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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 1 — Winter Wolves
Belvin, in serpent form, had made his way up the long tunnel, until it twisted in an ess shape, as the map had noted, to the west. Here, a massive column of ice sat in the center of a frozen chamber. Belvin slithered to the right side of the column. When Hakam and Leokas arrived, the former took the left path around, while Leokas followed Belvin.

   There was an opening in the northwestern portion of the wall, about five feet wide and four feet high. Darkness was on the other side, but Belvin's serpent eyes spotted motion of some sort. Suddenly, a giant canine head came through the hole, and its maw opened wide. A burst of icy breath shot forth, covering the three adventurers and Stormshadow with frost and chilling them to the bone.

   Stormshadow yelped and ran behind the column for cover. Leokas followed her, nocking two arrows at once. Hakam drew his sword. The cleric could hear the barking of at least three different beasts beyond.

   Belvin, however, in his snake form, did not pull back; instead, he launched himself at the large snout of the wolf-like creature and snapped down his fangs. So thick was the creature's skin, that his tiny viper teeth could not pierce through. With a snap of its head, the canine beast sent Belvin's small form flying through the air, as two arrows deflected off the ice wall above the opening.

   The beast then shoved its forepaws and shoulders through. It was covered in snow-white fur and had icy blue eyes that reflected the light from Hakam's shield. It had a gold earring in its right ear.

   With a lunge, Hakam slashed at the monster's neck, drawing blood. The wolf turned to snap at Hakam, but two arrows struck it in the skull, one after the other. A third reflected off the ice.

   Limbs and fur began to sprout from Belvin's serpentine body, and before the transformation was complete, the newly forming, prehistoric-looking, weasel-like beast leapt through the air, latching onto the wolf's neck and sinking in his teeth. Stormshadow sprung forward and tried to grab the giant animal's legs. The bigger wolf slashed around, trying to get Belvin to dis-attach, but it was growing noticeably weaker from loss of blood. Another blow from Hakam's blade and three arrows from Leokas' took it down.

   Before they could celebrate, a second wolf poked its head over the body of its fallen pack-mate and breathed its cold breath. Belvin took the full force of the blast, and Hakam rushed forward to heal him with magic. Leokas wasted no time in sending three arrows at the new wolf, and all three found their target. Belvin, still in dire weasel form, ran up the body of the dead wolf and repeated his previous attack, latching himself onto the neck of the new wolf. The wolf tried whacking Belvin against the wall to free itself, but to no avail. While Hakam drew a scroll and healed his own frostburn, Leokas continued shooting, skillfully avoiding sending an arrow into his own teammate and sinking two more arrows into the wolf's flesh.

   With a second whack against the ice, the wolf freed itself from Belvin's relentless bite, but before it could back to safety, Leokas dropped to his knees and sent a final arrow directly between its eyes, killing it. Now a pile of two massive white wolf bodies blocked the opening.

   "Belvin, draw back!" Hakam yelled. Then he blessed himself with extra physical strength and approached the fallen dogs. He peeked over them and sent a magical burst of sound into the other room that caused the whole cavern to rumble. One of the wolves on the other side made a large yelp in surprise or pain. Their barking changed to sounds that seemed somehow more intelligent. These were not just common wolves, if their ability to breathe magical breath were not enough indication of that.

   Leokas moved over to his own wolf companion and checked on her. Her fur was covered in ice from the wolves' breath attacks but she seemed unhurt beyond that. He yelled at the enemy wolves in Ghukliak, trying to insult them, on the assumption that they might understand that tongue.

   Hakam pressed his way past the carcasses, and Belvin followed, running across the large room they found themselves in to the other side. This room was carved from the ice by blades of some sort, and it was certainly not found on the map. There were two more enormous wolves in this room still, and both were making an effort to pound on a massive wooden door on the northern wall with their paws. Scattered about were piles of pelts and gnawed bones, and there was a small pool of water in the back corner.

   Seeing the two intruders into their den, one wolf turned and blasted Hakam with its breath, while the other bounded across the room to snap at the over-sized weasel. Hakam, covered in frost, tried to back out, but the wolf lunged and snapped its jaws around his shoulder. The teeth of the beast pierced through the cleric's armor and deep into his flesh, between even his ribs. Hakam fell back, and over his shoulders flew two arrows simultaneously from Leokas bow, which struck the beast in its snout. The wolf was undeterred. It took another bite out of Hakam, this time nearly severing his sword arm. Leokas put two more arrows in its jaw, and it whined and pulled back, allowing Hakam to withdraw into safety of the first chamber.

   Belvin, however, was still out there.

   He had scurried out another opening on the other side of the wolf den, and he stood there on his four paws, facing the larger animal. It stared him down, but it could not fit through the opening and knew enough not to risk getting stuck like the others. Belvin readied himself to respond to the wolf's actions. If it opened its mouth to breathe, he would dart quickly to the side. If it turned its back, he would charge.

   It opened its mouth. A jet of cold blasted through the opening, but Belvin's agile weasel form was quick enough. He immediately hopped back to his position unscathed and glared at the wolf through his ferocious weasel eyes.

   The wolf turned suddenly to its right, so Belvin charged. However, the other wolf was within reach of him now also and attempted a bite but missed. From the corner of his beady eyes, he saw that the door to the wolf den was opening. He saw the figure of a massive humanoid, a giant.

   Leokas, peering into the room, went to draw two arrows, but he was out. He drew two silver arrows from his other quiver instead and loosed them, so that Belvin could make a dash for the opening, but the weasel pulled back instead to avoid being spotted by the giant.

   Leokas poked around the two carcasses and saw the two wolves run out of the den to join the giant on the other side of the door, speaking to him in what sounded like the giant tongue. The door closed shut shortly after.

   Belvin found his way back through the den to the others by scent. Just then, Mythlos arrived, as Hakam was holding a scroll in his left hand trying to heal himself before fainting from loss of blood. "What is happening?" asked the moon elf.

   "What has happened is that we just alerted every frost giant in this valley to our presence," said Leokas. "Did you find the pebble?"
Session: 66th Game Session - Thursday, Feb 18 2016 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 1 — The Ice Cavern
The snow around the two towers in the pass was stained red from the vast amounts of blood the giants had shed.

   "That one giant had remarkable reflexes," said Leokas, motioning toward the first giant's body.

   Hakam helped Mythlos to his feet and ensured that his spell had healed the elf before removing another scroll from which he also healed Belvin's wounds.

   Skata held her bleeding nose. "I have never been punched in the face before. Is my nose broken? Does it look straight?"

   "How are we going to get the poor elephant down?" asked Ilthian. It was trumpeting in frustration above them.

   Belvin reached up from Kamil's back and touched its trunk. "Walk like a spider, friend," he said. Belvin's druidic magic allowed the elephant to stick to the stone, even with its massive size. It climbed easily over the parapet and walked down the wall of the tower to the ground below.

   "What do we do about their bodies?" one of them asked. They discussed whether or not to try and conceal the carnage, but it was quickly evident that that was a hopeless task.

   "I do not know how long we have before the sentries are replaced," said Skata. "I believe that sentries at my uncle's palace change watch every eight hours, beginning at midnight. If these giants follow a similar schedule, I believe that they would have just started their watch, but frost giants may do things differently."

   "Let us hurry to the ice cavern then," said Leokas.

   "We should at least check the bodies for loot," said Mythlos.

   "They do not seem to have anything on their persons," said Szordrin.

   "Uncivilized giants such as these usually carry around sacks with their belongings," said Skata. "Perhaps the towers? But let us be quick."

   "I will climb that one," said Leokas.

