Episode 27: The Tomb of Nargrym Steelhand, Part 2

Just to be safe, the party decided to burn away the webs surrounding the huge, rune-covered obelisk, before entering. They remembered that webs are easily set alight by a flaming arrow, so Silaqui fired one into the “tent”. After a few minutes, the webs burned away, leaving smouldering logs. The group cautiously moved through the darkened archway, Draken in the lead.

A narrow, five-foot wide archway climbed downwards, at a very steep angle, into musty darkness. Gydion and Turin lit up their weapons with Light, while Jane lit Toboe’s feathered collar alight with the same orison. Silaqui drank a potion of Mage Armor. There were no rails, so the group had to move cautiously. As they descended, Draken read aloud the dwarven runes that covered the walls, which narrated the life and exploits of Nargrym Steelhand in great detail. After descending forty feet, the party reached a small landing. They noticed that the stairwell was becoming filled with spiderwebs, and that the webs were crawling with small, brown spiders. Gydion, Jane and Turin reassured the others that the brown spiders were a harmless species, but this did little to calm Silaqui, whose arachnophobia had already been sorely tested during their battle with ettercaps just a few minutes before.

Just as she finished identifying the small brown spiders, Jane spotted movement in the webs below the landing: an ettercap and a giant spider were crawling stealthily towards them! Battle commenced, with Silaqui firing the first shot, wounding the ettercap. Because of the narrowness of the landing, most of the heroes couldn’t act, and instead elected to hold their actions until the vermin approached close enough to attack. During the short but unnerving encounter, Gydion cast Produce Flame at the giant spider, setting the webs below them on fire! Turin’s now-improved familiar, Blaez, however, extinguished them with his Gust of Wind breath-weapon (in an unsuccessful attempt to blow the vermin to their deaths). In the end, Silaqui finished off her ettercap with another well-placed arrow, and her brother Turin vanquished its giant spider companion with a Force Missile.

The party descended further and noticed (with much dismay on Silaqui’s part) that the webs were becoming more and more active. As they climbed the stairs, Draken (still in the lead) observed that Nargrym’s story continued, and read it aloud to his friends: apparently, Nargrym had acquired a magical, steel hand which allowed him to wield giant-sized weapons. In addition, the dwarf had a shirt of scale-mail crafted for himself, made entirely from the fingernails of giants he’d slain during his illustrious giantslaying career. Asa was remarking on the peculiar choice of materials for armor when they heard a blood-curdling shriek coming from below them: “Interlopers! Get out of my uncle’s tomb at once! Begone!” the dwarf fighter-cleric spotted a terrifying monster on a second landing, about 10 feet below them, which Draken described as a strange, female, half-dwarf/half-spider. Suddenly, with a wave of one of its appendanges, a curtain of webs flew at Draken, just missing him.

Meanwhile, another ettercap—hidden beneath the stairs—sprung up and attacked Silaqui, thankfully missing her with its poisonous fangs. Draken closed the distance between him and the strange, half-dwarf, and struck at her with his magic hammer, the dwarven artifact Agrimmosh. The creature ducked, and he missed! Given the narrowness of the stairs and the landing, much of the rest of the party (eg Asa, Kingsley, and Toboe) were unable to attack, and had to either hold their actions, or had to spend a round switching out their melee weapons for missile weapons. The next round, the creature bit Draken in the shoulder, but he made his Fortitude saving throw, and shrugged off her poison. The two traded blows for several rounds—Draken hit the creature three times, but got badly scratched by the creature’s claws in the process. Silaqui backed him up by firing a series of arrows at her from the stairs.

Jane, meanwhile, filled her ettercap consort with arrows, killing it. Putting down her bow momentarily, the elven Druid asked the half-spider dwarven creature, “Why are you attacking us?” But before she could answer, Gydion put the hateful, hybrid aberration out of its misery with a Scorching Ray, igniting the webs around it. Earlier in the battle, the Druid had also lobbed some fiery missiles with the Produce Flame spell he’d cast earlier. They’d missed, and ignited other webs deep, down below—so the entire stairwell was rapidly filling with thick smoke, forcing the heroes to scurry upwards for air.

After a few minutes, the smoke cleared, and they returned to loot the hybrid’s body. They turned up a magic amulet, which Turin identified as an Amulet of Mighty Fists +1 (which bequeaths its bonus to unarmed attacks). Curiously, they also discovered a spell component pouch filled with Druidic material components—for example, mistletoe and holly. Jane and Gydion looked at each other—might this wretched creature have been a Druid? The two said a quick, Druidic prayer over its hybrid body and steeled themselves for what lay ahead.

Draken led the group down 40 more feet, where they found the bottom of the smoky shaft. As they descended down the final staircase, Draken read the tragic, final chapter of Nargrym’s biography, engraved in runes upon the staircase walls:

Nargrym’s final and most well-known victory was over the infamous fire giant Gunderoth, called “Dwarfskinner”, who scorched the living flesh from nearly 30 dwarven miners. Nargrym’s win was short-lived, however. After Gunderoth’s defeat, Nargrym’s own squire and kinsman, Lokmorr Edergun, cravenly stabbed Nargrym in the back out of spite and jealousy. Lokmorr took credit for slaying the giant himself, claiming it had killed Nargrym, and was heralded as a hero. But a priest of the dwarven god of the forge, Torag, named Byrim Forgepride, discovered Lokmorr’s crime and confronted the kinslayer about his betrayal and deception. Believing he might still pull off his ruse, Lokmorr turned upon the priest and slew him as well. Although Lokmorr tried again to cover up his dark deeds, he was unsuccessful, and the ruling council of the dwarven Sky Citadel Janderhoff (Nargrym and Lokmorr’s home) branded his forehead with the mark of the betrayer, struck his family name from the dwarven histories, and sentenced Lokmorr to be trapped alive in the tomb of the hero he had murdered.

The half-spider, half-dwarf creature had mentioned her “uncle”, and they’d assumed she’d meant Nargrym. But had she actually been referring to Lokmorr? “I guess we’ll never know,” pondered Jane, and Toboe whined in commiseration.
Draken and the others, meanwhile, were busy exploring the small chamber at the bottom of the stairs. A disk-shaped door, flush with the stone around it—and without hinges—was set in the center of the eastern wall. Above the door a Dwarven sentence was engraved. Draken translated: “Touch upon thy son’s blessings, and enter.” Upon the door itself were engraved three ancient Dwarven runes, which Draken translated as Loyalty, Duty, and Strength.

While Turin (the scholar among the group), Draken, and Silaqui struggled to make sense of the writing, Jane explored the western end of the chamber. She discovered two badly burned corpses, wrapped in the scorched remains of gossamer webbing. No clues to their identities had survived the fire, although given their stature, she concluded they were probably dwarves. Toboe confirmed this with his Scent ability.

“I’ve got it!” exclaimed Turin. “According to Dwarven legend, the great god Torag had three sons, who represented the qualities of Loyalty, Duty and Strength, respectively.” The group discussed the best way forward. They decided to try having different party members touch the runes. This produced no response, however, so Jane touched a rune and said “Nargrym Steelhand”. Suddenly, the rune flashed, and a jet of blue flame shot towards her forehead. When she turned around, there was a dwarven rune tattooed upon her brow! “THIEF” read Draken aloud. “The dwarves of Janderhoff clearly don’t abide tomb raiders!” He smiled. Try as they might, Draken couldn’t remove the mark from his sister’s head. “We’ll see if Tyari can get rid of it with Remove Curse,” Asa offered.

The others, meanwhile, were already back to figuring out the runes on the door. “Let’s try touching each rune, while at the same time speaking the name of the son who represents that quality,” Silaqui suggested. Draken, Gydion and Asa did the honors—and the door opened, sliding silently into the wall. Draken entered the dark, musty chamber within, the others following closely on his heels.

They found themselves within a 30 × 30 foot chamber lined with pillars that was seemlessly carved from the surrounding stone—dwarven architecture. Every surface was covered with dust; it appeared that noone had set foot here in many years. Curiously, the floor in the center of the room was comprised of opaque glass. Gydion put one foot on the panel, and, finding it held his weight, walked across it. Two doors, opposite each other, provided the only exits from the room. There were footprints in the dust; close inspection by the elven ranger, Silaqui, indicated that they were made by a dwarf, entering from the north door and exiting by the south door. After Silaqui inspected it for traps, Draken tried the south door and—finding it unlocked—followed the tracks out.

When the door was opened, a putrid smell—excrement—poured from the room. The room was littered with dung, and broken objects—jars, boxes, canisters—together with rocks torn from the walls. Then, an agonized wail abruptly broke the silence! The yell struck feaer in into the heroes’ hearts, inflicting Gydion and Toboe (who failed their Will saves) with a temporary -2 penalty to their attacks, saving throws and skill rolls. The cry ended as the door on the east wall slammed shut. The party quickly crossed the room to investigate. Throwing open the door, Draken was shocked to see a hunched-over, twisted dwarf with pustules covering his skin. The dwarf’s left hand was made of steel, as was his armor; and he wielded a giant-sized spear in his hands. The dwarven rune for MURDERER was emblazoned across his forehead.

