2nd Uktar, the Star Walkers Return

Lilli was up and over the edge of the ship and started running as fast as she could, running straight towards the ship we had just left. She must have been looking for cover from the skies.

I started moving, encouraging the others to start making a hasty retreat. The gargoyles swarmed and harried us but I could see they were merely a distraction to keep us occupied until the dragons would get back down to ground level. We didn’t have that long before they would reach us.

John, taking the hint, shapeshifted into a Giant Elk whilst summoning other creatures of the forest to engage the gargoyles whilst we made our retreat. I could sense that Morning was running out of the tunnel and across the plain directly toward us. As we started running as fast as we could toward the tunnel I saw Lilli reach the top side of the other boat and, leaping off it, start sarding well flying toward the tunnel. She had used the boat as cover to put some spread from us. Cyke and Luke were atop John’s shapeshifted form and they were trying to ride but were getting mobbed by the gargoyles. John’s creatures distracted only some of the gargoyles.

Morning reached me and I mounted up quickly. We could see the dragons closing in quickly, on the forms of John and Cyke, who were still lagging behind, engaged by Gargoyles. But as they run past one of the buildings we had passed by, a giant scorpion scuttled out of it to attack them. By this point, John had been damaged enough that his Elk form vanished. He shapeshifted back into the Elk immediately afterward and stampeded right over the scorpion, but the transition jarred Cyke from his seat and he tumbled to the ground, with the now enraged scorpion proceeding to tackle him firmly with both pincers and hold him tightly.

By this point I was already halfway back into the fray, sensing that they were not going to be able to shake their pursuers. Lilli had stopped short of the tunnel as well and was already casting incantations from a safe distance. As I drew closer I saw Cyke mightily pry apart the scorpion’s claws and roll out of its pincers, taking up his polearm and furiously wailing on the shell of the scorpion. I used some of Lathander’s power to case one of the gargoyles to flee but failed to make a second get off John, and then it was too late for tactics.

Felgolos had already taken to the sky to engage one dragon, but the other one landed right behind John with an earth moving thump and a hair-raising roar. It looked at us with fury in its eyes for only a split second before it opened its mouth and breathed lightning straight through John, Cyke, and both Morning and I. Morning vanished, the lighting destroying his bonds to the plain and the last thing I remember is tumbling at speed toward the ground, body contorted from the sparks rippling off my armor and through my body.

I awoke behind a building where Luke had dragged me, hastily giving me a healing potion from his belt. He must have slipped off John earlier on and skirted around the fight, preparing to strike. He barely gave me enough time to stumble back to my feet before we were running toward the tunnel again. Cyke had gotten back on John and was free, albeit with a dragon meters behind them. Cyke was smacking it repeatedly over the nose with his polearm as John ran, and was shouting at the dragon unintelligible in Draconic.

Lilli disappeared into the tunnel not far in front of Luke and me, and we ran well into the Tunnel to try and get out of reach of its lighting breath. John and Cyke got and didn’t get much more than thirty feet before the dragon’s head slammed into the mouth of the tunnel as far as it could go. Retreating back out a bit, it looked around in confusion and fury, before sending another lightning blast down the tunnel that took down Cyke. John carried him out of range of its attack and we quickly tended the wounds we could whilst others fired at the dragon from far enough back to be safe.

In the distance behind the dragon, we could see Felgolos swooping in at speed directly toward the tunnel. In mid-air, he shapeshifted back into a Halfling and landed in the tunnel with a slide, and caught up to us in no time. It was distant and the light from outside bright, but I could have sworn on Lathander I saw him on a flip before the landed right in front of the dragon’s nose.

We retreated quickly toward the airship, the sound of the Dragon’s roar and ire echoing down the cavern as we fled, with most of their treasure and Felgolos’ pipeweed.

Upon reaching the exit of the cave after some journey, we came across another gargoyle. This one, however, turned and spoke to us. In an otherworldly voice, almost like it echoed in our heads, it gave us a warning.