   Skata climbed the one tower, and Leokas managed to climb the giant-sized ladder of the second tower as well. Indeed, he found a massive sack, weighing nearly two hundred pounds. He heaved it up and over the parapet and to the ground. Skata tossed an even larger sack from her tower.

   The sacks contained a large portion of giant-sized silver coins, about the size of a man's palm each, weighing about 450 pounds in total, by their estimates. They stuffed as many of these into their two bags of holding as they could and asked if Skata could carry the rest for them. The first sack also contained three throwing rocks, a whetstone, a couple hundred feet of extremely thick rope, smelly woolly animal hide, a haunch of meat, about a pound of salt in a leather pouch, and a dented brass tankard. The second sack contained a pair of faded giant boots, (in which many of the coins had been hidden,) four large rocks, bruised berries the size of apples, a container of grease, more rope, a sewing needle, another whetstone, what appeared to be dried animal dung, a copper bowl and spoon, and an old cloak.

   "This is all useless junk," said Mythlos, but Cassiera took the container of grease.

   "Open my eyes," Hakam prayed. After a few moments, he stuck his hand into an inner pocket of the cloak and extracted a small, human-sized vial. "Not all junk," he said, placing the vial in one of the pouches on his belt.

   "We tarry too long," Leokas reminded them. "Come!"

   "I am going to leave Ferry here," said Szordrin. "He can hide easily among the stones here. If new sentries return, he will sneak out to warn us before we enter the pass again." This seemed good to the others, so they left the little weasel behind, and he scurried off to take shelter between some of the loose stones of the towers.

   They exited the pass and entered the valley, now with an elephant traveling with them.

   "From the illustrations in the old tome I read," said Skata, "I believe that the frost giants' lair is on the other face of that series of peaks." She pointed in the distance at a cluster of icy hills to the northeast about an hour away.

   Skata was correct, but it still took them another hour after arriving at the foot of the hills to find the small crack leading into the cavern. The opening was located on a sheer wall of ice.

   "I will go beyond that mound there and lie low," said Skata. "Find me when you return with the pebble. Oh, one more thing: when you find the pebble, do not touch the runes directly. You will need to find some other way of picking it up, or you can just keep it in its pouch."

   "Why can we not touch it?" asked Szordrin.

   "It might drain it of its power," she replied.

   "Can you draw for us in the snow what the runes will be," asked Szordrin.

   Skata laughed. "Of course not! I am not a runecaster; I am not even an adult, remember? They will not even be Dethek runes; they will use the old Jotunalder script."

   "Ilthian, you should stay with Skata," said Hakam.

   "Why? She is big enough to not need my help."

   "Kamil will need you to watch him," suggested Cassiera. "Skata does not know how to care for a camel."

   Ilthian agreed to this, and she, the giantess, the camel, and the elephant walked off. Everyone else cautiously entered the narrow crack in the ice.

   Hakam made his shield glow, and Mythlos also drew his sword for light. The ice reflected and refracted the light in strange ways, filling the cave with eerie colors beautiful and otherworldly. The passage was narrow and tall.


   Hakam had the map Skata had given them in his hands. "Unless time has changed things, we should come to a four-way intersection first, though I do not know the scale of the map, so I cannot say how far."



   "What is that spot on the lower portion of the map?" asked Cassiera.

   "Perhaps a column?" said Leokas, "or a boulder?"

   They reached the intersection, as the map had promised. "We should explore this rightmost path to confirm that it dead-ends, as the map says," suggested Hakam. They did so, and indeed, the passage narrowed to an impassible thinness. They returned to the intersection.

   "The way to the giants' storage room is to the right," said Leokas, "but do you think we ought to explore the other dead ends first, just in case?"

   They agreed to this and continued forward, crossing to the other side of the intersection. They soon came to a split and took the left path, which curved slowly until they could go no further.

   "This is not right," said Hakam. "The path should go further here."

   "We should be where that spot is, shouldn't we?" asked Leokas.

   "Has there been a cave-in?" asked Cassiera. "Perhaps things have shifted since the map was made."

   Mythlos held his sword closer to the wall before them. It was not smooth like the rest of the walls thus far, instead looking like it was made from ice fragments crushed together.

   So they backtracked to their last turn and took a left, heading roughly west again. This passage twisted sharply north, as the map also indicated. They continued on a ways, being careful not to slip on the slick surface or to hit their heads on the many hanging icicles. The tunnel made a sharp u-turn.

   "How are we doing on time?" asked Cassiera. "We seem to be moving slowly."

   "We are," said Leokas. "Travel underground in such cramped spaces is slow. It's probably already been three quarters of an hour."

   "This is going to take us too long," said the yuan-ti. "Perhaps we should split up. I believe I could travel faster in my snake form along this kind of terrain. I can scout on ahead and see if these two narrow portions of the map actually connect. If so, it would be a faster route than this other way. Meanwhile, Belvin, you can also take a serpent form and scout ahead on the other path."

   Her plan was agreed upon, and they split up into two groups. Cassiera shifted her shape and slithered away. Mythlos and Szordrin followed behind her as she slithered ahead at a faster rate. Belvin and the other two returned to the intersection, where the druid likewise changed into a snake shape and darted ahead while Hakam and Leokas followed.

   Cassiera slithered along in the darkness of the cave, leaving the blue glow of Mythlos' sword behind her. After a good distance, the tunnel twisted sharply again and made another u-turn. Now she was in utter darkness, and to her darkvision, the ice cavern took on a gray hue. Continuing on, she traveled nearly as far again before coming to a tight space. She poked her tiny head into the opening and flicked out her tongue. She would easily be able to slip through. The two tips of the passages on the map did connect, and there was flickering light from somewhere ahead.

   Szordrin and Mythlos arrived a few minutes later. "She must have slithered through," said Szordrin.

   They waited for any contact from her. After a few minutes, they heard her voice coming back through the hole. "There is barking up ahead. I can sneak past, but the others might be in danger elsewhere in the cave."

   "Can we fit through also?" asked Mythlos.

   Szrodrin took off his pack and got down on his hands and knees and then his stomach. He pushed his pack ahead and then pulled himself into the opening in the ice. "I think I can manage," he grunted, as he got his head, shoulders, and arms in. He inched forward, but then his shoulders got stuck. When he tried to back up, it only made things worse. "I'm stuck!"

   "Back up, then."

   "I can't!" he called back to Mythlos, kicking his legs in frustration.

   Szordrin could now also hear the loud barking, echoing through the cavern.

   Mythlos knelt down, grabbed Szordrin's legs, and gave him a firm shove. Szordrin called out in pain, but the shove worked. His shoulders popped free, breaking off a chunk of ice, and he was able to inch forward and get back onto his feet.

   In his darkvision, the tiefling could see the gray outline of a small viper ahead, with her head carefully peeking around a corner. The barking continued from the direction she was looking. She then disappeared deeper into the darkness as she made a dash forward toward a flickering light at the end of the passage.

   Behind him, he saw Mythlos slide his sword and pack forward, followed by the elf's head. "I am following Cassiera," Szordrin told him. He then approached the intersection ahead carefully. Peaking around the corner to the right, he thought he might have seen large furry paws moving. He also heard what he thought were the shouts of Hakam. Cassiera had continued straight ahead, so he carefully and quietly passed the openings to the left and right. As he passed by, he heard a "bark" that seemed like cursing. Whatever canine beasts were around the corner were certainly intelligent, and he hoped that the sound indicated that his friends were faring well.

   Mythlos, however, could not get through the hole in the ice, no matter how hard he tried; he was simply too large an elf. Giving up, he pulled himself and his things back out. Donning his pack again, he cast a spell that doubled his speed and made his way as quickly as possible back the way he had come.

