Giantslayers

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

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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

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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

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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]

Treasure:

(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

Plus:
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

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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

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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.

burned.jpg
{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!

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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!

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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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Episode 17: Silaqui's Log: Perhaps Belkzen is Meant for the Giants
The second bitter fight with green hags.

After the Vault of Thorns, we returned to the boat, along with one hag as prisoner (very unwise as it would turn out). (We should have learned our lesson at Truneau and killed or released evil prisoners.) The boat eventually docked at a town and fortress, which was the captain’s base of operations. We went ashore and among other activities purchased potions at a magic shop.

When we returned to the boat, we found it about to come under attack by an ominous foe. A sixty-foot alligator, an odd saddle on its back, was carrying 3 hags, witches and sister to the hag in the hold who was our prisoner. The alligator rammed the boat, doing serious damage and swam away, travelling in a great arc and setting up for a second strike. The second slam had the alligator coming up onto the boat, its head and upper body on deck as the gator attacked the crew and our party. Everyone attacked as best we could. Draken landed several blows with his Warhammer, while Gydion and Jane inflicted major damage with lightning strikes. At one point, near disaster, Kingsley was caught in the gator’s mouth. The lion had come in close to bring Asa up to the fight – too close as it would turn out. But, the gator was finally killed by the efforts of Draken, Jane, Gydion, and Asa. Before the gator’s lifeless body fell back into the river, in a remarkable show of strength Asa pried open the gator’s mouth and released Kingsley, saving him.

My first arrow in the fight with the gator had hit his mouth, but then my attack centered on the hags who launched deadly attacks directly on me, though they were invisible. The hags had left the gator after it came onto the boat. One hag in the air near the mast was the one who first hit me with serious damage by magical weapons. I climbed half way up the mast to try and strike the hag with my sword. But, the hag was very powerful and it would take a lot to defeat her. Finally, Gydion killed the hag with a direct hit by lightning strike. At this point, another hag, the one who was our prisoner and who had broken free, ran onto the deck and jumped into the river to escape. Gydion, in a rage, changed onto animal form, a shark, as he courageously jumped into the river in pursuit. The hag was very powerful and in the underwater fight got the better of the druid. Gydion took serious damage and eventually had to back off. Sensing Gydion’s peril, Jane also assumed shark form and jumped into the river to join the fight. But, in the end, the two druids had to break off their attack and let the hag go. The druids made it back to the boat without meeting further attack.

The boat is quite damaged and will take a week or so to repair and refit. To my mind, this latest fight is typical of our experience since entering the Ghostlight Marsh. We were told by a number of sources that we would find a weapon hoard in the marsh that we would need to attack Redlake Fort. But, what we found in the marsh is very disappointing. We don’t have nearly enough weapons and support items like potions to attack a strong fort. And, what we did find we had to deplete battling hags that we would not have encountered had we not gone to the marsh on the first place. And, we were naïve enough to bring a hag as prisoner out with us.

I have become very disillusioned. I have lost sight of the original reason for our quest or what good we hope to accomplish. Belkzen is a place where all advantage is with the forces of evil. Our skills and spells are too often made powerless, while the enemy attacks with astounding and unrealistic success. I can’t help but believe that the powers supporting the agents of evil here favor their minions and have gained a control over every encounter and have weakened us by arbitrary malice. Iomedae, it seems, has no power here. She has been unable to help us. Many of our enemies can swoop in, inflict serious damage, and then disappear, while we are left with no means of attacking them, no defense. Maybe Belkzen is meant by the gods to be for the hags, the giants, and the orcs. Truneau should relocate south of Belkzen’s border. Think of this angle: by wearing down our powers to defeat the hags, haven’t we helped the giants? Haven’t we just neutralized the natural, future enemy and rival of the giants?

Why are we here? Even the townspeople we meet don’t seem to care about their own safety or future. They are apathetic and selfish. They offer us no assistance in our quest to rid their homes of evil. The least they could offer is information, but even that is denied us. A glaring example is the boat’s captain, who has seen us battle monsters in his defense but has insisted that we do menial labor on the boat to pay for our passage.

I’m ready to go home. I’m not a mercenary. I know of many towns in this world that could use my help against evil creatures — towns which would be grateful. If things get much worse, I should abandon this quest, try to convince the others to leave with me, and go back to Truneau and give them back the gold coins they gave me. I’m not a mercenary. If I abandon this quest, it will be because Iomedae has abandoned me. I will leave the bow she gifted me at her shrine in Truneau and go home.

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Episode 16: Silaqui’s post about the Vault of Thorns
second half of the episode in the vault

We already entered the Vault of Thorns and battled some of the many Unseeley Fey who have invaded the vault. In the vault, at its floor, exploring, we all felt invigorated by the environment. Everyone healed quickly of our battle wounds. The floor of the giant vault is earth, and the high walls of this circular area were virtually impassible with thick intertwined vegetation.

