Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

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.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 13

Sunday, Patchwall 2, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna return to Argent and deliver their results to Obanar at the Guardian’s Tower. They then discuss their next move. Although giants are on the march, they are not yet going to directly encounter them; instead, they need to forge an alliance among the settlements of Three Corners. Located to the northeast of the Sorrowfell Plains, the Three Corners are strategically placed to potentially prevent any giant armies from marching down into the Sorrowfell Plains. However, the Three Corners comprises three settlements, one human, one dwarven, and one goblin. None of them get along terribly well. As such, the Shields of the Sorrowfell will need to convince them that working together is in their best interest. They decide to take the afternoon to prepare, then set out in the morning. Considering all options, the Shields decide to speak to the dwarf settlement first.

The next day, the group returns to the Guardian’s Tower. Obanar performs the rituals to activate his teleportation circle, and the Shields find themselves somewhere else.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell appear in a circle outside a town carved out of stone, itself embedded in the side of the mountains. Greeting the guards, the Shields learn this place is called Broken Anvil. They explain their purpose, and the guards indicate the town’s mayor is a dwarf by the name of Baram Stonefist. They are led to his abode, and enter to speak with him.

Baram is displeased at the prospect of working with his neighbors — he claims to be at war with the goblins, and he refuses to work with Sala Brim, the human leader, until she has apologized to him on hands and knees. However, Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln manage to convince him that it is in his best interest, and that the giant horde requires his cooperation with his neighbors. They indicate they will send word when they have made contact with the other settlements. He bids them to rest a while and enjoy the hospitality of the town, and they agree, drinking for a while in the Cracked Cask. The barkeep, Kari Nulbaram, explains that Baram’s displeasure with Sala Brim stems from an incident a few weeks ago. Relations between the dwarves of Broken Anvil and the humans of Treeline have always been pleasant, but a few weeks ago was the annual fishing competition between Broken Anvil and Treeline. Sala Brim beat him, but was an intensely sore winner about it, insulting him the whole time. This is extremely strange, as everybody likes Sala, and she is usually quite gracious.

Given that they have a day’s travel ahead of them, the Shields depart within an hour or two. They arrive at the hardscrabble hills where the goblins are supposed to live, and are greeted by a war party with bows and arrows. The goblins seem to suspect duplicity, but Bosabrieln explains their purpose, and the goblins agree to lead the Shields to their leader, the hobgoblin Skruk. Bosabrieln again explains their purpose, convincing him that this is no trick, and that they have already secured the word of the dwarf leader, Baram Stonefist. Skruk finally agrees, but says they must complete a trial by ordeal to prove that their contention is correct. Skruk elects three champions — the goblin Chiss will challenge them to an enigmas contest, the bugbear Brubb will engage them in feats of strength, and the goblin Klik will test their ability to hide in the wilderness. It is agreed; Bezaldooz will face Chiss, Peren will face Klik, and Torinn will face Brubb. The goblins take a few hours to prepare, and create a ritual space for the trial. Bosabrieln joins in the drumming with their permission. For all the fanfare, however, the contest is over relatively quickly. Bezaldooz quickly displays his superior knowledge of arcane subjects, while Torinn swiftly pins Brubb in a wrestling match. No one witnesses Peren’s victory, as he and Klik enter the rocky scrub in a contest of stealth. But Peren is able to get the drop on Klik and returns to the tribe victorious. Skruk is pleased at their prowess and agrees to meet with the other settlements. The Shields set the meeting for the rocky tablelands in the middle of the Three Corners, and Bosabrieln conveys the meeting place and time (midday two days hence) to Baram via a sending spell. The Shields celebrate with the Skewered Rat tribe for an hour or so before heading to Treeline, the final location.

It is mid-afternoon when the Shields arrive in Treeline. They state their business to the guards and go to speak with Sala Brim. A well-dressed noblewoman, she assumes a condescending tone with the Shields, suggesting their concerns are exaggerated and that her guards can handle any errant giants that should come their way. Once she sends the Shields away, they regroup at the local tavern, the Harlequin’s Meadhall. They ask around and find that many inhabitants believe she has been acting strangely for the past month or so. Nothing presaged the change; she merely awoke one day in such a state.

