Rise of the Runelords

Stone Giants over Sandpoint
Kuthona 4-8, 4707

Sheriff Hemlock and Mayor Deverin confer briefly, and the mayor defers to the Sheriff. Belor explains his plans, tentative as they are, to the heroes.

Belor will call up the entire town militia, both to supplement the limited town watch, and to serve as a bucket-brigade as needed. He will station three of the militia and two guards at each of the entries to the town: the north gate, Tanner Bridge, and the South Bridge. That will allow him to have all three entrances watched by a full group of guards day and night.

He and the mayor will go to speak with the priests at the Sandpoint Cathedral immediately. The influence of the town’s religious leaders will help sway the townsfolk, and the healing powers of the clergy may also be necessary. In addition, the town watch will signal any giant sightings with short blasts of their whistles, but the mayor intends for the cathedral bells to be used as an alarm for the entire town. Zendo suggests a series of whistles, and bells, which can be used to signal not only the attack, but the location of the attack, and the suggestion is adopted.

Kendra Deverin agrees that the Sandpoint Glassworks catacombs would be the most promising shelter for the townsfolk. The Glassworks is mostly stone, and thus, resistant to both damage and fire, and the large catacombs underneath it would be able to house more residents than the Garrison or Town Hall. Not only do the catacombs provide a secondary exit, but the Glassworks is also at the very edge of town, farthest from any of the town’s entry points, meaning that no matter from what direction a raid may emerge, the townsfolk can flee away from the encroaching giants. Zendo suggests that the Glassworks should be ‘shut down’ early, if possible, to allow the furnaces within to cool so that fleeing villagers do not have to file through a bustling factory. Belor glumly assures them that is not a concern with the Glassworks at present.

Based on the intelligence from the Lost Coast Avengers, the giants are raiding Sandpoint for some reason, rather than invading. For this reason, Belor says that his men, and the militia, will be instructed to fight as a rearguard, to allow villagers to retreat, rather than actively manning the gates or streets to repel intruders. If the giants were seeking to invade or raze the town, the sheriff would, reluctantly, put his forces in harms way to defend it, but it seems more astute to allow, so much as possible, the giants to roam if it minimizes casualties.

Mayor Deverin indicates that she will call a town meeting for the next day, to inform Sandpoint of their peril, but asks the men to ‘keep mum’ about the threat for the evening, so that panic does not arise before Belor can quietly activate the militia and summon the guards. Belor cautions them to speak very little about the matter to anyone, given the gossipy nature of the Sandpoint locals.

The men leave the town hall and go to speak to Vesnutt Parooh, in the hopes that the gnomish mapmaker may be able to give them some information about ‘Jorgenfist’. Sadly, he hasn’t heard of any such place, and the heroes are reluctant to tell Parooh much about their inquiries, in the fear that the gnome shares the other Sandpointer’s loose tongues. They know that Stone giants normally live in relatively isolated areas of hte Storval Plateau, however, so they do admit that they have been near the Storval Deep, and that ‘Jorgenfist’ might be somewhere on the Storval Plateau. Vesnutt still can’t recall any city, citadel, or fort by that name, but asks them about the spectactular dam said to be stopping the Storval Deep. He also inquires about the Storval Stair, an ancient stone stairway providing one of the few routes over the steep Storval Plateau rise.

Taking their leave of the inquisitive gnome, the heroes go their separate ways, Zendo calling upon Rynshinn Povalli at her home above Vernah’s Fine Clothing, and Gellius visiting Boudra Fullona at her parent’s riverfront home, while Corvus and Hikage go on their own errands. The men are careful not to let slip any hints of the dangers facing Sandpoint, despite Boudra’s persistent questions, but take every opportunity to urge the Sandpointers they visit to attend tomorrow’s town meeting (as most such sessions, evidently, are rather mundane and poorly attended).

On the morning of the 5th, Gellius and Corvus both begin to prepare scrolls that might be needed during the potential raid, while Hikage arises early to restlessly patrol the streets of town. Zendo regales the patrons of the Rusty Dragon with tales of their exploits, but reins in his urge to warn them, only encouraging the villagers to attend today’s town meeting.

At the town meeting later that day, many of the residents are in attendance, and are very curious. The mayor calls for attention, and announces that the recently returned Heroes of Sandpoint have brought back with them a grave warning: Sandpoint is the target of a raid by giants, and a dragon! Though this alarms the villagers, it also captures their attention, and Kendra quickly hands over the meeting to Belor Hemlock.

Belor reviews the plans which he had outlined to the heroes the night before to the townsfolk. He announces that, since the information on the raid is vague, Sandpoint will not cancel the Winter Week festivities, nor will the revelry planned for Ascension Day be postponed. Though the news is grave, to be sure, it makes no sense for Sandpoint to close their doors to returning visitors, nor to refuse their coin, at this point. Business might suffer as word of the raid spreads, but closing down shops and inns in advance of the raid could do even more damage.

Titus Scarnetti, son of one of the founding nobles, stands and questions the mayor, who defeated him in a previous election, Zendo remembers. He demands to know the substance and source of the information about this ‘giant raid’ and is frankly skeptical when Zendo produces a mammoth hide with a missive inscribed in Giant runes. Corvus translates the runes for the assembled villagers. Though Titus acknowledges the heroism of the men in driving off the goblins from Sandpoint, and in rescuing Ameiko from her villainous brother, he feels the raid is little more than an unfounded rumor, and more likely to harm the town’s businesses through panic than any real threat.

Zendo deftly agrees that all of Sandpoint hopes the raid turns out to be little more than a rumor, and suggests that, despite that, cautious preparations should be made, trying to defuse a situation with the obstinate nobleman. Scarnetti cantankerously disagrees and suggests that ‘proper’ preparation would consist of constructing barricades at the bridges to Sandpoint, and bolstering the milita to repel intruders from the town, rather than planning to spinelessly retreat and hide, giving raiders freedom to roam the town. He suggests that the reluctance of the mayor and sheriff to spend town monies on proper defense might indicate that neither of them truly believes these warnings of a raid, and that they are merely making ‘motions’ of preparing the town while hoarding the townsfolk’s hard-earned taxes for some other purpose, while allowing the merchants of Sandpoint to suffer for their fecklessness.

Zendo realizes that Titus’ arguments are aimed more at weakening the positions of Mayor Deverin and Sheriff Hemlock than at any principled objection to the plans, and suggests that the head of the Sandpoint Mercantile League, Jasper Korvaski, be consulted for his opinion. This is a risky move on the bard’s part, as, though the animosity between the Scarnetti’s and Korvaski is well-known, the retired paladin is scrupulously honest, and, as a servant of Abadar, Jasper may be more inclined than others to counsel a stout defense of the town.

The solidly-built manager stands up and addresses the room as a whole, rather than his antagonist, TItus. “I would agree with the noble lord Scarnetti that the town must primarily muster its defenses,” begins Jasper, “if we were threatened by an attacking force, giants or no. Indeed, I would gladly stand beside these men and man the barricades myself, despite my time away from the field of battle.” He continues, “However, any and all information we have indicates that any supposed raid is entirely for the purpose of seeking some objective. In that case, it is foolish to sacrifice the lives of our townsfolk, and the sweat of their brow, needlessly. I support the mayor’s plan to evacuate to the Sandpoint Glassworks, depending on our watch and militia, and these brave men, to respond to any emergencies which arise.”

Scowling, Titus Scarnetti returns to his seat, having been grudgingly outmaneuvered.

Zendo requests to address the assembled townsfolk, and the mayor agrees. The half-elven bard asks the people of Sandpoint for any information that they may have on a site known as ‘Jorgenfist’. He requests that any resident who has information about Jorgenfist please meet with him after the assembly. Jubrayl Vhiski shouts out, to the gathering, “Are these giants stirred up because of something you and your compatriots have done? Are you planning on finding this Jorgenfist and angering these giants?” Zendo assures his old friend Jubrayl that he would do nothing of the sort, but Jubrayl seems unconvinced.

The men spend the rest of 6 Kuthona making preparations in town, and speaking to concerned locals. Brodert Quink professes ignorance of any Varisian site known as Jorgenfist, though he does agree with the heroes that any likely Stone Giant dwellings would be in the remote areas of the vast Storval Plateau, home to the nomadic Shoanti barbarians, and several Thassilonian ruins such as the Storval Stair. Zendo speaks to Father Zantus about the seven standing stones of the Varisians preserved within the courtyard of the cathedral. Abstalar says that they are much older than Sandpoint itself, and a focal point of Desna worship for the wandering Varisians for much longer than the Chelaxian Empire has stood. Zendo worries that the giants are coming for those stones, but Father Zantus urges him, and the others, to defend them if possible. The stones are almost certainly non-magical, but beyond their spiritual significance to the Varisians, the preservation of this sacred site stands as a symbol of a compact of peace between the nomadic Varisians and the Chelish immigrants who conquered and settled the land.

Zendo is still very curious about the seven stones, especially as they echo the seven points of the Sihedron rune, and he seeks out Madame Mvashti in hopes of learning more about them. The ancient harrower greets Zendo in Varisian, and tells the inquisitive bard that the ‘seven sisters’, as she calls them affectionately, represent the seven towers of Desna’s palace in the afterlife, and, due to their number, are often associated in sermons by Father Zantus with the seven virtues. However, she does tell Zendo that the significance of seven is not a widespread aspect of Desnan worship, but rather, significance assigned to the seven stones by Varisians ages ago. It is not the case that every church to Desna has seven standing stones, but that the seven standing stones here, at what became Sandpoint, were remarked upon by early Varisians as an earthly reminder of Desna’s palace.

On the morning of the 7th, the men spend some time making preparations in the town, before Corvus intends to teleport back to Turtleback Ferry to retrieve Ragnar and Shalelu. Hikage expresses concerns about his vow to Myriana to return the remains of Lamatar Bayden to her, but, ultimately, it is decided that the peril of Sandpoint is too grave and immediate for the monk, and any of the heroes, to journey back into the cold, wet marshes of Whitewillow right now. After the raid has been averted, hopefully, then Hikage can fulfill his obligations.

Corvus and Zendo magically transport back to the small village of Turtleback Ferry, to the surprise and astonishment of the folk in the small town square. Seeing that Ragnar and Shalelu have not yet returned on horseback, the wizard and bard call upon Maelin Shreed at the temple of Erastil, and give the town mayor the good news that the Ogres of Hook Mountain have been dealt a dolorous stroke which will take years in recovery. The weather-beaten priest talks to the two at length about their encounters with the ogres and their Stone Giant overseer, and seems pleased, and satisfied, with the resolution of this grave calamity. Corvus shares with the mayor the list of names taken from Lucretia, and, while waiting in the town’s small tavern for the tall Ulfen and the rangy elf maiden to return, he diligently copies the list for the mayor, in the hopes that those named might be convinced to have their ‘lucky star’ tattoos removed, magically, or otherwise, for their own protection.

Around evening, Corvus and Zendo hear the clatter of hooves, and arise from the dinner table to see Ragnar and Shalelu stabling the horses at the nearby inn. Before the two can even have a warm meal, Corvus transports them all back to the Rusty Dragon. Ameiko greets Shalelu with a warm hug, which is returned with some embarrassment by the elf. Over a trencher of meat and potatoes, Ragnar is quickly brought up to speed by the men on the defense of the town. Zendo entrusts him with the Shocking burst arrows from the Black Arrows, and the Ulfen presses the others about their mobility. He feels the ability of the Avengers to respond to threats promptly will be the greatest challenge, rather than the strength of their opposition.

Early the next morning, Hikage rises at dawn, and prepares to patrol the town, as he has done each day. Gellius has already arisen, as it is his duty as a druid of Gozreh to greet the sun each day in order to regain his spells. The others arise more slowly, but all of the heroes are up and about when Corvus, beginning to study his spellbooks, hears the dull crack of stone on stone in the distance. He alerts his companions in the Rusty Dragon, save Hikage, who is somewhere on the streets of Sandpoint, and they rush out of the inn to try to discover the source of the noise. As Zendo hears whistles sounding to the north, Gellius casts a spell high over the town, allowing him to look over Sandpoint from the perspective of a circling raptor. The druid sees three tall, lanky Stone Giants standing on the outside of the north gate, hurling stones at the structure and laughing to themselves. Corvus, though unable to prepare any new spells, utilizes some of those he had prepared the day before, and quickly tranports all four men as far as he is able, magically depositing them on the flagstones in front of the Sandpoint Cathedral just as the bells inside the tower begin to peal in alarm.

