Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Revenge of the Giants, Part 1

Earthday, Harvester 20, 552 CY (50 AN)

Their missions complete, the Shields of the Sorrowfell and the Mourners of Saerun Road return to the Purple Man village. The Mourners of Saerun Road begin taking their leave, saying their farewells to the purple tribesmen. They then thank the Shields for their assistance and similarly say their farewells. Valna takes the opportunity to hug each as they leave, and Peren takes the opportunity to flirt again with Prulove Soundinghorn of the Mourners. She rebuffs him, suggesting that he “ought to stick to [his] swords,” and casting a knowing glance at Valna, she further suggests that “the best way to get over someone is not to get under someone else.”

After farewells are exchanged and the Shields’ sending stone is returned, the Mourners of Saerun Road filter out of the room and presumably make for the portal chamber to return to Sigil. The Shields of the Sorrowfell, however, decide to stay a little bit longer, no doubt partially fueled by the desire to participate in the villagers’ festivities over the newly-cleared top level of Skyfall delve.

While the Shields and the villagers are feasting and drinking, Bosabrieln takes the opportunity to speak with She of the Dying Light. He learns that her mother was the previous leader of the village when they lived in the woods to the east; when a large ooze, impervious to their weapons, attacked the village, her mother died in the conflict and the villagers were forced to flee. She further explains that she, as with many members of her family, are considered chosen by the Sun, as marked by their flaming red hair and predisposition to psychic talent. When Bosabrieln mentions that the Shields have previously met a Bone Man in their travels, she warns him about cavorting with the other colors — particularly Bone Men — and she also explains about the fourteen races of men. She subsequently learns that the colors of dolm, jale, and ulfire do not exist where Bosabrieln lives.

As Bosabrieln tells her about himself, she seems fascinated by the benign deities and commonplace magic of his world. Conversation continues until Bosabrieln makes the suggestion that they relocate to elsewhere, and she suggests they go for a brief walk through the mountains.

Several of the others note they do not return until late the next morning.

During the night, Bezaldooz takes the opportunity to examine Peren’s helmet — The Helm of Seven Deaths — and try to break the curse on it. After about an hour, he is successful, and Peren can again remove the helmet.

With celebrations ended the next day, the Shields take their leave and approach the portal to return to Sigil. When the guard concentrates and the gate opens, the Shields are pleased to be back in relatively civilized lands.

After speaking with guards and the receptionist at the Planar Trade Consortium offices, they are informed that Estevan is in the office, and they are sent to him. He congratulates them on their job well done, gives them an astral diamond as payment, and tells them that he will be in touch if he requires work done in the future.

With the day ahead of them and no demands on their time, the Shields decide to go shopping in the Market Ward before bedding down at the Silver Tankard in the Temple Ward. The innkeeper, the angel named Aratha, remembers the Shields, and says that she will waive their fee if Bosabrieln will grant a performance later in the evening. He agrees.

While Bosabrieln is preparing for the night’s concert, the rest of the Shields rest and eat in the inn’s common room. Although the others certainly notice him, Peren is particularly interested in the man cleaning the bar; despite his vapid expression, he seems somewhat interested in the Shields. He finally sits with them and introduces himself as “Scruffy,” the janitor. He notes that the Shields are known, even in Sigil, and he cryptically notes that “the first taste is free.” When the Shields ask for clarification, he purchases them drinks and offers to drink to their health. Peren refuses, but Torinn readily drinks his drink. Bezaldooz also deigns to take a drink, and Peren definitely suspects something is afoot when Bezaldooz finds himself sluggish and unable to walk. For that matter, Torinn seems particularly inebriated given the amount of alcohol he had. After Torinn helps Bezaldooz upstairs to his room, and Valna has similarly retired to bed, Peren speaks with Scruffy, determining that he is offering his services. The implication is that he is some manner of poisoner or assassin. Peren agrees to take him on.

Meanwhile, Bosabrieln continues his performance well into the evening. As the crowd dies down, he finishes and goes to speak with Aratha. He talks a little of traveling, and asks about her; she explains that she was once an angel of the goddess Sune on the world of Toril, but that she began questioning her parameters and fell. All things considered, however, she left her service on good terms.

