Adventurer's Beware

1-2 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) continued – Skyreach Castle

The group prepared themselves as they ascended the giant-sized stairs to the upper courtyard of the Giant Caste. The moonlight illuminated a single tall tower across the open courtyard of rocky ice. To the left was three huge domes against the inner wall with giant doors and a long rectangular structure. To the right was the tall wall of the castle that stretched further out of sight. The group chose the domes and Carden checked each for traps before unlocking the doors. All three were empty of occupants, but appeared to be visitor’s quarters for giants as they held various furnishings to include a giant bed, table, chairs, dresser, and armoire. Also, all three had access to a ledge when the back wall was touched, causing it to disappear and expose the room to the ledge and night sky beyond.

Slinking to the rectangular structure, the group discovered that its giant door contained a smaller wooden door like the barracks on the lower level. After Carden apoened the door, Droom slid into the dimly lit interior to hear gasps of several humanoids. He quickly realized that a score of woman and children occupied the room with most asleep until his startling entrance. The remaining members of the group entered as Droom set about calming the obvious captives. Confirming that these were the woman and children taken from Parnast, the group assured them that they would return them to their families below. Gathering information on the location of the cloud giant and his ogre retainers, the group moved to the single tall tower spied earlier.

Discovering that the lock on the tower was magical in nature, the group discussed whether to risk their spell resources to open it or bypass it. Eventually, the narrow vote to open the door was agreed upon and Tamnai used a spell to dismiss the magic on the lock. Entering the tower revealed a single giant staircase winding the inner walls to a single room some 100 feet above. Entering the eerie room revealed numerous giant runes floating about the room with only one, “anchor” remaining centralized. Additionally, numerous gemstones of various sizes and make, along with copper levers and mithral rods were embedded in the walls. The walls became transparent to anyone standing in the very center of the room. After discussion, a mutual agreement was reached that the room served as the control area for the castle’s movement and defenses. Only Droom felt a sentience in the room and shared it, but since no others felt the same, the group departed to further investigate the remaining structures.

Deciding to assault the ogre barracks identified by the captives, the group easily entered the barracks and quickly slew a dozen ogres as they attempted to rally a defense from their sleep. Further reconnaissance found a dilapidated tower, a tall tower with a blue sheen, and the largest tower housing the cloud giant and his personal guard of ogres. The group decided to take the trail just outside the ogre barracks winded up to the bluish tower. Again, after bypassing the lock, the group discovered themselves in a hollow tower with a giant stair winding the inner wall. Upon reaching the top chamber, four open balconies with thin curtains depicting clouds and clear skies were the only furnishings in the open chamber. Aelith decided to slide one of the thin curtains over the opening to a balcony and then a few members noticed a feint rune illuminated by the moonlight as it pierced the cloth. Sliding all the curtains across the openings, the group discovered runes that likely spelled a name, “Esclarotta”. Aelith voiced the name to Droom to answer the dwarves’ query and the entire group were transported to a sealed domed chamber of glowing blue ice. In the center of the chamber was a solid marble tomb with a carved figure resting upon it that resembled a female cloud giant in flowing robes. Dethek runes were carefully chiseled into each side beneath the figure and each read “Esclarotta”. Not willing to desecrate the tomb, the group set about looking for an exit and settled that magic was the only way to escape the room. Eventually, the group reasoned that the female giant was likely the mother of Eigeron and wife to Blagothkus. After pronouncing “Blagothkus” aloud, they were transported back to the tower top. They descended and skirted the ogre barracks to view the final large tower to see some activity upon the battlements above. Approaching the tower carefully, the group discovered another domed giant visitor chamber similar to the ones found earlier close to the final tower.

Suspecting an alarm similar to the ogre barracks, Carden climbed the wall and confirmed that a set of large silvered chimes were just within the door as the door was slowly cracked open. As Carden held the chimes for the group, Aelith snuck through the door. However, when Droom and Rhogar entered, their stealth was lacking. Two pompously dressed ogres in breastplates and frilled collars yelled out and the battle ensued. The group swiftly dispatched the two armored ogres as well as the two unarmored ones that were aroused from their sleep. But not before one of the unarmored ogres banged a gong suspended in the central table. The clanging deafened both Carden and Rhogar beneath it for nearly a minute and certainly alerted the tower above. Gathering their might, the group ascended the stairs to the floor above and found a locked door. Carden was unable to pick the lock. Droom, Rhogar, and Aelith rotated strikes with their shoulders to force the barred door open. Once the door was disabled, the group rushed the room to find the armored Cloud Giant Blagothkus and two of his ogre retainers. Spells were exchanged and an air elemental under the giant’s control entered the fray. The ogres were quickly slain, but the elemental sent both Tamnai and Dyan’ette flying before it was finally destroyed by Carden and his questionable blade. Realizing that he was outnumbered even after a lightning bolt and shatter spell that injured a few of his assailants, Blagothkus decided to make a break for it after a silence spell surrounded him. The cloud giant used magic to misty step and rush down the stairs stepping over those that tried to bar his path. Dyan’ette polymorphed Carden into a giant ape after the rogue cast some strange spell that leeched his own life force only to be hurled to heal Tamnai. The chase was on as the giant was outpacing the group. As the warriors rushed after the giant, Dyan’ette used a dimension door to transport him and Tamnai before the giant. At that moment, Aelith cast a sleet storm that surrouded the giant, the giant ape and the pair of casters. Chaos ensued as Aelith and Droom caught up to the storm’s edge. Rhogar enhanced his speed with magic and started hi circle of the storm to ensure the giant did not exit the other side. Dyan’ette cursed as his concentration broke but he eventually slid from the storm. Both Carden and Tamnai fared worse as they wandered blindly in the sleet. The giant, though originally hampered managed to levitate above the storm. Dyan’ette spyied the giant and Droom warned the others of his position above the storm. Aelith dropped the magical storm and the group reverted to ranged attacks. Tamnai struck from directly beneath Blagothkus with a series of scorching rays. The pair that hit burned deeply and the giant plummeted to crash on the hard-icy stone courtyard. As the group approached the corpse, a ballista bolt shattered the floor nearby and the group realized the need to eliminate the few ogres still atop the tower.

