Rise of The Runelords: Varisia's Angels

Enemy Of My Enemy
Dragon Fire and Lamia and Lamia and Lamia.

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.
Two left…
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…

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A Roc And Hard Place
Stone Giants, Rocs and New Friends.

The Stone Giant Captain stands smirking behind one of the many boulders stockpiles (strewn throughout the keep), in a cave mouth 10 feet above.

Ahead in the tunnels I can hear Mahd and Wynter prepare to face a trampling onslaught of Stone Giants.
Somewhere behind me, Athene’s sword can be heard ringing off stone, over the growling of Dire Bears.
Briefly I consider my course if action…. And charge his position!

His grin falters ever so slightly as I draw wooden ladder, price tag still dangling, from my Handy haversack and slap it against the cave wall. I bound up the rungs, creaking beneath the weight of my armour as a boulder crashes across my shoulders.

I perch upon the top rung and swing Redemption, but tucked in his little hole, the coward ducks out of the away.

A lightening bolt cracks from the tunnels below and Wynter’s snarl echoes off the walls as Athene bounds down the ramp to join them.

The Stone Giant appears in a sudden lunge and shoves hard against the ladder.
I feel suddenly foolish as I tilt backwards and slam into the carrion floor.
Brittle bones and fleshy scraps break my fall (mostly) but my ears are still ringing… No, not ringing, it’s screeching… from outside, above!

What horror pursues us now!?

Picking myself up, the Giant Captain lobs Boulders at Mhad who is now backing out of the tunnels… All four of her in fact; obviously she’s learnt something from our Lamia foes about the effectiveness of Mirror Image.
Another run at him up there would be futile- let him come down to us!

I run forward to join my friends in the tunnels.
Mahd looks drained but not out. Athene, Wynter and a Dire Tiger stand back to back holding the three way intersection, already littered with Stone giant corpses.

I step up in front of Wynter and we push them back on two fronts.
They keep coming but they’re no match for us and the last grey skinned devil goes down, floor shuddering.

Or I thought so at least!
Standing with Wynter in a tall roofed common room, a Giantess with ragged apron stands defiantly in an alcove at the rear. Lit by cooking fires, she snarls defiance in her guttural tongue.
We charge her in answer.

I steal a glance behind me though as the sounds of what appears to be a flock of giant birds comes echoing in through the aperture outside, thrashing and flapping.

Iomadae protect the other two…

Wynter and I meet the Giantess half way, ladle in her hand (and what would be a maul in mine) and strikes me across the face. I pick myself up and we leap on her and it’s a short fight.

Then, over what could only be described as an avian cacophony, I hear Athene’s desperate plight ‘SIIIILLLVVVAAA!’.

I double back to the pit and stand at the tunnel archway in awe.

The pit lit is now lit by flames of a giant fire elemental, yanking the charred remains of the Stone Giant Captain from his little hole, but that is the least of it.
Not one, but two giant, dark feathered birds- Rocs; are locked in mortal combat at the centre of the chamber, claws and beaks slashing, beating wings sending charnel debris aloft.

No-one seems to know what to do.

Surely this can only be the enemy, and yet the birds are fighting each other.
Could this be some conflict between natural enemies that has spilled, incredulously before us?

No… One of the birds, the smaller one (if ‘small’ could be used to describe such a creature) bears a rider!
An ally? An enemy? Neither?

It has a vaguely female form, human sized at least, but blurred, as if by magic.

A spy perhaps? Surely that makes her an ally?
The rider leaps free of the saddle as the larger Roc near eviscerates her mount, calling ’I’m a friend of Sandpoint’.

With that, Wynter and the Diretiger pounce on the larger Roc but Athene finishes the fight.

And we stand a little dumbfounded, I’m not ashamed to admit.

The brown, smaller Roc, rights itself with an unsteady hop, talons crunching in the carnage strewn floor and immediately starts preening bloody, tattered feathers, Wynter and the Dirtiger eying her warily.

The Sky Rider steps fourth and pulls her dark, siver-threaded hood back.
The blurry image settles into that of a pale skinned half elf with black hair and strangely mismatched eyes.
She tucks a fine longbow behind her back and I notice, on a chain across her mythril breastplate a holy symbol of Erastil.

Her entrance will make quite a tale for Ameiko, but if that Roc can’t carry us all out of here, she’ll probably never here it…

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Out Of The Pit, Into The Pit
Mummy Monks, Frost Giants, Bears and The Charnel Pit.

Before us stands the tall, luminescent figure of man, wrapped in sodden, frost touched bandages, a metal scroll tethered across his chest.
The Mummy is not armed, or armoured but I know something of these creatures and and he needs not such things.

There is no talk.
I Smite him and we sweep in.
He takes a strange martial stance.
Mahd summons a huge creature of flame and we surround him.

Then he lashes out with a flurry of blows!
Chilling, gnarled, black hands and feet, dart and strike and block with complete disregard for armour or weapon.

He stuns Wynter with a yelp, the wound seeming to fester right before our eyes.
He’s quick too, so much so, that when I finally do hit him, I nearly cry in triumph.
We slash and bite but he continues to rain blows upon us.
I can feel the necromantic energy of the creature and I channel the might of Iomadae.
He’s suddenly very interested in me!
Then a blow leaves Athene staggering…
Our numbers dwindling I look over at the rope and suddenly realise that retreat will be impossible.
There’s only victory or death down here!

So we keep swinging.
Wynter rallies (though she looks almost withered), then Athene.
A devastating strike from me, then Athene.
The elemental is chipping away…

Then the deathblow.

Rags flutter away from Athene’s sword as ash scatters, infusing with the icy floor.

We search the crypt but there’s nothing but the mummy’s scroll case.
Made of adamantium, it contains sheets of near perished parchment, too fragile to remove but apparently arcane in manner.

We climb back up the rope and out of the tomb, perplexed.
If this was not Mokmorian’s lair, perhaps it is the pit after all?
I should have trusted my instincts…

We decide to send out Athene to scout the barracks alone.
After a very anxious wait she returns safely and reports.

She discovered a large barn, with animals of some kind that she dare not enter to identify; the domicile of a Frost Giant couple (thankfully asleep); and a communal hall with some large creature scratching at the floor- possibly the Dragon Longtooth!

And finally, the pit…
The inside wall is covered by small cave mouths, the stone path actually passing by a sleuth of Dire Bears asleep in their den.
The bottom is indeed littered with carrion but it is also the entrance to a greater cave system… and a female Hill Giant sentry!

Athene did well to cover so much ground undetected, but I also suppose an army such as this would have little fear of invaders, little lone behind the walls…

We decide to indeed go down into the pit.
Athene seems keen to slay the sleeping Frost Giants on the way and under the circumstances not a bad idea, but the risk of rousing the watch before we’ve even sited our goal is too great.
I actually wonder who those Frost Giants are?
More fearsome than Hillgiants, perhaps they are the custodians of the fort?
Or maybe Generals in the army?

