22th Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return
We reached the pass we were aiming to take not an hour into the next morning. The pass led into the mountain’s terrain that was the spine of the world, becoming white as it leads up into the higher terrain. Anyone coming here without decent snow gear was a fool.
After disembarking, we found the pass and travelled for the entire day into the mountain ranges. It was a good thing we got information on the area, as having to navigate this terrain without a road would have been treacherous.
We found the temple fairly quickly considering how hard it would be to find without a sense of where it is. It was a temple carved into the mountainside, with six pillars supporting a dome. Six statues were present on the outside, one depicting a giant from each of the giant races.
John stopped us before we got too close to the template as he had noticed tracks. Eight human tracks, heading into the temple.
With Luke stealthily leading the way in light of the possibility of a confrontation, we headed into the temple. As we drew closer it was obvious the awe-inspiring structure was not created for the race of man, elf, dwarf. Even the tallest man who would have ever lived would have been dwarfed and humbled in this place.
As we snuck in through the massive doorway we went into a large chamber that looked like an entry way into the temple. The walls on either side had ledges and pillars, with carvings decorating the pillars. The roof was by my reckoning at least sixty foot high. The structure had been bored out of the sheer rock face of the mountain but was polished smooth.
We were almost so engrossed in taking in the sight of the cavernous building that Luke almost missed a trap that would have dropped huge boulders on him. He pointed it out and we all managed to slip around it and continue on.
The next room was similar to the first. I noted that John was heading off to one of the walls to touch it, obviously needing to connect with the building and its culture through the tactile sense of touch. I, myself, felt the same urge and headed over to one of the carvings and removed the mail from my hand. The carvings were smooth and professional and depicted scenes of Giants fighting Dragons.
Lilli was standing in the middle of the chamber, mouth agape. It was not often you could silence her, but the reverence of the temple had done it. Even I found myself feeling respectful to whatever force was behind this structure, despite the fact it was most likely not aligned with my own beliefs. Even Luke raised his eyebrows. Harshnag fit the temple much better than the rest of us being a Giant, but even he was awestruck.
We heard noises ahead, which brought us all back together rather quickly. We carefully made our way up a set of steps, each five feet tall, to find a group of people ahead that must have matched the footprints we saw coming in.
As we approached, we saw seven barbarians, including a shaman, and a dragon wyrmling. They were up another flight of stairs forcing another massive door, this one covered in frost. We barely even got a chance to open our mouths before they were running at us, screeching at the top of their lungs and waving weapons.
Typical undisciplined barbarian folk.
Harshnag bellowed and struck the first blow, knocking one barbarian up into the air with one blow, then cleaving him in two whilst midair. The barbarians immediately turned and rushed toward Lilli, sensing weakness from the younger and smaller female gnome.
She was mobbed and went down with the rest of us falling on them in short order. In the ruckus, I saw Mornings form, having been dangling from a barbarian’s throat, disappearing in a shimmer of light with a vengeful roar.
We managed to get Lilli up again on her feet and despite being dazed, managed to crawl up Harshnags massive form to escape the combat, only to be dragged down by a barbarian who latched onto her feet at the last minute. I watched her beat the guy over the head with her staff as she was dragged down, an axe blow from a barbarian glancing off my armour bringing me back to the fight at hand.
Cyke fired off his lightning javelin, carving right through three barbarians right before John summoned up a wind wall, blocking the rest from the fight and giving us some breathing space to pick up Lilli again.
We were able to bring them down fairly handily with Luke quickly getting behind the dragon wyrmling and cutting it apart before it could even turn to face him.
Harshnag roared again and hit the last barbarian standing with an axe blow so vicious it cut his head clean off and propelled it against the wall, bouncing off the wall 30 foot above us and landing with a sickening thud. Once Harshangs roar finished echoing off the walls, we were once again left in a quiet temple, albeit a less clean and sacrosanct one.
With combat done, we found a small alcove to have a quick breather in, and to patch up Lilli from her wounds. Afterwards, with some scouting from the tressum, we were about to locate the switches required to open the frost covered door and proceed up the huge stairway into the temple proper.
As we walked into the chamber, the sense of awe was replaced by an even stronger sense of wonder. This vaulted chambers walls went up so far it was hard to tell where they ended, but it looked to be one hundred feet or so. There were seven statues in the room, again six huge statues of giants in a circle, surrounding a sevenths statue in the centre. The centre statue was a seventy or eighty feet tall robed giant, arms outstretched and face hidden. It faced a glowing archway at the end of the hall, which was an odd shaped square doorway.
I went forward to inspect the runes above the doorway as something caught Lilli’s attention in the wall off to the right. The runes appeared inlaid with mithril, and the door itself seemed to be glowing with a magical storm that rumbled and toiled, also blocking the way forward.
I had a suspicion that dwarves had a hand in constructing this enormous place, but that hunch was confirmed when I saw the runes were in dwarven script that said:
Oracle wisdom lies within
Pass the clouds to get in
But only in the arms of kin
And only by the arms of kin
Lilli had uncovered a secret door in one of the walls so I headed back, noting that all the giant statues had weapons with the exception of the front giant statue.
