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