   Szordrin reached Cassiera. He entered into a large room lit by torchlight through a narrow and short crack in the wall. He and the serpent were behind a stack of giant-sized wooden crates, each about ten feet high, wide, and thick. This must be the storage room. The walls here were carved from ice by tools; the room was not natural.

   He peeked behind one of the crates to see what the snake had been looking at. They saw a massive frost giant, sitting on a large stool and resting his arms on a battleaxe. The giant stirred, having heard the barking. He stood up and moved out of their sight. Cassiera slithered between the wall and one of the crates to get a better view. The giant had reached a large wooden door on the far wall and was opening it. They both heard the door thump shut. Not wasting any time, Cassiera darted to the right side of the pile of crates and passed beyond them. She found herself behind a cluster of large barrels or kegs and began twisting among them, looking for a pouch.

   Szordrin removed a bitumen-encased spider from his component pouch and swallowed it quickly. Then he climbed easily up the side of the large crates, coming to the top twenty feet above the floor. Glancing around the 40-foot by 80-foot room, he saw a large weapon rack full of giant-sized weapons on the far left corner beyond where the giant had been sitting. Next to that, left of the thick, wooden door, was a huge golden harp. On the far right corner were a pile of large sacks tossed next to a collection of barrels.

   He drew a wand from his belt and flicked it, because he wanted to check for magical auras, but the sleeve of his cloak got caught on his chainmail, and the spell fizzled. He waved it again, but the spell failed yet a second time, his concentration interrupted, for in the corner of his eye, he thought he saw a naked woman. It was Cassiera in her humanoid form, making no effort to cover herself.

   "Use a spell to detect magic," she said, before her fingers were even completely formed or her long black hair had even finished growing out of her skull. "Point at whatever sack glows, and I'll grab the pebble." With that, her body shrank again, and her arms and legs fused into her torso. In under three seconds, she was back in a snake form.

   "That's what I was trying to do when you distracted me!" said Sozrdrin. His third wave of the wand worked. To his eyes, a glow was forming in the corner of the room with the sacks. He lowered himself and jumped down from the crates into the middle of the floor, and then he ran over to the corner. The aura was definitely coming from within one of the sacks. He pulled at the drawstring, and Cassiera climbed up the bag and into its opening. She found herself in a pile of human-sized coins and began to dig her head into them, searching for the pouch with the pebble.

   They heard someone at the door. "Cassiera, quiet!" whispered Szordrin. He ducked down and hid behind the sacks. The giant entered the room again, spoke some words to someone or something behind him and looked around the room. They heard him walk over to the large crates. Then they heard him walk back. The door shut again.

   Szordrin popped his head up. They were alone in the room. "I'm carrying you out of here," he said. He used all of his strength to lift the entire sack and moved as fast as he could manage back to the crack in the wall behind the crates, using his magic to climb over them again.

   Back in the icy tunnel, he moved slowly, dragging the extra weight behind him. The barking had ceased, which he found odd, but he pressed on, past the intersection and to the tight opening.

   Inside the sack, Cassiera had found a large pouch. If it was a pebble, it was a giant-sized pebble, for whatever was within the pouch was at least the size of a melon. There was also a small stone slab among all the coins.

   She slithered out of the bag and through the opening. Szordrin shoved the bag through the hole, while Cassiera pulled at it from the other end. His pack followed, and then he squeezed through, with less difficulty this time.

   "Where is Mythlos?" he asked, but the snake simply hissed back.

   They made their way back to Cassiera's clothing and gear. She slipped into the pile and returned to her natural form. "That giant suspects that we were here," she said. "I fear that the others did something foolish, which raised the alarm. Come!"

   They squeezed the giant sack into her bag of holding, and hurriedly made their way back to the first intersection of the tunnel. Just as they arrived, the other four came rushing toward them from the north. Hakam was covered in blood and his armor was full of holes, as if he had been gnawed on.

   "What happened?" said Cassiera.

   "What was all that barking?" said Szordrin. "You almost caused us to be discovered."

   "Do you have the pebble?" asked Leokas.

   "We do."

   "Then let us get out of here!"

   "What about the 'something frozen'?" asked Mythlos.

   "It is not worth going back," said Hakam. "Come."
Session: 66th Game Session - Thursday, Feb 18 2016 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 1 — Isejotunen
~ ninth-day, 9th of Eleint, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
Novularond


The trek across the snow from the Lugalpgotak Range north into the region of the Novularond was slow-going, as they had left their sleds behind. Skata had snowshoes, but the rest had to travel slowly over the snow and ice. The trip began with a descent down the north side of the Lugalpgotak peaks. The way would have been treacherous, but Skata knew a safe way down, which was more gradual.

   It was the coldest day yet for them. Even with their magical protections, they shivered if they ever stopped walking.

   After they descended, they traveled on the featureless flat of the glacier, heading away from the Lugalpgotak mountains. Ahead in the distance, the high, rocky mountains of the Novularond could soon be seen along with their foothills. "We are not actually going into the mountains," Skata explained. "We are going to descend off the glacier and onto the actual ground. Then we will pass into a valley, land claimed by the frost giants. Hopefully, I can find the crevasse that will lead us down."

   After two hours, Skata believed that she had spotted it. "There it is!" she said. "This way."

   They changed course a bit and headed northeast, coming to the very edge of a massive crack in the glacier. From the corner, they could descend carefully down a slope to the bottom of the sheer-walled rift in the ice. When they had descended 500 feet, Skata informed them that they were now walking on "land", though that land was still covered in snow and ice.

   They exited the shadowy path of the crevasse around highsun and entered a very hilly region. Behind them, they could look back on the edge of the glacier ice, where it ended in sloping walls running east and west.

   "These are the foothills of the Novularond," the young giantess told them. "In the late summer, there is even grass here. No one knows how that is possible. This snow here has only accumulated in the last month."

   Skata led them over multiple saddle-points in these hills.

   "The frost giant valley is on the other side of that wall of hills," she continued. Where she pointed, they saw a wall of mountains covered in ice, not mere hills. They were probably 1,000-feet-high on average and very steep. "See those two tallest ones? There is a pass into the valley between them. That is where the sentries will be guarding."

   It took several more hours to reach the pass. They approached from the west side and hung close to the steep slopes. Finally, Skata stopped them. "This is it," said Skata, crouching down to their level and speaking in a quiet voice. "If we go around this corner, we will be in view of the two guards. I am just a girl, so I do not know anything about combat strategy, but I can describe what you are about to face."

   "You will not be fighting with us?" asked Mythlos.

   "I will certainly come with you," said Skata. "Even as a girl, I am probably stronger than an adult frost giant, but I have no weapons and no training. I'll be able to distract one of them and help you with cover, but it will be up to you to decide how to defeat them."

   She proceeded to explain to them the terrain. "The pass is roughly four steps in width and two or three dozen steps in length."

   "I assume you mean giant steps?" said Belvin.

   "Yes. The two peaks are both too steep to climb here, but there is a ledge on the inner walls of each that you can reach if you walk up here or over there. The pass is straight and slopes up slightly to a midpoint and then back down again into the valley. The giants guard that midpoint, standing upon two short, walled, stone platforms — short by giant standards."

   "I figure a 'giant's step' is twelve or fifteen feet," said Leokas. "If they are at the midpoint, that means they will be about 60 to 90 yards away. I can easily make that shot."

   "Not all of us can," said Szordrin. "Even those of us with bows."

   "Your little arrows will not take down a giant easily," said Skata. "They are but needle pricks."

   "This is a magical bow," said Leokas. "You yourself saw it help slay a white dragon."

   "Even so," said Belvin, "the rest of us need to close the range to be useful. Kamil is fast, but not all of us can cover such distances so quickly."