With no enemies in sight, the group searched Blagothkus to find a magical cloth and then searched the tower. The keys upon the giant opened two chests in his room that held tremendous wealth. The only room giving cause for further study was the third floor above Blagothkus’ chambers. It appeared to be a female’s room, though all the furnishings were covered in sheer cloth with dust suggesting that years had passed since its use. All the furnishings were giant-sized except a large mirror in the corner facing away. After removing all the cloths, the group searched for any valuables while Carden and Dyan’ette searched the mirror. Dyan’ette determined it to be magical with a transmutation property and even suggested that it may be a portal though he could glimmer little more with its current position in the corner. As Rhogar slid the mirror so that it could be searched properly, Carden started his search for traps along the rim. It was then that the rogue simply vanished when he moved before the mirror. Further study suggested that it could have transported him somewhere or even worse, it may have trapped him within. Dyan’ette set about with an identify spell after it was covered again. The drow confirmed that the mirror was used as a trap and was known as a mirror of life trapping.

The sudden shift in the castle suggested that it was moving. This sent Aelith, Droom, and Rhogar rushing to the control tower. Once there, they spoke with the disembodied voice of Esclarotta who was released from her bindings with Blagothkus’ death. She argued that she must find her son and that the castle was heading home to find him. Knowing that Eigeron was dead, the group sensed that his knowledge may not be best shared with his mother while aloft. Unable to convince the spirit to land the castle to allow the captives to depart, the group decided to call the airship to transport the captives to Parnast. Another decision was made to take a long rest before determining the best way to retrieve Carden and whether to inform Esclarotta of her son’s death.

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1 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) continued – Skyreach Castle

With hopes of clearing the areas surrounding the lower courtyard without raising an alarm, the group opted to start with the stone giant. Carden rushed the room and cast darkness around the fire before disappearing into his darkness. Tamnai cast a silence as Droom rushed the giant. It was apparent that the stone giant was no ordinary giant when it thrust its hands into the icy ground beneath it and similar stone hands erupted near Tamnai to batter her and cause her silence to fizzle when she lost concentration. The others rushed to prevent the giant from escaping and Aelith repetitively struck with the burning whip. Another silence spell by Tamnai prevented the giant from casting or using the glowing glyphs on its skin. Within a moment, the giant lay dead and the group listened to ensure their actions were not discovered. Dyan’ette watched an ogre peering toward the chamber from the top of the nearby tower, but it returned to its watch. After discovering a hoard of gems protected by a force barrier that Dyan’ette dispelled, the group decided to press onward.

The next room held a warlock of significant power, but the sheer numbers of the party overwhelmed him. Again, a large collection of wealth was obtained suggesting that he was a high ranked member of the cult. His robes bore the image of a jagged circle spiraling inward. Tamnai remembered it to be the symbol of a lost god, but could not remember the name of this being. The next room uncovered a supply room and larder. However, the next room the group entered was occupied by a hulking mass of flesh with mirrored eyes and a strange shifting robed figure. The group assaulted the hulking creature that attempted to block their path to its master. The shifting figure seemed to fold space and distance and most of the party suffered psychic pain from the bending of the reality about them. As the hulking mass dropped and the battle waged forward to the robed figure, space warped and Tamnai and it were transposed just as Carden struck. As his blade pierced Tamnai’s back, horror crossed his face as his ally slid unconscious dying before him. Dyan’ette tended the fallen cleric with a potion of healing as the group tried to coordinate their strikes against this formidable foe. Several deep wounds occurred for all as reality itself seemed to oppose them, but eventually the shimmering form slumped to the floor without breath. Close inspection revealed the figure to be genderless and its face smooth as if glass. Discovering a magical cloak and wraps on the figure along with a couple of magical scrolls, the group of adventurers decided to take a short rest after disposing of the bodies over the balcony beyond the illusory wall in the room. Dyan’ette identified the items and it was decided that Tamnai would take the wraps of missile snaring and Carden the cloak of protection. The various writings, scrolls, books, and loose parchments bearing a language that only Dyan’ette could decipher suggested that the cult followed a being known as Tharizdun, the Chained God. Eventually, everyone rested and bound their wounds before continuing.

