Monday, October 7, 2013

Upon Meeting a Giant (10/04/2013)

After having braved the mysteries of the mysterious Whitewillow in the midst of the Shimmerglens the heroes learned that their search for Lamatar Bayden would have to be continued on the top of Hook Mountain. Myriana, the cruelly savaged and beautiful nymph ghost, had begged the party to continue their search for her true love, and with Jakardros and Shalelu back with the party the heroes had ventured up into the steep mountains. There they had found the ancestral home of the Kreeg clan - a truly huge cave guarded by two large Kreeg ogres. The party had quickly bested the two ogre guards in a brief but brutal battle, and had just ventured further into the cave.

The two-hundred foot wide cave mouth quickly funneled down into a 20-30 foot wide passage. The party stepped through the exposed ribs of a long dead blue dragon and part a 40-foot tall petrified body of a long dead giant king, Gargadros. Around the neck of this giant was a huge Sihedron Rune. Beyond this area a set of steps led further into the darkness.

The steps led down to a room that featured a deep pit hewn from hard stone here descended into soot and darkness. The stale reek of decay wafted up from the depths below. Jakardros pointed out this was where the Kreegs likely offered up their sacrifices to Lamashtu, although he did observe it seemed to be not as kept up as he would have expected. The party carefully inspected the pit from above, and after seeing nothing of interest decided to lower Kheo down on a rope so that he could inspect what may be lying below. Kheo was able to discover the floor of the pit was filled with ashes and the walls were covered with soot.

Hill Giant
Another set of stairs led further down and the party heard voices from ahead. Two creatures were obviously needling a third creature. The first two creatures sounded like the ogres the party had previously encountered, while the third voice had a bit of a childlike cadence to it. A pair of Kreeg ogres and a dim-witted hill giant guarded the entryway here. The hill giant, Lunderbud, was something of an idiot - he thought of himself as an ogre, but the ogres themselves, while smaller, had enjoyed tormenting the dim-witted fool.

The party was able to use the noise to slip in a surprise round of attacks against the bickering creatures. The fighting was fast and furious but soon all three creatures lay dead, but not before the last ogre had been able to bellow out some sort of warning to those elsewhere in the cave - that, and Reynard’s thunderously loud Lightning Bolt, just in case anybody might have missed the yelling.

From a room where warm fires could be seen flickering out marched two ogres to see what the noise was all about. They were followed by two more, and then eventually five more ogres. A single Kreeg taskmaster snarled, belched, guffawed, and roared incessantly as he urged the rank-and-file ogres on to their certain doom. Stike took the frontal assault position and the rest of the party helped to whittle them down with their deadly arrows and ranged effects.

After the last ogre crumpled to the floor the party the party inspected the room where the ogres had come from and found a room where fire and thick black smoke reigned as it spewed from black pits in the bedrock where forge fires glowed and huge anvils loomed throughout this enormous cavern. It was easy to imagine the ring of steel on steel thundered here as giant hammers had crashed down again and again on glowing half-forged blades and axe-heads. The ogre work crew had been toiling endlessly at these forges to craft giant blades and other weapons from the obstinate iron they've carved from the mountain's depths. Jakardros spoke of the iron mines that existed deep in the bowels of the mountain, and gave warning that he had no doubt there were many other slave-ogres at work in the dark depths.

The party then continued south down a curving set of stairs until they heard voices – the faintly chanting voices of those performing a magic ritual. Selinor peaked around the corner and saw that this foul-smelling cave was cluttered with an appalling amount of body parts, dead animals, spoiled food, and filth, but most hideous was what bubbled and cooked in a huge cauldron over a sputtering fire in a nook to the north.

Annis Hag
This cavern was the foul redoubt of the Sisters of the Hook - a coven of Annis Hags who had long served as allies of and consorts to the Kreeg clan. Kreeg lore held that these three annis hags were once related to Princess Myriana before envy and jealousy polluted them and they engaged in monstrous acts and vile rites in hopes of improving their beauty to outshine their sister. Briselda was a hulking, humpbacked hag with oversized talons sprouting from her stumpy arms. Grelthaga was tall and thin, like a skeleton wrapped in ugly purple flesh and a sagging white robe. Larastine's face was a mass of pustules, warts the size of gold pieces, and craters that wept ooze. She was squat and fat with bulbous breasts that hung almost to her knees. The sisters saw each other for the horrors they were, but in their madness, they see their own reflections as pure loveliness.

