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!