As things progress, both parties decide to retire to Bosabrieln’s room. Aratha pauses first, whispering something to one of the staff, and then the two go upstairs. When they arrive in Bosabrieln’s room, they find that a spread of food has been prepared. Then they retire for the evening together.

The next morning, everyone awakens and breakfasts in the common room. As the rest of the Shields inquire about what happened last night and who is the strange person breakfasting with them, Peren introduces the group to Scruffy and indicates he will be adventuring with them for a time. Once everyone is satisfied, they leave the Silver Tankard and return to the alleyway to return to Scandshar. As they approach, Bosabrieln presents the desert rose and the portal opens, returning the Shields to the Sorrowfell Plains.

Once the Shields arrive back in Scandshar, they discuss what to do. Bosabrieln indicates he wishes to send a message to Vianibrar, while the others wish to look for work. As such, Bosabrieln goes to find a quiet little watering hole where he can perform the Sending ritual, while the rest of the Shields go to find Scarlet Jax in the hopes that she may have some manner of paying job for them. Bosabrieln gives the rest of the group the other sending stone in case contact is required.

Bosabrieln finds an appropriate spot and casts the ritual, sending a message that he is back in Scandshar and wishes to speak with Vianibrar. Shortly thereafter, he is approached by three figures — Scarlet Jax and two of her “boys.” She indicates that she missed his show the other night, and she asks if the offer of a copper piece for a kiss still stands. He agrees to this, although he tells her that there is no charge for her. They kiss for a little while, and Scarlet uses the opportunity to attempt to unfasten the choker from around Bosabrieln’s neck, but he notices the action and grabs her hand. She shrugs and says that one cannot blame her for trying. She then takes her leave, although before she exits, Bosabrieln invites her to the show he plans on performing tonight.

Meanwhile, the Shields of the Sorrowfell arrive at the Troll and Fish. Scarlet Jax and two of her associates are missing. They take seats and order ale. Peren addresses the large goliath at the bar, asking if Scarlet Jax is around and if there is anything that needs to be done, as the Shields are in search of work. He answers that she is not around, and they would have to wait for her to return.

After a bit of waiting, Bosabrieln receives a mental response via Sending from Vianibrar, saying, “I am in Duchy Jepson. I believe the Headmaster wishes to speak to the lot of you when you have a chance.” Bosabrieln then uses his sending stone to contact the rest of the Shields of the Sorrowfell, relaying this information.

Satisfied that they will find work elsewhere, the Shields of the Sorrowfell take their leave of the Troll and Fish and begin walking to rejoin Bosabrieln.

As Bosabrieln waits for his companions, Ekaterina enters the bar and joins him. They speak briefly about events — Ekaterina has been doing well, although she has been keeping her head down after the Shields’ business with the Menagerie of Peacocks — while waiting for the rest of the Shields to arrive.

As the Shields are walking the streets of Scandshar, a carriage pulls next to them. The door opens to reveal the Lady Léopoldine de Rais, whom Peren saved during the primero game. She says she wishes to speak with him alone, and although the Shields are wary, they agree. She agrees to drop Peren wherever they are meeting. The rest of the Shields continue to walk across town while Peren rides.

In the carriage, Lady de Rais indicates that she owes Peren her life, and not wanting to be in anyone’s debt, she offers to help him and his fellows in any way she can. She gives him a point of contact and drops him off at the inn where the rest of the Shields are meeting.

Reunited, Ekaterina is introduced to Scruffy and the group makes certain that everyone is fully aware of all the information at hand. Bosabrieln explains that the Headmaster wishes to speak with them in Duchy Jepson, implying that he has some manner of task for them. With nothing further to do in Scandshar, the group decides to leave for Duchy Jepson. Before leaving, Bosabrieln asks the barkeep to contact Scarlet Jax and let her know that his show will be relocated to Duchy Jepson.

The group transports by magic circle to Duchy Jepson. Upon arrival, they are treated as old celebrities, given ready access to whatever they need. The Shields make their way to the Wizard’s Tower to meet with the Headmaster, noting from a distance that the sailing ship hanging from the side of the tower is gone. Along the way, they are stopped by a lovely young woman with a black parasol. She indicates that Magister Remegni wishes to meet with Bezaldooz at his earliest convenience. The rest of the Shields inquire about the young woman, about whom Bezaldooz feigns ignorance, before they continue to Headmaster Jepson’s office.

