a misshapen, drow-spider hybrid in the form not unlike a centaur — are also present. The priestly giant addresses the drider, saying, “It seems you were correct, Esixtara, the agents of Argent have come to steal the temple’s secrets. Guards, destroy them!”

The Shields immediately notice that the priest’s holy symbol does not appear like a normal holy symbol of Erathis, and they suspect some force is controlling the priest. The drow unleash a volley of arrows at Torinn, but they barely penetrate his armor. Peren then dashes across the room and leaps onto the astral giant priest. The others try to ignore the guards in favor of attacking the drow. When Peren finally gains purchase, he cuts off the giant’s necklace, and its expression seems to change. It roars to its guards that they have been tricked, and that they should attack the drow.

Even dropping shrouds of darkness across the battlefield, the battle quickly goes against the drow as the combined might of the Shields of the Sorrowfell and the astral giants make short work of them.

Once complete, Zanashu thanks them for their assistance. Bosabrieln repeats their request for assistance, as well as the ritual to repair the divine engine. Zanashu goes to find it, during which time the guards apologize for the confusion and introduce themselves as Zanathe and Martarol. Zanashu returns with the ritual, as well as information regarding the five pieces of Piranoth’s Bane. Two are already in the clutches of the fire giants at Flamefall Tower, one is in the possession of a djinn called Kaseem, one is still hidden at a place called Frost Spire, and one is in the mayor’s home in the city of Breelton. He recommends saving Breelton for last, as the frost giants are already on the trail of the other two pieces in Flotsam and Frost Spire. Additionally, he indicates he was forced to reveal the location of Torugar, exarch of Moradin, to the drider; he suspects Esixtara managed to get a message to the other drow already.

Zanashu again thanks the Shields for their help, and as the guards begin dismantling one of the icons apparently corrupted by the drow, Bezaldooz sets about casting a teleportation circle so the Shields can return to Argent.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 10

Sunday, Brewfest 2, 552 CY (50 AN)

Having rested, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna prepare for the next task. The two tasks given to them by Obanar involve finding the “sky metal” so that Obanar may make the Implements of Argent to help them in their journey, and researching the Divine Engine to determine what Piranoth’s cultists plan to do with it and where they might have gone. Deciding to work on crafting the Implements of Argent, they travel to the Guardian’s Tower to inquire with Obanar regarding the sky metal’s whereabouts. He does not know, but indicates that the adventurer Qwor would likely know the location of the sky metal. His ghost haunts the Necropolis in Argent; Rrowthar grants the Shields of the Sorrowfell a key to gain access. The Shields thank the pair and take their leave.

The Shields arrive before the locked gates of the walled Necropolis. Bosabrieln withdraws the key and unlocks the door. The district is shadowed with towering edifices and jumbled, ancient tombs. As the Shields walk through the crumbling streets, an armored humanoid with a glowing black sword — clearly undead by his look — confronts them. He asks what business they have in the lands of the dead. Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn describe their mission and their status as the new Silver Cloaks. The undead warrior is eventually suitably convinced, and allows them to pass.

They continue through the streets until they find Qwor’s tomb. Peren and Torinn bash it open, and the Shields enter. Bezaldooz and Peren help lead the party through the labyrinthine Corridor of Many Chambers, and Peren assists them in spotting the traps outside Qwor’s burial chamber. Within, the ghost manifests, and Bosabrieln explains they are the new Silver Cloaks, and require the sky metal to build the Implements of Argent so they may fight against the primordial Piranoth, currently in danger of awakening. Qwor acknowledges the severity of the situation, but notes the last set of Implements were lost in the Abyss a century ago when a group of Silver Cloaks disappeared there. However, the metal was known to exist in Bael Turath, some 600 years ago, and there is a gem hidden in his sacrophagus that will assist the Shields. Peren manages to pry open the panel and retrieve the gem, and the ghost of Qwor disappears, telling them to take it to Obanar, as he will know what to do. Some hidden mechanism in the tomb then causes the walls in the maze to fall, providing a single hallway leading to the exit. The Shields use it to return to the surface, and from there, exit the Necropolis to return to the Guardian’s Tower.

Once there, Obanar gestures to a magic circle and explains he can use the gem as a focus in a ritual to lead them to the resting place of the sky metal. The gem will lead them to the sky metal, wherever they find themselves, and if used as a focus for the teleportation circle spell, will return them to their own time. Bezaldooz says he needs to prepare the spell, so the group adjourns to wait another day so he can prepare.

The next day, the Shields reconvene at the Guardian’s Tower. Obanar prepares the ritual, reminding them they must be careful to avoid changing that which has already come to pass; the gem will lead them to the sky metal’s resting spot, and they should not range beyond where the gem takes them. He then begins casting the ritual. Towards the end, the gem glows and floats to Bosabrieln’s hand. He accepts it, Obanar completes the ritual, and the circle flares with energy. When the light fades, they are somewhere else.

They are in a grand hallway with statues of warforged wizards bearing staves. An intersection sits ahead of the Shields, with an anteroom and a door beyond that. Peren is immediately suspicious of the warforged statues, and runs up and strikes the one on the far left, despite Bosabrieln’s protestations. The warforged reacts, and the battle is joined. Valna summons a guardian of faith, an entity that appear in a blaze of light and stuns the two warforged wizards. They are quickly slain, and as Bosabrieln follows the tug of the gem to the antechamber, he is surprised as two warforged warriors, replete in plate and bearing greatswords, round the corner. He plays a melody on his viol to calm them, causing them to remain quietly on their pedestals, but is surprised by two more warforged wizards that pop out from alcoves. They shower the bard in ice, although Bezaldooz and Valna sling spells while Peren and Torinn move in for the kill. The two wizards are quickly dispatched. Peren notices that the door ahead is trapped — the floor between them and the door has some manner of magical trap.

While still concentrating on keeping the two warforged warriors subdued, Bosabrieln steps forward. The gem tugs to the left and right, and so Bosabrieln uses his wand of secrets to determine where a secret door might reside. The wand points to the right. The group moves over to investigate, but while Bosabrieln and Peren are discussing their options, the calming spell fades and the two warforged spring at the Shields. However, the two warforged warriors are no match against the sword and spell of the five Shields of the Sorrowfell.