The doom of the desert will abide no insolence. Its young of which we have stolen from are young, foolish. Our treachery would be repaid when the time was right.

And then it was just a gargoyle again. The rest of the journey to the airship was uneventful.

We divided up the loot from the hoard of the dragon and counted the coin. There were more gold and platinum than I’d ever seen in my life in one place. Wary of the honor of our new friend Felgolos, we offered a split of the treasure on top of the pipeweed that we recovered from him. He was more than grateful for our generosity and accepted with a fiendish smile. I wonder what he would have thought had we not split him in?

It would be some traveling west before we made it back to anywhere near where we needed to be so we decided to make the detour a half day north to visit Lilli’s home, Citadel Adbar.

We made it there in good time with an overnight rest on the way. With some suspicion we were met at the gates by Dwarves on Griffons, however, with some talk and the fact we had a native of the city on board, we were allowed to access the citadel.

And what a sight the Citadel was! Walls that rivaled Mirabars very own in strength, a fortress of rock and stone. A mining city, with a forge that never stopped, the sounds of metal being hammed into the various crafts of the smithy’s.

We could see the smoke from well before we could see the town, and it was clear to us that whilst the denizens of the Citadel might sleep, the works that went on within did not.

We made our way to the forge as the city’s natural progression was toward the beating heart of the city. The smithy informed us that my writ I received from Foehammer would get us an audience with the King. Additionally, and sadly, they could not forge adamantine with their forge, mighty as it was.

Lilli took us to her Grammy’s place next, family she had not seen in many years. Of course, whilst the hospice was as friendly as one would expect from a Gnome’s grammy, us taller types had to crouch and sit knees up to fit inside.

Lilli and her grandmother wiled away the hours catching up on what had been missed over the years. Lilli was quick to show off her magic and it was not long before Grammy found herself hovering off her chair, floating in the air.

Our little wizard disappeared to reminisce for some time in her Gramps workshop whilst we enjoyed the tea and food on offer. Grammy had found some of Gramps old things and thought Lilli might find a use for them.

Grammy gave Lilli what she had left that might interest her; her Gramp’s ladybird shaped locket, his glasses of minute seeing and a box of other items of his. She rushed off to the Worksop once more to inspect these.

When we went in a little later, the locket was no more a locket and was a mechanical ladybird, flittering around the office with Lilli speechless and looking on in wonder. It fluttered around as if familiar to the room, and settled on a few times, the desk, a screwdriver, Lilli’s nose… before landing on a dusty old book on the shelf.

The book contained Grammys recipes, old Folkor recipes. And behind the book, a keyhole. As we watched on, the ladybird folded itself back up, this time in the shape of a key.

Lilli, trembling with excitement, used the newly formed key on the lock.

The entire bookcase slid back to reveal a room beyond, much to Grammy and our surprise. The room beyond was sheer lunacy. There was a contraption the likes I’ve never seen. There was a scarecrow with arms made of iron bars, wearing a bowler hat and an umbrella. No less than three crossbows aimed at various contraptions around the room. String, wire, and clockwork lined the room and it was unclear to everyone what it did if anything at all.

Lilli studied it for many hours alone before calling us back in. Tentatively, she set alight the scarecrow, which set in a chain reaction of explosions, clanks, clangs and arrows and various other things. By the time it was done, a lever was revealed that when pulled, revealed yet another secret compartment.

Lilli recovered her Gramps secret sketchbook and research, which was all encoded. Far from being dissuaded, she grew even more excited and intent, pouring over the book until we found her asleep over the book later that night.

3rd Uktar, the Star Walkers Return

We headed up to where we were indicated we might be able to get an audience with the King of the Citadel. We faced a hall leading into the great hall of Adbar. Dwarves in plate armor and ceremonial tabards guarded the door. They had axes and shields at the ready, and despite their ceremonial inlays, I could see that they were as sharp as any sword I’d owned.

