Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

Truth or Consequences, Part 3

Waterday, Ready’reat 19, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn have a couple of hours to fully work out their plan to infiltrate the gladiator pits, knowing that they’ll have a half-hour after the guard change at 3 AM to work without interruption from the Scandshar Watch. They remain at The Drunken Goblin to finish the planning phase.

Based on their understanding of the pits, there is an upper level which is completely subterranean but connects to the arenas and several municipal buildings in the entertainment district. At roughly four corners of this sprawling dungeon, spiral staircases descend into the pits where the gladiators live and train. The various pits are ranked alpha to delta, and more trusted and experienced gladiators live near the top of each pit.

The plan is simple, but effective: they’ll teleport into the gladiator pits, go to work freeing the slaves, and use the army they build to keep rolling through the pits. They’ll start in pit gamma, near the bottom to capture the newest gladiators (and use that as leverage for any more experienced gladiators who might think this gambit is some manner of trick). Since the pits themselves are heavily compartmentalized, it’s entirely possible they can move methodically enough to avoid raising the alarm. Many of the doors are magically keyed to the guards, but Peren has a potion of cloud giant strength, so that should grant them an hour where he can just tear the reinforced doors off their hinges.

Basically, they’ll wing it, but assuming the Peacocks haven’t engaged in any crazy upgrades after the Scandshar Six escaped, they should be able to overcome any resistance. The most important part is Bosabrieln’s continued seeming spell; once they arrive, they should have five hours where they are still in disguise, so they will not be recognized as the Shields of the Sorrowfell. After all, the gladiator pits are a legal institution, and if they go as the Shields, they will be branded as criminals and terrorists.

Before leaving, Bosabrieln sends sendings to both Count Brissot and Vianibrar, to warn them of what’s about to happen. Count Brissot doesn’t know if he has the infrastructure to smuggle out hundreds of escaped slaves on a couple of hours’ notice, but he’ll see what he can do. Vianibrar is amused by the Shields’ plan, and says he’ll try to pass along the information to anyone inside the gladiator pits he can potentially contact.

When the third bell rings, they go to work. Peren casts pass without trace so they have a chance of moving stealthily. Finding a secure place, Bezaldooz casts teleport upon them, sending the quartet into the gladiator pits, specifically the stairs leading to the bottom of gamma pit. (His teleport spell is entirely dependent on Peren’s description of the place, but it appears he arrived in the expected location.)

The group silently moves through the halls, cutting left to enter the only non-magically reinforced door in the hallway, ostensibly a guard barracks. Torinn silently cracks the lock on the door, and the Shields make their way inside.

Several bunks and footlockers dominate the room. There are maybe ten guards inside, most of whom are sleeping, although a couple are reading by candlelight or trying to fall asleep. Bezaldooz casts sleep, but only one more guard falls asleep. Bosabrieln starts to address them, potentially offering a bribe, but is interrupted.

A large, spider construct falls amidst the mass of beds. It looks like it merely appeared there, having teleported from elsewhere. More notably, the guards look surprised by this development, suggesting it is not one of the planned defenses of the gladiator pits.

Battle is joined. The thing seems to ignore the other participants in the combat, focusing on Bosabrieln — shooting him with strange rays and slashing at him with its razor talons. But that focus gives Peren and Torinn the chance to team up on it and let Bosabrieln escape, while Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln pelt the thing with their magics. They swiftly destroy the thing, reducing the construct to scrap. Collectively, the Shields recognize that this is a Retriever, a construct developed to retrieve rogue demonic essences in the Abyss. The drow tend to use them, and occasionally employ them to find rogue slaves in the Material Plane.

While the battle is ongoing, the guards have awakened and gathered their equipment, trying to make sense of the bizarre tableau. A couple of guards also opened the door to investigate the commotion, but they subsequently fled.

Bosabrieln and Peren change tactics, working this attack into a narrative that the dark elves have finally made their attempt to conquer civilization. The disguised Shields introduce themselves as secret representatives of the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks designed to battle this threat against Scandshar. They must be careful, however; some of the guards and others in the complex might be in league with the drow, so it’s unclear who can be trusted.

It’s a harder sell, but Bosabrieln even manages to convince them that they must release and outfit the gladiators as reinforcements.

While Bosabrieln continues to seed that idea, Bezaldooz and Torinn remain to oversee the men outfitting themselves while Peren runs off to grab the two guards who got away. He rushes up the stairs and knocks one out before the other can react. He somehow manages to sell the remaining guard the same lie, saying he needed to keep him quiet lest any interlopers hear about this disturbance. He asks the remaining guard to help him carry the unconscious one.

Returning back downstairs to the hallways, they run into a contingent of guards who inquire about what’s happening. They’re suspicious about Peren’s explanation about drow and such, so they go to get someone in charge to discuss these matters. He decides to let it go, but once the guards have left the corridor, he knocks out the remaining guard and drags them into the barracks.

Bezaldooz and Torinn step outside to watch for any more mobilizing guards while Bosabrieln and Peren oversee the guards preparing their armor. Bezaldooz and Torinn notice several guards leave the overseer’s chambers across the way and head back up the stairs, but let them go.

After the guards are fully ready, the group heads into the gladiators’ cells, releasing them and outfitting them at the armory. Bosabrieln promises that the gladiators will be released for their service against the drow tonight; one of the guards seems on the verge of panic at this, but Bosabrieln reassures him that this is just a ploy to gain the gladiators’ cooperation, and that they will quash any dissent when they reveal they cannot make good on their promise. Its the Peacocks’ concern, not the guards’ problem.

Once the gladiators are fully outfitted — taking long enough that the Scandshar Watch must be prepared to mobilize by now — the group begins marching upstairs, traveling up the cramped spiral staircase. Torinn is at the head of the column, with Peren behind him. They are met shortly by a contingent of guards coming downstairs, an unarmored man at their head. He is bald and wears the robes of a wizard, his arms crossed and inserted into his large sleeves. A sheer veil is worn across his face. He is, presumably, Lord Candle. When he begins to speak, Peren casts silence; the man merely looks annoyed, giving him a look as if to say, “Really?” in response.

Torinn takes up his axe and begins a tense battle in the cramped stairwell. Lord Candle grabs Torinn and tries to bite his neck with extended fangs, but is surprised to note that he is wearing full armor as Torinn’s illusion appears unarmored. He then starts trading punches while Torinn cleaves into him with his axe.

Unable to help or see around the bend, Bosabrieln gives signs to the soldiers to force them to retreat. He and Bezaldooz begin retreating downstairs, although Bezaldooz sends Bono up to the battle to attack Lord Candle.

Torinn activates the jets on his power armor to hover so that he can better attack Lord Candle, and so Peren can crawl under him to enter the fight with swords. Despite regenerating his injuries, Lord Candle is suffering numerous axe-wounds, and is clearly losing this fight; he is being injured faster than his ability to repair them would allow. Still, he seems relatively unconcerned. Bono finally manages to claw his ankle, and his toxic claws make the vampire wizard somewhat woozy.

That’s about the time when Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln hit the hallway. Bezaldooz, worried that the fight isn’t going well or fast enough, casts fireball through Bono.

Chaos erupts as Peren and Torinn are engulfed in fire. The flashfire sucks all the air out of the tunnels and the explosion collapses the central column in the stairwell. Bezaldooz’s magics prevent Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn from being injured by the fire, but does nothing about the subsequent collapse of the gamma pit. The Shields of the Sorrowfell, and the remains of the gladiators and the guards are all buried under stone.

It takes them a while to extricate themselves from beneath the rubble; they are all badly injured, but still alive. Peren and Torinn quickly surmise what happened, and after the Shields take the opportunity to chastise Bezaldooz — the potential instability caused by setting off explosions in confined tunnels was deliberately discussed during the planning phase (to say nothing of being viewed as terrorists for heavy collateral damage) — they take time to rest and bandage their wounds. After resting, they determine this can still be salvaged; they’ll teleport up to the exotic animal enclosure, release the animals, and continue their mission in the chaos.

Again working from Peren’s description, Bezaldooz casts teleport, and the group arrives in a stone hallway outside a portcullis. The left side terminates in a dead-end; the right side of the hallway turns right into the dark. There are no lit sconces on this level, but all parties can see in the dark. The room with the portcullis is too large to see the far side from the hallway, but the parts that can be seen are empty.

Bezaldooz casts detect magic, and notes an aura around the portcullis. Peren quaffs his potion of cloud giant strength and rips the portcullis from the wall while the others take cover around the corner. He scatters some rations about to attract any creatures within. When nothing is forthcoming, and hoping to leave before any potential monsters escape, they decide to head down the hallway.

A couple of twisted turns give them an option: turn left, or go forward and turn left. They go forward, turning into a hallway. An alcove holds a large statue of a sitting demon, complete with ruby eyes. At this point, any illusion that they are still in the gladiator pits is shattered, as this looks like Turathi architecture. Peren would probably guess that they’re in the mountains.

They’ve been wandering in the wrong place for about ten minutes.

Torinn sits on the floor, having had enough of backfiring magic for one day. Peren pries the rubies out of the statue and pockets them, then wanders off to investigate further. Returning to the portcullis room, he investigates to find that a cadre of ghouls has entered on the lefthand side. They are searching the room, having not yet noticed Peren, when they catch the scent of the rations and start heading toward them. Peren slips past them, into the room, and notes the statue of the Raven Queen in the right corner. He determines it is built into the wall, cleverly concealing a rotating panel. He forces the panel open and slips inside, heading down a hallway and turning right to find —

Meanwhile, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Torinn are waiting for Peren to return when a group of shadowy creatures round the corner. Even though Torinn barely deigns to stand, the group makes short work of them, although one of them gets close enough to touch Bosabrieln sending a chill through him and sapping his strength. As they’re cleaning up, Peren rounds the corner.

After some discussion, the group decides to leave. Bezaldooz teleports to a place he has definitely seen before, casting a teleport spell to the arena floor of Blackgem Amphitheatre. They can hear the Scandshar Watch on high alert outside the arena, and they see distant smoke spiraling into the sky. They decide to abandon the mission and flee through the gladiator pits, as it’s too hot for them to reasonably continue this mission tonight. After forcing open another portcullis, they enter to find a group of guards — mixed gladiator pit guards and Scandshar Watch — heading in their direction. Peren and Torinn knock several of them out before the guards call for a hasty retreat. The Shields try to find a side room where they can hole up for a minute to finally just get out of here via teleportation circle. They find such a room, and Bezaldooz starts performing the ritual when they are interrupted.

A mechanical tiger — a somewhat crude automaton, looking nothing like the sleek spider that attacked earlier — appears in the hallway outside the room. Peren casts a wall of fire to dissuade it, but it teleports to the back of the room, flanking Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln. Regardless, Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln manage to escape the beast and the Shields make short work of it.

Once it is reduced to scrap, Bezaldooz manages to finish his teleportation circle without further interruption, and the Shields teleport to the circle in Duchy Jepson.

The guards are surprised to see strangers tumble through the circle in the early morning hours, and are perhaps no less surprised when Bosabrieln drops the illusion and they are revealed to be the Shields of the Sorrowfell, bloodied and dirty. They make haste to the Addled Alchemist to sleep. Torinn uses his amulet to summon the shield guardian to him before he falls asleep. Bosabrieln again sends sendings to Brissot and Vianibrar so that they know of the failure, and in Brissot’s case, can adequately prepare.

They are all awakened abruptly by loud and insistent knocks on their doors. Headmaster Jepson has come, and demands to see them in his chambers at once. The Shields dress and head to the Wizard’s Tower.

Arriving at the Headmaster’s chambers, he indicates he heard about what happened, but wants the details. After being told, he indicates that the bounty on their head has increased, and they are now wanted by the legal authorities. The Headmaster and the Duchess cannot risk a conflict with Scandshar on their behalf; Jepson can no longer harbor the Shields. Construction on their houses will cease, and they will be stripped of their titles. They should leave as soon as they are able. The Shields understand, and so exit. Before leaving Jepson, Torinn takes a moment to find Ekaterina; he tells her that they have to leave for a while, thanks her for her service, and gives her 7 platinum pieces. Peren also heads to a jeweler to get the rubies appraised; combined, they are apparently worth 10,000gp. He deigns to keep them rather than sell them. When the Shields reconvene, Bezaldooz again uses teleportation circle to arrive at Argent.

After informing Valna of their failure, the Shields find their chambers and sleep. During his sleep, Bosabrieln receives a dream from Vianibrar, where he asks for what precisely happened. He notes that he probably would have returned as well to salvage the mission had everything not gone to plan, and further notes that everybody gets hit with an errant spell sooner or later. Vian’s advice is to proceed as planned, but to make sure to get ahead of this thing by spreading the Shields’ side of the story. Don’t let the government and the Peacocks be the only ones to control the narrative; the lawmakers and aristocrats might think about the Shields one way, but as long as the common people still think of them as heroes, they’ll be all right. They can continue to do good works elsewhere, and possibly even return to the pits at a future time. This whole situation is salvageable.

Bosabrieln is heartened by this advice, and thanks Vianibrar. With regard to other things to do, the topic of the slaver tribes arises. There are three main tribes of orcs and goblins that illegally capture travelers in the Sorrowfell Plains, then sell them to the Scandshar slaving operations. One has a known base of operations, currently residing in the ruins of Solaeque. The former residents of Solaeque are currently resigned to a ghetto in Vonseloth, and Vian has at least one friend who would love to learn the orcs have been driven from the domain.

When Bosabrieln awakens, he calls the Shields together for a meeting. He recounts Vian’s advice, and although most of the Shields are against the plan, he convinces them to go along with it. They will disguise themselves, travel to Scandshar, and Bosabrieln will spend a day in taverns buying drinks and trying to spread their side of the story. After the day is over, they will leave — probably to combat the orc tribes in Solaeque.

The Shields spend another day in Argent. Torinn makes the most of these two days, steadily reading his copy of the Tome of Leadership and Influence. When he finally finishes on Earthday, Ready’reat 20, whatever arcane process the book began takes hold, and he feels a strange and subtle magic come over him. Not only does his strength of personality become more potent, but some quiet keening begins in his blood. Most odd.

