Adventurer's Beware

10 Hammer (Deepwinter) (cont.) – Draconic Presence

The group seemed to be in awe as they looked upon the blue dragon of immense proportion. Harshnag addressed the dragon with disdain in his voice as if a history existed between the two. When he called her by the name Imryth, the group knew that the frost giant and this dragon were set on each other’s destruction. As the group slowly made their way toward the large open door to the barracks hall, Harshnag tactically circled toward the feast hall as if to keep this gargantuan dragon’s attention on him alone. Imryth saw through this ruse easily and mocked the frost giant while threatening to eat his vermin friends before him. Harshnag cursed her for entering he Temple of Annam, yet she taunted him as an unbeliever and even stated that she uses the oracle at her will.

Carden bolted for the opening followed by the others with some reluctance from Rhogar. Dyan’ette transformed into a large lizard and offered Tamnai a ride while Droom took up a defensive position near the door. Harshnag attacked the dragon, but she dodged his blows deftly and took flight toward the fleeing humanoids. Her decision cost her a wound from the frost giant, but seemed not to even notice. As she landed near Rhogar, the paladin released a mighty volley of swings and a blast of radiant energy erupted when he connected with the large blue scales. Angered that this dwarf dared strike her, Imryth roared and fear spread through most of those gathered. Carden, Aelith, Dyan’ette with Tamnai astride, and Rhogar dashed away as Droom held near the door waiting for all to pass. Rhogar rushed through the doors, but Imyrth released a flash of lightning from her maw the singed the paladin badly and blasted the wall beyond him. Then she turned her ire toward Droom as Harshnag rushed her from behind. The heavily armored champion took a few strikes from her tail before he also fled on injured legs. The sound of Harshnag and Imryth battling could be heard as the group hurried to the small spider caverns they visited before. Aelith waited for all to gather in the barracks room at the spider cavern entrance before triggering the large boulder trap in hopes to buy them more time.

Scurrying through the spider tunnels, the group soon found themselves high above the frozen rocks hundreds of feet below. Droom set to securing a piton for the ropes when a strange shape was seen floating in the low-hanging clouds nearby. After a few flashes of light from Carden, a flying ship drifted toward the group on the cliff face. As the ship turned against the winds and held itself parallel to the cliffs some 50 feet away, a metal rod fired from it and embedded in the icy rock near the group. A verticle two-rope bridge was slid down the attached line and Droom hooked the iron rings in place to allow the group to traverse the scary bridge dangling so far above the earth below.

Once the party boarded the vessel, it swung away from the cliff with Aelith attached to the ropes and pulled to the ship’s deck. Captain Delsephine, a pale slim female with short spiky black hair, welcomed the group and guided them to a room off the deck to allow for introductions and discussion. As the ship traveled southwest, the captain and her shipmage, Nyzroth, spoke their intent to the group while asking the group where they needed passage. A decision was made to go to Mirabar to relay information to Pavril first.

During travel, the group discovered that the vessel was sent by Klauth, the Great Red Dragon of the north, to aid them in traversing his domain as they pursued the end to the recent arousing of the giants. Capatin Delsephine made it clear that she and her crew of Cult of the Dragon members were to aid the group in travels under the condition that the group agree not to mention that the ship and its crew are connected to Klauth. She also informed the group of her crew. Nyzoth oversees the other six members, her muscle Brassik, Laz, and Oriskus, her eyes Perella and Zalthia, and her helmsmen, Tralt. The captain provided a tour of the deck and the hold as well as the cabins the party and crew used below deck. She also warned of magical interference with the elementals that were bound to the ship, a fire elemental for the furnace and an air elemental for the helm. Those needing a short rest were able to get one while avoiding the cold winds of the north that rocked the airship.

While traveling to Mirabar, Aelith was the first to discover that the divine infused dragonscale he carried somehow interacted with the helm of the airship. After warning the captain, the group experimented with the multiple scales and eventually determined that the scales could be placed in the helm’s metal face to serve as a compass while lighting the orbs atop it for direction, though a compass to what remained unknown.

Eventually, the airship neared Mirabar and Carden, Droom and Rhogar departed for the city a half hour walk in the distance. The three were able to navigate the city and find the tavern they left before. Since most shops were closed since it was after sunset, they were unable to sell any items. As the trio entered the tavern, Charcoal found Carden and eagerly licked his friend while barking loudly. Hushing the dog some, all followed him to join Pavril at one of the corner tables. The group described their encounter with Imryth at the Oracle of the All-Father and relayed their worries that Harshnag likely did not survive. Pavril listened intently and asked several questions, but it was evident that the loss of Harshnag had a deep effect on her. The group informed her of their recent transport crewed by Cult of the Dragon followers as well. She warned them that the Cult cannot be trusted, but use of the vessel could aid them significantly with travel over long distances.