We creep across the courtyard shadow to shadow (myself almost giving us away) and arrive at the charnel pit.
It is dark, and foul and deep.
We toe down to the mouth of the den, where the stink is almost worse than from below. There are three and they are no less fearsome to behold than when awake.
A few whispers and we decide that Athene will deal with the Bears, while we try and reach the guard below.

Leaving her to the grim task we creep down.
A dull clunk from the cave, followed by a wet thump…
A too long a pause and then a terrible bellow!
A second wet crack from above as we scramble to reach the sentry before she raises the alarm.
A third growl and then the beginning of a terrible fight !
Then, from up high on the pit wall opposite, a heavy, grease stained curtain of animal skin is drawn aside and a mighty specimen, of a Hill Giant appears, stones in hand and hurls them!

Mahd, Wynter and I dodge aside as rock crashes around us!
Should I try and deal with him? He’s over 10 feet above. Should I ignore him then? What about the sentry? Are we too late?

I charge the brute above with a plan hatched for such situations weeks ago.

Wynter and Mahd rush ahead into the caves beyond as Athene emerges behind, bloodily victorious.

Wynter, unseen, howls…
I know that cry… Enemies are coming…

An image of molten steel between an anvil and a hammer comes to mind’ I only hope that’s a sword being forged and not a horse shoe!

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Raid on Jorgenfist
Invisibile Allies, Walking on Air, Seductive Songs and Meeting the Enemy.

We scuttle up the cliff face like insects before the Spider Climb potion wears off and into a nook of boulders overlooking the fortress. From here we can make out the clamour of restless camps, distant guttural voices, the percussion of hurled stones and the occasional clash of steel.

We hatch a new plan to infiltrate Jorgenfist and immediately set to action. Using the wand we found in the Wyvern’s den, Mahd casts Airwalk on us all as we drink the other potions we brought for the task- Invisibility.

Leaving Wynter and Thera behind, both agitated at the separation, we take to the air unseen.
It’s a curious sensation, walking along an invisible walkway that changes orientation at will.

We pass over one of the camps, noisy enough that we don’t need to sneak and over the fortress wall.
Giant sentries pace below on the enormous ramparts with piles of boulders at the ready.

The plan was to head for the tower, but that changes we take in Jorgenfist in it’s entirety. Lit by moonlight we can see a number of enormous wooden barracks and all the usual sundries you’d expect to see (if scaled up some 10 times) the towering monolith… but something unexpected too!

At the centre of the fortress gapes an enormous and ominous pit. Broken earth falls away into the pitch black depths but a walkway leads down too. We each are immediately struck by it’s possible importance. That, not the tower is surely where Mokmorian’s lair is…

After a whispered discussion we change direction towards the pit. We get within a few metres, staring unnervingly into the depths. Hundreds of feet below it is lined with bodies and carrion and slithering things in the dark.
A charnel pit.
I think we’ve made a mistake…

We quickly reconsider our options but Mahd is strangely silent.
A sudden panic comes over me, I reach out, invisible, groping blindly for Mahd, but she ’s gone!

What happened to her!?

Perhaps she wondered off?
No, it can only be trouble…
Did she come up against some sort of magical barrier?
Was some equally unseen sentry attracted to her power?

The invisibility potions will run out soon, so we have precious few options left to us.
I fumble our last invisibility potion to Athene who is the only one with any chance of finding her.

Leaving Athene to a near impossible task I backtrack to the tower. No windows, platform or doors above the ground level- another roadblock.
I descend and tuck myself as best as possible into a shadowy nook where the tower meets wall… and just in time as my invisibility potion where’s off.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so vulnerable.

Then a strange scream from above, back towards the gatehouse.

I look desperately around for bad company before I Airwalk (now fully visible) up the face of the tower to get a better look… and see only horror…

There, suspended in mid air, a now visible Mahd is blundering along in a sort of daze behind a scrawny winged crone, warbling a terrible hypnotic tune- Banshee!

Hovering against the tower edge I can see Mahd flailing against an invisible assailant- Athene!
But the Inquisitor cannot budge the elf and she shoves the unseen obstruction aside. The Banshee looks back for a moment but is not alerted to our presence.

I’m high enough above the wall, that with the ambient noise from the camps, if I’m careful, I won’t be heard by the sentries below.
Securing redemption I knock an arrow.
Still no further sign of Athene.
I aim.
I fire.
Three shafts loose, two hit the creature, kicking up feathers with a screech.
But not a screech of pain though, a call for help!

Two more banshees appear from the monolith and dart towards the action.
But they haven’t seen me yet.
I’ll never take them all out quietly with my meager skill as an archer…
Yet can I risk a melee in open site like that at the gates of Jorgenfist?
And how much longer with the Airwalk spell last?

Then Athene makes the decision for me.
She appears, great sword flashing in the moonlight and attacks the Harpies.
The singer continues her crooning, Mahd still in her thrall and all three turn on the defenseless wizard!

We might lose our only chance to penetrate the defenses of Jorgenifst, but better us together on the same side of the wall, whichever side that is!

I sprint across open air on silent hoping my clanking armour will go unnoticed below.
Mahd is being torn apart.
Athene is trying to beat as I step up with Redemption and slay the singer outright…
As the two halves topple bloodily to the ground, I look desperately at Mahd for recognition… But despite the end of the song, she still stands stupefied!

The Banshees continue to claw and thresh.
We slash counter.
Mahd jolts awake, looks around and with a word teleports away through a a portal.
Thank Iomadae!

Athene slays the second which plummets to the ground in a wide circle and a with a scream masked by the winds.
The third declares that she must warn her master and with a beats of her wings, soars back towards the keep.

Athen and I race after her but she’s so fast!
Hurtling along the invisible ramp we find ourselves standing above the castle wall again, out of ear shot of the sentries.
The Harpy is already at the door of the dark tower fumbling at the latch.

That’s when Mahd steps through portal nearby and summons her tentacle trap!
The Harpy howls, clawing at the door.
We’ll need to be quick before her screams alert the watch!
Athene fires an arrow pinning a wing to the ground.
I sprint down through the the air, pause like a pendulum above the flapping monster and pin her to the ground with a flaming Redemption.
She whimpers, and stills.

I can feel myself getting heavier.
The potion can have only moments left.
All visible and feeling thoroughly naked we all descend to the tower door, push it open and tumble in, dragging the Harpy with us.

How we didn’t alert anyone I’ll never know. The gods were indeed watching over us tonight…

The tower is not what I expected.
The reason it had no doors or windows is that it is a shell. A vast hollow tower and cold as ice.

On the floor is a trap door which opens only to darkness.
Obviously the Harpy’s destination.
Pulling out ropes and pitons we rappel down.

One by one with we drop into a vast crypt.
It is the shape of a cardinal star, strange, frost covered coffins nestled into each point and we are not alone…
There, stands a tall bandaged figure, faintly glowing green with a menacing, luminescent light… Mokmorian? No, this figure is, or was once a human male… Now A Mummy!

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The Giant's Fist
Fortresses, Wyvern's & Insects

The battle over, we drag the dead Hill giants onto the bridge and roll them into the gorge, hoping to delay our discovery.