The ghastly, tortured-looking figure stood down a dark, narrow hallway. It growled: “I have been shut inside this tomb for 700 years! You have set me free. But first, I am hungry!” It lurched forward and grabbed Draken’s hand—producing hideous, painful wounds on the fighter-cleric’s skin! Draken struck it with Agrimmosh, to no effect. The two fought head-to-head for some time, with no way for anyone else to engage the creature because of the cramped quarters presented by the narrow hallway. Silaqui was able to fire a few arrows over Draken’s head, when Toboe lit up the hallway for her; but the rest of the party were unable to attack.

Meanwhile, Jane noticed the darkness growing—and taking on life of its own! Three shadows emerged from the corners of the foul-smelling reliquary they were in, and attacked. One reached for Kingsley, but missed; the other two connected with touch attacks on Jane and Turin, respectively—draining Strength points. Asa identified the apparitions as undead, and released an explosion of positive energy (= Channel Energy), causing 10 points of damage to each. Two rounds later, Jane and Turin overcame the shadows by summoning electricity: Jane brought down Call Lightning upon one of them, while Turin decimated the others with a Lightning Bolt.

Gydion turned his attention to the heated, dwarf vs. dwarf battle down the dark, narrow hallway. Lokmorr stepped back and struck at Draken with his giant spear, but missed. Draken struck at Lokmorr with his hammer, and landed a crushing blow, causing him to reel backwards. Silaqui Summoned a stirge, which landed on Lokmorr’s neck, distracting him [and draining him of 1 pt of CON].Gydion seized the moment and Wildshaped into a mouse, scooted by Draken, and emerged on the other side of the Betrayer. He then cast Chill Metal (using his Natural Spell feat) on Lokmorr’s armor. Lokmorr, still unaware of the Druid or his magic, kept his attacks focused on Draken. He grabbed the dwarf’s arm again, inflicting large welts upon his flesh! Gydion, still in mouse-form, ran through Lokmorr’s legs, and cast Flaming Sphere, singeing the creature and causing him to retreat into a corner to the north, his back now against a wooden door.

The smoke from the Sphere cleared away, and the twisted, evil dwarf noticed the little mouse for the very first time. Bending down, he grabbed Gydion in his hand, causing welts to appear upon the mouse’s little, furry body. Gydion writhed in pain, helpless to act—the sensation was excruciating. Shape-shifting back into human form, he stumbled down the hallway, and noticed he’d lost some Dexterity. He was assisted by Turin, who’d entered the passage a moment before. The wizard considered the situation: the battle wasn’t proceeding well, so he needed to end it—quickly. As Silaqui helped Gydion and Draken out of the narrow hallway, Turin cast Wall of Ice, entombing Lokmorr inside a 7-inch-thick frosty sphere! The Betrayer roared and pounded at the ice with his fists, but it did not yield. Lokmorr’s rage echoed through Nargrym’s Tomb as the Giantslayers regrouped and considered their next move.

Next: The Third—and Final—Act

Episode 26: The Tomb of Nargrym Steelhand, Part 1

When they reached the base of Weathertop Mountain, the adventurers were surprised to be greeted by Janekfan and Toboe. The pair had traveled from the Vault of Thorns (where Jane had taken up residence of late) to Trunau to visit Silvermane. The old Druid told them that they had gone east to rescue Turin’s familiar Blaez, and urged Jane to follow them. Since it was late in the day and they wanted to heal and rest before setting off for Nargrym’s Tomb, so they decided to recover their mounts and set up camp right there at the mountain’s base. Thankfully, the night was uneventful, as was the next day’s journey into the heart of the northern Mindspin Mountains. The peaks around them grew taller, the temperature dropped, and coniferous trees appeared in the forest around them.

That night (the second night of their journey since leaving Weathertop), the moon was blotted out by the shadow of a leathery winged creature flapping dangerously close above them. The human Druid Gydion was on watch, and Silaqui was already awake, so the pair quietly woke everyone. Silaqui readied an arrow, and when the creature landed about 30 feet from the campsite, she scored a solid hit. Roaring in rage, the creature breathed mightily and spit a Fireball into the middle of the campsite, injuring most of the heroes. In the flashing light, they readily identified the creature as a Fire Drake, a creature they’d become familiar with during their recent assault on Redlake Fort.

Five rounds of combat later, the Drake lay vanquished on the forest floor as Gydion and Jane struggled to douse the small forest fires ignited by the draconian beast’s fiery breath. Silaqui heard a noise to the east, so she and her brother Turin headed into the forest to investigate. As the two moved, they could hear voices, which Turin translated from Giant language: “Let’s get out of here!” and “Aye! Minderhal’s Valley is only a few days’ south of here”. They heard trees crashing in the forest, moving away from them, and increased their speed. At close range they saw two spooked Hill Giants, running southeast. “Stop and we will spare your lives!” shouted Silaqui, but the giants were unfazed, and continued running.

Since they’d ignored her command, the elf ranger shot at one with her trusty Elemental bow, while her wizard brother fired off some Magic Missiles. Both attacks hit, and battle commenced as their colleagues caught up with them. Gydion immediately cast Entangle, allowing the rest of the party to fire missile weapons at the trapped giants. Towards the end, Toboe alone braved the entanglements to attack one of the giants, dropping him with one bite. The other giant broke free just in time to be cut down by one of Silaqui’s deadly arrows. Inspection of the remains revealed that the giants were clearly refugees from Grenseldek’s Twisted Hearts tribe (whom the Giantslayers had defeated weeks before), migrating south to join the giant army being assembled in Minderhal’s Valley.

After this encounter, the group was tempted to head to Minderhal’s valley straightaway; but the group carried on with their mission to find Nargrym’s Tomb. Uncovering the tomb’s secrets, Gydion argued, would give them a strong advantage against the giants of Minderhal’s Valley. So they pressed east, spending the second day and third night amongst ever-higher peaks. The trail ended midday on the second day, and they found themselves in complete wilderness; luckily, the geode map was still useful. The third night was uneventful. The next day, their third since rescuing Blaez, was spent entirely within a cool mountain pass. They set up camp the next day, and the next morning’s journey brought them up and out of the pass, where they saw a series of plateaus, growing ever-higher against the backdrop of the northern Mindspins. They found a trailhead located along the shore of the Rantash River, and followed the trail upwards and east into the center of high peaks region of the northern Mindspins. From what Turin had learned in the Sanctuary’s library back in Trunau, the trail indicated by the geode led to mining fortresses established long ago by dwarves from the Sky Citadel Janderhoff, in the bordering country of Varisia. The party’s resident stalwart, dwarven fighter-cleric Draken’s eyes lit up as he considered all the gems and minerals in those deep, rich shafts!

But after a few hours, the geode’s crystal markers indicated they should take another, less traveled trail, which led away from the mines, and towards one of the low plateaus. This new trail was marked every 100 feet by weather-worn, dwarven runestones. After a few more hours, the adventurers found themselves atop a high plain, overlooking the very source of the Rantash River. In front of them was a forest of aspen trees, their golden leaves shimmering in the mid-afternoon sun. The wood looked peaceful enough, but after some discussion, they decided they should scout ahead. The two distaff members of the party—both of them keen-sighted elves—were selected for the job.

Silaqui, Jane, and their animal companions quietly followed the trail into the aspen forest while the rest of the party waited. After a few turns, the ranger sent Bracken, her blackbird, to send word to her companions that the coast was clear. But the next minute, the Druid stumbled into a tripwire, causing razor-sharp flints into the air, striking both of them. Jane found herself stumbling [2 Dex points temporarily lost], and paralyzed for one round—the stones had been poisoned, she reasoned, and examined the them as the rest of the party caught up with them. She identified the poison as “slow nectar”, made from a white-flowered plant growing on cliffs they’d passed recently along the trail. Silaqui gave Jane a vial of antitoxin, and examined the tripwire as the two waited for the rest of the group to catch up. She concluded it was made of gossamer webbing—and shivered when she thought about the size of the spiders responsible.

About a minute later, the group was reunited, only to be confronted by a horrid half-man, half-spider creature, accompanied by two giant spiders, rushing towards them along the trail! The arachnoid trio fired webs, and then attacked fiercely with their poisoned fangs; however, they were no match for the spells and skills of the heavily-armed party. Turin vanquished the half-spider-thing, and his sister finished off the two giant spiders.

After the party dealt with this horror, two more humanoid, spider-like creatures (called “ettercaps”, the Druids told the rest of the party), together with two more giant spiders, attacked from the treetrops adjacent to the trail. These, too, were quickly outgunned by the party, the only “casualty” being Kingsley’s temporary entanglement in an ettercap’s web. Gydion killed the ettercap that entangled his lion companion, while Draken killed the other ettercap; meanwhile, Asa and Turin dealt with two giant spiders, each landing critical hits (Asa with Scorch, and Turin with a Scorching Ray). After healing the minor wounds they’d incurred, the party pressed on.