After they are dispatched, Peren gets to work examining the wall with the secret door. He manages to find the seam and open the panel, which leads to a small room with a pedestal at the far end; the pedestal bears a chunk of silvery metal. Peren notices another trapped floor before the pedestal; Bezaldooz deactivates the floor with his magics. Peren then steps forward and obtains the metal. Bosabrieln’s blue gem begins pulling toward the other wall; another wall panel, another trapped floor, another chunk of silvery metal. Once both have been retrieved, the blue gem pulls toward the door ahead. Bezaldooz deactivates this floor, and the group presses forward.

The door leads to a spiraling staircase winding its way up and down a tower. The middle of the spiral forms a pit down into the dark. The gem pulls upward, so the Shields cut left and prepare to ascend.

The tower ascends roughly forty feet before the stairs terminate in a small room. A set of double doors sits in the far wall. Two gargoyle statues, each facing the direction of the far wall, flank the stairs. As the Shields approach, a mouth appears on the doors and proclaims, “You have invaded the home of the wizard Acererak! Proceed in this direction at your own peril!” All recognize the name of the dreaded Acererak, architect of the infamous Tomb of Horrors. Bosabrieln attempts to speak to the doors in return, but they do not respond. He steps forward and attempts to open the doors, and discovers two things: the doors and locked, and that activity activates one of the gargoyles, that belches flame at him. He is signed and injured in the blast. Peren sets to work examining the statues and manages to find the hidden panels to shut them off. He and Torinn then kick open the door.

The room opens into a laboratory; several tables hold equipment and specimens. Windows are set into the lefthand wall and the far wall, looking over a grand, spired city of exotic aspect. Another set of doors sits in the righthand wall. Two large, cloaked, skeletal figures with long, bony claws stand guard in the room, and they move forward to attack. Peren and Torinn rush into the room to engage the undead, while Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna stay in the doorway to throw spells into the room. As Peren and Torinn engage the giant skeletons, three four-armed skeletons armed with scimitars rush out of a corridor from the back left wall. The combination of sword and spell destroys the first large, robed skeleton, and a combination of spells and Torinn’s assault takes care of the four-armed skeletons. Peren maneuvers himself, skirting around the room to outflank the last remaining skeleton, and he and Torinn move to engage. The last is quickly slain.

The Shields search the room, and over the course of about ten minutes, they find a stockpile of residuum. They deign not to examine the hallway from whence the four-armed skeletons came, instead preparing to enter the door ahead, as the gem tugs in that direction.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 9

Earthday, Harvester 27, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln and their companions Amasal and Lady Graunwen awaken without incident. With Imil’caseti dead and a horde of giants ahead of them, they know they will need all the help they can get, so Lady Graunwen expends some of her power to call Mindartis for the day. After deliberation, they decide to enter by stealth; Bosabrieln will Veil the group as orcs and goblins to gain access to the giants’ steading. They march through the rugged mountain terrain. Once they creep close to the giants’ camp, Bosabrieln casts the Veil.

The group takes the long way around, circumnavigating the camp and approaching the side entrance into the steading. Recalling that there was a trap with which they amused themselves by pushing a table into it, the group prepares. Mindartis tries to locate and disarm the trap to no avail, but Bosabrieln is able to do so with minimal effort. They creep inside.

The group decides to return to the throne room, but check the doors around the periphery first. The orcs’ barracks are still empty. The secret door holds a treasure hoard as suspected by Peren — gold, gems, and jewelry — and it appears that their fallen comrades’ personal effects are held here. They shove everything into the bag of holding that belonged to Valna, and continue the search. Many of the rooms bear beds, but nothing too exciting. When they come to a locked door, they force the lock and find it leads to what is likely the hill giant chief’s room, as well as an attached map room. The crude maps and battle plans suggest aspect of giant strategy — earth giants siege Argent and the surrounding settlements, frost giants march on the northerly coastal towns of Andor and Flotsam, and fire giants march on the Sorrowfell Plains. Additionally, a letter from the frost giant jarl suggests some military operation in a place called Frost Spire. The group absconds with the maps as valuable information. Lest the encounter with the earth titan go poorly, they decide to pause so that Bosabrieln may contact civilization to inform them of this information. Bosabrieln attempts a Sending to inform Vianibrar of their gathered intelligence. While he does so, Bezaldooz casts his own rituals — largely Comprehend Languages so he can truly play the part of a goblin. After ten minutes, Bosabrieln finds he cannot establish the appropriately distant connection. They decide to proceed rather than try again.

The group then checks the throne room to find it empty. Finally, they decide to enter deeper into the steading. Smears of blood suggest the path the giants took, down into the bowels of the mountain. The cave to which they track their comrades is intensely warm, illuminated as it is by lava flows, and contains several giants. Two giants of stone, two that appear to be hill giants, and the large, stony visage of the earth titan. A dwarf occupies herself in the corner of the room.

Bosabrieln, disguised as an orc, steps forward and is addressed by the giants. He asks if anything further is required; the earth titan chides him for not knowing his place. During this exchange, Bezaldooz sends an invisible Bono across the room to investigate further. The quasit notes telepathically that the dwarf is currently observing Peren and Valna — they’ve been stripped, and are currently dangling over the lava. They appear dehydrated and having suffered rough treatment, but are otherwise alive. Torinn is nowhere to be seen.

Bosabrieln keeps talking, trying to enter deeper into the room, and when the earth titan starts to become threatening, the party drops the pretense and attacks. At the first sign of the “orcs’” attack, the hill giants wade into combat and are quickly dispatched. Amasal and Mindartis leap into the fray while Lady Graunwen peppers the giants with arrows and Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln sling spells. A third stony giant emerges from behind a pillar and sinks into the rock of the ground; having dealt with its ilk before, they know the giant will return. Largely ignoring the two stone giants and the dwarf, the group turns their attention to the earth titan, focusing their most potent attacks. The combined onslaught of sword and spell quickly fells the titan, and with a roar he explodes into chunks of stone. The remaining giants continue to press the fight, so Amasal and Mindartis enter into the thick of melee with them. Lady Graunwen similarly joins the fray, relying on her agility (and Amasal’s distractions) to avoid the worst of their blows and using the opportunity to command her fellows into battle while firing deadly shots. Once one of the earth giants approaches Bezaldooz, he also finds himself in the thick of melee, but continues to use his small stature to his advantage, avoiding the worst of the giants’ blows. Although the female dwarf is vicious with her knives, Mindartis manages to slay her, allowing him to more fully focus his attention on the giants. Although the third giant continues to emerge from the ground and re-enter it, using hit-and-run tactics, the other two giants do not have the luxury of cover, and are quickly dispatched.