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The Black Arrows avenged...and a new threat!
4 Kuthona, 4707

The heroes hang back, seemingly daunted, but Zendo rallies their spirits. “We can do this! We’ve got the Black Arrows here, and Corvus has prepared to foil Lucretia. We defeated the ogres and the trolls. A couple of stone giants can’t stop us!” The bard quickly casts a spell which boosts everyone’s morale, and, amazingly, rolls another incantation off his tongue to imbue his allies with incredible speed.

Corvus gestures, and transfixes the lamia with a spell that snares her form to this place, preventing the duplicitous Lucretia from making a magical escape again. She quickly casts a spell to hasten herself and Barl Breakbones, who himself casts a spell which limns his hands in a febrile corpse-light. It appears the massive giant is himself a wizard!

The rangers loose arrows at the stone giant guardian, but few penetrate the lumbering guard’s thick hide. In response, the towering giant hurls a rock at Hikage, but the monk deftly dodges it and it splinters against the stone walls. Hikage laughs boastfully, a bit too soon, as the rock in the giant’s other hand smashes into his legs painfully.

Gellius summons a massive cave tiger behind the stone giant guard, intending to have his natural ally rend the warrior limb from limb. Lucretia creates a myriad of mirror images, protecting herself from harm, and Vale, Jakardros, and Shalelu attempt to pepper her with arrows. Her serpentine speed protects her well, but the insistent onslaught from the archers will prove instrumental in depleting her illusory duplicates. Barl casts another spell from his throne, creating a magical, insubstantial hand which floats near his head, and Corvus realizes that the giant wizard can use the spell to deliver dangerous magical attacks at a distance.

Before the dire tiger can even attack, the stone giant turns and contemptuously beats the massive predator to death with a huge stone club. Gellius is shocked, and the others are dismayed at the lethality of the ‘least’ of their foes. Zendo urges the others to swallow their desire for revenge, and focus on this closest threat.

Ragnar, however, shows that to be unnecessary. The Ulfen scrabbles up the steep stone wall with ease, before drawing his greatsword and confronting the giant. Ragnar strikes the giant a single, grievous wound, nearly slaying the colossus with a single stroke. As the giant reels in pain, Ragnar quickly reverses his swing and tears out his opponent’s vitals with an unexpected backswing.

As Lucretia advances, she ensorcells Vale, who stands dumbly, arms slack and mouth agape. Thankfully, the ranger is protected by others, and, though helpless, is safe from harm. Hikage swiftly leaps from the low walkway to confront her, though his blow strikes only an illusion. Wary of the serpentine temptress, he darts around her with lightning speed, making for Barl.

Seeing his guard struck down so quickly, Barl mutters irritably and stands, grasping an immense earthbreaker as he does so. He gestures, and the spectral hand darts towards Hikage, and the monk feels a cold paralysis seeking to freeze his limbs, but shakes it off.

Gellius summons a large, crackling elemental being, composed of thunderclouds and lightning, which grasps out at Lucretia, but she proves too quick. She nimbly darts out of the elemental’s reach and slithers around Hikage, blocking the monk from reaching Barl.

After magically enlarging Ragnar to face his foe on a more equal footing, Corvus summons a stinking cloud of poisonous gas, which envelops both Barl and Lucretia. Both the towering giant and the lamia fight off the choking gas, but are forced to advance into their enemies in order to escape the toxic cloud. Hikage and the lightning elemental both punish Lucretia for her weakness, and Ragnar slashes at Barl as well. The immense wizard is also pincushioned by Jakardros and Shalelu, until Lucretia mesmerizes the grizzled ranger with another spell. His loyal cat, Kibb, looks at his master quizzically, but guards him nonetheless.

Concerned by the turn of events, Barl draws a wand from his belt and aims it at the elemental. He drains off the life energy of the stormy servant and uses it to heal himself. This proves to be insufficient, as Shalelu transfixes him with another arrow. Rangar, not to be outdone, slashes a deep gash across Barl’s legs, and, as the giant necromancer falters in pain, hews entirely through Barl’s thick neck with a mighty swing of his sword, ending the rule of Breakbones rather definitively.

As her ally’s headless body thunders to the ground, Lucretia realizes that her only avenue of escape lies through the ranks of her foes. Her magical resistance allows her to shrug off the torrent of flames Corvus summons to fell her. The lamia draws her daggers, imbuing them with an arcane fire, and unleashes a whirlwind of destruction on Zendo, Hikage, and the elemental. She nearly kills Hikage, and wounds Zendo badly, as well as disrupting the elemental. However, Gellius’s ire is not so easily averted, and the druid directs a coruscating arc of lightning into her side as his elemental ally smashes her with crackling fists. Hikage tries to bring her down with a flurry of blows, but her speed allows him to evade most of his punches and kicks, though Shalelu succeeds in burying an arrow into her scaly hide. Drawing back for another mighty blow, Ragnar nearly kills Lucretia himself, but she hangs to life by a thread.

That thread is severed by a deft lunge of Zendo’s rapier, ending her threat forevermore.

The heroes quickly treat Hikage’s wounds as Shalelu and Ragnar rouse Vale and Jakardros. Before searching their foes for spoils, the group decides to quickly investigate the other passage behind them, to avoid having a hidden enemy cut off their retreat (and to take advantage of Ragnar’s magically enhanced size for a little longer). The broad, circling steps behind them lead to a large, but dusty, shrine, featuring a now-familiar statue: a naked pregnant woman with clawed hands and feet and the head of a three-eyed jackal. Evidently, the Kreegs were also devoted to Lamashtu, though their devotions, judging from the state of disuse, seemed to have waned in recent weeks. Unable to otherwise de-consecrate the profane temple, the men ask Ragnar to desecrate it in his own inimitable style: sword first.

After establishing their safety, the heroes return to the throne room and pillage through the spoils of war. Both Lucretia and Barl wore Sihedron medallions, further indicating their allegiances.

The lamia possessed several valuable pieces of jewelry, as well as both a masterfully crafted dagger and a magically keen one, carved from a single dragon’s tooth. in addition, she possessed a wand capable of producing scorching rays of flame, and a scroll tube, which contains a list of names. The list is labeled with the curious heading “Those who have agreed to feed their greed to meet the master’s need”. Kayven Windstrike‘s name appears on the list, circled in ink, which cements the opinion of the men that these names indicate the ’special guests’ on the Paradise, who received, unknowingly, the Sihedron mark in the form of a tattoo. This scrolls is carefully stored, to produce for Mayor Maelin Shreed, so that he might help those in Turtleback Ferry, and downriver, to have those marks removed.

Barl proves to have a magical circlet which augmented his intelligence, as well as his finely crafted weapon and his enervating wand, as well as a component pouch filled with onyx gems.

However, behind his stone throne lies the bulk of his treasure: hundreds of pounds of furs, gems, paintings, and other valuables. Scattered in amidst the ‘mundane’ treasures are dozens of magical arrows, including six enchanted to slay giants (which Ragnar quickly claims). Also present are suits of magical armor, both studded leather, and chain, as well as an enchanted longsword and longbow. A set of furry winter boots also is revealed to be magical, protecting the wearer from cold, and allowing him to move across ice and snow. An enchanted cloak of the elves is found and given to Hikage, to match his stealth to Zendo’s, and a finely crafted belt boosts the wearer’s dexterity. Zendo quickly unbuckles his ‘belt of giant strength’ and trades it with Gellius, as the nimble bard values agility over muscles. In addition, the pile of treasure also contains Barl Breakbone’s extensive spellbooks.

Most disturbing, however, is the message found on the scraped hide of a mammoth. Written in a large hand, in the runes of the Giants, is the following:

Breakbones—-

Last word from Teraktinus shows he has narrowed the search—
He believes a human town named Sandpoint hides what my lord seeks.
Teraktinus will lead several of the People, as well as the dragon, on a raid to the town soon.
When they return, they may be pursued—
Your ogre slaves may be needed to aid in his retreat to Jorgenfist.
Be ready to return at my command!

-—M

The men think that “M”, must, of course, be Mokmurian, and they realize that they are here, hundreds of miles away, while their friends in Sandpoint are unaware of their peril!

They quickly hatch a plan: Corvus will teleport to Sandpoint, taking with him all of the companions he can transport, to warn Mayor Deverin and Sheriff Hemlock. The windswept crags of Hook Mountain are too unfamiliar for the wizard to return to safely via teleportation, so he and the others will make preparations in Sandpoint while Ragnar, Shaleu, and the Black Arrows travel overland, first to Fort Rannick, and thence, to Turtleback Ferry. Corvus will transport himself there in a few days, and will magic the others back to Sandpoint. Hikage insists on accompanying the wizard, so that he may fulfill his oath to the ghost of Myriana.

The four men return to Sandpoint, finding that Corvus has magicked them to the street in front of the Rusty Dragon. They enter the familiar inn, and are greeted by Ameiko, who, despite looking a bit harried, welcomes them warmly, though she seems surprised to see them.

“When did you get back in town? Where’s Shalelu? What happened to Ragnar?”

The men reassure the attractive innkeeper that Shalelu and Ragnar are fine, but stuck in distant Turtleback Ferry. “Where’s Turtleback Ferry?”, asks the confused bard, in a refrain the men are destined to hear repeated many times. “Near the Storval Deep!”, replies Corvus, cheerfully. Hikage assures Ameiko that he will speak to her in depth later, but right now, they need to store the ample amounts of gear they are carrying and speak with the mayor on a matter of some urgency. Zendo does ask Ameiko if she has heard of Jorgenfist, and she wrinkles her brow in recollection. “No. It sounds Ulfeny,” she confesses. “You know, Ulfenesque. Whatever. Like Ragnar’s language.”

Though it is late in the afternoon, the Heroes of Sandpoint still command enough respect to get a swift audience with Kendra Deverin. As they make their way to the Town Hall, many of the local residents greet them merrily as they bustle down the streets of town in the brisk coastal air. Alma Alvertin calls to them and urges them to stop by the shop for some hot cranberry bread, just out of the oven. Zendo winces at the thoughts of the affable residents facing the ill tidings they bear.

Mayor Deverin asks the men about their business, and is dismayed at the news they bear. She asks pointed questions, but Zendo and the others are sorry to admit that their warnings are so vague. They don’t know the true nature of the raiders, though Stone Giants seem to be the likeliest candidates, nor do they know much about the dragon accompanying them.

“Is it the drake that’s supposed to be out at the Dragon’s Punchbowl? I thought those were just wyverns,” frets the worried mayor. Corvus and the others confess their ignorance on this point. Mayor Deverin hasn’t heard of Jorgenfist, either. “What do they want in town? Can we just give it to them?” Corvus is uncertain, but proposes that the giants may want something buried in the catacombs, though moving through those narrow passages would be difficult for them.

Soon, the conference is joined by Belor Hemlock. Though he has many of the same questions as the mayor, once he is brought up to speed, he and the mayor sketch out some plans with the input of the Lost Coast Avengers. The sheriff will organize his men first, and then speak with some of the more steady members of the Sandpoint militia, before the mayor calls a town meeting. This way, if there is any panic, the guards of Sandpoint are already prepared.

The men suggest that the watch should be particularly alert at the town gates and bridges, since the giants will almost certainly arrive by land. They also advise the mayor to consider using the catacombs, accessible through the Glassworks, as a shelter for the townsfolk. Corvus is wary of this, as he still thinks the giants may wish to search those corridors, but the men remember that the tunnels have an exit onto Junker Beach. Though that narrow spit of land would be quite crowded with a thousand or more Sandpointers, it does give them an option even if the catacombs are breached. In addition, the stone chambers would be safe from the fires that might start if a fire-breathing dragon is part of the raid.

Sheriff Hemlock warns the men that this situation isn’t going to be simple. Some of the more fearful, or wealthier, residents of Sandpoint might choose to flee town before any raid, though those traveling over the roads might encounter the giants even then. Other Sandpointers are sure to be skeptical of this warning, particularly as it is so vague. Finally, many of the townsfolk have stayed through the Late Unpleasantness, and even rebuilt from the fires that ensued. They are sure to be unwilling to abandon their homes without a struggle. At the very least, he intends on organizing such ‘resistance’ into a bucket brigade, in the hopes that the town can avert another catastrophic fire.

The men assure the mayor and the sheriff that they will defend Sandpoint in its hour of need. In fact, they encourage the sheriff to focus his efforts on organzing patrols to watch for the oncoming raid, and encourage the mayor to encourage the townsfolk to take shelter and help each other. In so many words, Zendo and the others seem to be implying that the Avengers will ‘match blades’ with the giants, if Sandpoint is so inclined.

