After sorting through Longtooth’s trove of valuables, the men quickly pocket the most portable of the loot and resolve to return. Rather than chancing a steep climb down the cliff face, Corvus uses his newfound robes to empower himself to re-cast his dimension door, and transports the men back to their phantasmal steeds. Gellius, of course, simply follows in eagle form.
Skirting around the giants who are breaking up their encampments, the men ride to the cliff overlooking the Mushkal River. Somewhere below lies the caves of the wyverns, and the heroes hope that their erstwhile foes were draconic enough to at least have some valuable loot. Gellius flies down to survey the cliff face. He finds a cavern on the cliff wall about 250 feet above the river banks. This cavern is very dark, and it is hard to see very far within the cave, but the cavern floor is a seething carpet of insects. Reluctant to explore this infested cave much further, Gellius flies down and finds another, wider cavern in the cliff face only 50 or so feet above the river banks. A strong, musty smell fills the cave, and large bones litter the entrance. Gellius flies into the cavern briefly, and can see something reflecting the sunlight back at him from near the center of the cave. He flies back to his allies and relays his findings to them.
The men spider climb down to the nearest cavern, thanks to Gellius’s spell, and debate what to do as Gellius flaps around. Zendo sends his dancing lights in to illuminate the situation, but the lights stir a stiff response! Globs of webbing are shot out of the darkness, entangling the druid (in hawk form) and nearly webbing Corvus, who quickly summons a shield from the rock itself. Zendo’s lights have disturbed a nest of giant spiders, but these spiders appear to be filled with thousands of tinier spiders, which boil out of them in a writhing swarm all around them!
Ragnar rushes to the attack (across the ceiling), suffering a nasty bite from one of the spiders, but his greatsword cracks open its decayed carapace. However, while this appears to harm the spider, it also allows more of the tiny spiders to stream out of its body and crawl up Ragnar’s legs. Zendo attempts to ensorcel one of the spiders, and finds that they have no mind to speak of! The spiders are Deathweb Spiders, undead giant spiders animated by a necromancer! Hikage leaps to the attack, striking the same spider and scampering around it to corner it between himself and Ragnar. Corvus unleashes a ball of fire at the spiders, destroying the damaged one and crisping the tiny swarms of spiders scurrying over their webs. The spiders smash Ragnar with their strong legs, knocking him from the ceiling to fall to the ground below, as well as striking Hikage and knocking him deeper into the sticky webs deeper in the cave. Ragnar and Hikage struggle to their feet as Zendo carefully lunges forward with his rapier to stab at the spiders, as Gellius wriggles free of the webbing. Threatened by the fire-wielding wizard, the spiders maneuver to attack him. One entangles him with webs, and the other scuttles across the webs to attack him, injuring him greatly.
On the back foot, Corvus unleashes a mighty spell, and incinerates both of the remaining spiders with a burning chain of fire. Once everyone has freed themselves from the webs, they carefully search the dense webbing at the rear of the cave. In addition to the dessicated remains of the spiders’ meals, they find some valuable full plate armor and a magical longsword, as well as several other weapons, many sized for giants or ogres. In addition, they discover a staff with a magical aura. It appears to be a spellstaff, though Corvus is unsure which druidic spell is still contained within. In addition, Zendo finds a cleverly concealed secret door at the very back of the cave. It leads to a small, winding tunnel deeper into the rock. Though several of the men are eager to explore it, others disagree. Zendo is concerned that the ‘violent fey’ that Conna warned them of might be violently opposed to Mokmurian, and this intrusion might anger them unduly. Ragnar doesn’t particularly want to explore a tunnel crouching on his hands and knees, and also warns that any fey that stood up to Mokmurian might be particularly nasty to face, especially single file in the dark.
The men decide to leave this tunnel for later, and use their spider-climbing abilities to explore the lower cavern. This cavern is much wider, and, as Ragnar explores it, he finds a large, but flawed fire opal setting on a pile of sand in the center. Smaller caves radiate outward from the central cavern, though these appear largely empty. A mounded pile of elk and horse bones fills up a small niche in the cave, but Corvus cautiously picks through the refuse with his mage hand. Revealed underneath is a dusty old chest and a wooden staff with a large gem held in a iron filligree. Within the chest there is a large sum of gold and silver, and Corvus determines that the staff is a Staff of Heaven and Earth, which Gellius claims.
Having finished their search of Jorgenfist, the men return within the fortress walls. They cautiously release the immense bear, Mokmurian’s former pet, that rests within the Feast Hall, and head back down into the warren of caves below to confer with their dwarven refugees and the Clockwork Librarian. The dwarven smiths hail from Janderhoff, and were finishing up their annual trade routes before the winter fell when they were ambushed by the Stone Giants. Zendo frets that he cannot escort them home, but can only offer them safe passage to Sandpoint. Ragnar offers the dwarves the large fire opal, which, while flawed, should fetch them enough gold to travel home safely. Corvus speaks with the clockwork librarian and uses his magics to mend some of the damage and wear the automaton has suffered over the many centuries of his vigil.