About 300 feet further on, the aspen forest opened up into a clearing commanded by a giant, granite obelisk, about 100 feet tall, 25 feet wide and 25 feet deep. A dark, arched doorway, marked above by a carving of a clenched fist, led inside. An odd structure of logs and spiderwebs surrounded the obelisk, but the webs were parted like curtains in front of the archway. As the party drew closer, they could see that the obelisk with covered with dwarven runes. Draken approached and read them aloud: it was Torag’s Epicede, a traditional dwarven funerary poem. Clearly, he told them, this marked the final resting place of a dwarven giantslayer from Janderhoff, and ancestor of their friends Ingrahild and Umlo. They had found the entrance to the Tomb of Nargrym Steelhand!

Next: The Tomb of Nargrym Steelhand, Part 2

Episode 25: Journey to Weathertop
The epic rescue of Blaez

On their way to meet Halgra of the Blackened Blades, Silaqui quietly slipped away and climbed one of the towers on the northeast part of the city wall. She didn’t trust the Chief Defender and didn’t want to be caught in a situation she couldn’t control.

The remaining Giantslayers entered the Ivory Hall and ushered into Halgra’s private chambers. She met them in a drawing room, where she congratulated them on a job well done. “You have saved our city twice over!” she exclaimed. She took their newly found half of the geode map to Nargrym’s Tomb, examined the complete map with the heroes. At Gydion’s request, she sent the map via messenger to Trunau’s chief artographer, to create a paper copy as a back-up. Halgra then invited them all to have dinner with her, where she eagerly listened to stories of their adventures over the past two weeks over glasses of “glow wine”, a delicious Trunauan local brew. She was very concerned to hear about the correspondence they’d uncovered in Grenseldek’s bedroom—between the giant chief and someone named “Volstus”, who was assembling some sort of giant army. Halgra told them they’d better make haste to Minderhall Valley as soon as possible, and the party unanimously agreed. The generous half-orc Chief promised them free rations and free horses. Halgra was also pleased to hear the news that King Knut of the Iron Dwarves was opening up a tunnel to Trunau, and establishing a fortress near her city. “The Iron Dwarves are strong. They will help us defend Trunau against future threats,” she said, excitedly.

Towards the end of dinner, Tyari Varvatos entered the room, smiling “It IS true! You have returned from Redlake Fort!” Halgra invited her to join them, and the cleric of Iomedae pulled up a chair while a server poured her some wine. She explained that the Sanctuary’s resident oracle, the half-orc Katrezra, had a vision they’d returned to the Ivory Hall. The priestess praised them for their victory against the Twisted Heart tribe, and told them they were all welcome to stay at the Sanctuary, which the adventurers gladly accepted.

Just after their arrival at the Sanctuary, Silaqui knocked on the door, and a paladin greeted her. She explained her lateness, and repeated her dislike of Halgra. The she-elf ranger then requested a meeting with Tyari, but was informed that she’d just retired to her private chamber. Her friends told her that she could have her old “monk’s cell” in the basement level, but she declined, telling them she’d rather sleep in the common room upstairs.

Draken, Gydion, Kingsley and Turin descended to the basement for some much –needed rest. They noticed a number of items that weren’t there before—things rescued from the Plague House. For example, the gem-encrusted tabernacle (now empty) decorated the basement stairwell. The most impressive item, however was the large, wax figure of Iomedae’s angelic herald, Jingh. Just one month ago, it had magically bequeathed an extra ability point (and a “good” alignment) to all of them (except Turin, who wasn’t there) during the Giantslayers’ exploration of the Plague House. Now, it stood dull and lifeless at the end of the basement hallway.

In the middle of the night, Turin woke up and was startled to see the wax statue of Jingh standing over him. It was glowing!

“I am Jingh, Iomedae’s Blessed One. The All-Seeing, All-Knowing. I am the Golden Lady. The Mistress of Mercy. And so forth. Come with me, my child. There is much to show you, and very little time,” it said. She reached for Turin’s hand, and he took it. The next moment, the elf wizard found himself on a mountainside, surrounding by swirling mists. Jingh led him by the hand up the mountain; they seemed to climb forever. While climbing, out of the corner of his eye, Turin noticed what looked like a hummingbird (and he heard the buzz of wings). His heart skipped a beat as he realized it was probably his former familiar, Blaez.

Jingh looked back and said, “It’s so difficult, losing a friend, isn’t it?” And then she turned back around, and continued to lead him upwards. They walked on.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, they reached the top of the mountain. Suddenly, the summit was bathed in a golden light, and Turin suddenly felt no fear, no worry, and no pain. Jingh then said: “I have seen the affliction of the people of Trunau. I have heard their cries and felt their sufferings. Now, I have come down to rescue them from the evil that threatens Trunau, and all the good folk of this world… including your own homeland of Kyonin.” Then she raised her sword and cut a wide swath through the mist, dispersing the clouds and revealing a scenic vista of tall, jagged, snow-capped mountains, both beautiful and terrible. “Your true enemy lies in the heart of those mountains, in Minderhall’s Valley. You will go there and defeat your true enemy, and deliver Trunau, and all the good folk of Golarion, from its evil.”

Turin looked at her with confusion, and she responded: “You can do this, Turin, with Iomedae’s help. Will you accept a gift from me?” Then, a small pouch materialized in her hand. She reached into the pouch with a spoon and then showered Turin in a swirl of golden sparkles. It was like being in a snowglobe! (NG, +1 ability point). “This will make you stronger” And the she smiled. “I repeat: you can defeat this evil with Iomedae’s help. You will also need the help of your friend and familiar, BLAEZ. You must find Blaez. He is at the top of a cold mountain where the Material Plane is said to meet the Plane of Elemental Air. He is in danger! When you find him, you must use this same magic on him; it will make him stronger as well.”

And then he woke up, the morning sun spilling onto the floor of his cell. His eyes were drawn to a small pouch, and a golden spoon, on his nightstand. He grabbed them, put them safely in his rucksack, and headed upstairs for breakfast.

In the dining hall upstairs, Silaqui met Tyari, who was eager to talk with her. “Your uncle and cousin passed through Trunau—with three other elves—about a week ago. They were into the Mindspin Mountains on a quest given to them by Kyonin’s Queen, Telandia Edasseril. They left a letter for you and your brother.” She gave Silaqui the letter, which read:

“Dear Silaqui and Turin, we are so proud to hear of your recent victory over the Twisted Hearts tribe. Jagrin Grath regaled us with tales of your bravery during our stay in Trunau. We stopped here on a royal quest given to us by Queen Edasseril; we had hoped you might still be here, but no such luck. Our quest is to locate the fabled city of Palydosa—which, according to legend, is home to a long-lost race of Mountain Elves. Go where you will, with our blessing. May the stars always shine upon your faces. All Our Love, Uncle Cathal (and Caspar).”

Silaqui read the letter, and then gave it to her brother, who also read it. She then asked Tyari if she could bless her Iomedaean necklace. The priestess led her upstairs into the nave, where there was a sacred font, and blessed the necklace in an Iomedaean ritual, and thanked Silaqui for her strong faith. Turin also went upstairs, but he went to the other end of the Sanctuary, to the library, to investigate the mystery posted by Jingh in his dream: what peak is connected to the Plane of Elemental Air?

Meanwhile, the others took advantage of their newfound wealth (and reputation) to purchase magic items at the local magic shop, the House of Wonders. Agrit Staginsdar was pleased to see them, and was especially interested to hear that King Knut was tunneling his way to Trunau—because he’s her great uncle! The party bought a few potions, including Gaseous Form and two Cure Moderate Wounds, among others. Silaqui procured a Ring of Climbing, and Draken bought a precious Gem of Air, which conjures a large Air Elemental when broken. The party also ran into their friend Inez Grenell, out magic-shopping before a day of binge-drinking.

Early the next day, Turin had deduced where Blaez was located. “It must be Weathertop, a barren, rocky mountain on the east edge of Mindspins,” he told the others, pointing to a map in an old book. Gydion looked at the map carefully, comparing it to the copy of the geode map that Halgra had made for them, the day before. “It’s about half-way to Nargrym’s Tomb,” he noted, “So we’ll stop there and look for your bird on the way.” The others nodded in agreement, and made ready to depart on the morrow.

The next morning, as the Giantslayers were leaving the Sanctuary after breakfast, a determined-looking Katrezra appeared from the stairwell and limped toward them. “I’ve been sick with fever the past few days, but I needed to see you with my eyes before you left again,” he spoke with labored breath. He then gave them a serious look, and drew a Harrow Deck out of his pocket—an ancient, respected tool for divining the future. “I got this from a Varisian fortune-teller,” he told them. “May I do a reading for you?” he asked. “Tell me, what burning question do you have for these cards…?”