After business seemed concluded, Pavril informed the group that she must return to Waterdeep to look into some issues regarding a cloud castle hovering above the city and rumors of assassinations of suspected Lords of Waterdeep. She ruffled Charcoal’s ears and told Carden that her mode of transportation will not allow her to take Charcoal. It seemed as if she was dancing around a subject and then she finally revealed her secret. She told Carden that he would have to grow up and fulfill his purpose without her aid. She admitted that he was her brother and explained that they shared a father, Killias Shareen. A twisted man that raped her mother on the Isle of Gwenneth and was turned to stone for his actions and deceitful nature. The punishment was supposed to be forever, yet a group of mercenaries known as the Onyx Claw discovered Killias and returned him to flesh. The man returned to his true nature and caused much grief and calamity on Gwynneth before escaping to the Sword Coast beyond the elves of Synnoria’s reach. She explained that she was never accepted by the elves as she was a half-blood from a cruel act and she found a home with the Gray Watchers. She eluded that the Watchers were descended from Force Gray who descended from the Gray Hand of decades’ past. The trio now understood that Harshnag had likely been the closest thing to a father that Pavril ever had and surely was a very close friend. She explained that she had tracked Carden after discovering that his mother fled from Gwynneth to escape Killias’ wrath and hide his birth from the man. She was curious as to her half-brother’s life and apologized that she did not find him sooner. After warning Carden to steer clear of Killias, she took her leave and wished Carden well on his journey.

The trio returned to the airship late that night and boarded. Captain Delsephine set sail south toward Goldenfields at the group’s request.

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10 Hammer (Deepwinter) – A few more question

The next nine hours passed and dawn was approaching outside the Eye when checked. Harshnag gripped the frost giant greataxe again and touched the Ise rune and the portal opened.

Upon entering, the group discovered four of the six lanterns illuminated and prepared for additional questions. Worrying that the cloud castle of Blagothkus would move, a question was asked to discern if the cloud giant’s castle moved frequently. When asked to discern if the cloud giant’s castle moved frequently. The interpreted answer was, “Like a stone, Blagothkus remains in place yet consumed by his failure and grief.” The first of the four lit lanterns darkened.

Aelith entered again to query, “What are the dragonscales infused with celestial essence that the party members carry?” The interpreted answer was, “The hide of our (giants) enemies through centuries past, secrets to a bastion where worshipers amassed, the tears of conflict from a mother’s loss, sparks life into gateways fueled at a cost.” The fire giant lantern darkened leaving only two lanterns lit.

After discussion, Dyan’ette expressed that he wanted to know about the Wrath of Gilgeam since his scrying a and planar contacts had proved ineffective. The group showed no disagreement and the drow queried “Where is the Wrath of Gilgeam?” The interpreted answer was, “No longer do they walk the shores of the living, their fate was delivered by the small and the grinning.” The cloud giant lantern darkened and the group came to the consensus that the members of the Wrath must have been slain.

Another discussion occurred and it was suggested that information about the revenant be sought since it likely hunted three of the party. Tamnai reluctantly agreed and asked about the revenant of Ragnolin. The interpreted answer was, “A debt wrought by hateful desire, seeks the demise of three and cannot tire. Found is an ageless ally empty of breath, and another that walks on the borders of death. Ever in motion like the currents of the wind, leads to frustration and danger for friends.” The last lantern and the darkness was similar to the feeling of worry that set about the priestess. The last possibility of danger for friends weighed on Tamnai. The group exited the portal and paused to discuss their way ahead.

After several moments, they headed toward the entrance passing the large statue of Annam when suddenly the double doors of the entrance flung open under great strength. Two long claws atop massive blue leathery wings crested the upper corners of the doors and then a gargantuan blue dragon head pierced the chamber’s entrance. A gravelling female draconic voice filled the room, “Look here, the frost whelp Harshnag looks for guidance from the All-Father and I see you brought vermin with you.”

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9 Hammer (Deepwinter) – The Eye of the All-Father

The Wardens bundled themselves in their winter clothing and armor before the hut’s protective barrier faded. After lowering themselves to the long entrance hall to the Eye of the All-Father, they waited as Harshnag shouldered against the large doors where the barbarians had previously attempted to melt. Several sheets of ice crash to the stone with the frost giant’s effort and eventually he was able to push one of the doors open. Similar ice was piled beyond the door as the cold from this region encrusted everything in a thick sheet of ice crystals.

As the Wardens entered the room beyond the doors, they realized the enormity of it. Frost clung to every surface of the 100-foot-high vaulted ceiling. Its depth and width was nearly 250-feet and seven enormous statues dominated the room. After illuminating one of the iron sconce 15-foot above the floor, it slowly spread to several other sconces along the walls and the vast room was bathed in light. The central statue was at least 80-feet tall and represented a robed giant with a deep cowl and arms outstretched toward a glowing portal across from the entrance. The other six statues represented the giantkind; hill, stone, frost, fire, cloud, and storm. Each kneeled in deference and presented a weapon to the central figure. Only the frost giant appeared to be missing its weapon as its hands were outstretched to hold such, but they were empty. Though the statues were stone, the weapons appeared different and included; a bone club for the hill giant, a rock boulder for the stone giant, an iron greatsword for the fire giant, a mithral spear for the cloud giant, and an adamantine trident for the storm giant.

The group quickly divided and started searching the chamber. Carden discovered a secret door behind the ice coated wall in one of the corners. Aelith discovered that the central statue had no features beneath the hood and Harshnag explained that none would dare to assume the features of Annam when asked about this. Droom exclaimed that two sets of double doors were on the right wall behind the ice settled there as Tamnai found similar doors along the left wall. Harshnag explained that barracks lay to the left and the feast hall lay to the right. He explained that in his youth he was here over two centuries ago with a Jarl seeking the Oracle. However, he spent his time on guard outside or in the barracks and feasthall.

