Rise of the Runelords

Entering Jorgenfist
Kuthona 29, 4707

Protected by their illusory disguises, the men tramp down the beaten path leading through the valley towards their destination, the walls of Jorgenfist.

As they approach, they can see a massive figure observing them from the colossal watchtower on their right. It appears to be a huge giant with dark grey skin. The giant barks a command, and two smaller giants, apparently Hill Giants, emerge from within the tower and toss heaps of green wood and leaves onto a fire burning at the base of the structure, sending a dense cloud of smoke roiling into the skies. The larger giant continues to observe the ‘giants’ and ‘dire bears’ on the path, and raises a hand in greeting.

Corvus is concerned that their disguise has proven too successful, and thinks that perhaps the waylaid stone giant patrol is expected to ‘check in’ with the sentinel of the tower. Clearly, if this is the case, proceeding onward will only raise suspicion, and possibly, an alarm, though the dense signal smoke has already alerted any observers at Jorgenfist that something is afoot.

The men proceed warily down the road, coming closer to the watchtower and it’s huge inhabitant. From this distance, the men can see that the sentinel is a towering female giant, with deep grey skin and dull red hair. She raises her voice and calls out to them in Giantish, “Plateau people! What brings you to Jorgenfist this day?”

Corvus hesitates, perhaps a little too long, for she repeats her inquiry. He replies quickly then, telling her that he and his comrade (the glamered Ragnar) are hunters seeking to find and rejoin their tribe. The giantess names herself Cinderma, and asks Corvus which of the tribes in the Valley is his own. Corvus racks his brain, but does not remember any tribal names. However, Zendo quietly whispers the name of Vlorian One-Eye to him. Vlorian was the elder of the tribe that claimed the giants defeated in Sandpoint.

Corvus tells Cinderma that his chief is named Vlorian, and adds that they are tired and hungry and wish to join their kin. Cinderma seems puzzled, but not suspicious, as she does not recall the giants under Old One-Eye’s rule as having any hunting bears. Corvus hems and haws, on the spot, but Cinderma seems eager for company and calls the ‘giants’ over to talk, as she has a curiosity about Vlorian and his goals.

Against their wishes, the men move towards the Watchtower, unhappy to be diverted, but pleased that their illusions, at least, seem to be effective. As the heroes approach, they are better able to examine the feral Cinderma, and Gellius and Corvus recognize her for what she truly is: a taiga giant. Given her dark skin and red hair, the men had taken her for a fire giant, but seeing her lanky build and noticing the dusky auburn of her hair helps correct their misapprehension. Gellius remembers that Taiga giants are reclusive in the extreme, seldom seen even in the wilds of the Storval Plateau, and regarded, even by other giants, as something of a primeval throwback to the giants of old. The druid recalls that Taiga giants, more so than other giants, revere their ancestors, and are even reputed to be able to call upon their ancestral spirits for aid. Corvus, though he does know know exactly how they accomplish it, recalls that the rarely seen Taiga giants, though not commonly sorcerors or wizards, have some means of binding spirits, which protect them from harm and give them some minor magical abilities, among which, he belatedly remembers, is an unerring ability to see through illusions!

As he realizes this unfortunate fact, Cinderma sees him pause, and calls out to her fellow giants, “Arise! Attack! Interlopers! Mischief is afoot!”. She hurls a stone at Corvus, which slams painfully into his midriff, and turns to run down the steep stairs of the watchtower. Still veiled in illusions which seem superfluous at the moment, the heroes prepare for battle.

One of the Hill Giants hurls open the door of the watchtower. The giant’s skin seems thin and stretched tightly over his muscles, and deep, but bloodless runic scars mar his flesh. A larger, more prominent rune glows faintly on his chest. Though on the attack, the giant’s face is slack, and his gaze distant and unfocused. The other Hill Giant, similar in appearance and demeanor, tenses his muscles menacingly, and grimaces in pain as a new rune bloodily tears itself across his flesh. Then the brute hurls himself across the intervening distance in a shocking burst of speed and slams a club into Hikage.

As Cinderma reaches the ground level of the watchtower, Gellius fills the interior with tangled, grasping vines, but the giants prove too strong to easily entangle. The remaining Hill Giant also triggers the strange surge of arcane energy that seems to both quicken his flesh, and mortify it, but despite their speed, the two Hill Giants are little match for the heroes. Between Hikage’s fists and Ragnar’s sword, as well as the burning flames of Corvus’s wand, both of the ‘lesser’ giants are quickly toppled, though they do smash apart an air elemental summoned by Gellius before they fall.

Cinderma, however, proves to be of much sterner mettle. As her ‘assistants’ perish around her, she mocks the men and makes light of Zendo’s attempts to harm her with his rapier. Even Corvus’s wand does little but scald her flesh. Her deadly spear thrusts again and again, stabbing Hikage and impaling Ragnar when he moves to attack. Before they can stop her, she plunges the spear deep into Hikage’s body, and he falls painfully to the ground. However, his flurry of attacks, and Corvus’s flames, have not left her unharmed, and a retributive strike from Ragnar slices her in two (taking her to -57 hp).

As Gellius and Zendo quickly heal the fallen monk, Ragnar drags the bodies of the giants inside to hide them from prying eyes. As the bard and druid turn their ministrations to his own wounds, and the deep bruise Corvus is sporting from a tossed rock, the wizard recognizes the runic scars on the Hill Giants as Thassilonian runes. Each rune is associated with one of the traditional Thassilonian virtues (or sins) and the prominent, previously glowing one, is the rune for Wrath. While Gellius calls water out of the sky to wash away the blood and gore outside, Corvus examines the rune-marked giants closely. The runes, he decides, are not magical, per se, but are a manifestation of some sort of magical strain or trauma, from some other sort of enchantment. This jibes with what the men have observed, in that both giants manifested new scars when they channeled some sort of magical burst of speed and power. However, it is like no magic the wizard has ever seen.

After searching the watchtower and finding little of value, the men decide to press onward while their illusory disguises still hold. Cinderma had little of worth in the tower, save personal effects and trinkets appropriate to a giant of her size, and the other two giants seemed to have no personal belongings or effects of any sort, save the clothes on their backs and the weapons in their hands.

The heroes move on down the wide trail towards the gate of Jorgenfist, cloaked by their illusions of giants and bears. The valley rings with the noise of the giant encampments within, so they speak quietly, with no fear of being overheard. They decide that Gellius will use his druidic magics to allow them all to scale the walls like spiders, and they will seal the gates from the inside with a magically conjured wall of stone. Making sure that he is too far away to alert the guardians of Jorgenfist, Gellius casts his enchantment upon his allies.

As they near the circular fortress, they can see that four of the stone towers are manned by Stone Giants, standing on guard, while the gatehouse itself seems to only be guarded by a smaller humanoid. Drawing closer, the men can see (and hear) that it is a harpy, who seems bored by her duty, and who warbles her song quietly. She perceives them only as Stone Giants and dire bears, however, and seems unalarmed.

The men continue to approach, but as they get within a stone’s throw of the castle walls, their plans are disrupted. Hikage is ensorcelled by the song of the harpy, and begins to hurry forward towards the enchanting music. At first, the harpy seems amused by the spectacle of the bear shambling forwards towards her, but when Hikage spider-climbs straight up the tower, the avian songstress penetrates the illusion. She calls a warning to someone else, and backs away from the ‘bear’, which she knows to be an image concealing the monk.

The heroes realize that the deception is over, at least for this guardian of the gate, and rush the doors of Jorgenfist, using their magically enhanced climbing ability to clamber up the stone door easily. However, as they do so, another harpy emerges from the gatehouse and flaps into the air. Perhaps focused on their mission, the men are not even distracted by her singing. They clamber down the other side of the wall and Gellius prepares to seal it with a summoned wall of stone.

Unfortunately, their comrade Hikage is not so lucky. Standing enraptured before the first harpy, he is defenseless. She stops her singing and, incongruously, assumes a martial stance. “Your base deceptions will not avail you. The sisterhood shall not allow you entrance to the Black Tower. Your downfall is nigh, weak-minded fool.” To the amazement of the men below, the harpy batters Hikage with a series of punishing kicks! Evidently, these harpies belong to some martial order!

A third, somewhat rumpled-looking harpy emerges from the watchtower as her flying sister swoops down towards Ragnar. “You will not be allowed to disturb the master! The Black Monk is not granting audiences, fool. The Black Tower is forbidden to you!”. She swoops in for an attack, but Ragnar had been waiting for such a moment, and slices her deeply with his sword. Shrieking in pain, she flaps frantically to regain the air.

To their chagrin, the assault has attracted the attention of the guards on the other towers, and worse, yet, the courtyard is not empty! No sooner than the men step out of the shadows of the gate, they hear an angry trumpeting. A mammoth is being broken for riding in the courtyard, and the added provocation of noise and confusion is too much for the irritated beast. It gives out an angry bugling, and starts forward towards the men.

Luckily for them, the sudden movement, combined with the distraction of the intruders, proves too much for the limited riding skills of the Stone Giant atop the mammoth. He tumbles to the ground, which only provides a closer outlet for the mammoth’s wrath. The huge, furry beast turns and stomps on its tormentor. He quickly scrambles up and runs away from the enraged mammoth.

The prospect of crossing the courtyard while it is patrolled by an enraged mammoth is unattractive to the other Stone Giants, so they content themselves, for now, with hurling stones at the ‘intruders’, who, while they might appear to be giants, and bears, are certainly not behaving like them.

Wary of Ragnar’s sword, the two harpies focus their attacks on Zendo, Gellius, and Corvus. Though they do not stop Gellius from sealing the gates with a wall of stone, their speed and dexterity prevent Corvus from burning them with his wand of scorching rays. Though Zendo’s music keeps the harpies from enchanting any more of them, and his magics lend his allies a burst of speed, both he and Corvus receive stunning kicks to the head, causing them to falter.

As his allies struggle below, Hikage finally stirs to full consciousness. Before he can act, however, his feathered foe smashes him with another series of painful kicks from her scaly, taloned feet and shins. Will the monk survive another round of such attacks"

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Stone giants in the Iron Peaks
Kuthona 28-29, 4707

That night, the heroes make camp in the Iron Hills. Gellius harnesses the forces of nature to create a magical glade sheltered against the freezing cold, and furnished with delicious berries and a spring of fresh water. Corvus creates a shelter composed of magical force to protect the sleeping heroes from the weather, and to shield them from prying eyes. Some of the men grumble a bit that the wizard ‘skimped’ on his camping spells, and did not summon his more luxurious shelter, equipped with furniture, beds, and a fireplace, but Corvus prepared more offensively powerful spells instead. Though the men have to bed down on the ground, they are at least warm and sheltered.

For reasons known only to himself, Gellius petitioned Gozreh for the ability to hide the campsite from detection, but neglects to do so. This lapse in judgement proves painfully wrong for the druid later. The men take up shifts for the night.

Late at night, while Ragnar is on watch, a dire bear hurls itself through the grove and into the light of the campfire. Ragnar quickly shouts to awaken his companions and draws his glowing greatsword to fight off the angry ursine, as another bear emerges from the darkness.

