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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
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 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 - Thursday, Oct 20 2016 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 3 — An Icy Claw Deposed
The pounding on the door continued, as the wintery elemental without tried in vain to force the doors open, but the magically created elephant pressed itself against them and stood firm.

   Hakam stepped up to the manacled devil and spoke boldly, dropped the bag of holding on the ground and pulled out Uregaunt's magically preserved, scorched corpse. "The intruder is slain," said the cleric, "and his kind will never pass through the portal again. Our original deal is still in effect. If we free you, you will return Ilthian...."

   "Wait," said Leokas. "I want to understand more what is happening here before we agree to anything else."

   Another drop fell from the cauldron, striking Tosvin on the head, and his body twitched in pain.

   "What happened here?" Leokas asked.

   As you know, I am the guardian of the portal, said Tosvin. Somehow..., the queen found out.

   "What did you tell her?" asked Solisar.

   Worry not, elf mortal. A baatezu tells no secrets. Tosvin convulsed as another drop struck him.

   "How was she able to do this to you?" asked Leokas.

   Because of the blessing of the goddess, she is more powerful than I; she took me unawares. They heard the sound of Tosvin's wicked laughter in their minds. She has told me that I will stay here in this torture until I tell her where Gharreil is. Does the stupid female not know that I suffered 1,001 days of torture as a cornugon before my promotion to a gelugon? I can outlast her punishment.

   Another drop fell, and Tosvin's laughter ceased.

   "And where is Ilthian now?"

   Iyraclea froze her in magical ice and took her, but I am certain that your female is of no concern to the queen. She only chooses males with the blood of sorcery.

   "You told us that she still lives!" Hakam exclaimed.

   And I insist that she still does. The queen does not destroy what she does not yet understand. She will need to be retrieved from one of the queen's storehouses. Of course, if you unbind me, I shall retrieve her, as our deal stipulates.

   The adventurers looked around at each other, nervous about how to proceed.

   Tosvin made a hiss of pain from between his mandibles and then spoke only to Leokas' mind. I know that it is important to you that the Gharreil portal remain guarded. Leokas could not deny that he still felt a sacred duty to see that Jhothûn remained hidden.

   "Before anyone is freed, you are going to help us with other mysteries," said Szordrin. He stepped forward, showing the interlocked rings on the rod fragment he carried. "Have you ever seen this symbol?"

   I have not.

   Nor had Tosvin ever heard of anyone named Samber.

   "Why is Iyraclea searching for Gharreil?" asked Solisar. "What is her plan and purpose?"

   She believes that Gharreil and its capital contain ancient and powerful magical artifacts from the time of the giants. She wishes to supply her army of giants and other races with weapons with which she can move south as a conquering queen.

   "Is it true?" asked Mythlos. "Does Jhothûn contain such treasures?"

   Tosvin nodded. Gharreil has some. I believe that there are more beyond the portal. Did you yourselves not find any?

   When visiting with the Prince of Jhothûn, the group at only been permitted access to a few rooms, so they did not know.

   "With which races and peoples has she made alliances?" asked Solisar.

   Alliances? She makes alliances with no one. All serve her.

   "What manner of creature is Iyraclea?" asked Szordrin.

   She was once a creature much like yourselves. By her magic she remains young and would likely be considered beautiful in your mortal eyes.

   "Is she an elf or a human?"

   I pay no heed to the subtle differences amongst your kinds. She has long hair of gold and eyes the color of moonlit snow.

   "How can we free you?" asked Leokas. "Are your binds magical?"

   "They are," said Solisar.

   They can be melted with magical fire, said Tosvin. The bindings also block my connection to the Astral Plane.

   "I can summon another fire elemental," said Belvin.

   "Why have your warhounds not freed you?" asked Szordrin.

   Do dogs have hands in your world? Nor do they in the Hells. I needed someone with hands to open the door.

   "How can we be sure that she is not watching?" asked Leokas.

   She is too proud for that, nor does she aspect that I have allies.

   "We are not your allies!" said Hakam.

   "What about the elemental outside?" asked Szordrin. "Will it not report to her?"

   The orglash? It will not be a concern.

   "What of the rest of her minions?" asked Szordrin.

   "We slew several barbazu, three ogres, and three oni," said Solisar. "How many more are within?"

   All the more reason for you to free me sooner rather than later, said Tosvin. I know not how many of her troops are within, but the fortress has three floors and nine guest rooms to serve as barracks. However many there are, I assure you that none shall live to speak to Iyraclea. Tosvin squirmed under the pain of another drop.

   Hakam spoke. "We shall free you only on the following preconditions, because your freedom was not a part of the original agreement. First, you will uphold the original deal; you shall return our companion Ilthian to us with the greatest haste, unharmed. Second, you must ensure our safe escape from this fortress and back to the portal in Gharreil. Third, you must not harm us from this time forth through either direct or indirect action."

   I had already agreed to your first request, and a devil never breaks his word. Your second request I shall agree to upon my freedom as a fair exchange, though I cannot permit you to pass through the portal unless the portal permits it. If the portal permits it, I shall let you pass. A painful drop interrupted the devil's words. Then he continued again. I cannot promise the third arrangement. I shall agree to not hunt you down elsewhere, but if you ever return to the Great Glacier, or if the Ice Queen's armies ever march south and I am leading one of them, I shall not hesitate you slay you if you be on the other side of our blades.