The Shields set out for Scandshar on the morning of Freeday, Ready’reat 21. They use seeming to appear as disparate parties who traveled to the teleportation circle together, but they stay within sight of one another throughout the day as they travel around the city. Bosabrieln tries to hit the Troll and Fish first, but Scarlet Jax’s boys make it clear that fancy strangers such as themselves are not welcome. They receive a better reception at various other taverns, and Bosabrieln manages to plant rumors that the Shields’ side of the story is being misrepresented.

Around midday, they are ambushed by some creature that pounces out of an alley. It is another large construct, but this one appears strange and organic, like a cross between a lizard and an insect. It opens with a terrible roar that frightens and stuns Bezaldooz. Bosabrieln manages to hold the thing off for a time while Peren and Torinn arrive, and then Bosabrieln manages to pull Bezaldooz out of the fight until he can recover. The thing flees atop a building, but Peren swiftly climbs it while Torinn shoots the beast with his musket — despite a direct hit, the bullet clangs off the construct’s metallic hide. He then activates his powered armor’s rockets to leap atop the building, continuing to fight the thing. The creature finally disappears after Torinn gives it a nasty wallop on the head; it seems to twitch and malfunction a second before it vanishes.

After everyone flees the scene and regroups, Bosabrieln uses seeming to switch their appearances again, then continues his information campaign. Feeling fairly satisfied, the group leaves Scandshar by way of teleport at the end of the day.

Bezaldooz targets Dawnslight for his teleport spell, but this spell is apparently also off-target, as it dumps the Shields out in a field. Peren estimates thirty or so miles to the foothills of the Bloodstone Crags, and thirty or so miles to the Feywalk Woods. It would probably be a day or two, at least, to Dawnslight. They instead decide to rest in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion for the night, and start heading south in the morning.

Travel is uneventful on Starday, Ready’reat 22. They camp a few miles from the edge of the forest. The next day is also uneventful, apart from an easily-dispersed cloud of buzzing insects they encounter in the woods. They arrive at the outskirts of the orc camp in the late afternoon of Sunday, Ready’reat 23. The camp comprises wooden forts and palisades, decorated with skulls and typical gruesome iconography. The occasional sagging ruin of an Elven treetop dwelling may be seen. Strangely, most of the typical Gruumsh mythos iconography is missing; instead, many of the decorations involve eye motifs.

Using the woods as cover, the Shields observe the camp for a time, estimating perhaps 1,000 or so residents, 500 of whom are battle ready. They see the occasional war party leaving or returning as they watch. They decide to sneak into camp, near the slave pens, and attack from surprise.

It works. Peren throws a javelin and invokes an elven spell, multiplying it into hundreds of javelins. It tears through one of the military tents in the middle of a meeting, killing probably half the fighting force. Bezaldooz takes out five of the nastier lieutenants in the ruins of the tent with a well-placed ice storm, while the remaining war chief, in mid-speech, is incredibly confused at the sudden onslaught. Torinn shoots him with his musket, which only grazes him, and he still stands.

Orcs start boiling out of tents, preparing for battle, but are demoralized to see the damage that has already been done to the camp. Bosabrieln yells threats that they may be allowed to live if they stand down — given the sorcerous powers these invaders have already shown, that seems like a fair bargain to many present. A tall, grotesque, rubbery creature — a troll — rushes out of one of the tents and makes a beeline for Bezaldooz; it is scorched by a fireball from Bezaldooz and stunned by a well-placed dissonant whispers from Bosabrieln. Meanwhile, when an orc witch — tusks gleaming, bones braided into her hair, robe replete with painted eye — emerges from a tent. She shouts that the orcs must fight, or else the Esteemed Lord will devour them all. She invokes a brief spell and glows slightly, evidently some sigil of protection.

Peren moves to engage her, casts silence, and turns a potential magical duel into a one-on-one fight. The orcs seem to accept this, although the orc witch seems very angry and distressed that she is forced to fight this elf alone. She flees him once, demanding that the others come to her aid as she invokes some spell and wreathes her hand in shadow. But it is already too late — after Torinn closes with the war chief and slays him, he rushes to assist Bezaldooz with the troll, decapitating the thing while its wounds are still cauterized from Bezaldooz’s fire bolt. With the other combatants defeated, the Shields fully turn on the orc witch and kill her.

One of the orcish war chiefs steps forward, a brute known as Snakhagr, and Bosabrieln expresses his terms that they release the slaves unharmed and leave this place, never to return. Snakhagr is displeased with this development, but understands they have little choice. He frames this as their punishment for turning away from Gruumsh and the witch’s reverence of the Esteemed and Omniscient Peacock Lord. As such, he accepts the terms; the tribe will need a day to pack their things and vacate the premises.

Bosabrieln also inquires about the other two slaver tribes. Snakhagr doesn’t know specifics, but Caveghost Clan is a fellow clan of orcs that primarily sticks to the deepearth, making surface raids on villages and such. Clan Deadmoon is a group of goblins that make raids on trade caravans and travelers.

Truth or Consequences, Part 2

Sunday, Ready’reat 16, 552 CY (50 AN)

While Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Valna are stuck having an awkward breakfast with the Duchess, Torinn is off wandering around Duchy Jepson. As is often the case, his shield guardian accompanies him. He realizes he’s absently wandering towards the Wizard’s Tower, as if drawn there. Suspicious, but curious, he decides to follow the feeling into the tower, although he avoids the basement where he is evidently being drawn. Instead, he heads for the Headmaster’s office.

The Headmaster seems confused as to why he’s here — didn’t Torinn have breakfast with the Duchess this morning? — but is undaunted as Torinn explains he’s looking for a book on cursed items and other such subjects. The Headmaster indicates there’s likely nothing appropriate in his office library. Did Torinn check the Tower’s library? He didn’t, but wanted something more specialized. The Headmaster directs him to Magister Remegni’s office, as Remegni is the school’s specialist in anatomy and hexes.

Magister Remegni seems deeply surprised to see Torinn at his door (Torinn surmises it’s because a scholar wouldn’t expect to see the fighter at his door), but lends him a couple of books on the subject without trouble.

He feels a bit better about his predicament when he wanders back downstairs, so he decides to head to the basement. After wandering, he finds himself in a disused corridor, eventually making his way into an empty and somewhat dusty room. A stone face emerges from the stone wall, proclaiming him the “Heir to House Voiddrake” and bidding him welcome. The stonework falls away, revealing a stone tunnel leading into the wall. Torinn, understandably curious, lights a torch and wanders inside.

Moving down the corridor, Torinn finds a room with a fountain and three doorways — on the left is a circular door with a stylized sigil upon it, straight ahead is an opening partitioned by a curtain of blood, and on the right is a glowing portal. The room is illuminated with a soft glow. A figure, evidently the form of a woman made of water, emerges from the pool; Torinn prepares to fight, but she indicates she means no harm. She gestures to the doors, inquiring which he chooses: the Path of Binding, the Path of Blood, or the Path of Leaves. He inquires further: the Path of Binding will test his debating skill, the Path of Blood his power, and the Path of Leaves his knowledge. He decides on the Path of Blood. He passes through, only to realize the shield guardian has not joined him. A dull, red light suffuses the room. Torinn has another moment to realize that a misty figure of some ancient knight has appeared, and battle is joined.

The ghostly warrior summons another five such warriors, and although they are mighty, they are no match for Torinn. His axe cleaves through them as though they were solid, while their blows are still largely absorbed by his armor. It is barely even a minute before all the ghosts are dispelled and the room is still.

When the dust settles, a pillar rises in the middle of the room and a book appears upon it. Entitled the Tome of Leadership and Influence, it is a heavy book bound with a strange metallic covering depicting a king and studded with jewels. He takes the book and returns through the now-reopened Path of Blood. Once he leaves the basement, he returns to his inn room to study, learning that the Tome of Leadership promises arcane techniques to enhance one’s force of personality — and also possibly activate the latent magic in Torinn’s blood.

Meanwhile, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Valna continue their somewhat awkward day, breakfasting with the Duchess before parading through town and gathering so Bosabrieln can tell the tales of the Shields’ mighty deeds. Peren slips away during the parade, although Valna signals to Bosabrieln that she saw where he went.

Peren, for his part, wanders around town looking for suspicious activity. Finding none, he decides to shop instead, buying a few supplies he thinks may come in handy — some enchanted javelins and a decanter of endless water. Once he has finished, he quietly returns to the gathered crowd.

As evening approaches, Bezaldooz receives a message in his mind, a sending from Magister Remegni. He asks Bezaldooz to slip away from the group and head north, into an alley. Bezaldooz agrees and slips away; Bosabrieln and Peren lose sight of him, while Valna signals to Bosabrieln that she saw where he went.

Bezaldooz slips into an alley and finds Magister Remegni waiting for him. He indicates it’s time to be properly initiated into their conspiracy. Does Bezaldooz agree? He does. Remegni speaks a word of teleportation and Bezaldooz’s surroundings change.

He finds himself in one of the rooms in the hill giants’ steading, far to the north. Three coffins sit in a row upon the floor. Eleven silent, robed figures stand in preparation. Remegni explains that there are three sins the supplicant must defeat if they wish to properly join House Remegni. As one of the robed figures opens the first coffin — revealing the nude form of Lady Jansaadi, a stake through her heart — Remegni intones that the first sin is compassion. It was compassion that stayed her hand and revealed the conspiracy to Bezaldooz’s friends, and he must overcome that sin. Drink her dry and extinguish her essence. As Bezaldooz approaches, her eyes plead with him, a ghastly rasp issues from her throat. He does not hestitate; he drinks her dry, until her body crumbles into dust.

Remegni explains the second sin is light as a robed figure opens the second coffin, revealing the prone form of Abbot Aelius. He is wearing a simple white robe, he is bound, and he appears to be drugged. Remegni explains the light was issued forth from the gods at the beginning of time to limit the power of the dark, and it must be extinguished both in oneself, and without, to properly assume one’s full potential.

Bezaldooz, being well aware that Abbot Aelius is Valna’s adopted father, hesitates, then makes his decision. Bezaldooz intones syllables of power — Remegni attempts to perform the countersign to negate the spell, but it fails — and the world around Bezaldooz freezes. In the stillness, he opens the third coffin to find the prone form of Ekaterina within, also wearing a robe and bound. He then intones the syllables of teleportation to flee for the stage where he last saw Bosabrieln and Valna, bringing Aelius and Ekaterina with him.

He appears on the stage with the bound and drugged Aelius and Ekaterina. Bosabrieln’s tale is cut short, and the group quickly hurries back to the Addled Alchemist. Torinn, hearing the commotion outside, sees this and joins the group. Bosabrieln opens a portal to Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion, and the group enters.

Bosabrieln asks what happened, and Bezaldooz explains that Remegni summoned him to the giants’ steading, where he has established a base. Valna is praying in the corner, and the proceedings are interrupted by a flash of light that shines down on Bezaldooz. He suddenly recognizes that he is freed from the curse of undeath, and although he is now mortal, he feels better than he has for a while. Peren sprays him with the decanter of endless water as a “test” to see if he has returned to the land of the living. He continues with his story, leaving out the part where he killed Jansaadi, but otherwise informing them of his activities. He also notes that Remegni has apparently established relations with a group of vampires in the land of Nadhi; the rakshasa who wanted to speak with him in Flamefall Tower was specifically inquiring about that possibility. Valna also heals Aelius and Ekaterina, and learn that they were approached by people from the school, adepts named Phamath and Tanza, both of whom are known to Aelius. They must have been bewitched and drugged before being transported to the north.

Although the Shields are eager to confront Remegni and his vampire coven, they decide they should rest first. Later in the evening, Bosabrieln asks Bezaldooz if he is truly well, and shares a drink with him. Valna hugs him, and says she’s glad he’s better. She will accompany the Shields to the giants’ steading, but will no doubt leave shortly thereafter.

The next morning, Moonday, Ready’reat 17, the group decides to immediately head to the giants’ steading when they awaken. Bezaldooz intones the syllables to teleport, and the scenery changes.

They find themselves in a wooden room, clearly of giant make, although some features look different than the entryway they recall. When they exit, they find themselves in a vast forest — Peren guesses they’re in the Feywalk woods, several hundred miles south of their target. It would appear they teleported to some random hill giant’s house in the woods. Bezaldooz intones teleport again.

This time, they appear to arrive in the correct place. However, a thorough search of the giants’ steading yields nothing. The coffins from last night, including one filled with ash and dust, are still there, but anything of value appears to have been stripped. The Shields briefly consider investigating the old lava tubes beneath the steading, but surmise that the vampires probably fled elsewhere rather than down. They’re gone, and have left nothing of value behind. With that, Bezaldooz traces a teleportation circle to return to Duchy Jepson.

Once there, the group decides to rest for a day before heading to Scandshar — Bosabrieln has some personal business, while the others are keen on bloodying the nose of the slavers. When they check with the Wizard’s Tower, the Headmaster indicates they have recovered nothing of value from the offices of the missing, and he suspects no vampires remain. But he will let the Shields know if he finds anything.

The next morning, Godsday, Ready’reat 18, Valna officially parts company to settle her affairs in Duchy Jepson. Aelius and Ekaterina will stay in the care of the Wizard’s Tower. The remaining Shields transport by teleportation circle to Scandshar.

Arriving in the dockside market, the whisper quickly travels through the crowd that the Shields of the Sorrowfell are here. They decide that they will go talk to Count Brissot first.

As they walk through the streets of Scandshar, they are surprised when Bezaldooz is struck by a crossbow bolt, evidently poisoned by the burning it causes when it strikes. They look up to see a somewhat rotund figure clad in black ducking down behind the lip of a building. Another figure in black atop the building across the street looses another bolt, although it doesn’t quite hit its mark. Torinn activates his power armor to fly up the side of the building, while Peren activates his boots and free climbs the face of the opposite building. Although they are clearly well trained, if a bit odd, they are no match for the Shields of the Sorrowfell; Peren ends up decapitating the assassin he’s fighting, while the other one is knocked unconscious by a combination of sword and spell.