Lilli had uncovered a small alcove that would be useful to hole up in if required.
We started musing over the riddle I’d read from the runes. It seemed like we needed a Giant to help us pass the clouds, but why the reference to arms twice?
We got Harshnag to start fiddling with the runes on the statues. One of them froze him on the spot for a time, and another created some magic that made things fall up instead of down. I will never forget the look on his face as he disappeared, confused as to why things fell up all of a sudden. He fell for a while before thumping against the roof but managed to fall onto the tallest statue and slide down it when the magic field dissipated.
We decided from there to cease experimenting with the runes, and turned our attention to the southern doors, covered in frost. There were doors that ran North and South in the cavern, all blocked with frost.
Shoving our way through the door we come into a massive mess hall. The room was covered with large tables and stools, complete with a decorative statue in a crevice further down the room. We could also see a large Giant axe, the missing one from the room.
We started moving forward to retrieve it but we discovered we were not alone after all. A large centipede-like creature slithered out from behind the statue, twenty feet long and five foot wide. It was segmented and jagged, but the hide appeared to give it heavy armour. At its front segments, it had these strange webbed spines that gave it a ferocious, hooded appearance. It had spines on its back that looked like they were red hot. It had these antenna growths on its head and was bluish-wite. It didn’t merely snake along the ground toward us, as it had wings at its front part that could hold its front segments aloft as it ran toward us.
We didn’t even need to discuss retreating to the main room, the mere sight of the creature made us beat a hasty, silent retreat.
It came at us quickly, spitting slime out of its mouth as it flew and ran at us all in one motion. We got as many attacks on it as we could before it closed range. We stood with Cyke, Harshnage and myself firm in the doorway whilst the others kept to the rear and used their range against it.
It bit first at Morning who I summoned during our short rest. It screamed and recoiled in surprise at having no purchase on Morning as the great lion phased out of existence once again. I hit it as hard as I could with my longsword but was hit twice as hard back from red hot waves of fire that shot out of the spines on its back.
I was off balance and disoriented from the sudden heat wave when it turned to Cykellion and, almost with a smile, it ate him. The blow knocked Cyke out and he lay limply in the creature’s mouth as it reared back like a bird of prey trying to toss its meal down its throat. The barbarian limply flopped around its mouth as it tried to get him down its throat.
We redoubled our attacks on the beast but it did not seem to even notice our attacks, its spines firing back at each melee attack made against it. John managed to heal up Cyke right before the creature succeeded at swallowing him. He rolled out of its mouth moments before the thing gnashed its jaws shut.
Cyke landed on the floor in a pile of bile and spit, proclaiming in surprise ‘I thought it smelt bad on the outside’
The creature grabbed Cyke in its mouth again in response.
It was a hard fought battle and probably the hardest we’d faced in our time as a party, but with a mighty blow from Harshnag, the creature was felled with a burst of flame and a hiss that sent a chill down our spine, echoing around the temple.
Lilli had read something about a creature like this, they were called a Remorhaz. We just hoped to never see another one.
We grabbed the axe and got a sleep in Lilli’s Tiny Hut she cast for the night, and we settled in for a well-deserved if early rest.
23rd Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return
We awoke the next morning with a direct sense of how to proceed. We touched the frost rune with the axe, and with trepidation proceeded through the thundering cloud wall.
We stepped into a hexagonal chamber with a ceiling that was tapered to the centre point. Each corner of the room was more statue of Giants, holding up heavy lanterns. The place was dimly lit by these lanterns, which revealed a giant corpse on the ground, frozen in death. Underneath the body, we could see some runic carvings on the ground in a circular pattern.
A ghost appeared over the body on the ground, sadly introducing itself as Eigeron, a deceased cloud giant that was heir to Countess Sansuri. She is the current leader of the Cloud Giant tribe.
We learnt that he was killed by his mother in this very room, enraged by an answer that she’d received from the Oracle. The Oracle suggested her son could supplant her as leader and Countess Sansuri struck Eigeron down where he stood and bludgeoned him to death where he lay. The frost covered morningstar near his body corroborated his story.
We also heard that a blue dragon has been here asking questions of the oracle. Eigeron didn’t seem to know how much time had passed since he died but it seemed to only be many months, not many years.
He also explained the 6 flames in the room signified the 6 questions that could be asked of the Oracle each day, with the magicks being reset during Lathanders holy time of dawn, like many magicks.
After some thought, we asked many questions of the Oracle.
It was revealed to us that Countess Sansuri was interested in the Artefacts of Astoria. These artefacts were from a race of Giants before civilisation, an ancient race of Giants long forgotten by the annals of history. Sansuri had been searching for a black obelisk, which was supposed to be a map to these treasures. This obelisk, called the Nightstone, was a trove of information and knowledge regarding the Artefacts of Astoria.