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Hags to the left, Wights to the Right!
4 Kuthona, 4707

The heroes examine the passages, trying to determine their best path of assault. The right-most passage shimmers with a faint trace of light, and the sounds of the swirling winds of Hook Mountain, while the left-most passage is very dark and quiet. However, several of the more keen-eared of the band can hear a faint sobbing, and a low, crackling fire.

Zendo decides to use his bardic magics to conceal his form, and silently creeps down the curving corridor to the left. He finds a small, irregular cavern, housing a large, bubbling cauldron and three chained slaves, evidently women from Turtleback Ferry, perhaps. Zendo’s heart goes out to the prisoners, but he uses his brief period of invisibility to scout out the cavern thoroughly. He finds three large cloaks, matted sleeping furs, and a large chest, as well as a table with a large, oval mirror. The bard quietly creeps back up the steps to inform his allies.

The heroes decide to send Zendo back down to pick the locks and free the chained women, and selects Gellius (for his healing arts) and Shalelu to assist him (in the hopes that a fellow woman might reassure them). As the trio descend, the women whisper to them urgently. “Free us! Free us! The hags are gone.”

The others stand guard in the central nexus. Ragnar guards the exit, while Vale monitors the unexplored passages to the right. Jakardros and Kibb stand in the wide corridor leading to the forges with Corvus, as Hikage lingers near the top of the stairs, ready to rush to assist any of his colleagues.

Zendo questions the women about when the hags left, and one replies that the witches left them minutes ago when there was some disturbance at the top of the stair. The women say that they heard ogre voices shouting and the loud sounds of battle. As Zendo prepares to pick the locks of the manacles, Gellius, who was examining the sleeping furs and chest, is alerted by his keen instincts: Some of the trappings of the room are illusory, not real!

Alerted by Gellius’s surprised yelp, Zendo is aghast, but not taken unawares when the three female prisoners transform into Annis hags, hideous with scraggly hair and leathery skin the color of a fresh bruise.! The hags cackle as their chains are revealed to be no more than illusions, and lunge at the chagrined bard. Briselda, the hag who spoke to Zendo, has a twisted, hunchback, and stubby, strong arms that terminate in long talons which she uses in an attempt to flense the flesh from Zendo’s face. Her emaciated sister, Grethalga lunges over her shoulder to clutch at the bard as well. Their stumpy, fat sister, Laristeen, waddles around the heroes and incants a spell which fills much of the room with a dense, swirling fog.

Shalelu quickly retreats to ply her bow as Gellius prepares a spell. Zendo recalls the fairy tales that scared him as a youth and recognizes the monstrous witches as black hags (so called for their purplish-black skin and evil demeanor). The black hags were feared for their cannibalistic hunger and their sadistic glee, but Zendo recalls an important bit of lore: hags gather in covens to produce powerful magical spells! Gellius attempts to disrupt the coven in one swoop, trying to transform Briselda into a harmless rabbit, but the twisted witch shrugs off his spell.

Zendo calls for aid, but Hikage is distracted by an anomalous sound, the soft creaking of a drawn bowstring in the darkness. Hikage warms the others, but does not rush to his comrade’s aid. Instead, he and Ragnar investigate the tunnel using their magical, glowing swords, not wanting the group to be cut off and surrounded. An arrow speeds from the unexplored tunnel, narrowly missing Vale. As Ragnar and Hikage rush to investigate, they find a horrible undead archer hidden in the darkness beyond. The archer’s undead form is blackened with frostbite, and sharp icicles burst from the skin of his brow and hands. With a sudden gasp, Vale and Jakardros realize that the frost wight is the reanimated corpse of their commander, Lamatar Bayden!

Ragnar rushes to engage the wight over Zendo’s protests, as he feels he cannot ask Vale and Jakardros to fight their own commander and friend, no matter how transformed. Vale, Jakardros, and Kibb go to aid Zendo, Gellius, and Shalelu, as does Corvus, while Hikage and Ragnar fight against Lamatar.

Hikage quickly realizes the foolishness of fighting a frost wight hand to hand, as Lamatar’s undead body is radiating an unnatural chill which blisters his skin. Bayden’s powerfully enchanted bow shoots arrows of similarly freezing cold, but the undead ranger’s arrows prove to be no match for Hikage’s dexterity and Ragnar’s enchanted breastplate. Between Hikage’s temple sword and Ragnar’s greatsword, the wight is forced back. He attempts to drain the life from Hikage, but eventually, his undead form is shattered into frozen chunks of flesh.

Facing the hags, Zendo, Gellius, and Shalelu struggle to best their monstrous foes. Shalelu is safely away from their talons, but Gellius and Zendo are both scratched and bitten by the evil hags. Gellius, siezed by Grethalga, is almost torn apart, but his crackling scimitar proves dangerous to her sister, Briselda, while Zendo bobs and weaves in the mist, playing for time. Briselda, wary of the druid’s lightning scimitar, retreats, and the sisters cooperate to unleash a foul enchantment: Gellius is transformed into a newt!

However, despite this unfortunate turn of events, Shalelu’s arrows and Zendo’s rapier eventually fell Briselda, preventing the other two hags from summoning any more hexes. Vale and Kibb burst into the room, and the cougar quickly begins to tear at Grethalga’s hide. Jakardros cannot find a target in the thick mist, but his loyal cat has no such trouble, thanks to Kibb’s keen senses. Corvus, wary of their claws, carefully makes his way to the en-newted druid and dispels the spell upon Gellius.

Seeing that their fortunes have turned, the two remaining hags push past the heroes, trying to flee to safely. They find their retreat blocked by Ragnar, brandishing a massive sword. The hags attempt to surrender, offering to help them against their master, “Barl”, but Zendo remembers the horrible tales of missing children taken by “Black Annis”, assures them that there will be no mercy. Grethalga is cut down trying to flee past Ragnar, and her stocky sister Laristeen pushes past him, only to be tripped by Hikage and killed by Zendo’s rapier.

The heroes quickly search the abode of the witches, and find little of value or import, though many human bones show that Zendo’s childhood scare stories are all too true. Hikage carefully wraps a piece of the body of Lamatar in a bit of cloth, mindful of his vow to the ranger’s lover, Myriana. Ragnar takes the fallen ranger’s powerfully magical bow of ice and frost, as Gellus, Zendo, and Shalelu heal their compatriots before the group explores further.

The heroes are confronted by a choice: to the left, a passages coils down into darkness, while to the right, a passage glows with a faint light and the sound of the howling wind. The heroes advance into the wind and light, and find themselves at the lowest point of a vast cavern which rises slowly in the center to alcoves open to the air at the far end. Within, await two massive stone giants, one, standing guard on one of the elevated ledges flanking the entrance, the other, sitting imperiously on a throne of stone on a flat rise of stone at the far end. Coiled near the seated giant is the serpentine form of Lucretia as well! The commanding giant, almost certainly Barl Breakbones waves a grey-skinned hand and mutters in a deep, gravelly voice. Ragnar curses at the insult, and Corvus quickly translates:

“Slay these fleas. They have irritated me enough.”

At the top of Hook Mountain, at the floor of a throne room, the heroes fight against the giants and the viperous Lucretia for revenge and their lives!

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Revenge on the Kreegs!
4 Kuthona, 4707

The heroes quickly prepare themselves for battle, with Zendo casting a powerful spell that invigorates and energizes them all. Ragnar, wielding his glowing greatsword, moves cautiously down the wide, sloping corridor until the magical light reveals a gap-toothed, filthy ogre, standing in the cavern beyond, a huge ogre hook in his misshapen hands. Hikage recklessly charges the ogre, striking him and springing away from his return strike. However, the monk foolishly steps out of the light, and hears heavy footsteps before another wickedly sharp hook impales him in the darkness.

Ragnar quickly advances on the Kreeg, as Shalelu and Jakardros pepper the ogre with arrows. Vale moves up with more caution than Ragnar, as the Ulfen’s magical sword reveals not only a second of the Kreegs hiding in the darkness, but also a huge, doltish Hill Giant in the room. The giant hurls a rock at the men, but misses horribly. Gellius moves up and summons an immense dire wolf for aid.

As Ragnar and Vale hack the first of the Kreegs apart, Zendo quickly incapacitates the Hill Giant with a spell causing him to laugh uncontrollably and fall over. Hikage makes several swift strikes on the ogres, but his haste makes him inaccurate. Between Jakardros’s deadly strikes and Shalelu’s precise arrows, the second of the Kreegs is quickly dispatched, but more ogres are rushing to reinforce the chokepoint from points to the left. Gellius’s dire wolf proves to be more than a match for most ogres, as the slavering wolf harries the ogres’s legs until they fall, then rips out their throats as they try to stagger to their feet.

Vale, Hikage, and Ragnar soon dispatch the laughing HIll GIant, and Zendo and Gellius use their magics to heal the injuries taken by the reckless monk and fighter. Zendo illuminates more of the caverns with a set of dancing lights, and a seemingly endless stream of irate ogres emerges from a large cavern to the left. Ragnar kills one with each sweep of his sword, but the sheer press of ogres means that Vale is more than able to slake his thirst for revenge as well. Hikage attempts to weave through the wall of ogres, but this means his focus is divided and he fells few of them himself. The vicious wolf proves it’s worth, tearing apart the ogres, as Jakardros and Shalelu guard the rear, the elven ranger cautiously watching the tunnels to the right as her grizzled step-father plies his bow against the Hook Mountain Ogres. Corvus unleashes magical arrows of acid against the ogres from his wand, as Gellius blasts them with lightning.

As the heroes press forward against the ogres, the Kreeg taskmaster driving them into their doom becomes apparent. One of the Kreegs, a surly brute coated in soot and sweat, stands within the large cavern, which is filled with forgefires. He clutches a red-hot ogre hook and orders his minions forward without mercy. Ragnar charges the fiend, suffering a nasty, burning wound for his temerity, but succeeds in gravely wounding the smith. Vale, determined to seek revenge, also recklessly charges the ogre, but, after having been stung with Corvus’s acid, the ogre is in no shape to strike down the axe-wielding ranger. Before long, the last of the Kreeg ogres has paid the ultimate price for their actions against the Black Arrows.

As the heroes heal and recoup, they search the large forge chamber. Many weapons, not just ogre hooks, are being forged here. The men realize that the Hook Mountain ogres were tasked with preparing for battle, not just taking the Fort. Numerous sleeping furs line the floors, caked with filth and lice. A quick count of the furs leads Corvus to conclude that all of the ogres are accounted for, though, given their incestuous nature, it is unclear that the Kreegs observe a strict ‘one ogre-one bed’ policy. Several narrow tunnels lead out from the forge. Each is too narrow for an ogre to navigate without squeezing, but the dirty stains on the stone suggest that many ogres have done just that. The passages are narrow and twisting, descending sharply, and though the Lost Coast Avengers wish to explore them further, the wider, taller tunnels leading off to the right seem to be of more immediate concern.

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Revenge at Hook Mountain
1-4 Kuthona, 4707

The next morning, the first day of Kuthona, sees the heroes saddling up and riding to Fort Rannick. Equipped for the increasingly cold weather with extra blankets and rations, the men pass several craftsmen from Turtleback Ferry on their way to the fort. Once they arrive there, the heroes find Vale Temros supervising the repair of the fort’s gates. While Turtleback Ferry can spare few volunteers, those townsfolk who can help the last of the Black Arrows appear eager to do so.

When Zendo tells Jakardros Sovark that the Lost Coast Avengers are headed to Hook Mountain to destroy the last of the Kreeg ogres and their ally, Lucretia, the grizzled ranger insists that he and Vale will accompany them. Of course, Shalelu Andosana, who has been taking this time to reacquaint herself with her adoptive father, also volunteers to accompany the men. Though Hikage worries that the risk of losing the last of the Black Arrows is too great, the men’s desire for revenge is too strong, and Ragnar, at least, encourages this bloodthirsty attitude. However, the rangers do have years of experience roaming around the Sanos Forest and the Wyvern Mountain range, so their help would be valuable.

Gellius prays to Gozreh for guidance, and communes with nature. After his meditations, Gellius tells the men that there are few ogres within a ten mile radius of Fort Rannick. He can sense the presence of wyverns in the mountain range bearing their name, but those draconic creatures are largely to the east, across the Skull River. His communion with nature allowed the druid to sense the ravaged and eroded region known as the Valley of Broken Trees. This formerly beautiful valley was the side of the last major battle between the ogres and the Black Arrows, nearly forty years ago, and while the battle denuded the region of trees, it did break the back of the ogre armies of Hook Mountain. Gellius can sense, however, that a giant of some sort has moved into the Valley of Broken Trees.