They haul the unconscious assassin into an alley and awaken him, interrogating him about this attack. He indicates there was a contract, and he can take them to his bosses at the Snuff Box. Bosabrieln uses seeming to disguise them as random travelers, and to disguise the fact that the assassin — evidently named Dicun; his partner was Mads — is bound.

Arriving at the Snuff Box, the doorman asks why Dicun wants these four strangers to gain access. He hesitates, prompting the doorman to guess that they’re the targets of his contract in disguise, and they’ve come to nullify the contract. Dicun agrees and the doorman ushers them inside.

Inside the club, the Shields drop the glamour as the pretense is broken. Dicun speaks to an older gentleman, and he retrieves the contract. He’ll dissolve it for the value of the contract, 10,000gp, as well as an extra 5,000gp for the death of their man. After a bit of haggling, Bosabrieln just agrees to pay the damn 15,000gp. The old man hands it over, and the contract was apparently drafted on behalf of a “Lady Griselda,” only two days ago. Bosabrieln then makes one final request: if the constituents of the Snuff Box do not release their slaves within the week, there will be trouble. The man appears to understand the threat, and says he will see to it. The Shields then leave.

After being accosted by some guards trying to determine what precisely happened with the assassins downtown, the Shields finally make it to Count Brissot’s apartments. He seems surprised, but pleased, to see them, although he notes they appear to have seen battle already. They explain their encounter with the assassins, and he replies the only Lady Griselda he knows is a most aged member of House Ehrenfest; she seems unlikely to have issued a contract for their lives. When asked about further information, he repeats the news of the troubles with the Scandshar Six, and also notes that a band of orcs kidnapped a noblewoman yesterday. It’s being kept quiet because the house involved is the current House of Fools, House Anghelescu. He also remarks that Darstina Tallcrippler is currently out on assignment. Whenever she returns, she will likely have information of interest to the Shields.

Bosabrieln also presents Count Brissot with 15,000gp, to be donated to the abolitionist efforts. He is most pleased with this donation.

As he doesn’t explicitly know anything further, and since the Shields of the Sorrowfell have no desire to bring assassins upon his doorstep, they will let him alone for now. But they will keep him apprised of their activities within the city.

Before leaving the Brissot residence, Bosabrieln asks if Count Brissot knows where the Sisterhood of Sharess is located. He has a servant look into the matter and determines it’s near the border of the entertainment district and the temple district.

Leaving the Brissot residence, they decide to rent rooms at an inn. To be extra cheeky, they decide to return to The Laughing Maiden, which they know to be under the protection of the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks.

The manager is extremely surprised to see them, and more than a little intimidated, but readily rents them an inn room. (They specifically request a single room, for security reasons.) Trudging upstairs, Bezaldooz and Torinn decide to study, while Bosabrieln and Peren each have plans to go out. Bosabrieln applies makeup and a mustache to Peren to make him less recognizable. Peren is then going to rest to recover from his battle with the assassins while Bosabrieln goes out for a bit; he shouldn’t be too long, and he doesn’t expect trouble.

Bosabrieln wanders to the entertainment district to find the Sisterhood of Sharess. He’s only a handful of blocks away when he is surprised by a hand clamping a pungent rag over his face. He manages to hold his breath long enough to pull away, improvise a quick invisibility glamour, and start to move away. The woman chasing him is dressed like a prostitute, but he notices that she’s covered with makeup, concealing her true skin tone. She has the lithe build of a trained assassin. He runs, but is again surprised when she clamps a hand on his shoulder and shoves a dagger into his side, whispering in his ear, “You breathe too loud.” He feels burning pain from the dagger wound, suggesting poison, although he stumbles away and manages to dazzle her with a power word: stun. He flees into a tangle of nearby alleys, and despite her swift recovery and pursuit, he manages to change his appearance to that of a somewhat generic-looking woman with disguise self and lose the assassin.

Bosabrieln manages to stumble the rest of the way to the Sisterhood of Sharess without incident. The façade is suggestive of an ancient desert temple, like one of the archaic ones from the Kharha Desert. There is also a subtle cat motif worked into the artwork. He notes a young man, perched in a hiding spot across the street. He’s either watching the place or casing it, as the case may be. When Bosabrieln enters, he notes the same desert and cat theme within. He encounters a woman at the front desk, and inquires if anyone knew one Amandine Fenn. The woman at the front desk appears to not recognize the name, but says she’ll fetch the madame; she does ask if he consents to be searched, which prompts him to drop the glamour and reveal himself — and the bleeding wound under his ribs.

After a moment, a well-dressed middle-aged woman with white hair arrives with a couple of attendants. She introduces herself as Madame Nefere, and bids the attendants to dress his wounds, prompting an inquiry as to what happened. (She is not entirely surprised to learn he’s apparently Bosabrieln Peredhel Zivkovic.) Acknowledging the request about Amandine, Nefere bids him to accompany her so they can talk in private.

She explains that she knew Amandine; Amandine arrived here before she did, many years ago. They both served under the previous madame, and Amadine served roughly a decade before she died. She was a truly lovely person, with a beautiful singing voice, as Nefere recalls. Bosabrieln has a strong resemblance; Nefere shows her a portrait she keeps in a locket around her neck. Nefere remembers when the elves arrived a quarter century ago; Bosabrieln’s father insisted on bringing the child back to his village, while his father’s friend (and the other sisters) argued he ought to stay here. Despite subsequently hearing of the bard Vianibrar, she never made the connection that Bosabrieln was Amandine’s child. She also mentions that Bosabrieln has a half-brother, much to Bosabrieln’s surprise; Vianibrar never mentioned him. He asks about his half-brother, and Nefere explains that he was raised here, and acts as a watchman. Bosabrieln expresses an interest in meeting him, and Nefere bids him to wait a moment; she leaves. Several minutes later, the young man from across the street enters. He, too, has a slight resemblance to the face Bosabrieln sees in the mirror. He introduces himself as Warwick Fenn, and indicates he barely recalls his mother and when the elves came. They exchange a few pleasantries before the tactiurn Warwick takes his leave.

With that, Bosabrieln notes that he will likely leave, but hopes to return. He notes that there appears to be little influence from the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks in the Sisterhood, and Nefere notes that they must pay protection, but have largely managed to keep free of their influence. He also uses the sending stone to contact Peren, asking if he can escort him back to the inn.

Peren, for his part, was starting to wander the city when he hears from Bosabrieln, so he makes his way over to the Sisterhood of Sharess. Bosabrieln again masquerades as a woman to hide his appearance, and bids the ladies farewell. They exit.

Since Peren has been considering staging a raid on the gladiator pits, he and Bosabrieln decide to case the place by acting as married tourists and seeing the sights. Over the course of the afternoon, they blow 500gp to establish themselves as high rollers from out-of-town, watching a gladiatorial match, going to restaurants, and generally experiencing the local color. They secretly gain intelligence on security around the entertainment district, particularly around the arenas. Coupled with Peren’s previous experience on the subject, they form a fairly complete picture of what to expect if infiltrating the pits.

One bit of badness, though: while at a café, they notice a young man, somewhat distraught, carrying a satchel. He looks somewhat nervous. Bosabrieln and Peren agree to maintain a safe distance, in case he does something strange. Shortly thereafter, he stands atop the table and loudly announces, “May my chains be broken!” He withdraws a pouch and puts it inside the satchel; when he does, the bags fold inside themselves, forming an abyssal vortex that draws everything inside ten feet or so of the center — chairs, tables, and the people sitting in them. The people on the street erupt into panic and flee as Bosabrieln and Peren make their way elsewhere, although they hear a similar commotion arise from one of the nearby arenas. Alarm bells briefly sound, but the district shortly returns to normal. With the excitement done, they decide to return to The Laughing Maiden.

While Bosabrieln and Peren are away, Bezaldooz and Torinn are studying. They are interrupted by a knock on the door; Bezaldooz keeps studying while Torinn rises to answer. It is a hotel servant named Brenda, bringing room service they evidently did not order. Torinn refuses it, explaining that it was probably some manner of prank, and offers her a silver. She refuses it, saying she cannot accept it, but when she tries to hand it back, Torinn refuses to touch it, instructing her to just drop it on the floor. She sheepishly takes the cart away, returning to ask if there are any precautions she should convey to the rest of the staff. Torinn has none.

The second interruption comes from another knock. Torinn answers this time to find a guard. The guard addresses him, asking a couple of questions regarding the ruckus downtown, but he also holds out a note for Torinn to read, instructing them to meet someone at midnight at The Drunken Goblin. The guardsman retains the message once it’s clear Torinn has read and acknowledged it. When he is done with his questions, he leaves, although he picks up the silver on his way out. Torinn watches for a bit to make certain the guard doesn’t drop dead from poisoning, then returns to his room.

When Bosabrieln and Peren return to The Laughing Maiden, they inform Bezaldooz and Torinn of what they learned, as well as the strange attack near the arenas. Torinn relates the encounter with the servant, as well as the guard. After discussion, they further decide that they’re going to try to raid the gladiator pits tonight, preferably if they can get some assistance from any friendly local guards. But first, they’ll meet with their mystery contact at The Drunken Goblin.

The Shields rest for several hours. As time approaches, they disguise themselves with seeming and head to The Drunken Goblin, down near the wharf district. They arrive withut incident, finding a run-down bar containing only a few sullen drunks and a cloaked traveler. Once Bezaldooz ascertains that the cloaked figure seems to be waiting for someone, he informs the others and they signal. The figure, a woman armed with a broadsword, joins them. She demands some sign that they are the people for whom she is waiting; Torinn presents the diminutive pixie skull he wears, and this seems to satisfy her. She refuses to give a name, but in light of the messenger she sent, the travelers to can refer to her as Captain. She explains that she has labored too long under the true masters of this city, and is on the travelers’ side. If they need assistance, she will provide it, although she may have to speak or act against them publicly. The Shields inquire about the attack near the arenas earlier today, and the Captain notes that such attacks by the Broken Chain are all-too-frequent. They further ask if she can potentially pull Scandshar Watch off the arenas tonight, for maybe half an hour or so. She says she can probably arrange something. Will the 3 AM guard shift change work? The Shields believe it will.

She also notes that she is unable to guarantee the safety of their conversations, as she has little way to guard her mind against the Peacocks’s sorcerers. Do they have some secure method of communications? Bosabrieln has sending and dream at his disposal, so he can likely maintain secure contact. (With regard to dream, she usually sleeps at regular, nightly intervals.) She does note, though, that she could always be compromised in the future (assuming she is not already), and she is risking her life to contact them, so it is always possible she may just… disappear. The Shields acknowledge this, and appreciate her assistance. With that, she is off to ensure that things happen on schedule. The Shields likewise proceed to continue to plan their infiltration of the gladiator pits.

Truth or Consequences, Part 1

Freeday, Ready’reat 14, 552 CY (50 AN)

Knowing that they’ll eventually have to return to the world at large, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna all head in various directions. Bezaldooz first summons Bonatos to return from the Abyss, then heads out by himself to see what’s happening at the former hill giant steading, now the headquarters of Remegni’s vampire coven. Torinn and his shield guardian head out ostensibly to fish, but really to speak with his axe, as it has slowly begun to… tell him things. Valna begins working with the torrians to learn of her new duties, while Bosabrieln takes the opportunity to relax.

In the early afternoon, when Peren realizes most of the party is missing, he decides to follow Bezaldooz’s tracks heading north.

Bezaldooz’s walk through the mountains is uneventful, despite taking several hours, and he reaches the former hill giant camp. The hill giants are missing, although the muddy footprints, dead campfires, and bits of refuse remain. The hill giants’ steading still stands; the only difference is that numerous stone gargoyles have been added at various points around the roof. Bezaldooz approaches the main double doors of the steading, and knocks. An acolyte opens the doors, and when Bezaldooz indicates he wishes to speak to Remegni, the acolyte explains that he’s not here at the moment, but can probably arrive shortly. He instructs Bezaldooz to wait in the vestibule.

Remegni arrives within 15 minutes or so, and Bezaldooz explains that the Shields of the Sorrowfell were successful in their mission, and so have returned to the world. Remegni notes that he received a visit from a representative of the vampires of Nadhi — he evidently did not realize this person was a rakshasa, as he indicated the man came to him as a human — and they are poised to engage with these foreign vampires. Remegni also notes that he owes Bezaldooz some items; he retrieves two scrolls, indicating one has a spell to ward against sunlight, and the other is an alchemical recipe for a salve that also protects against sunlight. He then notes that he will no doubt see Bezaldooz again soon.

As Bezaldooz heads back to Argent, Peren passes him, unseen. Peren approaches the former hill giants’ steading and goes to the side entrance. He tries the door, and is hit with an enervating wave of energy. He decides to slink back to Argent.

That evening, Bosabrieln makes plans to return to Duchy Jepson, and everyone decides to accompany. Valna will even return, so she can retrieve her horse, Penelope, and speak to Abbot Aelius. They all decide to leave on the morrow.

The next day, Starday, Ready’reat 15, the Shields of the Sorrowfell prepare to leave by way of the teleportation circle on the Grand Mall. When they arrive in Duchy Jepson, they notice that a tent city has been erected at the south side of town, beyond Jepson’s walls. Upon seeing the Shields, a murmur speeds through town as the townsfolk preparing for worship at the local temples all stop, and laud the heroes’ return. Peren slinks away from the attention, but the other four head to the Wizard’s Tower.

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Torinn, and Valna all arrive at the Headmaster’s office on the top floor. He congratulates them on their victory, and proceeds to explain about the tent city. After checking the room for uninvited guests.