After a wait in which John eyed off the gong that was in the room with desire, we were allowed to proceed. John insisted to be allowed to ring the gong to announce our presence after some debate with the guards. I’m not sure I will ever understand the man.

Inside the room was a dias, stairs leading up to the throne. It was made of mithril, with a stout dwarf sitting atop. He had a magnificent brown beard with flecks of grey, and a helmet with a crow affixed to it.

We spoke at length with King Harnoth about our mission, I was inclined to trust him without too much hesitation. I had spent so much time amongst the dwarves of Mirabar that I find it hard to not respect their kind with little concern.

We spoke a bit about our mission to stop the giant threat. They seemed to have concerns of a fire giant camp, they had seen an increase of fire giant activity. This lined up with our information on the whereabouts of the rest of the Vonindod Construct being camped nearby.

They were very interested in the airship we arrived in and after some coercion, we agreed to take onboard three of their townsfolk to learn and sketch the ship – a tinkerer and two guards.

We hadn’t even finished the conversation when the sounds of combat were heard from the outside, and the guards we had passed nary long ago were thrown through the doors, bloodied and dying.

Eight dwarves marched in the room, laying their axes into the guards for good measure.

Ripples of confusion spread throughout us and the dwarves alike. The guards by the King’s dias snapped out of it quicker than us, but they closed ranks to stay close their king as was expected.

We turned to face the attackers, not fleeing like might be expected of visitors. I turned to face the threat and drew steel, and I could hear the rest of our party ready themselves for combat.

My mind raced with the possibilities. Was this a coup? Were these assassins, hired by another party? Disgruntled workers? Either way, my instincts went to defending royalty almost without thought.

Something was off with the scene. We closed and began to attack the dwarves that came to us aggressively. Lilli must have come to the same conclusion because a cloud passed her face and she made some motions with her hand an an invocation I hadn’t heard before.

One of the dwarves started to slow down, dropping its armaments. It started twisting and flailing, its body becoming deformed. Bloody Nora! The dwarf body collapsed on the ground, but a yak-like head appeared out of the ether from it, followed by a coarsely haired body. The yak creature stepped up and bleated at us.

The dwarves were ruddy well were possessed by whatever these creatures were. Everyone started to swap to non-lethal means to combat the dwarves, and sure enough, as they were subdued more of these creatures appeared from the dwarves. John heated up the breastplate on one until it glowed red hot and the dwarf tumbled to the ground, screaming and incapacitated. Lilli dispelled one or two more as she could, and then the fight was between us and these creatures, with the dwarves unconscious on the floor, battered but breathing.

John was able to call upon nature and summon a bear, which proceeded to tear into the yak-folk. This bear must have been one mighty soul in life, as it weathered blow after blow and took down multiple of these creatures before it succumbed to their blows, but not before we had dealt them lethal blows.

One Yak-thing broke through our ranks and went straight for the king. It was almost like time stopped for a minute. I felt my body instinctively disengage from the foe I was facing, its claws bouncing off my armor as I turned to run toward my liege.

Except the Dwarf King wasn’t my liege, but it seems years of service at Mirabar had honed my instincts. I positioned myself between the treat and him and proceeded to lay waste to the yakfolk.

The fight was over not long after it started, leaving us in a room with unconscious dwarves, dead yak like creatures, and a bunch of confused adventures and dwarves.

When the dwarves came to they were extremely embarrassed yet unaware of how they came to be possessed as such. The king was very happy with our assistance and insisted we stay for a few days for a reward to be arranged.

We headed back to Lilli’s Grammys to hunker down and take advantage of the gnomish hospitality whilst we had the opportunity.

4th Uktar, the Star Walkers Return

Lilli and her grammy spent time catching up on the years past between them. I found myself at the forge talking to the smithy for some time, as everyone else checked out the city. Luke weaved in and out the city looking for information, Cyke found the nearest alehouse and John was to be found sitting at the edge of the citadel deep in thought, at vantages points were the distant forests could be seen in the distances.