   "Szordrin studied my sword one night back at the palace," said Mythlos. "Its new power to teleport me short distances can be called upon every tenday. I can form a temporary gate right behind one of the giants and strike at its back."

   "You mean its calves?" said Skata. "Grown frost giants are taller than I am."

   "Maybe we can use our magic to sneak past without a fight," suggested Szordrin. "How many of us can we make invisible with our combined magical resources?"

   Their conversation followed such lines for nearly forty-five minutes, as all of them brainstormed a strategy. At last, they gave up on the idea of avoiding the fight altogether and agreed upon a sneak attack. Leokas would coat his magic sleep arrows with yuan-ti poison from Cassiera's supply. Szordrin would make Leokas invisible, and Belvin granted him the ability to walk on air as he had done on their first day on the Great Glacier. This way, he would not leave footprints in the snow and would be able to get a good angle at the giants. He would shoot initial shots at the giants, hopefully catching them off guard and putting them both to sleep. If this failed, Mythlos — whom Hakam first blessed with the endurance of a bear — would teleport behind one of them. At this point everyone would rush forward, hopefully overwhelming the giants with their numbers and the element of surprise.

   Szordrin held up a piece of eyelash encased in gum arabic, which he had pulled from his pouch, and completed a spell. The eyelash and Leokas disappeared from their sight. Mythlos removed a tiny archery target from his spell pouch and whispered the words of a different spell.

   Leokas willed himself to walk upward, as if climbing a staircase, to the east, coming into the view of the pass Skata had described. Her description was accurate. There to the north, somewhere between 100 and 200 feet away, two beings, standing taller than 20 feet each, stood atop short stone towers. Each tower was about ten feet high and a dozen feet in diameter and had a parapet a yard or two tall at the circumference.

   The giants were beefy, thick-bearded males with snow-white skin and bluish hair. Each wore animal pelts and chain-linked shirts of armor with small metal skullcaps. Each giant stood beside a stacked pile of large rocks, and one of them juggled a single rock in his massive hand.

   "Thadh var einhver gódhur bjór í gaerkvöldi!" one of the giants said in conversation with the other. The voice carried over the air.

   "Thadh var, en ekki eins gódh og varir Bertha er!" said the other in response. It sounded like idle talk, though Leokas had no idea what was being said.

   The wood elf lined up his shot.

   "Ég myndi velja bjór yfir Bertha. Hún er of thunnt fyrir mig!"

   "Thegidhu!"

   The giants were arguing about something, but despite this, each one was scanning the area. Each looked directly at Leokas' location several times, but they definitely could not see him.

   It was now or never. He loosed his arrow. As soon as his finger came off the shaft, Beshaba must have smiled, for the giant at which he was shooting happened to be looking directly at him as the spell ceased its power. He sent the rock he had been holding in Leokas' direction, before the arrow struck him in the shoulder. Leokas already had his second arrow nocked, but he perceived the large rock hurling toward him and expertly moved to the side to avoid being struck directly. Even so, he was sideswiped by the stone and spun around in the air. Almost immediately, he was struck by a second stone in the chest, which knocked him back through the air and took the wind from him.

   "Bodhflenna!" shouted the first giant. The magical arrow seemed to have had no effect on the giant, nor did the poison seem to harm him.

   On the ground, Belvin and Hakam began summoning help. Mythlos took a step forward and vanished. Szordrin waved his hands and spoke some magic words and five illusionary copies of himself appeared in a cluster around him. Skata stepped around the corner, and as she did so a cloud of thick fog emanated quickly from somewhere in front of her.

   The second giant threw first one and then a second large rock in Skata's direction, but whether they struck or not was unclear, as the giantess was now hidden in her cloud. Also, as he released his second stone, he yelled out in pain as Mythlos stood behind him atop the parapet of the tower and gashed at the back of his upper thighs with his moonblade, just below the buttocks.

   Stormshadow whined when she looked up and saw her master struggling to descend out of the air and into safety. Thankfully, the first giant focused his attention on the cloud giantess and threw more stones in her direction. Leokas chugged a potion bottle from his belt once he was behind the giantess' cloud, and Hakam reached him as well with his hand glowing in positive energy. The ranger felt his strength return.

   Cassiera, with Ilthian behind her, charged across the snow, entering Skata's cloud. "Are you injured?" shouted Cassiera.

   "I am fine, thanks," answered Skata. They heard her grunt, as if she were heaving something.

   Then the yuan-ti woman heard strange grinding noises, and in the fog, she thought she saw a couple giant beetles pass, staying close to the western wall of the pass. Then she heard Kamil's nuzzing as Belvin rode him into the cloud as well.

   On the other side of the pass, 150 feet from the others, Mythlos got in a second swing at the giant, spraying his blood onto the snow, as he turned to face the elf. Beyond the massive humanoid, Mythlos saw a fire elemental melting its way over the snow toward the two towers. The giant avoided his third swing and swung his own fist down like a sledgehammer, dizzying the elf, but Mythlos stepped backwards off the parapet and landed on his feet on the snow three yards below to avoid a second blow.

   Skata was now out of her cloud and in the open, hustling her way toward the first giant. He hurled two more stones at her. She avoided the first and caught the second in her hand, as if they were playing catch. She winged it back at him, striking him in the chest with a loud thump. Cassiera and Ilthian, who bravely held her small carving knife out, were close behind her.

   Now healed, Leokas positioned himself just above the magic cloud and began loosing arrows again, this time adding a regular arrow alongside a second sleep-inducing, poisoned arrow. His arrows hit, causing a violent wince from his target, but again, the giant remained conscious.

   The second giant prepared to drop a stone down on Mythlos' head, but the moon elf called out a command word, and the elephant figurine, which he had secretly dropped atop the platform, sprung to life and grew to its enormous size. The giant deftly leapt from the tower to avoid being squished by the pachyderm's mass, landing on the ground below, sending a spray of snow into the air.

   Standing to the right of Skata's magical cloud, the six Szordrins waved their hands in unison, each holding a bit of bat guano in their hands. "Ixen!" he shouted, and a tiny speck of light shot from one of the six wizards' fingertips, arched through the air toward the towers, and erupted in a ball of fire, accompanied by a loud shockwave. The explosion was perfectly placed so that the fire engulfed both giants and harmed none of the tiefling's allies.

   Cassiera, still running behind Skata and beside Ilthian, finally was within range of her targets. She sent three waves of force into the first giant with a shout and a wave of her hand, as Belvin, riding by on Kamil, touched Skata and gave her a magical boost of strength. Stormshadow was also now beyond Skata's cloud, as were the now two fire elementals Belvin had summoned and the cluster of three giant fire beetles Hakam had called and enlarged.

   The first giant was still raining stones down on his attackers, but he was now missing. The stones hit the ground like cannonballs, spraying snow in all directions and making it hard to see. He called out in pain when he was struck by one of Leokas' kerrenderit arrows. As the dwarf had promised, the arrow's barbs ripped through the giant's flesh. The giant sentry stopped throwing rocks and tried to pull the arrow out, only to be struck by two more. These, however, did not strike as deep, being resisted by the giant's armor.

   As he continued struggling to remove the arrow, the fire elementals reached the short tower, but they could not climb it, so they moved to the northeast to attack the second giant. This one was trying to circle the tower to strike at Mythlos with his fists while avoiding being struck by the powerful force of the trapped elephant's truck being swung at it from atop the small tower. A second fireball exploded in the vicinity, as magic words vanished from one of Szordrin's scrolls. The fire elementals were in the blast zone too but were not at all harmed by the flame. The giants struggled to quickly pat out the flames from their clothing.