The Shields have already heard about the escaped gladiators known as the Scandshar Six, so he notes that the escaped gladiators may have come to town and stayed for a bit. A group of bounty hunters eventually came looking for them, and one of them died under mysterious circumstances. This caused several other bounty hunters to appear, in the hopes of finding the Scandshar Six and claiming the bounty. As for the Scandshar Six themselves, they’re long gone at this point. But it is notable that there is a camp of bounty hunters along the south edge of town, and that the Shields of the Sorrowfell have a notable bounty on their heads, likely posted by the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks.

Meanwhile, Peren heads down to the camp at the south end of town. The travelers — largely adventurers and their camp followers by their look — are awakening and getting breakfast as Peren enters the camp. The camp grinds to a halt as Peren enters, and several adventurers on the periphery of the camp look like they’re sizing him up and prepared to grab weapons if necessary. The reception is chilly, to say the least — although whether that’s because he’s wearing a grim mask shaped like an iron skull, or because they recognize that iron skull as the mask of Shield-Brother, remains to be seen.

Peren heads over to the mess for breakfast, and learns from the cook that this camp was erected to hunt the Scandshar Six. Apparently there was a sighting of them in town, and bounty hunters came to search the nearby fields, hills, and mountains for them. They haven’t found anything in the few weeks they’ve been here, though. But the bounty on their heads — a hundred thousand gold apiece, or a million gold for all six of them, dead or alive — has left the bounty hunters undeterred. For that matter, there’s a bounty on the heads of the Shields of the Sorrowfell, so old Shield-Brother ought to watch himself. After giving a couple of gold pieces to the cook and finishing breakfast, Peren heads back to Duchy Jepson proper.

Peren runs into the rest of the Shields of the Sorrowfell, and they share what they’ve learned about the Scandshar Six. They then head their separate ways for various purposes: Bezaldooz heads back to the Wizard’s Tower to meet up with Remegni the Stoic and see if he has anything further to note, Bosabrieln goes to find Ekaterina before engaging in preparations for a celebration for the Shields of the Sorrowfell, Peren is surveying and wandering around town, Torinn is off to do research, and Valna is going to get her horseshoes of a zephyr placed on her horse Penelope and visit with Abbot Aelius. Peren and Torinn have plans to return to the hunters’ camp for lunch, and Bezaldooz will likely join them; Peren gave Bezaldooz 500gp to give to Ekaterina as compensation for her services.

Bezaldooz doesn’t learn any additional facts regarding Remegni’s preparations, but he does notice that a human is following him. The man is roughly middle-aged, with a greying beard. He wears a capotain and duster with a breastplate underneath. He carries a battleaxe and a heavy crossbow. A hand crossbow is hooked on his belt, and enigmatically, he wears a broken sword hilt on a leather thong around his neck. When Bezaldooz realizes he’s being followed, he sends Bono to spy on the interloper. Once Bono is out of sight, the connection between Bezaldooz and Bonatos breaks, suggesting Bono was killed. Bezaldooz then immediately goes searching for his fellows.

Bosabrieln finds Ekaterina at the Addled Alchemist. They swap stories about where each has been the past few weeks — Ekaterina has largely been here, overseeing construction, although she did attend the wedding of one of the Scandshar Six while they were in town. They are interrupted by Bezaldooz, who presents Ekaterina with Peren’s gift (noting it’s a collection “from all of us”) and then notes that he’s being followed, whereupon he describes the fellow. Ekaterina asks if they wish for her to follow this man, but they note if he’s someone dangerous, it’s best for her not to get involved. Bezaldooz says he’ll find the others and let them know about it, but he wanted to make sure Bosabrieln was aware.

Torinn wants to get a book about spirits, and after some perusing of the local library and local booksellers, he finds a volume entitled, A Compendium of Immaterial Essences. Written by one Archmagus Iandak Voiddrake, Supplicant of the Quaint and Curious Spheres, Iandak was apparently a potent dragonborn wizard who lived in the vicinity a little less than a century ago. Indeed, the ancient wizard — long-reputed to be immortal — was said to have lived in the Wizard’s Tower, and the reason why it is known as “the Wizard’s Tower” and not “the Wizards’ Tower” is because it is casually assumed that, if the old wizard still lives, he will some day return to reclaim it.

Around noon, Peren and Torinn meet at the south side of town, along with Torinn’s shield guardian, and decide to head to the bounty hunters’ camp for lunch. Most of the bounty hunters are out when they arrive, leaving only the camp followers behind, but one adventuring party has stayed behind to have lunch. This party seems quite wary to see Peren, Torinn, and an overlarge shield guardian present, although the cook pays them no mind. When they ask about the price on their head, the cook notes the Shields are supposed to be worth 20,000gp apiece. Peren then purchases a cask of ale, which the shield guardian serves, and he and Torinn arm wrestle before inviting the other adventuring party over.

While initially still wary, they seem to become warmer to Peren and Torinn after ale and arm wrestling. They introduce themselves as Ukhud, an armored male dwarf, armed with pickaxes; Robern, a male human fighter; and Zesstra a female rogue or thief who looks largely human, but has dusky skin, light-colored hair, and vaguely pointed ears, possibly denoting drow ancestry. They are apparently from Sorgforge, and were the first to arrive here when they determined that Duchy Jepson was the only major settlement lacking a confirmed Scandshar Six sighting, which they considered suspicious. Their fourth was killed by a trap set in the hills north of town, and the circumstances were suspicious enough that they stayed to investigate further. Word apparently got out, and it was suddenly a rush to see who could grab the Scandshar Six. But these adventurers have been here several weeks with no luck; either the Scandshar Six were never here, or they lost the trail. They will likely return to Sorgforge sometime soon.

When Bezaldooz arrives to join the assembled party, he asks if the adventurers have seen anyone fitting his pursuer’s description. They indicate they saw a guy like that wandering around camp a couple of days ago, but they don’t specifically know him. When Bezaldooz, Peren, Torinn, and the shield guardian finally take their leave, Bezaldooz fully explains that he is being followed to them.

Bezaldooz then heads back to the Addled Alchemist to get a room and summon Bonatos back to him. Peren decides to head in a similar direction shortly thereafter, while Torinn decides to go fishing in the nearby River of Tears (and also surreptitiously study his new book).

Bezaldooz finds that Bosabrieln has left, no doubt to engage in preparations for future festivities, while Ekaterina is outside practicing some sort of calisthenics routine. Bezaldooz heads inside, goes up to his room, and begins ritual preparations.

When Peren arrives at the Addled Alchemist, he makes note of the man in the capotain hat, apparently watching the inn. Peren makes note of this to Ekaterina, and when she offers to follow him, Peren accepts. He then wanders over to confront the man, making introductions — he introduces himself as Peren, while the man introduces himself as Gerhart — and telling him to stop following his associates. The man tries to play it off as if he is merely loitering, but is hardly the best liar.

Notably, Peren also gets a better look at Gerhart’s equipment. From Bezaldooz’s description, he assumed the cruciform sword hilt around Gerhart’s neck was a holy symbol or the broken sword of someone this hunter lost. However, upon seeing it, it appears to be covered in runes and delicate engravings, including a stylized sunburst on the crossguard. Furthermore there is damage indicating a blade once rested on this hilt; Peren immediately assumes it’s probably a magical sword, perhaps some sort of sun sword. The fact that he can spot a sharpened wooden stake in the Gerhart’s pack further cements the idea that he’s a vampire hunter.

When Peren turns to leave, he realizes that Ekaterina is gone, disappeared without trace. He heads inside the Addled Alchemist.

Deciding to go to Bezaldooz’s room, he finds the door unlocked; Bezaldooz is within, burning reagents and tracing a circle upon the floor. Peren waits for him to finish; when he finishes his ritual work, Bonatos appears in a puff of smoke. Bezaldooz informs him of the hunter, and Peren fills in the details that the man is Gerhart and is clearly some sort of well-equipped vampire hunter. Bono notes the hunter instantly recognized his presence, even though he was invisible, and attacked him with a battleaxe. Peren notes that Ekaterina is following this hunter, prompting some inappropriate commentary regarding Kat from Bonatos. Bezaldooz then orders Bono to keep quiet and turn invisible.

The rest of the day is relatively quiet. Torinn eventually returns with a large quantity of fish, prompting a fish fry at the Addled Alchemist. Bezaldooz and Peren take to drinking. Bosabrieln is somewhere, engaging in preparations for a public celebration tomorrow. Valna is visiting with Abbot Aelius.

Before heading to bed, Bezaldooz wards his room with alarm, only negating the alarm if Ekaterina or Jansaadi enter the room.

That evening, around midnight, Bezaldooz is awakened by noise in his inn room. Clambering out of his box of earth, he finds Jansaadi in his bed. When he remarks on the vampire hunter watching his room, she notes that she turned to mist and came in through the cracks in the window. Realizing that this confirms that there are multiple vampires in this town, they realize they both need to leave. After getting a moment to collect her things, Bezaldooz invokes the arcane phrase to cast teleport, hoping to reach the basement of the Wizard’s Tower where Jansaadi indicates there’s a teleportation circle.

Bezaldooz and Jansaadi arrive in the basement of the Wizard’s Tower after a somewhat turbulent teleport. They rush to the Headmaster’s office, where Remegni frequently acts as night watchman — along the way, Bezaldooz senses that the alarm on his room is tripped. Arriving before Remegni and informing him of the hunter, he thinks for a moment before telling Bezaldooz to return to the Addled Alchemist to catch the hunter’s attention, then lead him north, towards the warehouses and empty shops. Remegni indicates they’ll take care of the problem. Bezaldooz leaves the Wizard’s Tower, and as he returns to the inn, he is aware that Jansaadi has quietly disappeared.

Meanwhile, Peren is resting when he hears the syllables of a spell being cast in Bezaldooz’s room. Emerging from his trance, he rushes to the room, but finds it locked. He kicks the door open to find it empty: there are no signs of struggle, but there are leftover reagents indicating magic was worked here. He creeps over to the window, noting that Gerhart is still watching the room from an alley; Ekaterina is perched on a building above the hunter, watching him. Peren quickly runs out of the inn through a back door, takes cover, and decides to watch Gerhart to see what he does. Gerhart, having noticed a change of light inside Bezaldooz’s room, starts gathering mud and other materials to camouflage himself more efficiently.

Torinn awakens to hear the cracking of a door. He dons his armor and then checks Peren’s room to find the door ajar and no one inside. The door to Bezaldooz’s room has been kicked open, and nobody is within. He then goes outside, gathers his shield guardian, and waits by the front door.

When Bezaldooz returns, he indicates that he’s out walking, although he doesn’t know anything about the broken door. He’s continuing on his walk, and Torinn offers to accompany. Bezaldooz accepts.

All is relatively quiet as Bezaldooz, Torinn, and the shield guardian walk through the silent streets of Duchy Jepson. Unbeknownst to them, Gerhart follows, dashing between buildings and trees. Unbeknownst to him, Ekaterina follows, leaping silently across rooftops. Unbeknownst to anyone else involved, Peren follows the lot of them, keeping to the shadows. Along the walk, Bezaldooz puts out a silent call to several wolves to join him; only Peren notices as a pack of fifteen wolves begin to silently slink among the buildings. As the group passes through a row of shops and head past the warehouses, something happens — Gerhart pulls his hand crossbow and fires at something no one else can see. He then drops his crossbow and shakes his head, as if confused or trying to clear his head. Peren feels the presence of something unseen pass too close to him, maybe twenty feet or so near his left flank. Suspecting that some hidden trap is about to clamp shut, he pulls the rod of security out of his pack, and approaches Gerhart, telling him to come with him if he wants to survive this. Gerhart refuses, prompting Peren to replace the rod of security and draw his weapons, just as Bezaldooz commands the wolves to strike. Wolves pour out of alleyways and begin savaging Gerhart. He manages to evade the worst of it, but the violence appears to shake him out of whatever spell had gripped his mind. Torinn steps toward the chaos and breathes lightning, killing two of the wolves, as Bezaldooz orders Bono to advance as well. As the quasit attempts to move past Torinn, however, the dragonborn reacts as something small and unseen trying to move past him and cleaves it with his axe, satisfied that he killed whatever it was.

As Torinn steps forward, Jansaadi appears behind him, telling him everything is all right, they have it handled, and not to interfere. Torinn agrees. Four other robed figures appear, chanting and gesturing as Gerhart appears to rapidly dry out and become mummified. He collapses and dies. Well aware that he’s outnumbered and that Torinn has been hit with some manner of glamour, Peren sheathes his weapons and shouts, “Run, Ekaterina!” Jansaadi then asks Bezaldooz what must be done with his companions, and he says he will handle them. The robed figures then gather Gerhart’s corpse, along with the corpses of the two dead wolves, before the four robed figures and the woman with alabaster skin leave, disappearing around the side of a building.

Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn all return to the Addled Alchemist. Bezaldooz resets the alarm on his room and closes the door as best he can.

Torinn is awakened in an hour or two by Valna, demanding to know what happened. When he seems strangely okay with the proceedings, and doesn’t offer a lot of further information, she knocks on Peren’s door to inquire. He initially tries to deflect, but when she presses him, he indicates there was an incident with Bezaldooz, and that he thinks Torinn might have had his mind influenced. She decides to leave this all alone for now, especially since they have business tomorrow, but it must be handled shortly.

Bosabrieln awakens early the next morning, Sunday, Ready’reat 16, in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion. He sets about bathing and dressing, and then leaves to gather the others, as he has made plans to breakfast with the Duchess. When he arrives at the Addled Alchemist, dispatching a messenger to fetch Valna, he notes that Bezaldooz’s door is ajar, the lock broken. He calls out to no response, and then shoves the door open, ready to cast a spell, only to see Bezaldooz on the bed in a similarly ready position. (Bosabrieln’s entry also trips Bezaldooz’s alarm spell.) When asking about what happened, Bezaldooz is evasive; even after awakening the others, everyone seems shifty and strange, and Bezaldooz and Torinn are both notably sleep-deprived. He gathers that something happened in the night, a fact reinforced when the messenger returns, telling him to meet with Valna.

