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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 3 — Tosvin's Map
It was only a few minutes later that the pounding on the door finally ceased, and they heard the hell hounds outside barking loudly. The door shook violently a few more times, and the elephant trumpeted. Then, the barking faded off into the distance and the commotion stopped.

   Perhaps five minutes later, they heard the barking again. Then Tosvin then appeared suddenly among them. His battleaxe blade was covered in red and other colors.

   The fortress is clear, came his voice in their heads. Move your animal and follow me.

   Mythlos gave the command word, and the elephant returned to its figurine form. Tosvin went to the doors and opened them with his claws. His hell hounds rushed toward him, and he patted each on its black head, as they wagged their tails. Then, he stepped off the ledge and floated to the ground below.

   Hakam, likewise, stepped off and floated smoothly to the snow. Solisar spoke a word and did the same, inviting the others to follow.

   The blood snow was gone, so nothing prevented them from entering the fortress now through the main doors. They passed the charred bodies of three oni mages — Belvin's summoned fire elemental had done its job.

   When they entered the main doors, they saw two more glaives lying on the ground close to the central, red-glowing column of ice. A pool of red blood could be seen to the left of the column, and as they headed in that direction, they first saw a pair of over-sized lower legs, severed at the knees, wearing thick boots. Next, they saw the headless and legless torso of a giant with pale white skin, still clutching its axe. Tosvin led them to the left to the stairs that Cassiera had earlier found.

   The high steps of ice led up to a mezzanine and split north and south. They turned north and climbed to the second floor of the fortress, passing into another irregularly shaped room with six walls. There were two stone tables in the room, sized for giants, and there were smoothed stones scattered about that perhaps served as chairs.

   Tosvin approached the largest wall, waved his hand over it, and spoke a few words of his accursed tongue. Blue, glowing lights appeared behind the ice of the fall, faintly outlining a map, which Leokas immediately recognized as the full extent of the Great Glacier.

   What is your female's name? he asked.

   When they told him, he spoke it with his mandibles. "Iggreth Ilthian."

   A red dot appeared somewhere far to the northeast.

   I shall be gone for many hours, said Tosvin. I cannot carry sentient life through the Astral; I shall have to carry your female back to you over the wind. Take whatever treasures you find among the slain. They have nothing of value to me. With that, he vanished again.

   "Iggreth Tosvin," said Solisar. A dark blue dot appeared atop the red dot.

   "Solisar, this map can tell you the location of Iyraclea!" said Szordrin.

   "While true, I caution against that," Solisar replied. "She is a powerful priestess; she may have protections against scrying that would inform her of our presence. We do not want her able to track us back to Jhothûn."

   "Which means that she might be able to scry on Ilthian as well," one of them said, "once she determines that the girl is missing."

   "Iggreth Samber," said Szordrin, followed by, "Iggreth Walker." No dots appeared.

   "Try someone else we know to be on the Great Glacier," said Hakam.

   "Iget Skata!" said the minotaur, and Solisar repeated the message correctly. No dot appeared.

   "Iggreth Bjorn," said Leokas. There was still no dot. "Have they all been slain?"

   "Does the map find dead persons...?" asked Hakam. "Iggreth Uregaunt." No dot appeared. "So all the giants could be dead," said Hakam, "but I suspect it means rather that the cloud giants have completed their cloud palace and sailed."

   "It has been months since we last saw them," said Leokas.

   "Iggreth el Sadhara," said Szordrin — still no dot.

   "I am going to go loot the corpses," said Mythlos.

   "I will go with you," said Szordrin.

   Kytharrah followed as well.