   May I also remind you that if you leave this room, I can immediately call my hounds in to melt my bonds. And if you stay here, eventually your magical animal will return to its figurine form, and the orglash will burst through, followed by my hounds. Do you not understand? You
have already freed me, further agreement or not. How good the outcome to yourselves is is now your new choice.

   The adventurers saw that what Tosvin spoke was true. They were not in a position to arrange a more beneficial deal. Another drop fell, and Tosvin's cry of pain broke the silence.

   So Belvin summoned a fire elemental. The burning creature held on to the icy manacles around Tosvin's appendages and quickly melted through each of them.

   Tosvin leapt free and stretched his spiked tail. He waved his arm, and a false wall on the side of the room faded away. On the other side was Tosvin's fearsome battleaxe and a shelf of ice. The devil took his axe in hand, slipped a ring onto one of his claws, and tossed a small pink stone into the air, which began to orbit his head. Then he turned to them. I shall return shortly, he said. Then, he was gone.
Session: 80th Game Session - Thursday, Oct 20 2016 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 3 — Battle of the Twin Peaks: Part II
Kytharrah set Szordrin down in view of the two hell hounds, who simply stared at them from their steaming metal mats and sniffed. The whole area smelled of sulfur, which reminded Szordrin of hot springs he had once visited in the Underdark. One of the warhounds licked its lips hungrily.

   "Tosvin assured us that you would not attack us!" said Szordrin, pointing at the large, double door. It did not look like the dogs understood anything he had said, but they had not attacked.

   "Tosvin!" he called, but there was no answer from beyond the door.

   "Thank you, Kytharrah," Szordrin then said to the minotaur. "Good boy. Now take your grappling hook and rope from your pack and leave it here. Then go as fast as you can to get Cassiera."

   The minotaur smiled, because Szordrin had never been proud of him before. He even called him his new name!