   A stream of projectiles, arrows from Leokas, missiles of magic from Cassiera, and a packed, giant-sized snowball from Skata, flew at the first giant, yet still he stood tall. Then, Belvin reached the tower, stood atop Kamil's back as the camel charged, and leapt onto the parapet of the tower, magic scimitar raised. He slashed to the side with a wild yell, severing the giant's chainmail and spraying blood from his thigh. The giant pummeled the wild elf with his fist, but he was weakened, and Belvin somehow took the hits against his buckler without crumbling. The giant raised his fist again for a more powerful blow, but another arrow and three missiles of force from Szordrin at last finished him off. He tumbled backward like a falling tree and tumbled off the tower with a crash that shook the ground. Hakam's beetles reached his fallen body and began to gnaw at it with their pincers.

   Things were not going so well at the other tower. Mythlos had taken several blows from the angry giant and been unable to get a good strike in himself with his sword. Now he was staggering about. Another blow would surely knock him out cold. The elephant was stuck atop the tower and could only whack the giant with its trunk a few times. Stormshadow had reached the giant and was snapping at the back of his legs, but they were too thick for her to get her jaws around. Ilthian was on her way to the fight, but Hakam yelled for her to stop. She hesitated at first, but then obeyed him. The cleric himself was sprinting as fast as he could toward Mythlos, as Mythlos tried to heal himself with his magic sword, and Szordrin sent a sphere of flame in the direction of the giant.

   This was all too late. As Mythlos tried to back around the tower to get away from the giant, he wound up and gave a punch so powerful that it knocked Mythlos clear off his feet and sent him five feet through the air. He struck the tower, and his skull cracked open against the stone. The elf's body slid to the ground and was still, leaving a trail of blood against the wall.

   The two fire elementals reached him, as did Skata. The giant hopped over the flaming sphere that Szordrin controlled and kicked at one of the elementals. Three arrows flew at the giant. One glanced off his helmet, but the other struck him in the neck. Still, the frost giant fought on. He punched Skata in the face as she tried to grab at him. Skata spun around from the strike, and blood sprayed from her nose. Then a jolt of electricity shot from Cassiera's fingertips, and two more arrows from Leokas' magical blow plunged deep into their tall opponent. He stumbled and tumbled over. His massive body fell towards Skata and Stormshadow, who jumped out of the way to avoid being crushed.

   Hakam finally reached his fallen comrade and once again saved him from the brink of death.
Session: 65th Game Session - Thursday, Feb 04 2016 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Lhynard
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De Exilio
Chapter 1 — Life in a Cloud Giant Palace
~ third-day, 23rd of Eleasias, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
Nafni's palace, Lugalpgotak Range


Cassiera was woken by a short scream of shock from Ilthian. She glanced around to find herself lying in a small room with four walls of smooth wood and no ceiling before remembering that she had slept in a giantess' dresser drawer that night.

   "Put some clothes on!" she heard Ilthian say.

   Cassiera stood up and peeked over the top of the drawer. Ilthian was standing on the floor looking up at Skata. The giantess had naught but a towel around her waist.

   "But I just came from the baths, little one!" Skata replied.

   "But you are not there now," argued Ilthian.

   "What does that matter? Do you not change in front of your pets?"

   "We are not your pets!" said Cassiera angrily.

   "I meant no offense," said Skata, "but do you not see my point?"

   "I do not!" said the yuan-ti.

   "I do not want...," Ilthian began. "Hakam would not approve! He is very sensitive to matters of modesty and proper custom. Things are done very differently in his country of Calimshan. He has not come out yet, has he?"

   "I let him and the wild-looking elf out into the garden earlier this morning," said Skata, "so that they could pray to their gods and so the dogs and camel could get exercise."

   Ilthian gasped. "Were you dressed like that?"

   "I had my nightdress on. Calm down, tiny lady. If it matters so much to you, I shall change in the bathhouse next time. Speaking of clothing, I think you slept on my tunic last night, Cassiera. Please, excuse me while I get it out of that drawer."

~~~~

Hakam was indeed out in the garden, having finished his prayers. The "garden" was a series of massively large and long rectangular pots in which a variety of flowered plants were growing. These plants must have been adapted to the cold, and they were not like any Hakam had seen before, being so large to seem as trees to him. These pots were no longer level, since the palace had come to settle on hilly terrain. The pots were arranged in a square enclosure that could be accessed only from Skata's tower and must have rested on the roof of a former colonnade of the palace. The dogs were playing among the giant stems and barking. If Skata meant to keep them secret, they were not going to help matters. Kamil was resting a ways off, with Belvin leaning against him.

   Hakam quieted his mind and listened for a response. He had just attempted magical contact with Jayce.

   "Mummy demanded Samber meet her, lest she kill forokell. Epic battle, north shore. He surrendered. We left island. She teleported with him, but he anchored...." Jayce's voice faded away before Hakam could make out the last words.

   Since his god still only granted him the power to send a message once per day, he got Belvin and went inside to share his news with the others.

   "Samber may yet live," the cleric informed the others, "but the mummy has taken him. At least Jayce is still alive and one other. I will need to contact him tomorrow for more."

   "The mummy overpowered Samber!" exclaimed Mythlos. "How?"

   "I do not know," said Hakam. "Jayce got cut off. He was saying something about being 'anchored' by Samber. I'm not sure what he meant. I will not know for another day. At least we know he lives."

   "Mythlos and I need time to use the library here anyhow," said Szordrin. "Skata said that she would sneak us in to study new magics."

   Skata sat on a stool, dressed in a new outfit, listening to their discussion. She was about to respond when there was a loud rap on her door. "Quick! Into the closet," she whispered. "Shoo!"

   They obeyed, and she shut the massive door behind them. Szordrin lay prone and looked under the door. He saw Skata open her bedchamber door partway, blocking whoever was on the other side from entering.

   "Skata, hvad er alt dette gøen?" came a booming male voice.

   "Intet," said Skata.

   "Open my ears," Hakam prayed in a whisper.

   "Nothing?" Hakam heard the male say. "Skata, I am not deaf! Did you get a new pet when you visited the little people? Let me see!"

   Hakam whispered the conversation to the others.

   "No, you cannot see yet, Bjorn. It is a surprise."

   "A surprise? It is hardly a surprise if they keep yapping. Let me see!"

   "I said no! Go away! Wait until your birthday."

   "My birthday is not for another month!"

   "Be patient then! Now, go!"

   "Wait! I promise not to peek, but there is something else."

   "Yes?"

   "Have you used the scrying pool recently? When I went to use it the other day, I found it empty. I hauled up several buckets, but it no longer seems to hold water. It poured all out into the crack in the floor."

   "That is very odd."

   "It is."

   "I have not found the hole yet."

   "Perhaps the ground shifted and caused damage to the pool. It was a miracle it did not break when we crashed to begin with."

   "Perhaps. I suppose I shall have to try and fix it this tenday."

   "Let me know how that goes. I need to finish getting dressed. Bye now." She shut the door and bolted it.

   "You can come out now," she called in Common.

   "We cannot reach the knob," said Belvin.

   "Oh, of course!"

   Before she could let them out though, there was another knock on the door. This time, they heard a woman's voice. Hakam explained to them that she was accepting food from a maid.

   When she let them out of the closet, she set a large plate on the floor. It contained a whole goat and a pile of grapes the size of apples.

   "I had Elda bring me twice as much food," she said. "She knows enough not to ask questions. I figured that one serving would be enough for all of you. I hope that Mythlos is happy enough with the grapes." She sat at a desk and began eating her own goat as if it were a turkey leg.

   The adventurers used their daggers and knives to carve the meat and enjoyed a filling breakfast. While they ate, Skata confessed what they had expected, that she had sabotaged the scrying pool. "Otherwise, Bjorn would scry on you and find you in my room," she said.

   When they finished eating, Szordrin said, "You mentioned that you would sneak us into your library of magic."

   "I did, yes," said Skata. "I will not be able to do so until night when the other giants are asleep though."

   "Do you have spell-scribing implements?"

   "I believe that we do, but they are dusty and unused. We have not had wizards among us for a long time. You are free to use whatever materials you need as part of your reward for helping me."

   "Do you have the authority to offer these things to us?" asked Hakam.

   "Nobody ever uses them," she replied. "As long as you do not leave a mess, it will never be noticed that you were in there. Besides, how much parchment can a person your size use? Human writings are so small, I have to squint to make them out.

   "Which reminds me, I never did show you the map!" She opened a drawer in her desk and removed a sheet, which to her was but a scrap of paper. Leokas reached out his hand and accepted it.



   The map was drawn on a dark sheet of parchment and showed narrow passages in the ice. Words in Common in dark red ink highlighted a few features: "entrance," "something frozen," and "GIANTS!"

   Mythlos looked over Leokas shoulder. "I wonder what 'something frozen' is — treasure?"

   "Whatever you find in there is yours," said Skata. "I only want the pebble."

   "When do we set out?" said Leokas.

   "Not until we have had time to study new magic," said Szordrin.

   "I think we should learn more about the status of Jayce and Samber's island," said Hakam.

   "What are we supposed to do in the meantime?" asked Leokas. "No offense to you, Skata, but I do not see much of interest or use to us within a giantess' bedchamber."

   "You can freely go out into my garden," she said. "It is large enough for you to get exercise."

   "Door knobs," said Belvin.

   "Right. I suppose I could find a saw and carve you a little opening....

   "I could also sneak you into the sauna," she continued, "but I fear that you would melt like a candle in the heat with your thin skin. There are also the baths, but they would be like an ocean to you; you might drown."

   "Being smaller has no effect at all on our ability to swim," corrected Belvin. "I will have you know that we have swum with sharks!"

   "Can you find me some small wood scraps, Skata?" Leokas asked, "— too small for use as a giant but still of high-quality wood?"

   "I can do that," she said.

   "I suppose that I can craft more arrows today," said Leokas, "but my quivers will be packed full before the afternoon. Let us be ready to leave again tomorrow."