As Gellius and Hikage emerge from the magical shelter to aid Ragnar, they soon discover that the two bears are not the only threat. Another bear appears to attack the monk, and shouted commands in Giant (and hurled stones) reveal that Giants have found the campsite and are driving the bears to attack from the safety of the darkness.

Zendo summons dancing lights to reveal the giants, as Corvus (who has to remain within the shelter to maintain it) helps Ragnar and Gellius in quickly dispatching two of the bears, while Hikage holds off the third.

The stone giants quickly realize they are outmatched by the heroes, and split up to bring word to Mokmurian of the invaders. Hikage is delayed by one of the bears, but he and Gellius soon move to head off the retreat of one of the giants, though Gellius, already mauled by the bears, takes a heavy blow from the giant in return.

Ragnar moves to pursue the other giant, and Corvus paralyzes the fleeing giant, allowing Ragnar to easily finish him off after an initial altercation.

As Hikage, Gellius, and Zendo outmaneuver the other giant, they quickly strike him down, preventing him from fleeing and alerting the forces at Jorgenfist.

Most of the healing potions found on the Hill Giants of the Storval Stairs are consumed, as Gellius was badly injured by the fierce attacks of the bears, and he and Ragnar both took stout blows from giant clubs in closing to melee with the Stone Giants. With the use of the potions, and some magical healing from wands, though, the group is back to normal, and settles in for the rest of the night.

On the next morning, the men discuss their plans for entering Jorgenfist, based on the information from the Longtooth map. Corvus casts a spell which will allow him to teleport most of the party unerringly back here to the campsite, with the utterance of a phrase. The men debate circling around through the Iron Peaks to approach the Valley of the Black Tower from the Mushkali River, intending to explore the caverns on the cliffs in hopes of finding a ‘back door’ entrance to Jorgenfist, but the idea is shelved due to the uncertain chances of success and the uncertain amount of time involved.

Instead, it is decided that Corvus will use a powerful illusion to cloak himself and Ragnar (the only two speakers of Giantish in the party) as Stone Giants, and Zendo, Hikage, and Gellius as Cave Bears. Since the giant patrols seem to consist of two giants and three bears, perhaps this will allow the men to approach Jorgenfist unmolested. Corvus and Gellius also prepare many spells with which to enter the fortress, spells of flight, spider-climbing, warping wood, softening stone, and even walking through solid walls.

The plan is to pass by the watchtower and the giant camps, magically disguised as a guard patrol, and then to obtain entrance to the fortress by some means. This is the most uncertain part of the plan, as the nature of the gates, and their guards, is unknown, but an invisible Zendo, magically empowered to pass through the walls of the fort, should be able to unlock them from the inside.

Once inside, Gellius will create a wall of stone inside the fortress gates, making it impossible (or at least, very hard) for those within the walls of Jorgenfist to summon aid from without. According to the stone giants Zendo and Hikage questioned outside Sandpoint, the Black Tower is regarded as taboo by most of the Stone Giants, so, with any luck, there will be few giants willing to act as reinforcements.

Once inside Jorgenfist, the heroes plans are necessarily sketchy. There may be many giants to defeat, or perhaps, just a few guards. The map shows several buildings inside, but gives few indications of their nature. There are guard towers ringing the walls, and two low buildings within, as well as a large courtyard. A towering pyramidal spire rises well above the walls. Also, the Black Tower itself has been incorporated into the walls of Jorgenfist. The giants said that Mokmurian dwelled ‘beneath’ Jorgenfist, but that may indicate that he abides somewhere within the depths of the Black Tower itself, or in some chambers accessible through the deep pit at the center of Jorgenfist. Much will have to wait until the men are within.

After Corvus casts his spells, the men hurry onward toward the valley. Scrambling up the steep rise, they can see the entire Valley of the Black Tower from the trail. The wide valley is perched on the upper edges of a cliff overlooking the Muschkal River. Near the western edge of the valley, where the heroes are, a watchtower stands on a low hill. Despite being only two stories, the watchtower’s proportions are immense, and it could easily be a five-story building if scaled for humans.

The structure is overshadowed by the ring shaped stone fortress looming in the valley proper. A fifty foot stone circular wall surrounds several buildings, including a one hundred fifty foot tall stone spire, and three low buildings. Five ‘small’ towers, perhaps only seventy feet in height, are built int0 the fortress walls, with one being wider, and apparently serving as a gatehouse. Also built into the wall is a looming black tower with bladelike crenelations which overlooks the river gorge. This must be the Black Tower itself.

Within the valley are many signs of life. Seven large camps of towering tents, yurts, and stone shelters circle the walls of Jorgenfist at a distance. Smoke rises from campfires and the sounds of grating laughter and clashing weapons fill the air, competing with the trumpeting of large, angry animals from somewhere within the fortress. Gellius identifies them as mammoths.

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The Storval Stair
26-28 Kuthona, 4707

Having satisfied their curiosity, the heroes travel on across the lowland plains, toward the rise of the Storval Plateau, slowly becoming visible on the horizon. Their enchanted steeds travel swiftly across the cold grasslands, and by the setting of the sun, the plateau, as well as the drop in elevation that marks the Stair, is visible in the distance.

Mindful that their conjured horses would find the steep stone stairs quite difficult to navigate, the men camp for the night, ensconced in Corvus’s magically summoned hut, and protected from the weather by Gellius’ conjured grove.

On the morning of the 27th, the men break camp and hike the short distance to the Storval Stair. Up close, the massive architecture of the stairs are even more impressive. The ancient ruins at the base of the stairs lurk in the perpetual shadow of the monstrous cliffs known as the Storval Rise. The two-foot high and deep stairs form a fifty-foot-wide cleft cut deep into the cliff. Landings flanked by structures obscure the top of the stairs from the bottom.

Massive statues flank the stairs; they rise three hundred feet above the base of the stairs and proudly looking out over the surrounding countryside as if standing guard. Each statue holds an immense tome in one arm and a deadly looking glaive in the other. The men recognize these statues as representations of Runelord Karzoug.

On either side of the statues, buildings carved directly out of the cliff face rise from the valley floor. They rise nearly to the top of the plateau, four hundred feet above the valley floor. From a distance, Hikage and Zendo can see a lone sentinel standing guard on the second landing of the stairs. To be visible from this range, the guard must truly be a giant of some sort. Hikage can also see a rubble of stones piled at the edge of the landing, though for what purpose he does not know.

Corvus creates a sphere of invisibility to cloak the heroes, and they quickly approach the Stair on foot. As they get closer, the men can see that the guardian is a hill giant, and that the stones, rather than being a barricade, appear to be ammunition for the giant to throw down upon foes. The group carefully makes their way up the steep stone steps, pausing frequently to make sure that the giant does not hear their invisible passage. The men walk right by the guard, who does not notice them under the cloak of invisibility. Corvus leads the others into a large chamber on the landing, to investigate it, but their hastily whispered conversation is overheard by the giant.

The Hill Giant calls out “Who goes there?”, and looks around in agitation. Other hill giants appear from the huge chambers on the far side of the landing, questioning him in Giantish. Corvus decides that discretion is the better part of valor, and quickly directs the heroes to ascend the stairs and avoid the giants. However, as the men near the final landing before the top of the Stair, Corvus overhears something that makes him call a halt.

“You had better not have let anyone past, Grumtha. You know Mokmurian told us to take the Stair from the harpies and trolls and hold it. When the giants come to invade the lowlands, we had better be in control here.”

He and the others realize that the Hill Giants, rather than being an unexpected menace, or a wandering threat, are forward scouts, holding a key location for the expected invasion. The men, still cloaked by invisibility, quickly prepare to attack the hill giants below. Hikage sheds his invisibility by charging down the steps and pounding a giant with a fist of acidic fury, while Ragnar, who shed his invisibility early to try to deflect attention from the others, finds himself magically lifted into the air and brought within striking distance of one of the giants. More giants appear from within their chambers on the landing, but Gellius summons a huge air elemental which flies down to attack the giants with whirling fists of storm-clad fury. Corvus launches an immense fireball which burns many of the giants, as Hikage and Ragnar each kill their own. The unengaged giants respond with hurled rocks, while the others attempt to batter down the air elemental. Zendo magically sickens one of the giants, who is quickly dispatched by Ragnar, while the Air Elemental finishes off another. The last two remaining giants quickly flee from the combat, but Corvus blocks any avenue of escape with a Wall of Force while Ragnar, Hikage, Gellius, and the elemental finish them off.

The men are happy to discover that the giants, having evidently waylaid other travelers on the stairs, have several valuable trinkets, including a carved mammoth statue, a bejeweled eyepatch, a golden crown, and several useful healing potions. Inside a magical quiver are many arrows, some enchanted against the undead, and another with a powerful dweomer to slay monstrous humanoids. Feeling rewarded for their scrape (though only Gellius was actually even wounded by the surprised giants), the men climb the Stair and Corvus summons sturdy horses (rather than the phantasmal steeds of former days) to bear them across the plateau.

As the men move across the windswept Storval Plateau, the cold is accompanied by windblown ash, rather than snow. Consulting their maps, the heroes remember that the Plateau is bounded to the west by a region of active and dormant volcanoes. The terrain on the high plateau is no stranger than the wildlife, however, and the men see many unusual critters on their travels, including large ground squirrels and strange, hairy armadillos. A rising cloud of dust and ash signals the passage of a herd of cattle in the distance, but the men can see that these are no ordinary cows. Instead, the herd consists of several dozen of the massive, long-horned aurochs favored by the Shoanti plainsmen for their size and hardiness in the challenging environment. The men carefully skirt around the herd, while steadily traveling onwards towards the Iron Peaks visible to the north and east. The men make camp for the night in a rocky outcropping, protected from the wind and cold by Gellius’s grove and Corvus’s hut, and the night passes uneventfully.

On the 28th, the men wake up and break camp in the early morning, regretful to leave the warmth of their magically improved campsite, though Ragnar, who still has yet to even wrap himself in furs or a coat, seems little affected by the chill. Corvus summons more horses and the men mount up and ride off into the Iron Peaks. Travel is slow in the rocky hills, both due to the uneven terrain, and due to the lack of any roads or trails to follow. Gellius consults the map, as well as Ragnar’s compass, many times to maintain a course that seems most likely to bring them to the Valley of the Black Tower.

Around midday, the most alert members of the group can hear the hoofbeats of additional horses echoing through the rocky crags. It soon becomes apparent that the men are being shadowed, or at least, followed, by others on horseback. Not to be deterred, they ride on determined, but wary. Soon, a band of horsemen overtake them and confront them from a rise to the west. The riders are tall and muscular, with shaven heads and fierce warpaint. They are Shoanti, and call out to the men in their own tongue.

Fortunately, Corvus speaks passable Shoanti, and speaks to the riders, who are suspicious of a band of ‘lowlanders’ riding on the plateau. The horsemen are of the Shundar-Quah, or Spire Clan, and urge the men to turn back and return to their own lands. Corvus speaks to them in Shoanti for a space, but urges them to speak in Taldane, which they do, with a halting and strangely inflected accent.