5th Uktar, the Star Walkers Return

We presented back to the court as decorated guests of the citadel. There must have been ninety or one hundred guests, nobles, and their ilk. The King thanked us with the ceremony expected of a Dwarf, noting that despite not having a dwarf amongst our number we still stood between danger and himself.

We were presented with mithril shield medals, an honor that a dwarf would carry with extreme pride and one rarely given to other races. And to myself, an extra gift for so intently protecting the King; a belt inscribed with dwarven runes and insignia of the gods.

6th Uktar, the Star Walkers Return

We left citadel adbar the next day with our new recruits. Kilgar Stormbrow and Belar Ironshield joined us from the ranks of the dwarf guard to learn the airship. They were also present to guard Lilli’s cousin twice removed, Corwin Blackrock Folkor.

The new gnome runs around the ship much as Lilli had upon getting aboard, as we traveled from Cidatel Adbar to Everlund once more.

We arrived a few hours after nightfall and went to Waterdeep for some quick restocking of equipment before returning a few hours later and starting our journey to the Hill Giants lair, Grudd Haug.

7th Uktar, the Star Walkers Return

We flew past Grudd Haug by about half a mile but yet still alerted them. The encampment was built into a hill and we could see tunnels below it. The main building had a path to a watchtower behind it, in which we could hear a gong ringing loudly sounding an alarm.

We landed near where the two treants were located, Lilli having spoken to them the night previous to get an update how they were going. They had found a grove five miles west of Grudd Haug and had been scouting for some days.

They had seen twelve or so giants and thirty of forty smaller folks, consisting of goblins, bugbears and the like.

They had seen a hobgoblin take off and fly east on a wyvern a few days back.

Lilli started fumbling with her fingers and found that the ring Arelosa gave her was vibrating. The right that she had said would help out when needed.

Lilli gave a chant and a spirit was summoned in short order. It was confusing and was expecting Arelosa, and was doubly surprised to find out it was dead.

It took some convincing to stop the spirit from walking through walls and the like before we could get it to talk sensibly to us, but with some coaxing, it mentioned it knew of a tower nearby where he kept some equipment. He wasn’t keen to give it up to strangers, but after pointing out that he couldn’t really use it anymore we were able to get directions to where it was and decided to check it out whilst waiting for nightfall for an assault on Grudd Haug.

We found the tower with a boulder blocking the door and a voice, unintelligible but sad, clearly spoken from a giant. Lilli slipped in to check on the giant and to determine if it was a threat but this giant, Moog, was merely sad that her husband Hruk was stolen by Guh at Grudd Haug. Guh had taken the men as her husbands and kicked out all the female giants.

We tried to cheer her up with rabbit and pheasant pulled from John’s horn which worked. Moog made joyous proclamations like ‘floopy ears’ and ‘fat chicken’ in response and proceeded to eat the creatures whole. She burped rabbit fur and swiftly agreed to our plan.

We would have three of us pretend to be captured by Moog with the others using potions of invisibility to get inside the compound. If noise was heard the airship would come in to support or pick us up.

We headed back and made our preparations whilst we waited for right before nightfall to make our way to the giant’s encampment.

The ploy got us through the orc’s and goblins camped on the outside of the main building, Moog explaining ‘we food fah guh’. They didn’t give us mind. Cyke, Lilli and I were poorly bound and the others slipped into the shadows invisibly.

At the door, in front of us, Moog found her love. Forgetting us in a heartbeat, she grabbed her husband firmly by his hair and proceeded to pretty much drag him home, leaving us slipping off our binds and preparing for action.

Luke slipped into a side room near the main door to silence a room of sleeping orcs, whilst Lilli conjured an illusion of a giant, one to walk us in to pretend to be guarding us. We had to open the door for the illusion so it looked like it was actually doing the motion itself.