   "Quickly! Go!"

~~~~

"Knuse dem!"

   Leokas and Hakam turned to see a hairy, ten-foot tall ogre coming through the door.

   Before either could respond, a strange cloud of mist blew through the ogre and came toward them as well. It was not the elemental, but it did have a humanoid shape and perhaps horns.

   "Pin them at the door!" shouted Leokas, and he let fly three arrows. They passed through the approaching misty form and struck the ogre. Two went deep into the ogre's gut, but the other did not seem to pass through his hide armor.

   Kytharrah had just reached the ground again on his quest to get Cassiera's gutted body. He heard Leokas' cry and remembered a time when Solisar and Szordrin were looking over his things. "You should throw this whenever we need to pin someone in place," they had told him. The young minotaur had had no idea what they were talking about at the time, but it seemed to him like this might have been what they meant. So he grabbed one of the two strange bags hanging from his belt and tossed it — over Leokas and Hakam and over the gaseous form. It was a lucky throw. The round bag burst open, covering the wounded ogre in a thick goo, which immediately hardened upon exposure to the air.

   "Meg sittende fast!" shouted the ogre, as he struggled to pull himself free, but his large, warty feet were glued fast to the floor.

   So the battle was joined again. Solisar cast an unknown spell. Mythlos charged forward, and Belvin was right behind him, with a blade of fire growing out from his clenched fist. The moon elf swung his sword at the incorporeal figure. It looked like the moonblade made contact with something, as the figure twitched and began to materialize. Hakam stepped to Mythlos. "The strength of the bull be upon thee!" he said, laying a hand on the elf.

   The strength of the bull would not be enough, however. The form took full corporeal shape, revealing a hulking, blue-skinned, white-horned giant standing ten feet tall. He wore an ornate chain shirt and bore a massive sword at his back. He held his giant-sized palm forward, and a magical blast of icy cold shot forth. Leokas leaped out of the way, avoiding most of the burst, but Belvin, Hakam, and Mythlos were covered in a hoary spray of frost. Belvin wobbled about, stunned by the bitter cold. Mythlos fell flat to the ground.

   "Mythlos is down!" Leokas warned. Hakam knelt at Mythlos' side, as Solisar waved his magic wand from the southern wall, but the magic was resisted. Belvin then gave a feral yell, and a column of flame roared downward from the ceiling of the passage and scorched the oni, blackening much of his skin. It spat and reached for its greatsword. Having successfully sent positive energy into his companions body, Hakam stood quickly back to his feet, drawing his own sword. The cleric parried a powerful blow from the giant, and then Leokas stepped back into view and launched another arrow. It struck the oni in the forehead, and the magical giant fell backward to the ground with a thud.

   "Nice block, Hakam!" said Leokas, as two more arrows sailed from his bow and struck the glued ogre. It roared in pain.

   Mythlos, restored to health, stood up and took in the situation. The ogre was still struggling against the glue, and the oni lay at his feet. Suddenly, the oni twitched. Mythlos slashed at him, cutting his body wide open.

   "Are you not coming up?" Szordrin shouted down from the ledge. "The dogs are tame!" The tiefling had tied two ropes together and dangled them down. Mythlos and Belvin ran for the rope, hoping to ascend before more reinforcements could arrive, the latter healing himself as he ran.

   "Kamil! Come, my camel!" Kamil, in his shrunken form, galloped around the corner from the east where he had been hiding.

   "Bevege seg, Prompansikt!" said a voice from within the palace, and someone shoved at the stuck ogre.

   This shove helped him burst free from the glue, and two other ogres now rushed past him.

   Kytharrah giggled as he rushed over to Cassiera. "He said, Prompansikt" Then he saw Cassiera and remembered his task, ceasing his giggling. He somberly stuffed her intestines back into her belly and picked her up to cradle her body on his arm.

   "Ormur!" Solisar called from the southern wall. The magic rope slithered out of Mythlos' bag of holding and came toward the sun elf rapidly, as he moved over to join Kytharrah. "Tie me to the minotaur!" he shouted, and he grabbed unto Kytharrah's back. The friendly red beast began climbing up the wall with his magic, with Solisar securely fastened to him.

   "More are coming!" warned Leokas, as he nocked another arrow. The ogres were now twenty feet away, shaking their heavy clubs.

   From Kytharrah's back, 30 feet up the wall, Solisar sent a spell into the passageway, and a burst of glittering dust filled the area. The ogres covered their eyes.

   This was followed by a powerful shout from Hakam. "Feel order's wrath!" A three-dimensional grid of beams of blue energy filled the passage. All three ogres roared out in agony and two dropped to the ground, still. The third wobbled about just within the open doorway. Leokas struck him in the arm with an arrow, and the ogre fell with a final moan.

   Kytharrah reached Szordrin, and Solisar commanded Ormur to free him.

   "Kytharrah, go back and get Hakam. He will not be able to climb the rope without falling." The minotaur did not delay.

   "What should we do now?" the tiefling asked Solisar. "We are too short to reach the door handle, and there are no secret doors."

   "Whatever we do, stay hidden," said Solisar, dragging Szordrin away from the ledge. "Remember, that elemental is patrolling on the other side of this rift. Corellon's mercy that it has not heard the battle yet!"

   Leokas continued to stand his ground at the passage opening, arrow nocked. He saw one of the ogres get up, but he held his fire for a moment. The ogre stumbled into the wall, blinded from the glitterdust. "Hvor alle gâ?" he said.

   Then, the ogre was shoved forcefully against the wall by something or someone invisible. The ogre stumbled to the ground again and ceased moving.

   "More still!" warned Leokas. Knowing that he could not hold off an invisible foe, he rushed to the southern wall, and used his spider-climbing magic to begin ascending.

   Belvin, climbing on the rope below Mythlos, heard Leokas' latest warning, and pointed his finger at the ground, speaking a curse in Sylvan. The snow turned red like blood, the same magic the undead ice climber had used on them. If anything alive was still coming through the doors, it would have its power drained when in contact with the ground.

   Kytharrah reached Hakam, the last of the party still below, as the cleric stood just at the edge of the blood snow. Kytharrah picked him up. "Wait!" said Hakam. "It is regenerating."

   Hakam pointed at the oni mage. A stretch of intestine hanging from the monster was moving back into the creature's side.

   Up above, Szordrin and Solisar heard Hakam's statement and understood.

   "Fire?" asked Szordrin.

   "Or acid," Solisar replied.

   They each peeked around the corner. Not seeing the elemental across the rift, they both stepped out again. Solisar sent a burst of magic down at the oni's body, striking it. The intestine stopped its movement, at least momentarily. Szrodrin read from a scroll of fire, but he made a mistake while waving his arms to finish the spell.

   "The Hells! That was my most expensive scroll," he cursed, as the magic lettering vanished forever.

   Below, Hakam healed himself and ordered Ormur to tie him to the minotaur. Just as Kytharrah reached the wall, he sniffed something. He grabbed his axe. "Sneaky!" he shouted, and he swung into the air but did not connect with anything.

   "Ormur, untie me! untie me!" shouted Hakam. Then he spun around, clutching his holy symbol. "Be held!" he shouted at his invisible foe.

   Solisar heard the minotaur and glanced down. By his magic, he could clearly see the two invisible oni mages, passing through the air with their magical flight, thus avoiding the blood snow. He sent another burst of glitterdust down on them. "More oni, flying!" he warned.

   "Step aside!" said Szordrin. He rushed to the ledge, as Mythlos was pulling himself up, and readied himself. "Thric austrat!" he called out pointing at the glitter-covered form of one of the flying, invisible oni mages, just before the creature reached the ledge. Yellow bands of magic appeared and wrapped themselves around the oni's wrists and ankles, and he dropped like a rock, falling 70 feet to land directly atop his companion. Both glitter-covered oni lay still.