Athene riding behind me on Shadowmist, we make our way onto the tundra where towering statues of the now familiar, glaive wielding Runelord; Karzoug line the road.

The Iron Peaks looming ahead we leave the road for a series of game trails to avoid enemy patrols.

One day and a cold night later we reign up on a sheltered precipice, overlooking our destination… Jorgenfist.

Ringed by mountains, a vast valley extends before us falling off on the southern side into the River Muschkal.
At the centre of the dusty bowl stands a grim fortified citadel of dark stone accented with cruel spikes. Turrets punctuate the perimeter and a massive tower of Thassalonian make on the furthest edge. Within rises a strange pointed monolith.
Seven encampments satellite the fortress, peopled by giants and other monstrous humanoids, each keeping their own company.
A gigantic watchtower stands nearby, obviously placed to prevent an approach form our current position.
On a tall peak to the east we can clearly see a wide cave mouth, immediately impressing us as the Dragon’s roost.
On the cliff wall following the river we can make out another two significant openings in the rock face, perhaps even leading under the citadel…

We wait there for some time, trying to determine the best course of action in this most dangerous of assaults.

Waiting until nightfall and only after I’ve prayed for Iomadae’s guidance do we sneak by foot the long way around the rocky perimeter towards the river caves… and what we hope to be our way in!

Passing under the large cave on high, we creep through the litter of dry, gnawed bones, of creatures large and small, four legged and two, confirming to us the lair of LongTooth.

We make the long, tense journey around without detection, arriving at the rivers edge. Looking down at the hundred or so foot drop below, the entrances to each cave would be a perilous climb… had we not come prepared.

Drinking potions of Spider Climbing we literally scramble on hands and feet like insects across the cliff face… and it’s an odd sensation to say the least!

We make our way to the first cave-mouth.
A musty, mysterious smell emanates from within but we creep in none the less, finding a wide natural passageway.
A few feet in we come to a junction, at the centre of which, atop a pile of dirt, is a large red gem.
And that’s when they emerge.

Three reptilian cries echo off the backs of each tunnel and in flies three large, blue scaled, armless draconic creatures with spiked tails- Wyverns!
They swoop in together, barbed tails striking.
Mhad summons a Dire Tiger and we divide ourselves among them.

Wynter howls as a barbed tail strikes true, green liquid dripping from the wound- Poison!
She snarls.
Clamping jaws on the Wyvern’s neck, ice crunching in her maw, she pulls the creature down.
We push forward, they counter and fly back into their lair.
Wynter and I pursue but behind there is a yelp from Athene.
I turn back to see the Inquisitor, arms pinned, off the ground in the jaws of the Wyvern.
the Tiger attacks it, trying to free her.

The one facing me tries the scoop me up too but I dodge out the way.
I press the advantage forcing it to the back of the cave.
After a great struggle Athene is free, and the Tiger leaps on the Wyvern, tearing it to pieces.
Wynter finishes her opponent and all rush to my aid, killing the last.

We search the cave for a passage under the fortress but nothing.
We do find a small cashe of loot amongst the remains left by the Wyverns. Including an impressive enchanted Halberd and the the red Fire Gem, propped up like a symbol of worship in the in the centre of the cave.
Perhaps these creatures are less like animals, and more like their Dragon kin?

Potions still in our blood we climb like spiders to the second opening.
And that’s exactly what’s waiting for us.
I had thought we might camp here overnight but the cavern is swarming with chittering insects.
We push in, shells crunching, ichor bursting, hoping there’s a worthy reward at the back of this nest and a sudden repulsive vision of us crawling through this disgusting swarm…

The main chamber is a net of ropey spider… and we’re not alone!

The carpet of insects bulges, and a Golem of living spiders lurches out of the clicking mass, then another, and another- Death Webs!

Mahd summons her Babau minion as we crunch across the chitinous floor to face them.
One spews a stream of sticky web entrapping Athene.
Insects pour off the monstrosities and swarm all over us, stinging and sliding beneath my armour.
Wynter is yelping.

The fight is a desperate one but we’ll not be outclassed by a host of bugs.
Smashing our way through the monsters, limbs throbbing with poison and skin literally crawling we eventually prevail… and are rewarded again with a disappointing dead end.

We leave the cave before the potions wear off and scale the cliff face, ascending near the gatehouse of Jorgenfist.

We skirt the edge out of site until we find a quiet nook to try and come up with a new plan…

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Fortress of the Stone Giants
Consecration, Expedition, Ascention and Descent.

Whilst making preparations for the journey North the courier arrives from Magnimar with our supplies and it’s time to visit brother Zantus and deal with the Runewell below Sandpoint once and for all.

We arrive to find Acolytes and labourers busy repairing the the Cathedral annex, wisely replacing wood with brick. We sit down with Zantus and make plans for the consecration. Apparently we must boil holy water in the font for a day, and we sit down with Broderick Quint to work out the best process.

With barrows of barreled holy water, the acolytes follow us underground into the ruins below. I’m pleased to see that even after the havoc of days previous, a guard still stands sentry at the entrance here in the back alley.

We travel down through the musty caves, the dilapidated gaol, the Zombie hive and the Vargoule’s lair. The place is eerily still and I’m equally happy to say that nothing seems to have returned here. Though from the look on the Acolytes faces, I think that my ease is not shared… and I can’t blame them. I’m sure we had similar expressions months ago when first we were here.

Finally we arrive at the Runewell chamber. Though remains of those we vanquished are long picked clean, an unholy aura still persists.

The rust orange pool seems to beckon to us.
Before we begin it occurs to me to investigate if my sihedron medallion reacts to the well, as both things being seemingly related. But I’m no arcanist nor Inquisitor and nothing, perhaps thankfully, seems to comes of it.

And so we begin.
The Pool must be exhausted.
Athene and I flank the well, weapons ready.
Wynter and Thera guard Zantus and his troupe while Mahd waits ready should matters go awry.

I stand over the well, a distinct feeling of anger washing over me.
I slide my palm down the blade of redemption abd droplets of my blood splash on the surface.
Runes at the basin’s edge glow with an intense heat.
Water bubbles.
And the first Sinspawn emerges…
It’s decaying skin glistening in the torch light it rises with a creaking gurgle, mandibles stretching, tongue lolling…

And Athene lops it’s head off!

So the process continues; I make a blood offering, the spawn emerge and Athene dismembers them.
I do not even need to take up my weapon, Mahd looks positively bored and even Zantus seems to relax before it’s over.
It’s hard to believe the threat these creatures once posed, now just rotten meat for the butcher.

Eventually, the Runewell is purged and the basin is dry.

We roll up the casks, refill the font with holy water and enact the plan.
Brazier’s laden with wood are floated in the surface. My sword and another with the same magical properties (provided by Quint) are placed into the vessels. Command words are spoken, and magical fires engulf the kindling.

When the water reaches boiling point the ritual begins.

Brother Zantus stands vigil in prayer and we take shifts on guard while acolytes keep the fires fed and holy waters full.