The room was a large 60ft main hall, with decrepit tables, gnawed bones waste, refuse and a pit loosely covered in wooden beams not too far in front of Guh. The tunnel system that runs beneath the encampment must be connected by the pit; the squealing of pigs and the smell of their filth was plainly evident from below. A ledge run around the inside of the building.

We walked in close enough as we dared, close enough to get our wizard within range of some of her spells. She wanted to know if we were food, but we tried to insist she stop continue to eat everything she could find. The tressum alerted us to an invisible creature that was sneaking into the room, an Orc. The traitor Strog.

As the situation started to turn sideways Felgolos hit Gah with a silence spell to silence the area. Strog and Lilli grappled with magics trying to affect the smell before Felgolos’ spell went through unhindered. Gah shook a cows leg in the air, dripping with blood and flesh and silently screamed, seeming surprised to not hear her voice.

Felgolos slipped out of Halfling form and into his majestic dragon form, sending everything in the area fleeing from his sight and immediately he hid four giants with his breath. Those with range started hitting Guh, those without move into combat with the giants as needed. A goblin walked in with a platter of pig and squeaked at the sight, dropping it and running out.

John’s summoned bear started ripping at the wheels of the wagon Guh was slumped in, which was already bulging at the weight of Guh. It groaned and strained for a bit before the wheel snapped and spilled her forward to the ground.

Guh squeaked a soundless, surprised shout, before slowly rolling over, right on top of the pit. The wooden beams covering it splintered under her weight in short order and she fell silently down the pit, before landing with a loud thump and a squeal of injured pigs.

I was brought back to the fight by a sarding ballista bolt slamming into my shoulder, throwing me hard to the ground. Strog had run out of the room and wheeled in an entire rudding ballista into the doorway and was busy reloading it.

Cyke, with all the instincts of a barbarian, jumped almost immediately down into the hole to pursue Guh. Luke was shortly behind, elegantly flipping into the hole in pursuit. I closed the gap to the ballista as quickly as possible and ambushed Strog as he was reloading it, missing him but slicing the strings off it and rending it useless.

I was so enraged and blinded by vengeance that I left behind the room full of the sounds of squealing pigs, a dragon roaring, bellowing giants and the sounds of combat to pursue Strog as he fled. I ran into a room with goblins tormenting a prisoner and moved past them as quickly as I could, Strog calling for the goblins to stop me as he fled.

John called up upon a wall of wind to push the goblins off me and to box in Strog and I willed Lathander to grant me the power to paralyze Strog in place. The damned orc was too powerful, however, and was able to resist the attempts to stop him.

By the time I caught up with him he was already on a wyvern and my arrows fell short and wild as he took off to the east. I returned to the main hall empty-handed to find a scene of chaos, with the enemy forces broken and fleeing, goblins choosing to jump out the arrow slits in the wall rather than face us, giants running out the door and the sound of silence from the pit.

Luke and Cyke returned covered in filth from Guh, who from the sounds of it simply exploded once fatally wounded in the stomach. They even found a goblin, shaken but alive that had been stuck in the folds of her skin. This goblin, Snert was understandably shaken and somewhat frustrated at having been lodged in his leader for some time, and was not particularly unhappy about Guh’s death.

8th Uktar, the Star Walkers Return

The next morning, we convened to sort out what we would do with the remaining creatures at Grudd Haug.

To end the bloodshed and restore peace to the area, it was agreed to install Snert as the leader of Grudd Haug, with the treant’s Crabapple and Walnut to stay as lieutenants to maintain his reign.

The interrogations that took place before we left indicated that Strog would have fled to the stone giant lair to the east. After ensuring the remaining giants and orcs were content to stay peacefully under their new leadership (reinforced by Felgolos indicating he would return to visit if there were any issues) we rescued the prisoners and began to return to Goldenfields with them onboard the airship.