As the party camped, early in the morning the party began to hear loud booming and crashing noises to the north and west. The entire party remained invisible, so there was little concern with detection, and the party assumed the Stone Giants were on the warpath after the death of their chieftain. The booming noises stopped suddenly before dawn and all was quiet. Also during the night, they spotted the silhouette of a huge winged creature flying over, almost certainly a full-sized dragon.
As the party prepared to continue south, they suddenly spotted a trio of huge cave bears approaching, clearly coming towards them, and followed by a pair of stone giants. The bears had their scent so fleeing seemed pointless. Cadealider opened up with a fireball at range, as the fighters peppered the bears with ranged weapons and Iban began to levitate. The giants responded with thrown boulders, to little effect, before the bears reached the party. And the battle turned ugly very quickly. Zhuld Zir was struck by a charging bear, a terrible blow that killed him instantly. One bear managed to hug Wulfred, fwith another grabbing Cadwalider, which nearly meant the death of both; both were crushed into insensibility. The bears took abeating in their fury but, even when slain, continued to fight on for a time. Still, Wulfred was freed before he, too, was slain. Aldeberon managed to help free Cadwalider. As this was occurring, a human voice from the woods yelled out to them that two more giants were flanking them; the voice belonged to a human woodsmen that stepped from the foggy forest and began to shoot arrows at the encircling giants. Despite excellent shooting, it merely drew their ire and a lot of rocks at the newcomer. Also during the fight, the party saw another bear, somewhat smaller, sitting and watching the fight from a distance.
At last the three cave bears were slain, but now four giants began to hurl stones and close with the party. With one dead and two unconscious, standing to fight was impossible. So, Iban dropped down and fled on foot with the newcomer ranger, while the other survivors used various means to begin flying, dragging of their wounded and dead to the north – they quickly agreed to meet at the crossroads at sunset in one week’s time.
The watching bear now signed for Iban and the ranger to follow, and it helped them flee unseen from the hunting giants. The latter introduced himself as Atletan of Crystallium, a strange land in another world — he had been magically blasted to this place while fighting a wizard from the unknown land called Scarlet Brotherhood. The bear leading them wore a heavy gold chain with diamonds of dwarf-make, and spoke to them briefly on the way.
The bear led them to a steading of sorts, with a ten foot high log palisade with watch towers surrounding a large wooden hall, an orchard, some corn fields, and the like. The bear led them into the hall, grunting for them to wait as it slipped into a side chamber. A short time later, a huge, hairy man came out, wearing the gold chain. His name was Garimbyrn, he said. He was no friend of the stone giants and their cave bears, and thought it unsporting of them to slaughter the party. He was a man of few words, and a bit grumpy, but offered them good food and mead, and shelter as long as they wished it. The hall was clearly built for a large number of normal sized humans, though it appeared only Garimbyrn dwelt here, aside from a few farm animals. There was plenty of unused furniture, though all of it was kept very tidy.
Garimbyrn told them somewhat of the region — he has seen the lights they were interested in, and believed they were some foul sorceries of the Ice Wizard (he scoffed at the term “king”), who dwelt beyond the Haunted Pass in a fortress up the nearby peak. Stone Giants served him, though not all were under his sway (such as the ones the arty had tangled with). The valley the trail led through was perpetually fog-filled and cold, or so he had heard. To the south dwelt many Troglodytes, a dangerous nuisance if one went to far into their territory. The Petty Dwarves, as he termed them, that the party had met were not to be trusted, he said. They were greedy and conniving, and he had no use for them.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party made their way back to Kazakh to rest and recover. They first made their way to the chief cleric of Moradin Soulforger (Dorlin — you keep using him so he needs a name). He agreed to resurrect ZZ at a discounted rate, being a dwarven cleric. This was accomplished successfully, and ZZ was reborn; better yet, his strange affliction and curse of hearing the Earth Dragon constantly was gone. The party then spent several days resting in the city before setting out south once more. The journey was largely uneventful, though they did see a party of furtive dwarves in the wilderness and had to dodge a party of stone giants still prowling for them. At the appointed time, the party reunited at the standing stones and returned with Garimbyrn to his steading, where introductions were made and everyone caught up on events.
The party headed out along the path the next day, accompanied by a curious Garimbyrn. At one point, the party was attacked by a number of blue wyverns, ridden by little blue-skinned imps of some sort, who used little bows with obsidian heads and blue fletching (the party took two dozen after the fight ended). The riders were killed fairly easily, though the wyverns were much tougher. None of the riders escaped, but a few wyverns did. It seemed possible that the flying patrol was somehow aware of their presence, and they asked Garimbyrn (now in bear form) if there was some other way into the Valley of Fog. He said there were many old tunnels and caves in the region, some Trog, some dwarven, and some of unknown origin. They turned aside now to hunt Trogolodytes, and Garimbyrn scouted out alone for a time. He finally returned with a terrified Troglodyte prisoner. The thing knew of a tunnel that would allow them to avoid the pass and offered to show it in exchange for its life…
– Experience: 483 XP (532 XP for those getting +10%).