Adventurer's Beware

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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19-24 Nightal (The Drawing Down) – Rhogar’s Aid

Uncovering his magic from his mother’s bloodline, Rhogar was excited to travel with the king’s daughter back to Luskan. The fact that he would be travelling via magic only heightened his excitement. Catti-brie smiled at the golden bearded dwarf and explained that a group of dragonborn mercenaries had arrived in Luskan. Since they were from Tymanther, she hoped Rhogar could share his knowledge of his kind to include their history, their beliefs, and any information that could ensure that the High Captains of the city did not turn them into a tool for their own use.

The teleportation was disorienting to say the least, but Rhogar was thrilled to experience such magic. He now stood at the base of an enormous green stoned tower that looked more like a hand bursting from the ground to split into five fingers reaching for the clouds above. The paladin watched his breath as the cold became apparent. Looking about, he saw dwarves hustling about among some longhouses and several long sheds full of construction materials. He also realized that he was on a large isle in the middle of a wide river that split the city of Luskan. A few other isles could be seen surrounding him as could a mass of ships docked in the distance. Catti-brie asked him to follow and he entered the Hosttower of the Arcane for the first time.

The next two days was a flurry of activity. Rhogar was introduced to several dwarven engineers and quickly made friends as they listened to his exploits and explained his golden origin. Less enjoyable, but none the less the reason for his visit, Rhogar spent hours explaining the dragonborn way of life, their values, Bahamut and his tenants to the dragonborn, and what he knew of his home, Tymanther. The wizards were a strange lot and though introduced by Catti-brie, their names and titles seemed foreign and forgettable. The strange shadowy sorcerer was from some Shade Enclave or Conclave. The two most interesting wizards were from some Harplee or Harpall family that asked the strangest questions that seemed to irritate many of the others. There were the wizards of the Hosttower with one being the Archmage Arcane and the others being Overwizards but it was not clear as to what they were over. There was a red, a blue, a white, a gray, and then a raven which was not a color like the rest and none wore the colors that they were called. The strangest was the drow Archmage and the other drow with the weird plume in his hat and an eyepatch that was on a different eye the second day. The dark elf mage was called Grumph or Gronph. He asked no questions and seemed highly distracted the entire time he was there and left early each day. The other drow sit in the shadows and listened, but asked very specific questions about dragonborn honor and the hierarchy of Tymanther. Rhogar left each day somewhat drained and happy to see his new dwarven friends. He preferred the grounds about the tower as to the weird emanations from the green-stoned tower.

The day of 22 Nightal was an epic scene for the paladin. Three large longships filled with frost giants attacked Luskan. However, the giants never set foot in the city. Horns rang loudly across the city just before dawn and almost immediately reactions came from the harbor. A few ships were destroyed as a giant longship crashed into the outer dock. Bells joined the horns and Rhogar watched on the isle as the giants met a force they had never suspected. He watched in awe as one giant vessel was set ablaze from several beads of fire that exploded much like Dyan’ette and Tamnai’s fireballs. Though far away, he could see a creature of pure air whirled about battering at the giant’s onboard and fanning the flames to spread faster. As the other two longships turned further south to enter the mouth of the river, a rain of fire blazing stones started. The first ship was consumed and giants leaped for the waters to be free of the flames. The very water rose to meet them and batter them while lightning stuck them from the nearby isle. With two ships destroyed, the third decided to retreat and pushed west. Even it did not escape unscathed as various magical rays and darts fired about it convincing it to hasten its departure. Most of the dwarves stood about watching the mayhem and many just shook their head muttering wizards before returning to start there day. Evidently, the attack gave the wizards reasons to forego any further dragonborn information and Rhogar spent the day among the dwarves discussing their engineering techniques and their favored drinks.

Rhogar spent much of the morning with Catti-brie and discovered that she was a priestess as well as a mage. She followed a deity known as Meilikki, the Forest Queen, and explained that she had been reborn into her current body as a child, but with the knowledge of her previous past. She was not alone, as her father and two others shared a similar fate surrounding a prophecy about her drow husband, Drizzt. She refused to speak on this more, but spoke in length about growing up among dwarves as a capable fighter in her first life. She informed Rhogar that his information was very helpful and thanked him. Since his friends were in Port Llast now, she could return him back to Gauntylgrym in a few days to await their return.