When he arrives at Abbot Aelius’ home, Ekaterina is outside, drinking coffee. She explains what she saw in the night until she was ordered to flee. Valna, when she finishes dressing, fills out the rest; Ekaterina says she’s going to bed, as she has apparently been awake all night. As it’s clear they’ve reached a critical juncture with Bezaldooz, Valna notes she only knows three ways to cure the condition of vampirism: killing and raising him, a wish spell or similarly powerful magical effect, or the direct intervention of a deity. It’s clearly something they’ll have to research and determine further. Noting that Torinn is still affected by some mind-influencing effect, Valna says she’ll go buy some reagents to take care of it. She’ll be about ten minutes behind Bosabrieln.

When they all meet at the palace gates to breakfast with the Duchess, they wait for Valna. She asks if she can pray with Torinn, and when he agrees, she invokes greater restoration. He quickly surmises that his reaction to events last night was unnatural, and goes to grab Bezaldooz; the gnome is too quick, and so Torinn just stops away angrily with his shield guardian. Bosabrieln chides Bezaldooz for his actions last night, and notes that they have to get through their social obligations today, but this evening, they’re all going to sit down in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion and sort out what to do.

Apart from the inherent awkwardness among the party, and the Duchess’ disappointment that Torinn is not present, breakfast proceeds without incident, leading into the rest of the day’s festivities.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 22

Earthday, Ready’reat 13, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna awaken and breakfast. When they have made their final preparations, they — along with Bono and Torinn’s shield guardian — return to Obanar’s tower. Bosabrieln casts foresight on Torinn, giving him a limited ability to see into the future. Peren casts water walk on him, so that he’ll be able to navigate the eldritch terrain of the Elemental Chaos without difficulty. With that, the Shields step into the circle, Obanar wishes them well, and he prepares the circle for teleportation.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell arrive in a chaotic landscape comprising several floating islands amidst an elemental sea of frost, lava, lightning, and water. Most of the floating islands are composed of earth or stone, but some appear to be ice, and others appear to be some manner of red-hot stone or metal. An island to their left bears the earth titan they found in the hill giants’ steading; behind him stand three dark elf warriors, prepared for battle. Two robed dark elves, likely mages by their look, stand upon an icy island ahead. Another island ahead of the Shields bears three elemental pillars and an ornate step-pyramid; a drow matron, ostensibly the exarch Lolestra, stands at the base, chanting vile syllables with her hands outstretched to the heavens. The divine engine, with two pieces obviously built out of some other material, sits atop the pyramid. Three fiery, armored figures guard her, as does the banished fire titan from the fire giant king’s chamber.

The Shields barely have an opportunity to fully comprehend the scene before they are assaulted by some churning, enervating force, evidently originating from a nearly-invisible magical glyph scribed near the magic circle in which they have found themselves. Bonatos dies in the onslaught, sent screaming back to the Abyss. A few of the Shields see a similar sort of magical sigil on one of the far ice islands.

Battle is quickly joined. The earth titan charges forward and leaps onto the Shields’ island. Valna moves out of range of its crashing rocks and prays for healing for the Shields. Bezaldooz calls down a swarm of meteors out of the roiling chaos to strike all foes; the drow warriors and drow wizards are instantly killed, and Lolestra and the earth titan are gravely injured, although the fire titan and his accompanying fire archons manage to avoid the worst of the assault and are barely touched. More importantly, the divine engine is broken into five pieces and Lolestra’s concentration is disrupted, ruining her ritual. The Shields are able to slay the earth titan, which collapses into a pile of emeralds, but they find there is some manner of fear barrier intersecting with the front part of their island, as most of the Shields cannot enter the area without growing afraid and refusing to pass further. Bezaldooz cannot enter the area at all, not even with effort of will.

As Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna cast spells at the enemy, with Bosabrieln stunning them with a well-placed hypnotic pattern. Peren dashes across the islands in search of a way around the barrier. The exarch Lolestra prays, and the emeralds reassemble into the form of the earth titan, now fully healed. Her prayers also apparently heal some of her wounds. The enraged earth titan destroys Torinn’s shield guardian with its onslaught.

Bezaldooz teleports next to Peren’s position and dispels whatever fear field has been erected around Lolestra’s ritual. Peren rushes into the middle of the throng, stabs one of the fire archons, and blows the horn of Valhalla before rushing back to safety. Twenty greataxe-wielding berserkers arrive, fresh from eternal glorious combat in the afterlife; three appear on the island with the earth titan and most of the Shields, and the remaining seventeen appear on the island with the pyramid and the fiery warriors. Lolestra prays for teleportation and emerges on one of the icy islands, but Bezaldooz immediately antagonizes her with four dretches he summons from the Abyss, flinging blood around himself in a circle to protect himself from their depredations. As the berserkers begin laying into the fire archons, Bosabrieln, Torinn, and three berserkers continue to battle with the earth titan. When it is finally slain, Torinn teleports using the Implements of Argent to begin making his way to the berserker battle. Lolestra heals herself and the fire titan while Bezaldooz slings a fireball at her, killing the summoned demons and severely injuring the drow exarch. Peren makes his way to her, finally killing her and taking a moment to steal a pouch of diamonds from her belt, while the others turn their attention fully upon the fire archons. As the fiery auras of the archons and the fire titan take their toll on the berserkers, Torinn wades into combat to slay the archons.

Eventually, only the dazed fire titan remains. Torinn and the three remaining berserkers launch themselves at it, with the berserkers finally succumbing to the immense heat it generates, while Peren keeps rushing at it with hit-and-run tactics and Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna pelt it with spells. Bosabrieln and Valna also work to keep Torinn on his feet throughout the battle, locked as he is with the flaming titan. A few moments pass, and it is done; the massive creature falls, collapsing into a pile of ash and sulfur.

The Shields take a moment to survey the still battlefield before a bolt of energy emerges from the icy pillar on the main island. The frost titan, last encountered in Frost Spire, appears on one of the icy islands, while a small contingent of ice archons emerges from a ritual circle on the other island. Peren immediately conjures a wall of fire to protect their island, although Bosabrieln still stands on the earthmote from whence the Shields emerged. He forces one of the archons to flee from him, while the frost titan conjures a storm of sleet to antagonize the Shields; Bezaldooz attempts to dispel it, but is unable to do so. Most of the Shields wait for the enemies to come to them; the archons oblige by leaping across the gap to reach Bosabrieln. However, Bosabrieln teleports away using the Implements of Argent, casting a hypnotic pattern on the archons as he leaves. The ice titan tries to launch another ice storm on the Shields, but Bezaldooz counterspells it and responds by casting hold monster on the beast, keeping it occupied so that it may be engaged. Although it manages to shake off the first hold monster, Bezaldooz then casts a second; while occupied, it not only has to deal with Valna’s spells, but heavy blows from both Peren and Torinn as they engage it. The creature finally falls, collapsing into star sapphires. Bosabrieln forces one of the archons to flee, and when the others are injured and awakened from their stupor, one dies while the others decide to similarly flee.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell begin to regroup, gathering the gems from the fallen titans. Peren also takes her shield, bearing a symbol of Lolth upon it, and giving the exarch’s diamonds to Valna. He also sets about collecting the pieces of the divine engine. As he does, the exarch Torugar appears in a flash of light. He is robed and carrying a box in his hands. He thanks the Shields for their assistance, and indicates he will collect the pieces of the Divine Engine and hide them somewhere safe. He awards them a box, a token of the gods’ appreciation; inside are fifty astral diamonds and an ornate iron flask, evidently able to entrap extraplanar entities and compel them to service. He also grants them a blessing from the gods to protect them in combat.

The Shields indicate that two of the five pieces of the divine engine are back in the city of Argent, so Torugar prays for teleportation and suddenly they are all there. Torinn leaves the group to put on his armor, but the other four Shields accompany Torugar to Guardian’s Tower. When they enter Guardian’s Tower, they find Rrowthar attending to Obanar, who looks very tired and aged. He asks if they were successful, and tells them the city of Argent is now theirs. He then closes his eyes and breathes his last.

After a moment’s quiet, Torugar inquires about the other two pieces of the divine engine, and Rrowthar leads him off to retrieve them. The Shields set about making preparations, as Valna will no doubt hold some manner of memorial that night for the aged wizard, and they go their separate ways for the rest of the afternoon. Valna revives the shield guardian with her prayers, while Bosabrieln takes the opportunity to cast a sending for Vianibrar to let him know of their success; Vianibrar’s response is somewhat vexing, indicating that things are in a state of upheaval and that he will contact Bosabrieln in his dreams tonight for further information.

Valna leads the memorial that night, and Obanar is interred in Argent’s Necropolis. Afterward, she informs the Shields of the Sorrowfell that she will remain in Argent, as someone must watch over the city in the old wizard’s absence, and she believes it is her destiny to do so. But if they need her, they can find her in Argent, or she can always take up her mace and adventure with them again. Of course, it will likely be a couple of days before they return to the wider world, anyway, so it is not yet time for farewells.

That night, as he sleeps, Bosabrieln finds himself in Vianibrar’s steading outside Nainimdul. They greet each other, and Bosabrieln explains that their mission was successful, that they have routed the giants and prevented a contingent of dark elves from awakening the primordial Piranoth. Vianibrar explains that he is currently laying low in Khuragzar. While the Shields were away, there was a slave revolt in Scandshar; six gladiators escaped, causing chaos in Scandshar and the greater Sorrowfell Plains before escaping to parts unknown. In truth, they were laying low in Duchy Jepson until bounty hunters came looking for them. As one of the bounty hunters died under mysterious circumstances, more parties, and the Scandshar Watch, came to investigate. Vianibrar thought it prudent to escape, particularly since he was harboring one of the gladiator’s employees — one of the gladiators tried to erect a stock exchange in Scandshar — and another gladiator’s mother. He can’t say there’s any more people than usual looking for him, but he’s still trying to keep things quiet until the heat dies down a little. Bosabrieln asks if, given Vianibrar’s isolation, Bosie ought to pass along the good news to anyone, but Vianibrar indicates he is still able to pass news of the Shields’ success on to the proper authorities, likely starting with the Headmaster. Bosabrieln also tells Vianibrar about the pirate Banda he met in Black Harbor; there is apparently a pro-abolitionist gang of pirates operating in the waters around ’Ichi, and they would be interested in meeting with the Zookeepers. The two then spend the rest of the dream together until Bosabrieln awakens.

The next day, Bosabrieln reports what he has learned to the rest of the Shields, while the lot of them contemplate their next move.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 21

Waterday, Ready’reat 12, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna awaken in Mordekainen’s magnificent mansion. They prepare for their respective days, and once they have had breakfast, Bosabrieln opens the door to the mansion.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell stop their advance when they see the room has been cleared of corpses and partially cleaned. More threateningly, a humanoid sits on one of the beds. It appears to be finely dressed in the regalia of nobility, and bears a tiger’s head. Most disconcertingly, its hands are backward with regard to those of a typical humanoid, with its palms on the backs of its hands. It sits with one leg crossed atop the other, smoking a pipe, and evidently expecting the Shields to arrive.

It gives greeting in a throaty purr, and after some negotiation as to whether the Shields will come out to greet it or it will enter the mansion (it refuses), the Shields — along with Bono and Torinn’s shield guardian — decide to exit the mansion to speak with this creature. Introducing himself as Rahu, the creature appears to be well aware of the Shields’ reputation, and indicates he was here on diplomatic business. However, knowing that the Shields are here, he strongly suspects the deal is off, and everyone in this tower is dead, they just don’t know it yet. As such, he is willing to give them information regarding the tower and their operations, if they’re willing to deal with him. He doesn’t particularly need anything, although he would be very pleased if he could have five minutes or so of their wizard’s time. The Shields discuss this matter before agreeing to these terms. Rahu takes Bezaldooz aside to speak with him.

Rahu indicates he operates on behalf of a foreign power whose constituents have, perhaps, bloodlines in common with Bezaldooz. He asks if Bezaldooz is part of an organization, which he affirms, and Rahu asks whom he would need to contact so that his organization could cooperate with Bezaldooz’s cabal. Bezaldooz directs him to Remegni the Stoic in Duchy Jepson, and Rahu thanks him.

Rahu and Bezaldooz return to the group, and Rahu explains about Flamefall Tower. The drow exarch Lolestra is preparing a ritual to release Piranoth from his prison. The remaining drow in Flamefall Tower are assisting, but the bulk of it is being performed in the Elemental Chaos. The fire giants have three pieces of the divine engine, but have managed to build replicas of the missing two pieces, and they anticipate it will be enough to release the primordial. The Shields have, at best, twenty-four to forty-eight hours to stop this ritual. The fire giant king and his associates lair in the basement, where they have been trying to extract information from an exarch of Moradin they captured. While they haven’t received much information from him, they have had weeks to study what intelligence they have gathered.

Rahu refuses to speak on specifically why he’s here or what he was attempting to negotiate with the fire giants or drow, indicating it is no longer important. Once the Shields are satisfied, Rahu performs a brief gesture and incant and disappears. The Shields proceed to head downstairs.

After passing through another barracks below, the Shields wander right into the aforementioned ritual chamber. Peren dashes across, the room, sighting a fire giant overseeing a ritual with two drow communing over a magic circle. A total of five magic circles are inscribed in this room, and two drow are performing some ceremony by the center one. The flickering, illusory image of a drow matron appears in the circle, communing with them. On the far left side of the room, there is a portal open to another portion of the tower, revealing a fiery titan and three fire giants crowded around a bloodied and battered dwarf on a table. Peren also spies two drow warriors, hiding in alcoves in the room. He quickly attacks one of the mages and speeds to the other side of the room. The rest of the Shields quickly filter behind him, and the battle is joined.

The drow matron disappears, and when she does, the portal on the far wall begins to shimmer and flicker but does not fully disappear. One of the warriors moves after Peren while the other moves to engage Torinn and his shield guardian. The mages continue their ritual work, while the fire giant moves to engage the attackers. Bosabrieln manages to enthrall a drow warrior and the fire giant with a hypnotic pattern, giving the Shields breathing room to slay the two wizards before they can finish their ritual, as well as the one unencumbered drow warrior. Stupefied and surprised as they are, the drow warrior and the fire giant are swiftly dispatched.