Twenty four slow hours pass.
All of us are there in the final hours.
The runes around the well edge glow again.
One set of symbols starts shimmering in the air above the well.
Mhad whispers- ‘Wrath

We tense.
The Pool bubbles more furiously than before.
That palpable feeling of hatred peels away.
Stone cracks.
Holy water flushing out onto the floor.

It is done.

After a brief round of congratulations Zantus’ and his exhausted party take their leave…. While we remain to check one last thing…
Athene is still consumed by the unholy howling we heard deep below, last we were here. We return to the fissure, still filled with rubble and llisten again.

Nothing. It has been months after all…

Mahd suggests using magic to disintegrate the blockage but according to Athene’s trained eye, it would only cause perpetual cave-ins.
Less than satisfied we return to the surface.

We spend our last night in Rusty Dragon common room where Ameiko has had one of the Stone Giant’s Dire Bears rather skilfully (if slightly disturbingly) stuffed and posed as if drinking at one of the tables.
It’s been a long time since we last relaxed like this, and even on the eve of our greatest task yet, it’s a welcome respite.

We rise early, load up the horses and venture fourth.

It’s a long if easy ride through the picturesque countryside, speaking to numerous locals in villages and townships along the way.All have distressing tales of Giant sightings and worse; missing friends and family.
The sooner we deal with this menace the better.

After nearly two weeks we arrive at the only passage through the mountains, the Storvel Steps.
A marvelous Thaslonian staircase made for a giant gait, carved into the mountain with two titanic statues at the base, poised ascend, the lowest one mostly rubble now.

Mahd decides to reconnoiter and launches herself with a spell into the air. She returns to report the all clear as far as she could range but a difficult path ahead… and she’s not wrong!

Without our horses, the climb would be a task indeed but we continue without incident for a number of hours before the first sign of trouble.

Up ahead beyond the next ridge there’s a smashing sound that shakes the ground. It could be an avalanche but it’s too deliberate.
No, it can only be the hurling of boulders- Giants again!

But perhaps this barrage is not intended for us. We can’t see our foes. Perhaps this is them making sport?
Or perhaps not…
Pushing on with careful optimism, the first massive boulder comes bouncing haphazardly down the stair.
Wheeling our mounts, trying to avoid the barrage we are not all so lucky- Wynter and I both, clipped by tumbling shale.

Caution will only get us crushed- we CHARGE!
Galloping up the stairs we arrive atop a long, wide stone bridge a sheer, three hundred foot drop either side.
At the end, a column of Hill Giants, knotted bulbous faces drooling and slavering with guttural obscenities, are there, still lobbing great rocks as we advance.

We ride up and dismounting ready for battle.
They’re spread out and we’re outnumbered but hopefully not outclassed.

Mahd phases out to reappear on the Giant’s flank.
Raising her hands a clap or lightening arcs through their ranks, from one ugly head to the next, each howling in pain.

Wynter and I are engage three on the right.

Athene ridie up along the bridge edge as a giant bursts from the pack, wheels around and barrels headlong into her…
It happens in a second.
Athene tries to reign her terrified mount from the path of the giant.
He crashies into them, rolling horse and rider, head over tail like a sack of potatoes, towards a drop that means certain death.
And what was gift from the departed Aldern Foxglove tumbles headlong over the edge with a sickening scream.
But Athene leaps from the saddle just in time, clinging to whatever handholds she can find.
My heart stops, seeing the same fatal drop on my side of the bridge.

Wynter and I move quickly away from the edge before our foes get the same idea.

Mahd summons her Archon, giving Athene time to scramble up to safety and back to her feet.

But if the Giants’ thought they had the upper hand, they were mistaken.

The battle turns quickly.

Soon only one giant remains and he flees.
He’s moving fast but we cannot allow him to raise the alarm.
We all lose with a volley of missiles but it’s Athene who brings the brute down.

Looks like someone’s going to have ride double!

View
Victory at Sandpoint
Escape, Route, Victory and Justice

Three Stone Giants tower before us, slate skinned, dark eyed and long limbed.
Teraktinus is impressive, taller even than his bodyguard, wielding two gigantic, ornate picks.
They come at us like a wall of stone, greatmauls and pick blades striking true.

With divine reserves depleted and Wynter sorely injured, if we don’t end this soon we’ll lose a war of attrition…
Athene is happy to oblige, felling one with a vicious counterattack.
I turn on Teraktinus, stepping in beneath the arc of his picks, wet with my blood and smite him.
He wobbles, eyes bulging with disbelief as I nearly slay him outright.
Despite her own sorry state, Wynter’s instinct is to finish him but I hold her back.

Overhead there’s a noise like storm’s wind and Long Tooth the Dragon, mouth agape, strafes the streets with a jet of rolling fire.
That’s when we see Mahd, standing aloft a rooftop defiantly, in the path of the flame… and she’s engulfed.
Flailing and screaming her blackened form goes limp and tumbles down the shingled roof out of site, her fall smothering the flames.

Athene and I share a brief, wild look and turn back on our enemies with renewed vigor.
I’d finish what I started with Teraktinus but Athene it appears wants her pound of Stone Giant flesh and thrusts upwards into the sternum of the already staggering monster.
He pauses for a moment, looking down at the streaming blood like a tapped keg and falls backwards with a crash, into a building behind.

The Dragon, licking flames from its leathery lips perches on a nearby chimney and calls out in a far reaching, echoing voice. The language is Giant and all I can make out the name Teraktinus, but the tone is clear- he calls the retreat!

The last giant runs.
The Dragon takes to the sky.

But I’m not letting them get away that easy.
With a quick look to Athene I scale a nearby roof with an agility borne only of desperation.
The town sprawls before me.
Fires burn, but they are surprisingly few.
Bald grey heads bob up and down in the streets, withdrawing back to the forest.

And of course the fleeing Dragon

It’s a long shot, but not impossible.
I whip out my bow and spike three arrow into the hay roof.
Long Tooth is moving swiftly, I’ll only get one chance.
At this range it’s a mighty shot and I’m no archer.
But Mahd’s elementals have battered the young wyrm severely and a well placed, or lucky arrow may just put an end to this particular threat.
And… I remember a certain arrogant Lamia fleeing down the side of a tower thinking herself beyond my reach and abilities.
Have faith Slva.

Three arrows travel in a long, painful arc.
The first ricochets off his scaly hide.
The second though lands true beneath the wing and he shudders mid-flight.
The third sticks right behind his ear.
Longtooth screeches, glides up, and goes down below the roof-line.

I stand triumphant, already mounting that head on Ameiko’s wall… when the Dragon reappears, drifting up and with a beat of a wing and out of range to safety.

By the time I climb back down, Athene has not only subdued, but bound the last Giant, no doubt for interrogation.

She stands over a divinely revived Mahd, hair since regrown from her encounter with the Vargouille now singed away again, deep patches of red skin where the flesh had been seared away.
She’s alive thank Iomadae, but I can see in her pale face that it was close.

With Mahd secure I race to the Docklands to rally the fire teams.
Able bodied citizens stream out to form bucket lines and the recovery of Sandpoint begins.