   Leokas and Belvin joined the others up above. "The elemental!" said Leokas, pointing across the rift.

   The creature of wind and ice had at last discovered them. It flashed from the other side like the gust of a hurricane. It flew to Kytharrah and Hakam faster than either could have anticipated, lightning flashing in its eyes in anger. It struck Kytharrah with a powerful slam, knocking the minotaur back. Hakam bravely swung into the whirlwind-like creature, shouting, "I smite thee, creature of chaos!" but it was like trying to swing into a hurricane, and his sword was nearly yanked from his hand by the force of the wind.

   "Strike!" shouted Belvin, in Sylvan, and a bolt of lightning obeyed, lighting up the elemental's form.

   Szordrin quickly took a tiny piece of parchment from his component pouch, rolled it into a cone and placed it to his lips. His voice was then heard loudly on the other side of the rift. "Come on! The patrolling guard has left its post. The path is clear."

   Shockingly, the bluff worked. The elemental was about to pummel Hakam and Kytharrah a second time, but it stopped and looked up to the north peak. Then it burst through the air and back to its post, crossing the distance in under a second.

   Kytharrah grabbed a nuzzing Kamil, as Ormur tied Hakam to the minotaur's back. "The strength of the bull be upon thee," said Hakam, and Kytharrah rushed up the wall one last time.

   Up above, Belvin was summoning a fire elemental to ensure that the three oni would not regenerate their wounds and come after them again. Mythlos had the figurine of wondrous power ready for when the elemental figured out that it had been fooled.

   "No," said Hakam, when he came over the edge with Kamil and Kytharrah. "Use it to block the door."

   "I could not reach the handle," said Szordrin.

   "Minotaur!" said Hakam. "Open it!"

   Kytharrah pulled down on the latch to the double doors. They were not locked.

   Everyone rushed through.

   The room was large and mostly empty. On the far wall was Tosvin, his insectoid body stretched out, arms and legs shackled to the wall with thick bonds of solid ice. Above his head was some sort of massive, iron cauldron. They saw a drop of clear liquid drip from a hole in the bottom. This struck Tosvin's head and sizzled like acid. The gelugon writhed in pain, an unnatural sound escaping from his throat. Then his massive compound eyes stared in their direction.

   They all heard in their minds his melodious voice. Well done, partners.
Session: 80th Game Session - Thursday, Oct 20 2016 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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De Exilio
Chapter 3 — Battle of the Twin Peaks: Part I
"Whoa, Man! Get a shave!"

   Krynn, the satyr, made a disgusted face, lowered his head, and sprang forward, charging at the easternmost barbazu guard and ramming into it with his curved horns.

   The hellish guards had no idea whence this new creature had come, but they also did not care. One of the door guards disappeared and reappeared behind Krynn, flanking him. The one to the west stepped forward to get a better view of the strange intruder. The guard that Krynn had rammed dropped its glaive and swung its claws. Krynn avoided the first swing, but the second left a gash across his bare, hairy chest.

   "Ha! You will have to try harder than that, devil. This gorgeous chest is made of fey skin!" By the time the fawn finished his sentence, his skin had sealed itself back up; there was not even a scar. He swung his head at the devil a second time, while drawing a long, wavy dagger from a sheath hanging from a belt around his waist.

   The guard behind Krynn prepared to swing, but Krynn was not alone.

   "Strike!" shouted Belvin. The guards had not noticed the dark cloud that had quickly formed overhead. A bolt crashed down from the cloud, striking the devil and shocking it. A half-second later, an extra large arrow plunged into its back, the first shot fired by the young minotaur Kytharrah in combat. Leokas' teaching had worked.

   One by one, the rest of the Misfits sprung from around the corner and began unleashing magic. Unfortunately, the devils had a level of resistance to magic, and all eight magical projectiles sent at the devil with the arrow in its back were deflected, and it took a swing at Krynn's back. Again, there was a streak of blood, which immediately went away.

   It still caused the satyr pain, however, and he hopped to the side with a strange bleating sound. Krynn then spun around and swung his wavy dagger, but the devil deflected it with his claws and then lunged, grabbing the satyr in its claws. The tentacles of its "beard" sprung forward, snapping with the strange orifices at the ends. A few of them made contact with Krynn's face. He yelled out and kicked the devil away with his hoofs.

   "Strike!" shouted Belvin, as another bolt fell from the sky, just as Hakam stepped out and struck the devil with a ray of intense light from his outstretched palms.

   Mythlos magically appeared through a rift, swinging his sword madly at the solitary devil guarding the door, but the devil avoided the first swing and ducked to avoid decapitation. Mythlos' moonblade stuck itself in the ice wall beside the door. The door guard screamed in rage, tossing its glaive to the side and instead swinging its fist. It punched Mythlos on the side of the jaw and then caught him by the neck with its other hand. It pulled the moon elf closer, and then Mythlos too found the ends of the devil's tentacles sucking on his face, before Mythlos was able to free himself and remove his sword from the ice.

   The remaining of the four devils was calling out loudly in its Infernal tongue. Leokas, who had been turned invisible by one of his companions, now appeared behind this guard and filled him with three arrows.

   It was not enough to take it down, however; it finished its summoning and there was a powerful smell of sulfur as four repulsive and writhing blobs of pseudo-humanoid flesh appeared on the battlefield — lemures. The devil who summoned them then vanished.

   The lemures surrounded Leokas, swinging their claws. Leokas was struck by several blows, but his armor protected him. He leapt to the side and stuck to the wall like a spider, using another magic trick that they had planned beforehand. He scurried up the wall and out of the reach of the four minor devils.

   Kytharrah had dropped his bow and charged at the nearest barbazu, reaching behind his back and removing his battleaxe as he ran. He slashed at the devil, as the devil turned to face him. As it was about to return a swing, it was pummeled by two bursts of magic from Solisar's wand. Enraged, the devil cursed in its tongue, and then it, too, vanished.

   Back at the door, Mythlos swung a blow of devastating force at his opponent, leaving a silver wound diagonally across its chest. "Use silver weapons!" the moon elf shouted, before stabbing the devil in its gut.

   Leokas, still stuck to the cliff wall, heeded this advice. He jumped back to the ground, landing adjacent to the slow-moving lemures, taking a few scratches from their claws as he nocked two silver arrows simultaneously and sent them flying through the air at Krynn's remaining opponent, who was dodging another head butt. Cassiera was sending a non-stop barrage of magical bursts from her fingertips at the same devil, and Belvin called down another lightning strike. It swung a claw weakly at Krynn, but four clones of Szordrin ran along the ice wall, and all four completed the words of a spell. There was a loud boom near the devil, and it reached up to cover its ears. Cassiera's next three pulses of magic knocked the devil to the ground, and moments later, Hakam decapitated it, sending its essence back to the Hells and leaving only its glaive behind.

   "Minotaur! To Mythlos!" shouted Leokas, as he shrugged off more painful scratches from the four lemures that once again were attempting to surround him. He got back onto the wall and began to climb, hoping to get to the ledge high up that Hakam had found the day before for a better tactical advantage. Belvin sent a bolt into the crowd of lemures and rushed to help his friend.

   The minotaur obeyed Leokas' instructions, turning and charging at Mythlos' opponent at the door. He struck the devil with a staggering blow. With its black blood spurting out, it attempted one more attack with its claws and failed, before Mythlos finished it off with a final swing. Then, the moon elf healed himself.