Zendo and the others tell the Shoanti riders of their mission to ride to the Black Tower and avert the giant invasion. The riders know of the Black Tower, and name it taboo and accursed. The Shoanti are suspicious of the Lost Coast Avengers, and openly disparaging of their chances against the tribes of giants amassed in the valley. They feel that the men are here for some other purpose, and are likely to only anger the giants, who will vent their wrath on the tribes instead. The giants, normally hermitic and retiring, have been aggressive and unpredictable of late, and the Shoanti tell tales of raids and banditry they have suffered.

Zendo works hard to allay the suspicions of the tribal riders, telling them stories of the great deeds and mighty battles the Avengers have accomplished. He explains that the leader of the giants must be defeated, as the many giant tribes will not be unified without Mokmurian. He likens the task of the Avengers with the necessary defense of the tribes by their warriors and outriders, an analogy aptly, if unknowingly, chosen by the bard, as the Spire Clan is known amongst travelers and Shoanti for being the most vocal about the need to unify to strengthen and defend the Shoanti lands. Zendo even approaches the fierce horsemen and receives a scrap of leather with the Shundar-Quah clan markings upon it, as he offers to return any cattle taken by the giants to the tribes if possible.

Impressed by the mighty stories of the bard, and satisfied of their intentions, the riders allow the heroes to travel onward through the Iron Peaks without harm.

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Are we there yet? Or...Yes, more travel.
Kuthona 23-26, 4707

In addition to their ill-gotten loot, the ogre cattle rustlers were also well equipped with the now-familiar enchanted ogre hooks and hide armor common to the Kreeg leaders at Hook Mountain. Undoubtedly, some war-leader must be distributing such largesse to the ogres to sway them to his side. The large weapons and heavy armor make for poor treasure, due to their size, but the men resolve to lug them to Wolf’s Ear, at least, in the hopes of selling them there for some coin, at least.

Their phantasmal steeds carry them swiftly across the Lost Coast Road to the small town of Wolf’s Ear. Once a haven of lycanthropes, the humble town, half the size of Sandpoint, seems relatively normal now. The men take rooms at the Burned House, a strangely constructed inn which seems to be the only one in town. The inn’s common room is sunken into the ground, and the second story eaves rise scarcely six feet in the air. However, the inn seems hospitable enough, and the men enjoy a hot meal. Though Gellius unwisely discusses the ill-reputation of the town, earning some hostile glares, Hikage surprises everyone, even himself, by ingratiating himself with the taciturn bartender. The quiet tavernkeeper informs the monk of several notables in town who might have the coin, or magical goods, to barter for the ogres’s equipment, and agrees to pass a word to any patrons of their interest.

Indeed, the retired sheriff has a floppy, shapeless, but magical hat which he swears is enchanted to preserve the wearer from deadly head blows, and Corvus, on inspecting it, agrees to swap one of the vicious hooks for the chapeau. The current sheriff offers to trade an magical crossbow to the men, but none of the heroes can use the heavy, menacing weapon, save Ragnar, who is satisfied with his frost-burst bow. A suspicious looking character offers to barter a Ring of Rat Fangs, which he claims belonged to his mother. Zendo, wary of the story, is also wary of the deal, and dissuades the others. The undertaker offers the men a powerfully enchanted breastplate of blackened metal, but the armor in question seems unquestionably malevolent, as Corvus identifies it as being enchanted specifically to fight humans, and designed to assist evil cavaliers or Hellknights. Several of the town’s other ‘spare’ enchanted items seem to have similarly dark natures, and the men finally satisfy themselves with selling the ogres’ equipment off to a local merchant.

On the morning of the 24th, the men ride for Ravenmoor, and the day, for winter, is pleasant and warm, melting much of the accumulated snowfall. However, despite the warmer weather and their hellishly fast steeds, the men find themselves bereft of magical transportation short of the small town of Ravenmoor. Consulting their map, the heroes see that they can hike the remaining few miles on foot, but before they have crossed half the distance, they see a circle of wagons and a campfire beside the road. Strains of Varisian music drift through the air, and the men approach openly, offering greetings and reassurances.

Circled around a large fire are four gaily-painted caravan wagons, and seven Varisian nomads, bundled up against the night-time chill. One of the women picks up her viol and resumes her music, and Zendo encourages a bookish looking girl to stand and dance with him. After the music fades, he plucks his own flute from his satchel and plays a sprightly tune of his own. The Varisians invite the strangers to share their fire, and their food, and Zendo, searching for a generous offer in return, recalls the barrel of brandy, magicked to a portable size. Corvus dispels the enchantment, to the amazement and delight of the wanderers!

Soon, there is much merriment around the campfire, and the brandy makes everyone feel, at least, much warmer. The Varisians tell the men of their good fortune in meeting them here on the road, as the superstitious villagers of Ravenmoor, though welcoming enough by day, do not admit strangers into their homes or inns after nightfall. The heroes are puzzled by the strange local custom, but the wanderers assure them that such pious, if rural folk, have many odd beliefs. The travelers are astounded to find themselves in the company of the famed Lost Coast Avengers, and are much impressed by Zendo’s tales of their derring-do. Impressed, that is, until Zendo reveals the grave threat amassing on the Storval Plateau. The Varisians, on their way to Riddleport, express great consternation about the news that the Stone Giants are massing for war and invasion. Though Gellius attempts to reassure them, and Zendo tells them of the plan to ‘behead’ the invasion, the gypsies are sorely shaken by the news, and the evening’s revelry comes to a subdued, somber close.

On the 25th, the men take their leave of the Varisians, who are turning off the Kaspakari Trail to follow the Cyrusbakari Trail, or Cinder Road, towards Riddleport to sell their wares of scrolls and oddments. The men make their way through the small town of Ravenmoor, and thence onward across the trackless plains of the Varisian lowlands. Armed with their map, Ragnar’s compass, and Gellius’s keen instincts, the men ride confidently across the plain. After all, how hard can it be to miss a 1000 foot tall plateau?

As they ride across the dry grasslands, they become aware of a gathering of crows and ravens on the horizon. Gellius warns them that the scavenging birds are likely drawn to a site of the dead or dying. Caution prompts the men to be wary, and Gellius shifts into a crow himself to scout out the environs more subtly. He returns and informs the others that a bloody battlefield lies ahead. Forewarned, the men explore, as the black birds scatter in alarm. Giants have evidently waylaid travelers here, as the shattered ruins of two wagons lie strewn across the grass. The gruesomely smashed bodies of several humans provide mute testimony to the savage power of stone clubs. The wagons, and bodies, appear to have been torn apart, partly in fury, and partly in a search for valuables.

Examining the tracks, it appears to Gellius that the wagons had been traveling southward, from the direction the men are headed, when they were overtaken by a band of giant sweeping in from the east. The giants appear to have made off westward, though the conflict lay several days in the past. The men can do little for the victims, and resolve to press onward, until Ragnar suggests that they honor the dead in some fashion. Burial is customary among Varisians, but none of the men has a shovel, so the heroes gather the scattered wood of the wagons and burn the remains in the Ulfen fashion. After this grim task, the heroes remount and ride onward.

On the 26th, the heroes break camp early and continue across the cold lowlands towards the Storval Plateau. Around mid-day, Hikage espies a strange, low mound in the distance. It looks incongruous on the open plains. The men ride toward the mound, and they can see that it appears to be a low mound of stones, stacked in a rough oval, perhaps 10 feet in length, and rising perhaps 5 feet at the highest point. Cautious examination of the mound reveals little, and the heroes are preparing to ride onward, when snatches of song drift towards them on the wind. Looking across the windswept plain, the men see winged humanoids flying towards them at speed. The air is soon filled with a strange, hypnotic song, and all of the heroes feel the urge to approach the singer, but each fights it off.

Zendo lifts his flute to his lips and begins a counter-melody, disrupting the enchanting song, and the men soon see that three harpies are approaching them, weapons clutched in taloned arms and with murderous intent. With their enthralling song neutralized by the bard, however, the vicious harpies prove to be little threat. Ragnar slays one with a deadly shot from his bow, the freezing cold magics sending her tumbling from the sky. Hikage waits patiently for the winged menaces to approach, though Corvus wounds one with a rain of magic missiles and Gellius shocks another with a bolt of lightning. However, the monk’s patience proves fruitless, as Ragnar’s archery picks off first the harpy wounded by Corvus, and then the other, before either can land a blow.

Searching the foul bodies of the feral harpies, the men find several unexpected trinkets: diamond earrings, a sapphire pendant, and an anklet of tiny gemstone charms, as well as two bottles of strange, but non-magical liquids. Zendo identifies the golden-hued one as perfume, and claims it, though he cannot identify the other, which is purplish in color.

Perhaps stirred by the looting of the harpies, the men turn to the stone mound, removing several stones to explore the interior. However, the mound is revealed to be a cairn for the body of a stone giant, torn in many places with deep gashes, much too large for the claws of the harpies. What killed the giant, here on the plains? Was it the ‘landshark’ which Ilsoari Gandethus warned them of in Sandpoint?

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Elves, Goblins, and Ogres
Kuthona 20-23

All of the other heroes sensibly go to bed, but Zendo stays up, braving the cold winds of the evening to stand watch over Rynshinn’s house from the back stoop of the Rusty Dragon. For several hours, he fears that his vigil may prove pointless, but, well after midnight, he notices a cloaked figure stealthily creeping down the narrow alley. Zendo quickly hides out of sight, and listens carefully. He can hear a magical incantation, though he does not recognize the spell, and hears a dry creaking sound, like a wooden door or hatch being opened. Chancing a furtive glance, Zendo sees the figure clutching a package wrapped in green in one hand, as he stands beneath an opened shutter on the second floor of Vernah’s Place. The mysterious figure conjures up a minor magical hand to waft the package through the window, which does not set off the alarm spell placed there by Corvus earlier.

Zendo steps out from the shadows, arms spread in a calming gesture, and magically sends his voice to the hooded stranger, asking only to speak to him. The tall wanderer utters a surprised curse in Elven, and quickly casts a spell to shut the window, before fleeing around the corner. Zendo gives chase, but uses his Message spell to assure the gift-giver that he means no harm. The two run through the streets of town for a length, before Zendo falls back and gives the fleeing stranger room to breathe. The stranger flees out of sight, but stays within range of Zendo’s spell. He implores Zendo to mind his own business, but the bard convinces him that Rynshinn’s well-being is his concern.

The elf identifies himself only as Irethellion, ‘friend’ to Erevestor, Rynshinn’s father. Zendo recognizes the significance of the Elven word for ‘friend’, as indicating a rarer, stronger bond, than the common terms of companion, compatriot, or colleague. Irethellion indicates that Rynshinn’s father had tasked him with these deliveries of presents before his death. The elf resists discussing the rationale for them with Zendo, insisting that ignorance of the motive was better, and safer, for all. When Zendo presses him, as much from concern about the need for secrecy as from curiousity, Irethellion relents somewhat. The elf admits that though the presents are, of course, a token of fatherly love, the mysterious method of their delivery has its own motive. Rynshinn, as a half-elf, is a child of two peoples, and may seek to contact her elven family in the Mierani Forest. The elves there, however, reject all outsiders, with only the outlying villages of Amerasil and Crying Leaf even vaguely welcoming to non-natives. However, it appears that Erevestor feared more than just hurtful rejection for his daughter. Irethellion refuses to be specific, but insists that dark, malevolent forces stir fitfully within the forests of the Elves, and Erevestor and any of his line would do well to avoid their notice. Zendo tries to press him for more information, but the elven stranger refuses to say more, noting only that any warning he might give would come too late. By delivering these gifts in such a mysterious fashion, Erevestor hoped that his daughter might cherish his memory, but also feel compelled to remain here in Sandpoint, where the presents appeared. Zendo resolves to keep the nature of the birthday presents a secret from Rynshinn, as he is satisfied that the taciturn elf truly means her no harm.

