Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

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.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 15

Earthday, Patchwall 6, 552 CY (50 AN)

As Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna wrap up their game of rat-snake, two figures enter the Drunken Dugong. The first is a humanoid insect, some manner of roach-man. He wears a coat, apparently somewhat uncomfortably, and has four scimitars and two shields strapped to his back, as well as four matchlock pistols shoved into his belt. His associate is a strange, pale-skinned, stunted humanoid carrying a very large pack on his back. He acts very deferential. The others in the tavern clearly find the presence of the pair somewhat off-putting, but recognize them and give greeting.

Bosabrieln decides he needs to go over and speak to them.

The roach-man introduces himself as Geverspike, and his associate as 254. He explains he is a Blattarian from the Walfismeer, far to the southwest. His kind are often unpleasant, frequently acting as pirates and slavers, although he appears to discuss the matter with some amount of distaste. His associate, 254, is a Vassal. Their kind are vat-bred by sorcerers to act as slaves. 254 still acts as a slave even though he is paid for his employ, but it is his way and Geverspike does not besmirch him for it. He indicates that they have been sailing, trying to fish treasure out of the seas in this region and conduct trade. He offers to journey with the Shields of the Sorrowfell if they wish it; he charges a half-share (about 8.3%) for himself and 254, although he’ll probably mostly stick to ranged combat. After some deliberation, the Shields agree.

They spend the rest of the evening enjoying Flotsam’s hospitality before retiring. After talking to Kaseem throughout the day, and making certain to obtain his piece of the divine engine, Bosabrieln retires with the djinn for the evening.

The following day, Freeday, Patchwall 7, the Shields breakfast and prepare to set out for the Frost Spire. They know that they will find frost giants and potentially other cold weather beasts, and they know that the isle of Frost Spire is, according to legend, formed from the shaft of a spear impaling a Primordial. Kaseem leads them to the Percheron, his raft of ice — magically warm to the touch and bearing a tent in which they can take refuge — and sets sail.

The slightly turbulent skies over Flotsam quickly give way to fog and intense squalls, signaling the transition to the Elemental Chaos and the Sea of Howling Souls. As per its name, the Shields experience a group of blowing clouds in the shape of screaming human faces. Oddly, the face of Demise is visible among them, howling and glaring at the Shields in an accusatory manner.

The voyage continues until several of the Shields hear the quiet flap of wings. They prepare themselves as two enormous birds of prey — they identify them as rocs, as they are unfortunately well-acquainted with the large birds — swoop out of the fog. Geverspike immediately peppers one with gunfire as Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna prepare spells. Torinn breathes his lightning breath at one of the beasts as Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln use their magics to push it into the water. Peren casts water walk on most of the assembled party before he leaps off the boat and grabs onto one of the other rocs, stabbing it with his swords. The roc begins ascending, clawing and pecking at Peren in a desperate attempt to dislodge him. After being pelted with spells and attacked by a summoned Guardian of Pelor, the drowning roc manages to escape the frigid water and fly away. The others gathered on the ship prepare to assist Peren when he returns. Kaseem moves the ship near Peren’s last-known position. After a pregnant pause, they hear shouts suddenly growing closer. Geverspike peppers the plummeting roc with gunfire while Bezaldooz casts feather fall upon it, causing it to float to the surface of the water and briefly stand before the lifeless corpse sinks beneath the waves. Peren casually steps off onto the waves and scurries back onto the boat.

Despite the violent seas, the rest of the day is uneventful.

The following day, Starday, Patchwall 8, the Percheron is slammed by a tidal wave that threatens to tip the boat, although most of the passengers manage to recover; Valna is only slightly injured. Shortly thereafter, a large shape is visible in the water, following the boat. Everyone prepares, and as it approaches, it splits and the two smaller shapes attempt to flank the boat. It swiftly becomes apparent that they are two schools of piscine humanoids, which Bosabrieln is able to recognize as kuo-toa — mad fishmen believing so fanatically in gods of their own design that they appear to actually create them in some strange manner of ritualized solipsism. Strangely, these kuo-toa are colored blue with white markings, indicating that they have been treated by some ritual to withstand the cold. They are led by some manner of robed figure, dressed ornately in the manner of a high-ranking clergyman. The group focuses on him although Valna and Bezaldooz decimate the two groups with fiery spells, boiling away the top layer of the sea and leaving several dead kuo-toa in their wake. It takes little effort to slay the remaining kuo-toa, and as the last utters vile syllables in Deep Speech to declare a retreat and order the others to protect “the dagger” — evidently unaware that his associates have been slain — the Shields knock him out.

Hoping to find the dagger, the Shields tie a rope around Peren’s waist and he dives into the water searching for the kuo-toa high priest. He follows the blood trail into the depths until he has to abandon the rope, but he finds the priest. He pulls a coral dagger and a pouch of fifty gold coins off the priest, then grabs the priest’s body and hauls him back up.

The dagger bears a hilt that looks like some strange combination of centipede and squid, and when Peren holds it or carries it, he hears this odd, cacophonous piping that intrudes on the edges of his consciousness.

When Peren returns and delivers the dead kuo-toa priest, the others search him and find nothing. (Peren does not volunteer that he found anything.) They tie the sole surviving (and now unconscious) kuo-toa to one of the masts and awaken him to interrogate him. Apparently only speaking in Deep Speech, Bosabrieln questions him while Geverspike holds guns on him and tries to look intimidating. The kuo-toa reveals that the dagger of devouring is a holy relic, and it will be returned to their master, Oogloogoth, the Thought That Waits. Bosabrieln recognizes the name of an aboleth known to be active in the Sorrowfell Plains; according to the tales, it lairs somewhere in the Underdark beneath Scandshar.