Across the bay though, a large fire burns unchecked.
Alerting Captain Trussk, we load a water wagon onto a barge and row across to help. We arrive too late to save the manor house but we do at least stop it spreading to the surrounding brush.

I locate the owner to ensure no one remains inside, only to discover the property belongs to suspected Sczarni crime boss Titus Scarnetti.
The estate has indeed been evacuated but he’s understandably devastated at his loss.

Then I spot a line of carts beyond the treeline.
Perhaps all is not lost after all?
Waving Trussk over to assist, we discover what appears to be the looted possessions of house Scarnetti, and from the huge footprints in the soft grey soil, it appears to be the work of Giants.

I’m just about to call the noble over when I stop…
I recall conversations with suffering towns folk under the yolk of Sczarni protection rackets. I rememeber the evidence we uncovered that implicated Scarnetti in the arson of competitor’s businesses and I realise that this might be an opportunity to help Sandpoint further.

I nod at Trussk who understands immediately and takes up position as lookout.
Wynter and I rifle through the belongings looking for leads until, from a bureau, I lift a suspect bundle of documents.
Scanning their contents, it appears that I’ve found exactly what we’re looking for!

With my authority I could arrest him on the spot, but given the chaos, I think it be better to leave the matter till later. In the mean time we arrange the scene to look like the missing documents are the result of clumsy Giant looters, not investigating deputies and return to the burning building to give a dejected Scarnetti the good news about his possessions…Enjoy them while you can Titus!

And that’s when I spot a speck in the sky.
Is that Athene’s owl Thera?
The giant bird dives down towards me.
She must have a message.
She’s coming in rather fast though.
Is she?…

Thera swoops in close, claws clattering against my armour.
If I didn’t know better I’d swear she thought I was prey!
Is this some sorcery of the raiders?
Is Thera possessed?
Not wishing to hurt the creature, I ward her off with the but end of my spear.
She seems about to make another pass when she flies back towards the city.
Could Athene be in trouble?

I send Wynter by land around the bay while I commandeer a small sloop back to the docks.

I return to where I left Athene, to find them with the giant, sitting expectantly, a look of relief on its surprisingly thoughtful face.
And discover that my companions have negotiated an exchange with the creature, his freedom in return for what he knows about the raid- Provided that is that I swear the oath.
My reputation precedes me it seems… That, or the reputation of my companions.

But I will not be out maneuvered again.
I agree to the monsters terms but only on the condition that he entirely forthcoming and honest, guaranteed by Athene’s uncanny ability to discern lies.
If I must make another deal with a devil, I’ll make sure the price I pay is worth it.

Borock (the Giant’s name) proves informed if wry.
Based in Yorgenfist, in The Valley of the Black Tower and Iron Peaks, on the eastern steps overlooking the Mashka River, he is part of a nine tribe, Stone Giant army that includes hundreds of his kin, Hill Giants, Trolls, Ettin, Ogres and more Lamia!
Led by a charismatic stone Giant sorcerer called Mokmorian, their ultimate goal is nothing less than the total domination of the region in a sweeping invasion that may begin in as little as a few weeks!

His raiding party was sent by Mokmorian to recover stones from the ancient Lighthouse, which he apparently can use his magic to learn secrets from; secrets he believes that will ensure his conquest of Southern Varisia.

Thankfully for us, Teraktinus, with Longtooth whispering in his ear about easy pickings, decided to strike early and without great planning and certainly without expecting three meddling adventurers to mount a defense.
By his reckoning at least half a dozen of his kin escaped, along with the Dragon.

As Mahd said, they came expecting sheep and instead found wolves!

In fact it does appear that until today, we may well have been unknown to our foes. It didn’t occur to me before now, but this is the first time our enemies have escaped to tell the tale.
I only hope that our ‘discovery’ will not make our mission more difficult.

Our interrogation over, Borock demands his safe passage.
Leaving him bound I lead him outside the gate, much to the understandable surprise of the guards posted there.

I raise my sword to him, smiting him for effect and pledge that I will hunt him down if he causes any trouble during his departure.
Athene unties his ropes and the two exchange ‘pleasantries’ before he lopes off.

A different person might think that a few well placed arrows would not break the letter of our agreement, but thankfully for him I am not that person.

We immediately go the ruins of the lighthouse.
Pre-dating two generations of inhabitants, what once was an 800 ft , Thasalonian marvel. Built into the cliff face, it is now a ruined shell, worn by surf and wind, devoid of features or furnishings.
And no answers will be found here… So, empty handed as our foes, we return to the city and debrief the council.

Sheriff Hemlock and Mayor Devran congratulate a well executed plan and inform us that there were no civilian casualties and only minimal losses amongst the guard.
Only a handful of homes and business were lost, including The Curious Goblin bookstore, Cracktooth’s Tavern, a brewery and the Varisan Tent City.
We paid a cheap price for victory.

We share with him what we learned of The Peoples’ plot and discuss the best course of action.
We decide that with time of the essence, we will travel north to locate this army and take the fight directly to it’s leader Makmoriam.
And in case we fail, despite his doubts that such a force could withstand an onslaught of that magnitude, Hemlock will travel to Magnimar and urge the mayor to raise a militia.

In our last order of business, I give him the papers that Trussk and I acquired concerning Scarnetti. It appears that he did indeed pay one Jubray Whiski, a nefarious character known to the Sheriff, to go out and burn down his competitor’s Mills. It also appears that Whiski was in turn blackmailing Scranetti!
The information is more than Hemlock needs to implicate and arrest Scranetti and will take him along to Magnimar for trial.

And so preparations for our journey to cut the head off a snake begin, but not before we deal with this Runewell.

View
Assault on Sandpoint
Giants and Dragons and Bears

Horns blare to the east.
Leaping from the parapets we rush through empty streets to defend the new front.

Beyond the graveyard we spot two Giants lumbering across the bridge, driving three great bears before them, but not just any bears, enormous, slavering, deformed creatures- Dire Bears!

We hurdle a cobblestone wall as a giant plucks a huge boulder from the lake-bed and hurls it at Athene.
It hits, knocking her to the ground.
The other Giant scoops up a boat and lobs it at me.
I brace myself as the wooden structure shatters over me, leaving my ears ringing.

We rally and rush in, companions close behind as Mahd summons her tentacle trap.
The creatures bulky forms are too strong though and wrench free.
The first bear charges in recklessly and finds itself impaled on a greatsword.
Wynter grabs the second by the throat and amazingly, flips it on its back with a loud thump.
I sidestep the third bear lopping off it’s head and follow through with the Giant behind.
I thrust upwards and he howls his last.

Suddenly the odds are in our favour.
Which is when Mahd , a spell on her lips, launches like a ballista into the air.
She’s screaming something that sounds like a challenge in an arcane tongue.
The Dragon perhaps?
Surely not alone?
As she slowly disappears higher into the air I suddenly wonder how the rest of us can hope to fight a dragon on the wing?
I hope her stable of minions includes an eagle… a very, large eagle…

The last bear tumbles back to it’s feet, twisting out of Wynter’ grip and near tears out her throat! My heart skipping a beat.
As Wynter limps away, fur bloody, I leap between them.
In a blood-rage the last bear rears up, yellow fanged maw foaming, long claws lashing.
And then… a familiar sword point busts through it’s neck, Athene stands behind the monster like she’s spit a pig.
It’s eyes roll back, it gurgles, and flops to the ground with an earth shaking thump.