Along with myself and our party, Turin, Draken, Janekfan and Toboe, and Gydion and Kingsley, Wynnea and her wolf Balto came as guide, and Ingrahild Nargrymkin and her puma continued to travel with us. I scouted ahead and found on the far side a hollow tree large enough to have a staircase inside. Before we could go up these stairs, a Tendriculos next to the tree attacked us. It was a monstrous plant of tree like strength and height with numerous mushrooms on it, and its tendrils attacked and grappled Toboe and Draken. Our team all attacked until the monster fell.

We ascended the stairs in the hollow tree to doors that opened into a greenhouse with many flowers and exotic plants, many in pots on tables. While amazed at the variety and uniqueness of the collection, we unfortunately discovered that some of the flowers were Extabeys, which emit a magic sleep powder. One of the plants put Gydion asleep. The team attacked the Extabeys, killing 6. Afterwards, Gydion soon recovered.
We followed the room around, went through a hallway, and finally came to fetid, foul smelling room, large and long, with two 30-foot high foul piles of rotting vegetation covered with brambles and thorny vines. Behind these two were three more piles, like the first two in size and odor. Turin exploded a fire ball which lit the chamber, and we could see another pile of vegetation with brambles at the far end. This pile was much larger, 50-feet high, and it had a large wooden chest on top. The fireball made dozens of rodents scurry for cover and singed some of the fetid piles. We could see brambles that looked alive, crawling out like arms from 3 of the 30-foot piles.

Our party had difficulty navigating the room because there were so many of us: besides me, Jane and Gydion with their animal companions, Draken and Turin, Ingrahild and her puma, and guarding the rear Wynnea and Balto. With such massive piles of vegetation and brambles, we could hardly all fit. We soon found our movement hampered by the tight space, as well as the attacks by the brambles. We all attacked the brambles as best we could.

I broke free of our party, maybe not the best decision, and ran through the piles heading for the largest one at the end of the room. I was hit and took massive damage, but luckily made it to the large pile and climbed up it onto the chest. I shot arrows down from that vantage point, while our team fought through to the end of the room, killing whatever entities animated the evil brambles in four of the piles. They did this, despite being weakened by the foul, palpable aura of rat and decay coming from all the piles.

It had been a vicious fight, and we threw at these malicious vines everything we had – hammer blows, flaming spheres, fireballs, arrows. Our party fought forward, but Wynnea and Balto stayed back. We were all so busy getting through tight spaces and battling vines that some of us didn’t notice Wynnea’s lack of participation in the fight. Only Turin, who had been suspicious of Wynnea from the first encounter kept an eye on her.

After eliminating the threat from the bramble piles, we found ourselves suddenly in another vicious fight, this one from behind. Wynnea and Balto suddenly both turned onto Green Hags, claimed whatever we might find here, and attacked. Everyone turned around to meet this new threat. Jane, the closest, was grappled by Not-Wynnea. All others attacked as best they could in this deadly fight in close quarters. I stayed on the chest, atop the largest mound and shot arrows at Not-Wynnea from across the room. Jane struggled hard to break the grapple. Gydion hit the hags with a flaming sphere. In the middle of the fight, the Not-Balto hag disappeared but was heard going through the door and running away. Ingrahild and her puma quickly ran after her, enraged at the hag and bent on revenge. Meanwhile, Not-Wynnea still grappled Jane, but Gydion hit the hag square with a flaming sphere. Although the fight continued, it was only a matter of time for the hag. Draken finally killed her with his Warhammer.

Turin had come over to the large mound where I was and opened the locked chest. We saw a ladder descending into a small chamber. There was too little space for everyone, so Turin and I went down and found a collection of weapons left there by the Council of Thorns many years ago.

Treasure:

In the treasure trove below the treasure chest:
+1 magic ironwood breastplate
+1 magic keen greatsword
+2 Orc Bane scimitar
10 +1 Orc Bane arrows
1 Orc Slaying arrow
1 scroll of Barkskin
1 scroll of Call Lightning
1 scroll of Summon Nature’s Ally IV
Wand of Flaming Sphere (w/9 charges)
Wand of Greater Magic Fang (w/12 charges)
Ironwood crown with a stylized thorn motif (worth 250 gp)
Ceremonial gem-encrusted cudgel (worth 150 gp)
3 pp
1,178 gp
605 sp

On Not-Wynnea:

5 Goodberries
Lesser Empower Metamagic Rod
1 scroll of Call Lightning
+1 magic Leather Armor
+1 magic Ring of Protection
holly and mistletoe
1 pair of faded leather baby shoes
1 wooden toy rattle
1 gp

Experience: 34,250 xp

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