The Shields briefly consider their options and vault through the portal. Peren takes cover behind a column and spies a portal to a realm of roiling flame and ice, probably the aforementioned portal to the Elemental Chaos. As the others enter, the fire titan bellows in Primordial, telling Lolestra to close the portal and King Snarr to kill the intruders. Bosabrieln enthralls the fire giants with another hypnotic pattern, but the fire giant moves to engage. As he does, he fires a bead of fire that Bezaldooz recognizes as the seed of a mighty fireball. He quickly performs a countersign to dispel the spell before it can harm the Shields, and Valna prays to Pelor, banishing the titan back to the Elemental Chaos. As the three remaining fire giants are hypnotized, the Shields pick them off one by one. The first is dragged to the Abyss by Bono, while the other two are summarily slain. Valna frees the dwarf exarch in the melee, and once the giants have been dispatched, she prays for healing for the battered dwarf. The exarch, introducing himself as Torugar, indicates that the giants have been trying to extract information out of him regarding the use of the divine engine. The drow have completed their ritual preparations and crafted replicas of the missing divine engine components, and will be ready to free Piranoth within the day. The Shields have time to prepare, but not much. With that, he utters a prayer ro Moradin and disappears in a flash of light, leaving a strange adamantine device in his wake, looking like a very complex spanner.

The Shields collect it. They then search the slain giants, finding a vial of fluid on one of the giants. The king holds a pouch with three rubies, a runic stone bearing intricate sigils, and an ornate iron drinking horn bearing the images of fearsome warriors in horned helmets. Bezaldooz recognizes the runic stone as a focus for a teleportation ritual, probably leading to the spot in the Elemental Chaos where Lolestra’s ritual is taking place. He then performs the rites to return to Argent.

Appearing in the circle in the Grand Mall, the Shields ascend Guardian’s Tower to find Obanar, looking grave and significantly older. They explain what has transpired, and give Obanar the runic stone. He says he will be ready to transport them after they’ve rested. He then presents them with the Implements of Argent, forged from the starmetal they recovered from Acererak’s tower: the champion’s ring, the controller’s staff, the defender’s plate, the leader’s helm, and the striker’s longsword. These will aid them in their battle in the Elemental Chaos. They then go to rest.

While resting, they examine the goods they’ve found. The vial of liquid is a potion of cloud giant strength, evidently unexamined by the giants they fought. The drinking horn is not a drinking horn at all, but a warhorn with a cap crudely attached. It is, in fact, the horn of Valhalla, capable of summoning a small force of berserkers from Ysgard when blown, so long as the bearer is well-trained in force of arms. The Shields then prepare to rest so that they may face the drow ritualists on the morrow.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 20

Godsday, Ready’reat 11, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, Valna, and Torinn’s shield guardian arrive in Obanar’s chambers, and tell him of their success in retrieving a piece of the divine engine and foiling the frost giants’ plans at Frost Spire. He notes they now have two pieces of the divine engine, while the giants’ forces hold three — in addition to the two they have managed to steal, while the Shields of the Sorrowfell were in Frost Spire, the remaining vestige of giant forces attacked and sacked the city of Breelton, which was holding another piece.

The Shields also indicate that they also know the fire giant forces are gathered at Flamefall Tower. Obanar has similarly heard that agents of the giant forces have captured Torugar, exarch of Moradin, and one of those with the knowledge to repair the divine engine; he is likely also being held in Flamefall Tower. Obanar indicates he can use the plaque retrieved from Breven Foss to transport them to Flamefall Tower when they are ready. The Shields agree they are prepared, so Obanar says the words, modifies the magic circle, and the Shields are suddenly elsewhere.

The Shields appear in a magic circle on a large balcony atop a massive basalt tower. Four fire giants stand guard, three armed with hammers and one bearing two shields, steaming with lava. Bezaldooz casts a protection spell on himself as the shield-wielding giant charges into the throng. Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn all manage to avoid the worst of it, while Bosabrieln, Valna, and the shield guardian are all caught by the shields and shoved to the edge of the platform. The trio manages to catch themselves against the railing and avoid being thrown over the side. The shield-wielding giant is unable to withstand the combined onslaught of the Shields of the Sorrowfell, and is quickly slain. Turning their attention to the other three fire giants, Peren is surprised when a stone gargoyle on the side of the building comes to life and swoops at him, although he is able to slay the beast. The Shields are able to take down two of the giants — one of which Bezaldooz banishes to the Abyss — and wound the third before he tries to run, managing to get just inside the door to the tower and shout before Peren catches up to him and slays him.

Surveying the landscape, the Shields surmise this balcony is some manner of landing pad for flying beasts or possibly eldritch vehicles. The surrounding mountains appear to be dark and volcanic, and the temperature suggests they are somewhere in the south. With nothing further to investigate, they head inside and down the stairs.

The Shields come to a room with several tables and a large throne at the head. A dragon mosaic dominates the floor in the central meeting area. As they round the corner, they see a group of four dark elves — one, a noblewoman with the staff and robes of a magus, while the other three males are equipped as warriors — and three giants, apparently waiting for them. As the Shields emerge into the room, the drow warriors move to attack; two engage in melee while the third launches crossbow bolts at a distance. The Shields quickly kill one of the drow, and Peren moves into the room, diving behind the throne and noticing a hidden panel. He opens it, activating some mechanism that blasts him with a gout of flame, but he notes there is an ornate rod in the compartment, and he takes it. Seeing they are likely outmaneuvered, the two drow warriors move to retreat. One manages to escape down a flight of stairs with heavy injuries, while Peren chases the other down and kills him. The drow noble barely manages to cast a spell before she is attacked and frozen solid by Bezaldooz — Peren takes great pleasure in shattering her as he passes — and the three fire giants are quickly slain. They find gold and a treatise on magic in the noblewoman’s belt pouch, and also find two switches on the back wall. They are unable to determine what they do through experimentation, but after Peren agrees to stay behind while the others go to another room, they determine that the levers control the two towers beside this one, raising and lowering them to change the arrangement of rooms. Unsure what to do with this information, they make a note of it and descend.

After descending into a guest room of some sort, the Shields descend into another guest room attached to some manner of smithy. Another one of the fire giants armed with two shields resides in the smithy, along with several serpentine creatures made of fire; they appear to be assisting his crafting endeavors. The fire giant notices the Shields as they approach and sounds the alarm. He opens the portcullis between the two rooms and begins to move inside the guest rooms, while the Shields move to greet him. Torinn and his shield guardian hold the line, as they often do, while Valna prays for sanctuary to render Torinn even more invulnerable than his prowess usually enables. The combined might of the Shields leaves the fire giant dead, and they find the fiery, spear-wielding serpents far less robust than he. As they kill the last one, with Bezaldooz unsuccessfully attempting to hex one of them, a drow patrol comprising a drow priestess, accompanied by two mages and three warriors descends the stairs. The Shields immediately agree to capture the priestess. As they move into position, one of the mages casts cloudkill, but is attacked and her concentration disrupted so quickly that it barely has an opportunity to take effect. Torinn enters the fray and dispatches the magic-users, while Peren manages to knockout the priestess. The warriors are quickly dispatched, and as the Shields are about to determine what to do next, the injured drow warrior from the meeting room upstairs quietly descends the stairs. He doesn’t have time to run before they knock him out. Bosabrieln conjures Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion and the Shields enter, dragging the priestess and the warrior with them.

After taking them to separate rooms and tying them to chairs, they decide to interrogate the warrior first. Bosabrieln and Torinn awaken him and question him about occurrences at Flamefall Tower. Completely terrified of them, he doesn’t know much, indicating that they’re allying with the fire giants as part of some ritual, some holy quest for Lolth or some such. An exarch of Lolth is here with a priestess and the other mages, engaging in ritual preparations; all told, there are fourteen drow here, not counting the exarch. He asks if he will be allowed to leave for cooperating; in response, Bosabrieln and Torinn leave, allowing Peren to enter and execute him.

Bosabrieln and Torinn next interrogate the priestess, who may know more but is far less impressed by them than the warrior was. She indicates she is here on a diplomatic mission, trying to broker peace between her people and the fire giants. Of course she has armed warriors here, as she needs to protect herself. She further claims that Bosabrieln has unfairly targeted her, simply for being a dark elf. Once he is certain he won’t get much out of her, Bosabrieln hollers for Peren to let him know he’s done. As Peren enters, the priestess remarks, “I have made my peace with Lolth, have you made yours with—” before Peren stabs her in the throat.

Bosabrieln has the ghostly servants remove the bodies and deposit them back in the guest room where the other bodies lay, and then proceed to clean the guest rooms. They examine the objects they’ve captured, as well. Bezaldooz determines the magic treatise contains the scrolls for the spells mislead, passwall, and scrying. Peren determines the rod he stole is a rod of security, a device capable of transporting companions to a demiplane paradise for a period of time. People in this demiplane have enough food and water to sustain them, do not age, and heal at an accelerated rate. The plane lasts between one and two hundred days depending on the number of inhabitants, and needs to recharge ten days after use, but can be used instantly, unlike the minute required to cast Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion.

With the excitement finished, the Shields sleep for the night.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 19

Godsday, Patchwall 18, 552 CY (50 AN)

It is decided that Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Torinn, and Valna, their companions Geverspike and 254, and Torinn’s new shield guardian will remain in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion while Peren uses his obsidian steed to scout the island. They will open the mansion to check for him every hour or so; Peren gets a sending stone, as do they.

Peren uses the talisman of the seven winds to calm the storm and then flies over the island. In scouting, he finds two things of interest: another guard tower in the northwestern corner, evidently manned by ice archons, and a cave in the northeastern corner. On his way back to the south, he spots a single giant wandering. He flies down and finds it’s a female frost giant, walking with a staff and clad in a flowing coat. A polar bear accompanies her. He swoops down, hovering on his mount to speak to her. She introduces herself as Ragnhildur Brimirsdóttir, daughter of Jarl Brimir Grugnurson. Peren flirts with her rather shamelessly, although she seems potentially interested. Peren suggests that the Jarl is no longer a concern on this island, but she seems nonchalant — in fact, since that means her father is no longer a concern, she would be interested in returning home to take command of her frost giant tribe. She would be willing to reward Peren and his associates if they are willing to assist. Peren agrees; he will fly back to their camp, she will continue to head south, and she will meet them somewhere in the middle of the path.

When Peren rejoins the Shields of the Sorrowfell, he suggests they investigate the cavern in the northeast corner of the island, and explains his encounter with the frost giantess. Although the Shields are wary — especially Torinn, who thinks this sounds suspiciously like a trap — they decide to assist.

The next morning, they leave Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion and head north. After about three hours, they encounter Ragnhildur Brimirsdóttir. Introductions are made, Bosabrieln also flirts with her, and the Shields explain that they are heading to the northeast to retrieve her ancestors’ funerary urn. She is more than willing to make this detour.

After an hour or two, the Shields are aware of a shape coming from the sky — a truly massive white dragon, probably the largest creature they have ever seen. By his size, he is no doubt ancient. He introduces himself as Darrhturacrithux, Lord of Doom and Ice, and demands tribute from them in the form of gold and magic items; Bosabrieln suggests the Shields show him their magic items.

Battle is swift and brutal. 254 and Geverspike, having never encountered anything of this scale before, are overcome with fear and refuse to come closer to the beast, and Darrhturacrithux glides into the fray, knocking over Torinn with powerful beats from his wings. The ancient dragon is otherwise overwhelmed, as Bezaldooz and Valna pelt the dragon with fiery spells, Bosabrieln tries to keep it dazed, and Ragnhildur keeps it from flying with powerful, gusting winds and lightning. Peren cleaves into it, and Ragnhildur’s polar bear, Skelfing, moves to attack the ancient dragon. Torinn rises and cleaves deeply into the dragon with his axe. Seeing it is outnumbered, it tries to flee, but Ragnhildur sends it painfully back to the ground with high winds and electrocutes it with lightning. When it lands, Bezaldooz channels all of his power into a fireball, which slays the beast.

The only injury to the Shields is a slight bruise Torinn incurred when he fell.

Hoping to find the beast’s lair, Valna casts speak with dead upon it, but the surly dragon refuses to reveal anything other than its lair is not on this island. After a debate about trying to harvest the bones from the dragon to repair the hag’s bone ship, they cover it with snow and continue on their way. They come to a stop as night approaches, and Bosabrieln casts Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion. Ragnhildur joins them, although she finds the interior rather too warm for her liking. That evening, she and Bosabrieln retire to the same bedchamber for a dalliance the logistics of which are probably better left unconsidered.

The next morning, the Shields set out for the cave. They manage to climb the cliffs atop which the cave is situated and enter by nightfall. Although the six frost giants within are jumpy, and expect to be devoured by demons or worse, Bosabrieln and Ragnhildur manage to keep them calm and explain that they are returning home. The frost giants agree to accompany them, and reveal the funerary urn among their things. Ragnhildur suggests they not use Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion for the rest of the trip so as to make the giant companions more at home.

The group camps in the cave for the night, and then sets out for Kaseem’s boat in the morning, on Freeday, Patchwall 21. Along the route, they encounter a slain contingent of frost giants, and shortly thereafter, they encounter a frost giant ghost with two animate frost giant corpses. Bosabrieln and Ragnhildur manage to convince the unquiet dead that they bring the last funerary urn back to Jarl Hargaad, and mean no violence. The dead accept this and leave the Shields and their frost giant allies unmolested.

They continue until nightfall, when they make camp. The next day, they encounter three more frost giants, whom they bring into the retinue. Finally, on Sunday, Patchwall 23, the Shields and the giants will travel to Kaseem while Peren uses his obsidian steed to deliver the last funerary urn to Jarl Hargaad and return.