On the morn, Zendo sleeps a bit late (and forgets to present Rynshinn with any present!), but accompanies Corvus, Hikage, and Gellius to Magnimar to retrieve their enchanted equipment. Ragnar stays in Sandpoint, preparing their gear and supplies, and, evidenced by the lack of any uproar, keeps out of trouble. The men debate about staying in town for the winter solstice, to celebrate the Ritual of Stardust. Under the full moon, Desnans feast and light bonfires. As the fires burn low, faithful followers of Desna toss sand and powdered gemstones into the embers and make vows of love and friendship, or resolutions to travel, believing that the twinkling sparks indicate Desna has witnessed their vows. Zendo and Gellius, perhaps for romantic reasons, suggest that the heroes might tarry another day, leaving on the 22nd, but Hikage sees no time for such foolishness, and Ragnar, though not precisely agreeing with the monk, feels that the less time for giants to amass under Mokmurian’s banner, the better.

Thus, on a cold morning on the 21st, the men assemble outside the Rusty Dragon with their weapons and gear. Corvus summons five shadowy black steeds from thin air, and the heroes gallop away from Sandpoint. The phantom steeds are devilishly quick, tearing across the Lost Coast Road toward Windsong Abbey far faster than any mortal horses. Though the spell does not last many hours, Corvus can quickly recast it when the spectral forces begin to dissipate.

A few hours from town, the heroes are ‘ambushed’ by a gang of goblins clad in tattered furs of dog, cat, hare, and squirrel. “We be the Dogkiller Tribe! Give us your stuff and flee with your lives!”, shouts the evident leader of the goblins. The band of goblins unleash a pitiful spray of poorly aimed arrows, and several of the more eager goblins advance on the men with gleeful malice. Hikage dismounts and strikes one unconscious, while another goblin grabs at Corvus’s wand when he attempts to incinerate the little monster. Zendo dismounts, but Gellius getures and unleashes a coruscating bolt of lightning, which leaps from goblin to goblin, incinerating eight of them entirely. Zendo stabs the one which thought to flank him, and Ragnar absently slices the one ‘menacing’ Corvus apart before riding down the last, frantically fleeing goblin.

The heroes ride on the rest of the way to Windsong Abbey without interruptions. They arrive at the abbey late in the afternoon, and are welcomed into the massive stone structure by several of the novices and acolytes. All of the men make a donation for the use of one of the abbey’s many empty cells, as the monumental structure is largely, eerily empty. The strong winds off the Varisian Gulf blow through the halls and columns of the cathedral, filling the air with music that echoes mournfully through the empty halls. Though constructed centuries ago as a place for the devout of all religions to gather, Windsong Abbey’s purpose has been neglected in the years since Aroden’s death, and the Age of Lost Omens seems to have consigned it to a fitful twilight. Still, the chambers are warmer and drier than the ground outside, and the heroes sleep well, though Zendo hopes that Rynshinn makes use of the powdered gemstones he gave her that morning.

In the morning of the 22nd, Gellius warns the others that there will be snowfall today, but fortunately, the shadow horses move as swiftly over the accumulating snow as they do over the bare trail. The heroes ride for Galduria today despite the cold and snow. A little after noon, they come across an immense, abandoned campsite, and stop to examine it. Huge boulders have been rolled together to form a firepit, and the charred remains of an aurochs is spitted on a log. Giants have clearly been here, though Ragnar says the coals are cold and damp, and the falling snow has covered any tracks. Whatever giants were here have evidently quitted their camp early in the morning, and, though the heroes are vigilant, they see no further signs of giant activity. In Galduria, the town is bustling, despite the cold, and the men take rooms at the Hollow Leg. The owner’s shaggy hounds fill the common room, and are evidently tolerated by the patrons for their warmth, despite their doggy manners. Speaking with some of the farmers and loggers in the tavern, the men find that ‘giant sightings’ are the talk of the town. Though no one claims to have seen one anywhere nearby, everyone has a story of missing livestock, crushed chicken coops, uprooted traps, or nocturnal footfalls to tell. Some of the patrons say that wagons and lone travelers have gone missing as well. Despite the presence of the Twilight Academy in the small town, Corvus proves quite the homebody tonight, and seems satisfied to remain at the inn.

On the 23rd, the men prepare to ride for Wolf’s Ear. The small town, located at the crux of the Lost Coast and Cinder roads, was once a haven for lycanthropes, but was purged with fire and steel many years ago. Now, only a very foolish, or very brazen, man would talk of werewolves in Wolf’s Ear. As the men ride across the snowy countryside, they hear the panicked lowing of cattle in the distance. Gellius, listening closely, can tell that a few of the smaller, local cattle, are being disturbed, but sound as if they are trapped or confined. The men decide to cut off the road to investigate, and, as they crest a rise, they see three ogres striding through the snow. Two clutch a cow under one arm, and a chest or barrel under the other, while the central ogre carries two barrels.

The men offer the ogres a quick chance to surrender their goods, but the oafish brutes brazenly claim to own the cattle and barrels by rights. Sighing, Hikage moves to engage them as the ogres prepare for a fight. Corvus hurls a blast of fire at the ogres, burning the two slower ones, and setting two of the barrels aflame in bursts of blue fire. So much for the brandy they contained. Hikage and Ragnar quickly finish off one ogre, though the Ulfen catches a nasty slash from its hook before he can kill it. Gellius summons a wooly rhinoceros to defend himself and Corvus, but one of the ogres, evidently a bit irritated about being burned, charges past the beast and badly injured Gellius. Concerned (either about the druid, or about an ogre with a hook), Corvus spears the monster with a green ray of disintegration, which badly injures the ogre, before the Rhino circles around and finishes him off. Before Ragnar can even close with the last of the ogres, Hikage leaps towards the blistered giant and strikes him dead with a flurry of powerful blows.

Searching the ogres reveals that, like their kin among the Kreegs, these fighters were well equipped with magical armor and weapons, and their remaining loot consists of a barrel of brandy and a large chest of silver coins. The men decide to distribute the coins among them, but puzzle over what to do with the barrel of brandy, which easily weighs 300 pounds, until Corvus remembers that he prepared a spell for this type of situation and transforms the barrel into a small, cloth replica of a barrel, much lighter and easier to carry!

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Winter Week and Ascendance Day
9-20 Kuthona, 4707

On the 9th of Kuthona, the people of Sandpoint gingerly resume their Winter Week festivities. Gellius spends time recovering and visiting with his paramour Boudra Fullona, who is happy to have the hero calling on her family during Winter Week. Corvus buries himself in the study of Barl Breakbones‘s grimoire, mastering a necromantic spell which requires a section of the leathery wing of the defeated Longtooth. Ragnar helps him fetch the morbid component, then browbeats several of the townsfolk into helping him drag the dragon’s corpse through town to Lars Rovanky. He surprises the tanner by ordering him to prepare the dragon’s hide to be made into armor.

The leathery scrap of hide allows Corvus to magically create a map of the Valley of the Black Tower, revealing not only Jorgenfist itself, but also a cavern in the nearby hills, and a deep pit in the earth inside the fortress, each noted by the dragon as being a great source of wealth. Hikage, Zendo, and Shalelu arrive back in town late in the evening, to much acclaim, though it seems like more than a few townsfolk might have been willing to see them arrive back without Titus Scarnetti. Corvus misses much of the activity with his head buried in a giant’s spellbook.

The next day, aptly named Toilday, sees Corvus teleport Hikage back to Turtleback Ferry, to fulfill the vow the monk had given to Myriana. Zendo and Gellius also decide to accompany them. Mayor Maelin Shreed and many of the townsfolk seem quite glad to see them, though it is possible to detect a tiny bit of disappointment from Tillia Henkenson, who might have been looking for Ragnar. Wenda Leenee is surprised, but quite willing to purchase most of the men’s horses and tack, but Zendo does take some time to find a trustworthy-looking fellow to wrangle Trencher, Strawberry, and Caramel, his own horse, back to Sandpoint, at no little expense.

Bringing a druid along proves helpful, as Gellius summons three giant eagles to carry his companions across Claybottom Lake and into the depths of the Shimmerglens. Rather than having to pole carefully across the cold, haunted swamps, the men can quickly land in the depths of Whitewillow. All three are careful to avert their eyes as Myriana appears from her lifeless glade, with little hope in her dead eyes. Hikage thrusts the dessicated hand of Lamatar Bayden into her disembodied grasp, and angrily commands her to depart this world and remove her pain and suffering from the wilds. More tactfully, Zendo presents the ghostly nymph with Lamatar’s love sonnets, and the golden locket, which contained a strand of her hair.

Myriana takes no offence at Hikage’s outburst, but only looks at him sadly. “Your intention is honorable, but I see in you someone who knows little of loss, or despair. Pain and suffering always poison the world around them, though perhaps not so visibly as my own grief.” She turns to Zendo and, despite himself, he finds his gaze drawn not to her hideously mangled limbs, but to her sad face.

“Perhaps you can remember me, not for my suffering, but for my love. I loved Lamatar with all my heart, and all my soul. Though my heart was taken from me, I give my soul now, so that he might live again. I sense that his tortures in the pits of the earth might change his features, but tell him to live again.”

With those words, she summons powerful magics which whip at her form, causing it to dissipate like mist in the winds. When she has faded from view, the spectral cold gripping the swamp has dissipated, and the men see a confused dwarf standing on the other side of the glen. The dwarf looks at his hands, then his beard, in confusion, then looks around him at the glen, as if seeing it from a new perspective. He clutches at his chest and collapses to his knees, tears streaming from his eyes.

“Your life for mine!” he cries. “Not a sacrifice I would have wished.” Lamatar Bayden wipes his eyes and stands up before you. “I cannot dishonor her sacrifice, nor your service, Kibagami Hikage. My service with the Black Arrows was unto death, and I have done my service. Now I can live again, and Whitewillow is in need of a protector. Dwarves may be creatures of earth and stone, but they are born of honor and duty as well. I will do my duty, and honor my love. Go with my thanks.”

Meanwhile, back in Sandpoint, Ragnar is making the most of being the only ‘Hero of Sandpoint’ in town. Though Shayliss Vinder proved resistant to his charms on many previous occasions, the voluptuous redhead only protests slightly when he strides into the Sandpoint General Store, hefts her over one shoulder, and carries her bodily out the door. Ven Vinder starts to growl, but a quick elbow from his wife, Solsta, quickly stops him. “It might be good for business, having a hero for a son-in-law. Besides, you saw what he did to that dragon.” Ragnar carries Shayliss down Water Street, through the bustling crowds at the Sandpoint Market, and across Market Street to the Rusty Dragon. “No boy in town will even look at me now that you’ve done this,” she protests. “They’ll all be afraid of making the dragonslayer angry.”