That afternoon, Rhogar received the stressful message from Aelith that Tamnai was dead and that he needed to find someone in Luskan that could raise dead. The paladin’s gut dropped as if punched. He could only think of the Sunite that was there for him when he awakened as a dwarf. The cleric that had been there to heal his wounds and offer a friendly smile as he stumbled in his new form. He knew he had to come through for her. He simply answered, “ok, I will!”

His first thought was to ask Catti-brie since she was a priestess and so knowledgeable. His encounter with her was not what he expected. Sincere and solemn, the king’s daughter asked questions that Rhogar could not truthfully answer. What was Tamnai’s desires if she ever fell? If she is a follower of Sune and now rests in the glorious realms of her deity, why would she wish to return to a mortal realm filled with pain, sorrow, and uncertainty. Having passed from the mortal realm herself, Catti-brie sadly informed the dwarf that she could not raise the Sunite. She suggested that the body be taken to Waterdeep and its grand Temple of Sune, for only they could ascertain the will of Sune in returning his friend to the living. Torn between frustration and rationalization, Rhogar knew he was selfish in this endeavor but he had been asked by his friends to find a way. Not knowing how or why she was slain, he committed to find a way. Luskan was a large city and certainly there were priests with the power to raise the dead. He sought advice from his dwarven friends about the city. After several rounds, he was able to determine that the City of Sails was different from others and that the High Captains were the ones that truly ran the city. Discovering that Ship Kurth was the leading ship and that they occupied Closeguard Isle, Rhogar set forth to discover a way. Spending enough coin to get some answers, the paladin quickly realized that there were few actual temples in the city and the most noteworthy was a Temple to Auril, an uncaring goddess known as the Cold Goddess or the Frost Maiden. Rhogar returned late that night with little progress, but at least an idea of what it might take to secure a priestess in Luskan.

The next morning, the paladin said prayers to Bahamut for guidance and set about to find a way to raise Tamnai. The majority of the day was spent gathering information and meeting a series of Ship Kurth agents. Rhogar’s strange origin and personable nature allowed him to finally make some head way by discovering that some priests or priestesses were willing to provide their faith at a price. Eventually, a scarred man offered to find a clergy able to conduct the ritual. He charged 100 gold coin, half up front and the rest upon delivery. Rhogar agreed not knowing any other option. Another message from Aelith informed him that his friends should arrive late on the morrow. Shortly after this message, Rhogar’s contact returned with news that he had found a priestess able to deliver the faith needed, but that she had requests as well. Hesitantly, Rhogar agreed to meet the priestess. Late that night, a raven-haired woman wrapped in a dark velvet cloak with a leather choker met in the tavern with Rhogar’s contact. The man collected his remaining 50 gold and left the paladin and the priestess to discuss their needs. The woman’s voice was stern and commanding, yet sensual and enticing. She desired the same information that the paladin had provided the mages at the Hosttower. She concluded that if it was valuable to them, it must be of value. She stated that this information along with 700 gold coins, 500 for the focus of the spell and a mere 200 for her services was all she required. She freely offered to show Rhogar ways of turning pain and suffering into strength and pleasure, but he refused worried at what she might mean. Smiling widely, she stated that he could sleep on it and weigh the value of the life she was to return against the knowledge he had shared. She would need an answer in the morning so he could impart his knowledge in exchange and so she could determine whether he spoke the truth. Turning from the paladin, she walked to the door and left the establishment with many glares lusting in her direction.

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25 Nightal (The Drawing Down) – A Reunion in Luskan