As we regroup, a large, red blur streaks across the sky in a trail of smoke and falling cinders.

The Dragon!

I wonder again if we can defeat it when a strangely tangible, howling wind, tumbles through the air after it.
One of Mahd’s perhaps?
She is challenging the Dragon!
I’m impressed… I’d be concerned too, but horns are now blaring in the South East.

We steal a moment to bask in* Iomadae’s* healing light before we’re off again, stopping briefly at each intersection to watch for raiders and fortify ourselves through prayer.

We run into the hornblower who we send to assist with the fires, grateful to be away from the danger.

Following a sudden trail of destruction we spy three more giants, smashing building fronts and overturning abandoned carts.
They are led by a particularly large and loathsome villain who can only be Teraktinus!

He calls out in booming, broken common with an obscene demand that he no doubt considers a gesture of ‘goodwill’. If we hand over his fill of victims he’ll leave the rest of Sandpoint alone!

But the only ransom he’ll receive from us, will be edge of a blade!

We close the distance.

Then, above, a Dragon’s sulfuric roar.
Mahd’s familiar scream.
It flies overhead again, swooping up to perch atop the Garrison wall.
We can see the Dragon properly now, not as big as I expected, yet the columns of smoke around the city are a testament to it’s destructive power.

It casually smashes at the keep with its tail, visibly furious.
Is it hurt,?
How bad?
Where’s Mahd?

Then another swirling whirlwind appears beside it and attacks.
An Elemental perhaps?.
At least she must be alive…

Amidst it all I wonder where the real attack is.
This is a distraction.
Someone is going after the prize but we are helpless to investigate, lest the town fall to this menace.

Well we’d better do our part on the ground!

View
Blood From A Stone
The Journey Home, Rallying the Defences, First Blood.

Outside the Shimmerglens we discuss our plans over lunch. We hoped with all our resources we might have found a way to send warning to Sandpoint but all that is possible is to make haste overland and hope we arrive before the raiders.

Lashing the dragon ribs into a litter, we load up our haul and ride out. It’s a four day, hard but ultimately uneventful journey; praying each night to give the horses strength and for my my part at least, watching the skies for Dragons.

When we do arrive at the North gate of the coastal town, there are no fires, no bodies, no columns of soldiers or wagons piled dead and injured. Whatever the plans of this menace, they haven’t acted on them yet.
The guards wave as through and perhaps unsurprisingly we draw a lot of attention. With dented armour, new scars, lathered mounts and a literal treasure hoard in tow, we must make quite a site.

We head first for to Rusty Dragon where hopefully rooms await us. Proprietor, Ameiko greets us warmly and indeed has accommodations ready to go. It’s good to finally see a familiar face again and while her halfling maid Bathana runs our belongings upstairs, we forewarn her of what is to come, so that she may make preparations.
Instead, the ever reliable, retired Bard offers to help us; running ahead to gather a Sandpoint War-Council while we make ourselves presentable.

Making our way to the Garrison, we again cause something of a scene.
Our actions both here and beyond have created an intense interest in our comings and goings, a situation I am only just now coming to terms with.
Store owners stand in doorways with a wave or a bow, sometimes presenting us with their wares, other times inviting us back to spend. Unmoved by her fearsome appearance, a chain of enamoured children trail Wynter, holding her tail (she showing great patience) the bravest few skipping ahead to per her gingerly under the chin.
In fact I suspect she likes this attention more than I…

We arrive at the Garrison to find it’s standing room only.
Sherriff Hemlock and Mayor Deverin are there of course, but they are not the only concerned faces present. Father Zantus, Broderick Quink the local Thassilonian scholar, Titus Scarnetti businessman and suspected gangster, Vim Vender General store proprietor and Book store owner Chask Haladan all wait nervously for us to enter and address them.

We give them a brief account of our travels since leaving Sandpoint, recalling any information we think might be useful in combating the threat at hand, finally detailing our experience at Hook Mountain and the news of the impending raid on Sandpoint.
They have little comment to make and more than one face is a little ashen.
We do learn though, that Hemlocks people the Shianti know of these ‘People’ referred to in the note, (pot surprisingly) as a nearby community of Stone Giants. Unfortunately no-one knows of a Dragon that is still active in the area, or of this Teraktinus.

I actually fear we may have overwhelmed them a little with our exploits.
Even the usual stony faced Hemlock seemed impressed that we single handily wiped out the* Kreeg Ogre Clan*.
I suppose I’ve never thought of our adventures as heroic, focusing on each new dilemma as a kind of duty. I’m actually concerned for a moment, looking at the expressions of those assembled, that they may simply disregard our tale as ale talk and I prepare to convince them… But no, it appears that whether by our words or demeanour our sincerity is apparent and they ask almost appreciatively what we should do next…

We set immediately to creating a sound battle plan.
Though never an officer, I spent a couple of years fighting greenskins in Lastwall and Athene it seems has some experience in siege warfare, though again, though it does sound like she might have been on the the wrong side of whatever conflict that was… Despite all we’ve been through together I can’t help but worry about her…

When we outlay what we think is a sound defense; mobilising the guard and forming a militia there’s a few uneasy looks and clearing of throats. It seems again, we might have forgotten ourselves. Hemlock looking a little uncomfortable suggests diplomatically that his entire Guard, that he himself, would be hard pressed to defend Sandpoint against a single Stone Giant, little lone an army!

The thought that we stand better chance of repelling this foe alone than the might of this city combined is a heady one.
I still think of myself as that girl who rode out from Lastwall with the few trappings I could muster. Now a room full of officials and town leaders look to us to provide answers and protect thousands…

It must have taken great courage for the Sherriff to admit his inadequacies and almost apologetically we set about a new plan… Perhaps even a better one… Maybe the best way to fight this army, is NOT to.

Our Foe’s seek a treasure, most likely located in the Runewell underground or in the ruins of the Lighthouse, both in the North Eastern Quarter.

The North wall would provide a sturdy defence, to all but Stone Giants and as Sandpoint’s only link to the mainland it’s a likely front for the battle.
The Western shore is open sea and an unlike the Northern wall, probably the most problematic route for our enemies.
Likewise, the Southern docklands are shielded by the wide, deep Sandpoint Bay also an unlikely approach.

The Eastern edge is a different story though…
The wide inlet of the Curandarok River with it’s three bridges, that separates Sandpoint from the mainland is a perfect defence against man or goblin, but the shallow waters and unfortified shorefront will prove little obstacle to a determined Giant front.

Evacuation is an option, but the cabal here assures us that the we may not receive the same cooperation from the townsfolk that we’ve enjoyed here, not to mention the days that an evacuation might take to organise.