   "Do not take — do not even touch — any of Tosvin's things!" warned Hakam.

~~~~

They methodically began outside with the enemies that they had slain themselves. One of the oni mages wore a gold bracelet and a jeweled electrum ring. Another bore a potion that tasted and smelled like a healing potion. The ogres only had nasty, ragged hide armor and their clubs. The oni's greatswords looked imposing because of their sizes but were non-magical and of inferior quality. The same could be said of their chain shirts.

   On the first floor of the fortress, they entered the ogre and oni rooms. There they found several personal treasures stored under blankets or pillows. One of the oni had a gold idol to an unknown god that appeared like a cross between a troll and an ogre. The same oni had a sack of gold coins weighing at least ten pounds. Among the ogres' smelly belongings were a total of 101 golden coins, two vials with unknown contents, (one with a magical aura, the other without,) and a sheet of parchment with lewd drawings of an ogre female on one side and a spell of divine magic on the other.

   In the northeastern room, which Cassiera had not explored, the ice walls, floor, and ceiling were insulated with thick metal, making the room smaller. In the center was a fire pit with still-hot coals. There were three iron bunk bends without bedding of any sort. Here, stored under one of the bunks, they found a stash of scrolls with blood stains on them.

   Coming out of that room and continuing counterclockwise, they came to another door to the north. On the floor was a tiny, tin signal whistle. The door to the north was locked and the doorhandle had a magical aura.

   They returned up the stairs but turned left at the mezzanine. This led up to a room that was clearly a kitchen. A door on the north wall led to a foul-smelling room filled with several skinny goats and one skinned fox hanging from the ceiling. There were no other exits from this room.

   They returned to the map room. Another open doorway led from this room to the east. They passed into a large open area perhaps 60 feet wide and 80 feet long. On the north side, near where they stood, was an elaborate staircase of ice leading up to the next floor, with two sets of stairs running along the north wall that led up to a mezzanine from the west and east and then joining and leading farther up and to the south. The room was divided in half by a rift and a large opening in the floor. They looked down to the floor below and saw the body parts of the frost giant and the glaives of the destroyed barbazus. A bridge of ice crossed to the other half of the room, supported by the red-glowing ice column. Sitting on the bridge was the large, bearded head of the frost giant, its eyes staring blankly.

   They passed the decapitated head and crossed the bridge to the other side. The southern wall had a large set of metal doors that were swung wide open. When they passed through, they found a well-furnished room. They saw a woman's body lying face-down on the floor in a pool of blood. She had thinned-out, long white hair and wrinkled bluish skin on her bare legs, as if she had frozen to death, but she had clearly been slain by a massive axe blow to her back. They rolled her body over and were struck with the sheer ugliness of her wretched, old face.

   Within her room, they found a couple hundred platinum coins and six gems in a pouch on her desk; a magical flail of some sort, which had hung on her wall; and a grayish, gnarled staff, which Kytharrah picked up for Leokas to make more arrows. Any pity they might have had for the hag ended when they found a bowl on her nightstand that had three severed human fingers in it.

   They returned back over the bridge and through an open doorway to the northeast. Here, they found a room that mirrored the map room. On the northeast wall, a large mat had been placed on the ground. Its size indicated that it was probably where the frost giant had slept. A sack sitting there confirmed this, when, opening it, they found a typical assortment of grimy items: three throwing rocks, a large, ragged cloak, dried animal dung, some berries, a large whetstone, a hand-held wood chopper, a giant pewter tankard, and a pouch. The pouch contained several gems. They thought the red berries might be of interest to Belvin, so they collected those as well.

   Just as at the western side of the fortress, stairs descend to the south leading to a mezzanine. Heading back up at the other side, they came to a room, which was a mirror of the kitchen they had seen. It was not used as a kitchen, however; there were red blood stains in the frozen floor and iron manacles drilled into the walls.

   Having completely explored the second floor, they now moved up to the third. This was the floor that the ice elemental, which Tosvin had called an orglash, had patrolled. It was bisected twice by hallways into quadrants, and a hallway surrounded the whole floor, except for over the stairwell. In each quadrant was a single, irregularly shaped room of ice.

   They began with the room in the northeast. Opening the door, they found a macabre sight: blood, internal organs, and charred body parts were scattered everywhere. The whole room reeked of scorched flesh. Cloth mats still burned in places, filling the room with smoke. The creatures here looked something like trolls, but they were slighter and had white skin. They also wore clothing, and some wore forged scale mail and had carried mean-looking warhammers. The room also contain a large anvil. Some of the trolls also had bite marks. They counted eight bodies, but so severe was the carnage that they were not certain of their count. Hidden behind the anvil, they found a small pouch with a few hundred platinum coins.

   The next room was empty, except for two giant-sized bunk beds without bedding, but the third room was similarly disturbing in the level of violence found there. This room had six bodies, and these were a different sort of troll, larger and all naked. These, too, had still smoldering flesh from their burns, and their dark blood was splattered all over the room. The trolls had possessed a sack of four gems.

   The final room was likewise the sight of a brutal massacre, although in this case, no fire was used. Dismembered heads and arms were scattered everywhere, once belonging to eight ogres. Four bunk beds were splintered. In one case, it appeared as if a single swing had cleaved the bunk and the two bodies sleeping in it in half. Amongst the blood and other bodily liquids was yet another bag of gems and silver coins, and one of the ogres, who appeared to have been their leader, had several magical items: a ring of protection, a greatclub, and hide armor. Kytharrah also took a large javelin for himself.

   While Szordrin and Mythlos removed the armor from the ogre's body, covering their noses, Kytharrah picked up a small, white, spindle-shaped stone from a pool of organic muck. Then he giggled, when the stone leaped out of his hands and began circling around his head.

   "An ioun stone!" Mythlos exclaimed.

   "Solisar will likely know its powers from its shape and color," said Szordrin.

   Before returning to the others, they noticed that the ledge near the pedestal of ice was no longer a ledge; an ice bridge now crossed over to the south to where the hell hounds also waited for Tosvin's return. Upon investigating further, they noticed that an icicle-shaped key with a snowflake motif on the handle was currently inserted in a hole atop the pedestal.

