Cautious after their unnerving encounter with the Spiders from Leng, the Avengers resume their long climb up the Golden Stair. While Ragnar helps the unathletic Corvus up the icy golden stairs, Zendo slips and falls, sliding across the unyielding surface and nearly tumbling off the face of Mhar Massif before catching himself on a jagged spur of rock at the last minute. After the half-elf’s close call, the remainder of the perilous climb upward proceeds without incident.
The heroes find the Golden Stair deposits them upon a broad, windswept ledge. Across the ledge are five tall pyramids of ivory hue. Each structure is a squat stone base, square in shape, with a wide, cavernous mouth, but each such base is topped with a pyramidal peak of cut alabaster rising roughly four hundred feet above the ground.
The ledge is terminated on the eastern edge by a narrow triangular fortress. Three slender towers rise from the ledge and the stone above to a height of eight hundred feet, dwarfing the ivory teeth of the ledge beyond. The three towers are connected by thick walls that rise up most of the height of the towers, creating what must be a dark pit of a courtyard, where the sun would scarcely shine save when directly overhead. A single, cyclopean iron door serves as the only visible entrance to the southermost tower from the ledge itself, though a crenelated wall connects the eastern tower with the compound above.
To the east, the broad ledge leads to three immense spires, each rising over twelve hundred feet into the thin air. Each spire is decorated with an intricate facade pierced with hundreds of arches and studded with hundreds of balconies. The three opulent towers surround an inner compound shielded from the wind by a sturdy curtain wall. A winding path, cut from the sheer rock of the Massif itself, winds from the northernmost tower up the face of the mountain, climbing over a thousand feet into the air through numerous switchbacks.
Both the winding path and the curtain wall lead to the most breathtaking structure on Mhar Massif, under the stern stone gaze of Karzoug. Perched atop the sheer face of the mountain, a few low stone buildings form a compound dwarfed by a single, spectacular structure: the Pinnacle of Avarice itself. An immense stone tower perhaps two hundred feet across rises fully two thousand feet into the air before blooming into a single round disk perhaps five hundred feet across. Sixteen slender pillars rise from the ground to support the tower before joining with the disk overhead. Even Ragnar realizes that such an architectural feat is impossible, and the immense structure must be supported almost entirely with powerful, ancient magics.
The men cautiously investigate the nearest alabaster pyramid, but find nothing but signs of long abandonment. No calls of alarm or greeting ring from either the spires to the west or the fort to the east, and, indeed, only the shrill whistling of the everpresent wind can be heard. The men mull entering the lavish compound or the foreboding keep in order to advance to the Pinnacle overhead, but, in the end, the weary Corvus decides the issue by using his magic to step through the dimensions to deposit the Avengers at the foot of the Pinnacle of Avarice.
There, they find that the central tower is composed of massive stone blocks, with only tiny mortared seams between the masonry. The interior of the tower is accessible through any of dozens of fifty foot tall arches that pierce the pinnacle’s base. The howling wind whistles and shrieks through the arches, shifting in pitch and tone as it eddies around the mountain. The heroes enter with trepidation, but find little inside, other than a polished stone circle in the floor, fully two hundred feet across, and a broad ramp that spirals up the interior of the tower. The stone ramp is smoothly sloped, and rises steeply with no rail or bannister, disappearing into the darkness overhead.
The Avengers begin another long clamber upwards, striding up the spiralling ramp as it rises thousands of feet. As they near the top of the tower, they can see that the ramp terminates inside the huge stone disc at the top of the tower. Hikage disengages from the others and quietly ascends by himself to investigate. The monk glides silently across the ramp, but an interior stone curtain prevents him from seeing much further inside. As he nears the top of the ramp, and the end of the interior curtain wall, the monk notes that the stone floor transforms smoothly into a polished checkerboard of highly polished gold and onyx. Everburning torches of ivory inlaid with ruby and encased within sconces of silver and jade provide illumination.
As Hikage rounds the corner of the curtain wall, he silently strolls into the gaze of a watchful Cloud Giant, who raises the alarm with a thunderous cry in Thassilonian. Hikage can see glimpses of a room beyond between the immense figures of three other Cloud Giants who fill the chamber, their massive frames obscuring the vibrant murals of Xin-Shalast upon the walls. Two huge doors of gold and silver, sparkling with gemstones, lay beyond, but the monk beats a hasty retreat to join his comrades.
The heavily armored giants advance towards the party, the lead guard hurling a huge stone which clips Corvus in the arm, badly jarring the wizard. The giants call out eagerly to their foes, anxious to defeat the intruders and gain the approval of their lord Karzoug. They scoff at their tiny foes. However, after a magical hastening from Zendo, Hikage and Ragnar move up to block their large foes in. Hikage’s ki techniques render the nimble monk nearly untouchable by the frustrated giants, though Ragnar’s rusty defensive techniques spoil his own lethal attacks as much as those of the murderous giants.
Gellius’s blasts of lightning, Corvus’s streams of fire, and Zendo’s deafening blasts of sonic energy badly burn and batter the huge giants, and Ragnar’s bloody sword and Hikage’s blisteringly fast (and caustic) fists lay them low, with the final giant being cut down by an unexpected swipe of Gellius’s scimitar. Before the men can rest on their laurels, or heal their wounds, the guilded doors swing wide and a coal-black rune giant appears, bellowing “Who dares disturb the rest of Karzoug the Claimer?!?”