~~~~

"What are you doing?" asked Ilthian.

   "Carving arrows," Leokas explained.

   "May I watch?"

   "If you wish."

   Leokas continued carving. As he did so, he hummed a little elven tune.

   "What song is that?"

   "Actually, it is a song that elves sing to each other to commemorate one's day of birth. It is the 23rd of Eleasias today. We were so intent on traveling here yesterday that I had forgotten it was my own birthday."

   "What is a birthday?" Ilthian asked.

   "It is the day one is.... It means that I am now 126 years old."

   "Wow. That is older than anyone I know."

   "Belvin is older still," said the elf.

   "How does 'birth' work?" she asked. "It has been mentioned before, but I still do not understand."

   "Perhaps you should ask Cassiera about that sometime," said Leokas.

~~~~

The next morning, despite Leokas' wishes, they were not ready to leave. In the early morning, while it was still dark, Skata brought Mythlos and Szordrin back from the old magical library tower, riding in the pockets of her robe. The two had spent eight hours of the night perusing spellbooks and old tomes nearly as long as they were tall and using four-foot-long magical quills to transfer spells from scroll or spellbook.

   "Only one spell each!" Leokas exclaimed, when they reported their progress.

   "One cannot rush magic," said Mythlos. "It doesn't work that way."

   "How much more time do you need?"

   "I believe we have acquired enough scrolls — and that old musty spellbook I found in the jungle — to spend a tenday transferring," said Szordin, "and that ignores time to learn new spells from the giants' stash. I found a powerful fire evocation I believe that I could master if I had a little more time, which would assist us greatly if we were to face any frost giants. They are sensitive to fire, are they not, Skata?"

   "Yes, they are sensitive to heat and flame," answered the giantess, as she sat in yet another outfit, this one with silver stitchings. "They have no innate magics as we cloud giants do; they are simply more tolerant of cold."

   "Unless we do something wrong — or if Mythlos charges on ahead of us — we won't be facing any frost giants directly," said Leokas.

   "Well," said Skata. "There are two sentries at the pass into the frost giants' valley."

   "You told us we would not have to fight them!"

   "I meant that you would not have to fight all of them. Once we pass by the two sentries, you should not have to face any others, but the ice cavern entrance is located within frost giant territory, which we would need to enter."

   "There is no other way into the valley?"

   "Not unless you can fly. I can float like a cloud, but I cannot fly."

   Leokas sighed. "I am not happy with this delay. Does no one else understand that all of Toril may be at stake?"

   Just then, Hakam came in from Skata's garden. (The previous day, she had carved a human-sized hole at the bottom of the door and covered it with some thick cloth to serve as an exit for the party.) "I have another update from Jayce," he said. "The bard explained that Nargroth and Oma were both with him on The Daisy. Samber dimensionally anchored the three of them as they watched him battle the mummy. It appears that he secretly protected them so that when she teleported away with him, they were spared."

   "Where are they now?"

   "I am not certain. I would need another day to find out."

   "It looks like you will have several more days at least," said Leokas.

~~~~

Despite Leokas' grumblings, they indeed waited a total of sixteen nights before they were ready to set out. During this time, Mythlos and Szordrin mastered a large collection of new spells, some shared from each other's spellbooks, some transfered from magic scrolls, and some learned from old, dusty giant tomes.

   Szordrin also identified the assortment of magical items that they had found over the last few months. The magic rope could be commanded to climb cliffs or walls and fasten itself. The mummified hand, which the white dragon had worn, granted the wearer minor telekinetic powers. The dragon's wand created multiple illusions of the caster as a form of defense. Beyond this, he had also scribed a handful of useful scrolls to have at ready, which he stuffed into his belt.

   Cassiera practiced controlling her magical abilities in the garden. She increased the number of magical shock waves she could control at once from one to three.

   Skata spent much of her time in her room studying schoolbooks or practicing at her harp. Every morning, she would visit the bathhouse, and every night she would visit the saunas. Every other day, she would depart somewhere for classes. She had her maid deliver food for her and rarely joined the other giants in the feasting hall. In fact, none of them saw more than a glimpse of other giants at all.

   Leokas and Belvin shot archery together in the garden. On one occasion, the stone walls were struck hard and shook while they were aiming. They took cover and heard some shouting from down below the colonnade. They reported this to Skata, who explained that the giants enjoyed throwing large rocks for sport, much like they were practicing their archery. She supposed that one of them probably overshot and struck the wall. "The giant races never developed archery throughout their long history," she explained. "Instead, we are all taught to throw and catch from a young age."

   Ilthian busied herself with asking questions about the world and sometimes sat cross-legged on the top of Skata's desk as the young giantess studied her schoolwork. Ilthian picked up a good deal of the cloud giant language, Jotunskye, and a fair amount of giant history as well.

   "Hakam, did you know that giants once had an empire that covered the entire world?" she asked. "Did giants ever rule over Calimshan?"

   "I learned in my schooling that giants once ruled in Calimshan, yes. That was over 14,000 years ago. They warred with the elves and awoke the dragons. When Calim and his genies arrived after that, about 9,000 years ago, he conquered all of them."

   For his part, Hakam had contacted Jayce several more times. On the third morning, the 25th of Eleasias, Hakam learned that The Daisy was sailing for Chult and that Ombert estimated half a tenday until land. The ship was ultimately headed back to Tethyr, which would be another month of sailing. Jayce inquired as to their whereabouts.