The group gathered around the portal with Dyan’ette as the dark elf used magic to study the runes and the supposed portal. Harshnag recognized one of the six runes as the rune Ise, the ice rune that represents his race. Sic separate mithral runes surrounded the arch as a thick mist filled the arch. After several discussions, the Wardens decided that they needed to find the frost giant weapon so Harshnag, a frost giant, could touch it to the ice rune of his kind. The giant agreed. After Carden informed him of the secret door, Harshnag exclaimed that he would remove the ice from one of the doors leading to the barracks and the feasthall along with the secret door.

The Wardens travelled into the vast barracks to discover a huge stone statue representing a stone giant with arms outstretched toward the central hall that runs the barracks area. Giant stairs on each side of the entrances to the barracks climbed upward into another long hall. Dyan’ette discovered that the lower statue was magical and likely animated when triggered. The group methodically searched the lower and upper halls to eventually discover a magical trap on the floor of the lower hallway almost 300 feet up the slight inclined hallway. Search of the upper quarters revealed a giant bag with some giant rope and an anchor, a 6-foot wooden fence post, some stale and rank cheese, and a smaller bag containing a magical ice sliver and three frozen decapitated dwarf heads. The lower section revealed a natural crack with strange icy filaments in one of the rooms that led into the glacier.

Returning to the main room with the enormous statues, it was learned that two secret doors were discovered and uncovered by Harshnag. Both once slid open by the frost giant revealed identical rooms with a single giant lever in the down position. The group settled on the belief that the levers controlleded the portcullises. They headed toward the feast hall in hopes to find the missing frost giant weapon.

Entering the feast hall amazed everyone as this chamber was equally enormous to the original chamber. Similar lighting from the sconces ran the room along with a huge raging fire leaping high from a central bowl shaped basin in the center of the hall. The hall was 240-feet wide by 440-feet deep, with a 200-foot alcove in the left wall. Six gigantic pillars 20-feet in diameter and 60-feet tall supported the vaulted ceiling. Arranged about the central fire were six granite tables with matching benches and two 9-foot tall stone slabs stained with blood and grease. Before the group could adequately search the room, a heavy scuttling noise was heard approaching from the alcove.

A huge centipede-like creature with sheets of heat shimmering from it hastily charged the intruders. The Wardens rushed to battle the monstrosity and Droom was the first to strike it closely. The dwarven champion’s strikes were incredible as he managed to blind it with critical strikes to both of the creature’s eyes. However, Droom suffered damage from the creature with each hit as his arms seared and burned from the heat’s proximity. An assault of spell, blade, axe, and hammer destroyed the centipede-like creature that Harshnag referred to as a remorhaz. A further search of the vast chamber discovered a hole burrowed into the glacier below as well as a huge steel greataxe assumed to be the missing frost giant weapon.

Returning to the statue room, Harshnag acted upon the groups wishes and touched the axe to the Ise rune. A rolling thunder sounded and the mist shrouded portal sparked with blue lightning and the mist started to roll within. Carden immediately just stepped into the arch and disappeared. Dyan’ette, Rhogar and Tamnai followed. Aelith and Droom looked at each other in confusion at such a trusting maneuver. Harshnag was beyond them and shrugged. After Aelith placed his arm in the mist and then pulled it back intact, he and Droom enetered.

Beyond the thundering archway, a huge hexagonal chamber with walls rising 50 foot to a tapering ceiling was revealed. Each corner of the room had a life-sized representation of a giant holding a lit lantern in an outstretched arm. The cold magical light illuminated a giant corpse lying in the center of the room covered in the same frost covering the chamber. A thorough search and detection of magic revealed that the lanterns were everburning lights while the dead cloud giant in the center wore magical armor and gripped a magical object.

As Carden examined the body, a ghost-like image of the dead giant manifested and spoke to the group. Several minutes passed as the exchange revealed that the ghost was named Eigeron and was slain by his father, Blagothkus, when his father was told by the oracle that he was unworthy of Annam. The oracle suggested that Eigeron step from beneath his father’s shadow and this resulted in the betrayal and death of Eigeron. Discovering a circle of magical runes in the center of the room, the group cleared the ice and the body from the circle. The ghost asked the party to avenge him by slaying his treacherous father and in turn explained the ritual to question the oracle. The group agreed and gathered their questions as Dyan’ette identified the magical items discovered thus far.

After some agreement on questions, Aelith was volunteered to ask the questions. So, the ranger started the process. The ranger entered the runic circle and asked, “Annam, I beseech the, what must be done to end the current rampage of the giants?” A heavy presence pressed around Aelith and answered in a rumbling voice of the giant tongue. Carden had cast comprehend languages and Droom already understood the giant tongue as did Harshnag. The dwarf interpreted for the group. “Find a magic conch of the storm giant king, Hekaton. Use it to visit Hekaton’s court. Root out the evil therein.” After the answer, the lantern held by the hill giant statue darkened.

The group discussed further and decided on their second question. Aelith repeated the process asking, “Where is the magic conch needed to visit King Hekaton’s court?” the answered once interpreted was, “The conchs are in the clutches of giant lords.” Again, another lantern darkened, this time the stone gian’t lantern. Some discussion and some inquiry of both Harshnag and the ghost of Eigeron confirmed that each giant species had a few giant lords. It seemed as if any of the giant lord’s to Hekaton’s court would have a conch to allow travel there.