Reynard quickly jumped out and dropped a huge Ice Storm on the three sisters, and before they could react Stike jumped in and struck Briselda and appeared to have killed her. The two remaining sisters shrieked and threw themselves on top of their dying sister as they whimpered and begged the party for mercy. The party asked “where was Grolki Kreeg,” only to be told that the ogre leader was long dead and that a stone giant named Barl Breakbones now sat on the throne. It was apparent the sisters did not care for their new master, and they offered to assist the party in return for a favor. Breakbones had given them an undead creature for them to use as they pleased, although they really suspected he was just a spy – if the party would remove the spy they would assist them against Barl.

The heroes detected that the sisters were telling the truth, at least to a point. It was more like they would back a winner and if things started going rough for the party there was little doubt the sisters would switch sides. When questioned further the sisters said they knew nothing of Lamatar Bayden, but when questioned about the red-haired Lucrecia they hissed and snarled. Apparently the Lamia Matriarch was part of Barl’s inner circle and, according to the sisters, was no doubt whispering her evil lies in Barl’s ear right now.

Lamatar Bayden
The heroes left the two sisters to attend to the third, and went to investigate the undead creature the sisters had spoken of. The room just west of the sisters featured a shrine bearing the feral visage of a brutally beautiful monstrous maiden with the head of a three-eyed jackal and the belly of a pregnant young woman leaned against the far wall. This was once the Kreegs' well-tended shrine to Lamashtu, but now that Barl has arrived and their old leader Grolki was dead no Kreeg has visited this shrine recently. Instead, the twisted and vile remains of what was once the commander of Fort Rannick held a lonely post as guardian here. Lamatar Bayden's tortured body was caked with ice; his left hand looked almost to be a claw made of icicles and his brow was decorated with a crown of the same.

All hope Jakardros and Shalelu had of finding the lost commander alive quickly faded, but they set to the grisly task of killing the beast that the old friend had become. The battle was brutal but quick, and with a flourish Selinor removed the head to return to Myriana with the hope of settling the troubled soul of the tortured nymph princess. The party claimed the +1 Icy Burst Composite Longbow and +1 Chain Shirt, and Jakardros would not touch them, such was his grief at finally learning the fate of his trusted commander.

With the request of the three annis hags now satisfied, the sisters joined the party as they marched into the last remaining room in the cave. This gigantic chamber extended into darkness to the east and sloped upward between two wide ledges on which loomed statues with angular faces, stern brows, and strong jawlines. Above, the ceiling opened to the slate gray sky above. The ramp led up in tiers, finally coming to an end before immense stone throne.
Barl Breakfist
Once the throne room for Grolki Kreeg, this open-air cleft in the lee of Hook Mountain's summit had since become Barl Breakbones's den. As the party entered the room Barl sighed wearily before waving an arm at his remaining bodyguard and said (in Giant), "Deal with these mites. They've caused enough problems for me."

From behind the throne out stepped a red-haired woman with an evil look in her eye. “Oh, my heroes have come to rescue me again,” Lucrecia laughed mockingly. “Watch them my lord, these ones can be tricky.

Reynard caste his Haste spell on the party and the battle was ensued. Barl’s stone giant bodyguard blocked the ramp up to the throne but the boulders that he threw narrowly missed their target. Barl dropped a Fireball on several of the party members and did some damage, but the Hasted party was too much to overcome. The bodyguard was the first to die, and then Lucrecia was killed before she could slip out of danger again. It was then that the three sisters slipped in behind Barl and their multiple attacks drove the giant to his knees.

Realizing his dire situation the giant cried out in surrender and begged for mercy. He stated that he had been sent here by Mokmurian, and that his task was to gather up an ogre army to join in a mighty giant army. Because of their joint interest in serving Lord Karzoug Lucrecia had asked him to help in her plans to gather souls – she would put the Sihedron Rune tattoo on patrons at her establishment, and the hags would use their abilities to cause the early rains to flood out the city, all for the glory of their long dead Runelord master.