   "Huzzah!" shouted Krynn, raising his dagger and leaping ten feet straight into the air, but the battle was not over yet. They heard the sound of one of the bearded devil's voices high above.

   "It is summoning!" yelled Solisar in warning, before waving his magic wand in the direction of the lemures and blasting one of them.

   "Let them come!" Krynn shouted, and he pounded his chest. As if in answer, with a flash of flame and smoke and the smell of more sulfur, another bearded devil appeared ahead of Krynn and swung. The satyr deftly jumped over the swing with a hearty laugh, jumped over the devil's head and stabbed it in the back.

   Mythlos charged at the newly summoned barbazu, passing Belvin, who was now surrounded by moaning lemures. The devil struck Mythlos on his left thigh, but the elf continued moving and cut off all of the devil's tentacles with a swing. Cassiera struck him with her magic, and Kytharrah ran up, joining the new melee and contributing a solid blow from his axe that left black organs hanging out of the devil's belly. It roared and spat at Mythlos' face, swinging its glaive down, but Mythlos parried the blow and cut both of the devil's arms off in a single swing. It fell forward into the snow and burst into black smoke.

   Solisar heard the devil up above them speaking with the hell hounds. "Are you not going to help us?" He heard the dogs growl in response.

   Leokas reached the ledge and peeked quickly to see if the elemental creature Hakam had seen patrolling the fortress hallways yesterday was there. It was not, yet neither could he see the devil on the other side of the missing bridge, which he could have sworn he had seen seconds earlier as he climbed the wall. He crouched behind the ice pedestal for cover if the elemental should return and to get a clear shot if the devil should come into view. It did not.

   "Cassiera!" the four Szordrins shouted. "Behind you!"

   She spun around, hand to the hilt of her scimitar, but the barbazu that had teleported behind her was already swinging. A look of shock came over her face, and she felt a wet, spongy mass touching her hand. Looking down, she saw her intestines hanging out of her body. She then fell back onto the snow.

   The Szordrins, Krynn, and Kytharrah rushed to her side. The minotaur struck with a blow that knocked the enemy's glaive aside and took a chunk from the top of its skull. Solisar waved his wand, but the devil deflected the magic and teleported away, just as it looked like it was about to fall over.

   Dropping to their knees, the Szordrins each removed a potion vial from his belt, and one of them placed it to Cassiera's lips. Her head tilted to the side and all the liquid poured out. Szordrin touched her neck. There was no pulse. "How can you be dead?" he called out. "I wasted a potion for you!"

   "Little sister?" said Kytharrah, trying to comprehend why the potion didn't heal Cassiera.

   "Maybe some alcohol will help...." started Krynn, and then his summons ended and he vanished.

   Several yards away, Belvin was surrounded by lemures. Mythlos tried to step over to engage them, but Hakam stopped him. "Mythlos, your wound is spurting blood; you'll pass out!"

   The moon elf tried to heal it with his sword, but this failed. Hakam put pressure on Mythlos' leg; the blood kept coming.

   Three arrows from up above dropped two of the lemures, freeing Belvin, whose arms and face had been bloodied by them. The wild elf, rushed over to Mythlos with glowing hands and was able to stop the blood flow from Mythlos' thigh with his magic.

   The lemures kept approaching. Mythlos spun around and obliterated one with a swing, cutting it cleanly in half. Hakam stabbed his sword into one of those lying on the ground with arrows in them, and its form also burst into smoke and vanished.

   Leokas was about to shoot at the remaining lemure, but he heard the sound of wind rushing behind him. He tumbled forward over the ledge to get out of sight of the patrolling elemental and began coming down the wall again, dropping to the ground from ten feet up.

   One of the Szordrins touched Kytharrah after completing a spell. "Lunk, carry me and climb up that wall as fast as you can." All Szordrins pointed at the far wall leading up to where the hell hounds were.

   "But," he protested, looking at Cassiera.

   "Are you fast or not?"

   "I am fast. Uh, which you?"

   "The left one. Not that left; your other left!"

   The minotaur picked up Szordrin, rushed to the wall, and began climbing up using Szordrin's magic, as Solisar shot at the remaining lemure with his wand and then Mythlos finished it off. A lightning bolt annihilated the last of the fallen lemures before Hakam could stab it.

   The field was cleared of enemies but at great cost. Leokas reached Hakam's side, and the two looked in the direction of Cassiera's body.

   "Anachtyr will bring her back," said the cleric. "I can take care of this in the morning."

   "We will need to keep her body safe," said Leokas.

   Solisar hustled over to her still form. Then there was the sound of a creaking door, and the sun elf heard a loud voice in a dialect of Giant with which he was not very familiar. "Smash them!"

   Leokas and Hakam turned to see a hairy, ten-foot-tall ogre coming through the door.
Session: 79th Game Session - Thursday, Oct 06 2016 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Lhynard
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De Exilio
Chapter 3 — Reconnaissance
"Barbazu," said Solisar, before anyone could ask, "more baatezu from the Nine Hells."

   Hakam stabbed his sword through the chest of the nearest devil. Its body burst into black and red smoke and dissipated, leaving only its nasty glaive behind on the snow.

   "Oh, you are bleeding a lot!" said Cassiera, looking at Kytharrah.

   "Wounds from barbazu are slow to heal," warned Solisar.

   "It seems so. My sword will not heal the wound at all," said Mythlos, after he placed the flat of his sword against Kytharrah's wound.

   Blood was flowing quickly out of the minor gash below Hakam's arm as well.

   "We have to do this the natural way." Belvin approached the cleric and ripped some cloth from his sleeve, then used it to tie off blood flow.

   "Help me hold the minotaur's wound closed," said Hakam. "Minotaur, lie down."

   Kytharrah obeyed, and several of them applied pressure to hold the wound on his massive, hairy chest closed. Then Hakam applied positive energy to the spot. This combination seemed to work.

   There was then some debate about whether to heal the other barbazu to interrogate it, but eventually Solisar spoke up. "We tarry too long; if we do not move on, new guards may come."

   So Cassiera ended the discussion by beheading the final barbazu with her scimitar. It, too, vanished in its death on the Material Plane, leaving behind its glaive but also a tiny ring.

   Mythlos quickly cast a spell and rushed over to pick the ring up. "Its magical," he said.

   "Be careful," said Solisar. "If it is from the Hells, it might be cursed for you."

   "It has an opal for a stone," said Szordrin. "Does that indicate anything?"

   "No," said Solisar. "An opal is used for a wide assortment of magical items." He then added, "The ring emits a moderate aura of transmutation magic."

   "The glaives are not magical either," said Mythlos.

   "Nor do they have poison," said Cassiera.

   "Perhaps it is some aspect of the devils themselves to leave such wounds," suggested Hakam.

   "What now?" asked Leokas.

   "We need to contact Tosvin again," said Hakam.

   "What will we do for the next twenty hours till dawn?" asked another.

   "We should just return to the genie and use our wish to retrieve Ilthian," said another.

   "I was sent to investigate the dealings of the ice queen," said Solisar. "For that reason, whatever is going on here at this fortress is of great interest to me."

   "We slew the door guards easily enough," said Cassiera. "Can we not simply press on and enter the tower?"

   "Not if it is the ice queen's palace!" said Leokas.

   "I do not believe it is her palace," said Belvin.

   "We should at least scout it out a bit first before deciding anything," said Cassiera.

   "Do we have enough magic or mundane items to disguise some of us as barbazu?" asked Szordrin.

   "We are all low on magical power," said Hakam. "That is part of the issue."

   "There is no limit to my ability to change form," said Cassiera. "The doors were large; let me at least see if I could slip underneath them."