Kaseem is amused to see the Shields with so many frost giants, and they explain their situation. They finish repairing the boat. Meanwhile, Peren flies across the island, and activates his boots of speed to wander into Jarl Hargaad’s tomb, just in case he needs to leave in a hurry. He presents the funerary urn, and the ancient king thanks him. He says he may take any of the treasure in the bone pile, and also presents Peren with his iron crown and mask, revealing himself as a withered corpse with sunken eyes. He tells Peren when he is finished to never return.

After Peren is finished looting, he climbs on his nightmare and returns to meet the others. The following day, Moonday, Patchwall 24, Kaseem, the Shields of the Sorrowfell, 254 and Geverspike, and eleven frost giants disembark the island. (The Shields inquire about any potentially remaining frost giants on the island, but Ragnhildur says they are likely dead, which puts an end to that issue.)

During the week-long voyage to the island of the frost giants, the groups drink and feast, and the Shields manage to create a rapport with the frost giants. At some point, Ragnhildur enters the Shields’ tent and asks if they have anything that could potentially aid her legitimacy. Having previously discussed this eventuality, Bosabrieln presents her father’s crown. She suspects that will do, and thanks the Shields.

Kaseem’s boat arrives in the frost giant village on Moonday, Ready’reat 3. Everyone disembarks, and Bosabrieln and Ragnhildur greet the frost giants, convincing them to accept Ragnhildur as the new Jarlkona. The frost giants also agree to keep their raids out of the lands of men, instead sticking to this side of the Elemental Chaos, and Ragnhildur proclaims the Shields of the Sorrowfell as drotin and fruha of the frost giant ordning. After much feasting that night, the Shields return to Kaseem’s boat the following morning and leave the village.

On Freeday, Ready’reat 7, the Shields spot another ship on the Sea of Howling Souls, apparently on an intercept course. They are initially wary, but the captain — a water genasi, by his look — shouts greeting and asks if they are the Shields of the Sorrowfell. As they answer affirmatively, he indicates one of his passengers wishes to speak with them. Belowdecks, there is a tall, lanky, blue humanoid creature with more fingers and joints than a regular human. It introduces itself as Keboak, a Mercane merchant, and indicates it wishes to trade with them, particularly if they have any magic items to sell; it is willing to trade fair market value for such things, no questions asked. The Shields offload many of their old treasures, and purchase a few items of their own. Bezaldooz agonizes for a while over determining how to afford a first edition copy of the Tome of the Stilled Tongue, said to be penned by Vecna himself, but ultimately decides on the robe of the archmagi Keboak carries. Once everyone is adequately resupplied, they bid Keboak farewell, and he tells them to find his shop in Sigil anytime.

Kaseem and the Shields arrive in Flotsam on Godsday, Ready’reat 11. Kaseem thanks them for their assistance, and ensures they have his piece of the divine engine before they go. As this is the home of Geverspike and 254, they deign to remain here, but thank the Shields for allowing them to tag along on a very lucrative venture.

With their errands complete, the Shields of the Sorrowfell use the magic circle to return to Argent. Once there, they find the city to be bustling — the torrians have returned, and are busily attempting to restore the city of Argent to its previous glory. With that, the Shields go to the Guardian’s Tower to speak to Obanar.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 18

Earthday, Patchwall 13, 552 CY (50 AN)

The following morning, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna, their companions Geverspike and 254, and Torinn’s new shield guardian, leave Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion to again wander the Frost Spire. Peren casts pass without trace and water walk upon the Shields of the Sorrowfell so that they may cross the lake around Zaelex’s tower of ice and traverse the snows without difficulty. They march.

After crossing the lake within a half hour or so, they continue to walk until a few of the Shields feel a tremor under their feet. They have only a few seconds to prepare before a massive insectoid creature, like a monstrous blue centipede with flames licking around its mouth, emerges from the snow and attacks. Torinn skirts around the beast to flank it as ten great, white wolves emerge from the snow, their pelts allowing them to blend in against the white backdrop. As the great beast attempts to bite Torinn, the wolves breathe ice upon the Shields, raining ice chips and sleet upon them, and Bonatos dies from the onslaught; the icy breath appears to not affect the monstrous centipede at all. Torinn lashes out at the great worm with his axe, and flames erupt from its wounds, mildly scorching him. Peren erects a fire wall while Bezaldooz lashes out with chain lightning, quickly killing six of the beasts and badly injuring a seventh, although the fire wall again appears to leave the centipede creature unaffected. The wolves break away and flee in search of easier prey. Although the centipede-creature is mighty, it is little match against the Shields and is quickly slain. After resting for an hour and applying some healing magics, the Shields are ready to continue.

Unable to scavenge much from the fallen beast, Peren decides to follow its raised tunnels back to its lair, particularly since they seem to be in the same westerly direction the Shields are heading. After another half hour, they find a burrow melted into the snow and rock. Inside are the remains of several humanoid adventurers, including a handful of blue spinels, several gold and platinum pieces, a staff topped with an adder’s head, an ornate amulet, a suit of studded leather armor, and a wicked-looking dagger. The Shields divide the items and decide to investigate them at a later time.

The march west and south is uneventful, and the Shields cross an ice bridge to a small island; according to Gorrick Frostcaller, Jarl Hargaad is interred here. Previously having decided to ignore Gorrick’s demands to deposit Helstaff and Zaelex’s bodies at the base of the stairs, they merely wish to investigate. Finding little before night falls, Bosabrieln conjures Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion and they rest for the night. Bezaldooz again summons Bonatos. Bezaldooz identifies the four items they retrieved, revealing them to be a staff of the adder, whose head turns into a striking snake when activated; an amulet of health; a suit of armor of vulnerability, a cursed item which resists blunt trauma but makes the wearer take grievous stab wounds; and a vicious dagger. Bezaldooz erroneously lists the suit of armor as armor of invulnerability, and offers it to 254, but a suspicious Geverspike recommends against taking it.

The next day, the Shields continue to survey the small isle, eventually finding a cave to the east. They carefully enter, and Peren notes a hidden trapdoor in the floor, commenting for the others to avoid it. Two torches burn in the entrance, but give off no heat. Two boulders block two entrances to the east and south. The Shields move the ice boulder to the east aside, and descend into darkness.

At the base of the stairs, they are in a grand chamber. Two frost giant skeletons flank a throne, in which sits a corpselike frost giant wearing a mask of iron with an attached crown and dangling chains for a beard. As they approach, the creature speaks, not making eye contact, introducing itself as Jarl Hargaad and asking why they have come. Bosabrieln explains that they have come here with the understanding that these graves have been defiled. They have recovered two funerary urns, which he presents. The skeletons take them, and Jarl Hargaad says there is a third urn. If they recover it, all his treasure is theirs. Bosabrieln agrees, and the Shields take their leave. Once back upstairs, they suspect Jarl Grugnurson has the last urn. They also suspect Gorrick Frostcaller sent them to Jarl Hargaad’s tomb to die.

The Shields continue their trek across the ice, leaving the island and again resting in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion once they cross the ice bridge. The next day, Patchwall 15, their journey continues; they cross the ice until they reach Gorrick Frostcaller’s hut. Bosabrieln knocks on the door and Gorrick answers, indeed looking somewhat surprised to see them. They indicate they have deposited the bodies in Hargaad’s tomb, even giving a brief description, and tell him they are ready to craft the ice key to enter the vault and meet Jarl Grugnurson. Both sides agree to continue the journey tomorrow, first thing in the morning.

The Shields rest in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion, and after conversing on the subject, they decide there is no reason to include Gorrick Frostcaller since Bezaldooz can decipher the Tome of the Frozen Gate and craft the key. Particularly since Helstaff is still alive, which would no doubt lead to an awkward conversation. So, the next morning, the Shields inform Gorrick that they can craft the key themselves, but can he give them the elemental ice they need? Gorrick laments the fact that these outlanders penetrate the frost giants’ greatest mysteries, but says such must be the price of their hubris for plundering the tombs of their ancestors. He gives them the ice and lets them leave without incident.

The Shield’s march to Helstaff’s forge to craft the ice key. He is displeased to see them, but glad they will be gone soon enough. It takes three hours for Bezaldooz and Helstaff to craft the key, a massive, toothed icicle, and when it is done, they take their leave. Although Bosabrieln is certain to note that they spoke with Gorrick Frostcaller, and if he ever comes poking around the forge, he is under the impression that Helstaff is dead. The old blacksmith can do whatever he wants with that information.

Once the Shields leave, they continue to march south. As they are about to rest for the night, they come across a large collection of slain frost giants, most of whom were killed by heavy axe blows, although one or two appear to be withered and enervated. As Bosabrieln is about to cast Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion, two frost giant corpses rise and a translucent giant form appears. The Shields make short work of the undead, particularly with the assistance of Valna’s holy might, and rest for the night.

That night, Peren has foul dreams he cannot quite recall. The next morning, Patchwall 17, he approaches Bezaldooz, who suspects the involvement of primal magic. He cannot remove the curse, however, as he did not prepare such a spell. They then approach Bosabrieln, taking a bath, who sings briefly to remove the curse. Peren suspects he was cursed by the night hag they met on the voyage here, and doesn’t know what else to expect.

After breakfast, the Shields continue their march. Spotting another guard tower in the distance, they sneak to it and use the same tactics as before: Bosabrieln, Geverspike, 254, Valna, and the shield guardian will approach from the front and parley while Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn climb the tower around the back to surprise them. Again, the frost giants appear unhinged, and when combat appears imminent, Bezaldooz blasts the giants with lightning. While Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn struggle with the bulk of the frost giants, their leader bangs on his drum and summons an air elemental. Both move forward to attack the remaining Shields at the base of the guard tower. One by the one the giants fall, although the leader manages to smite Geverspike and leave him bleeding in the snow. Eventually, the strain of battle disrupts the elementalist’s concentration, and the air elemental is unleashed. The elementalist falls shortly thereafter, Valna revives Geverspike, and Bezaldooz, Torinn, the shield guardian, and the air elemental fall upon the remaining frost giant. He is quickly slain.

After the Shields have rested and recovered, they continue their march south, then west around the tip of the mountains, before finally reaching a massive set of double doors, carved from ice and recessed into the mountain. The doors are decorated with tentacles erupting from the sea. After some discussion, the Shields order the shield guardian to open the door, and as they do, a vision overtakes them. The storm subsides and fire plays upon the peaks and illuminates a shadowy, tentacled form beneath the ice. It struggles and writhes, attempting to free itself, and with a final flash of fire, the Frost Spire returns to normal. Stairs descend into the dark. The Shields descend.

Before they enter, Geverspike notes that Peren previously retrieved a vial of oil of sharpness. Since it can be used on ammunition, and makes it able to harm things immune to normal weapons, would he be able to use it before this fight? Peren agrees, and Geverspike treats five of his bullets with the substance. The Shields likewise agree that 254 ought to get the vicious dagger, as according to Geverspike, he is prone to occasional rages against foes in which he becomes a very effective combatant.

On a small landing lies the corpse of a massive, ancient white dragon, its chest cavity cracked open and its heart removed, apparently by heavy axe and sword blows. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna suspect this could be part of some dread rite to Suulkar, perhaps an awakening ritual. The Shields continue the trek downward for almost an hour before the steep stairs emerge on a landing. Before they enter, Bezaldooz casts greater invisibility on Peren. A hole leads into a chamber, cliffs among icy sea water. At the far end of the chamber, a frost giant — by his bearing and diadem, likely Jarl Grugnurson — stands next to a large heart that still beats and pumps blood into the sea. He appears to be casting some manner of spell over it. Three frost giant hunters wait with him as the enormous form of an icy humanoid appears, an ice titan. As it appears, it bellows, asking why he has called it away from its work when they are so close to freeing Piranoth.

The Shields leap into the fray. Peren attacks the ice titan and dashes across the battlefield, putting himself near the king. Torinn rushes into combat with the ice titan, while the rest of the Shields begin pelting it with bullets and spells. Bezaldooz sends Bonatos to grapple with the titan and attempt to plane shift it, but the ice titan resists and Bonatos travels back to the Abyss alone. As the chaos erupts, Breven Foss appears next to Jarl Grugnurson, grabbing a piece of the divine engine hanging from his belt and dashing away, near the dragon’s still-beating heart. Jarl Grugnurson runs after the wizard, attacking him with a sword while Bezaldooz prepares a potent fireball. Breven Foss attempts to counterspell the fireball, but is too far away from the source as it lands, instantly killing him and scorching several of the frost giants as well as the beating heart. A hunter manages to land a net on Torinn, but he cuts it off himself as he continues to slash at the frost titan.

Peren, still invisible, moves to harry the giants while the rest of the Shields focus on the ice titan. Bezaldooz continues to sling long-range spells to take out the giants. Suddenly, everyone feels a presence in their mind attempt to wrest control, and 254, Geverspike, and Torinn immediately grow rigid and seem to fall under its control. Geverspike turns his gun on Bezaldooz, trying to disrupt his concentration so that Peren is visible, and though he fires, Bezaldooz maintains the spell. Before 254 has the chance to attack Bezaldooz, Peren rushes for the heart and slashes it three times, pouring all the souls from his helm of seven deaths into the last strike. The heart shudders and stops beating as 254, Geverspike, and Torinn appear to return to normal.

With the threat of Suulkar’s influence diminshed, the Shields quickly dispatch the ice titan. In the chaos, one of the frost giants falls, while Bosabrieln manages to stun Jarl Grugnurson. One of his hunters, badly injured from the fireball and Peren’s invisible strikes, shakes him back to consciousness. The injured hunter is quickly slain, leaving only a last hunter and the jarl to engage the Shields in combat. As they move into melee, a combination of blade and spell fells the last two giants.

The Shields search the bodies, retrieving a cache of coins, the jarl’s diadem, and a bone talisman on a gold chain. Breven Foss’s charred remains hold a wizard’s scroll, another bone talisman, the stolen piece of the divine engine, and a plaque bearing a picture of a tower with the words “Flamefall Tower” written in Giant. He also holds a brooch bearing the crest of the Broken Chain among his personal effects. There is no giant funerary urn among them.