With only the last earth giant remaining, the five adventurers are able to quickly slay it when it re-emerges.

With the giants slain, the group carefully cuts Peren and Valna down, reclothing them. However, Peren and Valna are in no shape to fight. Contemplating their next move, Bono suggests Torinn’s body might be in a public spot as a warning, either the center of camp, or on the main door of the steading. Since they did not enter through the main door, Bosabrieln suggests they maintain the orc disguise, approach the guards out front on the pretense of moving the prisoners, and improvise from there. It is agreed.

They return through the halls of the hill giant steading and open the front doors. A cohort of giants and ogres guards the front. Bosabrieln addresses the guards, indicating the boss gave them orders to move the prisoners. The giant indicates he received no such orders, although Bosabrieln inquires as to whether or not he’s questioning the boss’s orders. Having stepped outside, he sees Torinn’s body hanging over the front door — nude, and accompanied with a crude sign written in Giant, reading, “THUS ALWAYS TO INTERLOPERS.” Bosabrieln indicates the boss wants him cut down so he can be eaten; the giant balks, but Bosabrieln again reminds him these are the boss’s orders, and if he has issue, he can go take it up with the boss. The giant lets them go with grumbling and vague threats.

The group continues under the pretense of a group of orcs and a goblin escorting Peren and Valna, and carrying Torinn’s body. They start to move away from the camp, albeit openly, only taking care to be stealthy once the Veil falls. When they return to the place where they left Imil’caseti’s body, they reclaim it.

They arrive in Argent around nightfall, and the torrians let them through the gates. They return to the Guardian’s Tower to inform Obanar of their trials and success; given the difficulties they had on the road, he bids them to rest in the Hall of Champions for a few days, although there is still much work to be done. Lady Graunwen sends Mindartis back to the Feywild to await her commands again.

The next day, Freeday, Harvester 28, Valna awakens early and travels to the Temple of the Dawn to perform the Raise Dead ritual on Torinn and Imil’caseti. The others rest and recuperate; Lady Graunwen and Amasal plan to leave tomorrow, once Imil’caseti has been restored to life. Bosabrieln ends up speaking with Lady Graunwen at length throughout the day, and the two sleep together that night. When Valna’s labors are complete, and Torinn and Imil’caseti are restored, she rests.

The following day, Lady Graunwen, Amasal, and Imil’caseti prepare to return to civilization, agreeing upon Duchy Jepson as the destination. Bezaldooz will perform the Linked Portal ritual to return them, although he indicates he wishes to escort them, as he has business in Jepson. The other Shields of the Sorrowfell are somewhat suspicious, but allow him to do so; Bosabrieln requests that he deliver the maps and papers to Headmaster Ebenezer, so that he may appropriately prepare for any potential onslaught. Bezaldooz agrees.

The others separate. Bosabrieln and Valna go walking around the city. Peren goes by the lake to fish; unsuccessful, he enjoys the water. Torinn takes his axe, and unarmored, leaves Argent to go into the woods by himself.

Bezaldooz, meanwhile, uses his magics to send the travelers and himself to Duchy Jepson. They immediately set out for the Wizard’s Tower, apparently to talk to the Headmaster, so he bids them farewell to tend to his own affairs. The guards at the teleportation circle apologize for seeming jumpy; there has been trouble in Scandshar from the escaped gladiators known as the Scandshar Six. After receiving that information, he travels to the Wizard’s Tower himself to speak with Remegni the Stoic. Upon entering his office, he informs him that he may have found an appropriate site for Remegni’s purposes — the giants’ steading. Remegni agrees that this sounds adequate, but indicates he is not certain whom he can trust regarding it; he says he will go with Bezaldooz himself. They agree on an hour or so to prepare.

Once he is certain Lady Graunwen and her retinue have left the Headmaster’s office, he enters. He delivers the maps and the information uncovered in the giants’ steading; after a brief conversation, the Headmaster thanks him and he goes on his way.

Once the appropriate amount of time has passed, Bezaldooz returns to Remegni, who offers the necessary components for the Argent Portal ritual. With that, they use Jepson’s teleportation circle to return to Argent.

Bezaldooz and Remegni reappear in the teleportation circle on the mall. They then leave the city, taking the long trek back to the giants’ steading.

Peren sees as they reappear in the circle on the mall. Suspicious, he follows.

After some walking, Remegni comments they are being followed, evidently by one of Bezaldooz’s companions. He just says to follow his lead; he turns around and approaches Peren, introducing himself as Remegni the Stoic, and calling Peren by his common appellation of “Shield-Brother.” When Peren asks, he explains he wishes to do research on the earth giants, and so is heading to their camp for investigation. Peren insists on joining. They agree.

The walk through the wilderness is uneventful. They circumnavigate the giants’ camp, and enter the steading through the side entrance. After investigation of the inside, and content that no one is currently within, Remegni says he will continue his investigations here; they are free to return to Argent.

Bezaldooz and Peren walk back to Argent, camping in the wilderness overnight. Peren asks what they are really doing there; Bezaldooz replies that they are doing as Remegni claimed. Peren suspects he is hiding something, but does not press further. They decide to make up a story about hunting for the other Shields.

Meanwhile, Bosabrieln and Valna realize everyone has left. They learn from one of the torrians at the gate that Torinn left by himself, and Bezaldooz left with a human, followed shortly thereafter by Peren. They thank him, and after deliberation, decide to do nothing unless people fail to return tomorrow.

The next day, Starday, Brewfest 1, Torinn returns early. Bosabrieln surmises that he was communing with his axe, and so does not press the issue. He goes to the Silver Cloak Inn in the hopes of scrounging some alcohol; fortunately, one of the torrians is accommodating and acts as barkeep.

It is around noon when Bezaldooz and Peren return, Peren on his obsidian steed, and Bezaldooz shortly thereafter on his jade serpent. They completely ride past Bosabrieln and his concerned inquiries about where they went and the identity of the man from Duchy Jepson. Instead, they both go to the Silver Cloak Inn to drink. Although Bosabrieln and Valna follow them to the Silver Cloak Inn, they don’t manage to get any further information from Bezaldooz and Peren, although they are convinced that despite the secrecy, all appears to be well.