That night is the Night of the Pale, when legend has it that those who died over the last year revisit the earth, not for comfort or solace, but in bitter envy and anger over their loss. Most townsfolk hold a somber feast on the Night of the Pale, and leave out the remaining tidbits for the departed spirits, in hopes of placating their souls. The men, far from home, have no feast but the edible portions of the giants’ larder, and they set guards for the vigil over the night.
In the morning, Corvus prepares many spells of teleportation. He casts rituals which will allow him to return safely to Jorgenfist, then transports himself to Sandpoint with Hikage and two of the dwarves. Their sudden appearance startles Bethana Corwin, who is sweeping the drifting snow off the stoop of the Rusty Dragon. “Lords preserve me!”, she exclaims, stunned to find Hikage and Corvus, and two bewildered and debearded dwarves suddenly on her doorstep. As she goes to fetch Ameiko, Corvus returns to Jorgenfist. He recasts his ritual of safe return, then whisks two more dwarves and Gellius back to Sandpoint. At this point, the others have already moved inside to the warmer tavern, and Ameiko calls out a friendly greeting to Gellius and a question: “Where are you getting all these dwarves?”. Corvus, who remained outside, cannot answer, and transports himself once again to the fortress of Jorgenfist, there to safely teleport the last of the dwarves, Ragnar, and Zendo back to Sandpoint with him.
Once in Sandpoint, the men quickly greet their friends and associates at the Rusty Dragon, and begin swapping stories. Zendo wishes to see Rynshinn Povalli, so he gathers the dwarves on the pretext of taking them to the tailor for new clothes. The half-elven seamstress greets him warmly, though she is surprised by the sudden influx of business. As the dwarves busy themselves sorting through her wares for winter garb, she asks Zendo where his adventures have taken him, since he left on her birthday. She also inquires if he came back because of the sinkhole.
Though interested in this new development, Zendo is carefully diplomatic with his would-be paramour. He says little of their mission against the Stone Giant tribes of the Storval Plateau, mindful of rumor and panicking the town. He inquires about Rynshinn’s gifts, and she confirms her father’s presents were once again discovered. Zendo presents her with a magical silver ring, though he does not tell his beloved that he took it from the hand of an ogre sorceress, but only ‘found it on my adventures’.
Rynshinn tells him what she has heard of the sinkhole. Two days ago, around mid-day, Sandpoint had a small earthquake, which, while uncommon, is not unknown in the region. Townsfolk took shelter to wait out the tremors, but at the height of the quake, a sinkhole appeared in the middle of Tower Street, right beside the Garrison! Part of the garrison wall collapsed into the hole, which opened up wide enough to block most of Tower Street and even part of Main Street! Luckily, there were no prisoners inside those cells, and no one was hurt, but the Sheriff had to rope off the whole of Tower Street between Main Street and the garrison, to keep curious locals from clambering down the hole!
Earthquakes sometimes have tremors for a few days later as the earth settles, so the mayor wasn’t planning on filling in the hole immediately. However, last night, people said that a scary moaning, or a spooky howling, came out of the hole. Rynshinn doesn’t live close enough for her to have heard the sounds, but some of the townsfolk said it was the ghost of Chopper, or maybe the ghosts of the Goblins, or even the ghosts of the Giants!
Rynshinn doesn’t know what is down in the hole, but she knows that the merchant from Magnimar who bought the Glassworks wants the Sheriff to find out. Amander Malonial closed the sale from Ameiko on the Glassworks just a day or two after Zendo and his friends left, and the Glassworks reopened almost immediately. The merchant has hired a lot of workmen from the docks and some from out of town to work in the Glassworks, but they were clearing out stuff from the basement. The workmen reopened the tunnel entrance north of Junker Beach and they have been carting off stones and heavy stuff onto boats there. The locals are mystified as to why anyone would carry the stones that far instead of bringing them up the stairs, but don’t really know what Malonial is up to. Amander has closed off all the access to the ‘hidden ruins’ beneath the town, explaining that he can’t have all sorts of people wandering around in his factory. However, after the sinkhole, the merchant asked the sheriff to send men down into the hole, as some of his own hired help had gotten injured down there. However, the sheriff isn’t budging, as he says that , “If Malonial wants everyone else to stay out, then he’ll have to take care of it himself. If the ruins are public property, then the town watch will patrol them, but we aren’t anyone’s personal guard.” That’s what Rynshinn has heard, anyway.