Amidst the ruin of Dire Bear, Roc, Stone Giant and their victims, we approach this ‘friend of Sandpoint’ warily.
A cleric of Erastil, she introduces herself as Moriava an errant ally she claims, who has literally followed our progress for months.
Further gobsmacked, if that was possible and unsurprisingly suspicious, we question her thoroughly. Using details about our journey and Sandpoint itself, we are eventually able to satisfy that she is true and welcome her to the cause.
While the others attend to healing the wounded, I search the Giant Captain’s cave. The small cell is lined with grisly trophies; dented scraps of armour; a mounted Frost Giant head; a bushel of dwarven beards and a collection of shields, each bearing the name of its vanquished owner…
Though monstrous, this foe was obviously a mighty warrior.
Climbing back down with a singly impressive shield, I loose the beards from the ring that bound them and lay them with the other remains.
We are just about to continue when a giantess, slightly shorter than the rest and tattooed with runes, emerges from the shadows, hands up in a gesture of submission and asks us why we’re here.
There’s a pause as I think we all consider the wisdom of such a parlay but it’s hardly the strangest thing we’ve seen today.
’We’re here to cut the head off the snake; to kill Mokmurian!’
And to our surprise she she seems relieved!
Introducing herself as Conna the Wise she begs for us to follow. Ever wary still, we creep off to an isolated cave. The walls are covered with primitive paintings of man and wild beast, that seem to shift when you look away.
This place is obviously a holy one, but strangely, not an evil one…
She explains that she is the widow of the Tribe’s former chieftain, slain by it’s current leader- and our target- Mokmurian.
She confirms that Mokmorian is currently here and does indeed plan to invade Varisia … but also that he is under the influence of an even greater power- the spirit of Karzoug!
A familiar name by now, Karzoug was apparently responsible for the subjugation of the Stone Giants many eons ago and she fears that through Mokmurian, Karzoug will doom her people again.
She then offers to assist us in ending Mokmurian’s reign… though pleading that we also spare the lives of her people where we can.
Apparently, Mokmurian can be found in his Library and there’s two ways to reach him.
The first is a long gauntlet of her kin.
The second is guarded by damned Lamia and Dragons!
Though the latter sounds more perilous, we agree to take that path in order to spare as many lives of her folk as we can.
Conna’s parting gift is a powerful spell that rejuvenates us, a gift almost as well timed as the arrival of that cleric.
Leaving Conna’s shrine, we take the the eastern passage as instructed.
Arriving at a fork, Athene scouts ahead.
She returns from the left tunnel to report a promising pair of stone doors marked with a Sihedron.
She returns from the right tunnel at a run, covered in soot and screaming ‘draw your bows- Dragons!’ with two deep, reptilian voices from beyond, taunting her to return!
Moriava speaks a protective word of prayer and we go in.
The cave is more like an old oven, stiflingly warm, blacked, and smoky.
Two, large, impressive red dragons (if not as large as Long Tooth), stand like guard dogs chained to the floor, maw’s flickering with flame.
Mahd’s Dire Tiger charges the one on the right, claws skittering.
Athene, sword drawn, charges the left.
Ordering Wynter to hold I file in behind Athene and lunge with Redemption.
Moravia’s arrows fly overhead.
The wyrms, perhaps waiting for us to assemble, sweep the room with a jet of flame that touches all those on the front line.
In response, a singed Athene swings down hard, on the extended neck of the first and lops it off, spouting fire as it flails about.
The Tiger savages the second, as wading through the gore I drive my blade deep into its breast. The reptile rears, crashes into the cave wall and slides to the ground with a shudder.
With no time to spare we run forward, and into a long chamber.
With bestial adornments and an altar like a three eyed Jackal skull, this could only be a temple of Lamashtu!
And sure enough, not without it’s priestess’
Two creatures, familiar if not identical; with a woman’s torso and the body of a lioness. These can only be the Lamia.
And as if on cue, they cast that spell we loathe so much, each bursting into a cascade of mirrored images and charge, knife upon knife flashing.
The DireTiger swipes away one image, then another.
But the Lamia returns with a blur of slashing blades and the Tiger disappears with a yelp.
Suddenly surging forward, they seal us into a bottleneck.
One on one, Athene and the the first Lamia trade blows.
Unable to keep pace with the overlapping forms, Athene is is nearly killed and falls back.
Arrows (magical and mundane) fly overhead, chipping away at the mirrors.
I step up and get lucky…
Redemption’s flaming blade flashes and I behead the priestess.
Her partner pulls back with an angry shriek.
Moravia heals Athene and we clamber over the crumpled feline form to swarm the second.
Still mirrored, a spiral of knife blades flash finding myself and Athene.
But Athene rallies.
As the last false image pops, she leaps forward and strikes a blow that leaves the abomination reeling.
And as she falters, I take advantage, and drive my blade until the flames of Redemption disappear.
Piling in we give the room a cursory look and discover a cache of books hidden beneath the altar.
We must be close now…