After discovering only one other room nearby that was likely the sleeping quarters for the strange being slain in the research room, the group decided to assault the barracks they viewed earlier in hopes many of the cultists were now asleep. Backtracking through the complex and the kitchen, they gathered beyond the barracks. A plan to allow an invisible Droom to block the back door while the others surged in was executed almost to perfection. The cultists in the room were quickly defeated and many before they even had a chance to rise and determine their doom. Ten cultists lie dead and the group continued through the far door into the first tower. Careful planning and stealth allowed them to silence the four ogres in the first tower and a couple in the second tower before a final battle on the roof with two ogres. Carden attempted to intercede between the warning gong and an ogre only to be hefted up by the beast and used as a club against the gong. The sound however was dulled by his fleshy form and he deftly pierced the beast’s lung sending it over the edge along with the rogue. As the others defeated the remaining ogre and rushed to see Carden’s fate, the grinning rogue clung to the tower’s sides with his magical boots several feet below the lip.

Finding the last building to be large stables with two wyverns contained within, the group investigated the lone white statue in the gateway seen from the causeway when crossing between the towers. It was discovered to be a golem made from what seemed to be large salt crystals. Droom, though blinded by the stinging salts from every strike, harried the construct while others struck from a distance. Rhogar used Shatterspike with savage force empowered by his divinity to smite the golem into a large pile of crystals. With the lower courtyard cleared, the group discussed their next task of ascending to find Blagothkus.

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1 Alturiak (The Claw of Winter) – Skyreach Castle

After a night’s rest, the group watched Parnast closely. Several men left the village with obvious intent to either hunt or gather wood as the party watched from their perch in the barn. Minutes turned to hours and boredom settled quickly. Unsure if any cultists would descend, Carden decided to visit the tavern and before anyone could intervene he was on his way across the central square. Droom and Aelith decided to circle to the rear of the tavern in case the rogue got himself into trouble.

Carden’s small venture was filled with suspicion as he claimed to have just traversed the snowed in pass to the west and claim he was headed east in clothing and gear not appropriate for the weather or travel thanks to his magical armor. Ragnar fixed Carden some thick oatmeal and offered him a heavy stout beer for his travels and asked several questions. Once it became obvious that neither were interested in answering the others questions with much detail, Carden wished the tavern keeper farewell and exited toward the east. Dyan’ette could see that the Ragnar watched the traveler depart and Droom and Aelith made their way back to the barn arriving before Carden looped back. The group decided that if no cultists arrived by dusk, they would ascend to the castle using the cavern Dyan’ette discovered the night before.

Dusk approached and the group traveled a couple hundred feet away from the town before Dyan’ette transformed into a giant eagle and started ferrying the group to the castle above. One by one, the group assembled in the caverns below the castle until all were present. Dyan’ette resumed his form and informed the others of the path to the large monster. All agreed to avoid it for now and instead followed the higher path that lead to a spiral staircase carved into the stone-ice. Slowly and quietly, the group ascended until they reached a landing that opened out into a large courtyard with adjacent structures. The stairwell continued upward and widened to allow huge creatures to ascend or descend. Sliding along the wall to the left of the landing, the group let themselves into a giant door that opened into a quiet, yet chaotic kitchen. Wooden stairs and walkways suggested that humans or similar sized creatures used this area to cook and prepare meals. Several large chests full of spices were the only items of interest and the group passed through to the adjacent door.

After further reconnaissance, the group discovered a chamber occupied a stone giant with runes carved into its skin as well as a barracks for cultists that held at least ten cultists wearing robes with what appeared to be a weeping eye on them.

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28-30 Hammer (Deepwinter) – East toward Parnast

The group discussed options into the night as the airship traveled east. As the sun crested in the east, the Ardeep Forest passed by beneath the airship. Captain Delsephine announced that she would take advantage of the tailwind off of the coast and could likely make it deep within the Forlorn Hills by evening. Close watch on the cloudy skies throughout the day revealed nothing and the crew seemed content to sail several hundred feet above the land below. Travel through the night resulted in passing over the Iron Road between Secomber and Uluvin by sunrise the following morning.

As the winds shifted, Captain Delsephine decided to sail northeast upon them to keep a momentum similar to the previous day. Passing over the Delimbiyr River and staying north of the Delimbiyr Road, the airship sailed above the Delimbiyr Vale some 400 feet. In the late afternoon, the small town Zelbross could be spied in the distance, but it appeared ruined and blackened. A closer look confirmed that what life had once been in Zelbross was there no longer. Though no smoke rose in the air from the remnants, it was clear that many of the structures had been burnt to their foundations while others were merely crumbled into rubble. The ship stayed its course turning due east and sailed into the night passing over the Southwood and into the Greyvale by morning.

