Lamashan 14 – 16 AR
With healing at a premium, the group was restored to their maximum effectiveness, and the Heroes of Sandpoint pushed on, ever northward, and ever upwards toward the fabled city of Xin-Shalast. The biting wind and stinging snow made their travel slow and treacherous at such altitudes, but they did not waver, resolutely making progress.
Scanning the ground level, Lindin’s skill made their traveling as quick and efficiently as possible in this harsh environment, finding sturdy crevasses and ice free paths to follow. Also, at various intervals, dwarf made climbing gear – pitons, a broken hammer, patch of tooled leather – reassured the group they were following the Vekkers’ path along the River Avah, which now flowed beneath a layer of ice and snow more often than not.
While Lindin’s skills in observation were being put to the test finding suitable pathways up the rugged, forbidding Kodars, Erekhil’s perceptive skills were being challenged by the blowing wind, and building clouds. But, he was certain he saw appearing out of the clouds, flying high above and banking back into the clouds’ cover, a huge dragon, its scales, thick and white.
Alerting his comrades to this new, airborne threat, the group traveled on, now all but Lindin scanning the skies.
After the trials of the day, with the darkness, cold and wind making traveling nearly impossible, the ranger found a suitable spot for the Varisian sorcerer, Deivon Altorre, to cast his magical hut, which provided comfort and protection against the frigid, unknown darkness of night.
The night passed uneventfully, as the group dealt with the hunger pangs they were forced to suffer to follow the path through this Leng touched land. The next morning was bright and clear, as most days in the Kodars begin, and the group, still weak and winded from mild starvation, pushed on.
Making as much headway as they could before the clouds come in and the wind gains intensity, the Heroes of Sandpoint marched ever onward. By midafternoon, as the clouds thickened, the group was treated to an amazing, but heart stopping sight: a waterfall of raging water falling pounding down an ice-covered, sheer cliff over 1000 feet high.
Taking time to investigate the terrain, and finding old, dwarf made pitons still lodged in the cliff, Lindin realized the group had one choice, to scale the cliff.
The climbing expert, Erekhil, and the nature specialist, Lindin, came together to plot a plan of attack up the mountain, knowing that if the plan failed, death would be the most certain result.
So, with the plan formulated, Erekhil began his grueling climb. Inserting pitons for foot and handholds at equal intervals, the sell-sword made slow, but steady progress. As the hours rolled by, and roping himself securely to the pitons, Erekhil passed the 250 foot mark, then the 500 foot mark. Steadily he passed the 700 foot point as the gathering clouds and mist from the waterfall began to cover him from sight to those below.
With the wind blowing heavily, Erekhil’s skill was pushed to the limit and his luck wore out as his climbing hammer found a weak spot in the ice that cracked suddenly under the blow. Clawing for a handhold, for any hold, from this sudden fall, Erekhil fell frighteningly fast and far, his rope finally caught as his body slammed into the cliff’s face.
Below, the groups witnessed their sell-sword fall out of the clouds and impact the rock wall. Holding their breath in anticipation, looking for any sign of life, they saw Erekhil shake off the dazed feeling, give a thumbs up, and begin to climb again, this time reaching the summit.
It was then the rest of the group’s turn to climb, Lindin next, followed by Bahne, both saving the Spider Climb potions for the less skilled magic users of the group.
While the climb was made easier by the pitons and guide ropes provided by Erekhil’s initial ascent, it was still a frightening experience. Ice and wind combined to cause some slips and struggles, but both the ranger and the fighter made it up without unnecessary death or dismemberment.
Using their Spider Climb potions, leaving them with just four, Deivon and the Ayra surmounted the cliff. With the whole group at the top they saw the vast, rime-encrusted marsh described in Silas Vekker’s journal, the headwaters of the River Avah. It stretched, in its eerie, mist shrouded cover, miles wide and miles deep. And, for the first time during their trek, high above on the peak of Mhar-Massif, they saw the leering face of Karzoug.
The odd mixture of sulfur and volcanic emission, and the latent volcanic heat mixed with the frozen air created an unnatural state of continual freezing and thawing of the marsh’s water. No plants existed except for the ever-present pale stalks of strange fungi and clots of floating lichens.
Knowing the next step was to cross, Lindin began the deliberate and arduous process of picking his way through marsh, finding solid hummocks of rock or mud on which to travel. The going was slow as ice cracked underfoot and hummocks gave way under the groups’ weight, but even as they made progress, Lindin hoped they would get through the marsh before the sun, setting quickly, disappeared.
Possibly moving quicker than before, or his sight diminished by the setting sun, Lindin’s path took the group through a dangerously thin patch of ice and unstable mud. As they moved, a sudden crack appeared under the Bahne’s boots and the dwarf fell into the frigid water.
The group froze to check their own footing.
Lindin then scanned the horizon, on guard for any foe that may lie in ambush. Ayra made her way to the hole to assist the fighter, but her movement created another crack in the thin layer of ice and she, too, fell into the icy marsh.