   On the 26th, Hakam explained that they were still on the Great Glacier, in Alpuk, staying with a friendly giantess and seeking a way back. In return, he learned that Jayce planned to contact the brass dragon Sseth, their friend, to seek advice.

   On the 27th, Hakam confirmed that Samber's islanders were all alive and well.

   On the 28th, Hakam asked Ilthian if she wished to send a message to her father. "I know he will be very angry with me for disobeying him and joining you in the mine," she said, "but I do owe it to him to let him know that I am safe and protected by you."

   However, when Hakam tried sending to Carthar, there was no response.

   "The whole island must be protected from magical communication, then," said Leokas.

   "I could try contacting the hobgoblins to test that theory," said Hakam.

   The next day, he tried this. "I have heard that a massive mage battle took place on the island, between the wizard Samber and a powerful mummy. Is your tribe safe?"

   Shortly, he received a reply from Grak. "I know of no such battle, but when we went to the north bay, we found a strange abandoned ship. 'Captain Stubs' sails again!"

   "Which ship?" asked Leokas.

   "It must be Samber's vessel," said Hakam.

   "Did it not have Samber's armored guards on it?" asked Szordrin.

   "Perhaps the mummy destroyed them in the battle?"

   "Or the hobgoblins overpowered them," said Leokas. "In any case, this is terrible news. The pirates will begin terrorizing the islands again."

   "At least they will not hurt my people anymore," said Ilthian.

   "We seem to have confirmed our theory," said Hakam. "Samber protected the island from magical communication."

   On the next day, Hakam tried one more test and sent a message to Ilthian. He heard her giggle in his mind and reply, "Hakam, I am in the next room sitting on Skata's desk."

   After this, Hakam sent word to his superior, Mualak yn Kurush el Anachtyr. "Rafayam, while on the quest Anachtyr assigned me, I have learned that the mummy, El Sadhara, is active again. I will send more details tomorrow." Thus began several days of communication with the Syl-Justicar of Memnon, but whatever Hakam heard back from the high priest he did not share with the others.

   Finally, by the ninth of Eleint, they were ready. Very early in the morning, they readied their gear and prepared to have Skata lower them one-by-one from her tower window.

   "Do not forget your dwarven arrows," said Belvin. Leokas had been storing them in the garden this whole time lest they melt. "We may well need them today."
Session: 65th Game Session - Thursday, Feb 04 2016 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 1 — The Immoth
~ first-day, 21st of Eleasias, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
Gotokok

On the morning of the sukkiruchit, the first day of the tenday, the village was at its busiest yet, but the adventurers were instead preparing their dog sleds and teams to ride alongside Skata to the Lugalpgotak Sea and then north into the Lugalpgotak Mountains.

   They had explained to Tirmuk their change in plans, but he assured them that if they ever returned, he would still be able to lead them to Hykopgruk in exchange for a new kayak.

   It was another cold but calm day as they set out traveling directly to the east, and they encountered no wildlife or monsters.

   They stopped for lunch, and Skata sat on the ground looking sad. "I ate all my food the other day on the walk to the little village," she said. "I did not plan very well."

   They offered her some of their meat, but she laughed. "That would only whet my appetite and make me feel worse," she said. "I could eat double the full amount you have left and still be hungry!"

   "Have you ever been to the Plane of Air, Skata?" Leokas asked her, when he had finished eating.

   "No, I have not," she said. "Annam All-Father gave Toril to his children. Only the titans have abandoned it."

   By the end of the day, they had reached the Lugalpgotak Sea. The vast sea was covered in pack ice, icebergs ranging in size from a few yards to floating islands of ice that looked large enough to hold entire villages. Many seals lounged on the ice.

   "Ulutiu, who betrayed Annam All-Father, sleeps deep below these waters," said Skata, "or so the tales say, though I do not believe it."

   When they asked her more about this, she told them that it would be best not to talk about such things.

   She had them continue for a half hour more until they reached a stream, an outlet from the sea. The stream was covered with transparent ice at this point. "This is the first of three streams we have to cross," she told them. "We should cross and then rest for the night." With that, she took a couple steps and hopped across the twenty-foot-wide stream. Then she looked back and realized that the others could not so easily get across.

   "Now, I didn't think about this problem before," Skata pondered. "I can just hop across, but I don't think little creatures like you can jump that far, can you? I'm so sorry! I keep forgetting how disabled you all are with your short legs."

   "Can't you just carry each of us across in your hands?" asked Szordrin.

   She agreed and found herself giggling with each person she carried over. "You don't weigh anything!" she exclaimed. The sled dogs did not like being moved in this manner. A few tried to bite her, but her thick giant skin prevented them from causing her any harm. "It tickles!" she said.

   They made camp by the water, now on the northern edge of the Sea. Skata took her harp from her hip and began to strum a peaceful melody. Considering the fact that the harp was human-sized, her skill at strumming each note was impressive. Mythlos — and his magic toad — sang a tune with lyrics that Jayce had taught him.

   "You have a beautiful voice," she said.

   "You play excellently," said the moon elf.

   She laughed. "It is nothing. My people are lovers of music and art. I know no one in my home who is not a better musician than I."

   "Jayce would have loved to visit then," said Mythlos.

   "Who is Jayce?" she asked.

   "A friend," said Mythlos. "He was left behind on the island."

   "Tell me about this island," she said. "Remember, Bjorn and I first saw you when you slew the dragon. We know nothing of the adventure you had that brought you here."

   As it grew darker, they filled her in on some of their prior adventures. She was delighted with every story.

   Leokas showed her the omlar gem. "Is the pebble we seek for you anything like this?"

   "No, it is a stone, not a carved gem like this one. These are Dethek runes, and the symbol of arcane fire. E, A, M...."