~~~~

So she did. In her smallest viper form and made invisible by Szordrin, she squeezed herself under the giant metal doors to enter Tosvin's fortress.

   She found herself in a roughly octagonal room carved from solid ice. There seemed to be large metal doors in each face of the room. In the very center was a large square-based column of transparent ice. From within came a mysterious red glow that provided light for the room. The column was about fifteen feet on each side. The room itself probably had an area of a thousand square feet.

   She could not see, hear, or sense anyone else in the room currently, but her tongue picked up a variety of organic scents from the floor of the chamber, none of which she recognized.

   She slithered slowly and carefully to the right, moving along the cold edge of the wall to the next door. Like the main doors, she was able to squish her serpent body underneath.

   The first thing she noticed was the pungent smell of body odor. This next room had a strange shape, somewhat like a trapezoid but with a somewhat curved far wall. There was a very large bed to her right, and three large bedrolls set out upon the floor. Lying on the three rolls were three enormous, hairy humanoids, each of them snoring loudly. She estimated that each was nine or ten feet tall, but it was hard to say for certain, because they were curled up asleep. They had dull yellow skin, and she noticed quite a large number of warts on the giant-sized foot she could see sticking out from under a ragged blanket. Each hairy giant had a sack by his head and a nasty looking club.

   She bravely climbed up one of the bed posts. From here, she could see the one sleeping in it. This creature was also giant-sized, but the similarity seemed to end there to her. This one was bigger than the others but not by much. His skin was light blue, and he had a pair of short, ivory horns protruding from his forehead. He was sleeping in an expensive looking chain shirt over some silken clothing, and he wore a golden bracelet and an electrum ring on one of his massive fingers. A huge sword leaned against his bed.

   She quickly slipped away and back under the door. Next, she peaked around the corner of the glowing ice column in the center. She spotted another barbazu standing guard in front of one of the doors, the northernmost one. She quickly pulled her tiny head back and slithered in the other direction, despite the fact that she was invisible.

   She squeezed under another door, to the southwest. This room smelled much better than the other, but it was the same shape, with similar ice walls. It was furnished with two large beds and two large tables. A quick climb up one of the tables gave her a view into the beds, and she confirmed that they were occupied by two more horned, blue monsters, like the one she had seen in the other room.