The 11th of Kuthona is Ascension Day, celebrating Cayden Cailean’s passing of the Test of the Starstone,.. Drinking and revelry is the order of the day, though several of the heroes will be doing their partying in Magnimar rather than Sandpoint. Recently returned from Turtleback Ferry, Corvus intends to teleport into Magnimar today, as there is little time for the Avengers to divest themselves of their hoard of magic and treasure and pay for enchantments in the metropolis. Hikage accompanies him, as he intends on visiting the Kibagami household for Winter Week, and is not likely to celebrate in any drunken revelry. Zendo also accompanies the young wizard, though not to visit family. Neither of the two others is an astute bargainer, and, in addition, they need to make a report to the wily mayor of Magnimar, Haldmeer Grobaras. Better that a silver-tongued devil like himself should go.

In Sandpoint, Gellius enjoys too much wine (and a little romance) with Boudra. Ragnar, on the other hand, drags a not-entirely reluctant Shayliss on a drinking trek across the bars and taverns of Sandpoint, starting at the Two Knight Brewery. From there, the raucous crowd proceeds to the Rusty Dragon, then the Fatman’s Feedbag, and the Hagfish. Most of the drinkers are a bit tipsy by that point, but the determined partiers trek up Main Street to Cracktooth’s Tavern, before a long walk to the White Deer Inn. Almost all of the revelers are quite inebriated by this point (and some a little sick), but a few hardy souls insist on completing the rounds by visiting the small, out of the way, Risa’s Place. Risa and the other Margravi’s might have been expecting the small crowd of drunkards, but no one was expecting Ragnar to propose a swim from Tanner’s Bridge to the Hagfish. Few of the tipsy revelers seem eager to take a dunk in the ice-cold waters of the river, but some merciless taunting from Shayliss gets several embarrassed men to agree to the bet. The freezing cold water sobers up most of the ‘competitors’ quickly, and they rapidly crawl out onto the river banks. Ragnar actually swims all the way to the Hagfish and staggers out of the water onto the docks, startling several late-night drunks .

Hikage visits his family, as he is normally a tea-totaler, and Corvus goes drinking with Zendo after making several different financial arrangements in town. Zendo gives a rousing story of the rescue of Fort Rannick and the Harrowing of the Hook, as well as the Saving of Sandpoint, amazing the patrons of the tavern, while Corvus encounters a slightly tipsy elven illusionist who agrees to let him ‘peek at her spellbook’.

On the 12th, Zendo and the others speak to the Lord Mayor, describing their resolution of the situation at Turtleback Ferry. They inform him of their suspicions, and suggest the Mayor should alert his patrols and scouts to be on the lookout for giant activity. Grobaras seems surprised that any giant could be so ambitious as to even think of storming the Varisian lowlands, but he does question the men closely about their information. He seems most interested in the motivations of Mokmurian and Lucretia, and what common goals could unite such disparate folk.

Zendo informs the Mayor about Fort Rannick’s dire need of fresh troops, and the Lord Mayor informs them that, this being Oathday, the Justice Court is swearing in a new cadre of conscripts. He suggests that the Avengers might address the criminals and ne-er-do-wells that the court has sentenced to service among the Black Arrows. To their surprise, Orik Vancaskerkin is among the men who are taking up the oath, rather than serving a sentence in jail. Zendo is pleased to see the matter-of-fact fighter, but Hikage, remembering the sting of Orik’s blade, is considerably less pleased. The bard speaks privately to Orik, giving him encouragement, and urging him to apply himself among the rangers. Then he steps back and addresses the entire assembly. Playing on the growing fame of the Lost Coast Avengers, Zendo congratulates the men on their choice to better themselves, and inspires them with the possibilities for bravery and exploration among the Black Arrows.

Jyronn Imikar, the high priest of Abadar, will take ownership of the Phylactery of Positive Channelling, paying them a great deal for it, while a swarthy group of Keleshites purchase most of the ogre hide armors and ogre hooks. Nareed Wadincoast purchases the Vicious trident of “Wet Papa” Grazuul, and Sheila Heidmarch pays for the Impaler of Thorns, as well as the Sihedron Medallion of the mummified giant, on behalf of interested parties in the Pathfinder Society. Many of the lesser magical items and valuables are sold to various dealers within Magnimar, though Corvus retains the giant half-plate armor to sell to Vorvashali Voon in Sandpoint.

Gellius takes Boudra to visit his family at their farm outside Sandpoint for the rest of Winter Week. Though it isn’t too far to travel on foot, Gellius decides to impress his girlfriend by summoning great eagles to transport them through the air.

On the 13th of Kuthona, Winter Week is in full swing. Ragnar visits with Ameiko Kaijitsuat the Rusty Dragon, as each of them has no family to visit any longer. Ameiko reveals that she is having trouble making ends meet at the Glassworks, as she has had a lot of trouble getting needed supplies from her dealers in Magnimar. As Shayliss is spending time with her father and mother, Ragnar makes a quick pass at the attractive bard, but she turns him down.

“Despite your incomprehensible resistance to my manly charms, I swear I will get to the bottom of this mercantile mystery for you.”

“What do you know about business?”

“Which one of us is sleeping with the daughter of the owner of the General Store?”

On the 14th, Starday marks the end of Winter Week. That evening, Gellius and Boudra fly back into town, and Zendo, Corvus, and Hikage magically teleport back to the Rusty Dragon. Most of their magical gear is not yet ready, so they will have to depend on Corvus to ferry them back to Magnimar at least one more time. Given that Zendo is at the Rusty Dragon on a cold, wintery Starday, he chills them with a harrowing tale of the depraved Grauls and the brutal Kreegs, enthralling the small crowd with the many threats and perils faced by the Avengers.

On Sunday, the 15th, some of the heroes to go to the Cathedral for worship. Gellius casts Stone Tell on the block of stone retrieved from the Old Lighthouse, now that all of the heroes are reunited. Corvus invites Brodert Quink to ‘attend’, as the sage would be most interested in the results.

The stone reveals that it has lain in place for nearly ten thousand years , but prior to that, it had been part of the construction of the Hellstorm Flume. The Flume was a titanic war machine constructed on this spot to defend the eastern borders of Runelord Alaznist’s realm of Bakrakhan, from potential invasion by the forces of Runelord Karzoug, whose realm bordered hers. The Flume rose over seven hundred feet into the air, and was capable of hurling sorcerous flames dozens of miles. The Flume itself was part of a larger structure constructed on the site by enslaved giants. Most of the structure lies below in ruins. Ten thousand years ago, stones rained from the sky, damaging the structure, but then, a massive quake shook the earth and tumbled much of the surrounding lands down, where they were swallowed by waters. The inhabitants of the Flume who were not killed by the cataclysm or the resulting devastation, fled from the wrath of the roused giants or surviving forces of Shalast. The last commander of the Hellstorm Flume was a Thassilonian known as Xaliasa.

The stone, having been separated from the structure of the “Old Light” for ten thousand years, can say little of the current state of the structures beneath the crumbling tower, though it knows that many collapsed during the great catacysm. It does not recognize the name of Mokmurian at all. Corvus asks about the activation of the Flume’s sorcery, and, though the stone gives a thorough description, the arcane and cryptic details of the procedure leave the wizard confused.

The heroes are confused by the telling of the stone, though Brodert Quink is elated. His theories, so long ridiculed by other scholars, have proven in the main correct! The Old Light is indeed no lighthouse, and has stood here for ten thousand years, no less. However, Corvus and the others still have many questions. If the Hellstorm Flumes were intended to defend the borders of Bakrakhan, then where are the ruins of the other towers? What information did Mokmurian seek here? Did the giant seek to reactivate the Flume? Is there something of value still hidden in the collapsed catacombs beneath Sandpoint?

On the 16th, a cold, snowy Moonday, the men have a much better idea of where they are headed, and decide to talk to Vesnutt Parooh for more information about the Storval Stairs, the Mushkali River, and the Valley of the Black Tower. He suggests that they all meet at the Curious Goblin, as Ilsoari Gandethus and Chask Haladan, or Sabyl Sorn, who all meet there to read books, might have some information as well. Vesnutt tells them a little about the geography of the Iron Peaks, and gives them several useful suggestions for how to traverse the rugged terrain, favoring the use of the ancient Storval Stairs. Chask Haladan and Sabyl recall some old traveler’s journals about the Black Tower itself, a grim, forbidding structure of angular black stone in a forlorn valley. Parooh admits that the ’dragon’s map’ bears little resemblance to the singular structure of the Black Tower, but verifies that the location near a cliff overlooking the Mushkali River is almost certainly the same. Ilsoari cautions the men about the proud, warlike Shoanti tribes that live on the Plateau, and offers a simple maxim: “They grow them big on the Plateau.” Giant lizards, huge aurochs, and giant ants are all common there, as well as a constant threat of wyvern attacks. In particular, he warns the men about the ‘land shark’, a voracious, tunnelling predator which almost sounds like a folk tale, until Gellius confirms that the beasts are indeed, known to live on the plateau, feeding on the cattle, as well as unwary travelers.

As well, Corvus visits Vorvashalli Voon to sell the gargantuan half-plate armor, and Ragnar flirts idly with Savah Bevaniky when they sell her several masterwork weapons. Zendo takes the lead when the group sells off a lot of jewelry to Maever Kesk, at his shop.

On the 17th, Gellius decides that Wealday would be an auspicious day for a Harrowing. The druid knows Madame Mvashti is the most prominent practitioner of the ancient divination, so the druid asks Zendo, a fellow Varisian, to request an audience with the wizened soothsayer. Madame Mvashti refuses payment for the harrowing, viewing it as payment for services rendered to the town itself.

Gellius selects a card for his Choosing, and is aghast to have selected The Lost, an ominous card depicting a twisted undead figure roaming a land of insanity. She explains that the cards know that Gellius comes seeking wisdom, and the bodak roams in madness. For those under the influence of this card, the world makes no sense, but the harrowing may reveal a meaning to him.

She then lays out a spread of nine cards. First, she reveals the cards relating to the past, including the Tyrant, the Locksmith, and the Tangled Briar. The Tyrant, she explains, is misaligned, and indicates, in the past, a cruel ruler was overthrown or defeated. However, the Tangled Briar is powerfully aligned, indeed, aligned as strongly as possible. The Tangled Briar is a card of ancient deeds, and indicates that a person, or object, from long ago, will have a malevolent influence on the present, or future. The Locksmith represents a strange or magical object, here, one in or from the past, which grants access to a location, or treasure.

Then, Mvashti reveals the cards influencing Gellius at the present, which are the Uprising, the Empty Throne, and the Rakshasa. The Uprising represents Gellius is in the clutches of something more powerful than himself, while the Empty Throne, which signifies loss, also tells Gellius that those who are gone will always be with us. The ghosts of the past, if they can be appeased, can teach him valuable lessons. Being a card of wisdom, like the Lost, this card is particularly important for him to keep in mind. The Rakshasa is a card of domination, and the cruel beast seated upon a slave indicates that an exterior force has enslaved other beings, either physically, or through mental enslavement.