A third question was discussed to narrow down the closest conch. Aelith added that the group should seek to infiltrate a hill giant lair as opposed to one of the greater giants. Thus the third question was asked, “Where can the closest conch possessed by a hill giant lord be found?” The interpretation was, “Travel south over tree, hill, and vale. Let the great river be your guide. There, on one of its eastern arms, you’ll find Grudd Haug – the den of the hill giant chief Guh. The conch you seek is close to her.” As the third lantern held by the frost giant statue darkened, the group started discussing the location and Droom pulled out his detailed map of the north that he obtained in Gauntylgrym. It was decided that the great river referred to the River Dessarin and an eastern branch was just above Goldenfields where many hill giants were spotted and battled before.

As Dyan’ette finished identifying the icy shard, the warm triangular opal found in Eigeron’s hand, and the armor from Eigeron’s corpse, the drow shared that he thought the portal may be timed and not related to the lanterns or the questions asked. This prompted the group to pick up their questioning.

A consensus was reached to ask about the location of Blagothkus to possibly seek justice for Eigeron’s murder. The fourth question was asked, “Where is Blagothkus located?” and the interpreted answer was “His shadow lies on Parnast.” The lantern held by the fire giant darkened. No one was sure of Parnast, but all felt it was a location they could attempt to find later on their map. Also, the group was worried about the cloud castle moving.

The fifth question was about the dragon scales carried by the party. The question queried the location of another similar scale not possessed by the party. The answer stated, “Deep within the High Moor, sunken with the dead of past, a mossy scale in a field of spore, forgotten by those that last.” And the second to last lantern held by the cloud giant darkened.

Hurrying the group along as nearly 45 minutes has passed since the portal opened, a final question was asked by Rhogar about the Chalice of Bahamut. The answer was: “A vessel lost during a caustic altercation, alongside wealth welcoming temptation, a circle of wood acts as sentry, to gates once stalked by hell’s entry, ever beneath watchful eyes, a symbol for the pure and wise.” The last lantern held by the storm giant darkened.

Everyone rushed from the oracle chamber back into the large statue room and watched to see when the portal would close. A dozen minutes later, the portal flashed again and resumed its misty nature. A discussion on whether the oracle could be accessed again led an attempt by Harshnag to touch the axe to the Ise rune again to no avail. The group decided that it could be based on a time frame and agreed to try after further exploring the area and a long rest.

Eager to see what the trapped area in the barracks hall was, Carden called forth a giant hyena from his bag of tricks and sent the creature down the hall with instructions to go to the end and return. The hyena did not return, but soon after a large boulder rolled down the hall to be stopped by the stone giant statue with its arms outstretched. The statue then animated and started pushing the boulder back up the hallway and the group followed. Determining that the rooms past the magical trapped floor were empty, the group decided to explore the natural crack with the icy filaments. Harshnag returned to the feast hall to await their return.

The narrow uneven passages proved irritating for the party. The giant ice spiders they encountered only seemed to ail Carden as the rogue was not only restrained by their webs, but bitten repeatedly. However, the party slew a half a dozen of the spiders before discovering a room filled with webs. Dyan’ette’s spider familiar imparted that something big nested in the web and a well-placed fireball incinerated the ice spider queen and her eggs. Rummaging to find a surviving potion and a warhammer with a valuable sapphire, the group continued until they discovered a treacherous opening on the outer glacier.

Finishing their search of the uneven spider caves, the group discovered a few husks after the remaining ice spiders fled. Discovering an exsanguinated giant goat in one and a dwarven miner in another, the last held a living being. Cutting the cocoon revealed a terrified female Uthgardt barbarian in heavy furs. The Uthgardt looked at the group nervously. Upon seeing the amulet that Tamnai wore from the slain Uthgardt at the entrance to the Eye of the All-Father, she leaped on Tamnai and attempted to choke the priestess. Dyan’ette and Carden immediately attacked the woman. Dyan’ette blasted her with a firebolt that knocked her from Tamnai and Carden started to jab forward with his rapier when both Aelith and Droom tried to stop him. Nimble as ever, Carden avoided their grasp and turned his sword to strike with pommel at the last minute. Unfortunately, the woman shrieked in pain as the pommel crashed against her head and convulsed with a look of terror upon her face. Tamnai quickly checked the woman for life, but announced that she was dead. Droom bellowed at Carden that he just slew an unarmed, unarmored, woman clearly able to be restrained by the group if given the chance. Carden pointed toward Dyan’ette who had blasted the woman and the dwarf warrior returned his disapproval on Carden as if the drow was acting just like a drow. Aelith seconded the scorn while Droom clearly voiced that Carden had performed such evil acts twice now before him and that a third would give the dwarf cause to strike Carden with equal impunity. Tamnai refrained from adding anything as did the paladin of Bahamut. The lack of the goodly paladin’s support drew equal scorn from Droom and Aelith.

The group returned to the feast hall and settled for a long rest as some reattuned their magic items with the newest additions discovered in the Eye of the All-Father. Droom found Parnast on his map against the western edges of the Anauroch far to the east.