   Not wanting to run out of invisibility, she only checked underneath one more door, this one to the west. She found an icy staircase with steep, wide steps that led up to a mezzanine, split, and continued up in both the southerly and northerly directions.

~~~~

She returned to the others, took humanoid form, and became visible again, as the spell wore off. She explained to the others what she had seen.

   "I think you saw ogres and oni mages," explained Solisar. "Oni are cousins to ogres that originate in the eastern human realms of Kara-Tur. They are inherently magical creatures and are far more intelligent than the common ogre. They are formidable, being able to fly, change form, and turn invisible."

   "I do not think we should believe the devils," said Cassiera. "We definitely were told to come here by Tosvin."

   "If they were the ice queen's guards, why would they lie?" asked Leokas.

   "We need to rest and regain our magics," said Hakam.

   "Where?" said Szordrin. "I do not have my rope trick prepared, and I am out of such scrolls too."

   "I have one prepared," said Solisar, "but it is not enough for the whole party."

   "Can I go play with the griffons while you talk?" asked Kytharrah.

   "I do not think we have the power to storm the fortress without resting," said Hakam, "but we could probably fight off a scouting party that finds our resting place, so I think that it is safer to hide, rest, and come back tomorrow. This will also allow us to clarify Tosvin's status through my magic, and it opens up the option of a stealth infiltration of the fortress using other spells."

   "I think we should go in now and ambush them in their sleep," said Cassiera.

   "That seems a risky plan," said Leokas. "These are giants!"

   "I have an idea," said Solisar. "We could allow ourselves to be captured. There is a chance we will be imprisoned wherever Ilthian is. Then, in the morning, we send a message to the genie and wish ourselves to freedom."

   "Except that they may just execute us!" exclaimed Szordrin.

   "We should at least explore a bit more first," said Leokas. "This rift in the peak extends further west." He began walking in that direction.

   "I think there is also an opening up above us, there," said Hakam, pointing.

   70 feet or so above the tunnel leading to the door, they could indeed see what appeared to be an opening or at least an indentation.

   "Kytharrah could toss me up there as a viper," suggested Cassiera.

   "I can fly up there and take a look," said Belvin, and he started to remove his armor.

   "Spare us!" said Szordrin. "Let me make you invisible first."

   "Wait," said Hakam. "Let me use clairvoyance first."

   Hakam did so, praying for the power to see into the opening above. It was indeed an opening, an artificial one. He looked around with his disembodied visual sense. Below and behind him, there appeared what looked to be an ice bridge that had broken off. On the other side of the rift, in the southern peak, was an opening equally as high off the ground, to which the supposed bridge probably connected. To the north, he could see into what was probably a third or fourth floor of the fortress. There was a wide hallway extending back for a bit under 100 feet before the floor seemed to descend, perhaps at a stairwell. Midway to that point, another perpendicular hallway intersected with it, and immediately before his "eye" to the left and right connected further hallways. Just before the "broken" bridge was also set a strange pedestal-like object made of ice.

   Then, something large passed before his vision. It was clearly an elemental creature of some kind, very much like the air elemental El Sadhara had once summoned to destroy them, one that had nearly killed Hakam. He shivered at the memory.

   "What is it?" asked Cassiera, seeing his body quiver.

   He described the creature to them. It was like a creature of living cloud, yet a cloud of sleet and snow rather than of rain. It floated down the hallways, patrolling, with dark pockets, flashing with lightning, for eyes, and two appendages serving as its arms.

   "A creature summoned by the ice queen, perhaps," suggested Solisar.

   Hakam then described the "bridge" to them. Though they could not see the other opening from their angle, Belvin would be able to fly up and reach it. This he did, as an invisible pteranodon. He landed on the ledge and poked his reptilian head into the large, door-like opening. He saw a long room, extending from west to east, fifteen feet back and about 75 feet long. Directly ahead of him on the southern wall of ice, was a very large, black, metal door, fifteen feet wide. At each of the far ends of the room, he also spotted a very large, muscular dog. These dogs looked something like hounds, with coal-black fur. They were the size of draft horses. One was sleeping, but the other immediately lifted its big head and sniffed the air in Belvin's direction. Smoke came from its nostrils, and its eyes were the color of fire. The animal, if it could be called that, rose to its feet quickly. Belvin saw that it was barded in a shirt of linked rings. It moved toward the opening, and Belvin launched himself high into the air to escape.

   The others below looked up to see a large hound-head looking down at them.

   "Puppy!" said Kytharrah happily.

   "It is a hell hound!" warned Szordrin, when he saw the smoke coming from the mammoth dog's nostrils. "Take cover; they can breathe fire like a dragon!"

   They moved out of sight from its gaze.

   "Not just a hell hound," said Solisar. "While I have never seen one myself, I believe that that was a Nessian breed."

   "As in 'from Nessus'?" asked Szordrin.

   "Yes, from the lowest layer of the Nine Hells. These warhounds were bred to serve as guard dogs for the Lords of the Nine."

   "Why would one of the Lords of the Nine be here?"

   "No, that was why they were bred; that is not their only purpose. It most likely means that something or someone important is behind the door they guard."

   "The ice queen?"

   "Or maybe Tosvin is locked up by her behind those doors," suggested Hakam.

   A pair of pteranodon prints pressed into the snow nearby them. "I cannot find my armor," said Belvin's voice. "It is still invisible like me."

   "Change back into a pteranodon," said Solisar. "I have another idea, but we must hurry. I still can speak in any language by my magic, but only for a few minutes more, I calculate. Belvin, fly me as fast as you can to the galeb duhr. Perhaps I can convince it to shelter us in hiding for the night. If the rest of you take the stairs it built for us, when it removes the stairs, there will be no tracks, and we shall be safe for the night."

   This seemed a much better idea to them than his original plan to be captured. "You will need more gems to use to bargain with it," said Cassiera. "Here, take these."

   "Give it the least valuable ones!" said Hakam.