For their part, Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn start arguing, because they made a bet regarding the possibility of treasure in the secret room in the giants’ steading. It appears that assumption was true, but none of them can find record of the bet in their gambling logs. They finally decide to let it go. For the rest of the day, the reunited Shields continue to rest, ostensibly to prepare for whatever they must do the following day. That evening, Peren and Valna sleep together once again.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 8

Godsday, Harvester 25, 552 CY (50 AN)

Running through the forested mountains, Bosabrieln quickly overtakes Bezaldooz and runs past him. He comes crashing through the underbrush to find an eladrin, clad in robes, sitting on a rock. However, it only resembles an eladrin — glowing slightly and bearing great, feathery wings, it appears to be some sort of angelic being.

It gives introduction as a messenger of Corellon, and waits for Bezaldooz to join them before continuing. When Bezaldooz arrives, it explains that their destinies are not meant to end here. Corellon is allied with Pelor, and they have left a servant of Pelor’s behind at the giants’ steading — Torinn did not make it, but Peren and Valna are both alive and are now prisoners in that wretched place. Soon, a group of three travelers will arrive here. They are lost, and seek to return to civilization. Since Bezaldooz can offer them teleportation, if the Shields agree to transport them back to the south so they may regroup, they will assist them in rescuing their comrades. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln agree, and the angel disappears, leaving them in darkness.

Moments later, three humanoids, filthy and tired, stagger into the clearing. Introductions are made; their leader, Lady Graunwen, was seeking a legendary artifact called the Sammas to cleanse her grove. Along the way, she was captured by infernalists, and was finally rescued by a group of rescuers. However, although the battle against the infernalists went well, the fight quickly turned into a four-way battle as two other factions appeared. Only two of her rescuers — her current two companions, Amasal and Imil’caseti — managed to escape with her.

Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln explain their own current predicament, and the three newcomers agree to assist them if they will aid them in returning to civilization.

The group decides to camp here for the night, returning to the giants’ steading the next morning. When he has a moment, Bezaldooz quietly summons Bonatos, who chides him for allowing him to die.

Watches are uneventful, despite the fact that Imil’caseti perceives the invisible Bonatos and they argue in the night. The next day, the group disembarks. As the assembled party wanders through the forested mountains, however, they note two robed druids hiding behind the trees. Lady Graunwen recognizes their pallid masks and black robes, marking them as servants of the Faceless Thing that has stalked them. They advance and prepare for battle.

As they walk forward, two of the trees behind them rustle to life, and a gaunt, robed figure with no face appears in their midst. Battle is joined.

The faceless figure is extremely disorienting to the senses, causing a mild sense of nausea in observers. Between blinks, it appears to move, teleporting around the field and menacing all with its elastic tendrils. Regardless, the assembled party takes positions. Leaving the Faceless Thing for a bit, the combatants focus on the druids and the treants. Despite the Faceless Thing’s savage tentacles and apparent ability to pull combatants out of time for brief periods, which it uses several times on Amasal, the group manages to make short work of the treants. Everyone is suffering from extreme battle fatigue by the time they manage to defeat the club-wielding, porcelain-masked druids and they can fully devote their attentions to the Faceless Thing.

Amasal manages to draw the Faceless Thing’s attention so that it gives chase to him, ignoring the others. However, it somehow causes him to “skip” through time; when he reappears, he is bleeding on the ground and the Thing has turned on the others. Lady Graunwen summons her Sidhe House guard, Mindartis, who assists her in moving around the battlefield before succumbing to the toxic aura surrounding the monster, forcing him to flee. Imil’caseti, despite heavily cursing the creature, falls in battle and breathes his last on the field. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Lady Graunwen manage to keep away from it long enough to worry away at it with spells and arrows before Lady Graunwen finally aims one well-placed shot through its throat, causing the monstrous thing to dissipate into a greasy, black mist.

Although there is nothing to be done for Imil’caseti, they find that Amasal still lives. Reviving him, they decide to camp here so that the injured may be treated, and so that they can set out fresh for the giants’ camp the next day.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 7

Godsday, Harvester 25, 552 CY (50 AN)

Torinn breaks through the door to find a long, narrow room. Roughly straight ahead is a set of large double doors; the room extends to the right, past where he can clearly see around the corner. A large humanoid made of earth and stone stands between him and the double doors, while two hill giants flank the doors he has just broken. A glowing pool of magma sits against the far wall. Bezaldooz moves forward and throws spells into the room, covering Peren as he dashes in to engage the stone giant. Once he has moved into the room, he notices a large, fiery spirit dancing in the pool of magma, as well as two hill giants with slings at the far end of the room. Not wishing to be trapped in the room and pelted to death with stones, he attacks the stone giant and retreats to the doorway. The huge flame mote hurls a whirling torrent of flame into the doorway, binding Peren, Torrin, and Valna as the ground turns to heated slag. Unable to maneuver, the group hurls spells and weapons at the hill giants to be rid of them, and then Valna prays to Pelor to banish the fire elemental. The creature disappears, and once they free themselves, they move to engage the two giant slingers. Heavily outnumbered, the two slingers fall quickly.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell take the opportunity to regroup, preparing for the eventual return of the fire elemental. When it appears, they use magic and ranged weapons to make short work of the creature, sending it back to the chaos that spawned it.

After resting, the Shields decide to take the smaller set of doors in the room, kicking them open to find a long hallway. The hallway turns left after about sixty feet, and bears a small set of double doors to the right at the fifteen-foot mark. Peren recognizes two wall panels along the length of the hallway hide secret doors. He points them out to the group, and after some discussion, they decide to leave them alone, instead focusing on the double doors. Torinn’s armor senses several creatures within; the Shields organize around the doors, preparing to kick them in and hopefully surprise anyone inside. As Peren and Torinn kick the doors, Bezaldooz opens the secret panel.

The double doors reveal a small room — barracks, by the look of them — with five orc warriors within. The secret panel reveals some manner of throne room, containing six giants, although a seventh may be heard barking orders. A magma fount sits against the wall. As battle is joined in the barracks, Bezaldooz throws a spell into the room and closes the panel. Peren and Torinn rush into the throng of orcs as Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna pelt them with spells. However, the giants in the other room take this opportunity to come around the corner of the hallway and sling stones while the shaman comes through the secret door and begins causing earth tremors to harry the Shields. After the seventh voice in the room shouts something in Giant — Bosabrieln translates it as something along the lines of “Don’t let them into the room!” — the giant shaman retreats, allowing the hill giants to continue throwing rocks. A burly giant with a battleaxe — evidently some manner of chieftain — appears in the doorway, although after the orcs are slain, the Shields make short work of him before he can retreat.