The men decide to press onward on the next morning, the 2nd of Kuthona, toward the western slopes of the Wyvern Mountains, crossing the Valley as they do so, keeping an eye open for the ‘new’ inhabitants. The first day of Kuthona sees the end of the rain…only to see it replaced by a steady, wet snowfall that melts into the muddy ground.

Despite the rugged terrain, Jakardros leads the heroes onward. Clearly, the older ranger’s skills and knowledge of the region is proving to be useful. The men make good time, and encounter none of the myriad dangers that lurk in the forests and mountains near the Storval Deep. Near mid-day, the men are crossing the muddy, eroded slopes of the Vale of Broken Trees. The incessant rain, now turning to snow, has transformed the steep, scrub-filled valley into a slippery morass of mud and tumbling rock. The men have to dismount to lead their horses safely through the vale, and even Hikage’s keen eyes fail to see the lurking figure shadowing them from the ridgeline.

Suddenly, a huge figure looms at the top of the hill. A massive Hill Giant, clutching a huge Shoanti maul, bellows at the men, demanding to know their business in his lands. Zendo parleys with the giant, who is surly and curt. Razmus, as he names himself, knows of the Kreeg ogres and claims to want no part in their business. He knows vaguely where the ogres lair, pointing to the mountains to the west, and knows of their recent passing towards the fort to the east. Zendo and the others rebuff Razmus’s own gruff questioning, claiming only to be travelers passing through the area. Gellius does tell the giant that the men are hunting the ogres, but Razmus seems to bear them no animosity, but simply has no common allegiance with them. However, he repeats his demands that the men leave his lands, though he remains behind the cover of the rise of the hill.

Zendo, losing patience with the cagey giant, taunts him verbally, suggesting cheekily that the lands Razmus claims are not truly his own, suggesting that perhaps the men might lay a claim to them instead. The giant rises to the bait, and, hefting a previously unseen stone, lobs it angrily at Corvus, perhaps perceiving the obvious wizard as the true threat at this range. It strikes him heavily, nearly knocking him down.

This turns out to be one of Razmus’s final errors in judgement. Scrambling over the muddy ground and vaulting over the stones and fallen trees, Hikage fairly flies up the hillside, intent on teaching the giant a lesson in manners. The rangers nock arrows to bows, and pepper the giant with arrows, though his thick hide and heavy furs mean that few cause him much harm. Ragnar gamely clambers up the hillside as Gellius summons an immense air elemental to harry the giant, and Corvus, once healed by Zendo, sends magical missiles streaming at Razmus. Hikage soon finds the giant’s weak spots, and despite a sharp blow from Razmus’s earthbreaker, the monk’s flurries of blows soon weaken the huge brute. Perhaps sensing a disappearing opportunity, Ragnar puts on a burst of speed and launches himself at the giant, slicing him down with a single, brutal stroke of his greatsword.

While Gellius admonishes the normally affable Zendo for his short-temper, Corvus and Ragnar search the body of the hill giant, finding not only that his large weapon is enchanted, but that Razmus had worn a magical ring, capable of storing a spell inside, only to use the arcane energy of that spell to turn aside another, similar spell.

After their encounter with Razmus, the rest of the day passes uneventfully. With evening approaching, Gellius surprises and delights the heroes by summoning a warm grove of trees, complete with a stream of pure water and fresh, delicious berries, which nourish and heal the travelers. He then communes with Gozreh, seeking fresh insights into the rugged, mountainous terrain. Now the druid can sense the coarse, violent auras of a large concentration of ogres, located in a high, cold location to the northwest. That locale, almost certainly Hook Mountain itself, is also tainted by the auras of some monstrous creature and the unnatural aura of the unquiet dead. Letting his senses roam around the region, Gellius catches hints of large, dangerous predators in the region as well, including dire wolves, grizzly bears, the aforementioned wyverns, and even firedrakes.

Given the rather dangerous nature of the local fauna, Corvus creates a magical hut in the center of the grove. Though the hut will not stop a determined attacker, it repels the falling snow and rain, and will serve to hide the travelers from any foes, while not hindering their own vision. Despite the hut, a watch rota is set, and the men (and Shalelu) take turns at watch, though the night passes quietly.

On the next morning, the 3rd of Kuthona, the men press onward towards the direction Gellius feels the ogres lay. By late afternoon, they have come to the base of what appears to be Hook Mountain, led by the skillful woodcraft of Jakardros. Signs of ogres are strong here, with much evidence of their passage in number. The mountain peak is carved away, almost like a hook, with a wide ledge that slices deeply into the slope of the mountain. This is almost certainly the stronghold of the Hook Mountain ogres. The men decide to camp here near the base for the night, and make a climb in the morning. The rocky slopes are sure to be too steep and dangerous for the horses, but Gellius’s grove will last for many hours. The heroes can sleep comfortably tonight, and plan to return to the camp the next day, hopefully in victory, rather than in headlong flight.

In the morning of 4 Kuthona, Corvus and Gellius prepare their spells, as do Shalelu and Jakardros. The grizzled ranger, long a foe to giants, is able to discern the trails the ogres use to ascend the mountain, and though the cold weather and the steep climb are arduous, a few hours sees the heroes approaching the wide ledge near the peak of Hook Mountain. From a vantage point hidden in the treeline, the shelf reveals a wide cavern leading into the depths of the moutain. Thick, black smoke billows from the cleft in the rock, though the strong winds here near the summit soon scatter the smoke to all directions. Jakardros and Kibb, Hikage, and Zendo decide to creep closer for a better look.

The heroes creep up on the ledge from several directions, and get close enough to see two brutish Kreeg ogres standing watch with their vicious hooks. Zendo, however, presses his luck, and creeps too close, and the two ogres spot the bard and move to confront him, believing him, perhaps, to be alone.

Hikage rushes the closest Ogre and bravely engages him, taking a nasty gash from his sharp hook for his troubles. Jakardros peppers the Ogre with arrows, and sends Kibb to aid the monk. The brave cougar charges the ogre, who impales him on his hook, though Kibb does give him a nasty bite. Zendo, concerned that the other Ogre might raise the alarm, incapacitates him with magical laughter, the misshapen lummox falling to the ground in the throes of his merriment. The joke proves to be on him, as Corvus summons his magicks and teleports himself, Ragnar, Shalelu, and Vale into the center of the combat. Ragnar doesn’t even have to take a step, but buries his sword deeply in the prone ogre’s guts, nearly slaying him with a single blow.

Vale slices at the Ogre fighting Kibb and Hikage, but Shalelu capitalizes on the distraction and sinks three arrows into the ogre at point blank range, dropping him like a felled tree. His primary opponent removed, Hikage rushes the prone ogre, who has come to his senses, and kicks him into unconsciousness before he can raise the alarm.

Now that they have a chance to scout around, the heroes find that the wide ledge narrows into a tunnel leading deeper into the mountain. The ‘throat’ of the tunnel, as it were, is decorated with immense rib bones, crudely scrimshawed with runes, including a familiar seven pointed star. Standing guard over the entrance is an immense statue of a giant. The forty foot tall statue is extraordinarily detailed, with elaborate ceremonial armor, including a face mask sculpted to resemble a fanged demon. The statue’s skin is sooty black and cracked, almost like a dried river bed, and a huge Sihedron medallion hangs from its neck.

Corvus senses magical auras on the statue, and realizes that the Sihedron medallion is not part of a sculpture, but actually a real magical medallion, sized for such a giant. The giant itself detects as faintly magical, with a necromantic aura. Hikage’s keen eyes and Corvus’s magical knowledge reveal that the ‘statue’ is no statue at all, but an actual deceased giant, preserved by the magical aura of the medallion, standing guard over the entryway. The wizard is reluctant to approach the macabre guardian, in case the magics do more than just preserve it.

While the group hesistates, Corvus also examines the bones. From their size and composition, he recognizes them as being from a very large blue dragon. The bones have no magical aura protecting them from decomposition, and the runes are much cruder than the fine craftsmanship of the giant’s armor, which, in style and size at least, is similar to the Thassilonian helmet found at Thistletop. Zendo muses that perhaps the giant was placed here in the far distant past, and the blue dragon was slain here in recent history.

After Ragnar clambers onto the plinth of the guardian and pokes the corpse with his sword, the others feel safe in moving past it, as if safety was something to be found in the stronghold of the Kreeg Ogres. Using his greatsword and the wizard’s ioun torch for light, the group moves into the tunnels. They quickly find a deep, graven pit in a chamber to one side, and Zendo’s investigation with dancing lights finds charred bone fragments at the bottom. Further inquiry is curtailed as the heroes’ light sources have alerted deeper guards.

“Intruders! Intruders!” call out two coarse ogre voices, folllowed immediately by a louder, deeper cry of ""Truders! ’Truders!".

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One Dam Thing After Another
29-30 Neth, 4707

Facing the menacing figure of “Wet Papa” Grazuul, the heroes leap into action. Hikage, unfortunately, leaps a little too quickly. The monk rushes into position to strike the horrible troll, but Grazuul, more canny than his kin, lunges forward with his trident and nearly impales the monk upon the vicious tines. The trident, evidently enchanted, even causes Grazuul some discomfort to use, but not as much as it causes Hikage.

Corvus unleashes a fearsome spell at Grazuul, attempting to terrify the troll to death, but, while dull-witted, the troll’s unnatural vigor prevents the phantasmal killer from doing more than slightly weakening him. Gellius rushes forward to heal the badly injured Hikage, and find’s that Grazuul’s reflexes are quite sharp, as the troll quickly whips the trident around and nearly impales him too. Grazuul laughs and snarls, in broken Giantish, “Who brings their skulls to Grazuul?”

Ragnar carefully shifts forward on one foot and slices his greatsword into the troll’s side.

Grazuul unleashes a series of punishing attacks. He stabs his trident into Ragnar, almost bending the Ulfen over double with the force of the blow. Hikage ducks his second strike, but is too off balance to avoid the troll’s toothy maw.

Hikage responds to the assault with renewed effort. He summons the spirit of the earth dragon and smashes the troll with a punch that sears like acid. Several more strikes slam against the troll’s slimy hide, some with more effect than others. Gellius and Zendo stay back from the troll, and heal, Gellius healing himself, and Zendo healing Ragnar.

Grazuul stabs and snaps at the men again, then retreats beneath the scummy surface of the pool. Though his attacks have wounded the men, the troll himself is badly injured, both from Hikage’s assault, and the vicious magics of his own trident. Ragnar, sensing the weakness of his foe, leaps into the water after the troll. Though he is mauled by the troll’s claws, the Ulfen strikes Grazuul dead, and slices off his head.

After carefully placing the magical trident to one side, the men explore the room, but, finding little else of interest, open one of the doors leading to the east. This reveals a long stone room with a pool on one side, and a scale model of Skull’s crossing, complete with human skulls, along one wall. Excited past caution, Corvus quickly advances on the model but finds, to his surprise, that a grim construct guards the room. A large, scorpion-like automaton, covered in skulls, advances on the surprised wizard and seizes him painfully in a chitinous pincer.

Seeing this grim apparition, festooned with the skulls of the fallen, Hikage and Zendo are taken aback and run out of the view of the construct, while Ragnar advances upon it angrily, smiting the monster, though its lashing claws slash him for doing so. He cannot prevent the bone scorpion from crushing the wizard to the ground and squeezing him painfully. Gellius summons a lightning elemental to fight this foe, and Corvus tries to cast a quick spell without exposing himself to further attack. He fails to do so, but teleports himself to safety despite the painful tearing of his flesh from the sharp claws of the construct.

Unable to maul the wizard, the construct rends Ragnar with one of its claws, while seizing the elemental in the other. The bone spur on the end of its tail whickers forward, sinking into Gellius’s flesh, and the druid cries out in pain as the burning pain of poison sends spasms through his muscles. While the bone-scorpion is occupied with grappling the elemental, HIkage and Zendo advance upon it, and the monk and bard strike several blows, though their attacks, like those of the elemental, seem blunted on the iron-hard chitin beneath the ornamental skulls. Ragnar’s sword seems unaffected, and he slashes it across the beast, scattering skulls to and fro. The construct crushes the lightning elemental, dissipating it, and tries to grapple the Ulfen, failing to hold him, though the serrations of its claw cut Ragnar badly. It drives a stinger into Zendo, injuring him, but he shrugs off the burning poison. Gellius has fought off the pain as well, and, though still tingling with pain, draws a sword to fight. Hikage summons his focus and strikes the construct several times in weakened spots, bringing it down before it can do more damage.

After the ancient construct has been destroyed, Corvus and the others can finally examine the scale replica of the dam. The model is complete in every detail, and the jaws of the larger skulls even open, allowing access to tiny tubes within the structure. Under careful examination, Corvus notices several things. First, an ioun stone has been embedded in the structure by a later visitor, and second, the scale model functions as a magical control device for the dam itself, but seems to be depowered. Searching the room finds no evident source of power, so the heroes examine the chamber opposite.