~~~~

Solisar was able to convince the galeb duhr to help them one more time, after handing over another assortment of gems. His companions arrived a half hour later, having descended the great staircase of stone. The galeb duhr removed the staircase and shaped the ground and rocks with its mind to form a secluded, cave-like structure for them for the night. Despite this, Solisar still used his rope magic so that at least eight of them would have an additional means of protection and would not be traceable by scent. Leokas felt like this was more than was necessary, but he also did not enjoy sleeping in the white emptiness of the extradimensional space. It felt too unnatural. (Belvin agreed with his assessment.)

   Cassiera spent much of the night outside in serpent form, since she needed only a few hours sleep, hiding near the galeb duhr's motionless form among the rocks and monitoring the icy cliffs above. It was too dark to see anything, however, once night fell.

~~~~

The next morning, Hakam and Belvin rose to pray, and then they protected their companions from the bitter cold, and Hakam created them breakfast.

   Afterwards, Hakam sent a short message to Ilthian. "We will rescue you today with a magical spell. Do not resist the magical sensation! Please respond verbally now without alerting anyone around you."

   There was no response.

   "She is dead then," said Mythlos.

   "Well, we tried," said Leokas.

   "Come on, let us go," said Belvin. "This was a waste of time."

   "Tosvin must have displeased his queen," said Hakam. "Perhaps this was all out of his control. Let me send to him first."

   So he sent this message: "You lied and broke your word: This tower is not yours. Does Ilthian live? Where are she and our belongings? How do we retrieve them?"

   A response was not long in coming. "She lives, but you would need me to help retrieve her. I have been... detained by my queen. My dogs will let you pass. Come."

   Hakam repeated what he heard in his mind.

   "We must be careful," said Cassiera. "He said that we would need his help, not that he would give it."

   "True, but he is bound by his oath to help us," said Hakam. "What I fail to understand is why is door guards attacked us."

   "I think that Tosvin is still in that fortress," said Belvin, "being 'detained'. The guards were under her orders not his."

   "The good news," said Solisar, "is that the guards, and thus the ice queen, have no way of yet knowing who we are or why we were here."

   "So Tosvin needs our help again," said Cassiera.

   "What does he gain from us helping him?" asked Szordrin.

   "He needs us to un-detain him," said Cassiera. "He is trying to get us to break him out. It is what I would do if I were evil." She glared at Hakam, but the cleric surprisingly did not reply that she was evil.

   "I still don't see why we are going out of our way for a simple peasant," said Szordrin.

   "It is because Hakam likes her," said Cassiera.

   "Helping Tosvin will be hurting her, the ice queen," said Hakam, ignoring yet another comment from Cassiera. "I think we should go see him."

   "I agree," said Leokas.

   "I can use my magic to speak with the galeb duhr again," said Solisar, "to see if he will build us another bridge."

   "By now," said Leokas, "they will have discovered the remains of the barbazus we destroyed. They will be ready for us when we return. We need a plan to ambush them, so we can clear the way to Tosvin. Perhaps the galeb duhr can built the stairs to a more tactical position, but I do not see from the terrain where that might be."

   "What if we were able to fly directly to the upper entrance and bypass the guards?" said Cassiera.

   "We could fly on our griffon friends!" said Kytharrah.

   "Not everyone is your friend," said Szordrin.

   "That actually might be a good idea," said Leokas.

   "I do not think they could carry you, minotaur," said Hakam.

   "We have enough rope," said Mythlos. "Kytharrah could hang from two of them."

   "Thard Harr could let me speak with the griffons," said Belvin. "I of course would carry Kamil myself."

   "How would we find the griffons again?" one of them asked. "We never did find their nest."

   "The galeb duhr said that they hunted goats in this basin."

   "I do not see any goats," said Belvin.

   "They love to eat horses," Cassiera said. "Belvin, can you take the shape of a horse?"

   "Of course I can."

   "We can use you as bait," she continued. "Solisar, you can speak with them when they fly down to investigate."

   "I would not risk our partner's life like that," said Solisar. "Moreover, my spell will not permit me to communicate with creatures that do not have a language. We must rely on Belvin's magic for that."

   "I cannot speak with a griffon if I am a horse!" said Belvin. "It doesn't have the right sort of throat."

   "I think we should simply ascend the steps," said Leokas. "When we get higher up, perhaps Belvin can locate them for us. If not, we shall have to come up with another plan."

~~~~

The galeb duhr helped them yet a third time, and an hour later, they found themselves near to the top of a new set of stone steps. Belvin could detect that a pride of eight griffons were somewhere on the opposite side of the peak, but they had no way of contacting the flying beasts.

   When they reached the top, Leokas found clear devilish footprints in the snow. The next set of guards had been looking for whoever had killed their companions.

   They discussed methods of scouting out the area ahead, and at last, they settled on using clairvoyance magic again. Hakam prayed and then focused his remote vision on the scene between the two peaks. "There are four guards now," said Hakam. "All 'bearded devils'. Two are at the door; two others are posted in the open. One is looking west, the other is facing east."

   "They could easily call for more reinforcements though," warned Leokas.

   "We need to destroy them quickly then," said Solisar.

   "They are less likely to call for reinforcements if they think we are weak and easy to defeat on their own," said Hakam. "Remember what Solisar had said earlier; they know nothing about us. We have the advantage of knowledge. We could send a smaller group with the rest of us waiting in ambush."

   "Whatever we decide," said Mythlos. "My sword and I are ready."
Session: 78th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 29 2016 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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