Erekhil, deftly, sprang around and attempted to help no one while Deivon, star knife in hand, hit the ground in a defensive posture and plunged the blade into the thin ice. That was enough to destroy the structural integrity of the ice under him and Deivon was plunged into the icy depths of the marsh.
Erkhil slid further away. Not wanting to join his companions.
The wind, blowing heavily and cold at this altitude, blew over the ice patches, causing them to begin to ice over. Bahne and Ayra struggled to extricate themselves from the water, having luck pulling on the rope affixed to the ranger. But each time they managed to find a way out, they were unable to get a footing on the slick ice.
Erekhil, after he managed to pull Deivon to safety, cautiously surveyed the ice before he made his way to the submerged half-elf and dwarf who were still unable to pull themselves to safety.
As he and Lindin proceeded with caution, both caught the sight of swirling mist above the now frozen over ice hole. From the swirling mist appeared a very naked, very long-legged, long-eared vision of brunette female hotness.
She worked quickly, hovering over the ice, this creature of unblemished loveliness smashed the ice with her most lovely hand and pulled the cleric to safety, then reached back in to rescue the dwarf. With all eyes on the vision of beauty she hovered among the group and said, in a voice that tickled the loins, “Lindin Vandroxan, Bahne Verember and the one known as Erekhil, I thought it must be you. I am Svevenka, and I owe you my thanks, for I am Myrianna’s cousin. Thank you for putting her soul to rest…”
With that she warned the group that any travel further north was death, and urged them to return to the safety of the lowlands, “for this region is not kind to souls such as yours…”
The Lord of the Hook informed the nymph that they had business up, high on Mhar-Massif, and they could not head back until their foe, Karzoug, was dead. This intrigued Svevenka, as she was “aware of stirrings in the ancient city of Xin-Shalast.”
She then offered the group sanctuary in her grove and any aid she could provide them, including whatever knowledge she had of Xin-Shalast. Svevenka provided a safe, solid path of rigid ice for the group to her grove, while she flew ahead.
Once in the sanctuary of Svevenka’s ice home, the group was able to gather some information regarding their destination. All manner of giants and lamia-kin have flocked to the banner of Shalast and are now stationed in the city or patrolling the area as “this mountain is their fortress…”
In addition, there is a very surly blue dragon called, Ghlorofaex, surviving and thriving, in a climate very foreign to blue dragons. Svevenka would like its beastly head mounted on her mantle, as its electric breath caused her some pain and aggravation during their only encounter.
Also, she informed the group that the influence of Leng does not pass over her realm, providing one of the few places of relief from its influence throughout the whole mountain range. She also educated the group on the influence of Leng. Hunger was one method to cleanse the soul to see the path along the River Avah, but there were other ways to follow the river if one was strong mentally. Ayra looked about the hall at her comrades and decided the hunger method was the best method for this group…
While it was comforting to know her grove escaped the influence of Leng, her information that something “totally unnatural” surrounds the peak of Mhar-Massif, where Karzoug’s palace sits nearly 30,000 feet above the sea, was less comforting. “Something beyond Thassilon’s typical magic protects it from age, there is something that protects it from detection and protects it from being entered,” Svevenka stated and this information matched what Ayra and Lindin were able to learn in the Runeforge.
“However,” she continued, “the Lord of Shalast’s minions must have some way to bypass whatever wards have been established” for she has seen them enter and leave the palace buildings, “but that is just speculation, for I’ve never been close enough to learn anything more.”
When the briefing ended, Svevenka offered the three heroes who heeded Yap’s call to help her cousin a gift. For Erekhil she had an exceedingly sharp magical dagger, and for Lindin and Bahne she had a Ring of Greater Fire Resistance. Erekhil and Bahne were thankful for their gifts, but Lindin Vandroxan, Lord of the Hook, Husband to Lady Shayliss, had another “gift” in mind and asked for a ride instead.
Svevenka thought that was fair and the two of them retired to her fur covered bed for a little “in/out” while Bahne threw gherkins at them. Ayra and Deivon had a ride in another fur-lined bed while Erekhil slept soundly; the happy sounds of his childhood were a welcome comfort during his rest.
In the morning, taking what meager sustenance they could to progress, but not lose their hunger fueled vision, the party headed out into another bright, sun-drenched morning. The winds were stronger this morning and Lindin realized they would be punishing by high sun. Armed with their new information, our heroes took their leave of Svevenka and pushed on, towards the leering face of Karzoug.
Making their way through ice, snow and wind the group traversed an ice-coated cavern, bordered by oppressively high and sheer cliffs. As wind howled through this ever-narrowing passage, Lindin Vandroxan noted the subtle shifting of snow, reminiscent of the snow shift that occurred before the frost worm attack.
Looking back to the group he was about to shout this information when he saw a wide-eyed Erekhil staring high towards the cliff above.