The Shields prepare to assault the throne room, but as Torinn rushes into the room, the shaman reaches behind the throne and pulls a hidden lever. Two large trapdoors open, one of which is underneath Torinn and sends him tumbling fifty feet to the chamber below. He falls, to find himself in a cavern with the earthen humanoids. A much larger earthen humanoid, perhaps twice as large as the others, is speaking with the elementalist who assaulted Argent’s vaults. Seeing Torinn, he says, “Ah, the champions of Argent. How predictable. They are yours to destroy, Earthshaker. Enjoy yourself. I shall give your regards to the frost giant jarl.” He then uses a prepared scroll to teleport out of the room.

From the ground, Torinn tries to fend off the horde of giants; above, the Shields engage the shaman while Bezaldooz fires his portal gun into the abyss below, forming a portal beside Torinn and another in the throne room. Torinn crawls through this portal to return to the throne room, above, but a couple of giants manage to squeeze through it after him. They merge with the rock and disappear, while the shaman causes the ground to tremor, flinging Torinn into the magma fount in the room. Before anyone else can come through the portal, Bezaldooz closes it. The gargantuan giant below them rumbles something in Primordial, which Bosabrieln translates as, “I am coming for you,” and prompts them to slay the shaman before turning their attention to the stone giants who seem to meld with the earth. Bosabrieln manages to trick one into falling into one of the trapdoors, while the Shields slay the other.

As soon as they slay the giant, however, the stone titan and his two soldiers squeeze through one of the side doors in the hallway. Peren, Torinn, and Valna rush to engage them as Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln hold them at bay with spells, but the protracted battle is entirely too much for them, particularly as the other remaining stone-melding earth giant reappears from below. Peren, Torinn, and Valna all fall in battle. As Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln are both locked in melee at the time, Bezaldooz uses Bonatos as bait to allow himself to escape. Bosabrieln, manages to get away from the giant upon to try to large double doors in front of him, but to his horror he finds they are locked. He manages to skirt around the giant, shouting to any who might hear that what he does, he does for the greater good. Both Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln flee back the way they came, starting a panicked flight through the star-lit mountains.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 6

Moonday, Harvester 24, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Torinn, and Valna return to Guardian’s Tower. They are greeted by Rrowthar, who immediately notices Bosabrieln and Peren’s absences. The remaining Shields explain what happened, and he goes to see if there is anything to be done. He returns with Zortharr and Tarthraa, two of the freshly-returned torrian leaders. They indicate their willingness to help repel the giants’ forces. The group then sets out for the south gate of Argent.

As they approach and climb the wall, they see a full army of giants attacking the magical curtain encompassing the city. A section of wall briefly sputters and fades out, and three attackers — a hill giant, accompanied by a humanoid made of rock and an enormous, lightning-fringed lizard Bezaldooz recognizes as a behir — rush in before the rent seals. The giants cheer and continue battering the energy barrier. Zortharr recognizes that one of the giants has a large earthen sphere — perhaps some kind of jar — strapped to his back.

Tarthraa, Torinn, and Zortharr move to descend the wall to engage the attackers, while Bezaldooz and Valna stay on the wall to sling spells at them. They decide the behir to be the biggest threat, and so move to engage it. The behir closes the distance to the wall and breathes lightning upon it. Meanwhile, the hill giant throws the earthen sphere at the gate; it explodes, and while the gate holds strong, the giant moves forward to finish the job of smashing the gate with his club.

The stone man stays out of the thick of battle, instead gesturing and causing the earth to violently shake in the midst of the combatants. The earth around him turns to thick, sticky mud, dissuading any from approaching.

Torinn and the two torrians move to engage the behir, but the behir wheels around to face Torinn and swallows him whole. The behir’s painful grimaces and distending belly suggests that the armor-clad fighter is still alive and trying to cut his way out of the creature’s stomach while the giant lizard attempts to crush him in its gullet.

Bezaldooz activates his portal gun, creating a portal from the top of the wall to the ground. He hops through to better engage the behir and giant on the ground; after Bonatos moves to attack the giant, the giant smashes the quasit to a bloody pulp. After taking another potshot from the wall, Valna follows suit.

Ignoring the giant and the earthen humanoid, the group largely focuses on the behir, trying their best to avoid its thrashing legs and crackling lightning breath. After sustaining several grievous wounds, the beast suddenly lurches forward as Torinn rips free from its gullet in a shower of gore. The beast topples and falls, and the group moves to deal with the earthen humanoid.

As they engage the elemental, Obanar’s preparations appear to be complete, as the energy field around the city flares and begins throwing fireballs into the approaching giant army. They turn and retreat in the chaos. The attackers at the gate continue their assault, and with difficulty, the group finally slays the elemental.

Finally, exhausted and bleeding, the Shields and their torrian allies turn on the giant who has been steadily battering the gate. Under attack, the giant turns and defends himself, swinging wildly at his attackers, but to no avail. Despite their overwhelming fatigue, the defenders manage to defeat him and successfully defend the gate. Having consumed essence from the behir during the fight, Bezaldooz spills some of his blood to summon Bonatos again.

Returning to Guardian’s Tower, the Shields find Obanar in the map room, having fully engaged Argent’s defenses. He gives them the opportunity to rest, and assists them in procuring the incense and unguents necessary to enact the raise dead ritual. Valna begins the ritual with Bosabrieln, then Peren. After a long and harrowing sixteen hours, with the rituals lasting well into the night, an exhausted Valna falls into a deep sleep.

It is the following afternoon when everyone has convalesced enough to return to the trials at hand. Obanar suggests the Shields follow the giants’ supply lines to their commanders to retrieve the stolen piece of the divine engine and determine who is behind these attacks. The Shields agree to do so, and head out through the south gate.

The Shields successfully track the fleeing giant army, once running into a hill giant patrol but managing to successfully convince the patrol to let them pass. It takes the better part of a day to arrive at the camp, with night falling as they approach; the Shields successfully circumnavigate the camp and arrive at the wooden compound at the far end, built into the side of a hill.