When they arrive, they give greeting, and Bosabrieln presents the Headmaster with another talking gecko, this one from the ruins of Carcosa. The two creatures begin communicating, and the Headmaster seems amused. The Shields also ask about the missing ship, and the Headmaster indicates that Adeptus Spellweaver is on an errand — apparently, there is some manner of transplanar slave trade perpetrated by the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. It stretches to Rockulon Prime, and the Shields’ acquaintence Dr. Dagger Nazareth was apparently helping Spellweaver reach the place.

The Headmaster is also introduced to Scruffy, and seems to examine him for a long while.

With pleasantries out of the way, the Headmaster gets down to cases. He explains that giants have been sighted in distant settlements in the Hoarfrost Ridge. They appear to be mobilizing en masse. Reports even suggest that some distant settlements have been attacked. The Duchess Jepson and the Wizard’s Tower have no particular reward in mind for getting to the bottom of these events, but aiding the inhabitants of the Sorrowfell Plains will no doubt bring its own reward. Also, salvage rights are a distinct possibility.

During the conversation, Bezaldooz attempts to sneak away to visit with Magister Remegni, but is spotted as the rest of the Shields wish to know what he is doing. He explains to the Headmaster that he has business with Magister Remegni, but says he will stay.

With the Shields agreeing to this endeavor, they say they will probably start investigating on the morrow. Bosabrieln, however, has plans to put on a grand spectacle that evening. The Headmaster recommends the Addled Alchemist as a potential spot, and since Bosabrieln is looking for thespians, he recommends inquiring with gnome illusionist Boovdoc Thespianoratory with the Wizard’s Tower.

With their discussions ended, the Shields go to the Addled Alchemist to acquire rooms and make their preparations. Afterward, Bezaldooz goes to speak with Magister Remegni.

When Bezaldooz knocks on the door, it opens and Bezaldooz shuffles within. Bent over a desk is the severe frame of Magister Remegni. He greets Bezaldooz as the door closes behind him. Remegni proceeds to explain, in a somewhat roundabout way, that he sent initial contact with the Lady Jansaadi Claasen — the mysterious woman of Bezaldooz’s acquaintance — in the hopes of recruiting him. As the bounds of mortal life are not enough to achieve Mastery of the Art, Remegni sought another path — vampirism. Remegni indicates that he recruited Bezaldooz not just for his keen mind but for his sojourning ways. As it is inevitable that the Wizard’s Tower will eventually learn of this duplicity, Remegni hopes to find another property where he and his students may continue their magical research. If Bezaldooz is able to find an appropriate site, he will be rewarded.

Bezaldooz, for his part, is amenable to the idea of searching for a base for Remegni and his ilk. He agrees, and says he will do the best he can.

Meanwhile, Peren, Torinn, and Valna find respite at the Addled Alchemist. Scruffy, for his part, starts cleaning the common room as if he works there. While they rest, Bosabrieln goes and finds Vianibrar, also staying at the Addled Alchemist. Bosabrieln reveals that he has been wondering about his past — who was his mother and why did Vianibrar choose him as a student? Vianibrar reveals that, a long time ago, he traveled with Bosabrieln’s father, Arhuil. Arhuil went through an iconoclastic phase, as some elves do from time to time. Arhuil and Vianibrar found themselves in Scandshar, and Arhuil had a fling with a local harlot by the name of Amandine Fenn. When Arhuil learned that she was with child, this amused him as a way to thumb his nose at those in Nainimdul. Amandine died in childbirth, and as Arhuil insisted upon keeping the child, Vianibrar requested that he be able to take over the child’s education as recompense for his part in these events. Arhuil agreed, likely expecting Vianibrar to never collect.

Bosabrieln is shocked to learn that his meeting with Vianibrar when he was young was not just subject to chance. Vianibrar further explains that none of it was left to chance — he saw the heavy signs of fate around the boy, and hoped to help the boy along. He admits that he was motivated, in part, by previous dealings with the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks — their sudden rise to power was unnatural, and he is certain they have fell designs for the Sorrowfell Plains. He hoped to not only train the next generation of bard, but to forge someone capable of confronting them. He also subtly manipulated events around the rest of the Shields to bring them together, although he apparently had nothing to do with Bezaldooz, who arrived by happy accident.