The Wardens travelled along the road as the wintery winds bit at them in an attempt to sap them of their warmth. The snows, though deeper than before, still were little more than 6 inches along the road. The day passed quickly and an hour before dusk, Harshnag informed the group that he would depart. He agreed to meet them where the Blackford Road crossed the Black Raven River since they would be taking the Blackford Road from Luskan to Mirabar next. Pavril joined the giant for a short discussion out of earshot and then returned to the group. Shortly after, the group crested a hill to see the City of Sails in the distance catching the last light of the setting sun. The city spanned both sides of the large Mirar River as well as a few large isles at the mouth of the River. Darkness had fallen by the time the group reached the closed southern gates of the city. Pavril quickly talked the guards into admission for a gold coin for each to pass, but Carden’s shrill tongue caused him and Dyan’ette to pay more. A sending to Rhogar resulted in discovering he awaited the group at the base of the Hosttower of the Arcane. Finding their way through the dimly lit streets of Captain’s Court led by Pavril, the group headed for Closeguard Island. Pavril reiterated her information about Luskan, especially the part about the city being under the five High Captains and that they were getting ready to enter the turf of the leading House, High Captain Kurth. A sharp look at Carden advised him to keep his tongue in check. After announcing their business at the Hosttower to two sets of guards along the bridges, Pavril dismounted and suggested that he group continue while she arranged stabling. She informed them that she would be staying at the Jolly Whore Inn and would await them once they completed business surrounding their lost priestess.

With heavy hearts, the Wardens continued to the Hosttower to find a large contingent of dwarves about the base of the tower among recently erected longhouses and obvious construction camps. A familiar golden haired dwarf rushed forward to greet them. Rhogar hastily ushered the group into the base of the Hosttower and toward a site ready for the ritual needed. A simple room with a single large table draped in thick blankets was surrounded by a series of thick candles. The paladin urged the group to place Tamnai on the table while he fetched the priestess.

Rhogar returned with a worried look, but smiled as if encouraging the group that this would work. Behind him entered an intense woman with an athletic build wrapped in a thin gossamer black dress and thick choker. She started preparing the candles and asked a few questions about her payment. A payment equal to seven hundred gold coins was given and the priestess took the time to count the payment completely before starting. Seeing a symbol of a nine-stranded whip with barbs about her neck, the few members that knew the symbol of Loviatar quickly decided not to inform the priestess that the corpse was a priestess of Sune. Aelith decided to depart for the ritual and asked Rhogar to join him since the dwarf was obviously distressed by the corpse that lay before him. The two exited and Aelith started informing Rhogar of how Tamnai had fallen.

Dyan’ette, Carden, and Droom remained in the room as the priestess of Loviatar started her ritual. The hour seemed to last for days as the priestess flagellated herself repetitively calling on her deity to grant her strength and allow her to suffer in her name. The strange ritual waved from sensual to disturbing as the priestess disrobed to mere leather straps and a choker as she whirled and covered herself in her own blood through a painful ceremony she obviously considered pleasurable. Carden watched almost in horror as Dyan’ette seemed to be less affected by such open display. Droom stood stalwart with a confused look at this human method of prayer. None said anything as the ritual eventually intensified and the priestess called for Tamnai to return, to yield to her friends’ need of her presence, to take the offered hand of the lady of pain and come back to the mortal realm to finish deeds undone. The candles flared and then darkened as Tamnai’s form shuddered and then took a breath. As the priestess of Loviatar robed, Tamnai started to sit up and Carden and Dyan’ette rushed to aid her. She shook slightly as if cold and started to feel her face as her vision had changed even in the dim light in the room. Carden urged her to rest. Rhogar and Aelith returned as the priestess of Loviatar departed smiling at the paladin.

The lantern in the room was lit and Tamnai immediately asked for a mirror. All suggested she wait, but she was adamant and rummaged through the gear Aelith returned in the bag of holding. She looked upon her face to see the familiar face, though without the dusting of makeup so prevalent in her appearance. She just stared looking at the gaping hole where her left eye had been. Tears welled up in her one good eye, but she looked about at her friends knowing that she had returned from the blessed fields of Sune to be among her companions, her friends. As weakness washed over the Sunite, Rhogar suggested that everyone rest. He had arranged lodging in the tower and a rest would be good for all after this night.

Half-hearted conversations were had as Droom announced his decision to stay with the dwarves outside the Tower. The group decided to stay the next day in Luskan before heading out with Pavril.

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24 Nightal (The Drawing Down) – A Giant Discovery

As the sun crested in the east over the mountains to give light to the snow-covered land, the Wardens went about their morning rituals in silence. Usually, this time would be the time that Tamnai would pray to Sune for guidance and blessings to ward her friends and grant her favor. Knowing that the wrapped corpse of Tamnai rested inside the bag of holding was an eerie feeling and somber moment. The discussion turned toward the ledger found on the Zhent Captain and the missives within.