Turin piped up: “Will we find Blaez?”
Katrezra shuffled the deck, and then began the Harrow divination ritual with The Choosing, in which each person is asked to draw a card. Next, he performed The Spread, laying out nine cards in a 3 × 3 arrangement, face down. As the old half-orc slowly turned the cards over, his eyes grew wide with wonder and concern. He interpreted The Spread for them:

“The past is dominated by the Theater card, drawn by Turin. He set the stage by breaking his familiar bond with Blaez.”

“The present is haunted by the Liar card, chosen by Turin’s sister, Silaqui. Her vision and commitment is colored by distrust which could prove your undoing.”

“The future is ruled by the Courtesan card, which Gydion picked. His wisdom and prowess will be critical to the success of your mission.”

Suddenly, Katrezra slumped in his chair, his jaw slack, and his eyes rolled back in his head. “Your friend is on Weathertop. He needs you! He’s in grave danger! You must go to him at once!” he said in a deep voice. He awoke, and the others looked at him in awe—and repeated what he had said. Katrezra had no memory of it! He returned to his cell downstairs, deeply troubled.

The first day of the Giantslayers’ journey west led them into the grassy, rolling foothills of the Mindspin Mountains. There, they encountered two bulettes, grazing peacefully on a hillside. Silaqui sent her blackbird, Bracken, to scout the area, to ensure there were no additional threats. The adventurers then tried to go around them unnoticed, but the bulettes detected the smell of their favorite food: Halfling! and charged. After six rounds, the mighty land sharks lay dead. One was felled by a “one-two” maneuver by Kingsley and his master Gydion, the other by a critical arrow strike by Silaqui, followed by one of her brother’s Force Missiles. Asa and Draken were both wounded, but healed themselves afterwards.

The next day, they found themselves in proper mountains, and a mature, broadleaf forest closed in around them. On the third day, they traveled through a deep mountain pass. From there, the trail led steadily upwards until nightfall. In the middle of the night, during Silaqui’s watch, the sounds of tramping feet were echoing from the north. The ranger woke her companions and they waited in silence. It sounded like some sort of troop moving through the woods to their west, and so Silaqui went to get a closer look. It was a troop of 10 orcs, heading south! The group discussed the matter quickly and quietly, and decided to go on the offensive, because (a) orcs are evil and (b) they were headed in the direction of Minderhall’s Valley, and they didn’t want them joining the ranks of the army that was assembling there. Sneaking up quickly and quietly, the heroes gained surprise, catching the orcs flat-footed and making quick work of them. There were no survivors.

The next day, the Giantslayers awoke to a sight that wasn’t visible as they set up camp the night before: clouds had parted to the west, revealing a jagged, steep peak. It was different from the mountains surrounding it—it was stark, rocky and treeless, whereas all the other mountains around it were covered in rich, evergreen-dominated forests broken by grassy meadows. Based on his research, Turin concluded it must be Weathertop. The group broke camp and headed there straightaway. Upon reaching the base, they had to leave their horses, because the trail became too steep and uneven. It took the better part of the day to reach the summit—as the hours passed, the trail became less well-marked, and the air temperature dropped steadily. Mists and clouds closed around the group; it was chilly and windy, causing Kingsley’s mane to stand on end.

Finally, the summit came into view: a barren, craggy, lonely plateau above them, with steep drop-offs on all sides except one, where the trail was. Gydion wildshaped into a hawk and flew up to investigate. He noticed that the weather was more severe at the top; he had a difficult time flying. But he managed to stay aloft long enough to see sunlight glinting off something metal in the middle of the plateau—it looked like a birdcage! Buffeted by strong gusts, Gydion turned away and reported what he had seen.

As soon as the party crested the summit, the clouds darkened, and a thunderstorm rolled in. Silaqui and Turin crossed the plateau first, heading for the cage through slashing rain. They saw that Blaez was inside, hopping around panicked. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning hit Turin from above, and familiar laughter followed. The group looked up and saw their magic-using nemesis in the center of the storm, 100 feet above them!

Then, the clouds above Gydion swirled and began to take shape. The shape descended and slammed him with fists made of wind. The fifteen-foot-tall cone of clouds knocked him for a loop, as he tried to figure out what it was. Was it an Air Elemental? He knew such beings existed, and this was the most logical conclusion, given the circumstances. Turin, meanwhile, grabbed Draken and, saying “Trust me,” cast Dimension Door. A second later, the two of them appeared in the air above their nemesis! The dwarf fell onto the magic-using fiend and tried to grapple him, but was unsuccessful. Turin, meanwhile, cast Feather Fall (using a swift action), slowing their descent. Silaqui fired arrows at the fiend (one of them a magic Elemental arrow, but the wind caught one. The second arrow bounced against his robes, but did not pierce him, doubtlessly due to the wizard’s magical wards.

Down below, Gydion and Kingsley battled the Air Elemental, with help from Asa. Transforming into a whirlwind, it tried to engulf the Druid, but failed. High above, their wizard enemy flew backward five feet and cast a spell, conjuring a second Air Elemental, which took the form of a small tornado. It set upon Draken, and the dwarf found himself in the unfortunate position of spinning uncontrollably in midair for multiple rounds, coupled automatic slam-attack damage from the creature’s windy fists! Turin cast a Force Missile and the conjurer as he slowly floated down to the plateau.

The next round, their magic-using, flying enemy continued laughing as he aimed another lightning bolt at Turin, reducing him to one hit point! Asa tried to reach the elf and Lay on Hands, but he was helpless against the gale-force winds (Small creatures must make a strength check to move in severe weather). So Gydion, afraid for Turin’s life, took out one of his two Limited Wish stones and wished him back to full health! Turin smiled and thanked him, and then launched Scorching Rays into the air, hitting their enemy with one of them. The laughter ceased, as Asa slashed at the Air Elemental on the ground with his sword. Silaqui turned to the bird cage, with Blaez hopping around inside, cold and wet. The metal cage was bolted solidly to the rock, but the bolts were slow to turn with her thieves tools. She shouted her findings with dismay to the rest of the party, above the thunder and howling winds.

Meanwhile, up above, Draken reached into his pocket and broke his newly-purchased magic Gem of Air. Yet another Air Elemental appeared—under Draken’s control. The dwarf pointed it towards their enemy wizard, still hovering nearby, and it slammed him with howling fists of air. In response, the wizard flew back five feet, spoke an incantation, and gestured—and summoned yet another large Air Elemental, which he directed against Draken’s Air Elemental!!

Down below, a rescue plan began to take shape in Gydion’s mind. He cast Soften Earth and Stone beneath the birdcage, and directed Kingsley to go retrieve it in his jaws. The lion padded through the soft clay and easily lifted the cage into the air. There was no bottom, however, so Blaez was suddenly unprotected, struggling to fly against the strong winds. Using Speak With Animals the Druid told the bird to grab ahold of the lion’s mane with his beak, after which he urged his lion companion to follow the trail back down the mountain as quick as possible.

And so Katrezra’s Harrow prediction came to pass… Blaez was saved by the savvy hand of the Druid Gydion.

Meanwhile, Asa had been engulfed by the Air Elemental that was spinning around the plateau. The halfling was rotating inside the creature at amazing speed, helpless against the current, taking automatic damage every round. Three Air Elementals remained above the plateau; two were fighting each other, while the other one continued to batter Draken, who was still trapped inside it. Turin looked up and took aim at the laughing wizard, who had just drawn a wand from his pocket. The elf hit him with a Lightning Bolt, doing serious damage. The wizard stopped laughing, stepped back, and following a short incantation and hand gestures, teleported away.

The next round, the Draken’s Air Elemental dropped him, hoping to dash him against the rocks below; but, luckily, the dwarf was still under the effects of Turin’s Feather Fall spell, and floated peacefully to the plateau. But the Air Elemental didn’t stop there: it flew down and engulfed Turin, who found himself reeling in midair. Silaqui rescued him with a well-timed arrow, killing the extraplanar monster; Turin dropped to the ground with a thud. Meanwhile, the summoning spell that had invoked the first Air Elemental expired, because it disappeared, causing Asa to plummet to the ground— oof!!

The storm seemed to subside a bit as the battered, drenched adventurers regrouped. Heading down the trail, they found Kingsley waiting for them. Turin held Blaez in his hand and re-activated his magic bond with his familiar. Blaez was overjoyed—Turin could feel it through the empathic bond they shared—and thanked Turin excitedly for his brave rescue! [Being a seventh-level familiar, Blaez now had the ability to speak to his master]. Next, the elf wizard took out the satchel of dust that Jingh had given to him, and sprinkled it on Blaez’s feathers. The hummingbird was surrounded by golden sparkles, and he was transformed. Formerly black with red eyes and red-tipped wings, the bird was now silver-gray with white eyes and white-tipped wings! Blaez was no longer just a hummingibird! He was a bird infused with the magic of Elemental Air—a magic of the blessed, Iomedaean dust coupled with the extraplanar, Elemental influence of Weathertop’s summit […and Turin’s Improved Familiar feat]. Turin smiled and wondered aloud about what strange, new spell-like abilities his transformed familiar might wield!