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8 Hammer (Deepwinter) (cont) – Uthgardts at the Gate

Not needing any light, the group crept forward following the tracks in the snow that led into the mountain. A distal flickering of light could be seen over 300 feet away. As the snow gave way to stone covered in a thick frost, the group decided to press against the left wall as they continued. Carden quickly noticed and pointed out large gaps across the ceiling of the huge passage. A whispered discussion revealed that additional gaps were seen and Carden checked for any mechanisms that would release the large blocks likely suspended to fall. When no trap was found, Carden took point as the group passed two such 20-foot wide blocks than ran the width of the 40-foot hallway. A few noticed that the ceiling now sloped to 60-foot high and that on each side of the 40-foot wide hallway was ledges recessed at 20 feet above the floor. The walls were still covered in ice and a climb would be difficult, even likely to announce the group’s arrival to whatever was near the flickering light beyond.

Aelith called forth magic and a rope fell from a suspended dimensional hole some 30 foot above him. He nodded at the group and climbed the rope until he could step over to the ledge above. Cautiously, everyone climbed or was lifted to the large ledge now known to be recessed 20-feet into the walls with additional hallways leading further. Large iron sconces radiating conjuration magic according to Dyan’ette was between each niche and the ledge ran almost 200 feet above the hallway below. Curious to what lay beyond the four hallways from the ledge, the Wardens investigated to find that all connected to another hallway running parallel to the entrance hallway. A large 60×60 foot room was back toward the outside with only a single large iron lever frozen in the up position some twelve feet up on the wall. The group believed that it could possibly control the large blocks to seal this place if needed. Following the 20-foot wide hallway beyond the openings to the ledge ended in a 20-foot wide by 30-foot tall iron portcullis with bars close enough to prevent entry by any but the smallest of creatures. A layer of ice rested on the ice-cold bars and beyond could be seen an enormous room that even Dyan’ette’s vision could not pierce far into it. The drow did see a few feet of what appeared to be a 40-foot tall statue of giant resemblance.

Satisfied with their reconnoiter of the hallway, the Wardens returned to the ledge to investigate the flickering lights. They witnessed a gathering of heavily furred humans speaking in an unknown language at the top of giant stairs that ascended 20 feet high and ran 40-feet back just beneath the ledges corner. It appeared as if the group of humans were building fires before two massive granite doors carved with images of giant gods in battle with dragons. Even with the flames licking at the bottom of the doors, the heavy ice upon them was not being effected as if their leader apparently wanted. Dyan’ette cast a spell to understand their language and shared that they were arguing as their leader wanted to reach beyond the doors and plunder the temple. They were apparently Uthgardt from a Great Worm tribe according to their discussion. Just then, Dyan’ette saw a glimpse of a large scaled white tail move into view. Leaning slightly outward, the drow viewed a large dragon with white scales accompanying the barbarians. The dragon’s head turned to look directly at Dyan’ette and everything started to happen quickly.

The barbarians rushed back down the stairs leaping from one to another when Dyan’ette used one of their torches to fuel his pyrotechnics spell. Thick smoke quickly surrounded most of the barbarians while the others tried to flank the smoke and descend. Droom told Aelith to hang on and then leaped from the ledge to feather fall to the floor below. Almost as soon as they landed, the dragon flew from the smoke and released a cone of freezing breath that engulfed Droom, Aelith, and Carden on the ledge above. Battle ensued as Dyan’ette called forth a banishment and used his manipulation of the weave to overcome the dragon’s will and the dragon simply vanished. Tamnai called forth a tower of flame that scorched many of the barbarians with flame and seared them with holy radiance. Rhogar unceremoniously joined Aelith and Droom on the hallway floor after an attempt to slide down the icy wall with his ice axe. The barbarians surged forth in a rage trying to overwhelm those on the ground. Carden remained on the ledge and fired eldritch energy at them while Dyan’ette retreated further away to ensure his concentration remained on the banished dragon. The barbarians quickly discovered that the Wardens were not easy prey as a few fell to melee prowess. The leader surged forth to engage Rhogar and a female shaman targeted Tamnai. As a few more barbarians fell and Wardens were received minor injuries, Tamnai approached the ledge to cast a spell. It was then that the shaman summoned a long wall of water behind the priestess that crashed toward her. Carden found himself in the spell effect but nimbly avoided being washed over the edge. However, Tamnai was caught unaware as the tidal wave surged about her and swept her to the ground below. The Wardens doubled their efforts and fell the barbarian leader followed by his last remaining warriors. As the shaman ran for the entrance, she was slain as well.

Hastily, healing was applied after Dyan’ette announced that he would have to release the banished dragon soon. The group spread out and prepared. The dragon reappeared only to receive a flurry of strikes. Rhogar’s javelin of lightning struck true opening a large gash in the creature’s chest. Aelith and Droom struck with thrown handaxes. Tamnai, Dyan’ette and Carden lashed out with magical spells. Witnessing such the formidable opponents and the lying corpses of the barbarians, the dragon chose to escape. As it disappeared from view, the Wardens cursed its escape and returned to their own wounds. A few moments later, Harshnag approached holding the dragon’s neck and asked, “Did you lose this?” The frost giant dropped the dragon’s corpse in the hall and explained his departure. The avalanche struck him fully and caused him to fall some distance before he was able to reestablish a grip. Feeling that the route up the cliff face might not hold his weight any longer, he chose to search for a sturdier path. It took longer than expected, but he evidently came at just the right time.