So we cannot defend the perimeter on two sides, we cannot evacuate the populace in time and we cannot raise an army… But maybe we don’t have to

We decide to let them come.
We send out Hemlock’s best in mounted pairs to scout the forest; post lookouts along the Northern and Eastern perimeters and charge Scarnetti’s fleet to watch the bay and open sea.
All have orders to sound their horns at first sight of the invaders and pull back to help Captain Trussk direct the populace to shelter in warehouses in the docklands.
Leaving us to to fight a guerilla war in the streets.

And if a Dragon appears, I have a special prayer ready for Iomadae.

Should we fail… the guard will act as last line of defence while the population filter onto ships and the tunnels beneath the Glassworks.

By the time we’re finished outlaying the plan, those assembled seem satisfied, even impressed and much to my surprise, have accepted our new strategy wholesale.
If I was sobered before, now I am humbled…
I only hope we’ve made the right decisions…

If we’re lucky, the marauders will be content with smashing empty houses and move quickly to their objective. If not, it’s the best that three can do to defend a town against an army of Hill Giants.

We send out the scouts, post the sentries and begin distributing water stations throughout the city, for the inevitable spot fires … or worse if a Dragon is indeed coming.
Mhad, Athene and I take shifts marshaling the lookouts and patrolling the perimeter while the others sleep.

I am walking the Eastern shore as the sun rises when the first horn blows…
To the Northern gate!

We arrive together, climbing the gatehouse turret and looking out, up the Northern Road. Shadows move in the trees lit by the day’s first light.
The forest is strangely silent.
Then three, towering grey forms lumber from the tree line and begin loping their way towards us.
I cannot the white’s of their eyes but I do not need to.

Athene and I draw our bows and let loose a volley of shafts at the same target.
And hit!
They continue their path towards us, picking up great boulders of shale and hurling them towards us.
The stones shatters against the wall.

We fire again, more strike true!
The one on the right, now peppered with arrows is limping but they continue, hurling more boulders.
One lands at our feet… Close…
A third volley and a hundred feet out, the first blood is ours.
Their companion down, the other two turn and run back into the tree line.
I would like to say it’s a route but I suspect this attack was just to feel us out.

I watch the sky uneasily still, then another horn, this time on the Eastern flank, we climb down and rush to arms!

View
Choke Point
Nemesis Old, Nemesis New, Endings & Beginings.

In the sagas of Lastwall, it always seemed that the heroes spent many days celebrating their victories. I know now that is obviously the fiction of the Bard.

With the dam repaired, we immediately return to our horses and ride westward to Hook Mountain, hopefully to put an end to this Ogre menace and recover Captain Bayden’s remains…

Outside the temperature has dropped dramatically. Puddles on the ground are frozen over and sleet begins to fall. Is this simply the elevation, or some magical force at work? Perhaps Myriana has grown impatient?

Athene and Wynter scout ahead, returning to report a cavemouth leading under the mountain and guarded by Ogres. We dismount and creep forward. The sentries are seemingly alert and disciplined, the ground between them and the treeline too open.

There is nothing for it, we charge in on three sides to divide their fire.

We loose a few arrows while they atop a ledge at the cave’s mouth hurl huge javelins. The exchange is a cursory one as Athene and Wynter mount the lip and engage them… Without me… My wet cloak hard with ice, my armour clogged with snow I struggle like an infant to climb the muddy, slippery shelf and by the time I do scramble up, the fight is over. A brief fight that was surprisingly costly, causing to pause to imbue healing potions before daring to proceed.

The tunnel entrance is lined rather marvelously with the upturned rib cage of a Blue Dragon, the bone carved with Ogre runes.

A little ways beyond, the statue of fearsome, ornately armoured giant stands, wearing an actual, equally giant sihedron medallion around his neck. I try to hook it off with my spear, but it’s too high. Athene scales the cold stone with great agility but as she lifts the chain from the sentinel’s neck, the stone disintegrates! Athene, thankfully comes out relatively unscathed but what remains behind is a full set of gigantic and bejeweled armour. Something to load up on the way out I think…

We investigate a deep pit, but it turns out to be little more than a refuse and pass on through a narrow natural corridor, coming face to face with a Hill Giant and his Ogre lackeys… A Hill giant who appears to think he IS an Ogre!

We hold our position, hoping to draw them into a choke point, but the lop eared brute hurls a great boulder at us, his companions their javelins…
There’s nothing for it but to charge in!

Mahd is first as usual with her tentacle trap but the Ogres prove too strong.
Smiting the Hill Giant we squeeze in, trying to stay out of their reach.
Mahd summons her Archon ally.
Athene steps up and disembowels the Giant as one of the Ogres stumbles back and is consumed by the clutch of tentacles.

But that is only the start…

Bellowing from a side passage comes another ogre who tries to bull rush me.
But I stand my ground!
As he goggles down at me, the Archon runs the witless fool through.
Behind him though, a chorus of roars and a column of knot-faced brutes come charging up the tunnel. A long column…

The Archon and I prepare to make our stand but Mahd pushes us aside and fills the corridor with a deafening crack of thunder and lightening from her finger tip.
My hair standing on it’s end, we follow the path of the electricity to find the stinking burnt flesh of no less than seven dead Ogres…
Only one remains standing, but he’s a beast.
I step up and cut him, but he comes back with a blow that leaves me reeling…
Then Mahd slicks the floor with grease appears and the Ogre champion goes down in a heap.
The Archon swings down, then me… and it’s done…

Stepping over no less than fourteen ogres (and would be ogres) we find ourselves standing in an enormous, stifling weapons foundry. Mine shafts bring much needed coal straight from the source. Tool’s, anvils, bellow and forges made for ogre sized smiths fill the space. Ogre hooks and javelin’s line makeshift racks against the walls.
But it appears that we have accounted for all…

We double back to the western passage and find ourselves almost immediately in the royal throne room of the Lord of Hook Mountain.

Its tall jagged roof obscured in shadow, the ice-covered chamber is a long, pillar-lined cavern. A single ramp of giant sized steps with high walls and looming statues of chiseled humanoids leads all the way to the slab-like throne of a fearsome Stone Giant.

Looking down with disdain. King Barl announces-
“Minions, remove these pests for from my halls once and for all”

Mahd rushes in first, but is forced to duck when a second giant emerges from between the statues and swipes down at her in a deadly arc.
She replies by summoning one of her vile Babau right next to it.
Athene climbs deftly up to join the sinewy demon fight the bodyguard.
After the debacle at the entrance though, I decide not to risk the climb and make my way up to the King, Wynter close behind.
Mahd casts haste as Barl rolls a great stone down the steps as us.

Finally at the top of the steps my heart sinks. The King’s throne sits atop a steep ridge that again, I have slim hopes of scaling.
I’m about to double back and help Athene with the bodyguard when Mahd yells-
“No, stay on the King!”
I don’t know what she has planned but I hope it involves a ladder…

The King’s bodyguard goes down and what happens next is a blur.