This room contains little more than another pool of water, though the black ichor dissipating in that pool suggests that it shares a connection with the large, central pool, where the headless body of Grazuul rests. Finding little to interest them in the room, the men backtrack to the central chamber and laboriously remove the skulls piled in front of the southern doors. Hikage respectfully stacks those he moves against the wall, while Zendo fastidiously whisks them out of the way with minor magicks. Ragnar throws the skulls he moves over his shoulder into the pool behind him.

Once the doors are clear, Hikage carefully examines them. He can feel a slight warmth beyond the doors, and senses a faint, reddish glow. The men carefully open the doors and are puzzled to find a pair of magic warding circles, still glowing with reddish arcane runes. Both magic circles are behind iron portcullises, and the western circle contains only a thick carpeting of fine, reddish dust. Inside the eastern circle, however, lies the emaciated, dessicated corpse of a large, winged devil. The men are taken aback, but are more startled when the devil is revealed to still live, after a fashion. Dry, cracked lips peel back from yellowed fangs, and a whispery, scratchy voice reveals the devil’s name to be Avaxial. The infernal creature was summoned here ages ago by Karzoug himself, and Avaxial barters his knowledge of Karzoug for his freedom.

The heroes scoff at his offer, for Karzoug is long dead, surely, thousands of years in the grave, but Avaxial cannot believe that anyone powerful enough to have imprisoned him could have perished (or perhaps, his own desire for revenge blinds him to the possibility). Hikage feels that the devil has been unjustly imprisoned, and, despite their evil, can be trusted to negotiate honestly. Some of the others seem horrified at the idea, but Zendo tries to pin Avaxial down to a potential pledge to spare mortals.

The withered fiend deftly whittles Zendo’s idle offer into a specifically worded counter-offer, first getting the bard to agree to limit the scope of the pact to Golarion, then reasonably pointing out that any agreement to deliberately avoid unintentional harm is logically unsound. Within a few minutes, the clever bard, operating entirely from a position of strength, has almost offered to free the devil in exchange for an agreement to refrain from intentionally harming any being on Golarion.

Corvus, perhaps a little better versed in dealings with devils due to his Chelish heritage, quickly confers with the bard out of the earshot of Avaxial. Rather than refusing the deal outright, the meticulous wizard ruefully points out that the powerful magical warding circle is almost certainly beyond his ability to dispel or suppress, and thus, any offer to free the devil isn’t worth the paper it is printed on. Ragnar quickly points out that his adamantine sword, while perhaps unable to dispel the circle, could certainly efface the runes composing it, and, disturbed by the possibilities, the heroes decide to try to learn a little more from Avaxial.

The devil claims he is a ‘mighty general’ of Hell, though he ruefully admits that the millennia of imprisonment have almost certainly erased any trace of his power and influence. He claims that Karzoug summoned him and his companion devil directly into the circles, and sought no pact with them, or attempted any further binding. Avaxial is affronted that one so powerful as he should be imprisoned, then evidently dismissed or forgotten.

The devil explains that the circles allow the life force of those trapped within to be siphoned off to power the gates of the dam. This has happened many, many times, over the immense gulfs of time he has been entrapped. At first, the slight drain was inconsequential for beings as powerful as Avaxial, but repeated hundreds of times over centuries, even the almost inexhaustible soul furnaces of a greater devil could be cooled. Decades ago, his companion finally succumbed, the last meager threads of his unholy spirit being bled off to open the sluices during a prolonged rainy season.

Avaxial admits that he can feel the arcane engines of Skull’s Crossing pulling at his own soul as well, as the water builds behind the dam. He pleads with the men to free him, and he promises to tell them all he knows of Karzoug.

Zendo, however, has been subtly planning his own scheme, however. Always a master orator, Zendo plies all of his rhetorical tricks and fascinates Avaxial, ensnaring the devil in conversation. Were the fiend at the height of his powers, his keen mind and unassailable ego would prevent him from being tricked so easily, but the long years of solitude have diminished him. Zendo cagily probes Avaxial, asking him leading questions and luring the devil into revealing much that he should conceal.

Avaxial reveals that he has gazed upon the face of Karzoug but once, at the onset of his imprisonment. A few lackeys and syncophants, architects and wizards, perhaps, entered the soul prison chambers intially, perhaps to admire the construction or to verify their operation, but Avaxial admits that these visits, sparing though they were, dwindled down over the first few years and then ceased entirely. No one has entered the chambers for thousands of years, though the immortal fiend cannot accurately gauge how much time has passed beyond the chamber which has been his prison for so long.

Zendo triumphantly announces that Avaxial has little information of value to reveal to the men, and he has already shared it, meaning that any further negotiation with the devil would be of no benefit to him. Gellius quickly summons a fleeting fay spirit into the other chamber, over the frantic protests of Avaxial. As soon as the spiteful, wizened mite appears in the second magic circle, both beings cry out in pain, and the mite fades away as Avaxial crumbles to the flagstones, and thence into dust. The deep rumbling of stone and metal can be heard as the sluice gates slowly grind open, releasing the swollen waters of the Storval Deep in a controlled manner.

The heroes exit Skull’s Crossing, verifying that the gates are in proper order. They clamber down the long, stone staircase and tend to their horses. Corvus magics up a sleeping chamber at the top of a rope suspended in midair, and, clambering within, the men heal their wounds and rest for the night.

On the morrow, the 30th of Neth, the men ride back into town. They meet with the mayor and the concerned citizens of Turtleback Ferry. Zendo regales them with an heroic recounting of the battle of Skull’s Crossing, though he omits any mention of the deviltry within. Privately, the men tell Maelin Shreed of the strange, occult nature of the mechanisms within the dam, and warn the upright priest that somehow, someone must eventually make use of the grim, necromantic engines within the dam if the sluice gates are to be kept in operation. Gellius does offer a suggestion that summoned creatures, or other magical, artificial life, does seem to be able to power the circles as well as ‘real’ creatures, which may seem macabre, but does seem to be preferential to intentional sacrifices.

The men also take the opportunity to resupply themselves from the grateful and awestruck citizens, doing some shopping at the local general store for rations and feed for their horses. A visit to Fort Rannick is likely in the offing, and thence to Hook Mountain, to seek out the hidden clanhold of the Hook Mountain ogres, and their allies, Lucretia and Mokmurian, perhaps.

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Exploring Skull's Crossing
Neth 29, 4707

The heroes rise early in the morning for the long ride to Skull’s Crossing, which lies far in the mountains above Claybottom Lake. The others wait patiently as Gellius and Corvus prepare their magics for the day ahead, then set out in the cold rain for a rather miserable ride up the Skull River trail. After noon, they pass the turnoff for Fort Rannick, and continue on higher into the mountains. Within a few hours, the massive expanse of the dam known as Skull’s Crossing begins to come into view as the men near a steep valley.

Skull’s Crossing rises steeply from a small lake that shows signs of recent flooding. The walls of the dam rise easily three hundred feet, and span the steep walls of the gorge in a shallow arc, running over a thousand feet from one side to the other. The name of the dam, and the river, becomes obvious. Skulls’ Crossing is ornamented with hundreds of massive bas-relief skulls, covering the wall of the damn. Each spans fifteen feet from cranium to jaw, save for five enormous skulls studding the middle of the dam, each of which is fifty feet high. Gellius’s keen eyes notice the larger skulls have an accumulation of grime and moss beneath them, and Corvus speculates that these skulls conceal sluiceways to release water from behind the dam. However, none of the skulls is currently relieving the pressure of the month-long rains. However, water gushes from a recent rent in the east side of the dam. Something has cracked the rim of the dam, and water pours through, cascading over the easternmost skull.

Atop the dam, in the center of the building, a squat stone building arises. Each of the walls of the structure is dominated by an immense stone skull. To the west, a steep set of stone stairs climbs upwards towards the dam, terminating in a large cave perhaps 30 feet below the level of the dam itself. The stairs are marked by an irregular railing composed of long poles with rounded tops. Hikage notices figures moving on the dam, though they are difficult to see through the driving rain and the distance. At such a range, however, a man would be too small to see, so the figures must be massive.

The heroes urge Gellius to scout out the dam, and he assumes the shape of a large fish eagle, and flies off to the east to survey Skull’s Crossing. The eastern side of the gorge is quite steep and rainsoaked, with only a few scraggly trees clinging to patches of rock. Flying over the eastern half of the dam, Gellius inspects the damage to the structure. It appears that something has broken the surface of the roadway, but that the significant damage is from a large portion of the upper dam which has been broken away and shoved over the dam itself. To the north, the waters of the immense lake known as the Storval Deep lap at the dam, perhaps a dozen or more feet from the top of the structure. Examining the eastern face of the building atop the dam, the druid can see two double doors, nestled under the cheekbones of the massive stone skull. Flying over the structure, Gellius swiftly notices the cause of much of the damage to the dam. Four ogres smash iron-bound stone clubs at the structure wearily, as a fifth ogre supervises from a tumbled stone block. The ogres have evidently already broken through the rim of the damn on the southern wall, as well as the lip of the dam on the north wall, and are continuing to smash away at the stones seeking to complete the destruction.

The western end of the dam terminates in a dark cave mouth. Gellius fly past the cave and examines the stone stairs, realizing that the rounded tops of the poles are actually skulls perched or impaled upon the stout stakes. The eagle then circles around below the rim of the dam and examines the large stone skulls. A sluiceway emerges from between the jaws of the skull, and Gellius carefully lands within it. The stone channel runs back some distance into the dam, but is currently dry (save for the damp from the rain). Exploring further, the druid clambers back into the stone channel for some distance, but finds only a dead end, blocked by stone.

Gellius flies back to his companions and informs them of his findings. They decide to examine the skull poles and find that each skull is marked with a rune. The runes are a crude form of Giant, and Ragnar and Corvus tell the others that the mark is a rough “Keep Out” or “Beware” warning. Ragnar ties up the horses out of sight of the dam as the others prepare.

The stone steps are sized for persons larger than humans, and it requires the men to clamber up the steep, wet rock carefully. Corvus slips and nearly tumbles over the side, but catches himself on one of the poles, narrowly averting disaster. Zendo later slips as well, and quickly vanishes out of sight with a yelp. Fortunately, the bard is protected by his ring of Feather Falling, and sheepishly resumes his climb with the others.

At the top of the winding stairs is a landing. Above the landing, accessible only via a steep climb up the cliff wall, is the large cave entrance. As the others clamber up the stairs, Gellius explores the cavern, disturbing a huge, two-headed ettin. The ettin angrily shoos the ‘bird’ out of his cave, and Hikage attempts to stealthily creep closer. Unfortunately, the ettin’s two heads are doubly alert, and he shouts out “Intruders! I no take bribe! I stop them!”. As the group scrambles for position, the ettin hurls javelins with each hand. Hikage deftly knocks one from the air. The monk rushes up the steep cliff face, his powerful limbs thrusting him upward from tiny toeholds and handholds, and charges the beast before the ettin can even arm itself. Gellius, still in the form of an eagle, burns the giant with caustic nettles. Zendo inspires his allies with his rousing rhetoric, but fails to scramble up the steep cliff. After loosing an arrow ineffectually, Rangar drops his bow and quickly scales the cliff. At the top, he positions himself to attack the ettin. The ettin swings his flails at both of the fighters, to little effect. Gellius swiftly disarms the ettin of one flail by heating the metal and burning him, as Hikage and Ragnar fight back. Gellius swoops to the attack and tears at the ettin with his sharp beak. Distracted by the bird, the Ettin misses Hikage with his flails, one in each hand. Capitalizing on his opponent’s distraction, the monk launches a feint, then smashes a devastating blow into the ettin’s leg, causing the giant to stumble. Seizing the opportunity, Hikage lands an iron-hard punch onto the ettin’s now-accessible jaw, and the two-headed brute collapses as if poleaxed.

Exploring the ettin’s lair, the men find a great deal of gold and silver, a pouch of pearls, a magical phylactery, and an ivory scroll tube with several useful magical scrolls inside. Evidently the ettin hadn’t always taken such a strict line on bribe-taking! They can also see light streaming through another exit to the cavern, though access is difficult, as another cliff is in the way.

Gellius flies through the opening and finds that the cave leads out onto the top of the dam, but the ettin’s cries have alerted the ogres. They see the eagle and lob javelins at him, though their fatigue has leadened their limbs.