The Shields ascend the stairs before resting for the night in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion. Bosabrieln arranges for massages from the ghostly servants after the arduous climb. Studying the objects, they determine that the bone talismans are both talismans of the seven winds, which will enable them to quell the storm over the island and escape. The scroll appears to be a telepathy spell.

The next morning, Patchwall 18, the Shields discuss matters over breakfast. They decide to use the talisman of the seven winds to calm the storm, and Peren will use his obsidian steed to survey the rest of the island, searching for places that might contain the last funerary urn.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 17

Moonday, Patchwall 10, 552 CY (50 AN)

Kaseem surveys the wrecked ship while Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna, and their companions Geverspike and 254, as well as Torinn’s new shield guardian, trek onto the Frost Spire. The cavern in which they find themselves is spacious, and contains several objects. Several crates and sacks sit by the water’s edge. Upon one of the plateaus in the cavern is a pile of frost giant corpses. The Shields of the Sorrowfell clearly note the planned ambush of several frost giants and their pet owlbear. Bosabrieln addresses them, mocking their poor attempt at stealth before battle is joined. The Shields note that the giants seem spooked, and they are able to make quick work of them with steel and sorcery. They leave one alive for interrogation while Peren sets to work skinning the owlbear. The others search the crates and find a large stash of valuables, which they take. They also find a strange urn sealed with wax that makes a dry, rattling sound as it’s moved; Valna recognizes it as a funerary urn, and recommends against opening it, lest its curse takes hold.

The remaining frost giant, Grannic Bjornson, explains that many of the giants on the island have gone strange. Jarl Grugnurson has gone mad, while many other have become paranoid at the unrest and strange dreams that have gripped them. A contingent of them, hoping to escape the in-fighting, took to the longboats and fled, stranding the others here. This group of giants has been waiting upon the beach to steal a passing ship. He notes they planned on taking the funerary urn back to the homeland for burial. After some deliberation, the Shields agree to keep him alive for cooperating, and Bosabrieln sends him to Kaseem to assist with repairs. Kaseem assures him the frost giant won’t cause any trouble.

The group emerges from the cavern into the cold wastes of the Frost Spire. The clouds overhead reduce visibility, but they note that a plateau rises far to the west while a crevasse sinks to the west. Mountains ring the isle as well as dominating the southwest, and the path south is clear. The weather is abysmal, all blowing winds with snow and sleet, and they will require shelter lest they die of exposure; Bosabrieln can easily solve this problem by casting Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion when they are done traveling for the day. They decide to trek south, and Peren casts pass without trace and water walk upon them to both hide their passage and speed it across the deep snows.

They head south along the side of the crevasse, with Peren following the tread of several giants. In two hours, they cross eight miles, noting a guard tower in the distance. They’re upon it within another fifteen minutes or so, stealthily creeping to it. Bosabrieln, Geverspike, 254, Valna, and the shield guardian will approach from the front and parley while Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn climb the tower around the back to surprise them.

Bosabrieln, riding atop the shield guardian, shouts greeting to the frost giants, but the frost giants appear strange and crazed, saying that the travelers are interlopers, and cannot stand against the might of Suulkar. Bosabrieln knows the name — according to the tales, the Frost Spire was a literal spear of ice thrown during the Dawn War that pins the primordial Suulkar to the bottom of the Sea of Howling Souls. Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn take this as their cue to vault atop the guard tower and attack. Peren dashes into combat and then retreats behind a boulder while Torinn wades into the fray. Bezaldooz swiftly conjures two fireballs, killing two of the frost giants instantly. The other three cannot stand before the combined onslaught of eight combatants, and fall quickly. They have only some scattered coins among them, which the Shields divide among themselves.

From atop the tower, the Shields can survey farther and note the crevasse stops to the southeast, allowing passage, while a pass between the mountains continues to the south. They decide to continue south, passing another three miles before Peren’s spells run out and they are forced to proceed through the snows without the benefit of magic. As they march, Peren and Valna spy something against the dim sunlight filtering through the clouds — the large, unmistakable shape of a dragon. They inform the rest of the Shields, and wonder idly about whether such a beast might be allied with the giants on the island. They make another five miles or so before Bosabrieln summons Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion and they rest for the night.

Everyone is pleased to have access to a warm mansion with a sumptuous feast. Geverspike in particular says he has encountered no mages that are able to conjure wonders such as this, again reiterating that the biomancers of his home are often grotesque little tyrants. Peren finishes preparing the owlbear skin, making coats for himself, Bezaldooz, and Valna, and a stole for Bosabrieln. He eats owlbear meat while the others feast on the repast of the mansion.

The next morning, the Shields set out to the south. After an hour or so, they come upon a cave. Smoke can be seen curling from a chimney of sorts, and the dried corpses of three frost giants, badly burned, are scattered around the entrance. Bezaldooz decides to wait outside and keep watch while the others go inside. A set of stairs leads down into darkness, but the Shields notice a hidden door to their right. Pushing aside what appears to be a large and craftily-hidden ice block, they find a bedroom containing a rather surprised frost giant, dressed as a smith. Bosabrieln parleys, and learns that this is the frost giant Helstaff. Both Gorrick the rune-crafter and Zaelex the ice archon magus have sent troops to kill him, but he has repelled them all. After some prodding, and the promise that the Shields will leave once they’ve learned what he has to tell, he reveals the others covet the frost flame he tends, as they need it for their plans. It can also be used to craft a key to enter the vault with Jarl Grugnurson resides, carrying out his mad plots. Both Gorrick and Zaelex may be found to the east, while the Jarl is to the west, across the mountains.

The Shields thank him before returning to their travels, backtracking to head east. It takes a whole day before they spy a hut in the distance, and they rest for the night in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion, agreeing to sojourn to the hut the following morning.

The next morning, they approach the hut. It is carved from ice, tucked into a small canyon. and surrounded by pillars designed to appear as monsters — dragons and remorhazes and other creatures of the cold wastes. They knock, and a frost giant cracks open the massive door. Bosabrieln gives greeting as a traveler asking the frost giant for information about this isle. The frost giant is confused at this, as Bosabrieln acts totally ignorant about the dangers of the isle, but the giant invites them inside. He introduces himself as Gorrick Frostcaller, and among his things, the Shields notice two pieces of sparkling ice that may be the elemental ice Kaseem needs to repair his ship. He laments the fact that the other giants have sinned, breaking into the tombs of their ancestors and otherwise despoiling the sacred spots of this isle. For their trespasses, he tasks the Shields with killing Helstaff and Zaelex and throwing their bodies into the tomb of Jarl Hargaad, found on the isle to the south. Zaelex has a book, the Tome of the Frozen Gate, that gives instructions on how to open the vault in which Jarl Grugnurson hides, while Helstaff has the frost flame to manufacture the key. If the Shields retrieve these, he will assist them in their manufacture. The Shields agree and take their leave.

After some discussion, in which the consensus appears to be to gather the components and potentially betray Gorrick if Bezaldooz can make the key himself, the Shields march east. It is a couple of hours before they arrive at the shores of a clear lake; with Peren’s water walk spell, they simply walk across to the tower in an island in the middle.

The Shields knock, and when there is no answer, they enter. A small vestibule greets them, and when they enter into the next room, they find a room full of pillars with two men made of ice within. They wield warhammers and begin attacking; despite their battle prowess, the Shields manage to make short work of them and begin ascending the tower. Peren arrives on the next floor first, and is met by a spellcaster, also a humanoid made of ice. He opens a hole beneath Peren’s feet, but Peren dodges it and casts a silence spell. Two more elemental humanoids on the roof look down into a skylight and rain down javelins made of ice while the Shields ascend to engage. Without magic, the spellcaster is still a potent foe, but Torinn keeps him engaged while Bezaldooz and Peren ascend to the roof. Without magic, Bezaldooz attacks one by grabbing him and trying to drain his blood while Peren attacks the other, engaging and withdrawing as is his personal style. Once the spellcaster is dispatched, Peren breaks the silence and the Shields make short work of the two remaining elemental men.

Once dispatched, the Shields search the tower, finding valuables as well as a couple of interesting items, identifiable as horseshoes of a zephyr and oil of sharpness. They also find the Tome of the Frozen Gate and another funerary urn.

As Peren cannot enable another crossing of the lake without resting, the Shields decide to again rest in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion for the evening. After studying the Tome of the Frozen Gate and determining how best to read it, Bezaldooz thinks he could manufacture the key in Gorrick’s stead.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 16

Sunday, Patchwall 9, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna, as well as their companions Geverspike and 254, awaken as they voyage across the Sea of Howling Souls. Kaseem has kept the Percheron on course throughout the night.

As they journey, another fog bank rises and Kaseem tells all of them to be quiet. This continues for roughly an hour before the fog begins to lift and the Shields of the Sorrowfell hear shouts. They emerge from the fog to see a titanic whirlpool. The shouts come from an iceberg being sucked into the whirlpool; several ogres scurry across its surface. They are being menaced by a set of enormous black tentacles emerging from the water and trying to pull the iceberg under the waves. Amid the ogre shouts, the Shields hear a loud screech from whatever beast lurks beneath the waves as it finally pulls the ice shelf under the water. The whirlpool slows and eventually the waters return to their typical turbulence.

Shortly thereafter, the Shields spot a boat approaching. Bezaldooz notes it’s made out of bone, and several paddle-like bone oars protrude from the side. Gibbering, wizened corpses — ghouls or ghasts, by their look — swarm over the deck of the ship, which is dominated by a large metal statue. Bezaldooz surmises that it is a shield guardian. Barking orders is an ancient crone with grayish skin and spiraling ram’s horns protruding from her head. He has previously heard tales of the night hag pirate Yurria, and surmises this is she. He further surmises that he has the control amulet for the shield guardian.

The Shields prepare to be rammed, and as the boat approaches, Peren casts water walk on the Shields. He and Torinn then run to the other ship to engage the enemy.

Peren attempts to grab the shield guardian’s control amulet from her, but she is too quick and scurries around him. He runs back into the sea to avoid her wrath, but she hits him with a black, enervating ray; he is uninjured, but feels weaker. Torinn, meanwhile, begins engaging the ghasts aboard the ship. As the ship rams the Percheron and ghasts climb aboard, Valna presents her holy symbol and prays to intercession. One of the ghasts runs in fear and cowers at the sight, hiding on the bow of the ship, but the others do not seem fazed by this display of holy power. Geverspike flies into the water and begins firing his pistols at the night hag; she bruises, but her tough hide resists the worst of the bullets. The night hag throws a barrage of silvery bolts at Peren, and as Torinn slays one of the ghasts and turns on the other, Valna repositions herself and again holds her holy symbol aloft and prays for intercession as two ghouls run upon her. Peren tries to grab her control amulet again, but is forced to hastily retreat. The shield guardian strides onto the Percheron, evidently heading in Bosabrieln’s direction.

This time, the light of Pelor issues forth from her holy symbol, and four of the six remaining ghouls flee as far away from her as possible. (The fifth is still cowering from her previous prayer.) The last is the one directly in front of her attempting to tear her to shreds, but Bosabrieln manages to paralyze it before it can do her any injury.

Unfortunately, her prayer also affects Bezaldooz, who flees to the stern of the Percheron, cowering and unable to act.

As the ghasts flee, Torinn rushes between them and leaps at the night hag, managing to wrest the amulet from her. As he does so, he orders the shield guardian to return, and it begins trudging back to the bone ship. 254 rushes out of the tent in an attempt to break Bezaldooz from his fright, but as he approaches, Bonatos hisses at him, sending him cowering and attempting to flee, before the quasit runs across the deck of the Percheron. One of the ghouls rushes in behind 254, trying to flee from Valna and inadvertently blocking the Vassal’s exit. With Bonatos gone, however, he turns and strikes Bezaldooz to break him from his mindless flight. Bezaldooz skirts around the ghast, heedless of the pain he feels as his feet touch the water, and he destroys the paralyzed ghast in front of Valna with a potent blast of lightning. The creature explodes and is no more.

While Peren, Torinn, and the shield guardian enter into melee with the night hag, Geverspike returns to the Percheron and pushes the ghast cowering at the bow overboard. It swims away, still fleeing Valna’s divine might. Bonatos flees belowdecks on the bone ship. Peren and Torinn manage to chase the night hag down and Peren deals the final blow, slaying her. She shrieks, and a chill passes through him as she dies.

As the boat begins to turn, they realize Bonatos is somehow piloting it. Peren goes belowdecks to confront him, while Torinn pushes the two ghasts still on the bone ship overboard. The last of the ghasts aboard the Percheron are thrown overboard, as well; one sinks beneath the waves, while the other four swim away, still fleeing Valna.

When Peren sees Bonatos, he indicates he’s not allowed to take the boat. Bonatos says he was going to pick up all the ladies with his bone boat before relinquishing control and returning to the Percheron. He turns into a bat to cross the gap between the two ships, and returns to Bezaldooz’s shoulder. Bezaldooz is not amused with this stunt.

Peren and Torinn decide to stay on the bone ship, apparently having figured out how to control it. They follow the Percheron on its journey to the Frost Spire. That evening, Peren sleeps fitfully, and has bad dreams he does not fully recall upon awakening.

The next morning, the Shields sight the Frost Spire — a snow-covered island ringed by peaks. Black storm clouds surge overhead, and Kaseem warns them that it is going to be dangerous. As they approach, the seas grow turbulent; he barely manages to retain control of the Percheron, while Peren eventually loses control of the bone ship and both he and Torinn are forced to abandon it. Kaseem roughly steers his craft into a crevasse, where it crashes. He returns to his humanoid form to assess the damage, and although he determines it is still sea-worthy, he suspects the turbulent seas would scuttle the craft. The tools he requires to fix it are back in Flotsam and currently not accessible. The wreckage of the bone ship washes in after the Percheron, and the Shields contemplate the possibility of repairing it.

Kaseem notes that the frost giants must have reached this island somehow, so perhaps they can find a way to repair his ship while they attempt to stop the frost giants’ plans. With that, the Shields move into the crevasse and prepare to face the Frost Spire.