Finally, Madame Mvashti turns over the cards which foretell the potential future. Most disturbing to Gellius, these cards include the Eclipse and the Waxworks, though the Queen Mother is also present. The ancient Varisian seer reassures Gellius that the Eclipse is powerfully misaligned, in direct opposition to its traditional alignment. This card is another card of wisdom, so its message is particularly important. Misaligned in this way, the normally inauspicious Eclipse instead augurs that a concealed or lost location may be revealed. The Queen Mother personifies wisdom, so this card, too, is particularly relevant. The Queen Mother does not share her wisdom freely to those who do not show her deference. In order t obtain wisdom, Gellius may have to join a society, or bow to the dictates of another, or an order. Most ominously to her, the Waxworks is powerfully aligned, located in the precisely ordained location. A place of great horror and suffering, a place of helplessness and entropy, lies in the future, as well. It may be averted with wisdom, or perhaps, the wise must brave it to save others.

The 19th is Ragnar’s birthday, which the Ulfen celebrates in an unexpected fashion, by dressing up in the elegant attire he has not worn since his visit to the Lord-Mayor’s home, and wearing his impressive golden torc and massive silver arm band. He takes Shayliss (in the green silk dress and jewelry he has given her) to an expensive seafood dinner at the White Deer. The men surprise him with a bottle of Oldlaw Whiskey, which the gruff fighter gratefully accepts, though he does not take such strong liquor to share with his dinner date.

Rynshinn Povalli‘s birthday is the next day, and Zendo knows that a package of presents always appears for her in her home overnight. He quickly inveigles Corvus to cast a magical spell over Rynshinn’s home, which will sound an alarm if anyone intrudes. Zendo sets himself as guard in the rear entrance to the Rusty Dragon, waiting fo rany sign of his paramour’s mysterious benefactor.

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A monk, a bard, and a ranger walk into a forest...
8 Kuthona, 4707

The men quickly gather to confer in the midst of town, as Ragnar and Corvus search the corpse of Longtooth for clues and loot, finding little in the way of clues, but several pieces of valuable jewelry and a magical ring. Given the injured state of both Ragnar and Gellius, the two men decide to stay behind in town with Corvus, who is still concerned with what Teraktinus wanted with a stone from the ruins of the Old Light.

Zendo and HIkage quickly recruit their reliable guide, Shalelu, who agrees to help them track the giants. Though they might travel faster on horseback, the elven ranger admits that it would be very difficult for her to track even giants from the back of a horse. She needs to be close to the ground to read the signs accurately, though she assures the two men that she will do her best not to slow them down.

The three set out from Sandpoint. At first, following the trail is difficult, as the Giants, though they have taken a wagon, are following along the Lost Coast Road, making it hard to distinguish the signs of their passage from all the routine travel along the route. However, a few miles from town, the giants have left the road, making their passage much clearer over the hills and fields. Shalelu has to press on tracking the giants, as the raiders not only have a head start, but were capable of moving much faster than the three heroes, at least on the surface of the Lost Coast Road. Hopefully, passing through the fields and woods around Sandpoint will slow them down somewhat.

Zendo makes the decision to press onward even as darkness sets. He and Shalelu can see quite well in the fading light, despite the lack of a moon, and it seems to be the only way to catch up with the giants tonight. Though it takes many hours, the three are undaunted. As the men move deeper into the woods, they can hear the giants ahead.

Quickly, Zendo and Hikage decide to engage the giants while Shalelu pincushions them with arrows from the rear, “as she’s not that strong in combat,” explains Zendo, a tad patronizingly. A bit irritated, Shalelu unleashes a spell and entangles the Giants in a thorny knotwork of vines. Though the vines are not strong enough to immobilize the giants, both of the raiders are greatly hindered by them. As Zendo and Hikage move into position, Shalelu peppers one of the giants with Sleep Arrows, which sap his energy. Hikage moves into position to strike one giant down, but underestimates their speed and reach, and is nearly knocked senseless by a stout blow from a stone club. Any further attacks from Hikage will be carefully delivered, and accompanied by an immediate retreat from reprisals. Zendo plies his rapier as Shalelu continues to sink arrow after arrow into the giants’ flinty hides. The second giant is enraged by Zendo’s attacks and lands a series of hard hits to the half-elven bard, nearly knocking him unconscious, but the bard and monk are finally able to subdue both giants, as each was greatly weakened by the sleep arrows and their previous confrontation with Gellius.

Zendo nearly exhausts the last of the energies of his healing wand in treating himself and Hikage, and Shalelu steps in to offer her own assistance as well. Though neither of the men feels back to normal, no longer will a stray punch knock them out. Searching the wagon, Hikage finds Titus and Andronicus Scarnetti, as well as two of their servants, piled into the leather bags of the giants. As well, the cart contains a teak desk with gold and silver inlays, barrels of olive oil and brandy, several fine silk tapestries, and a small chest containing ornate silverware.

Zendo depletes his wand healing the four Sandpoint residents back into consciousness. All are surprised to be rescued, and dismayed at being so far from town on a cold, wintry night. Shalelu uses a magical bead to create a campfire, and she, Zendo, and Hikage share their blankets with the battered survivors. Titus Scarnetti, though thankful, also seems to be furious that a more comprehensive rescue attempt was not mounted, and more than a bit astounded at the lack of preparation on the part of his rescuers. “No rope? No horses? Not even a tent?” His son quickly quiets him down, and the irritated glare of Hikage and Zendo’s explanations of his comrade’s injuries, soon change his tone. When he learns that Gellius nearly died in driving off the giants from his manor house, Titus thanks the men more formally, and promises to contribute a thousand gold pieces to help fund their quests.

There is a good bit of discussion about what to do with the unconscious giants, particularly once Hikage confirms that both are branded with the Sihedron rune like the others. Titus is all for killing them immediately, while Shalelu expresses her unease with slaughtering unconscious foes. Zendo admits that he dislikes the option, but their lack of rope prevents him from considering taking the giants captive safely. He suggests searching the cart, in case the giants have any rope, and Titus quickly orders his servants to assist them, cautioning the two about the delicate nature and provenance of his valuable belongings. He seems quite concerned about the proper treatment of his desk and tapestries, and very indignant about the greed of the giants.

When the group is satisfied that there is no good way to tie up the giants, they reach a compromise. The Scarnettis and their servants will take shelter behind the cart, and Hikage and Zendo will retrieve the weapons of the prone, unconscious giants, while Shalelu covers them from a distance with her bow. When they begin to wake, Zendo will warn the giants to avoid making any sudden or threatening moves. If either giant reaches for a weapon, or tries to rise, the men will strike him down without mercy. Shalelu is much more comfortable with this, as it gives the giants a say in their own treatment.

The stone giants soon regain consciousness, their massive forms quickly recovering from the battering they received. Hikage imperiously demands that they cooperate, but the giants seem uncooperative, though subdued. “Defeated by the little folk. I never thought the Plateau People would come to this. You will have your vengeance upon our hides. Why should I help you?”

Zendo steps in and reassures the giants that all they have done, is here, undone. Their captives are freed; their loot recovered. Unlike the others, they have a chance to amend their ways and go free if they cooperate.

The giants tell the heroes that their lord and leader is Mokmurian. He promised them glory and riches, but the raid went poorly, because Teraktinus is a poor leader. " He told us there would be easy pickings and we would get rich. He has paid for his mistake, but we have no interest in paying for it as well. If you grant us safe passage through your lands, we will tell you all we know."

“Though you defeated us easily, Lord Mokmurian will march down from the Storval Plateau with hundreds, or thousands, of the Plateau People and run roughshod over the land with the army he has called.

“We have only heard Mokmurian speak from afar, and have only heard of his powers from others. He is a child of the stones who has mastered the magics of the Ancient Lords. He can turn the living into stone and turn his own flesh into granite. He can quicken the stones of the earth to entomb his enemies. Many say that he has not only mastered the magics of the Ancient Lords, but he is one of the Ancient Lords come again to rule.

“The Ancient Lords are gone, but our elders tell us that they once ruled over our ancestors, enslaved them, forced them to build the monuments that still lie across Varisia. Many of us believe that Mokmurian is one of the Ancient Lords risen from the past to reclaim his empire.

“We live now in the Low Way, the way we lived before the Ancient Lords. Many of our elders say that the Low Way is the true path, but the Ancient Lords taught us the High Way. Though we were slaves, we learned great things, and made great things. Even now, our works endure and the small folk marvel at them. If a child of the stones is an Ancient Lord, then he will not enslave his own people, but raise us to greatness and enslave the lesser folk to rule.

“Some elders think this is foolishness, and that the Ancient Lords were better left in the past, but those who disagree with an elder can challenge him for rulership. Some of the elders agree with Mokmurian, and the others were defeated by him, proving his right to rule. He has at least seven tribes under his command, each tribe numbering in the dozens. He has conscripted many lesser giant-kin, such as ogres, hill giants, ettins, and trolls. Mokmurian also has the support of the followers of the Mother of Monsters, several lamias.

“Our tribe is ruled by Vlorian One-Eye. He professes a belief in Mokmurian, but I think he seeks the power and wealth Mokmurian promises to claim the lands around Minderhall’s Anvil. We do not know if he truly believes that Mokmurian is an Ancient Lord arisen, or if he cares, if it benefits the tribe.

“Mokmurian has called the tribes to the Valley of the Black Tower. It is a place taboo to my people, and he has raised a fortress there, around the Black Tower. He calls the fortress Jorgenfist, after the fortress that guards the way to the underworld. Many of the elders say that doing so is blasphemous, but Mokmurian is too powerful to fear blasphemy.

Jorgenfist dominates the Valley, deep wtihin the Iron Peaks. It overlooks the Muschkal River, but most tribes approach from the east from the Storval Stairs. The tribes live in camps outside Jorgenfist, and Mokmurian dwells below Jorgenfist, in hidden places he does not allow his followers to visit. All who serve him must bear his mark between their shoulder blades, but only the most trusted and valuable giants are allowed entrance to Jorgenfist.

“Longtooth was an ally of Mokmurian before he came to the Valley of the Black Tower. The dragon helped Mokmurian secure the tower and cement his rule over the tribes and the lesser giants. There are no other dragons loyal to Mokmurian, though there have been dragons subdued and captured, and brought to Jorgenfist for sacrifice.

“Mokmurian has gathered a great army to march upon Varisia. He sent out many scouting parties into the lowlands. Teraktinus was tasked with finding something within the town, though we were given free reign to raid as we saw fit. I do not know why he would have taken a stone from the ruins, though some of our elders have ways of prying secrets from stones. Perhaps the stone knew something which Mokmurian sought to learn?”

“The scouting parties have been scattered, but should be returning to Jorgenfist soon. I do not know when Mokmurian intends to march down the Stairs to conquer, but it may be as soon as the turning of the year, or he may wait until the spring rains.”