Peren, also able to understand Deep Speech, punctuates the kuo-toa’s ravings by stabbing the dagger into the mast near his head, indicating that it will not be returned to his master. He then kicks the priest’s body overboard. The surviving kuo-toa continues to rave about how they will all be destroyed before they finally determine they will learn no more from him and so they execute him.

Bezaldooz takes about an hour to study the dagger, and determines that the dagger of devouring requires an invocation to Holashner, The Hunger Below, to activate. When activated, it will cause any human within fifteen feet to fall to grotesque corruption and perish as the dagger similarly disintegrates. He also suspects it is worth a large sum of money to the right buyer. The Shields debate what to do with the dagger — Bezaldooz and Peren believe it should be kept, with Peren arguing that it could easily be used to slay the elementalist if they encounter him again, while Bosabrieln, Torinn, and Valna believe the fell thing should be destroyed. Geverspike agrees.

The others move to the stern of the Percheron while Bezaldooz prepares to activate the dagger. All are ready in case it summons something horrific. When he utters the chant, the dagger exudes a wave of enervation before it collapses into a stinking, black, viscous substance that quickly burns and evaporates, leaving an ugly smell behind.

The rest of the day passes without significant incident, and the Shields sleep before awakening again on Sunday, Patchwall 9.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 14

Earthday, Patchwall 6, 552 CY (50 AN)

A form materializes out of the whistling wind, a large, muscular, blue-skinned humanoid. He is shirtless and only wearing baggy trousers despite the chill. He materializes in front of Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna; although Peren and Torinn are on the other side of the river, they can hear his soft-spoken voice as if carried on the wind. He introduces himself as Kaseem, a djinn, and Bosabrieln explains the situation — how frost giants are marching on Frost Spire, and how they need his portion of the divine engine to stop Piranoth. He agrees to aid them, but first, they must help rebuild the village. A gust of wind carries Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna across the river, and there they begin their work. Bosabrieln plays a work song to lift everyone’s spirits while Kaseem sets to work on the bridge as the rest of the villagers and Peren, Torinn, and Valna begin repairing the houses. Bezaldooz goes to investigate the standing stones at the top of the hill.

Peren and Torinn finish their houses within an hour, while Valna continues to work on hers. They finish a third and move to assist her, but the hut is more heavily damaged than the others. As the end of the second hour approaches, a huge tidal wave approaches the shore. While most of the town manages to make it to high ground, Valna does not and is buffeted by the waves. The four huts are again damaged, and in need of repair. Peren is suspicious of this development, and asks if it is possible to investigate. Bosabrieln asks for a spyglass, and one of the old sailors obliges; he notes a large stone bobbing on the waves before it sinks. Several humanoids are either on it or in the water nearby. While many appear to be dead, perhaps five or so are still alive and riding the wave to shore.

The Shields stop repairing the houses and prepare for battle. They send the villagers to safety while they find hiding places. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna hide by the standing stones. Peren and Torinn hide among the ruined huts.

After an hour, five humanoids make landfall. Two of them are large and red while the other three are roughly human-sized and gray. All bear amphibian features. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Peren quickly recognize the traits of the slaadi, strange entities from the Elemental Chaos. Of the creatures, a gray slaad disappears, another begins singing a completely nonsensical song in Elven, while the last flings a fireball at the standing stones, evidently having heard one of the spellcasters hiding there. The two red slaadi move to engage, but are surprised when Peren and Torinn emerge from hiding. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna are pummeled with fireballs and forced to separate and leave the standing stones, but Bosabrieln manages to confuse most of the slaadi with a hypnotic pattern. Bezaldooz casts a fireball of his own while Peren and Torinn engage the creatures. Bosabrieln engages them with another hypnotic pattern while Bezaldooz confuses them. Valna, having had to pray for healing after so many fireball blasts, is finally able to enter the fray, unleashing her holy vengeance upon them and engulfing them in holy fire. Although the beasts swiftly regenerate, the Shields are able to make short work of them with blade and spell.

When they are finally defeated, the Shields return to their work. Soon, however, an argument erupts between a toothless old dwarf named Mag Maggarg and a bald human sailor named Vandulf. He wears heavy furs and is covered in runic tattoos. Bosabrieln intervenes, learning that they are arguing over the whereabouts of a gold statuette they pulled from the sea three days ago. Each accuses the other of stealing it. Questioning indicates all manner of strange things come out of the sea — sages say they are near the Elemental Chaos, and that things come flying out of the drink all the time. (The idea that a rock with slaadi on it came randomly flying out of the Elemental Chaos is completely plausible.) Bosabrieln assists them in searching the rubble of one of the huts before suggesting that perhaps the sea carried it away. They agree that this is a reasonable assumption. They clasp hands and apologize before returning to the task at hand. Kaseem quietly finds Bosabrieln and thanks him for his assistance in the dispute before work continues.

It takes another two or three hours for them to finish work on the huts, but finally they are repaired. The work done, Kaseem thanks them and presents them with his piece of the divine engine. He says the trip to Frost Spire is best initiated tomorrow morning, and so they may rest and gather supplies before his boat disembarks on the morrow. The Shields thank him and decide to go to the local public house, the Drunken Dugong. There they get drinks and decide to game with some of the gambling sailors. An old salt named Aliard is running a game of rat-snake, a dice game similar to craps, and is running a table with four others: an elf named Cathna, a dwarf named Utir, another dwarf named Hordi Rodison, and a human named Warder Paray. When the Shields join, Utir, Hordi, and Warder quickly lose and drop out, while Cathna eventually leaves with her winnings. Torinn takes his leave shortly thereafter, having more or less broken even, while Valna leaves when she is up over a hundred gold pieces from side-betting. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln find themselves somewhere in the middle, while Peren manages to gamble away all his winnings from the battle with the giants earlier in the day.