Next: The Tomb of Nargrym Steelhand, Part 1


Episode 24: Of Worms & Wishes
meet the Diamonds' powerful purple protector...

The party followed a hewn tunnel leading downward. “This way” called their guide, Pickle the Pech, beckoning them onwards. After an hour’s steady descent, the adventurers and their dwarven friends found that the tunnel expanded considerably; it no longer looked liked worked stone, but a natural cavern. Unsure of what to do, Silaqui offered to scout ahead and report back. After a few minutes of stealthy exploring, the elf ranger came to a ledge overlooking a wide cavern which was illuminated in low light. The ledge had metal posts imbedded in what looked like worked stone. To her left, there was also a rickety ramp leading downwards. Tying a rope to one of the posts, she climbed down the ledge and headed out into the dark cavern. It was a natural cavern with stalagmites and other obstacles, but her elven low-light vision allowed her to navigate with ease. She drank a potion of Mage Armor and continued. After a few rounds, she saw a huge pile of gemstones in the middle of the cavern, and heard voices in the distance. Upon closer inspection, she saw sinewy, dark-skinned dwarves at the far end of the cavern. So she turned around and headed back to the rest of the group, and reported what she saw. (“Ugly, dark-skinned dwarves,” she told Draken. “They were even uglier than you!”)

With her companions up-to-speed and within a few feet of the ledge, the group pondered what to do. They turned to Pickle for guidance but he demurred, disappearing into a stone wall. So everyone did what they did best: rush headlong into danger! Silaqui and Asa climbed down a rope to the cavern floor, while Draken, Turin, Gydion and Kingsley carefully walked down the rickety ramp. The dwarves followed, carefully, one-by-one down the ramp. They headed in the direction of the great gem pile.

All of a sudden, some magic bolts shot past them, but missed. They looked up, towards the source of the attack, but saw nothing. Then, they heard voices approaching. They readied themselves for an assault, but saw nothing approaching—still, the voices grew ever-louder and closer! Finally, Gydion implored Turin to use his Purge Invisibility potion. Exploding onto the rocks, the potion revealed a small group of dark-skinned dwarves approaching them, weapons raised! Draken recognized them immediately as Deep Dwarves, an ancient race of evil dwarves. At the same time, he heard a gravelly voice in his head, telling him, “Protect the gems!”

Battle was engaged. Gydion cast Ice Storm, killing four of the dwarves and leaving a section of the cavern nearly impassable due to ice, drifting snow and debris. Separated from the survivors of the Deep Dwarf troop for a few moments, some party members made missile attacks against their unseen magical assailant. However, none of them hit their mark—their magic-using guerrilla foe was nowhere to be seen. Asa downed a potion of Haste, and then ran around the icy patch and activated his Divine Bond paladin ability—causing his magic short bastard sword, Scorch, to come alive with divine flame. He was about to confront two of the Deep Dwarves, when Silaqui killed them with arrows. “If only I were faster”, grumbled Asa.

After a few rounds, the Deep Dwarves were all defeated, and most of the group went to investigate the pile of gems. Silaqui and Asa, however, took a small cadre of King Knut’s soldiers to explore a door they spotted in the far side of the cavern. Silaqui asked one of the dwarves to please open the door. Unfortunately, upon touching the door, the dwarf was shocked by an electric booby-trap, which sent him spinning across the floor of the cavern. Asa healed him with a Lay On Hands, and they moved away from the door to rejoin their friends.

Meanwhile, Gydion was using Detect Magic to search the pile. After about a minute of digging around, the druid also heard a gravelly voice in his head: “Protect the gems!”, it said. Draken—with that exact same voice in his head—busied himself with finding the coveted Caster Diamonds for his friend and benefactor, King Knut.

Without warning, the pile exploded, sending gems flying everywhere. A garagantuan, scaly-skinned purple worm emerged from within, casting its head about, looking for food. Silaqui fired an Elemental arrow of lightning at it, hitting it squarely. Gydion got to his feet and began to cast Call Lightning. Draken, wanting to gain some height, activated Agrimmosh’s Enlarge Person ability, instantly becoming eight feet tall. He then asked Turin if he could borrow his Fly potion, and Turin tossed it to him. Asa drank a potion of Mage Armor and raised his (still-flaming) sword to charge the creature, but couldn’t close the distance. The dwarven troop—King Knut’s loyal subjects—fired missile weapons at it, but missed.

It was the creature’s turn to attack. To everyone’s horror, the worm went after Kingsley, grabbing him in its toothy mouth and swallowing him whole! Gydion called down a Lightning strike at the beast while Turin fired a Lightning Bolt into its hide. Silaqui fired three arrows, but none connected because of the beast’s high AC. Asa moved in and slashed at it with Scorch, connecting once. Meanwhile, Kingsley attacked the worm from within, doing some damage to its mouth and throat.

The next round, the worm swallowed King Knut’s Captain of the Guard, who joined Kingsley in the worm’s gullet. Asa swang and missed, while Silaqui connected with one arrow, and Gydion called another Lightning strike. Draken flew in close and swung his mighty magic hammer, but missed.

The next round, it was Asa’s turn to be swallowed whole! The others attacked the worm while the halfling succeeded in slicing his way out of the worm’s throat. Just after the worm’s throat was cut, Draken succeeded in landing the final, killing blow with his hammer, and the monstrous annelid fell lifeless to the ground! Kingsley, the dwarf Captain, and Asa were saved.

The next moment, the room fell abruptly quiet. Then, a gravelly voice filled their heads: “You have protected the gems! What is it you wish for?”

Turin wished for…. ?

Draken wished for higher ability scores!

Silaqui wished for higher ability scores, and magic +2 Bracers of Defense!

Gydion wished only for his beloved lion companion to be delivered safely, out of harm’s way!

Asa wished for nothing more than to be home, safe in his hobbit-hole, with his friends…

The Giantslayers suddenly appeared in front of Trunau’s Town Hall with an audible pop! The arrival of the five adventurers (and one lion), who were covered in gore, stomach acid, and dust, was a bit of a shock to the citizenry, to say the least. But their identities were soon ascertained, and they were then led to the Longhouse to clean up before meeting with Halgra of the Blackened Blades.

Treasure: 5,010 gp (each) [5,000 of which will be delivered by King Knut in future]

Next: Mountaintop Removal

Episode 23: Into the Underdark
Saved by Asa the Opportunist!

Our giantslaying heroes—having won victory over the monstrous giant chief—spent the next week regrouping and healing. During this time, Redlake Fort was their temporary home, and they (together with the dwarf army) explored its many chambers. Turin used the remains of their mysterious wizard foe’s basement workspace to brew potions for his friends. Together with a few potions he was able to create on the Chanticleer (while on their journey to the fort), the party had quite an alchemical arsenal.

As the week progressed, the dwarves dug a tunnel under the fort, connecting it to ancient dwarf mines far below. King Knut approached the Giantslayers with a proposal: he asked them to come down into the mines to explore with him and his army. In return, he promised them all 25% of whatever they found down there—apart from the famed Caster Diamonds, which he wanted for himself. The party agreed, and they set out the next morning.

The guide down into the depths was a friend of King Knut’s, a Pech named Pickle. After many hours of hiking down the rough-hewn tunnel, the group entered a cubical shaft. The walls were clearly dwarf-hewn. After a few minutes, the shaft opened up into a large cavern. The way forward was spanned by a stone bridge, again of dwarven construction. After some discussion, it was decided that Draken and Asa would cross first. Draken, who could see nearly all the way across with his darkvision, informed them the way appeared clear.

As they walked over the bridge, they could see a forest of toadstools on either side. The caps of the mushrooms were about level with the bridge. Suddenly, when the pair was about halfway across, the caps started swaying and shaking—as if something was moving underneath them! Draken hurried across the remainder of the bridge, to an “island” in the middle of the room (with a large pillar connecting it to the ceiling of the chamber). Meanwhile, Asa downed a potion of Levitation and jumped up onto a nearby mushroom cap to investigate the matter. Silaqui, Gydion, Kingsley and Turin followed, igniting some torches to light their way.

Asa jumped from toadstool to toadstool, but didn’t see anything below. Suddenly, the mushroom cap below him began shaking, but not enough to shake him off! A few seconds later, a huge, reptilian beast with bluish scales emerged from below. It opened its jaws and a lightning burst emerged, shooting through the darkness and electrocuting Draken. Turin recognized the creature as a behir!—a supposed relative of blue dragons—and he picked up his pace. His sister, Silaqui, raced across the bridge and immediately fired an arrow of Elemental lightning—only to find that the beast was apparently immune to fire!

Gydion continued crossing the bridge and as he did so, he cast Flaming Sphere, doing damage to it. It screamed in pain and fired its breath weapon at Gydion, nearly zapping him off the bridge! The next round, Turin launched a fireball at it, while Silaqui contined firing arrows into its hide. Asa jumped off his toadstool back onto the bridge and hurried across as his companions contined to trade fire with it.