Gellius summons dire rats to slow down the ogres as his comrades assemble. Hikage swiftly scrambles up the cliff and soon is engaged in battle. Rangar climbs up behind him, and, though he cannot reach the ogres as swiftly as the monk, he cuts one down with each blow of his sword. Gellius assists in the slaughter by hurling blasts of lightning, still in the form of an eagle, circling around the dam.

Corvus and Zendo can’t seem to ascend the cliff. Finally, Zendo helps the short wizard climb up the cliff, then the wizard assists the bard to follow. By the time the two have reached the dam, Hikage and Rangar have finished off the last of the ogres. With the way to the structure at the center of the dam clear, the men advance on the stone doors flanking the graven skull on the western side of the structure. However, the stone doors seem to be impregnable. Even Ragnar and Hikage working together, using Ragnar’s crowbar, cannot get them to budge. Gellius flies to the eyesocket of the skull and finds that it is a stone window opening into a chamber within. Inside, the room rises to the dome of the skull, thirty feet overhead, and is filled with ropy coils of twisted fungus and moss, evidently growing from the copious moisture off the Storval Deep. Matted beds of moss line the corners of the room. In his aquiline form, Gellius cannot open the doors, but flies back out of the eye to inform the others.

Impatiently, Hikage quickly scrambles up the face of the skull and lets himself down into the room. Seeing no danger, he quickly crosses the room and opens the double doors, only to find himself face to face with four massive trolls! Hikage quickly begins to fend off the attacks of the nearest trolls, while calling for assistance. Fortunately, the lumbering beasts cannot easily catch the dextrous monk in their savage claws, but fighting two of the beasts means that some of their vicious attacks hit home.

Gellius flies into the room to aid his comrade, and burns three of the trolls severely with a Flame Strike. Corvus quickly casts a spell to allow him to fly into the room as well. Zendo readies himself and steels his comrades with encouraging words. Before Corvus can magically transport the others into the fight, Ragnar, with a roar of anger, pries the doors open and storms into the room, dropping his crowbar and drawing his sword. Within the room, rain pours into the eyesocket windows of the northern skull, and more beds of moss and fungus fill the corners. Several dead ogres, torn limb from limb and gnawed, lie on the floor. The trolls rage at the intrustion into their lair, and accuse the men of being in leage with the ogres, though only Ragnar and Corvus understand their debased speech. Corvus launches a burst of acid, hitting the uninjured troll and stopping him, like his allies, from regenerating for a brief time. HIkage batters a troll brutally, as Gellius transforms back into human form, in hopes of healing Hikage’s many wounds. Zendo lunges forward and impales one troll on his rapier, nearly killing it, as Ragnar smites another before moving to protect the wizard from their wrath, as the trolls recognize a fire wizard as the greatest threat. The men weather the attacks of the trolls, as Corvus summons one of his mightiest fire spells. The immolating flames of a ferocious fireball consume all of the trolls, as the young wizard skillfully directs the ravening flames away from his comrades.

The men quickly search the stone structure. They find no more trolls, but find mossy beds for far more trolls than they encountered. The western doors are ruined, but have been blocked from this side with a jumble of rocks and detritus, explaining why they were so difficult to open. Hikage’s keen senses find a cache of treasure hidden behind a loose stone in the wall of the eastern chamber, and the men pocket the golden comb and cracked emerald they find, while the magical gloves of swimming and climbing go, by consensus, to Zendo, who seems most unable to master climbing a wall otherwise.

Within the southern chamber, they discover a set of double doors graffitied with a crude warning in Giant runes, translating roughly as:

Keep Out! Below dwells Wet Papa Grazuul!

Corvus does not recognize Grazuul as any commonly named devil or demon, but his examination of the architecture and inscriptions of the structure lead him to the belief that the entire dam is Thassilonian in origin. Indeed Skull’s Crossing is far more ancient than Turtleback Ferry, as the dam has held back the Storval Deep for thousands of years, possibly even ten thousand, if Brodert Quink’s theories are to be believed. Hikage forces the heavy stone doors open, revealing a series of stone steps (human sized, this time) leading down into darkness.

Treading down the stairs finds the heroes descending deeper and deeper into the structure of the dam itself, as the stairs soon come to a landing and turn back south. A series of such landings find the men descending a hundred feet or more into the ancient structure, before the final flight of stairs, longer than the rest, opens into a larger chamber. On both the eastern and western walls, doors lead to other passages. To the south, a huge mound of polished skulls blocks a set of double doors. In the center of the room is situated a large pool of water, though the surface of the water, and the lip of the pool, is encrusted with a slimy yellow film. Skulls and other spiky, angular, images are graven upon the walls.

Curious, Corvus takes a wax-wrapped packet of rations from his haversack and tosses it into the pool. Suddenly, the slimy surface of the pool explodes as a massive, icythic troll lunges from the water, brandishing a vicious-looking trident. “Ynnngh graaaakhht harrrk Grazuul?”, it bellows. “Who dares disturb Grazuul?”, Corvus helpfully translates*

*"Unknown [are the] imbeciles [who] provoke Grazuul" would technically be more accurate.

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Spookiness in the Shimmerglens
28 Neth, 4707

After Zendo and Tillia shook off their disorientation, Gellius rescued the schoolmarm from the rooftop as Zendo quickly gave the gigantic, but gravely injured, Ragnar a modicum of healing, in case the townsfolk were badly injured. Between Ragnar and Gellius, the villagers seeking shelter in the church were quickly rescued, though the Skull River already seemed to be subsiding.

As the men brought the last of the villagers to safe ground near the General Store, a spontaneous cheer arose from the crowds of gathered townsfolk. Mayor Shreed asked for the injured to step forward, and he led a brief prayer to Erastil, thanking Father Deadeye for sending these men to protect the town and rescue his flock in their time of need. His prayers were accompanied by a burst of healing energy which did much to help both the townsfolk and the heroes.

The trappers and loggers of Turtleback Ferry were all abuzz about Black Magga and the sudden flood. Many excited theories were aired and shouted down. Some thought that the flood indicated that the dam had broken, while others insisted that the floodwaters were summoned by Black Magga herself. Some claimed that she came to destroy the church, while others thought that the lake monster was freed by the incessant rains from the Storval Deep to roam below the dam. The men assured the villagers that the ogres were defeated and Fort Rannick was safe again, and they asked the townsfolk, despite their flood damage, to help the Black Arrows repair the fort.

Asking to speak with Maelin Shreed privately, the men spoke to the grizzled priest of Erastil in the comfort of Bottoms Up, the town’s only tavern. They shared both the good and bad news with the mayor. While the fort had been retaken, only two Black Arrows survived, not nearly enough to garrison the fort and protect the area, though possibly, the Fort’s commander, Lamatar Bayden, might still live in the Shimmerglens, hidden in Whitewillow. More ominously, Lucretia had escaped, likely fleeing to the Hook Mountain stronghold of the Kreegs. The men solemnly assured the mayor that they intended to press onward to Hook Mountain to defeat the ogres there, and avenge the deaths of the rangers and villagers.

Mayor Shreed was astounded to learn that the scandalous owner of the Paradise was actually a lamian sorceress in disguise. He questioned the heroes in detail about what they had learned in Sandpoint and in Magnimar, as well as in Fort Rannick. The mayor was very concerned about the Sihedron tattoos that Lucretia had been bestowing upon guests on the Paradise, given that Xanesha had evidently used similar runic markings to capture the souls of her cult’s victims for her master. Mayor Shreed was concerned, not just for the safety of his townsfolk, but for their souls, as well, and sought to find any way of removing the runic marks. Corvus revealed that he knows spells which can remove such tattoos, but it would require numerous castings if the wily sorceress has marked many guests.

At first, the men were still confused and uncertain about the plot behind the tattoos. The victims in Sandpoint and Magnimar were violently marked and immediately sacrificed, but these unknowing pawns were marked and released safely, none the wiser. Corvus even speculated that the ‘subtle’ marking mentioned in Lucretia’s letter to her sister might have indicated that the tattoos were slowly leeching out the life force of their subjects. The fact that the tatttoos appear completely non-magical would have appeared to rule that out, however.

Knowing now that the people who drowned on the Paradise might have been sacrificial victims brings a more troubling possibility to the wary old priest of Erastil. Lucretia had been operating the Paradise for two, almost three years. It is almost certain that her tattoos are on more people than just Kayven and a single villager. The sihedron rune almost certainly marks many villagers, and probably dozens, or even hundreds, of frequent visitors from Pendaka and other river towns downstream. Sinking the barge might have been a good way to hide evidence, but it would have been a particularly ineffective way to sacrifice many victims.

However, a month of rain would put a lot of water in the Storval Deep. The recent surge of water might indicate that the floodgates of the ancient dam are not functioning properly. The men realize that they have not perhaps paid enough attention to the local history. Skull’s Crossing, the dam forming the Storval Deep, is ancient beyond human memory. It stands hundreds of feet high and over a thousand feet across. The entire dam is decorated with a hundred or more stone skulls, each twice the height of a man, and five central skulls, each fifty or so feet tall, which act as flood gates. No one knows how the flood gates operate, but they have always opened in times of heavy rains, to distribute water downstream. Skull’s Crossing has always been an enigma, since a tribe of trolls, the Skulltakers, has made the ancient dam their dwelling place for as long as people have been in the area. The trolls are dangerous, of course, but the dam is remote, and the trolls feed off the prey in the Storval Deep and do not venture downstream.

Mayor Shreed frets that perhaps Lucretia plans to collapse the dam, sending the chill waters of the Storval Deep down the Skull River in a catastrophic flood of destruction. Such an immense wall of water would scour Turtleback Ferry and Pendaka from the map, as well as causing massive damage to Ilsurian, Whistledown, Nybor, and Whartle. The Storval Deep is perhaps the largest lake in all of Varisia, and such a flood would swamp even distant Magnimar. It would certainly kill almost any river folk who had been branded with the Sihedron. The heroes begin to realize the scope of the ambition and planning they are opposing. Plans years in the making and affecting hundreds of lives are afoot.

The men realize that vengeance upon the Kreegs is premature, given the potential threat of the dam’s collapse. They resolve to journey to Skull’s Crossing on the morrow, but, given the remainder of the day, seek to press onwards into the Shimmerglens in search of Lamatar Bayden. Mayor Shreed blesses their endeavors, and assists Zendo in healing Ragnar and the others to health. The grizzled priest requests that one of the local fishermen lend the heroes his rowboat to allow them to navigate the damp and flooded swamp.

When the men enter the Shimmerglens, Gellius stops and casts a strange spell, making noises like a bird call. Soon after, the men hear the birds of the swamps calling back, seemingly in response. After listening carefully to the many caws, hoots, and quacks, Gellius turns to his comrades and tells them that the ‘lady’ who dwells in the swamps has gone, but a ‘scary woman’ has replaced her, and he can lead them to her!

Gellius then casts an even more ominous spell. After his prayer to Gozreh, the men can hear strange, spooky whispers emanating from the Shimmerglens. Though it seems as if the druid has awoken some sort of hostile nature spirits, Gellius listens to the pervasive murmuring and guides Ragnar surely through the maze of runnels and rills that fill the Shimmerglens.

As the men navigate through the swamps, they seem to see menacing, hooded figures in the corners of their eyes, though all the figures turn out to be leafless or dead trees in the swampy ground. Having braved a haunted house, it will take more than this to frighten them! An irritated Ragnar goes so far as to hack at one of the trees, and is disgusted to find that the wood oozes treacly blood rather than sap.

Soon Hikage spies a figure flitting through the woods, disappearing from sight, and reappearing under the cover of the trees. Is it the mothman? It appears to be too small and insubstantial. Tiring of the tension, Hikage calls out to the figure to show itself.

After a tentative exchange, the small, winged being reveals himself to be a bedraggled pixie called Yap. Judging from his reddened eyes, Gellius and Hikage realize that the diminutive fey has been crying, and he soon reveals that tragedy has befallen his mistress, Myriana, and death would have been a kindness. Yap insists that Myriana has been heartbroken and is insane with grief, but in her madness, she has unwittingly poisoned Whitewillow. He begs the heroes to assist her, especially when he learns that they are looking for Lamatar Bayden, her lover.

Though Yap does his best to lead the men directly to Whitewillow, the heroes cannot fly (at least, not all of them), and must content themselves with a circuitous route through the twisting streams of the swamp. This, unfortunately, exposes them to the strange, dark turn that the fey aura of the swamp has taken. Hikage, peering over the edge of the boat in a calm pool, sees the others as hungry ghouls in their reflections in the water. Though he is sure that the swamp is playing tricks with his mind, the monk finds it difficult to focus after his experience. Later, the men all see translucent, wispy fey and animals prancing about in a sort of parade or carnival. Zendo, still slightly addled from his traumatic experience with Black Magga, waves at them wildly, trying to attract their attention, almost overturning the boat. The strange, silent processional weaves towards, and even through, the men, and an eldritch cold chills their bones.