Bosabrieln asks about his mother, and Vianibrar says that she worked at a brothel called the Sisterhood of Sharess. Despite the name, it is not a temple of sacred prostitutes, but a high-class brothel. He indicates it still exists, at least when last he heard.

Despite learning that he was manipulated, Bosabrieln is pleased, as his potent destiny suggests that he may achieve even the loftiest of goals. He even notes to Vianibrar that Vianibrar may well be the consort of a deity some day.

Bosabrieln also takes the opportunity to ask about where Vianibrar got the participants in his charade in the primero game back in Scandshar. Vianibrar notes that the retinue of “Princess Jawahir al-Taqiyya” is merely composed of local prostitutes and rentboys — Vianibrar has gathered a network of contacts in his long life. He recommends doing the same, or hiring actors, or whatever he might need for his designs.

Satisfied, Bosabrieln decides to spend some time with Vianibrar. He then takes his leave and makes arrangements with the proprietors of the Addled Alchemist to host a show that evening. They begin preparations, including building a makeshift stage.

Bosabrieln then travels to the basement of the Wizard’s Tower to speak with Boovdoc Thespianoratory; Scruffy accompanies. Several students seem to be engaged in rehearsal for some manner of avant garde performance. The instructor, a short, frenetic, gnome woman, is directing them. Bosabrieln interrupts to introduce himself and ask for Boovdoc Thespianoratory, whom the woman reveals to be herself. After a little back-and-forth, with some interruption from Scruffy, Bosabrieln gets down to cases and reveals his request — he wishes to borrow several of the students to dress themselves in body paint and masquerade as the multicolored human natives of Carcosa. Since the alien colors of dolm, jale, and ulfire cannot be replicated, Bosabrieln will take nine students to represent Black, Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Purple, Red, White, and Yellow humans. A tenth will require magic to appear as a transparently-skinned Bone Man. He offers to pay. She and the students agree to these terms, and begin preparations to appear with Bosabrieln later that evening.

Evening falls, and the crowd begins gathering as Bosabrieln is set to begin. Word has traveled quickly; the whole town, including the Duchess, seems to be in attendance. He creates a grand spectacle — calling the Carcosan “natives” to the stage, he begins to recount the Shields’ adventures in Carcosa before recounting other tales of their exploits in the Sorrowfell Plains. Bosabrieln segues into a description of the Shields’ battle with the white dragon Vilustuminen the White; at the climax of the tale, Bezaldooz sets off a fireworks display emulating the appearance and serpentine movements of a white dragon. Bosabrieln responds by pulling out his wand, and as he sings at the apparition, it explodes in a dazzling light display.

The crowd goes absolutely wild. The raucous performance gives way to a town-wide party. People drink and carouse, and Bosabrieln and his mentor Vianibrar are noted to retire to their rooms with the Carcosan “natives.”

The next day, everyone awakes to find the town strangely clean despite the previous evening’s festivities. When the Shields have fully gathered, they make their way to the Wizard’s Tower to speak again with Headmaster Jepson. He congratulates Bosabrieln on the previous night’s performance, saying he watched it from the Tower, and then they get down to business. The Headmaster charges them with investigating the borderlands and the foothills of the mountains for any giant activity.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell and Scruffy start heading for the mountains, passing through farmland and over dirt paths. The farmers are excited to see such celebrated heroes wandering through, and speak with them briefly as they pass. As they approach some of the forests, they see smoke rising in the distance. They start approaching, and see that the smoke is originating from a clearing in the forest. A huge boulder blocks the view of the ground, but the trees in this area appear to be on fire, generating intense heat despite not being consumed by the flames. Scruffy scales the rock and surveys, seeing several creatures amidst the flaming trees. Three creatures appear to be large beings of living flame, accompanied by two large creatures of moving rock. A man-sized humanoid, clad in armor and wreathed in flame, is with them. Five man-sized motes of flame antagonize a large, leonine humanoid; the creature appears to be clutching a scroll to its chest. It is wounded and is weakly attempting to fight against the creatures.