The next round, the beast closed in, allowing Draken to bludgeon it with his mighty hammer. Gydion approached and drew his flaming scimitar, but missed. Kingsley, however, bit violently, scoring a critical hit! Silaqui kept firing her arrows while Turin worked his magic. Twisting on its hind legs, the behir reared up and grabbed Gydion in its three sets of forelegs, grappling him and holding him fast.

It was then that Asa finally made it across the bridge. Activating his Smite Evil against the great beast, he raised his sword and cut deep into its scaly hide. The behir screamed again and fell backwards, releasing Gydion. “Thank you, my brave friend,” said Gydion, breathless, “How can I ever repay you?” Asa blushed. “It was nothing,” he replied, hugging his Druid friend. “If you want to repay me, offer a prayer up to Iomedae. My great works are hers. She works through me today—and every day.”

Next: Of Worms and Wishes

Episode 22: The Jilted Giantess (Assault on Grenseldek's Fort Pt IV)
Draken's Super Axe Girlfriend

After quickly healing themselves with their potions, spells and abilities, the Giantslayers attempted the set of doors on the left. They were locked tight, so Draken bashed them open with Agrimmosh. Behind the door lay a darkened room with a well in the center, complete with a rope and bucket. There was also a doorway in an adjacent (nearby) wall which appeared to lead to a staircase heading downwards. The floor around the well and towards the back appeared fragile—it was broken in places—so they asked Asa, who was the lightest party member and therefore the least likely to cause it to collapse, to check out the well. The well was dark, but the trickling sounds that reached the halfling’s ears indicated there was water at the bottom of it. Silaqui entered the room next, which caused a large section of the floor to collapse! Luckily, she and Asa were able to jump to safety. Moving carefully towards the back of the room, Silaqui discovered a wall which, upon further inspection, hid a secret door. Beyond the door was a small room with a decidedly human-sized ladder that descended into darkness. This reminded the adventurers that Redlake Fort was built by humans, and this secret room had apparently gone unnoticed by the fort’s current, giant-sized tenants.

Although Silaqui wanted to climb down the ladder to investigate where it went, the others called her and Asa back; after all, the ladder was human-sized, so there was little chance that Grenseldek—their quarry—would be found below. So the party headed towards the doorway in the adjacent wall, and down the descending staircase beyond. Draken, the only Giantslayer with darkvision, led the way. The stairs spiraled down to a barricaded door with a keyhole in it. Draken peered through the hole and saw a large room lit by what appeared to be a small, flickering candle. Silaqui remembered that she has the disable device skill, and attempted to unlock the door. Without a set of thieves tools, however, the task was beyond her. So, once again, the dwarf bashed the door with his magic hammer. After a few noisy, splintery minutes, the door gave way, and the party cautiously entered the room. Atop a table at one end was a single, lit candle. Two chairs flanked the table. A set of double-doors along one wall was marked with an ominous-looking glyph. Suddenly, the party heard laughter on the other side. It sounded like the wizard who had plagued their journey from Trunau to the Kestrel River (see Episode 11: Onwards North to the Kestrel River)—what was he doing here? Enraged by the laughter, Gydion angrily tried to push the doors open, but unfortunately, they were locked. Then, thinking it might spring the lock, the druid cautiously touched the glyph. Unfortunately for him, the glyph exploded, releasing a cone of fire which blistered everyone except Asa, who was far enough away to escape it. Regrouping, then using the last of their healing, the adventurers entered the room.

The glyph had ignited the room as well. An expensive-looking rug, and other furnishings, were in flames. Through the smoke and fire, however, the adventurers gathered that it was a wizard’s workspace: there were flasks and kettles for creating potions, and some parchment and ink for scribing scrolls. Unfortunately, the laughing wizard was nowhere to be seen! Through his scent ability, Kingsley verified that the wizard was the same one they’d dealt with in the past. Unfortunately, he appeared to have vanished; he was neither hiding nor invisible. A search of the room revealed a footlocker filled with luxurious foods and other creature comforts; four potions; three scrolls; and 500 gold pieces.

Frustrated, and seeing no other exits from the wizard’s workroom (or the room with the candle in it), the party headed back upstairs to the guard chamber where they’d defeated the two hill giant guards upon first entering the building. The group was surprised to find the door locked! After a minute of hammering, Draken burst into the room. Standing before him was an ugly, male hill giant and four huge orcs. Silaqui, Gydion, Kingsley and Asa scrambled through the door, backing up Draken as he engaged two of the orcs, hammer raised.

Silaqui ran past the orcs (avoiding an attack of opportunity) and fired two arrows at the giant, hitting with both. Gydion activated his flaming magic scimitar, and he, Kingsley and Asa closed in on the two remaining orcs. In the beginning, things didn’t look good for the Giantslayers: Draken got sliced for 14 points of damage, and Asa was seriously wounded, too. But after a few rounds of combat, Kingsley scored a critical bite, allowing Asa to easily kill that particular orc with his short sword.

Across the room, the hill giant was getting hit with more arrows from Silaqui, The giant closed in on the elf ranger, ferociously pounding her with his club, severely wounding her. She backed up, loaded an elemental (fire) arrow into her bow—and missed! Luckily, the giant repeatedly missed Silaqui with his club. The next round, the elf ranger filled the goliath with arrows. Barely alive, with one hit point, the giant was suddenly run through from behind by Asa’s sword! The halfling paladin had opportunistically charged into combat, ending the guard’s miserable life. At about the same time, Gydion dispatched the final orc with his scimitar, and the room went quiet.

All of a sudden, the ceiling above them started shaking, and they heard echoes of a Giant curse from the floor above: “SCHNOO-SCHNOO!” A few seconds later, the second of the three sets of double-doors flew off its hinges, and the hated Hill Giant Chieftain Grenseldek, leader of the Twisted Hearts tribe, stepped into the room, wielding a deadly hand-axe in each hand. She was visibly angry, and narrowed her eyes at Draken. SCHNOO-SCHNOO!” she screamed, lunging at him and severely wounding him with one axe. Silaqui fired a volley of arrows at her, but they failed to penetrate her masterwork scale mail. Gydion summoned a Flaming Sphere, but Grenseldek somehow extinguished it by pinching one of the red gems embedded in her necklace!

The next round, Asa invoked his paladin “divine bond” ability, which imbedded his sword with a celestial spirit, causing it to burst into magical flame. “Grenseldek!” he said, as he drank his potion of Haste, “We meet at last! I’ve got a little present for you!” Suddenly, a green drake appeared inside the doorway Grenseldek had emerged from, coughing up balls of molten slag and spitting them at our heroes, burning them! Silaqui stepped back five feet and launched another batch of arrows at the giantess—hitting with all three! Gydion pulled out a scroll of Call Lightning and zapped the giant chieftain with an electric bolt from the air above. Draken swung at her with his mighty, magic hammer, but missed. Cursing with rage, Grenseldek landed two axe-blows on Draken, leaving him bloody, with only a quarter of his hit points!

The next round proved to be Grenseldek’s last. Silaqui fired off another successful round of arrows, filling the giantess’ exposed, fleshy left arm. She shrieked with pain. Just then, Asa leapt into the fray with his Hasted spring attack, cutting the giantess’ ankle deeply with his celestially-enhanced sword. “That one’s for Trunau!” he yelled. Draken also finally landed a blow—to the giantess’ bloated belly—with Agrimmosh. Gydion successfully struck a second time, Calling down another bolt upon the unfortunate giantess’ head. It was then that the Great Hill Giant Chief Grenseldek tumbled to the floor, dead.

The drake turned and fled out a window, and the Giantslayers entered the room from where Grenseldek had emerged; it appeared to be a very officiously-appointed office. A set of stairs led upwards to the dead Chieftain’s private chambers. Inside, the adventurers were stunned to see a giant, gorgeous wedding dress, splayed out on top of an iron cage, which was stuffed with all manner of expensive-looking crates, chests and furniture. A desk stood nearby, and sitting on top of it was the other half of the geode map—which led to the tomb of legendary giantslayer Nargrym Steelhand! Silaqui pulled out the other half from her pack, and verified that the map was now complete.

Also upon the desk were two giant-sized vellum letters. They were in Giant; Asa, the only one of the group who knows Giant, translated. The first letter was from Grenseldek to someone named Volstus the Storm Tyrant. In it, the giantess offered her hand in marriage, along with a valuable dowry of items, both magical and mundane. The second letter contained a harsh rejection from Volstus. He mocked Grenseldek for proposing such a union, and directed her to travel to the Valley of Minderhal at once, together with her tribe, and join his growing army of giants. He admonished her sternly, laughing at her proposal. For example, he said that when she arrives with her tribe, she should consider herself lucky if he doesn’t kill her on the spot! “No wonder she was so angry and desperate!” remarked Gydion, shaking his head.