Mokmurian was putting together an army to assault a town names Sandpoint – he couldn’t say why exactly, but they were on the lookout for some ancient artifact. The armies had left Mokmurian’s stronghold in Jorgenfist several days ago, and he could say accurately say when they would arrive. When asked, Barl further described the location of Jorgenfist and revealed that Mokmurian had some sort of special spiritual kinship with Runelord Karzoug himself. Mokmurian dwelt in the dungeons below Jorgenfist, while the gathering giant armies joined daily and lay camped outside. Barl even produced a letter from Mokmurian that sent him recently via a messenger Roc.

Barl's Letter
Having failed his mission Barl knew he could never return home, and he would be doomed to live the rest of his life as an outcast from stone giant society, but he had answered all of the questions he could, so the party kept their promise and let him leave on his own. The three annis hags retired back to their den, satisfied that the “red-haired witch” was no more. As the day went on the remaining ogre slaves returned from the mines, and finding their captors dead or gone began to filter back out of the cave and to return to the wilds of Hook Mountain. The lucky ones would be able find new homes with other ogre tribes, but most would likely fall prey to these same tribes as there was no love lost between the ogres of the Hook.

What was left of the Kreeg clan’s treasure lay heaped haphazardly behind the large throne. The bulk of this stash of treasure was worth 9,200 GP and consisted of various weapons, art objects, gems, trade goods, and other treasures weighing just over 300 pounds in all. Mixed in with all of this treasure though, are a few magic items - most of them taken from defeated Black Arrows. These included 32 +1 Arrows, 12 +1 Giant Bane Arrows, a suit of +2 Light Fortification Studded Leather, a +1 Long Sword, a +1 Composite Longbow, a Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2 , a Cloak of Elvenkind, and a pair of Boots of the Winterlands. Jakardros recognized several of these items as having belonged to compatriots of his and was grateful when the party asked him to keep all of the Black Arrow items. He returned the set of +1 Giant Bane Arrows to Kheo, with the explanation that they might be needed where the party was going. Kheo was further able to arrange a swap of his Belt of Strength +2 for the Belt of Dexterity +2. Among the dead ores the party was able to find a +1 Ogre Hook and a set of +1 Hide Armor.

On Lucrecia the party found a Wand of Scorching Ray (22 charges), +1 Keen Dagger, Masterwork Dagger, Sihedron Medallion, Gold and Pearl ring (300 GP), and a Silver Necklace (200 GP). Reynard also found a magical tattoo in the shape of a Sihedron rune on Lucrecia’s left breast. Reynard deduced it granted her the ability to enhance a 3rd-level or lower spell she could cast with Still Spell and Silent Spell, likely how she was able to Dimension Door away from the party back at Fort Rannick.

With no business left on the top of Hook Mountain the party returned to the Whitewillow in the heart of the Shimmerglens to return a part of Lamatar Bayden to Myriana. The nymph was overjoyed and casted Reincarnate upon him. Normally, this spell would not work on Lamatar - not only had he been dead for longer than a week, but his body and soul had been tainted by undeath. Yet such was Myriana's love that her spirit infused the spell with power - although it caused her own ghostly form to fade away, it enhanced the Reincarnation such that it could restore Lamatar to life in a new body. The newly raised Lamatar was at first shamed by his failure to protect both Fort Rannick and his lover, but eventually decided not to waste the new life she had given him. He became the new guardian of Whitewillow and did not return to Fort Rannick.

As a further reward Myriana awarded Selinor the gift of a lasting inspiration. This effect will function the same as the standard Nymph Inspiration ability.

Having arrived safely back in Turtleback Ferry, Jakardros and Shalelu insisted on returning back to Fort Rannick. The party got a good night’s sleep and made their plans for their return to Sandpoint.

And this marks the end of chapter three of Rise of the Runelords, so the group has reached the halfway point in the adventure. Given that we have met every second or third Friday for a little less than a year I would say we are making good progress. Everyone is enjoying the adventure, although the DM has given fair and proper warning that things are only going to get tougher going forward ... wait a minute, what did that letter say? A dragon?

And we’ll pick it up from there next time. For tonight's efforts each party member earned 25,000 XP, giving them (105,000 + 25,000) 130,000 XP earned so far, with 155,000 XP required to reach Level 11 (Level 12: 220,000 XP).

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