Deciding to sail south of Llorkh, the airship hugged the foothills north of the Greypeak Mountains and made the Dawn Pass by noon. A test of the dragonscales in the helm revealed that something straight ahead gave them reason to glow much like they did when close to Yartar. After flying over the snow-covered Dawn Pass, the ship was slowed by headwinds and the captain dropped altitude to a few hundred feet above the mountains below. By late afternoon, the captain spotted something of concern in her spyglass ans passed the instrument around for the group to see. Beyond the snowcapped hills and before the Weathercote Forest, a huge castle floated in the sky above a small village that must be Parnast. After a discussion, an agreement to head northeast and over the forest to the north of the castle was reached. The setting sun should help keep the castle from spotting the airship and since dusk was fast approaching, the darkness could allow the ship to travel to the intended destination.

Shortly after dark, the airship rested above the tall snowcapped trees below. The dragonscales still pointed due east and were brightly lit suggesting that their target was extremely close. The group decided that the possibility of a dragon was something for another day and focused on the floating castle. After coordinating with Captain Delsephine and leaving her a sending stone, the Wardens decided to move within a few miles under darkness to allow Aelith to determine the giant’s strength and Dyan’ette to use his arcane eye to spy the village and possibly the castle.

Aelith determined random monstrosities to the east, north, and south, but none in the village or the castle above it. However, he numbered some 28 giants in the vicinity of the castle/village and a few other giants to the southeast a few miles away. Dyan’ette sent his arcane eye into the village to discover a somber and sad existence for those there. Few tracks in the snow and less than half of the score of buildings were with smoke rising from their chimneys. He spied into one of the buildings to view a single haggard man eating a scarce meal near his fire. A look of desperation and hopelessness was obvious upon the man. The drow then sent the eye skyward toward the floating castle. Approaching the castle, it appeared to be constructed of ice more than stone or cloud, but was surrounded by thin clouds. The eye entered into a tunnel on the underside of the castle and winded through some tunnels before viewing a large chamber with a horrid tentacle creature dangling from the ceiling with a large maw filled with spiny teeth. The spell’s duration ended and the eye winked from existence. Curious, the group decided to enter the village of Parnast under the cover of darkness. Aelith called upon his magic to mask the groups tracks as they travelled the miles ahead.

Upon reaching the village, the group decided to find someone to speak with a settled on the lone man with the look of desperation. Dyan’ette and Carden remained outside as the others knocked at the back door. After some caution and hesitance, the man allowed the group to enter and submitted to their questions. The group discovered from Rem that the cloud castle known as Skyreach Castle had been near Parnast for over a year. It was first allied with the Cult of the Dragon, but a group of adventurers came through and defeated the Cult. Unknown to the villagers of Parnast, the why the castle remained was not evident and several months passed with no contact from above. A few months back, another cult arrived and the Dragon Cult seemed tame compared to this one. They dominated the village by slaying any that spoke against them and then took the women and children to the castle above. Many villagers simply ran away in the dark of night, but those with family taken stayed and now gathered food and wood for the cult members above. Rem admitted that he had seen ogres and a giant in the past, but the castle almost never descended as it did when the dragon cult was present. Instead, two cult members would descend on dragons with stingers and take the food and wood back with them. The village was left to fend for itself while providing for the cult above and few here held any hope that they would see their families again. Rem also suggested that Ragnar Redtooth, the tavern keeper was likely in league with the cult as he receives special treatment. Rem adamantly stated that the group were never in his home and never spoke with him. The group left and settled in the nearby barn after discovering it was an abandoned building used to stall wyverns during the dragon cults occupation. Dyan’ette set up his magical hut and the group decided to sleep and wait for any activity the following day.

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27 Hammer (Deepwinter) – A Visit to Waterdeep

Shortly before noon, the group arrives about an hour walk north of Waterdeep and Captain Delsephine starts to descend into the snow-covered hills near several copses of trees. Aelith decides to stay aboard the ship wanting to test some theories with the dragon scales and where they possible lead. Droom shares his scale and map and then departs with the others for Waterdeep on foot. Decisions are made that Tamnai and Dyan’ette will attend the Temple of Sune and Mystra, Droom and Rhogar will liquidate the items for sale, and Carden will check for any news. Tamnai gives Droom the Bag of Holding and others provide the items they want to sale to Droom and Rhogar. Once the group reaches the North Gate of Waterdeep, it is shortly afternoon and they agree to meet again just prior to sundown or shortly thereafter.

Tamnai and Dyan’ette travel to the Sea Ward and visit the House of Beauty first. More open about her heritage and worship, Tamnai strides up to the temple with Dyan’ette, a drow, by her side. After a few side glances and some scornful looks, she is admitted and offers prayers to Sune in the main chapel. She then sets about to pay her tithes while waiting for word if Serrita is present. Eventually, it is relayed that Serrita is not present, but should be in the city as she left the temple with Vain a few days ago and neither has returned yet. Unsure if the disdainful glances are from her openly wearing her tiefling heritage or something else, Tamnai thinks it is best to leave the Temple without inquiring on the High Priestess or any others and went to find Dyan’ette.