“AVALANCHE!!!! GIANTS!!!!” The sell-sword shouted when he saw a group of four Frost Giants hammering away at the snow. Then, almost instantly, the first rumbling was felt and crackling of ice and snow was heard. Reacting with seasoned skill, our heroes sought shelter, but this passage was well-chosen by the giants as it offered no cover to their victims.
Ayra, breaking through the ice covering the ground, cast a spell to shape stone to her purpose and managed to create a low, slender barrier in front of her behind which she took cover. The wizard, thinking this a fine idea, jumped in behind her.
Bahne hoped his stout frame would protect him from this snowy onslaught, while Lindin and Erekhil hoped their practiced dexterity would allow them to escape the punishment of the oncoming ice and snow.
The avalanche was quickly on the group, while the Frost Giants appeared to be surfing down the ravine on the snow’s wake. Bahne, Ayra and Deivon were covered by the snow, bludgeoned hard by the thick blocks of ice and rocks. Lindin, hardened by mountain living managed to escape the avalanche’s fury, as did Erekhil whose footwork, while diminished in such foreign terrain, was still dazzling.
But, while Erekhil’s footwork dazzled, their foes were upon them. With a murderous fury, these Frost Giants tore into the group with powerful blows with their greataxes. Bahne managed to dig his way out of the avalanche, and engage two of the giants assaulting Erekhil. Ayra, too, was soon out, and retreated from axe range while Deivon was not as lucky as he managed to cast spells against his enemy, but was easy prey for their vicious blows.
Lindin, at the rear of the group, accounted for the wind and kept up a steady barrage of accurate flaming arrows that turned the two giants nearest him into pin cushions, but still the giants attacked.
Bahne knew going to toe with two giants would not end well for him, but had to hold his line. Hoping his fleet-footed, sell-sword ally could spring in support, Bahne pressed the attack, realizing to withdraw would expose the magic users’ flank and lead to certain death. So, toe-to-toe Bahne stood, going blow for blow with the giants, while Erekhil did his dance of death around the giants, slicing gaping wounds into their blue skin from flanking positions.
While this battle was going on, slowly turning towards Bahne and Erekhil’s favor, the combat mere feet away was quickly turning against Lindin, Ayra and Deivon. After unleashing half a quiver of arrows into his two giant foes, Lindin felt the bowstring snap in his fingers and watched this last arrow fly uncontrollably away, lodging harmlessly into the valley’s wall.
Deivon’s luck ran out as he could find no cover from the continual onslaught of giant blades. Falling unconscious in the snow pit he clambered out of, he began to quickly bleed out. Ayra, unable to take to the offensive with her spells, continued to channel Calistria’s power, creating wave after wave of healing energy which kept her allies on the offensive.
Seeing Deivon fall, one frost giant stepped over the feeble, three-foot-high stone barrier Ayra created and took the fight to the ranger who was drawing his magical longsword. With two Frost Giants quickly approaching, Lindin engaged the first with practiced skill, but finding little give in their thick armor.
Meanwhile, and not a moment too soon, Bahne and Erekhil were able to dispatch their enemies in a barrage of Runeforged hammer and sword blows, creating a crimson fountain of giant blood and gore. They then turned their attention to the remaining two giants.
Deivon, after regaining consciousness from Ayra’s healing, found himself back in the fight, but in a hole in the snow and straddled by a giant. Remembering the success he had in a similar situation in the fight in the Halls of Wrath, the Chosen One of Varisian lore carefully summoned magical force then cast a powerful spell onto the leg of the giant over him.
Unlike the Halls of Wrath, however, this foe did not fall so easily. Instead, it quickly shifted its axe from a blow to the ranger to a vicious blow “in an overhand motion” that cleaved the Varisian’s torso in two, killing him instantly.
Ayra, sensing the sorcerer’s death, quickly dove into the hole in the snow where his bloodied, mangled body lay, absorbing a blow from the giant’s axe, and cast Breath of Life on the dead Varisian, restoring his lost lifeforce.
Even with the sorcerer out of the fight and the healer casting to save his life, the fight turned in our heroes favor. Now, at three on two, the fighters and sell-sword launched a brutal, life-or-death attack on the Frost Giant straddling the magic users. It fell to that barrage, its body being carved in to pieces. Then, they made short work of their last foe.
With the battlefield quiet, the giants’ blood freezing in thick pools, Lindin scanned the surrounding area. The avalanche had finally come to a stop a few hundred feet below, and nothing stirred save the distant glint of glistening white flying against the blue sky.
Ayra healed her comrades as best as she could as Erekhil searched the bodies and the areas. Gold coins of various mints were pilfered off the giant corpses by the sell-sword as he discovered Sihedron tattoo on each of their bodies.
Also, among the rock, ice and snow were bricks of basalt, 8 feet by four feet by 2 ¼ feet coated in pure gold.