The Shields try to sneak to the main door, and while Bosabrieln, Peren, and Valna manage to stay in the shadows, Bezaldooz and Torinn make a bit too much noise. The ogre guards and the hill giant by the door hear them and the ogres move to engage. The hill giant throws the door open and a large rage drake comes bounding out to engage the party. Bezaldooz quickly disengages so he can fling spells from a safe distance while Peren moves out of the shadows to engage the ogres.

Battle is swift. One of the ogres falls before sword and spell, and the second ogre and the rage drake fall within seconds of each other. The hill giant looks ready to retreat inside and warn the others, but the Shields move forward and slay him before he can alert the compound.

After resting, the Shields move into the compound. Finding nothing of value on the guards or in the entryway, they approach the door. Hearing voices beyond, the Shields decide on a plan: to catch the giants within off-guard, Bezaldooz will summon a demon to possess the hill giant they just slew, send him into the room, attack whomever is closest, and use the confusion to leap into the room.

Once they drag the giant’s corpse to the door, they ready the preparations and Bezaldooz and Bonatos summon a demon, raising the giant as Peren and Torinn open the door. This chamber is much larger, featuring braziers in the corners of the room and a large, inscribed magic circle on the floor. A large curtain dominates the back portion of the room. A rage drake sits near the door, and three hill giants crowd in the room, talking and eating. The giant staggers into the room, interrupting the conversation, and Bezaldooz uses ghost sound to mimic the giant’s voice. He staggers at one of the giants, swings at him, and then collapses, dead again.

In the confusion, Peren and Torinn rush into the room to engage the rage drake while Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna position themselves to sling spells at the giants. A hill giant, dressed as a shaman, suddenly appears in the magic circle, causing an earth tremor before disappearing. As the chaos of battle strikes, two of the giant soldiers fall quickly. The group keeps the savage rage drake in check so that it may be quickly slain. As the curtain swings aside, revealing the giant shaman, the group largely ignores him to make short work of the giant wielding a sling.

Turning their attention to the giant, he finally says, “Please, no hit.” On guard in case he becomes aggressive, the Shields stop attacking and wait to see what he has to say — he makes a beeline for the door, opens it, and shouts in the Giant tongue that intruders have breached the compound. As Peren and Torinn rush for him and Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna pelt him with spells, he orders the giants inside to shut and bar the door, then turns to face his attackers. He is quickly slain.

The Shields rest, then search the area. Finding nothing of value on the giants, they search the shaman’s room, finding a potion of vitality and 2,000 gp hidden in the furs upon which he slept. Ignoring the north door they now know to be barred, they check the door to the west. A small room leads to another western door, but Peren notes the middle of the room contains some sort of hanging jaw trap. To test it, the Shields move the giant shaman’s table, pushing it into the room and seeing this bear trap-like contraption drop from the ceiling and chew at the table.

Once they’re satisfied, Peren tells Torinn to start chopping down the door so they can move further into the compound.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 5

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.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 4

Sunday, Harvester 23, 552 CY (50 AN)

Having retired to Obanar’s sitting room in the Guardian’s Tower, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna proceed to discuss the things that have transpired. After serving refreshment, Obanar explains that the Shields of the Sorrowfell are currently in the city of Argent, the haven of the Champions of the Silver Cloaks. An abandoned ghost town, he and Rrowthar are Argent’s sole remaining residents. The Silver Cloaks were representatives of the construct known as the Paragon Compact. In the aftermath of the Dawn War, the deities made as series of deals with mortals, crafting the Paragon Compact. Since that time, the civilized nations have sent their representatives to Argent to uphold the Compact; any world-ending threats, like demons, aberrations, primordials, and the like, were the purview of the capable agents of the Silver Cloaks. However, fewer and fewer nations sent their representatives; the human empire of Nerath was one of the last holdouts, but even they have sent no one in nearly a century. The Shields inform Obanar that Nerath fell fifty years ago, which explains much. He continues his tale and answers their questions, explaining that giants have been uniting in numbers not seen since the Dawn War. They have marched on Argent, and Obanar believes they will march on key locations in the world. He further suspects that they are their elemental allies are attempting to free a caged primordial. Indeed, the elementalist that stole something from a vault took a piece of the divine engine the deities used to imprison the Primordial known as Piranoth, typically revered as the creator of earth, fire, and frost giants, and master of the accompanying elements. This threat must be stopped; the giants’ march must be stopped, and the primordial cannot be freed. Obanar will explain what is involved on the morrow; for now, the Shields should rest. Rrowthar will show them to their chambers in the Hall of Champions.

Upon awaking, Rrowthar contacts the Shields and leads them back to the Guardian’s Tower to discuss future events. Obanar explains that he and Rrowthar will remain to watch over the city and make any necessary preparations for the coming events. He explains that three options currently present themselves: the Shields can attempt to track down the torrians who once acted as stewards of the city, they can acquire the “sky metal” so that Obanar can craft the implements of Argent that will help them in their travels, or they can track down the other pieces of the divine engine that imprisoned Piranoth. Obanar recommends they begin by finding the torrians so that he can start restoring the city; the Shields agree to this course of action. Obanar says he can prepare potions so that they can view what happened when the torrians left many years ago, and he leaves to do so.

After a few minutes, Obanar returns, instructing them to drink the potions in the field outside the torrian proctor’s house. The Shields depart, and when they find themselves in the field, they drink the potions.

Immediately, everything changes. A mist springs from the ground, and as the Shields merge with it, they find themselves amidst the ghostly forms of Argent as it once was. Dozens of torrians stand in the field, waiting expectantly at the proctor’s house. The door finally opens, and a torrian figure the Shields automatically recognize to be Thror, the proctor of Argent, appears. Thror begins speaking of how Argent has faded, its guardians and champions scattered, but somebody named “Physandos” has offered them a home in the Sheltered Woods, to the west of the Plains of Chaos. However, despite the ravages of time on the vision, the Shields notice that all is not right — Thror is wearing a signet ring of an ancient cult dedicated to Oublivae, the demon queen of ruin and destruction, and the ruler of the Barrens, the 100th layer of the Abyss. Indeed, as he speaks, he is subtly forming arcane gestures and mesmerizing the crowd until they agree to anything he suggests. As dark influences begin weaving through the crowd, the torrians agree to leave, and the vision ends.