And so ended the reign of Grenseldek, once-glorious Chieftain of the Twisted Hearts—a uniquely multi-racial tribe of hill giants, ogres and orcs.

Experience: TBA [but basically, it’s enough to put everyone at the beginning of 7th level]


(From the mysterious wizard’s workroom):

3 scrolls: One Druid; one Cleric; one Wizard/Magic-user.
Druid scroll has: Cure Light Wounds, Barkskin, Longstrider, Bull’s Strength, Warp Wood, Air Walk
Cleric scroll has: Meld Into stone, Zone of Truth, Command Fear, Remove Paralysis, Resist Energy
Wizard scroll has: Floating Disk, Alarm, Chill Touch, Magic mouth, Haste

4 potions: Invisibility, Divine Power +3, Mirror Image, Protection from Energy [6th Level: Fire]

500 gp

(Grenseldek’s dowry):

Potion of Barkskin
Two flasks of Fire Breath
4 Potions of Cure Serious Wounds
Two magic giant-sized +2 hand axes
Magic giant-sized necklace with 9 beads that negate fire-damage
One giant-sized +1 scale mail skirt
Magic (giant-sized?) +2 breast plate
One (giant-sized?) +1 magic warhammer
Magic (giant-sized?) +1 long spear
Magic giant-sized black +2 dagger named “Scorch” (written in Drow Elven on the blade; bestows Evasion feat with regards to fire damage; does damage as a bastard sword in smaller hands)
Magic +1 Cloak of Resistance
Iomedae’s Glory Medallion (gives better healing rolls for Channel Energy, and bestows power to dispel magical Darkness)
Two rough, brown rocks which are actually mud-caked emeralds of Limited Wish
Masterwork composite long bow
A set of thieves tools

Coins, gems and non-magic items worth 30,000 gp (half of which goes to the dwarven king Non)
Gem-encrusted wedding dress worth 500 gp
The other half of the geode map to Nargrym’s tomb.

Next: Into the Underdark

Episode 21: Asa's Big Crack (Assault on Grenseldek's Fort Pt III)
The Hunt for Grenseldek

Everyone meditated for an hour. This was followed by a lively discussion about how to best approach Redlake Fort. The Giantslayers—a human Druid (Gydion), an elven ranger (Silaqui), a dwarven fighter-cleric (Draken) and a halfling paladin (Asa)—had serious questions about the map they’d purchased, so they sent Gydion on another reconnaissance mission in owl-form. A few minutes later, he reported back to the group, and the Giantslayers finalized their plans: after their dwarf soldier friends would take down the palisade on the north side of the fort, they would cross the moat in their makeshift pontoon boat, aiming for a “big crack” in the fort’s wall. Asa had noticed the crack in the wall on the map, and Gydion confirmed it. If everyone couldn’t fit through the crack, Gydion reassured them, he could enlarge it using Stone Shape. At the same time, the dwarf army, together with the elf-wizard Turin and elf-Druid Janekfan, would draw the attention of the denizens of the fort by staging a distraction on the opposite side of the fort.

Their entry into Redlake Fort appeared to go unnoticed, with Draken slipping through the crack first, using Silaqui’s potion of Gaseous Form, which she lent to him. Beyond the crack was a room containing three deformed-looking ogres: monstrosities born of the unnatural mating of ogres and orcs. One had three ears; another had an arm growing out of its back; all were freaks of nature. Interposing himself between the creatures and the only door out of the room, the dwarf assumed solid form and attacked, cleaving right through one and hitting another. Asa then entered the room and, activating his Smite Evil ability, attacked the third creature. Silaqui joined Asa, followed by Kingsley and Gydion, who fit through the crack by Wildshaping into, of all things, a lion. After a few rounds of combat, the party defeated their three ogrekin opponents. They consulted their map and discussed their next move.

From his flight over the fort, Gydion knew that a bossy, female giantess—who Silaqui and Asa insisted was Chief Grenseldek—was dwelling in a large, three-story structure in the southeast corner of the fort. It wasn’t far from where they were now (which is why they entered Redlake Fort where they did). What they didn’t know, however, was what lay between them, and the three-story structure? Also: how could they gain entrance to it, once they reached it? They decided to again send Gydion out for reconnaissance, this time hidden from sight using a potion of Invisibility. After a few minutes, Gydion returned and explained that the only way into the structure was via a stand-alone stairway in the courtyard, connected to the structure by way of a drawbridge—which happened to be down. The door into the structure was closed; however, since it was made of wood, Gydion said he could use Warp Wood on it to grant them access. The Druid further reported that a hill giant, and some ogres, occupied the courtyard—and they appeared to have noticed the boat that they’d left in the moat. The party didn’t have much time, apparently, before their enemies discovered them.

Gydion went out once more and climbed the stairs, invisibly waiting for his comrades at the large, wooden door on the other side of the drawbridge. Then—on the count of three¬—the dwarf, the halfling and the elf burst into the courtyard, bolting across to join the Druid. Draken came out first, Enlarged thanks to his magic hammer Agrimmosh, but was immediately intercepted by two ogres and a giant. Asa appeared second, on Kingsley’s back; the pair made it across the courtyard in record time, and joined Gydion on the drawbridge. Silaqui came out last, and was met by three ogres as she reached the bottom of the staircase. Battle ensued, Draken and Silaqui on the ground [which was sensible, since both possess high bonuses against giant-type creatures], with Asa and Gydion supporting them from above [with sling-staff bullets and Call Lightning, respectively]. Silaqui defeated her three ogre opponents fairly easily, but Draken was taken down to two-thirds of his hit points before finally slaying the hill giant soldier.

Once Silaqui and Draken joined Gydion and Asa on the bridge, Gydion attempted to open the door. It was locked, however, so he Warped it, twisting a series of panels into a contorted blob. Draken stepped up and finished the job, breaking the door open with his hammer. Then, downing his potion of Shielding, the dwarf entered the building—and was immediately set upon by two hill giants! The rest of the party piled into the room, Silaqui firing arrow after arrow and Gydion conjuring a Flaming Sphere. Even Kingsley got in some good blows, scoring a critical hit against one giant with his fangs. Asa retired to the back, healing his friends with Lay On Hands. It wasn’t long before the two hill giant guards were laid low before the Giantslayers’ might. A search of their huge bodies didn’t reveal much—10 measly gold pieces. Similarly, the room itself held nothing of interest—it appeared to be a room fashioned from the gutting of what were once multiple rooms. There were multiple exits from the room: three sets of closed double-doors.

Next: The Jilted Giantess

Episode 20: Saved by Dwarves (Assault on Grenseldek's Fort Pt II)
A post by Asa del Ray

Amos, now we’ve really done it: we’ve rushed in and gotten ourselves over our heads. I often wish you were here: of the two of us, you were always the gentle voice of reason.

I’m trying to sleep in a dank corner of the orc barracks inside Redlake Fort, but my mind is racing. Everything happened so quickly after we rescued Umlo Nargrymkin (Ingrahild Nargrymkin‘s brother) from that filthy bear pen—just outside the wall where we are stationed now. As we were setting him free and killing the dire bear that was on top of him, we didn’t realize that every orc in Grenseldek’s army was gathering along the fortress walls above us to watch the bloodsport below. Our efforts were met with a volley of arrows from the angry orcs, although most of them missed their mark.

Draken acted first, throwing his grappling hook towards the palisade, hooking a pole. Janekfan secured the rope and then the two dwarves and me exited the pit. Ingrahild was overjoyed to see her brother! But there was little time for a reunion; we heard the sounds of alarm bells, and watched as explosives bombarded the fort from the lakeside. Our group (myself, Draken, Jane, Ingrahild, Umlo, Toboe, Kingsley, Cat, and my wardog, Pinto) all rushed towards the front entrance to the fort. We were hoping to gain entrance there, and hopefully aid our two comrades, Silaqui and Gydion, who were trapped inside—facing the orc hordes alone. As we rounded the corner, we saw an army of dwarves slowly advancing from the east: Draken identified them as “Iron Dwarves” from Mt Talos in the Tusk Mountains [another mountain range to the northeast, also in the Hold of Belkzen]. Their livery identified them as being in service to King Knut, an ally to Draken’s tribe in the Mindspin Mountains. The dwarven fighter-cleric smiled a rare smile.

Our little group watched as cannon fire from the dwarf army blasted open the front doors of Redlake Fort. When the smoke cleared, we entered, and were immediately set upon by filthy orcs. We could see Silaqui and Gydion, cornered in the northeast tower of the structure as we fought our way inside. Two large, winged reptilian beasts were breathing deadly fumes at them as they struggled to fend off the seemingly endless orc troops. Silaqui was perched on a wall, above the fray (thanks to her Spiderclimb potion), shooting arrows, while Gydion was calling down Lightning.

We barged through about 10 orc soldiers just in time to watch Silaqui slay the orc’s commander with one of her Orc Bane arrows. Gydion, meanwhile, scorched one of the reptilian creatures, killing it (see Figure 1, below), and causing the other to take to the air, disappearing into the dark. Two more of these foul creatures alighted on a stone wall and attempted to use their breath-weapons on Draken and me, but then flew off as quickly as they’d appeared.