The Wardens searched the Uthgardt and removed any wealth, a sack containing seven chrysoberyl gems and a magical amulet the leader wore. Carden appraised the gems at 100 gold coin each. A short discussion ended with the group taking a long rest in the upper room with the giant lever. It was defensible, out of the wind, and Dyan’ette could establish his magical hut to help the group thaw and recover their health as well as their strength. The drow identified the amulet as an amulet of proof against detection and location. Harshnag leaned against one of the cold walls snoring loudly while the group took solace in the warmth of the hut.

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8 Hammer (Deepwinter) – The Climb

As the comfort of Dyan’ettes magical hut dissipated just before dawn, the freezing winds along the Spine of the World bit at the group. Cloaks and furred clothing whipped in the wind as the group prepared their climbing gear for the enormous cliffface before them. Harshnag walked the lower portion of the glacier and pointed at a deeper run up the ice that would allow the group to ascend without facing the brunt of the winds. A short discussion to decide the order of the climb followed by some instruction by Droom on using the ice climbing kit covered necessary precautions and basic harness and friction rings.

The order was Droom in the lead followed by Rhogar, Tamnai, Carden, Dyan’ette, and Aelith. Harshnag would follow alone and not linked to the smaller humanoids. The climb was extremely slow and tiring as Droom picked his way up the ice cliff and pounded jagged pitons into the glacier’s face. With an ice axe in each hand and steel crampons on his feet, the dwarf proved his familiarity with the task at hand. Aelith proved adept at the rigorous climb and though Carden was trained to climb, the icy face of the glacier was a new experience. Rhogar’s strength and close observation of Droom allowed him to mimic the technique well. Tamnai struggled at times and Dyan’ette was simply out of his element.

Several difficulties caused minor slips and an occasional dislodgement of ice into the climber below, but the group ascended the first few hundred feet with little issues. However, Aelith barked at Dyan’ette a few times as he witnessed the drow simply dangling and holding his harness to place more strain on Carden ahead of him. The wizard was tiring quickly and the thick clothing and freezing was starting to take a toll on a few of the Wardens.

As risk heightened much as the group’s ascent, Droom and Aelith became the anchors for the group. Nearing 500 feet, Droom called a halt and anchored in with additional pitons. A small ledge allowed Tamnai, Dyan’ette, and Carden to actually sit and recover some of their strength. All were anchored in while Droom, Rhogar, and Aelith simply swung in their secured harnesses. Feeling the muscles start to stiffen, Droom called the continuation of the climb. Harshnag bellowed above the howling wind, “You are near the half way point! Let us be done with this.”

Returning to the ascent, the group soon emerged from their sheltered run and found themselves being challenged by the wind as much as the climb. Fear creeped at the climbers as they slipped often and only the strength of the rope and the security of the pitons kept them from falling. Rhogar’s left crampon loosened and caused him to slip. Droom’s sheer strength and determination kept him from tumbling loose. Harshnag widened his distance from Aelith after a few chunks of ice, dislodged from those above, pelted his head. Unable to hear beyond the next climber in their line, the group was caught unaware when the ice gave way beneath Droom’s axes. The dwarf fell. Rhogar, caught unaware, tumbled as well and both fell. Droom’s ring activated to slow his fall, but Rhogar tugged violently as the lead piton attempted to catch his weight. The strain was too much and it gave way with the sudden tug. Tamnai was struck by the paladin and she joined the fall. The others watched in horror as this could be the death of them all. Dyan’ette cast a levitate spell upon Tamnai. This along with Droom’s slowed descent gave Carden and Aelith time to pound a second piton where they dangled. The reinforced piton just above Carden held and the group gained a grip on the icy cliff face.

The climbing order was nearly reverse now, so the group decided to keep it so and Aelith took the lead. Another 200 feet was scaled before the group encountered their next threat. Droom recognized a change in the air currents as Carden and Dyan’ette both felt a rumbling in the ice simultaneously. Warnings were shouted and all began to drive pitons furiously as a rumbling noise could now be heard. Just after securing themselves to the additional piton for support, a hail of snow followed by ice chunks crashed upon them. Stunned and weary, it appeared that all had made it through the minor avalanche. Bruised, battered, and winded, they continued the climb. The snow continued to swirl about them and only Droom could see that Harshnag was no longer in sight below them. Trusting that the giant was hardy and strong enough to survive, the dwarf turned his attention back to the climb.

Finally, Aelith could see what appeared to be the top or at least a large shelf ahead. The group sighed in relief as they were hopefully done with this arduous experience. Reaching the edge of the shelf, Aelith peered over and smiled as it must be the end of the climb. As the ranger dug his ice axe into the shelf to pull himself over the lip, he watched in horror as two cracks raced to the edge just beyond his reach in each direction. The ranger along with a large chunk of the icy shelf slipped free and plummeted. Dyan’ette looked up just in time to be jolted from his grip joining the descent. Carden reached for another piton in hopes to anchor himself, but was jerked off the cliff face, now the third climber plunging toward death. Fortunately, Tamnai was just below a piton and in sheer panic pressed her weight and her mithral breastplate against the piton. The rope yanked taunt and sent Aelith, Dyan’ette and Carden crashing back against the icy face of the cliff. The Sunite felt the piton giving way and tried to hold it into place, but it slowly inched out. Beneath, Rhogar and Droom understood the implications if the weight could not be reduced. Droom reached out and snagged Aelith pressing the ranger against the ice. The dwarf slammed one of his ice axes into the surface pinning Aelith with an outstretched arm. Seeing this, Rhogar followed suit by pulling Dyan’ette onto his shoulder and adding his weight to his own hold. The piton slowed its release and then stopped as only Carden’s weight remained upon it. Driving a second piton near the first, Tamnai was able to transfer the weight from the loose piton. Everyone seemed to finally release their breath into a cloud of frozen moisture. Understanding that the ledge above was weakened. Droom called to reverse the order yet again and he would lead the group to the right before ascending onto the ledge above. Several minutes passed tensely as the group traversed horizontally and then crested the edge of the cliff. Everyone scrambled at least 20 feet past the edge before accepting they made a four to five hour ascent up the glacier’s face over a 1000 feet high.