Suspicious, the Shields take different approaches. Peren goes to follow her, hiding and observing her outside her window. When she leaves, taking a few guards with her to walk in the woods, Peren follows. Despite being well-camouflaged, she points him out to the guards and they interrogate him; he manages to convince them he’s wandering in the woods before heading on his way. He then decides to go look for giant tracks. He suspects she is a doppelganger, although he does not yet have a plan to deal with her.

Valna decides to watch next. She manages to find a good vantage point to observe Sala’s rear window. Bezaldooz decides to speak with her, convincing her to listen to his comrades; he offers her a gem as a peace offering, and then attempts to charm her with his preternatural vampiric abilities. She does not seem to be affected by it, or if she is, her attitude does not change. After he leaves, Valna tries to detect evil and good, but the woman does not detect as any sort of extraplanar being. While Valna is observing her, she stands and moves out of view. A few minutes later, Valna is surprised by a sharp, stabbing pain in her back. Alarmed, she wheels around to find Peren, shirtless and armed with a rapier, having stabbed her viciously. Her head spins and unconsciousness threatens as her wound bleeds profusely and she turns to run; Peren manages to stab her once more with the rapier as she flees. She screams for the guards as she rounds the side of the building, and they approach, trying to calm her and bandage her wounds. Having heard Valna’s screams, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Torinn leave the tavern to investigate. As Valna prays to heal her wounds, Bosabrieln sings a song to assist. Once they sort out what happened, and Bosabrieln goes to speak with Sala. Bezaldooz and Torinn follow. When they arrive, she is in her office, apparently having stepped out briefly. Before Bosabrieln really has an opportunity to speak, Torinn punches Sala in the face. She dodges, backpedals, and crashes through the window, running through the forest at top speed. Torinn follows in hot pursuit, but eventually loses her in the trees. He comes walking back to Treeline, running into Bezaldooz on the way back, as he followed through the window. He indicates he lost her. Once they return, the guards ask them to come to the guard post for processing — whether they have attempted assault or not remains to be seen. The four Shields agree.

Peren returns from scouting around dusk. The guards greet him and ask him to return to the guard post, explaining that there was an incident earlier in the day. He agrees. Once there, he greets the others. Valna seems slightly perturbed by his presence, and point-blank asks if he attacked her earlier in the day. He says he did not, and satisfied he is telling the truth, she hugs him. The group explains what happened, and he indicates his suspicion she is a doppelganger. Bosabrieln convinces the guards that they should search for her regardless, either to sort out this mess or confront an impostor. Two guards agree to accompany them into the forest.

Peren has difficulty following her trail, but Bezaldooz pauses as a distant howl sounds. A pack of wolves pads out of the forest, and Bezaldooz instructs them to follow her. The Shields and the two guards follow the wolf pack for an hour before the wolves part ways, but Peren has gathered enough information in the meantime to follow her trail. After a few more hours, they note a campfire in the distance. The group flanks her and approaches, and although the guards are loud enough to gain her attention, they manage to catch up to her, knocking her unconscious after a brief encounter with sword and spell. They awaken her and interrogate her, but she is still able to answer their questions perfectly. Bosabrieln and the guards converse briefly, and the guards ask if their priestess is able to revive the dead. Bosabrieln says she is, and they suggest killing her, as she should revert if killed. Bosabrieln agrees, borrows one of their knives, steps behind her, and slits her throat. She falls to the ground, and her form twitches and changes, forming the tall, grey, humanoid form of a doppelganger. Relieved at finding the truth, although saddened at the revelation that the real Sala Brim is likely dead, the guards build a makeshift litter, and the group conveys the body back to Treeline.

Once there, the guards awaken the town so that they and Bosabrieln may deliver the news and explain their purpose. One of the town elders, a man named Agranic Wesav, agrees to the alliance among Broken Anvil, Treeline, and the Skewered Rats, and says he will disembark with them in the morning.