The men live up to their agreement, and allow the giants to pass without further harm, though they do not allow them to take their weapons. Zendo, perhaps sensing the callow youth of the giants, warns them that Mokmurian does not sound like a master who rewards failure. The bard suggests that the giants may be better served not returning to the Valley of the Black Tower in defeat. The giants glumly agree, but question where they will go. “Our tribes are there? Who else will welcome us?”

The heroes and their wards huddle near the campfire for a cold night in the Varisian woods.

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Revenge, Rescue, and Rocks
Kuthona 8, 4707

The Stone Giant halts and straightens his back. Unlike the other giants raiding Sandpoint, this one seems older. He is clad in thick hide armor and two vicious looking picks hang from his belt. A war horn made from a mammoth tusk hangs from a rope across his chest. Perhaps this is Teraktinus, mentioned in the missive from Mokmurian found among the possessions of Barl Breakbones?

The giant calmly appraises the men facing him, as Corvus and Ragnar rush up the streets of town. “Well, small folk, I have what I came for. Nothing will come of further conflict. Let me be on my way, and you can save your strength for the future.”

Hikage is incensed and incredulous. “Your giants have attacked the town! You will not be allowed to leave unpunished. Surrender now and we will not strike you down.” Teraktinus shrugs, unimpressed. He eases one of the stones into his bag, “Bold words, little men, not deeds.” He hurls the other stone at the monk, who dodges it with ease.

“So be it!”, shouts Hikage, launching himself at the lumbering foe. The monk springs at his opponent, but fails to harm the giant, thanks to Teraktinus’s thick hide and thicker armor. He quickly recovers, and moves to block the giant’s apparent avenue of retreat. Zendo quickly advances, drawing a wand, and bathes the giant in a burst of flames. Scorched, the giant scowls menacingly at the half-elven bard.

“Mighty giant, what do you seek among the stones of the Old Light?” Brodert Quink’s voice rises reedily as the sage gingerly steps out of the cover of his home. “Quink! Get out of here!”, hisses Corvus, before unleashing a spell that freezes Teraktinus in place, allowing Zendo another opportunity to blast the giant with magical flames.

Hikage leaps to strike the giant again, but even held immobile, the giant proves difficult to harm. Before Ragnar can strike him, the giant struggles free from the enchantment upon him, and the Ulfen’s devastating strike fails to connect with Teraktinus’ form. The towering giant loosens his picks from his belt, and buries them deep into Ragnar’s sides, the fighter’s magically enlarged frame too slow to dodge the weapons. Though any normal man would have been felled by the blows, Ragnar remains standing, unsteadily.

Hikage quickly tries to assist his comrade, but the necessary caution in approaching the dangerous giant means that the monk cannot land a telling strike. Corvus steps up and unleashes a similiar blast of flames from his own wand, but the danger of burning Ragnar means that the jet of fire goes astray. Concerned for his large friend’s life, Zendo has no healing magics to save him. However, the bard calls upon his clever words, and stokes the fires of revenge and courage in Ragnar’s soul. Throwing back his head, the Ulfen howls his defiance at the skies and slices great gouges into Teraktinus’s hide like a man possessed.

Though undoubtedly heroic, this proves to be insufficient, as the flinty giant holds his ground. His return strike nearly drives Ragnar to his knees, and the blonde fighter grows even more pale as his blood flows onto the stones. Before Teraktinus can land a second, killing blow, Ragnar drives his sword through the giant, lunging upwards from his crouching position to force the length of the blade entirely through Teraktinus’s torso. The bloodied fighter whispers a curse, or prayer, in Skald, but none hear it but Hikage, who does not speak the tongue. His blade trapped in the giant’s ribcage, Ragnar is defenseless against Teraktinus, but the stone giant’s eyes widen in shock, and his weapons clatter to the stones, as he collapses, dead.

Corvus orders Quink to fetch a cleric from the catacombs, as only Ragnar’s refusal to collapse is keeping him standing on shaky legs. However, before the sage can take more than a few steps, Hikage rushes past him in a blur, drawing on his reserves of ki to lend speed to his steps.

Meanwhile, Gellius has taken the form of a sea eagle and swoops over the harbor towards the smoke billowing from one of the manor houses overlooking Sandpoint. His keen eyes see two giants who have smashed apart the windows at the front of the Scarnetti manor,and who are loading a wagon with valuables and, given the lumpy sacks, captives. The druid first summons a storm of lightning, but the cold, wintry air robs the thunderstorm of much of its force, and the giant struck is pained, but not greatly injured. Changing tactics, Gellius moves closer and unleashes a ice storm from the skies, bludgeoning and freezing the giants. Dismayed, they hurl rocks at the strange eagle who calls magics down on them. Though distant, one of the rocks clips Gellius and injures him further. He persists, and then calls upon Gozreh to burn and batter these marauders with volcanic rock and fire. Though the rocks pelt down on the giants, the firey heat is muted by the cold of the ice storm, and does little more than scald them slightly.

Unable to reach the eagle, the giants hurl more stones, with another bruising the already battered druid. Hoping to keep the giants from attacking him, Gellius summons a forceful wind to batter them, hoping to drive them from their feet. However, the sturdy giants remain standing, though the blast of wind picks up stones and litter and abrades their skin. Another hurled stone clouts the druid and he falls from the sky, his avian form disappearing into the nearby trees.

Unaware of the plight of their ally, the men regroup in the ruins of the old light. Zendo offers Rangar a healing potion, which he gratefully accepts, though it does little to mend his grievous wounds. Corvus carefully examines the prone form of Teraktinus, trying to decipher what quest brought the giant to Sandpoint. The fallen giant’s picks are both enchanted, though, thankfully for Ragnar, to kill dwarves, rather than men. His armor is enchanted as well, but the stones in his sack all appear to be normal, weathered stones, taken from the crumbling ruin of the Old Light. Teraktinus had an enchanted ring which protected him, though not completely it appears, as well. Zendo removes the war horn from the corpse, but both men are wary of experimenting with it any further, though it appears non-magical.

Zendo and Hikage go to confer with the mayor and Sheriff Hemlock as Ragnar awaits some healing from one of the priests from the Cathedral and Corvus tries to figure out what Teraktinus found at the Old Light. He cannot see anything special about the stones, but he carefully marks the places where the giant pried them up from the rubble, in case there are any clues to be found.

The sheriff quickly dispatches the watch and the militia to secure the town and check on the residents. Father Zantus tells the men that most of the townsfolk had safely sought the shelter of the catacombs. Though there were many minor injuries and scrapes from the flight through town, the presence of the clerics meant that those wounds were easily treated. The villagers are quite spooked at the eerie catacombs underneath their town. It is one thing to be told that ancient structures lie under your feet, but quite another to flee into them at daybreak, hiding from giants and dragons in the shadows of a profane temple.

As the militia sweeps the town, they find the unconscious forms of Das Korvut and Larz Rovanky slumped in leather sacks near the giants defeated at Tanner’s Bridge. Vorvashali Voon, Belven Valdemar, and Gaven Deverin were retrieved from the bags of the giants slain near the docks. Brother Tawnowas able to heal the two craftsmen of the worst of their wounds, and the ranking priestess of Abadar, Aspexia, was able to minister to the three merchants at the docks. The heroes help the milita sweep the town, on guard against any remaining giants, but their huge foes all seem stone dead. Troublingly, each of the giants is branded with the Sihedron rune between their shoulder blades.

Hikage and Zendo note that the smoke is still billowing out from the manors on the hill overlooking Sandpoint. Hannah Velerin offers to accompany them, with some of the militia, to see what is amiss. When they arrive at the noble manors, they can see that the Scarnetti manor has been sacked. An overturned woodstove has caught some of the lower rooms on fire, but the priestess of Gozreh is able to create water to quench the flames. Titus Scarnetti and his son, Andronicus, were not among the villagers seeking shelter in the catacombs, so far as anyone can remember, though his wife and several of their servants were among the crowds. Looking carefully around the site, Zendo and Hikage notice that, among the deep footprints of giants, a heavily laden wagon appears to have been drawn away. In searching for further clues, Hikage finds the unconscious form of Gellius, or at least, a very Gellius-like eagle, in the nearby bracken. His former mentor, Hannah, quickly heals Gellius back to consciousness, but he does not know where the giants have gone.

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Mastodon down! Fire for Effect!
8 Kuthona, 4707

Seeing their companion (and mount) surrounded by angry bears, Zendo and Corvus ply bow and spell to try to drive them off. Unfortunately, the bears are undeterred and savage Gellius’ furry flanks. The shapechanged druid collapses, slumping against the houses in Crab Alley, and the wizard and bard narrowly avoid being pinned beneath his shaggy frame.

Hikage knocks the dire bear threatening him into submission, but this only enrages the bear’s handler, a lanky stone giant, and the monk is quickly pressed to defend himself against the giant’s huge stone club. Ragnar, quite some distance away, picks back up his bow and looses some arrows into the fight, but only grazes the giant. With a curse of frustration, Ragnar runs down High Street to try to help his friends.

Corvus is pinned between an injured bear and the other Stone Giant, but remains uninjured. His confidence quickly erodes as the giant slams a granite club into his midriff, nearly knocking him unconscious in a single blow. Zendo heals the badly wounded Gellius, but this proves to be a costly mistake. As the mastodon struggles back into consciousness, the nearby cave bear, which had been content to let sleeping pachyderms lie, savages Gellius again. Zendo abandons the attempt to heal his comrade until he dispatches the bear with his trusty rapier.

Corvus, hard pressed, whirls around and unleashes burning flames from his hands. While the spray of flames only singes the legs of the giant, the fires roll over the bear and it collapses in a heap. After battering the stone giant into submission with a vicious uppercut, Hikage quickly arrives to assist Zendo in defeating the last of the cave bears, while Ragnar, unable to keep up with the speedy monk, rushes to assist Corvus, who cannot withstand another blow from a giant club. The tall Ulfen takes a painful strike from the Stone Giant before he can close the gap, but despite the danger, he leaves his own guard open in order to land a telling blow on his huge foe. Ragnar’s fool-hardy, but heroic action is ultimately successful, finishing off his opponent before the giant can respond in kind.

As Zendo quickly tries to heal Gellius (and the others) back into some sort of fighting condition, Corvus peers around the corner of Crab Alley to witness the commotion from the docks. Three giants are terrorizing the fleeing villagers who attempt to press onward towards the Glassworks. Corvus taunts the giants, trying to draw their attention, but the tall bullies seem content to panic the Sandpointers. Hikage strides boldly into the street and calls them out, but the nimble monk’s cultured speech and foreign accent fail to provoke the louts. Being a lout himself, however, Ragnar speaks their language (in more senses than one): He slouches around the corner and shouts at them contemptuously in Giant: “I’ve slain your dragon, and my friends have killed your bears. We’ve beaten your friends. You don’t look so tough.”, before spitting on the ground.