~~~~

Meanwhile, Hakam was startled by the voice of their friend the bard in his head. "Leaving Lethtar, heading to Sundrah. Gnomes everywhere! Still no blessing from Tymora. No one knows Samber. Even checked wizard guilds. Everyone alive? Have you Ilthian?"

   Hakam quickly responded, "Ilthian recovered; Cassiera dead. Genie will grant three wishes if true heir to frost giant empire is found. Continue to send anything you learn."

   "That was Jayce," he informed Leokas, as Belvin brushed Kamil's fur. "He still has not learned anything of Samber."

~~~~

When the others returned from exploring and gave a report, Belvin was intrigued by the kitchen, and he had Kytharrah lead him there. With the help of the minotaur's nose, he searched for molds and spices that he might be able to use in some of his primitive magics.

   He returned to the others carrying the skull of a fox.

   "Where did you find that?" asked Szordrin.

   "And why do you need it?" asked Solisar.

   "Belvin has a thing for heads," explained Mythlos.

   "Secret druid magic," said Belvin.

   "Does that belong to Tosvin?" asked Hakam.

   "He will not notice," said the druid.

   "Put it back!" ordered Hakam.

   "Make me," said Belvin.

   "Stop your bickering," said Leokas, as he tried carving an arrow from the gray staff that Kytharrah had brought him.

   "Would you be able to carve me some wooden figurines, my friend?" Belvin asked Leokas.

   "Not from this wood. It is a strange wood like none with which I have ever worked."

~~~~

It was the middle of the night before Tosvin returned. The group huddled in the map room by the blue glow of the map. They had been watching the blue and red dot traveling together in a straight line across the map, heading southwest toward the Lugsaas Chain, where they were. At last, the dots reached their destination. They soon heard the sound of Tosvin's clawsteps coming down the stairs in the next room. He entered the map room, carrying Ilthian in his insectoid arms. He set her down ignominiously, though not harshly, on the ground, and her body slumped over.