Dyan’ette is found in one of the foyers alone, though seeming to enjoy the glances and whispers certainly at a distance. Both leave the Temple of Beauty for the House of Wonder, the Temple of Mystra. As the pair walk the streets, several stares follow them but little more. A Waterdeep patrol passes and gives the two a cursory watch, but does not accost or engage either in conversation. Several moments later, the pair ascend the stairs before the House of Wonder. Upon entering the large entry room, Dyan’ette asked about the Temple and admittance. The clerk leads both to a smaller room and discusses the Temples fees, dues, benefits, and services. Knowing much of this from his previous visit under disguise, Dyan’ette listens and then offers the Wand of Web as an item for annual dues and fees. The young woman send the wand with another for validation and drinks are offered during the wait. Upon confirming the wand’s authenticity, Dyan’ette is given a large scroll tube containing the Temples rules, regulations, services, and information required of a member of the House. Seeing that the day has passed, Dyan’ette suggests that he and Tamnai leave. Once outside the Temple, Tamnai realizes that to travel to the House of Healing to pay future dues to her guild may take longer than expected. The two decided to return to the North Gate to meet the others.

Rhogar and Droom, neither familiar with Waterdeep, ask Carden where they should start. Carden advises paying a local child or teenager to serve as a guide as they are very knowledgeable and eager to earn coin. As the rogue departs south, the two dwarves just shake their heads in frustration. However, a suitable lad of some 13 winters is soon found and offers to guide them for a copper for each hour. Droom grins at the boy and whispers that he will pay a silver an hour if the boy is honest, quick, and takes them to the best spots for each item they need to sell. Within an hour, Droom and Rhogar find themselves in the Castleward at the Halls of Hilmer, a master armorer to sale the mithral breastplate. Nearby, is Balthor’s Treasures, a goods and curios shop that caters to the wealthy. While there, the more expensive and luxury items are sold at a fair price. After these good deasl, the dwarves urge the young guide onward and they end up visiting Saern’s Fine Swords and Orsabba’s Fine Imports in the Trades Ward to unload further items. A short visit by Halazar’s Fine Gems on their way back north ended their errands in Waterdeep. Droom gave the young lad a small pouch full of copper and silver, knowing that gold coins could likely get the lad killed or robbed for sure. Rhogar and Droom headed back to the North Gate.

Carden strode toward the Dock Ward knowing that his side trek would be best discovered there. Though it took a few hours, the man raised in Waterdeep was able to find what he was looking for as well as gather some significant rumors spreading through the underbelly of the city. The rogue discovered the following rumors of interest:
• Laeral Silverhand, the new Open Lord of Waterdeep is being pressured by the nobles and merchants as two Masked Lords are rumored to have been murdered in the past week.
• Vajra, the Blackstaff, has been quiet of late and it is said that she is opposed to the current Open Lord due to lack of support.
• A Cloud Castle was sighted over the Sea of Swords only a day’s sail from the city
• The Zhentarim have become more active in providing caravan guards with recent giant sightings and have even petitioned to use a growing goblin mercenary group on the trail to Baldur’s Gate.
• Balabar Smenk, from Daggerford, has been nominated to replace the current Guildmaster for the Mining and Minerals Guild.

Tamnai and Dyan’ette spotted Droom and Rhogar after a short wait. Dyan’ette informed all that he believes a drow was following him and it may be best to exit the city. As soon as the group questioned Carden’s whereabouts, he melted from the nearby ally and asked if everyone was ready to leave. He shared the rumors with the others on their travel north of the city and within an hour a firebolt signaled skyward and the airship picked up the group.

Once aboard, it was determined that the airship would head due east toward Parnast so the group could fulfill their promise to Eigeron in delivering justice to his murdering father. This course also could uncover magical items to be used for the mission to the Strom Giant’s stronghold.

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26 Hammer (Deepwinter) – Carden’s Cycle of the Seasons

The group gathered at the abbey well before sunrise and were led by the Abbott to a grove surrounded by a ring of elms surrounded by a ring of maples. The central clearing had a slight depression. The Abbott asked the group to stay along the edge of the elms as he started to prepare the site with several components, some noticeable as holly, mistletoe, ash, and ground acorns. Lifferlas arrived with two smaller treants and they took up a triangular stance about the depression. The treant remarked to Carden that he must remove his worldy items and lie in the center. The rogue hesitantly undressed with obvious unease. With back against the group, a naked Carden took his place with privates cupped in his hands to retain some control. The Abbott began reciting a poem as the treants began a deep earthly chant sounding more like trees twisting in a string wind. The tones of the chant rippled as the poem slowly recited the season of winter and its true purpose in the cycle of life. A few minutes passed before the poem took to reciting spring’s purpose and gifts. As the sun rose, the recitation of summer began and again a few minutes passed before the final season of autumn was recited by the abbott. Through each season, the earth beneath Carden changed. As the frost of winter covered him with breath visible and obvious shivers, he remained still lying in the depression. As spring was versed, vines entangled about him before blooming with moisture as the depression filled with water and green grass. Summer’s verses were accompanied by brighter blooms and red ferns along with a drying pool and sun-weathered grasses and briars. As Autumn’s verses progressed, the reds, yellows, and oranges prevalent to the season also covered the leaves while the vines dried and fell to his side. Carden was covered with dirt and mud as the ritual finished. Dyan’ette watched under his detect magic spell to see the undercurrents of magic flowing from the three treants to each other and then into Carden. The final glow rested over the rogue’s heart as the currents returned to the treants.