   "Yes, it spells the name 'Samber'. That much we know."

~~~~

The night passed peacefully. The 22nd of Eleasias was calm and cold, as most of the days had been. By mid-morning, they had reached a second stream. Skata once again carried each of them across.

   "That there is my home," Skata said, pointing at a the mountain range of white they could see in the distance. "See the palace?" They could not, not even the elves.

   They continued traveling along the coast of the Sea. Here, the water was jammed with high, floating cliff walls of ice.

   Around mid-afternoon, they reached the final of the three streams. This one was wider than the other two, but not too far for Skata to jump, though she needed to get a running start to land far enough from the shore not to crack the ice with her landing.

   At last the elves could make out what she had been pointing at earlier, a blip of dark against the white of the mountains, some fifteen miles or so away. Leokas found it odd that the blip was not surrounded in cloud.

   "I do not think we will be able to reach the palace until after dark," she said, "but I think we should press on anyhow. I would like to sleep in my own bed tonight, and I need a warm bath."

   She led them along the Sea, heading east, for about one more hour; then, she had them turn to the north and head into the foothills of the Lugalpgotak Mountains. Two more hours passed, and they were well into the foothills now. The slope of the land kept increasing. The dogs began to grow weary. "Put the dogs on the sleds," she said. "Let them rest. I can drag the sleds uphill. The rest of you will have to walk the rest of the way. It is going to become too rough for sleds anyway."

   The terrain did grow rougher, and large rocks began appearing through the ice. The sun had also set fully now, so it was dark, and they were all hungry, having exhausted their food supplies. Even so, they had traveled in far worse conditions.

   Then Leokas spotted something airborne. "Skata," he warned, "look!"

   Everyone turned and saw a large prismatic object floating toward them. Soon, they saw that it had a roughly humanoid body, with two legs, two arms, and a tail. It was about nine feet tall and seemed to be a creature carved from solid ice.

   "That is not a frost giant is it?" asked Szordrin.

   "No," said Skata. "I do not know what it is." She bent down and began to make a boulder-sized snowball.

   "An elemental of some sort then?" the wizard guessed. "From one of the para-elemental planes?"

   The creature floated nearer. They could now see that it had sharp claws on its hands and feet. Icicle-like projections grew from its face like a beard. It came to rest fifteen feet from them. They noticed that Skata's feet were no longer resting on the snow; she was floating a foot or two off the surface, much like Vashti used to do. She had packed her snow boulder into a ball of packed ice.

   Cassiera's magical yuan-ti eyes could see an aura of green around the sharp tip of the strange creature's tail. It was poisonous.

   Now that it had landed, they could also see that its body was covered in glowing runes, somewhat like tattoos, carved into its icy body. It had a rope around its shoulder, but otherwise was unclothed and appeared sexless. It looked them over carefully. Then it spoke slowly, with a deep calculated voice. "What are you?" It directed its question directly at Cassiera.

   "Who is asking?" she replied.

   "I do not have a name," said the creature, "though I have been called Isskegg before."

   "A fitting name," said Skata.

   "What does that mean?" asked Szordrin.

   "It is Jotun for 'ice beard'," she said.

   "I am Cassiera," said the yuan-ti.

   "I did not ask you who you are; I asked what you are. You are not an elf. You are not a dwarf. You are not a giant. You have strange skin on your neck for a human. What are you?"

   "I am a yuan-ti," she said, "one of the many serpentfolk of the world."

   "Hmm," the creature said, almost humming. Then it turned and gazed at Szordrin. "What are you?"

   "Do we even know that yet?" said Hakam.

   "Yes, I told you all back in Chult that I am a tiefling," said Szordrin.

   "A tiefling?" said the creature.

   "A tiefling. I am a human with fiendish blood in my ancestry, but I am mostly human."

   "Hmm," the creature said.

   "What are you?" asked Mythlos.

   "It is not your turn to ask questions," said the creature. So they remained silent. It looked at Mythlos next. "You are a silver elf, yes?"

   Mythlos nodded.

   "You are a copper elf. You are a cloud giant. You are a green elf."

   "A wild elf," said Belvin. "My people find the term 'green elf' offensive."

   "What are you?" the creature asked, staring intently at Ilthian.

   "I am a forokell, sir. Now it is our turn, I think," she said bravely.

   "Yes, yes. It is your turn to ask me questions."

   "What are you?" repeated Mythlos.

   "I am an immoth."

   "Are you from another plane?" asked Szordrin.

   "Perhaps once. Now, I have no home."

   "What do you want from us?" asked Mythlos.

   "I desire knowledge."

   "What sort of knowledge?" asked Szordrin.

   "Deep knowledge, old knowledge, knowledge of other times and places."

   "We could tell him of the blue dragon's treasure perhaps," suggested Mythlos.

   "Or the ruins of Calim's harem palace," said Leokas.

   "What will you do if we give you this knowledge you seek?" asked Szordrin.

   "I will let you pass."

   "And if we give you no such knowledge?" asked Skata.

   "I will eat you," said the immoth matter-of-factually.

   "Show him Samber's journal," said Leokas. Szordrin did so, approaching the ice creature carefully and handing it to it.

   The immoth took the book in its sharp claws and turned a few pages. Apparently, it could read extremely quickly. It tossed the book back on the snow in front of Szordrin. "No," it said. "This Samber seems a powerful mage, but the words that give him his power are not on these pages. I desire words, words of knowledge, words of power. Can you tell me where to find him?"

   "We fear he is dead," said Hakam.

   The immoth shook its head. "That will do no good."

   Szordrin next tried the fragment he carried with the logo of the Interlink Consortium.

   "Hmm," said the immoth as it studied the symbol intently.

   "Why are you hunting that symbol down, Szordrin?" asked Hakam.

   "It represents the scum of Toril," was the tiefling's only reply.

   The immoth shook its head again. "I do not know this symbol, but there is no power in it."

   "If you ever see it again, find me," said Szordrin.

   Mythlos unrolled one of his arcane scrolls. "What about this?"

   The immoth seemed able to read the scroll and understand the spell it contained. It stepped back suddenly, moving more quickly then they had yet seen it move. "No, no, no," it intoned. "I cannot control fire; I am a being of ice."

   "What about this one?" said Szordrin, holding up another scroll. "It is a magic of shadow, not of fire."

   "Hmm," the immoth hummed. "Hmm," it said again. "I have found many words of shadow magic of late, but I have not found this one. I will have it." It snatched the scroll from Szordrin's hands. Then, it started to turn around and walk away. "There is no more to talk about now." It stopped suddenly. "You may have this rope, and these useless stones," the immoth said. It tossed the rope it had carried to the ground and with it a pouch that it must have held in one of its large hands the whole time. Then, without saying anything else, Isskegg floated away.

   "Well, then, that was weird," said Skata. She reconnected with the ground and tossed her snowball down the side of the mountain.

~~~~

"The rope is magical," said Szordrin, after casting a spell.

   "And this bag of coins weighs more than my armor," said Mythlos. "It is all gold too."

   The magic rope was knotted through a small wooden ring, which had Dwarven runes on it. They showed it to Skata, who struggled to read it, since the runes were so small to her eyes. "Yes, this is Jotun," she said. "Ormur er meg nom., which means, 'My name is Ormur.'"

   "Ormur, Ormur, Ormur," said Belvin. The rope quivered in response as if alive.

   "Ormur, tie yourself into a figure eight knot," said Leokas. The rope obeyed, resulting in a beautiful knot.

   "Now this will come in handy," said Leokas.

   Szordrin picked up the rope.

   Hakam took issue with this. "That rope is certainly worth more than the low-power spell you gave that creature!"

   "Not from its point of view!"

   "We should keep climbing," said Skata. "Settle your disagreement later. Come."

~~~~

At last they came upon the fallen cloud palace. The complex was a mile wide, spread out now over several hills. It had fared relatively well from its slow fall from the sky. Walls and colonnades that had connected the various towers were broken apart, but the towers themselves stood upright for the most part, though some had more tilt than others. The construction was rather simple; the palace seemed to have been constructed from massive stone bricks. If cloud giants were lovers of art, architecture was not considered a great art. This is not to say that the palace did not appear impressive, but it did so from its shear size, not from the beauty of its edifices.

   Skata had them stay away from the main gate. "I will take you up to my tower through my bedroom window. I do not want anyone else to know you are here."

   "What about the dogs?" one of them asked. "We cannot keep them from barking."

   "They seem exhausted from the long day now. In the morning, I may have to think of something. There are other dogs in the palace. Giants keep pets just like you elves and humans do. Our walls our also thick. I do not know; I shall think of something.

   "Come now, who is first? Hop onto my hands."

   One by one, all rode on Skata's hands like on an elevator, as she used her magical power over wind to float the several giant-sized stories to the top of her tower and let her passenger step onto the window sill of her chamber. It was somewhat terrifying seeing such a large-sized room.

   "Where will we all be staying?" asked Ilthian, once they were all within the room.

   "You can all hide in this closet," Skata suggested. "Just be careful not to knock over my boots and hurt yourselves. I will bring you some pillows from my bed to sleep on. What will work for a chamber pot? A tea cup, perhaps? I shall go find one. If there is not enough room among my boots in there, some of you might fit in this bottom clothes drawer in this dresser, if I empty it first." She removed a large weight of clothes from the bottom drawer and tossed them on her bed.

   It was a somewhat awkward arrangement, but the adventurers were so tired from the long day's journey, they put up with it and rested for the night, wondering what a day in a cloud giant palace would entail on the morrow.
Session: 64th Game Session - Thursday, Jan 21 2016 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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