Battle is joined. Peren moves around the side of the large rock and is intercepted by the flaming, armored humanoid. The rest of the Shields, determining that they likely ought to help the enormous leonine humanoid, send Bezaldooz around the other side of the rock, prompting him to use the portal gun he retrieved on the Sentinel to open gateways on both sides of the battlefield. Torinn and Valna leap through the gateway, joining the leonine humanoid in its desperate battle against the fiery motes. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln, meanwhile, use their magics to antagonize the fire and earth creatures while Scruffy jumps down from the rock to engage them in melee.

As the fire creatures begin setting more of the meadow ablaze, Peren manages to defeat the fiery humanoid as the lion-thing, Torinn, and Valna destroy the flaming motes. Sufficiently freed, they turn their attention to the other elementals. Although potent, the elementals cannot withstand the combined onslaught of seven combatants and fall one by one.

Once the creatures are slain, the fires throughout the wood dissipate, returning the forest to normal. The creature introduces itself as Rrowthar, a creature known as a “Torrian” from the city of Argent. When asked how the Torrian came to fight these elementals, it explains that it was attacked while seeking the Shields of the Sorrowfell. It then gives the Shields one of its scrolls, reading:

Stand forth and be recognized! The invitation has been given, the choice has been made!
As heroes of your realm and warriors without equal, you have been chosen for the singular honor of serving the great and ancient city of Argent and becoming a champion of all that civilization encompasses. The ritual scroll provided will take you to Argent, and to your destiny.
A new threat gathers, and it has been too long since new champions last walked Argent’s hallowed streets. The borderlands stretch thin, and the world stands defenseless. An ancient tradition has been set aside so that this call could go out.
Accept this honor, this duty, this privilege beyond measure. Argent needs you. The world needs you. Do not allow the foundation to fall.
— Obanar, Last Guardian of Argent

The other scroll is apparently a portal ritual allowing the Shields to access the city of Argent. Unlike most gate circles, Argent is accessible anywhere in the multiverse. Rrowthar proceeds to explain that its master, Obanar, wishes to meet with them. The Torrian knows little of Obanar’s wishes, only telling them that the city is mostly abandoned now, with the other Torrians scattered. He advises them to move quickly.

As they proceed to arrange themselves and use the gate ritual, Scruffy takes his leave to clean the forest damaged in their battle.

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The Tatters of the King, Part 4

Earthday, Harvester 20, 552 CY (50 AN)

Having recuperated after the harrowing fight with the constructs, the Shields of the Sorrowfell decide to enter the next room. Peren scouts ahead; hearing five creatures within the room, he opens the door. Amidst the junk of this room are several broken tubes, each leaking a pale-colored mist. A rime of ice has formed on the surfaces within the mist. Amidst this are several ooze-like creatures — four red amoeboids, covered in compound eyes and sucks, and one, translucent, protoplasmic entity. Seeing these plasmic entities, he decides to rush into the room. Torinn quickly joins him, and the two warriors go to work attempting to hack apart the amoeboid creatures. Peren quickly disables one of their number and withdraws as Torinn is surrounded by the things. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna position themselves at the door to cast magics from the relative safety of the doorway.

As Valna reenters the room to engage the oozes, Peren leaps back into the fray as all five of the things surround Torinn at his urging. Undaunted, he continues to cleave into the creatures with his axe while Peren harries them with his blades and the rest of the group menaces them with spells and prayers. Despite the strange psychic aura of menace the amoeboids seem to project, the battle is over quickly, with all five creatures collapsing in swiftly-melting puddles at the Shields’ feet.

As the Shields rest, Bosabrieln is about to contact the Mourners of Saerun Road on the Sending Stone when he finds that the Mourners’ cleric, Wilkul, is attempting to hail the Shields on the stone. Bosabrieln gives greeting, and Wilkul quickly explains that he has made some manner of pact with a tribe of green men. They are running salvage here, although they appear to come from a lower level. Their leader, Cathorso, indicates that they answer to a leader by the name of the Traveler of Roads Untrod. Cathorso has further requested that all the travelers come to meet with the Traveler, who has come to the top level. Wilkul explains that the green men seem trustworthy, although he does not know what they will do when they reunite with their master. He briefly describes their capabilities — they fight with spears, mostly, although the leader also uses a shortbow. He says they have time to decide, but when they contact him again, he will be in the presence of the green men.