Carden stirred and the Abbott approached with a thin blanket to wrap him. “You have received the Ritual of the Cycle of Seasons, a blessing that will be revealed as you ponder upon it this day.” The Treants simply bowed in consent and then turned and departed. The group watched and returned Carden’s gear. After dressing, the group returned to the Inn to prepare for their departure. The Abbott provided three potions of water breathing as a token of thanks for their efforts with the giants thus far.

Agreeing to go to Waterdeep and liquidate items, the group contacted the airship to meet them an hour south of Goldenfields on the road. The group left around lunch after saying their goodbyes to Miros, the Abbott, Ghalvin, Roderik, Orle and his family. An hour later, the group was high in the sky sailing toward Waterdeep. Captain Delsephine stated that they would arrive north of Waterdeep an hour walk from the city around noon the following day. The group enjoyed the journey and the chance to simply rest as they watched the land below them and the clouds about them.

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25 Hammer (Deepwinter) – A Brief Respite in Goldenfields

The group departed the livestock pens and started for the Northfurrow Inn. All realized that Carden was missing and Droom simply stated that he went ahead. As the group entered the Northforrow End, they immediately saw Carden sitting at the bar with the proprietor, Miros Xelbren commonly referred to as the Yeti, across from the rogue. “Golden Gulp!!!” rang out as Miros filled a tankard for each member of the group. Aelith responded with a loud Goldengulp and elbowed Droom suggesting that he try this local ale. Carden announced that he had already secured rooms for the evening for everyone and the group grabbed a table to enjoy a fresh cooked meal and several rounds of Goldengulp or their drink of choice. They spoke briefly with Naxene and shared some stories with Miros who was extremely happy that Aelith delivered his message about the ‘Whiskers” to his long-time friend as agreed.

Just before the evening bells, the group decided to visit the Abbey after securing some of their travel gear in their rooms. The Harvesthome Abbey stood tall with its stained glass and carvings to honor Chauntea. Those that visited before warned Droom of the bears that resided within and gave a quick recollection of their deeds in the previous visit. The Abbott was pleased to see the group and relayed his thanks and appreciation for saving the captives and more so for removing the source of the hill giant raids. After hearing and acknowledging the group’s deeds, the Abbott asked in what way could the Emerald Enclave be of service. Aelith mentioned the need for possible items that would allow the group to breath beneath the water since they would likely travel to the realm of a Storm Giant. As they were discussing this, a deep creaking voice was heard outside and the Abbott excused himself. A few moments later, the Abbott returned and asked the party to join him outside. As the group exited the side door of the Abbey into the gardens, all noticed the looming tree above them as a treant. It pointed to Carden and simply stated, “It calls me. It wishes to return to nature.” The group looked confused, but Carden simply removed the dagger known as Verdant Thorn and lifted it in his palm to the treant. The treant introduced itself as Lifferlas and slowly plucked the dagger from Cardens hands with its branches. The group watched as the Verdant Thorn simply sunk into the treant as if absorbed. A greenish glow washed over Lifferlas for a moment and then subsided. Lifferlas spoke slowly, “You gifted willingly without hesitation or recompense requested. You will receive a ritual tomorrow at sunrise for such behavior.” The treant turned and slowly strode away. The Abbott interjected, “I must prepare and you must be here well before sunrise.” He likewise returned to the abbey leaving the group in the flower garden wandering what just happened. Carden shrugged and stated that he should get back to the Inn so he can rest before his ritual. The group returned to the inn with several jests and jibes that Carden seemed to attract rituals. Dyan’ette added that he saw Rhogar’s reincarnation, Tamnai’s rise from the dead and now Carden’s whatever. Parting ways at the inn, the group concluded any personal errands before a warm bath and a soft bed for the night.

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14-25 Hammer (Deepwinter) – Shepherds

The considerable discussion the night before unfolded the next morning. The group roused to see the Uthgardt nod his acknowledgement of the group and head south into the snowy hills. The others started preparing for the day ahead and Roderik explained the basics of herding sheep and controlling the flock through the lead ram or the prime ewe of the flock. Orle and his family volunteered to assist with the sheep as did Ghalvin. As they herded the sheep from the pens of Grudd Haug, the others released the pigs from beneath the structure. Tamnai and Dyan’ette remained below using their magic to open the flow of water through the dam and allow nature to more rapidly return the river to its previous course and flow. Droom announced that he would take word to the allies nearby and scout ahead with them to identify any hazards or threats to the group or flock they tended. Aelith did likewise by scouting far ahead on the snowy ground that paralleled the river.