Curious to learn more about the vision, the Shields decide to investigate the proctor’s house. After searching for about an hour, they find a secret door that they note to be locked and trapped with some manner of arcane trap. Working carefully, they manage to disarm the door and unlock it. They sift through papers to learn that Thror was accepting payments of gold from Physandos, and Thror was apparently hiding some grand plan from the rest of the torrians. The papers are tainted by dark magic, suggesting that Thror was enticed by gold and fell powers to pledge himself and his people to Physandos and leave Argent. The magic definitely seems demonic in origin.

The Shields return to Obanar with this information. He indicates he knows the location of the Sheltered Woods, and can send them there, but they must be prepared to use the Argent Portal ritual to return. The Shields acquire some alchemical reagents to enact the ritual, and then allow Obanar to cast his own ritual to send them to the torrians’ new home.

As the scene shifts around them, the Shields appear in an ancient magical circle in a clearing in a deep wood. A swiftly-moving river flows to the east, and the smoke and sounds of a settlement rise beyond the river. Peren quickly spots several torrians hiding behind large boulders, and after some brief discussion, Bosabrieln attempts to parley with them. The torrians begin to whisper madly before chanting, “For Physandos! For Physandos! For Physandos!” Suddenly, battle is joined.

The pair of torrians on the near side of the bank move from behind their boulders to engage the Shields. A guard on the far side of the bank tries, and fails, to leap across the river, while two more torrians use slings to hurl rocks across the river. As the torrian in the river is swept to the south, Peren and Torinn move to engage the others while Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna attack them with spells. Making short work of the two torrian guards, the water-logged torrian manages to crawl out of the river only to be swarmed by the Shields. Despite his combat prowess, the torrian is unable to withstand the onslaught of five trained combatants, and is quickly defeated.

As the Shields have been weathering the attacks of the torrian slingers, Bezaldooz activates his portal gun and creates a set of portals bridging the river. The Shields quickly use the portals to cross the river, and then engage the stealthy torrian slingers. As the first is quickly dispatched, the second begins retreating north. Peren and Torinn move to engage, but Torinn accidentally walks into a hidden arcane trap — a wall of force that dumps him into the river. He manages to leap back onto land, shaken but unharmed, and rejoin the battle. As he and Peren corner the last torrian, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna cast spells at the creature from a safe distance. Like the others, it is quickly dispatched.

After resting, and finding nothing valuable on the torrian guards, the Shields of the Sorrowfell advance to the settlement to the east. They spy a village populated entirely by torrians, although all members — men and women, adults and children — share in tasks equally and do not engage in conversation as they work. Bezaldooz attempts to sneak closer to get a better look, but is quickly spotted by one of the torrians.

Suddenly, every torrian in the village has stopped working and is looking at the intrusion.

An aged torrian steps forward and introduces himself as Gruthow, the leader of this village. Bosabrieln steps forward to parley and explains that they have traveled from Argent to return the torrians to their ancient duties. At the mention of these ancient oaths, the torrians seem agitated. The Shields quickly determine that they seem off. They are broken and cowed, speaking as if they are being monitored and generally acting as slaves expectant of the lash.

However, the line of questioning is quickly broken as Gruthow breaks into a strange smile, emits a strange, shrill voice, and begins asking about Obanar. He reveals himself as Physandos, and asks if they would wish to join his band of followers. As “Physandos” speaks, he jumps from villager to villager, alerting them that he is some manner of potent demon, definitely manipulative and possessive, and likely insane. As Bosabrieln presses in his questions, Physandos gets more shrill, threatening to destroy the torrians before releasing them. As the torrians begin to advance as one, the Shields engage in a manner of exorcism ritual to drive the demonic force back. The clash of wills is draining to them, but they manage to convince the torrians to fight back, finally sending Physandos fleeing from them in a black cloud of demonic energy.

Gruthow asks the Shields to finish this business by following Physandos and slaying the creature. They agree, beginning the trek into the nearby mountains from the village.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 3

Sunday, Harvester 23, 552 CY (50 AN)

Rrowthar leads the Shields of the Sorrowfell through a copse of trees and into the narrow streets of a much more decrepit portion of the city. As they round a corner, they hear a booming voice call out, indicating that some manner of work is complete. They notice, floating above the street, some manner of rift, pulsing with elemental energy. As the Shields move forward to investigate, a large humanoid wearing animal hides and wielding a stone quarterstaff emerges, slinging magics. Peren and Torinn immediately move to engage and flank him, knocking him down and keeping him on the defensive. He is swiftly joined by four large, hulking things evidently made of living magma, and a small horde of five creatures apparently made of animate rubble. Although the giant is swiftly dispatched, the elemental things are not. The battle against them is protracted; most of the Shields are on the defensive — Bezaldooz slinging spells as Bosabrieln sings battle-songs and Valna mutters prayers — with Torinn engaging one of the creatures just beyond the reach of the others and Peren dashing across the battlefield to harry the various elemental foes. One of the magma-things and most of the rubble creatures fall quickly, but it takes a sustained flurry of steel and spells to fell the rest. All the while, the elemental rift gutters and pulses with energy.

After the creatures are slain, the Shields search the area, and in addition to some gold in the giant’s beltpouch, they find a ritual for creating the elemental rift. Bezaldooz uses the information to close the rift, and then the Shields have a moment to rest.

Catching up to Obanar at the Guardian’s Tower, he indicates that the city’s attackers are penetrating the vaults beneath the Tower. While he reinstates the wards, would the Shields be able to stop them from doing whatever they are doing? The Shields agree to this course of action, and descend with Rrowthar into the vaults below the Guardian’s Tower.

The Shields arrive to find the door to the vaults ajar, revealing three creatures made of frost and a mammoth earth elemental. They quickly dispatch the frost creatures and defeat the earth elemental, taking the opportunity to regroup and position themselves outside the door to the next area of the vaults. Upon breaching it, they note four of the frost creatures in the next room. Peren notes nearly imperceptible sigils etched into the floor, apparently part of some arcane trap. The walls to the left and right of the room are energy barriers, and two of the frost creatures are trapped beyond them. As Peren and Torinn enter the room, they note that their footfalls become heavier and they are less mobile. The group quickly destroys the four frost-things in the room, and then they decide to experiment with the two trapped frost creatures. Peren throws a javelin and notes that it is sucked through the energy barrier when it strikes it. Despite the redirect, the javelin still hits its target, killing the frost creature. Bezaldooz vanquishes the other with a magic missile.