One of the giants looks up at his words, but calmly turns the corner, following the fleeing villagers. The other two giants, seeming younger and more raucous, thunder up the street in anger. This proves to be quite foolish, as Corvus electrocutes both of them with a lightning bolt before wrapping them both in a roaring wall of flames. Howling in pain, the giants panic and burst through the burning curtain of fire. One makes it to the safety of a nearby corner, but the other, unable to see through the fires, wanders into Ragnar’s reach. The Ulfen, protected from the flames by Corvus’s earlier spell intended against the dragon, and enlarged to the size of the giant by another of the wizard’s spells) spits the giant on his sword, before kicking him off with a booted foot.

While Hikage and Ragnar try to maneuver through the fires to the second giant, the slight fire wizard displays his mastery of his chosen element, and deftly guides the wall of fire back around the fleeing giant, burning him to death.

Now able to see past the giants and fleeing villagers, the group sees a small group of Sandpointers has been cut off at the docks by the giants who earlier besieged the Two Knight Brewery. Belven Valdemar has already been knocked unconscious and is being rudely stuffed into a giant’s bag as Vorvashali Voon desperately dodges the blows of another giant with the assistance of his magical Mirror Images. Before the Avengers can reach him, the giant smashes through the last of his illusions and clips the eccentric shopkeep on the temple, felling him like a tree.

Concerned for his ‘moderately useful contact’ (as he puts it), Corvus teleports himself, Ragnar, and Zendo to the Market Square after Zendo casts another spell of haste upon his allies. Hikage rushes to the market square on foot, and after Zendo’s hastening, almost arrives there before the others teleport! Gellius takes the form of a sea eagle and begins to fly towards the square.

Before he can arrive, however, his keen eyesight reveals that the giant who ignored Ragnar’s taunts has continued his way through town. Though the Stone Giant had not evidently pursued the fleeing residents, he does not brook any interference from Belor Hemlock, who stands between him and the Town Hall. Gellus watches helplessly as Belor is struck down by the giant, who, unlike his allies, wields two vicious looking picks. As his comrades go to fight the giants at the docks, the druid wings his way towards the unconscious and bleeding sheriff, intent on saving his life.

HIkage darts around one of the giants, landing blow after blow, but defying the giant’s every effort to strike one in return. Zendo, wary of their menacing clubs, ensorcels the other, bringing it to the ground with magical laughter. Corvus, evidently sick of facing giants, unleashes a coruscating serpent of flames which wends its way between the combatants, burning both giants quite badly. Hikage strikes down the standing giant, while Ragnar advances on the prone one, no longer laughing, and slices him into pieces with three vicious sweeps of his sword.

Given a moment’s respite, Hikage’s keens senses spot smoke rising from one of the manor houses overlooking Sandpoint, but the shouts of alarm and panic from the north of town also call on the heroes for attention, as does the smouldering fire burning in the Sandpoint Garrison (courtesy of Longtooth). Corvus makes for the garrison, intending to use his mastery of fire to put one out, for once, as Hikage heads directly for the remaining Giant in Sandpoint. Zendo hurries across the docks and up Main Street, intent on joining his ally, but wanting to check on the plight of the villagers first. Ragnar, still grown to giant size, tramps back up Festival Street, intent on avenging himself against this giant as well.

Gellius, by mutual consent, flies towards the harbor, intending to cross it on the wing, and use his druidic magics at range to drive off the giants assaulting the manor houses.

As Corvus approaches the Garrison, he can see that the stone building is largely intact, but the wooden shingles and furnishings are blazing merrily under the dragonfire. The young wizard summons his mastery of flame and draws off the fire to sputter out on the cobblestones. Zendo rushes past the last of the Sandpointers, still squeezing into the doors of the Glassworks, but evidently largely safe.

Hikage tears across the cobblestones of the town, intending on challenging the giant who has made it past their defenses, but as he nears Junker Beach, a quiet voice raised in warning causes the monk to screech to a halt. “He’s looking for something at the Old Light”, whispers Brodert Quick, hiding behind the corner of his small house. Indeed, when Hikage stops to look, the last of the Giants in Sandpoint is bent over, plucking large stones from the ruins of the Old Light, and peering at them intently. Hearing his companion Zendo approaching, the monk motions to the bard to hold back, and the two men watch the giant curiously. What could a Stone Giant want with the rubble of the old lighthouse?

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Rush Hour in Sandpoint
8 Kuthona, 4707

As the four men teleport to the square in front of the Cathedral, Hikage harnesses his ki and darts through the streets of town towards the commotion. Ragnar rushes to the wall, where several of the town guard watch nervously as some of the militia quickly push a nearby cart in front of the town gates. Zendo paces nervously towards the town gates, hoping that Hikage will soon appear and he will be able to magically hasten all of his allies with a single incantation. As the bard bides his time, Gellius transforms into an immense Mastodon, large enough to trample even Stone Giants beneath his broad feet.

Hikage tears around the corner and Zendo casts his spell. Thus quickened, Ragnar rushes to the top of the wall and prepares to shoot arrows at the giants, as they guffaw and hurl rocks indiscriminately at the gates. Gellius urges the others to open the gates, so that he can assault the giants, but the townsfolk seem happy to have the giants on this side of the wall. The druid summons a Dire Bat to harass the giants from the air.

As Ragnar looses a series of magical arrows at the nearest giant, a winged shape soars through the air over the Gulf. “Rejoice, people of Sandpoint! Today, you achieve immortality! History will record your demise as the first town to be destroyed by Longtooth the Magnificent!” A red dragon swoops towards the town, swinging widely to the west. Distracted, Ragnar is struck a glancing blow from a rock hurled by one of the giants, despite his cover from the parapets. Zendo, Hikage, and Corvus quickly ascend the wall as well, and the bard shouts at the guards to retreat to safety. Gellius uses his massive bulk to easily shove the recalcitrant wagon into place against the barred gates of Sandpoint, but his magical senses reveal that more giants, leading surly Cave Bears, are approaching Sandpoint near Tanner Bridge. Shouts of panic begin to erupt from the town, and Vesnutt Parooh emerges from The Way North in confusion. Maever and Pennae Kesk hastily exit from the jeweler’s shop, though the merchant instructs his three guards to remain and secure his valuables. Father Zantus and the other priests of the Cathedral appear, and begin to make their way towards the Glassworks, as do the staff and guests of the White Deer Inn. Naffer Vosk, hobbling along, brings up the rear.

Ragnar and Zendo shoot arrows at the stone giants, injuring one badly with the magical arrows taken from Hook Mountain, but Corvus unleashes a crackling fireball which consumes one and burns the others badly. The two singed giants lament their poor luck loudly, and turn to flee from the unexpected resistance.

Gellius can see the cave bears crossing Tanner’s bridge, bearing down on the fleeing Larz Rovanky, and everyone can hear the strident barking of Das Korvut’s beloved red hounds as they bay at the approaching giants. More of the townsfolk are reacting to the Cathedral bells, pouring into the streets from their homes, and shouting in alarm and dismay as they spy the circling dragon. Longtooth chuckles darkly and roars threats at the fleeing Sandpointers as he lazily flaps around the Old Light and begins to turn towards the heart of Sandpoint.

The men decide to clamber upon the broad and shaggy back of the mastodon, Gellius, who can bear them through town with surprising speed. Ragnar, taking a wild shot with his enchanted bow, sinks an arrow crackling with lightning and coated with ice into Longtooth’s flank, and the cold of the missile pains and enrages the dragon. As a precautionary measure, Corvus focuses his mind, despite clinging to the rushing mastodon, and confers magical resistance to fire to his comrades. As Longtooth refocuses on this new threat, the dragon terrifies many of the townsfolk with its mere presence, including poor Vesnutt, who runs around the cathedral in sheer terror.

Gellius instructs his dire bat to scoop up the gnomish mapmaker and carry him to the Glassworks, or, at least as far as is possible. The druid can see, from his magical vantage point above the town, that the cave bears have rushed past Larz and are savaging Korvut’s dogs. The tanner is struck unconscious by one of the giants, and the other scoops him up easily and deposits the man in a large leather bag slung over his shoulder. Das Korvut, moved by the yelps of his dogs, stops in his flight and raises his smithing hammer against the cave bears.

More of the townsfolk, including Risa Magravi and her children, pour out of their homes in fear, as the peals of the bells and the sounds of combat fill the air. Corvus assists Ragnar, overcoming the young dragon’s resistance to magic to pepper it with magic missiles.

The men plan on turning towards Tanner Bridge to protect the residents there while the dragon continues posturing, but Longtooth, angered by the affront to his person, alights upon the Garrison and bathes it with flames, narrowly missing the mayor and the sheriff, who are frantically directing people below. Against the urgings of his comrades, Ragnar slides off the side of the mastodon and plants himself deliberately in the street. He shoots more freezing cold arrows at Longtooth, grimly establishing himself as a threat, and motions the others to move on. Before Gellius thunders away, Zendo magically boosts the morale of his friends with a spell in this tight spot, and Corvus, looking over the mastodon’s broad back, unleashes another burst of magical missiles against Longtooth, hoping to assist his comrade’s solo stand against the dragon.

As more of the residents living along the river begin to flee through the town’s streets in panic, Gellius can see more giants emerging near the south bridge. Some stop to destroy the town’s welcoming sign before focusing their ire against the Two Knight Brewery, demanding beer, or death. Other giants emerge from the Lost Coast Road but turn south, towards the masions overlooking the town from the south. A third band of giants emerges from the marshy regions across from the Sandpoint Lumber Mill and wade across the river there, emerging dripping wet onto River Street, not far from the home of Boudra Fullona and her family!

The cave bears push past Das Korvut after giving him a nasty swipe, and begin to lumber through the streets, attracted to the screams and shouts of the fleeing Sandpointers. The hot-tempered smith is struck insensate by one of the giants, and the other scoops him, too, into his large, leather sack. Concerned for his fellow townsfolk, Hikage gracefully leaps off the mastodon and charges down the cobblestones, smashing a fist wreathed in mystical acid against the skull of one of the massive bears, causing it to roar in pain.

Unfortunately, the monk is distracted in doing so, for Gellius, alarmed by the potential threat to Boudra, trumpets a warning and stampedes through the streets. He narrowly avoids running down some of the residents, who cling back against the walls of the houses to avoid him. Gellisu strikes Hikage a glancing blow, but tramples all three of the cave bears, striking the one fighting the monk squarely and knocking the bruin from its feet. Unfortunately, this traps the shaggy druid in the relatively narrow stretch of Crab Alley, and the angered bears surround his head and flanks. Worse still, the attack on their pets has incensed the giants. One rounds on Hikage, brandishing a stone club and shouting “Leave Tinkles alone!” The other grimly approaches the mastodon from the side, holding his club with ill intent.

Longtooth, enraged and insulted by the affrontery of this human archer plinking him with arrows, launches himself into the air from the roof of the Garrison and dives at Ragnar in anger. “Try using your accursed arrows now, little bowman!”, he growls menacingly, after delivering a nasty bite to Ragnar’s torso. The Ulfen drops his magical bow with little concern, and draws his glowing greatsword. “I’m not much of an archer, dragon,” he replies, smiling through clenched teeth. Ragnar strikes the surprised Longtooth a long slash with the blade, then buries the full length of the sword deep into the dragon’s chest, slaying him instantly. “Looks like history will remember this as your last assault on a town, too.” The bloodied fighter turns to see how his friends are faring.

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