The group trudged through the snow under an overcast sky realizing that herding sheep was neither an easy or satisfying occupation, though Roderik seemed in high spirits as did the children. The Wardens shared rations with the others and occasionally ate mutton when a sheep died. On their fifth day of travel skirting the river through the winding hills, the group crossed the Iron Road and continued southwest. The nights were colder, but Dyan’ette’s magical huts kept everyone warm and dry with the sheep gathered about them at a short distance. A few were prey to winter’s predators, but most quickly learned to stay close to the primary ram and the party that kept him close.

A few days past the Iron Road, the group spotted a gathering of Uthgardts in thick furs pacing them. Aelith returned to report that the Uthgardts were surely gathering in force and nearly a score was watching from a hillock to the north just as the group reached the ford in the river Ghalvin had recommended to cross with the sheep. The water remained at knee height at the ford. A quick discussion among the group suggested that since the Uthgardt were superstitious of magic, maybe a display of considerable magical power would persuade them to leave…or cause them to attack immediately. The group gambled and Dyan’ette launched a large fireball between the barbarian’s location and the ford while Tamnai controlled the water at the ford to make crossing easier for the sheep and their shepherds. The Uthgardt seemed disturbed by the magic and watched intently dividing into much smaller groups to spread in a semicircle behind the party’s crossing site. However, they never attacked and the group along with the sheep reached the western banks of the river. Droom sent a message through the sending stones that the Uthgardts had turned south after the group forded the river and appeared to be of no more concern.

As the winds wailed and snow drifted upon it, the group made haste to Goldenfields only three days from the ford. The airship was given one of the sending stones by Droom with instructions to remain nearby, but out of site if possible. Captain Delsephine acknowledged the dwarf and dropped him off to rejoin his comrades. On 25 Hammer shortly after noon, the group along with those they rescued entered the tall gates of Goldenfields with 98 sheep of the 106 that started. Upon entering Goldenfields, it became apparent that the town was enchanted with druidic magic as crops still grew and snow melted before it even touched the ground within the walls. Ghalvin urged everyone ahead toward the livestock pens along the main road to secure the sheep. All agreed and only Droom noticed Carden slip away and head further up the road. With the sheep penned, Ghalvin announced that he would get the family settled with lodging along with Roderik and would find someone to conduct the sale of the sheep. Roderik claimed he would share some of the proceeds with the Orle and his family to assure them a home. Surprisingly, Dyan’ette handed Orle ten gold coins and stated that it was a gift to help his family to get back on their feet. A few of the group wore obvious reactions from surprise to suspicion, but Rhogar quickly clapped the drow on the back in approval. Ghalvin also suggested that the group meet with the Abbott as he would report to the Abbott at the Harvesthome Abbey after settling the others.

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13 Hammer (Deepwinter) (cont) – Aftermath

With darkness outside, the group seeks any remnants of servants to Guh. After discovering that Guh’s master plan to please Annam and raise the hill giants in the ordning was to eat until she became the largest giant, the group realizes the lack of intelligence that likely placed the hill giants at the bottom of the ordning in the beginning. Even the goblins that were on the platforms fled as soon as the group started searching elsewhere. The wolf pen and another empty guard room, likely where the orcs were stationed, were found adjacent to the main entrance to the feast hall.

Knowing that the captives went into the woods and that roaming giants could possibly return, the party decided to find the captives and camp for the night. Within an hour, the group discover the captives hiding in a small cave several hundred feet in the forest against a hillside. The Uthgardt, Gryhawk was on watch and greets the group with a fist to his chest. The half-elf, Ghalvin Dragonmoor, asks the party of their events with Guh as the family and the halfling huddles in the back of the cave near a small fire dug into the dirt to reduce its light.

With night upon them, the group feel it would be best to camp here for the night and determine what they want to reveal to the captives, especially their use of an airship decorated with dragons. Dyan’ette casts his ritual Leomund’s Hut to block the cave entrance and provide security.

Over the next few hours before sleeping, the party discovers the following:
• The Halfling is Roderik Hilltopple, a shepherd that has a farm about thirty miles away. He asks if the party will help him free the sheep in the morning and he will herd them back to his farm. To leave them would be wasteful and cruel to them.
• The family father, Orle, explains that his family were snatched from their homestead several miles east of Goldenfields about a week ago and were just recently brought to the lodge. He wants to return to Goldenfields and find a way to protect his family through the remaining winter.
• The Uthgardt does not speak common but acknowledges that he plans to return to his tribe south. He plans to leave when the sun rises.
• Ghalvin pleas to the group to escort him and the family, since they also want to go, to Goldenfields. He needs to report to the Abbot what he has seen and expects that the Abbott will provide some compensation for his rescue and moreso for the destruction of the giants in the lodge. He also suggests that the lodge be put to the flame in the morning. He suspects that the giants did not construct it, but will certainly reoccupy it if left standing.

Dyan’ette takes time to identify the magical items discovered (see the wiki) before resting for the night.