Unable to find any comfort in stopping on the freezing ledge as the howling winds battered at them, the group gathers their climbing gear and moves toward an enormous structure embedded into the glacier ahead. Approaching the structure, sheer cliffs are on both sides of the ledge as well as ahead to either side. Tracking through a foot of snow toward the mountainside, a stone dome carved from the very mountain itself became visible. Six 30-foot tall stone pillars covered in ice supported the dome. As the group closed, wraparound bas-reliefs were visible in each pillar depicting a scene. They included a hill giant lifting a giant rock above its head, a frost giant chopping down a great pine, a cloud giant flying among birds in the sky, a flying storm giant hurling lightning bolts at a ship, a stone giant climbing a mountain, and a fire giant with chained dwarf prisoners in a cavern. The last elicited an angry curse from Droom. Fatigued from the climb, the Wardens muddled about assessing their surroundings. Aelith discovered medium-sized humanoid tracks in the snow leading beyond the pillars and shared that the tracks were eight human-sized creatures and were only a few hours old. Determining that the tracks had approached from the left side of the dome, little more could be evaluated as the wind and snow disturbed them beyond the domed area. At the back of the dome, a 40-foot wide and 40-foot high hallway carved into the mountain headed inward. Dyan’ette shared that he saw flickering light deep within. Not wanting to enter without Harshnag, the group decided to wait for the giant a while and take a short rest beneath the dome. The hour passed slowly and muscles began to tighten and skin ache under the frozen winds. Having rested, some felt more fatigued from the continued exposure. Worried that Harshnag had not arrived, the Wardens entered the hallway to discover what was beyond.

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1-7 Hammer (Deepwinter) – The Valley of Khedrun

Early on the first day of DR1491, the Wardens found themselves among few people eating breakfast just after dawn. After a hearty breakfast, the group gathered their gear and started toward the eastern gate of Mirabar with Pavril accompanying them. The sky was heavy with clouds and snow was certain to greet them in the near future. Pavril wished them well and told them that Harshnag was a formidable companion to be trusted. She grabbed Rhogar by the shoulder as the group parted and asked in a mow tone for him to watch over Carden since she believed he harbored much guilt over recent events. The dragonborn reincarnated into a dwarf acknowledged her knowing such feelings himself and assured he would honor her concern.

The group followed Aelith’s lead and paralleled the River Mirar heading northeast. A light snow ensued and shortly before noon, the group watched Harshnag approach from the north. The frost giant told them that he would lead and that they had at least several days of travel on foot into the foothills of the northern peaks. A pace and a routine settled over the group for the next four days, even when the snows strengthened.

The snow’s accumulation reached just over a foot by the fifth day. While using his ability to attune to the surroundings, Aelith reported that a group of eight giants were ahead directly in the group’s direction of travel. Agreeing to reconnoiter, the group including Harshnag edged forward under a spell to mask their tracks and aid their stealth. Before them over a small ridge was a band of stone giants deconstructing what once was a keep with a few towers. Settled in a draw along the foothills, this structure seemed to have been claimed by the wild in years past. Regardless, the stone giants were efficiently dismantling the stonework and spreading the rubble across the surrounding snowfields and the river nearby. Watching for several minutes, the party and Harshnag agreed that it would be best to avoid a conflict with the giants.

As they turned north and pushed into the higher elevations, the group related what they had seen thus far from the giants they had encountered. The hill giants appeared to be gathering food and livestock in mass quantities for whatever reason. The stone giants were dismantling civilizations constructed by the smaller races. The frost giants were raiding the coasts and towns, perhaps searching for something. The fire giant encountered was excavating in obvious search, but again for what? The cloud giants were looking for relics of Ostoria’s past according to Zephyros which included the Nightstone. The storm giants had not been seen or encountered yet, so their goal was unknown. The group agreed that the giants were all acting upon a goal to gain favor with Annam so they could be raised in the Ordning when reestablished. All hoped that answers were at the Eye of the All-Father.

Travel slowed as the snows deepened. The group shifted to travelling along the backs of spurs and ridges to reduce the snow’s effects but this increased their exposure to the howling winds. Winding through the foothills and into the mountain faces, the Wardens finally settled a few hundred feet in a cut sheltered from some of the wind. Harshnag suggested that everyone get a good night’s rest as the climb would start the next day. The group looked at the sheer cliff face of ice the giant was pointing toward and worry crossed their faces.

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30 Nightal (The Drawing Down) – New Year’s Eve in Mirabar

The cold deepened overnight and the horses needed to be warmed up before starting the last leg to Mirabar. The accumulated snow was several inches, but the group made good time along the road. Midafternoon, the group topped a hill to see Mirabar in the distance. Harshnag announced that he would meet them on the other side as they paralleled the river into the Valley of Khedrun. He also recommended spending little time in Mirabar since the party recently had difficulties with other organizations and all large cities have eyes. Pavril and Harshnag spoke for a while and then the frost giant departed heading north.