In a clearing in the swamp, the men are confused to discover a large, sea-going ship keeled over, covered in moss. Questioning Yap, the pixie confesses that he hasn’t explored the ship, ‘because the dog barks at him’. No dog is apparent, but Yap says that the vessel ‘is always here, except when there’s no here there". Exasperated by the pixie, but intrigued by the ship, the men explore the vessel, against Hikage’s better judgement. Belowdecks, the heroes discover the captain’s cabin, with the leathery corpse of the captain himself, bedecked in his uniform, sitting at a deteriorating harpsichord. Corvus cannot recognize the uniform from any heraldry he knows, but notices that the instrument is decorated with carvings of angels battling devils. In one of the captain’s hands is a rolled sheaf of vellum, and in the other, a silver goblet. The men carefully pry loose both objects as Zendo carefully examines the book of sheet music resting on the harpsichord itself. The sheaf of papers are a series of sea-maps, though they depict no coastlines the men can recognize. The goblet is more prosaic, but more obviously valuable, as it is silver, and studded with obsidian. Zendo is amazed at the composition of the music in the book. Though the composer’s name is unrecorded, the music itself is exquisite and complex, clearly the work of a genius. With their treasures in hand, the men prepare to exit the strange vessel. Once above board, they find a large, shaggy white dog, with milky eyes, sitting patiently on the deck near the prow. Gellius attempts to befriend the dog, and though it wags its tail slowly, it does not respond to his beckoning, nor to Zendo’s attempts to feed it. When the men carefully approach the beast, it gingerly jumps from the ship to the soggy ground below, and carefully maintains a distance from them. Though the dog makes no attempt to hide from the men, when their attention turns to their rowboat, they find that they can find no trace of the hound, though there appears to be no convenient cover for the mutt to have taken.

As they near the area of the Shimmerglens that Yap identifies as Whitewillow, the group is horrified to find a dryad’s body wedged in the shattered remains of a tree. Approaching the corpse to examine it, Hikage and Gellius can tell that the poor woman has been crushed to death by savage blows, then hammered into place amidst the bark. As Zendo and Hikage examine the gruesome scene for clues, they can hear a woman’s voice softly whispering in their ear. They listen closely as the voice, evidently that of the dryad, tells them that the ogres destroyed her tree, and then her body. The dryad whispers that she cannot pass over into the First World, as her mistress cannot pass on, and will let no others cross over either. The monk and bard realize that, despite her body being so crushed and mangled that she cannot live, the dryad is still bound to this world, and cannot even fully die and pass back to the first world. All of the fey creatures they have seen are trapped here, unable to die due to their faerie nature, but unable to return to the fairy realms despite their grievous wounds. This realization makes the two even more determined to release Myriana and her subjects from the strange, spectral unliving torment that traps them. Hikage even goes so far as to gently touch the dryad’s body and quietly swear a vow to her.

Finally, Yap leads the men to a grove of drooping, blackened willows surrounding a circular pool of water, which remains calm and undisturbed, despite the steady rain. “My mistress lies within, but I cannot enter, as she is very angry, and I cannot withstand her temper,” he says, apologetically. Before entering the grove, Corvus remembers that nymphs are allegedly so beautiful as to blind the viewer, making their fey lovliness the last image a mortal ever sees. Zendo recalls that his grooming kit has a small mirror, and the other men also fish out a mirror from their own kit, except for the long-haired, bearded Ragnar, whose only concession to grooming is regular, often ice-cold, baths. The Ulfen seems willing to risk his eyesight to see the feminine wiles of a nymph, but the others, even the addled Zendo and Hikage, convince him of the foolishness of this course of action. He closes his eyes, sulking, as the others enter the glade averting their gaze and viewing the scene through their mirrors.

This proves to be quite satisfactory to Ragnar as Myriana emerges from the waters of the grove. The nymph is a ghost, and quite a horrific one at that. The ogres appear to have rent her limb from limb, and her disarticulated arms float and clench at a distance from her savaged torso. Though her body is terribly maimed, even through the mirrors, the men can see the shattered remains of her perfection, and the juxtaposition of smooth, perfect flesh and raw, exposed bone and muscle, is truly disturbing.

Myriana is unhinged with grief. Her lover, Lamatar, was stolen from her ‘by the evil and corruption of the world’, and she seems to blame the mortal realm itself for desecrating their pure love. She is truly distraught, however, because she cannot bring Lamatar back into the realm of the living through her magics. The ghost only wishes to restore her beloved to life, in whatever form that may take, but cannot bear to leave the mortal realm forever without doing so. In carefully and soothingly speaking to her, Zendo is able to piece together what really happened in the Whitewillows:

During Lamatar’s visit to his beloved, the ranger and the nymph were attacked by ogres and a red haired woman, surely Lucretia. Though the ranger was able to strike down several of his attackers, the ogres, with sorcerous assistance, surely slew him. Enraged by their losses, the ogres tore Myriana apart before leaving her for dead. When her spirit, unable to abandon Lamatar, arose, she found that his body had been taken, and she cannot call his spirit back and invest it into a new form. Something has trapped him in death, and she cannot leave her love in death.

The men swear to Myriana that they will avenge her death, and the death of Lamatar, upon the Kreegs and Lucretia, but Myriana angrily foreswears vengeance. She wishes not revenge, but just the touch of her love once again. She only wishes the men to bring Lamatar, or even the smallest portion of him, back to her here in Whitewillow, so she may give him life again and truly pass on.

Unwisely, Zendo tries to urge Myriana to ‘pass over’ now, thinking that the torment she is inflicting on the Shimmerglens will stop, The ghost, consumed with grief and pain, thinks that the men are perhaps misleading her for their own devices. She accuses them of lying to her, as not one of them ‘can even bear to look her in the eyes." His honor questioned (and perhaps, still a little confused by the fey aura of the swamps), Hikage indignantly turns and stares Myriana’s spectral visage full in the face, indignantly swearing a vow to her on his family honor to lay her to rest. Amazingly, the Tien monk escapes unharmed, either through his own fortitude, or perhaps being blinded by his own pride, rather than her beauty.

In any case, his forthrightness impresses the ghost, and she allows them to leave her grove unscathed. A squirmingly excited Yap awaits them outside, having eagerly eavesdropped on the entire encounter. He is exceedingly grateful for their aid, and offers them a tiny pouch of pixie dust to assist. The magical dust can produce enchantments when sprinkled on an arrow. Though Yap is difficult to follow conversationally, the men gratefully accept pixie dust which will put anyone shot with such an enchanted arrow to sleep, without otherwise harming them. “The arrow does what the dust does, not what the arrow does! What else would it do?”

Returning from the Shimmerglens late in the night, the heroes heal their wounds and collapse into bed.

On the morrow, they arise early, intending to investigate the condition of the dam at Skull’s Crossing. Knowing that the trollish Skulltakers hold the dam, both Corvus and Gellus prepare many spells of fire and acid for the challenge ahead.

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Black Magga
28 Neth, 4708

The next morning, Gellius and Corvus prepare their spells not knowing precisely what the day will bring, while the heroes discuss their options. The men know that Vale and Jakardros intend to execute Kayven for his treason, and do not object overmuch to the concept (other than Ragnar, who frowns on killing an unarmed man, rather than anything else). However, the Lost Coast Avengers are desperate to learn more of Lucretia and her plans.

Zendo decides to approach Kayven with an offer: assist them in their investigations and face trial in Magnimar rather than execution at the hands of the Black Arrows. While Zendo has no intentions of interfering with the rangers’ frontier justice, he does a good job of convincing the duplicitous Windstrike of the possibility of avoiding execution. Evidently Kayven is more skillful at deceiving than at being deceived himself.

Kayven seems to be genuinely ignorant of the deeper symbolism of the Sihedron rune. He claims that Lucretia wore one on a necklace, and told him that it was a ‘lucky star’ with seven points. She said that it was an old symbol, long forgotten, but doesn’t seem to think it was deeply significant. He received the tattoo on the Paradise after receiving an invitation to become a special guest, but the tattooing itself didn’t appear to be out of the ordinary.

Kayven tells Zendo that Lucretia arrived in Turtleback Ferry during the rainy season of 4704, several years ago. She had a large barge towed up from downriver and moored in Claybottom Lake. She spent some time having it renovated into a gaming hall called the Paradise. He visited the Paradise quite some time ago for the first time and liked the decadent atmosphere. Finding the place to his liking, Kayven often requested the southern patrol route, and rather than staying in Pendaka, he frequented the Paradise. Lucretia invited him to become a special customer and he accepted, as this allowed him to spend his coin on gambling and luxuries rather than on drinks and entrance fees. Well after he became a special customer, Lucretia took him aside for a proposition. Kayven admits that Lucretia, who was a sorceress, first used her magic to charm him at first, but he was soon ‘on her side’. Lucretia helped him realize that the Black Arrows had exploited him, by forcing him to work for small pay in a dangerous job, just because of foolish choices made in his youth.

Despite its success, the Paradise was just a ‘front’ for Lucretia to operate in the town. One of the reasons the gaming hall was so popular was that it just needed to break even, and not turn a substantial profit. Lucretia wanted Kayven to keep an eye on the Black Arrows and give her advice and warning if they became suspicious of her operation. Not until recently did Kayven really get more information about why Lucretia was operating in the town.

She confided in him that she was working with someone named Mokmurian. Mokmurian was working to organize the Kreeg ogres for some purpose, and the Black Arrows were interfering with his plans. Kayven didn’t know exactly what ‘Master’ Mokmurian’s plans were, as he had never met him, but he got the impression that Mokmurian and Lucretia were colleagues of some sort, and that her activities, while not the same as Mokmurian’s, were somehow related to the same goals. The Kreegs, once properly organized and supplied, were going to take over areas like Turtleback Ferry and Pendaka, so the Black Arrows would have to be removed for that to happen. This timeline was moving forward, so Lucretia came to him for his help.

Kayven agreed to inform Lucretia, and thus, the Kreegs, about the layout and organization of Fort Rannick, to make it easier to besiege. He also agreed to inform them of a major patrol, so that the fort would be more lightly garrisoned than usual, and easier to take. Kayven had learned that Lamatar Bayden had a secret lover hidden somewhere in the Shimmerglens. He had intended to use this information as his own trump card, but shared it with Lucretia. By timing the assault on the fort during one of the commander’s absences, the Black Arrows would be bereft of even more leadership.

Once the plan was put in motion to take Fort Rannick, Lucretia told Kayven she was going to have to sink the Paradise to hide any evidence that others might find. He knew that she wouldn’t have wanted him to die there, or she wouldn’t have told him about the sinking. He doesn’t know how many people were on board the boat that night, as it sank during his captivity among the Grauls. Kayven’s nonchalance about the question illuminates his amorality to Zendo. Once the Fort was taken, Kayven was to rendezvous with Lucretia secretly in Turtleback Ferry and head out for parts unknown.

Kayven said that he tried to mislead and delay Vale and Jakardros during the patrol. Assuming that the patrol was delayed, Kayven thought the two rangers would abandon any hopeless attempt at retaking the fort, and abandon it to the ogres, rather than risking their lives foolishly. Instead, Jakardros insisted on leading a hopeless assault, nearly getting them all killed. Thanks to Kayven’s knowledge of the ogres’ strategy, they were able to escape, but the degenerate Grauls captured all of them and nearly killed them all.

Kayven was unable to meet with Lucretia in Turtleback Ferry, since he was captured by the ogrekin, and he was worried that she might have left the area without him. However, the questions the heroes asked about Lucretia made Kayven hope that she might still be in the area, as he knew that she met with Jaagrath Kreeg on occasion. He knew that she would not have left him entirely, so he escaped the scrutiny of the men and hurried to the Fort, trying to warn her if she was there. He had not been to the Hook Mountain ogre stronghold, and was not sure that anyone there would stop to allow a lone human safe passage, no matter their story.

When asked about the persistent rains, Kayven said that they started during his captivity with the Grauls. He knows that Lucretia is a skillful, shapeshifting enchantress, but doesn’t think that she herself has any weather magicks. However, Lucretia did not seem unnerved or surprised by the incessant rain (if a little tired of them, perhaps). Kayven seems certain that his paramour Lucretia was in league with powerful men like Mokmurian and others, and that someone in the conspiracy is capable of such a feat, though to what end, he is unaware. Kayven, despite his precarious position, seems confident that he has ‘lashed his yoke’ to a greater team, and that his own abilities and capabilities are valued by Lucretia and her allies. Even in such dire straits, after such a crushing defeat, Kayven seems more than willing to grasp at the tenuous hope that Zendo is dangling in front of him, cocksure that greater things are ahead for him. It is an optimistic trait, to be sure, but one that has probably ill-served the misguided ranger in his short life, as well as in his gambling habits.