{Figure 1: The winged, reptilian creature after Gydion was done with it.}

Truly I tell you, Amos, I was not an effective combatant today. Perhaps I should have taken up the bow, instead of the sword, as Silaqui has done. My strength is not great, and my paladin abilities are not yet advanced enough. Although I have now perfected my “spring attack”, and I have learned how to channel a celestial spirit into my masterwork longsword, it still is not enough. What I really need is a magic blade of some sort. That, combined with my Smite Evil ability, will be enough to lay low any orc, and maybe even a giant! Orc-slaying helps quench my sadness of losing you, Amos, for short periods.. And giant-slaying, I think, will still my anger at Grenseldek’s attack on Trunau… I must make that hateful giantess pay for her crimes against our fair city…one way or another.

But where is she? Where is Grenseldek? We discussed this question as King Knut and his troops defeated the last of the orcs, who were completely directionless without their commander. We peered out of the watchtower we were in, towards the inside of Redlake Fort, which was connected to our orc-watchtower by a series of bridges. The bridges were on fire! All except the innermost drawbridge, which had been pulled up by the ogres and giants who remained inside. It was dark now, and the flames reflected orange on the watery moat—which was quickly filling, thanks to the Iron Dwarves’ destruction of the dam with their cannons (King Knut informed us of this development).

After consulting our map, and discussing numerous options for crossing the burning bridge and/or the watery moat, we finally decided to enter the interior of Redlake Fort from the north. The fort’s wall was crumbled there, allowing easy access. King Knut’s troops offered to build us a pontoon-raft, which we would use after Gydion used Warp Wood to breach the palisade on that side of the fort. Meanwhile, while we infiltrated the fort and searched for Chief Grenseldek, King Knut and his troops would put out the fires (using a bucket-brigade), and construct another bridge across the moat, here, on this side. It seemed like a good plan.

Unfortunately, Gydion hadn’t prepped a Warp Wood spell, so he needed to rest in quiet meditation to gain it. We all needed a breather, in any case, so each of us tucked ourselves away in quiet corners, the drone of the Iron Dwarves lulling us to bouts of fitful sleep. Watch over us, Amos! The worst is yet to come, I fear…

Next: Assault on Grenseldek’s Fort, Pt III!

Episode 19: Finding Umlo (Assault on Grenseldek's Fort Pt I)
Chantel's last in-person episode (for awhile)

Before leaving Captain Raag Bloodtusk’ headquarters, the party purchased a map of Redlake Fort from the potion-selling half-orc (unfortunately, her potion shop had burned down during the giant mosquito incident, last episode). Asa used his Candle of Truth to verify that the half-orc wasn’t selling them a bogus map. Draken also scribed some scrolls of Cure Light Wounds, and Asa purchased a riding dog. The elven wizard Turin decided he would stay on board the boat to pursue some arcane research. Preparations complete, the Chanticleer then set sail upstream along the River Esk. After a week, the Mindspin Mountains starting coming into view in the west, and the riverboat reached the dock where the captain had planned to drop the Giantslayers. About a half-mile before reaching it, however, the dock suddenly burst into flames! This was followed by the ignition of what looked like a string of beacons along the shoreline, upriver. Apparently, Redlake Fort was ready for them.

The captain’s magic tooth glowed as he hurried the party to shore in his dinghy. On the way, Asa asked him to keep Uskroth’s Armor for him, until they returned (which he estimated would take about a week). Janekfan took to the sky in eagle-form to survey the surrounding land while the rest of the party hurried along the road towards Redlake Fort. Jane came back and told them that the map appeared to be correct—but she also reported two groups of giants, ogres and orcs had left the fort and were headed towards them! The adventurers got off the road and hid among the rocks, avoiding the first group. Then, traveling in the woods next to the road to avoid being seen, the party approached slowly, spotting the fort in the distance, up the hillside. Suddenly, they were barraged with arrows from above. Looking up, they spotted a large, pointy-eared giant, with a number of orc soldiers around him. Knowing they were at a disadvantage, the party hid in the woods, where they doubled back to take another, less-traveled road upwards which they hoped would lead to their attackers.

They crested the hillside and found that the road did, indeed, lead to their attackers! The giant and his orcs were busy celebrating the fact they’d run off the invaders, so the Giantslayers gained surprise. First, Gydion cast a Wind Wall spell to deflect the giant’s arrows, giving Draken and the others a chance to close the distance between them and the giant safely. Next, Gydion used his Fire Breath potion to incinerate the giant’s orc soldiers. Not a single orc was left standing! Jane called lightning down on the giant (whom she identified as a Forest Giant), while Silaqui filled him with arrows. Kingsley and Draken then closed the distance, hitting it with tooth and hammer, respectively. In a mighty show of strength, Draken brought down the colossal humanoid with a critical hit, reducing him to man-size with the hammer’s Reduce Person ability before felling him. A search of his body turned up four healing potions of various strength.

The party continued along the road another 20 minutes before reaching Redlake Fort. The sun began to set rapidly. Gydion then transformed into an owl to survey the surrounding land again—this time, focusing on the dam that separated the fort from the lake adjacent to it. As per their earlier strategizing that morning, the party was hoping to break open the dam and flood the fort. On his flight over the fort, however, he noticed a big crowd of orcs and giants gathered at one end of the ancient, crumbling structure. They were shouting and jeering as they watched a dwarf—shorn of his beard, dressed in rags, and deftly wielding what appeared to be a frying pan—fighting a dire bear. The gladiator-style match was taking place in a section of the moat while the crowd looked down from above. Could the dwarf be their new friend Ingrahild’s lost brother, Umlo Nargrymkin? Gydion thought. Worried that there might be even more innocent prisoners inside the fort, he abandoned the plan to destroy the dam, and decided to open the sluice doors as a distraction instead. He wanted to take immediate action to save the dwarf from the bear, and this was one means to that end.

Landing silently, Gydion spotted the sluice doors—there was a turning-wheel imbedded in them, which Gydion surmised was the way the Twisted Hearts regulated water levels. Returning to his human form, Gydion stepped into the water, and was immediately attacked by a giant gar! Gydion drew his Flaming magic scimitar and, after a few rounds, filleted the slimy fish. Then, turning the wheel full-throttle, he watched as water from the lake slowly poured into the dry moat surrounding the fort. He was glad that no water was entering the fort—even though he would love to see the orcs and giants drown in the red waters, he didn’t want any prisoners to drown along with their captors.

Gydion assumed owl-form again and raced back to the party, quickly drawing them towards the wooden palisade immediately adjacent to where the dwarf-bear flight was taking place. Taking direction from the owl-shaped Gydion, Jane cast Warp Wood , pulling apart the poles of the palisade to allow easy entry. Peering down into the pit, the party were horrified by the primitive bloodsport below. “Those sick bastards,” Asa muttered under his breath, and readied himself to climb down into the pit.

The orcs took notice of their appearance, of course, and fired upon the party. Silaqui sprang into action, climbing the palisade and running along top, where she took aim. Meanwhile, Draken climbed down into the pit and, stepping between the bear and Umlo, slammed the bear with Agrimmosh. Asa followed, slicing into the bear’s side with his longsword. Two other, smaller bears were on the other side of the pit, but kept a safe distance from the heavily armed dwarf and halfling. Meanwhile, Jane remained outside the fort, keeping watch on Kingsley, Toboe, Asa’s riding dog, Ingrahild, and Cat. She called down Lightning upon the bear, singeing it grievously. At the same time, Gydion flew across the moat and resumed his human form atop the palisade next to Silaqui, who had just killed three orcs (firing three arrows at once; one of them Orc Bane) who had climbed the palisade to confront her. She also attempted to kill the largest orc (probably their leader) with her arrow of Orc Slaying, but it didn’t work [the orc made a successful saving throw].

The next round, Draken finished off the bear with his hammer, laying it low in a bloody pile. He was surprised to notice that the beardless dwarf’s frying pan was made of mithral. Asa then asked the beardless dwarf, ‘Are you Ingrahild Nargrymkin’s brother?’ The ragged dwarf nodded in affirmation. Then, looking up at the crowd, Asa shouted, at the top of his voice, in Giant, ‘Bring us Grenseldek, and we will spare your miserable lives!’

Next: Assault on Grenseldek’s Fort, Pt II!

Episode 18: The Attack of the Giant Mosquitoes

The Chanticleer was repaired, and the crew prepared to set sail on the last leg of the journey: towards Redlake Fort. Before the Giantslayers could board, however, they heard a cry for help: a halfling was on the dock behind them, yelling out in pain. 10 seconds later, and the party saw what he was yelling about: giant, bloodsucking mosquitoes were closing in on him! The party leaped to the halfling’s defense and defeated the enormous insects—Silaqui and Draken took the most damage. Putting the shore behind them, they boarded, and headed west, along the River Esk.


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