We recoiled in surprise! Countess Sansuri was the giant in the castle that devastated Nightstone which kicked off our involvement in this whole mess! And we knew she achieved her goal of finding the obelisk. She is also a powerful wizard, who we need to be careful of. She’s been seen searching the untamed moors - which is an older name for the evermore, where castle sightings have been made! And we, of course, had already encountered fire giants who were seeking Vonindod construct pieces.
Annam All-Father himself broke the ordning, to rouse the Giant race from their complacency.
Eigoron let us know that the Hill, Frost, and Fire Giants tended to have the most evil intent. The Stone Giants tended towards neutrality, and the Storm and Cloud giants tended towards good.
Eigeron didn’t approve of what his mother was doing, despite having committed evil himself. He was involved with the Worm Tribe that we encountered, helping them bind a creature called a Couatl to a alter that they had nearby. Couatl were good, magical creatures that can’t die of old age or lie either.
We explained to Eigeron that we were pretty sure we killed their leader on the way in but he’s still stuck on the mortal plane. He doesn’s seem to think his ghost can rest until his sins are absolved. He wants us to free the Couatl from its bindings to the prison and we agree that we will search for it.
Lilli asked how we could infiltrate the storm giants. The storm giant court is in a maelstrom not accessible by conventional means. A special conch is required, which are only distributed to nobles or giant leaders. However, a dragon is capable and one already has infiltrated the giant court. The blue dragon that was recently in this very room.
The Oracle suggests we seek out a conch with the aim to find the Storm Giant King, King Heckoton. He has disappeared, and the Oracle cannot see him. However, the Oracle does not think he has passed on from this realm. His youngest daughter, Serissa, may be a starting point for us to find him.
The Vonindod Construct pieces are still scattered but the majority of them are located in Ironslag, it has the highest concentration of them. It’s fair to conclude this is where they are reassembling the construct and if we can stop them before they finish we won’t need to concern ourselves with finding individual pieces.
The Oracle was created by Annam the All-Father, and it seeks to correct the chaos he has caused.
Having exhausted our questions for the day we set out to explore the place whilst we had time.
We found a natural tunnel that contained an exit to the outside, which was in actual fact a sheer four hundred foot drop on the side of the mountain that would not be pleasant to try and climb. We also found some giant spiders that had nested in the cave system which we cleared out. From the look of their lair, it appeared that a few adventure types had fallen victim to the spiders in the past.
We went back to the abode for another rest to clear our minds, ready for another round of Oracle wisdom.
24th Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return
The next morning we woke up and only had the shortest of breakfast before heading back to the Oracle.
Lilli asked about the conches. The Giant Lords and Court members would each have one. However, without the will of the Storm Giants, the conches require we prove dominance over Giants before being used.
In Ascore lies the pipeweed Felgolos wanted us to retrieve. Two Dragons defend their lairs, with the pipeweed being in one of them only. The lairs are trapped and guarded, and we would do well do be on guard for hidden foes and magical defences.
The giant lords and their agendas were revealed to us
Cheif Guh of the Hill Giants. Seeks to become the largest Giant in the world, and as we knew was holed up at Grudd Haug.
Thane Kayalithica of the Stone Giants. Rules in Deadstone Cleft, a canyon of stone giant thane. Seeks to destroy humans.
Jarl Storvald of the Frost Giants. Rules near Hartwick, seeking a Ring of winter to create an ice age.
Countess Sansuri of the Cloud Giants, seeking the Artefacts of Asuria. Currently flying around the Evermore’s.
King Hekaton, currently missing.
It made the most sense for us to take these tribes in order from weakest to strongest. If we wanted to maximise the opportunity of raiding the dragon lairs, a bags of holding would be best to do so.
I couldn’t resist the urge to find out more about who had betrayed me and set into motion the events at Mirabar. I asked the Oracle who was involved with my presumed plot to overthrow the Marchion. I found out that the Marchion I served, Elastul Raurym, was controlled by Hislen, as Gnawbone told me. He was deposed after Hislen fled.
John wants to know who the ‘Green Flame’ It’s not something I’m aware of but clearly it has been eating away at John for some time, considering he is willing to speak of it in our presence. The Green Flame is the Doom of the Desert, the great dragon Iymrith, the very same dragon that has infiltrated the court!
It would seem there is turmoil in the Storm Giant Court now the Dragon has installed herself in the court. The older sisters were not fit to rule and the heirship would have fallen to the youngest sister, but the elder sisters (Mirran, Nym) were fooled by the Dragon and then betrayed their father. We also learnt that Queen Neri of the Storm Giants has been slain.
The Oracle also told us not to be too concerned with the Ice giant seeking control of the ring. Whilst the ring did control weather around it, the Oracle insisted it was beyond his grasp and that he would have a hard time finding it. Despite this, he still might be dangerous.
With our questions exhausted, we turned to leave the temple, picking our way through the cavernous, awe-inspiring temple one last time. We decided to tackle freeing the Coautl first before heading onward.