Two missives addressed to Narrah, the Captain of the Zhents read as follows:

(Missive #1) Viper Narrah,
You are to take your contingent to Neverwinter and function under the standard mercenary tenants of the Zhentarim. A concern demands your attention. A drow, by the name of Dyan’ette, serves their whispered organization and likely intends to uncover our more clandestine agents. He travels with an adventuring group referred to as the Wardens of the Coast. Discover as much as possible about this group and their exploits.
Ardragon Daleborn ~09 Uktar
(Missive #2) Viper Narrah,
Continue your missions in Neverwinter. You are correct in assuming your assignment is wintering in Gauntylgrym. Send a few of your troop to collect information from Port Llast as they most likely stopped there in their journey, however retain your contingent in Neverwinter to facilitate communication and further orders.
Ardragon Daleborn ~06 Nightal

Further discussion about Narrah’s ledger was held. The ledger contained the names and pay of all members of her contingent (26 in total). Seven veterans and the Banite, Ahndor, had been assigned to Narrah for over a year whereas the others were assigned or joined in the past six months with the Banite, Valoor, assigned specifically from Waterdeep only a month ago. All the jobs in the ledger looked like legitimate mercenary jobs guarding caravans, warehouses, or ships docked in the ports of Waterdeep or Neverwinter. Oddly though, the daily entries stopped on 17 Nightal, six days prior to their battle with the Wardens. A loose sketch of Dyan’ette was also folded in the back of the ledger while another sketch of Aelith on a dusky parchment along with writing below. The writing stated, ‘The sum of 1,000 gold coins will be issued for delivery of a living Aelith Brohm to Yartar. His corpse is worth 200 gold coin if delivered within 30 days of his demise.’ Furthermore, a symbol of a palm down hand with thumb aligned and fingers split between the 2nd and third digit was marked over the words.

After a previous day sharing her mount with Carden, Pavril suggested the rogue ride with Dyan’ette. Whether she tired of embarrassing the rogue or just wanted him to spend time with another processing the loss of the Sunite, no one knew. Pavril willingly answered many questions about the northern cities along the Sword Coast while dancing around the subject of her past or alliances. She scoffed at being referred to as a possible Harper and suggested that her organization dealt more in gathering information about threats. She assured the group that she was not as greedy as a Lord’s Alliance member nor as inflexible as the Order of the Gauntlet. After a quick lunch along the road, the group continued north.

Within an hour, Pavril announced that she should precede the group for their meeting and headed due east asking them to follow her trail after several minutes. Cautiously, the Wardens did so and crested a small hill before turning north to skirt a gathering of pine trees. The grouped stopped abruptly as before them seated was a huge frost giant in plate armor with leathers beneath much more elegant than any of the frost giants seen before. A large dragon skull rested upon the giant’s head with the lower jaws resting along his thick white beard. Across his legs was a huge jagged greataxe gleaming beneath his gauntleted hands. He looked at the group and lifted a barrel to his mouth to dump a dark red liquid into his throat. His thick deep voice boomed as he announced, “It has taken you long enough to arrive. Perhaps we should skip straight to introductions. I am Harshnag the Grim.”

The party introduced themselves and gave Pavril sidelong glances as she stood beside the giant with her horses reins in her hands. The young woman shrugged and smiled before saying that they should continue north. Carden whispered to the group of his knowledge about the giant before them. He stated that Harshnag was a controversial figure known in Waterdeep. A known member of Force Grey, an adventuring group labeled between heroes, troublemakers, and even mercenaries that worked closely with Khelben Blackstaff when he was alive some 60 years ago. The giant had never been sighted in Waterdeep since Carden’s birth.

Harshnag explained that he would lead the group to The Eye of the All-Father, an ancient giant temple where an oracle with the very voice of Annam was said to rest. If anyone could explain how to end the giant’s recent upheaval, it would be this oracle. He relayed that he would likely be needed to aid them there as the Temple was for Giants, not the smaller races. After the group informed Harshnag of their need to detour to Luskan, the frost giant scowled but agreed. He openly told Pavril that they would need not tarry too long and that he would travel with them until they neared the City of Sails.

Easily paced by a Harshnag, the group avoided any encounters for the remainder of the day. As they camped for the night, another message was sent to Rhogar stating that the group would likely arrive the following day later in the evening.

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