The Shields briefly discuss and say they will accompany the Mourners to meet the Traveler of Roads Untrod. Bosabrieln contacts Wilkul again and states their intentions. They all decide to meet at the central column in the middle of this level of the dungeon.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell, the Mourners of the Saerun Road, and Cathorso and his tribesmen all meet in the middle of the ship. After brief introductions are made, Cathorso and his men lead the Shields to one of the rooms the Shields have yet to investigate. He opens the door and reveals four humanoids and a large, black, blob-like creature. Some of the Shields note its similarity to a black pudding as they enter.

Cathorso and his six hunters move to the other side of the room. As he passes one of the four green men in the room — a strange man with stringy hair, rotten teeth, a white monocle, and a patchwork hide coat — he passes something to him and then activates a small drone which buzzes around his head.

The man in the monocle and patchwork coat steps forward, revealing himself as the Traveler of Roads Untrod. Bosabrieln parlays with him, and the Traveler swiftly reveals his goal to use the outlanders as sacrifices in his sorcerous experiments. As no clear compromise presents itself, the Shields of the Sorrowfell and the Mourners of Saerun Road prepare to battle the green men of the lower depths, as well as their black ooze.

Bosabrieln chants a war rhythm while another of the Shields shouts a warning to not attack the ooze with weapons, as it will likely split into smaller segments like a black pudding. Magic should be safe.

Quickly, battle is joined. Prulove Soundinghorn of the Mourners casts some glamour that prompts several of the hunters to rush to the far corner of the room, searching for gold that does not exist. She keeps them in place with eldritch illusions, keeping several of the enemy combatants engaged and out of the fight. Torinn and the Mourners’ Quotumal Goldheart, both dragonborn, move to engage the Traveler — as Torinn knocks him to the ground, he shouts to his associates to cover his escape and activates a small, metallic pack at his belt. He disappears.

Peren briefly engages Cathorso before returning to the other side of the battlefield. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln, as well as Norros Babausong, the Mourners’ tiefling warlock, primarily focus on the ooze. At the same time, Indrak Kingpost, the Mourners’ assassin, engages some of the cultists. As Cathorso takes shots with his arcane technologies, he is quickly dispatched by the might of the group. Although the black pudding manages to menace several of the warriors, particularly Torinn — but also including some of the green men, as it seems uncontrolled without the Traveler — the spellcasters make short work of it, causing it to dissolve into a caustic puddle of ooze. With the monster and the groups’ leaders gone, the combined might of the Shields and the Mourners make swift work of the remaining hunters and cultists. Prulove keeps several of them occupied attempting to find illusory gold, while the warriors, priests, and magic-users take care of the remaining cultists. The green men do not flee or surrender, and when finally one skull-masked cultist remains, Bosabrieln gives him the opportunity to surrender. He refuses, launching into combat despite being outnumbered ten to one. The ensuing onslaught of spells injures him before Indrak deals the killing blow.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell and the Mourners of Saerun Road search the area, scavenging a little alien technology and recovering a sack of 3,000 gp. The Mourners take the alien tech, saying that they have been quite successful in their delve; they give the sack of gold to the Shields. Both groups then rest before performing a final sweep of the last few unexplored rooms. Finding nothing, Wilkul suggests that they do one last sweep of the top level before reporting their findings; the Shields agree, and both groups find nothing remaining on the top level of Skyfall delve.

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The Tatters of the King, Part 3

Waterday, Harvester 19, 552 CY (50 AN)

The Shields of the Sorrowfell make their way through the silent halls of Skyfall Delve. They approach the next room to find the door already open, revealing the grey-skinned, bulbous-headed humanoids within. They appear to be milling about, partially engaged in reverence of the trough before them. A large tank on one side of the trough is leaking a faintly-glowing green goo and a hot, faintly-glowing sand. Bezaldooz and Torinn quickly move into the room, with Torinn engaging one of the humanoids while Bezaldooz menaces them with spells. As Peren ent