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13 Hammer (Deepwinter) (cont) – Grudd Haug Lodge

The group slid into the adjacent living chamber of the hill giants and dispatched yet another one of the huge creatures while it was sleeping under the precaution of a silence spell. Seeing that that chamber opened up into a hallway from the main entrance behind the orcs encamped around the fire outside, the group backtracked to the other room and descended the stairs.

Another den beyond the stairs with a single empty pallet. The only living creatures in the room were two boars in separate cages scattered with pig entrails. The group bypassed the boars and followed the passage beyond to discover a vast chamber before them. At least 100 hundred pigs shuffled through their own offal in this large chamber constructed from the logs and mud of the dam. Water trickled from a few openings in the dam and one large opening provided a 15-foot-wide stream flowing from the northern side of the chamber. A wooden log bridge spanned the stream that bisected the chamber and two areas were fenced off with a 4-foot wooden stake fence to keep the pigs from those areas. One such area was the direction the party entered. As the group watched the area under the illumination of the torches mounted 15 foot on the wooden pillars scattered about, they noticed that the 30-foot-high ceiling had three large wooden grates in them connecting to the lodge above. Noise could be heard from above, but everything seemed muffled by the pigs constant squealing as they fed from the troughs throughout the chamber. Several bugbears were spotted shoveling offal into the various streams to clear the chamber and an ettin was spotted across the chamber near a ramp leading into a distant room.

The group decided to cross the stream at its origin and sneak into the next fenced in area. Successfully doing so, they slid into one of two northern rooms. The first was empty, but the second held three large cages with captives within. Two bugbears guarded the cages while a heavy boulder rested atop each to prevent the captives from escaping. Another silence spell was cast and Aelith and Carden dispatched the two guards with precision and ease. While Droom aided the family consisting of a farmer, his wife, their teenage daughter and two young boys in the first cage, Aelith and Rhogar spoke to the half-elf scout from Goldenfields. The third cage held an Uthgardt that showed his gratitude for rescue by biting his palm and smearing blood on Droom’s face. A quick discussion resulted in the party deciding to attack the bugbears and ettin in hopes of getting the captives out of the lodge’s undercarriage.

The battle was chaotic as Dyan’ette banished the ettin just as Aelith and Rhogar were in position to strike it. The bugbears fell quickly under the groups assault and luckily an alarm was not sounded. Droom along with a magical barrage from Rhogar and Dyan’ette stopped the last bugbear from escaping to warn others. Carden’s spell pulsed and caused a water elemental to be conjured and it set upon the nearby pigs. As Tamnai banished the water elemental, the group positioned themselves to slaughter the ettin when it returned. All seemed to go well and the captives were given directions on how to exit the way the party entered and to wait in the woods just beyond the cave exit.

Heading up the ramp beyond the ettin, the group discovered the slaughter house for the giants and battled yet another hill giant, but this one with a pet otyugh. Only Carden took serious damage as two of the giant’s blows connected before it fell. Pausing only a few moments to heal and collect any loot, the group discovered a magical hammer like object about the giant’s neck identified as the Gavel of the Venn Rune.

Continuing up the ladder through the slaughterhouse ceiling, the group sneakily witnessed a Halfling being prepared to be cooked by a half dozen goblins. Again, the goblins were destroyed before they knew what occurred. Freeing the halfing and sending him back down the ladder with directions to follow and find the other captives, the group assessed the large room beyond. It was the main lodge chamber and held giants and ogres. Dyan’ette’s spider discovered a lone hobgoblin fishermen in the nearby chamber and the other curtained exit led to the exterior tower overlooking the lodge. A decision was made to assault the main chamber with surprise.

A plan was established and originally executed well as Carden, Aelith, Rhogar and Droom slid into the room going for the cover of the nearby table. A mass of a hill giant looking more like melted wax saw Rhogar and started yelling food loudly. The battle ensued! Tactics to strike in pairs quickly downed the closest giants as Tamnai summoned a wall of fire upon the screaming blob of hill giant. Obviously, Guh the chief of the hill giants, she screamed in pain and demanded her subjects remove her from the wall. This removed a hill giant and an ogre from the fray and allowed the group to redirect their attacks on the closing enemies. The battle was well within the heroes control as giants and ogres were defeated. Carden under a darkness spell from Dyan’ette caused havoc while the warriors struck with precision and purpose. Another hill giant, some wolves and a half dozen orcs joined the fray from the far side of the feasthall. Dyan’ette grasped Tamnai as she called forth spirit guardians and maneuvered them in the midst of the orcs. The orcs fell, but the giant did not. However, neither were injured while Carden rushed the wolves. Though the wolves took his feet from beneath him, Carden suffered little damage and the spirit guardians slew the remaining wolves that Carden did not. The others finished the giants and ogres and the goblins upon the small catwalks simply hid from the group hoping to be ignored.

The conch was discovered in the non-charred part of the wagon that Guh had sit upon before her servants dragged her to safety. A few magical items along with a large amount of coin was found as well. The hill giantess lord was slain after the group questioned her and a quick assessment of the tower revealed that any minions of Guh had fled shortly after her defeat.

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