While our unnamed group of heroes licked their wounds, rested their heads, and prepared to set out for the Ruins of Mt. Sin, Yarmilla brought home a guest – a somewhat “disconnected” and ancient man who answered to the name Ryxali.
Some rather pointed questions revealed Ryxali’s motivations – he wanted to “find his brother, and finally go home,” but little about Ryxali himself. Still, Yarmilla convinced her companions to aid their elderly guest (though not immediately) on the promise that it would be very worth their while, and a personal guarantee to pay key individuals for their time should they determine that it wasn’t at the end of that particular road. Some concern was expressed when he claimed his brother was someone named “Rokun, Son of heaven,” and that he could be found in the land of the Farisees, but Yarmilla stressed her “personal guarantee” and won assent.
But helping an old man across the street (all the way to Faris) had to wait for a different day. Mt. Sin was calling, and Thoven was running out of time!
After securing both quarters for their guest and supplies for the road (and a quick planning session over a set of maps to determine the most likely place to start their search), they were off. They journey started with a heavy helping of magic, as Yarmilla wove a spell of transportation, teleporting half the group to the (hopefully) empty TradeFields north of Adleton. A quick nights rest (more comfortable for some, less for others) later, she wove her spell again, reuniting the group right after sunrise – and just in time to see smoke rising from the southern edge of the town.
Adleton was under attack by a band of ogres led(?) by a single giant. Hoo took to the air immediately, throwing balls of fire and ice, interspersed with bolts of lightning at the raiders, who were busily crushing resistance (very literally, as villagers fell under the giant’s iron-shod boots) and putting the town to the torch. Hoo was quickly followed by Anonda, with the remainder of the group hustling behind.
As the group neared the fray, Sushalla (at Vecca’s urging) began using her supernatural wiles to clear the way – likely saving dozens of lives. But while the rearguard approached, Hoo and Anonda were treated to a strange sight – a heavily armed gnome appeared in their path. The gnome immediately threw in with our heroes, proving his worth as he felled an ogre in the pitched battle that followed.
Battle results: Our Unnamed Group of Heroes: 1, Giant and Ogres: 0.
After-Battle Memo: The giants and ogres seemed to be “infected” with the same red spores that caused a tribe of goblins to go mad during the companions’ second real venture into the wilds. This news was… not received well.
The gnome turgned out to be gnamed… OK that is going to get old very quickly. The gnome turned out to be named Gnogom, and he claimed to be looking specifically for our heroes. Because our heroes are not complete fools, there was a period of distrust, exacerbated by the fact that the way Gnogom referred to them was… unflattering to say the least. Hoo, in particular was disturbed by the fact that Gnogom only referred to him as “the Owl” something the Alarian was quick to correct.
Brisk (and at times brusque) conversation revealed that Gnogom was an enemy of the Farisees, which made everyone feel much more at ease. But, and this cannot be stressed enough, some of our heroes *(most vocally, Thoven) thought him more than a little mad – he claimed to be from a land which was ruled by Rokun the Undying – GodKing of the Farisee Empire, and his sole purpose in seeking out our heroes was to “make sure they didn’t screw up” and end up delivering Rokun the means to obtain his immortality – something they had done in the “history” as Gnogom knew it.
So a tentative alliance was struck, with Gnogom accompanying the group as they continued traveling on the road south of Adleton.
Travel was swift – aided again by Yarmilla’s spells (this time, a conjuration of ghostly horses able to run along land and water with equal alacrity) – and their trip only had a single mishap. A rider (actually, a small girl clinging desperately to an unsaddled horse’s mane) brought unsettling news. Something “big” had attacked a small farm not far from their chosen path. Investigation showed a farmhouse recently attacked by something the size of a giant. But, Hoo’s keen eyes spotted inconsistencies in the tracks around the house.
As the group decided to abandon the search for survivors, the girl mentioned that her parents might have gone into the cellar. This sounded suspicious to Hoo, who threatened the girl with a fistful of lightning. his suspicions proved correct, as the girl shed her form, growing into a huge creature Vecca identified as a glabrezu – a demon of lies.
The demon taunted them, lashing out now that it’s ruse had been uncovered. But – surrounded by our unnamed group of heroes – he was at a serious disadvantage, and teleported away after being struck from all quarters. In the aftermath of the battle, the group searched the house. In the cellar, they found a small room filled with a summoning circle, but everything of real value had already been taken. Except, that is, for a large piece of chalk that proved to be magical in nature.
Piecing together the clues, the group surmised that a witch of some power lived on the premises, and that she had sought to use the chalk to draw a summoning circle of prodigious power in an attempt to bind the glabrezu for a year and a day. Vecca took charge of the chalk to see that it would not be misused.
The remainder of the trip was less eventuful, and it did not take long for the companions to see the first sign of Mt. Sin – a huge hole in the ground. Something jarring to Vecca in particular as it contradicted accounts she had heard of the place.
In truth, it was less a “hole” than is was a canyon, and less a mountain than a series of buildings within. The whole of the canyon was about a half-mile across in both directions, with a drop of approximately 200’ from the clifftop to the canyon floor below. A single sloped entrance allowed safe travel to the interior, where several buildings stood – some intact, and others less so. Of note were a castle, complete with moat, built into one of the walls, a featureless cube, an equally featureless cylinder, a ziggurat ,and a mostly ruined tower built into the far side of the rift. There were also a large set of seemingly connected ruins in the middle of the canyon – stone rubble intermixed with dark areas.
And, lest we forget, a war camp.
The camp was large, not just in overall size but in scale. It’s inhabitants – a quick count showed at least 200, and possible more – included larger than man-sized tents and shelters. Those inhabitants became aware of the group as certain of its members flew across the gap, but did not immediately take action – seemingly content to let the group pass over. However, the group then had other things to worry about – the fly-over had given them a glimpse of a camp filled with ogres, and not a few giants. Worse, the camp’s palisades had been placed outward in a ring – those giants were afraid of something.
What’s worse than a war camp of giants? Something that scares a war camp of giants.
In any event, the flyovers also brought the attention of something living on the top level of the mostly fallen tower – a griffon! The griffon pursued Hoo (who must have looked the most tasty), only to be warned off by a bolt of lightning from the Alarian. Unfortunately, that bolt of lightning also garnered the attention of the war camp, and it began to mobilize.
And so, with a war camp of giants and ogres suddenly interested in them, our Unnamed Group of Heroes descended to the top of the ruined tower, hoping that their search for Lady Firebaugh’s Diadem would be both fruitful and, more importantly, short.