Too large to safely navigate the trapped floor, Rrowthar stays back while the Shields gather around the door. When they force it open, two flaming humanoids armed with scimitars and shields — similar to the humanoid creature they encountered in the forest antagonizing Rrowthar when they first met him — are waiting on the other side. Two of the frost creatures approach behind them. Fire flares out of the fiery humanoids’ shields, filling the area with flame and causing much of the party to stumble towards them. Rrowthar, unfortunately, staggers into a trapped glyph and is blown across the floor from glyph to glyph until he is thrown through the energy barrier and trapped in one of the cells. Peren manages to maneuver past the fiery humanoids and out of the slowing effect of the room, allowing him to position himself behind the humanoids and set up a flanking position. Seeing an opportunity, he kicks one of the humanoids off-balance into one of the trapped sigils, sending it careening into one of the energy cells. Torinn drops his weapon and grabs the other humanoid, throwing him onto a glyph and similarly blowing him into a trapped cell. The two frost creatures are quickly dispatched.

Regrouping, Bezaldooz uses his portal gun to open a gateway into the cell holding Rrowthar, allowing his escape. Examining the room, the Shields note magic circles carved into the floor. These circles create energy barriers, beyond which things are hazy and indistinct. There appears to be something of indeterminate shape suspended in each barrier. As the Shields round the corner, they see a human — robed, with a circle tattooed around his eye — enacting some ritual on one of the magic circles. Quickly determining that he is attempting to breach the circle, they try to stop him. However, despite a resounding blow from Peren’s sword, he manages to finish his incantation and grab a strange chunk of gold and silver revealed in the magic circle. He shoves this into a bag — evidently a bag of holding by the size — and turns to face his attackers. The Shields quickly overwhelm him, but he apparently has a contingency plan in place — when he is first wounded, he disappears.

The Shields investigate the scene, and finding nothing further, begin to exit the vaults. They encounter Obanar, who congratulates the Shields on their work, indicating that Argent’s defenses are again secure. He invites the Shields to join him for refreshment and respite, and to talk of the day’s events. They agree, but first hope to dispatch the fiery humanoids trapped in the energy cells. Bosabrieln has the idea that perhaps they should parley first, to see if these creatures know anything. The group agrees, and Bosabrieln approaches to speak to them. As he addresses them, however, they notice that he has advanced just a little too close to them; they respond by flaring their shields, scorching Bosabrieln and drawing him into the energy cell. As they begin attacking him, Torinn steps onto a trapped glyph and launches himself into the cell. The others cast spells on the trapped creatures until Obanar can finally drop the wards on the vault, opening the energy cells. Peren rushes into melee, and with the combined might of the Shields of the Sorrowfell, the flaming humanoids are swiftly defeated.

With the Tower secure, the group ascends to Obanar’s sitting room to discuss the day’s events.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 2

Sunday, Harvester 23, 552 CY (50 AN)

After some deliberation, the Shields of the Sorrowfell decide to camp in the forest, resting while Bezaldooz transcribes the ritual to form a portal to Argent into his spellbooks. Rrowthar rests with them.

As late afternoon rolls onward, the Shields find themselves ready to disembark. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln combine some of their components to cast the ritual, and Bezaldooz spends ten minutes arranging the strange extracts and powders as necessary. At the end, an arcane gateway blazes forth, providing passage to Argent. With Rrowthar, the Shields of the Sorrowfell step through the gate.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell and Rrowthar arrive in a glowing circle, carved into the tiles of the ground before them. They are in some manner of walled courtyard, flanked by statues of heroes long gone. Behind them is a heavy set of stone doors; before them is a pool of water. At the far end is a raised platform bearing a robed female statue with an outstretched, glowing hand. Between the circle and the pool stands an ancient man, clad in robes and bearing a quarterstaff. Evidently Obanar, he greets the Shields and welcomes them to the city of Argent. As he does, the doors behind the Shields crash and shudder as something pounds against them. Obanar mutters that the gate will hold.

Rrowthar quickly makes introductions, and Obanar explains that there will be time to discuss matters once the group gets to a place more conducive to polite conversation. However, he is interrupted by a spray of stone as two great holes bore upward from the ground. Two large, bullet-shaped creatures, recongizable to several of the party as bulettes or “land-sharks,” emerge. The Shields immediately descend upon the creatures, while Obanar and Rrowthar rush across the mall to the female statue with the glowing hand. Obanar begins performing some manner of magical ritual over the statue.

Meanwhile, Bosabrieln and Bezaldooz keep the bulettes at bay with spells while Peren, Torinn, and Valna descend upon one of the beasts. As they do, a large, serpentine lizard emerges from the tunnels left behind by the bulettes and begins advancing upon Obanar. Torinn immediately recognizes the beast as a basilisk, capable of turning enemies to stone with its gaze, and shouts warning to the rest of the Shields. As the basilisk advances upon Obanar, Rrowthar turns to confront it.

As the Shields continue to fight the bulettes, three men of stone emerge from the ground and join the fray. The Shields largely ignore them, attempting to fight off the bulettes, and finally bringing down the first of the landsharks. Rrowthar snarls at the basilisk, driving it back and forcing it to hesitate before striking, allowing Obanar to continue his magical works. While keeping the largely uninjured bulette at bay, the Shields focus on the stony humanoids. Rrowthar manages to keep the basilisk busy while avoiding its lethal gaze, particularly as the Shields manage to blind the beast with potent magics. Finally, as the second bulette enters into melee with the Shields, they slay the creature, sending it toppling to the ground. As the tide of battle turns, the Shields manage to slay the stone-men as Obanar completes his ritual, driving off the force battering the gates and sealing the bulette tunnels granting access to Argent. As the Shields are about to engage the basilisk, Rrowthar leaps into melee and begins ripping at the thing with his claws, while Obanar makes short work of it with an icy blast and a crushing telekinetic grip.

As the Shields recuperate, Obanar explains that Argent is under attack. With a wave of his hand, the reflecting pool forms a map of Argent. An angry red dot pulsates over a great tower in the city. Obanar explains that invaders have entered the city, and he must restore the protective wards by accessing the Guardian’s Tower. Meanwhile, Rrowthar will lead the Shields to the invaders so that they may be repelled and the city saved. The Shields agree, and take a moment to gather themselves before delving deeper into the city.