There’s a strange flash and Athene and Babau are suddenly transported across the room appearing right in front of the King!
A second Babau materialises alongside me.
I look into inhuman eyes. I sense the hate, the evil, it wants to kill me I think.
It reaches out its corrosive, slimy hand… and then we too appear beside the Throne.
A little disorientated I look down at Mahd and marvel at her quick thinking.

For the first time, the King of Hook Mountain, surrounded on all sides by his enemies knows fear,
Our blades clashing against his enormous stone Earthbreaker he calls out
“Time to redeem yourself woman”

And then our nemesis Lucrecia materialises at the opposite end of the platform, seven illusory forms, dagger blades flashing…

The Babau at my side streaks away after the snake woman while we stay on the King.
He’s swinging hard but so are we…
His stony face alight with fear he yells again in giant out toward the entrance, no doubt for more reinforcements!
I only hope we can hold.
I cut him deep, then Wynter near tears his leg off.
The King reels and the Babau still with us slides like an assassin under his reach and slays the King of Hook Mountain with a spear thrust…

I look over at Lucrecia, already down to four forms and we’re on her like a pack of wolves.
Three, two, as the last illusion winks out, the inevitable happens and I’m not the only one to curse.
Opening a magical portal behind her she disappears… again!

But she is not gone after all…
The temperature drops.
Snowflakes form on the air.
Below, a procession of giant withered female forms, like a funeral march shamble in, torn clothes fluttering in the icy wind- Hags!
And snaking in behind them, Lucrecia… perhaps we’ll finish her after all…

We take a precious moment to bolster ourselves with magic before the Babau sweep in and teleport down into the corridor of steps.
Athene and I charge the towering hags, as the Babau climb the walls like spiders, and circle around our foes.

Mahd with seemingly inexhaustible reserves summons an Archon right behind Lucrecia.
The coward takes a sharp blow and slithers up the wall into what she thinks is a safe little nook.
But Mahd and I send Wynter and a Babau to make sure she doesn’t get away this time!

The temperature drops again.
Mist forms on the breath.
A frost covered, spectral figure with a crown of ice stalks in behind the Archon, undead but no giant, with a bow in its ice taloned hands.

Caught in the narrow passage between us and the Archon, the Hags close ranks and begin chanting a spell.
But they forgot about the Babau….
Our Demon minion, clinging to the rockface above, strikes down with its spear.
The spell fails and Athene strikes and a hag slumps dead into its sister’s arms.

They howl and turn back to back.
The one in front of me lunges forward, grappling me up in her long arms like twisted tree roots and pins me to her chest.
The other has the Archon in a similar grip.
The Ice King steps forward with an outstretched hand…
Unable to move, the Archon howls as it touches him… Merely a touch but I can see the creature wither before my eyes.

I won’t wait for the same fate!
Dropping Redemption, I wriggle an arm free, slide out my longsword and drive hard it under the wrinkled chin of the Hag who holds me.
Black blood sprays back down as we tumble to the ground together.

Up above, it is with some satisfaction that I can see the wild slitted pupils of the Lamia. Desperate. Scared. Wynter’s holds her still as she tries to slither away but too late.
The Babau sinks its spear into her chest and though I wish it had been me holding that spear, I’m glad that Lucrecia will not get away this time.

The demon does not savour that pleasure though and starts looking around for another target, leaping like a skinned cat on the last Hag.

As the Ice King slays the Archon, Athene leaps over the bodies to attack.
Mahd summons a ball of fire as they meet and calls out from behind me…

Lamater Bayden We’re here to rescue you!”

Bayden? Surely not… and yet…

We wait with baited breath for a reply, any sign that this might indeed be the wayward Captain, and he reaches oit as if to say something and then lays a frozen talon on Athene.

She creams as if the very life force was drained from her… and I realize, not who this was, but what this is- A Wight!

Athene stumbles in shock.
Baydens Wight looks on without compassion, pleasure or recognition.
Athene goes to one knee… as if about to collapse.
Then, in one swift motion, she swings upwards and cuts the fallen Ranger in two.

The atmosphere changes almost instantly.
The chill air warms and the two Babau, hiss some sort of chilling triumphant cry at the sky…

It is over…

Looking over the Wight’s clothes it is indeed Lamatar Bayden and so we wrap his remains in a cloak for the journey home.

Piled around the king’s throne is the Kreeg clan hoard, including cache of Black Arrow belongings and a note.

Addressed to King Barl it is signed by ‘M’ (yet another villain too cowardly to sign their name).
Someone called Teraktinus, has singled out Sandpoint as the hiding place for whatever it is their lord seeks and plans use ’The People’ and a Dragon no less to raid our adopted home. Perhaps they speak of the underground temple? Perhaps the Lighthouse?
It goes on to suggest Jorgenfist as a rally point and orders for Barl to cover their retreat.
At least we’ve hampered that part of the plan

And as it appears that had not been called to arms just yet, it seems we may have time to return and prepare a defense of the town.

Collecting the Giants armour and taking the two shortest Dragon ribs (one for Ameikos’s tavern) we return to our horses and ride out.
With the Hags dead, the weather outside has changed again dramatically, with clear skies, warm winds and melting snow.

We decide to head for Fort Rannik to regroup before our journey back west; to check in on our friends, and give them a chance to say goodbye to their Captain before his return to Myriana.

Except for the picket line of Ogre heads, Rannik is changed and for the better.
Bodies, and debris have been cleared, repairs began and the Eastern gate refortified.
It’s a bittersweet reunion with Shae, Jak and Kale and after presenting them with the cache from Hook Mountain, we show them Bayden’s body and tell them of his fate… and what we plan to do with his body.
After a hot meal and a brief respite I lead a service for the Captain and plant a marker in the graveyard, for whilst his body cannot remain, at least his soul might.

That night we share more of our journey with our friend and make a few necessary repairs to our own gear.
We leave early the next morning and head for the Shimmerglenns where he pall of fear and oppression if not gone seems to have eased. The ghost of Myriana receives us with more warmth than last we spoke and gently takes Bayden’s body from us.
Laying his wrapped body gently on the ground she pulls the aside his hood kisses him gently on the lips.
There’s a bright, cleansing light. I tense for a moment, sending necromantic energies and hope that my worst fears about this reunion will not be realised…
But no, impossible as it seems, these energies are benevolent…

When finally we look again, where Bayden lay, in the thread worn but now clean garb of a Captain of the Black Arrows is an Elflord.
Myrana is there too, not the specter we saw before but as she may have been in life.
Indeed she was as beautiful as legend suggests.
She stands over the figure still wrapped in the cloak and almost imperceptibly at first begins to fade.
She look across at me, then deeper, as if she can touch my soul, inspire my soul, in a way I didn’t realise possible.
And then she’s gone.

The Elflord sits up and walks towards us with elvin grace.
He says that he is Lamater Bayden, if in a different form and that he pledges to replenish the spirit of the Shimmerglenns and protect it from further harm.
He asks that we keep his, dare I say it, reincarnation a secret.
Which of course, we do.
He thanks us and as mysteriously as he appeared, turns and wanders off out of site beyond the Grove.

And now, it is time for us to go… On to Sandpoint!

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