   Some of them quickly rose up and moved over to her.

   Fret not, mortals. She is unharmed; she is unconscious from the effects of Iyraclea's magic. A bit of positive energy will repair that. Tosvin placed a single claw to her blue-haired head, and Solisar understood him to offer a prayer to Auril, the goddess of winter. Ilthian stirred awake.

   Of course, Hakam was the first person she saw and acknowledged. "Hakam! You are alive! You came back for me!"

   "How did you retrieve her without the Ice Queen being alerted?" Leokas asked the gelugon.

   I am skilled at illusions, said Tosvin, and while she has more power than me, she is limited by her inferior mind. I can outwit her, at least for a time. Now, my part in our deal is complete; begone from my abode at once. The way is clear for you as I promised. I have much to prepare before the Queen discovers the recovery of one of her prisoners and the slaughter of her troops here.

   "No, you have not returned our sorceress' gear nor our pack animals," said Hakam boldly.

   Tosvin vanished and then appeared a few moments later. He dropped Cassiera's magic bag on the ground. Your animals were likely consumed by the ogres and trolls, said Tosvin. Such was out of my hands. I trust that the treasures I have so politely granted you take from their corpses more than compensates you for the loss. Again, I say, begone!

~~~~

The journey back to Gharreil was difficult. At night, the snow was more frozen and slippery, and they did not have the galeb duhr's bridge to speed their descent. They made use of the crampons and gear from the undead climbers, and Ormur, the magic rope, helped significantly, but they also had Cassiera's corpse, a camel, and many pounds of new loot to manage.

   As they traveled, they had to explain the death of Cassiera to Ilthian, who was so in shock that she was silent for most of the journey, not even conversing much with her friend Kytharrah. She did, however, explain more of what had actually happened.

   "You would be so proud of me, Hakam," she said. "Tosvin had me chained in a very cold room. He sent a tiny winged creature — an imp, I think — to me twice each day to bring me food and water. The imp told me all of the horrible ways that Tosvin would torture me. He told me that my friends had abandoned me, that all of you were probably dead. He told me that I should join his side and that I would be rewarded with anything I wanted.

   "Well, I knew that he could not give me the thing I want most... and I also knew that Tosvin had not punished me at all yet. I decided that I might be able to make the most of my time and help the rest of you. So I learned from the imp all about the legal structure of the Nine Hells, and I learned how to understand the devil language. I memorized the numbers of gelugons in Iyraclea's army and where all of them are positioned across the Great Glacier by tricking him into telling me such things. I do not know where those places are, but I am sure that I can remember their names if you ever want to know."

   Solisar interrupted her rambling. "That is amazing work Ilthian! You and I shall have to talk in more detail about this later."

   She smiled for the first time since learning of Cassiera's death. Then she continued, "The imp kept trying to get me to join the devils, promising me great power and riches. I realized that the imp, not being a true baatezu, could never gain such powers that he was offering me, yet I could see that he desired power. So — and this is where I think you will be most proud, Hakam — I tricked him! I convinced him that if he reported to the Ice Queen that Tosvin had betrayed her, she would defeat Tosvin and then make the imp one of her trusted servants as a reward. The imp believed me! He did go to the queen, and he came back here with her and a large group of smelly monsters.

   "She did stop Tosvin, but she did not free me as I had hoped. When she was led by the imp to me. She made the imp turn into a cloud of black smoke by just speaking a single word, and then she asked me what I was. I said that I was a forokell, and then she said to be silent. She said some magic spells, I think, and looked me over, and that is all that I remember."

~~~~

After a dreadfully slow descent into the galeb duhr's basin, they discussed whether they should camp or continue on. One of them urged haste for Ilthian's sake, since they feared Iyraclea might scry on her.