Taking his leave of the traitorous Windstrike, Zendo speaks to the Black Arrows. Though he knows that they desire vengeance on Kayven for his betrayal, he asks that they delay justice for a few days, in case leads turn up that the wayward ranger can clarify. Jakardros and Vale seem reluctant, both out of a burning hatred for their former comrade, and an unwillingness to keep and feed the ungrateful wretch while engaged in the arduous task of restoring the fort. They ask the men to speak to Mayor Shreed and try to convince the priest to send craftsmen and workers to assist at the fort. Shalelu approaches the heroes diffidently and confesses that, so long as their mission will keep them in the area, she wishes to remain at the Fort with her step-father, Jakardros. Though there has not been a full rapprochement between the estranged elf and her adopted father, the shared time has allowed some measure of trust to build between them.

Vale presents the men with arrows enchanted with lightning from the depleted stores of the armory, and Jakardros suggests that the men might also take the magical gear of Kayven Windstrike. Wearing the garb of a traitor would be seen as an ill-omen by any new recruits, and, at the very least, the heroes might be able to dispose of it profitably in Magnimar.

Mounting their steeds, the men bid farewell, at least for now, to the remaining Black Arrows. They ride back along the Skull River trail towards Turtleback Ferry in the rain. As the trail follows the river, Gellius is taken aback by the rushing torrent. The waters of the Skull River flow high and muddy, overflowing their banks. While this might certainly be expected after almost a month of constant rain, the submerged brush and trees tell the druid’s practiced eye that the Skull River rarely, if ever, flows so highly. More than a 100-year flooding, at least to him.

Approaching the old wooden bridge crossing Skull River, the men pause to appraise the situation. The rushing waters surge around the bottom of the bridge, and a great deal of tree limbs and branches have built up on the upriver side of the bridge. Both Ragnar and Zendo think the bridge will still be safe to cross, though the men do so singly, to avoid catastrophe.

Riding south into Turtleback Ferry, the heroes can see that the town is flooding! The swift waters of Skull River have overflowed their banks and are rushing through the houses and buildings on the northern bank of the small town. Though some people are braving the currents to rescue goods in homes at the edge of the flooded region, the waters pouring into Claybottom Lake are strong and swift, threatening to overpower those foolish enough to enter them.

Before they can do aught else, the heroes are presented with a perilous situation: the town’s schoolmarm, Tillia Henkenson and some of her young charges, are stranded in one of the town’s namesake ferries, wedged between two of the buildings on the submerged riverbank. Evidently the waters rose so quickly that the teacher and her students were unable to safely evacuate in time. As the men plot how to best rescue the five, Hikage sprints across the town and dives into the muddy, surging waters. Corvus magically enlarges Ragnar to the size of a large ogre (or small giant). Screams arise from the children as a huge nightbelly boa emerges from the flood crawling into the boat. The massive constrictor seizes a pig-tailed young girl in its fangs and she goes limp after a heart-rending shriek. Ragnar quickly looses an arrow from his bow, and, improbably, despite the range, rain, and close conditions, sinks it into the snake. Distracted, the serpent drops its prey, fortunately into the boat.

HIkage emerges from the muddy waters and clambers determinedly up the side of one of the partially submerged homes. Once upon the rooftop, he harnesses his ki and leaps from one roof to the other. Despite the rain-slicked roofs, the nimble monk does not lose his footing until he has leapt from roof to roof to arrive near the children. Corvus reaches out to Zendo and Rangar, using his spells to teleport them to the nearest roof, though the enlarged Ragnar simply stands thigh deep in the flood waters. Gellius transforms into an air elemental and swiftly flies to assist as well.

As Ragnar slices the boa apart with his massive greatsword, Zendo lowers a rope down to the anxious children. HIkage quickly takes over, lifting children to safety after Tillia sends the unconscious Tabitha Kramm up in a harness to be healed by Zendo. Gellius flies the young children to safety himself, and Ragnar wraps a meaty hand around the shapely schoolteacher and lifts her himself. Though the crisis seems to be averted, Hikage notices something unusual as he secures the children on the roof. A large tree, seemingly uprooted by the flash flood, floats by on a collision course for the nearby church of Erastil. Before the crash, however, the trunk and black, wet roots of the tree submerge entirely, disappearing from view.

As the keen-eyed monk points this out to his distracted comrades, the waters around the church erupt in fury. Rather than a tree, the immense form of Black Magga emerges with a thunderous roar. Her fanged maw rises to the height of the steeple on her serpentine neck, and her sinuous tentacles wrap around the stone structure. Screams emerge from the interior of the church as the primeval monstrosity exerts her grip on the walls.

Corvus quickly teleports three of the children to safety beyond the edge of the flood. Gellius soars through the air with the remaining child to deposit him amidst the crowd. Ragnar places Tillia down on the sodden roof a the nearby building and moves to confront this new threat to the town with a few unconvincing words of assurance. HIkage, in a rare lack of foresight, consumes a magical potion in the hopes of moving through the air to confront Black Magga, but is disappointed to find that his cloudy form is insubstantial and can only drift slowly through the air.

Black Magga roars in defiance and speaks a dark language with her serpent’s tongue. Corvus, however, speaks even this black speech, and learns that she is displeased at the conurbation cluttering the shores of the lake. He quickly looses a series of magical missiles at her massive form, but his spell is foiled by her resistance to magical effects. She lunges forward and sinks her fangs into Ragnar, who is grievously injured (especially considering his already wounded state) and seems particularly drained by her vicious bite. As Zendo looses an arrow to no effect, the giant Ulfen strikes back and his magical sword bites deep into Black Magga’s scaly hide. Hikage notices that Magga is already quite battered, with many scrapes and cuts visible on her tentacles and flanks, and Corvus muses that she might have been washed downriver involuntarily from the Storval Deep where she is reputed to dwell.

Seeing Ragnar as a threat, the lake monster batters him aside, her chance blow striking him soundly on the temple with an ominous crack, knocking him into the flood waters. She surges forward towards Hikage, Zendo, and Tillia menacingly. Despite the grievous blow dealt him, Ragnar stands up from the waters, staggering unsteadily, though the wounds he bears should have knocked him unconscious, at least.

Gellius summons a mighty killer whale, not uncommon on the seas of the Lost Coast, but never seen before in Claybottom Lake. His ally positions itself between Black Magga and the others, shielding them from her grasping tentacles and vicious maw. Frustrated in her attempts to rend the humans apart, Black Magga exhales an oily black cloud upon them. Hikage, trapped in a cloud form, is unaffected by the poisonous exhalation, but the orca, Zendo, and Tillia are all disoriented and confused by the black fog. Zendo feels overcome with madness and delirium as flashes of insanity flit across his mind. Tillia shrieks and claws at him as the fog penetrates her brain. Using this opportunity to escape the confrontation, Black Magga jets backward, almost like a squid, seeking the deeper waters of Claybottom Lake. The orca snaps fitfully at her retreating mass, but the men call off the conflict, sensing that the safety of the townsfolk in the church, at least, is secured, and Ragnar, at least, is not in the shape for further combat.

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Searching for clues
Neth 27, 4707

After a quick search of the Fort, the men know that the fort is now safely back in the hands of the Black Arrows, or what remains of them. Jakardros Sovark and Vale Temros both thank the men gratefully, and they escort the heroes through the blood-soaked devastation that the Kreeg ogres have left behind, in hopes that something useful may be uncovered among the wreckage.

First the heroes voyage to the dungeon of the fort, to imprison Kayven until he can be dealt with. They are surprised to find the dungeon hung with multicolored silk veils, the floor strewn with red throw rugs and giant cushions. Heady incense fills the air. “What sort of dungeon did you have here?” inquires a dubious Gellius. “The dungeon wasn’t like this when we left!,” protested an indignant Jakardros. Within the dungeon, the cells are grimy and blood-spattered, but the men, unsympathetic, leave the unconscious Kayven locked within one of the fetid cells.

The main hall is largely ruined, not just from the crude depradations of the Kreegs, but also from the Fireball, rain of stones, molten obsidian, and ice storm unleashed in the entrance hall. In the workroom, the headless corpse of Petter is discovered, where Gragravan Kreeg was evidently using his body as a paintbrush to graffiti the walls with juvenile Ogre poetry (which, to Corvus’s surprise, Ragnar can read quite easily).

The armory has been smashed open, but the racks of weapons and ammunition are still in good shape, indicating that, at least, new recruits to Fort Rannick can still be well-equipped. The numerous guest chambers on the ground floor of the fort appear to be largely undisturbed, indicating little use, though the largest of those rooms did appear to have been in recent use, judging by the rumpled bedsheets.

Fort Rannick’s library of documents, atlases, and bestiaries appears to have been destroyed by the ogres, who have torn apart most of the books and stuffed the resulting clutter back into the shelves. The infirmary has been more gruesomely defiled, as the ogres not only murdered the fort’s priest of Erastil and the injured men in his care but have taken time to arrange the priest’s corpse in a horrible tableau, posing the poor man as if he were consuming his own disemboweled organs.

Searching through the ransacked barracks turns up little other than a gory severed horse’s head, which was evidently being used by the ogres as a make-shift mask. The mess hall has been utterly destroyed, with scarcely a single chair left unsmashed, while the kitchen appears to have been visited by a tornado, such is the wreckage. Beyond the kitchen, the pantry has been entirely ransacked, save for a single barrel of pickled fish, evidently unpopular amongst the Kreegs.

Entering the chapel on the second floor, the rangers are dismayed by the extent of the carnage and desecration. Once a rustic chapel to Erastic, decorated with numerous hunting trophies, the altar is now heaped with the mangled remains of several dead rangers, while their flesh and viscera decorate the trophies. A crude image of a three-eyed jackal painted in blood suggests to the men that the Kreegs, like the goblins of Thistletop, pay homage to Lamashtu.

Searching the quarters of the fort’s commander, Lamatar Bayden, the men make an intriguing find, one which Vale and Jakardros are both puzzled by as well. Though most of the fine furnishings of the room are vandalized, the wine cabinet’s wreckage reveals a hidden compartment to the keen eyes of several of the searchers. Trapped within the cabinet is a small wooden coffer, soft green leather boots, and a tiny jewelry box. Corvus determines the boots to be magical in nature, and the silver locket within the jewelry box contains a lock of silky golden hair, which Zendo believes to be the hair of a nymph.

Within the coffer are dozens of sheets of parchment, all containing beautifully written love sonnets to someone named “Myriana”. The poems, if to be believed, indentify Myriana as incredibly beautiful (which would be consistent with a nymph) and inhabiting Whitewillow. Jakardros and Vale identify Whitewillow as being a fanciful local legend for an idyllic hidden glen within the nearby Shimmerglen swamp, reputed to be particularly close to a portal to the First World. Neither man knows anything of Commander Bayden’s romantic liasons, but both men remember that Lamatar would leave Fort Rannick each month for just a few days for ‘communion walks’. The commander of the Black Arrows took such walks to keep him close to the realms entrusted to him, and Jakardros notes that Lamatar should have been on just such a walk when the ogre attack came. Vale is hopeful that his commander might still live, hidden in the Shimmerglens, though the men suspect that foul play (or worse, treachery) might have been involved.

Beyond the commander’s chambers, the tribunal holds little of value, the ogres haven smashed the table and chairs and torn apart the regional maps. Vale and Jakardros quietly cut down the corpses of their comrades, hanging from the rafters, haven been bled into nearby buckets.

Off the macabre tribunal, the map room lies in ruins, but a few maps remain intact. The grateful rangers allow the heroes to take a map of smuggler’s tunnels underneath the town of Riddleport, a few levels of the poisonous dungeon complex named Viperwall, and one depicting hidden paths of the forests of Lurkwood. “Not as if we two will have the spare time to explore them,” explains Vale curtly.

A final grim discovery is made in the watchtower. The ringer of the signal bell has been replaced by the corpse of a ranger, his steel helm dented from the abuse inflicted by the Kreeg’s murderous play. The remaining Black Arrows are clearly embittered and appalled by the carnage of Fort Rannick, and the remainder of the day is spent helping Vale and Jakardros give the bodies of their comrades what small measures of dignity remain to them. The roaring inferno that was the ‘new barracks’ soon burns the bodies of the Black Arrows as well as those of their oppressors.

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