The next morning, the Shields accompany Agranic to the meeting place, arriving in the afternoon. They find Baram and Skruk arguing, but Bosabrieln manages to defuse the situation. He introduces Agranic, explaining the unfortunate circumstances regarding Sala Brim’s death. Once the Shields have brokered the alliance and all parties have agreed, Bezaldooz performs the rituals to return them to Argent.

The Shields inform Obanar of their progress, and after discussing their options, they agree to travel to Flotsam to retrieve another piece of the divine engine before traveling to Frost Spire to prevent the frost giants from completing their mission there. The Shields rest for the evening, returning to the Guardian’s Tower on the morning of Earthday, Patchwall 6. Obanar again enacts the ritual to send them on their way.

They arrive at an old, disused magic circle a few yards away from a town hugging the coast. The town is divided by an icy river, crossed by a rickety wooden bridge. It is quite cold, with fresh snow covering the ground and howling winds all around. The winds pause for a moment before a blast of a horn breaks the silence. Approaching the town from the sea are three massive kayaks carved of ice, conveying a small force of five giants. One clad in furs and blasting on the horn bears a massive drum and a spear; the other four carry axes. As the Shields approach, Peren and Torinn move to block the drum-carrying giant from disembarking. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna sling spells at the other giants across the bridge. The panicking villagers flee, with four making it to the Shields. Two run across the bridge at the same time, and the old groaning thing cannot hold their weight, instead collapsing into the frigid water. Another villager is killed by a rampaging giant. A final villager is trapped on the other side of the bridge. The three giants across the now-ruined bridge disembark and begin smashing houses, while one kills the trapped villager. The other two giants, including the drum-carrier, are prevented from disembarking, and are quickly slain by the combined onslaught of the Shields of the Sorrowfell. Peren uses his ranger magics to dash across the surface of the water, while Torinn uses the jetpack on his power armor to cross the gap. The other three sling spells — all battle songs and holy prayers and flashing lighting and roaring fireballs — at the surviving three giants until they finally fall.

The invasion halted, the Shields stop to survey the damage, and scavenge what gold they can from the fallen raiders.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 12

Godsday, Brewfest 4, 552 CY (50 AN)

Having returned to Argent, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna are met by Rrowthar. Seeing that they are tired from their journey, he bids them to rest, but recommends they speak with Obanar to determine the next step in their quest.

The next day, Waterday, Brewfest 5, the Shields of the Sorrowfell travel to the Guardian’s Tower to meet with Obanar. The inform him of the things they learned from the astral giants. He agrees with the assessment that they ought to confront the frost giants first, although he notes that there is another series of diplomatic missions they should likely perform to ensure the settlements of the world can defend against the giant armies. The Court of Fallen Leaves is an eladrin settlement that engages in trade with mortal settlements such as Andor, Flotsam, and other coastal settlements. They will be able to pledge their warriors to the defense of the mortal realm. The Three Corners, located in the Hoarfrost Ridge to the northeast of the Sorrowfell Plains, comprises three settlements, one human, one dwarven, and one goblin. If they can be united against the giants, they should be able to hold off any giant warriors on the march.

The Shields decide to travel to the Court of Fallen Leaves first, and Obanar performs the rituals necessary to send them there. They arrive in the courtyard of a crumbling castle. A pair of eladrin warriors in gleaming chainmail are there, and they are met by an eladrin woman in a shimmering gown with motes of light circling her brow. She is named Alarielle. Bosabrieln explains their mission, and she says the lords of this place are currently in counsel. She leads them into an entry chamber filled with courtiers and warriors, indicating the Shields are welcome to converse and partake of refreshment until the lords arrive.

Bezaldooz watches the proceedings, spotting a plaque among the ruins proclaiming the alliance of the Court of Fallen Leaves. Peren and Torinn speak with a group of burly warriors, largely centaurs, drinking and wrestling with them. They note that their lord, Lord Maervik, always keeps his word to someone who defeats him in a physical contest. Bosabrieln and Valna first speak with a group of courtiers, learning that their patron, Lady Tarentia, is obsessed with the arcane arts. They next speak with a group of knightly eladrin, learning that their lord, Lord Kaerwyn, is an honorable man who respects fighting ability and chivalry.