   "While I think we should act quickly as we can," said Solisar, "I trust that the devil at least bought us some time. It is in his best interest for us to not be discovered as well. I think hiking in this darkness and terrain is a poor idea; we are all exhausted. Let us rest here. I shall see if I can find and speak to the galeb duhr again."

   "Maybe he will like my new shiny stone," said Kytharrah. "It dances around my head like his stones."

   "It can make whatever rocks float that it wants," said Leokas. "He will not care about your Ioun stone."

   Solisar pondered this. "I wonder what sort of stones the galeb duhr already has in his collection...."

   Solisar granted himself the ability to speak the Terran language and called out for the rock creature. It answered back from a distance, and the sun elf approached it to speak. "Good creature," he said. "We are trying to go back to our homes; may we ask permission to rest here in your basin once more."

   The galeb duhr agreed. Then Solisar asked, "Please do not be offended, but we suffered a great loss yesterday. One of our friends was killed by the evil monsters of the peak. We need a diamond to raise our friend. Do you know where we might find any?"

   The galeb duhr did not know what a diamond was at first, but when Solisar explained the color and hardness, the galeb duhr answered that no such rocks were in its mountain deep below the ice. Still, it once again built them a strong shelter from the cold with its magic.

~~~~

"Good morning, Lunk," said Cassiera.

   Kytharrah the minotaur looked very confused. His "little sister" was supposed to be dead. Also, she would never say that he was slow. Besides that, why was she wearing Szordrin's clothes, and why did she smell exactly like Szordrin?

   "Szordrin, leave him alone!" said Leokas. "Do not be cruel." Szordrin spoke a magic word and morphed back into his normal tiefling form.

   It was the next morning, and Hakam used his magic to preserve the real Cassiera's body. Then he created food for everyone, and he and Belvin continued to protect them from the cold. Solisar used his magic to identify a few of the items they had taken as loot — the magic hide armor had no special properties beyond simple enhancement, one of the potions protected against good outsiders, and the ring that Cassiera had taken from one of the barbazu would allow the wearer to walk on water. He also read the magic on the new scrolls they had picked up. Szordrin and Mythlos made guesses as to the cost of these new items and their large assortment of new gems.

   No further calamity or encounters occurred on the remainder of the journey back to the magic gate. They reached the crevasse and descended before highsun.

   Hakam placed a hand upon Ilthian's shoulder and prayed a short prayer in Alzhedo. She shivered at his touch, but it was unclear whether the cleric noticed.

   Szordrin chuckled.

   "What did he cast?" asked Solisar.

   "He is trying to obscure Ilthian from scrying," said the tiefling.

   "Is that not a good idea?" asked Leokas.

   "It only works on inanimate objects," answered Solisar in Elven, so that Ilthian would not understand.

   "We do not know yet if she has a soul," said Hakam. "It is an extra precaution."

   Hakam then called on the power of daylight to shine on the wall. Moments after he cast the spell and the magical gate opened in the ice, Tosvin appeared, blocking the entrance.

   "What do you want?" Hakam demanded, his hand on the hilt of his sword.

   They all sensed a chill in the air around them and the sky above began to grow darker.

   Do not be fools! Unhand your weapons. I am here to protect the both of us. Did you not think that your footprints leading down into this rift would not be traceable by the Queen's minions?

   The weather continued to change with shocking quickness. They heard thunder echoing over the glacier ice and then the sound of objects falling from the sky and striking the frozen ground. It was hailing and snowing all around them, except where they stood at the bottom of the crevasse.

   I am covering your tracks with my powers over ice, said Tosvin. I am still the guardian of the portal after all. He stepped aside. Now, you may pass.

   They all did so. As Leokas stepped into the magical dome surrounding the ruins, he alone heard Tosvin's voice. The female I returned to you is a great danger to both you and I, fellow guardian. The Ice Queen will be able to scry to her and thus you. Do not fail our master by endangering the secrets of Jhothûn to the discovery of the Queen.
Session: 80th Game Session - Friday, Oct 21 2016 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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