As the group continued, Pavril discussed the fact that the horses would likely become a hindrance beyond Mirabar unless the part planned to abandon them. She also informed them that she would part ways with them once they left Mirabar, but described Mirabar and its past with the group. The city sprawled along a large hill rising along the northern bank of the River Mirar. Another tributary into the River lined the western side of the hill. As the group approached, they could see that a series of walls ringed the city. Pavril explained that the cities surface was segmented into these elevated rings while an equally large city was beneath, but accessed only by the dwarves of Mirabar. Finally approaching the collection of buildings and eastern gate, the group discussed selling the horses and finding an inn to get a warm bed before their trek into the Spine of the World. Dyan’ette used a disguise kit on himself and pulled up his cowl while both Aelith and Tamnai cast a spell upon themselves to assume another visage.

The dwarven defense of Mirabar known as the Axes of Mirabar in their red tunics with black axe livery greeted the group at the gates. After covering several city laws, the Axes welcomed the group into the city. Pavril led the group to the third tier where she recommended the Lonely Anvil Inn. The party split to better conduct their tasks before dusk and the revels of the New Year’s Eve. Droom and Carden accompanied Pavril to sell the horses, their tack, and purchase supplies for the journey into the Spine of the World. Aelith, Tamnai, Dyan’ette, and Rhogar acquired rooms at the Lonely Anvil.

After successfully selling their mounts at a very fair rate, glacier climbing kits, treated rope, winter waterskins, and rations were purchased. The group gathered at the inn and ate an early dinner while watching the revels of the night begin. Most decided to stay in the shadowy corner near one of the hearths and enjoy several drinks, while a few retired early to their room. Pavril stayed late with the group and departed before midnight. Tamnai was still awake when Pavril returned after midnight.

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28-29 Nightal (The Drawing Down) – Luskan to Mirabar

Two days passed relatively quiet, though the group fought the biting cold of winter this far north. Only Harshnag and Aelith seemed to ignore the stinging winds and freezing temperatures. Pavril openly discussed her opinion on most of the northern cities while asking of exploits from the others to pass the time. Dyan’ette used a scrying spell and focused in the crystal upon his staff to see the actions of Strog Thunderblade. The half-orc was aboard a ship standing along the rail the first day and then swinging in a hammock in the berth the second day.

A heavy snow obscured much the day of 28 Nightal, but the following day the snowstorm ceased. Large ravens were spotted to the north and seemed to pace the party as if watching their progress. Harshnag shared that they were likely Uthgardts of the Black Raven tribe and suggested a double watch during the night. Others watched worriedly as they believed the ravens were ridden by humanoids. Fortunately, the evening and night went uneventful.

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27 Nightal (The Drawing Down) – Leaving Luskan

Assembling and equipping their horses, the group gathered in the early morning cold. Crossing the bridge before the North Gate. Just within sight of the North Gate, a heavily furred female figure stepped before the group and removed her hood. Most of the group immediately realized the priestess of Loviatar they encountered two evenings ago. She kept her gaze on Rhogar and stated, “I see you were not fully forthright in your request Rhogar. I see a paladin of Bahamut before me now and a priestess of Sunite recently brought back to this life by the blessings of my Lady Loviatar.” Tamnai looked stunned as she watched the female before her allow her cloak to open and reveal the symbol of Loviatar resting upon her breasts. The Loviatar priestess met Tamnai’s gaze, “Remember that when your lady was not there for you, the maiden of pain answered and gifted you with life. Evidently Arvandor did not offer enough bliss to keep you in the realm of Brightwater. You will bear my lady’s mark and perhaps our paths will cross again.” Some of the group started to explain to the Sunite why it was best not to speak of the ritual until she had time to recover. The priestess of Loviatar smiled at Rhogar as she passed him pulling up her hood. “Well played paladin, I owe you.”

The group exited the North Gate in some disarray and awkward discussion while some described the ritual and others avoided it altogether. Two hours travel beyond the gates along the Blackford Road, Harshnag was discovered sitting in the snowfall waiting as promised. The frost giant stood and simply stated, “this way” before heading east along the frozen road. As dusk started, the Wardens and their allies made camp for the night.

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26 Nightal (The Drawing Down) – Recovering in Luskan

As the group gathered for breakfast, only Dyan’ette was absent. After an inquiry with the inn staff, it was discovered that the drow left earlier that morning and headed back across the bridge toward the Hosttower of the Arcane. Discussion turned toward recovery from the past few days and shopping for an appropriate eye patch for Tamnai.

Most watched Tamnai with concern as if weighing the impact of recent events. Though Carden seemed more reserved than usual, Pavril watched him with obvious concern to the others. The group decided a visit to the Luskan market would be best as a group. Within a few hours, the group returned to the inn after navigating the maze of the indoor market and finding Tamnai an eye patch. The Sunite continued to adjust to her condition, but realized that only time would allow a full recovery.

Just prior to dinner, Dyan’ette returned and explained he was performing arcane research at the Hosttower. The group shared a dinner meal and discussed their journey beyond Luskan. Pavril added that Mirabar would be their next stop and would take at least four days in the current weather. The group retired for the night.

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