After having some time to speak with the warriors and courtiers, Alarielle says the lords are ready, and leads the Shields to their chambers. Within are three eladrin: a burly male warrior; a slight, robed woman; and a man in a suit of armor decorated with symbols to Corellon. The warrior, Lord Maervik, invites them to drink. Peren and Torinn go to speak with him while Bezaldooz speaks with Lady Tarentia and Lord Kaerwyn speaks with Bosabrieln and Valna.

Lord Maervik invites Peren and Torinn to drink brandy with him, and challenges them to wrestling — although Torinn initially pins him, Lord Maervik wins a match with Peren and a rematch with Torinn. He thanks them for being good sports and gives them a small cask of brandy, recommending they take a shot before battle.

Bezaldooz finds Lady Tarentia to be a ditzy, giggling girl, but her demeanor hides a sharp mind and a true knowledge of magic. She is suitably impressed with their philosophical conversation, saying the Court will ask the Shields to go on a mission, and she will offer the assistance of one of her vassals, a gnome named Twistroot.

Bosabrieln and Valna find Lord Kaerwyn cold and haughty, and initially apathetic to the plgiht of the world, but they convince him that he can join in glorious battle. He offers them the misshapen eye of a fomorian, indicating that the Court will ask the Shields to go on a mission. If they crush the eye outside the lair of their enemy, they can learn the location and nature of each creature in the lair.

Once the conversations are finished, the Court reveals their task — the Shields are to travel to the lair of the fomorian Taroxn and retrieve the chalice of autumn’s regret. If they successfully do so, the Court of Fallen Leaves will lend aid to the mortal settlements. They give the Shields a map and send them on their way.

It takes the Shields two days of wandering through the bleak tunnels of the Feydark to find the lair. Outside, the Shields each take a shot of brandy, and Torinn crushes the eye, learning of two cyclopes, two fomorians, and an ettercap lurking therein. The Shields creep to the portcullis, and Bezaldooz launches the first salvo, a brilliant fireball that scorches one of the fomorians and a cyclops and fizzles against the damp mushroom forest of the cavern. Battle is joined as the Shields rush into the cavern with sword and spell. Torinn and Peren move to engage one of the fomorians, although the creature manages to gaze upon Peren with its malevolent eye, cursing him with pain and deformity. As they move into position, however, something about the brandy leaves them swaying and staggering about the cavern. This, in turn, activates the lingering curse in Torinn’s boots, causing him to start dancing in place uncontrollably. Even with the difficulty and Torinn’s inability to fight as he staggers deeper and deeper into the mushroom forest, the others manage to dispatch the first fomorian. As they fight, they are the subject of strange interventions — more than once, some of them feel a strange elation as some lingering effect dissipates, and Peren once feels a potion hooked onto his belt by invisible hands. Bezaldooz and Valna lash out at the other three with flame and lightning, and with Peren’s flashing blades and the others spells, the creatures are eventually vanquished. Finally, they turn on the skulking ettercap and destroy it.

Once they manage to recover Torinn and keep his dancing under control, Peren tries his mystery potion to find it is a healing potion. The Shields then search the cavern to find a massive pile of treasure with the chalice atop it. Satisfied, they begin the slow march back to the Court of Fallen Leaves. They return on the afternoon of Sunday, Patchwall 2, successfully delivering the chalice of autumn’s regret. Lord Maervik asks how they enjoyed the brandy, and Torinn launches himself at the eladrin, pinning him. He laughs, saying if he and Peren had performed like that earlier in the week, he would have given them the good brandy. The Court pledges troops and aid to the settlements of the world against the frost giants.

Their mission complete, the Shields of the Sorrowfell make the preparations to return to Argent.

Revenge of the Giants, Part 11

??? (c. -150 CY)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revenge of the Giants, Part 10

Sunday, Brewfest 2, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revenge of the Giants, Part 9

Earthday, Harvester 27, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revenge of the Giants, Part 8

Godsday, Harvester 25, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revenge of the Giants, Part 7

Godsday, Harvester 25, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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