<The campaign jumped ahead in time about 7 weeks. During this time, the party contracted for construction of various additions to their quarters in the Dwarf City. Also, Cadwallider took up temporary residence in the Citadel where he conducted extensive (and expensive) research on a new spell. Also, Iban returned from a long journey on his own to remove the curse of being turned into a serpent-man. He reported that he’d traveled to Wellington, where all was not well. The new Queen the party had delivered to the city had turned out to be far from benevolent, a willing or unwilling tyrant who worked with apparent pirates to suppress the citizens of the city, and who had aspirations of forming a greater kingdom in the region. Iban also learned that the party members present during those adventurers had been declared traitors and sentenced to death; by hiding himself because of his curse he had avoided being recognized…for a time.>
Also during this time, the party opted to use the Candle of Invocation so that Zhuld Zir and Havok could cast commune spells. They asked the following questions:
Is ZZ permanently stuck as an Orc? No
Does the party have the ability to break the curse of the Jester Outfit, aside from using their wish ring? No
Does the party have the ability to break the curse of the Orc, aside from using their wish ring? No
Can we trust the Dwarf that has been overseeing our employment? Yes
Can we trust the Dwarf, Zygorl? Yes
Is the Ice Wizard a direct threat to the Dwarven Kingdom? No
Will the dwarven kingdom be safe if the Ice Wizard does use the Fimbulwinter? No (but vague)
Should we concern ourselves more with the Giant King over the Ice Wizard? Yes
Is the entity that magically charmed Zygrol’s clan an enemy of ours or the dwarven kingdom? Yes
Will Iban return to the Dwarf City in the near future? Yes (this was shortly before his return)
Should the party wait for Iban prior to departing again? Yes
Is the entity that charmed the Dwarves associated with the Giant King? No
With the Ice Wizard? No
Does the party have time to deal with their own interests before dealing with threats to the Kingdom? Yes
Is there a dungeon nearby with money and magical loot? Yes
Is there someone in the city that can tell of it? Yes
Can Nali help in that regard? No
Is the entity that charmed the dwarves a direct threat to the party if he is not pursued? No
A few nights after Cadwallider returned to rejoin the party, and with their various construction projects completed, the party took an evening out at the nearby Stonespear Alehouse. While there, they made the acquaintance of a human who showed some interest in talking to them (the party made him buy rounds to keep their interest). He was Leongrim, he said, from the town of Grilbie to the southwest of the Anchor Mountains and the Dwarf Kingdom. He proceeded to tell them a long tale of an ancient threat in his region, the Cult of the Black Flame. The cult had arisen in the Waerun Fen, north of Grilbie, and pulled in a lot of bored, scared, and otherwise disaffected folk during the period of chaos that followed the collapse of the old Lormyrrian Empire. The local lords, then still commanding powerful (former imperial) forces marched on the cult’s headquarters, a fortress in the midst of the fens. But the cult was warned and fled, leaving only a few burned out husks of folk from Grilbie, perhaps as a warning (they’d been “burned” in the so-called Black Flame). The army did not raze the keep but simply returned home. Lately, however, there were rumors that the cult had returned. Last year, a wizard named Baltron passed through Grilbie, asking many questions, and seeking old records of the cult. He was bound for the keep, he said, to conduct researches. All his attempts to hire guards and workers failed, however, as the locals greatly feared the place; no amount of money would budge anyone, and he proceeded and was not seen again. A few months ago, locals traveling the road near the fen noted a weird, green light shining straight up like a beacon from the vicinity of the old cult headquarters. He’d been sent to ask the Dwarves for aid, but they declined to do so, citing their own growing troubles and how dwarves were no good in swamps anyway. Despairing, he thought that adventurers might be interested in going, not for any reward he could offer but out of interest in whatever treasures the cult, and Baltron the wizard, might’ve left behind.
The party considered this and decided they had little better to do, and almost two months in the city was wearing thin on them. After a brief audience with Nali, some of the party departed with Loengrim. Also accompanying them was Zygorl. The party had been granted passes to use the Dwarves’ underground road system to speed them on their way and Nali had agreed that Zygorl could accompany them until he reached the nearest exit to his home halls. The petty dwarf was more than ready to get out of Kazakh and go home, despite any dangers the journey might entail for alone dwarf in the wilderness. Before departing, Aldeberon paid for 10 weeks of upkeep on their quarters.
The party journeyed towards Gorund, a fortified town in the western mountains. Zygorl broke from them on the second, again reiterating his thanks and that he owed the party a debt. The party stayed at various way-taverns underground, set up for travelers along these underground roadways; they passed periodic parties and patrols as they went, and reached Gorund after four days travel.
The next day, they also parted company with Loengrim, who was not going to accompany them into the swamps, but instead was going further south to strike a more major road from the Kingdom down to Grilbie. The party now came out to the surface and headed west, finding the weather extremely cold, even for mid-December in the mountains. They struck the Rust Water late in the day (so called for mineral discoloration in the water) and crossed to the west side – Loengrim had recommended they follow it down from the mountains to the fen. Iban would provide shelter each night using Leomund’s Tiny Hut.
They followed the stream the next day. At one point, they came across alone Stone Giant doing something across the water. They approached and Cadwallider hailed him; the giant responded by throwing a rock and nearly crushing him. Iban then rushed to attack the giant, as the rest of the party hit it with ranged weapons, and Cadwaillder with magic missiles. All seemed under control until another two giants appeared from cover nearby and rushed the party, apparently having heard howls of pain from the first one. The first giant smashed another rock into Iban before he could cross the stream and engage in melee. Cadwallider hit one with a lightning bolt, but perhaps even more amusing was when one of the two giants rushing hit its fellow. Although Iban took a beating, he eventually slew the giant. When one of the twin fell unconscious, the last remaining began to complain about being “ambushed” by the party. They said the dead giant had started it, at which point the remaining giant ceased fighting and began a parley. When the giant at last understood what had happened, he shook his head and said the dead one was a hot-head and deserved what he got; he personally had no beef with the party. When asked, he told them he had heard of the Giant King but that his folk “had no need for kings themselves.” A truce was concluded and the last giant simply picked up the unconscious one and strode off without a backward glance.
A few days later, the party left the mountains and eventually reached the edges of the fens, a large area of cold muck perhaps 20 miles across or so. That night, they could see the weird green beacon shining upwards from the heart of the swamp. Cadwallider became invisible and cast fly on himself and flew out to scout. He later reported seeing some trolls, lizardmen, and even a giant in the heart of the fens. He also found the keep, a somewhat ruined edifice some distance inward; he saw no signs of paths to reach it, though the remnants of a causeway extended east about a mile from the ruins. The green beacon light was visible even in daylight as they approached.
The next day, the party airlifted to the end of the causeway using various magical means. At this point, Cadwallider, Thren, and Iban were invisible. The party then approached carefully. As they got close, they learned to their surprise that the gatehouse of the keep was occupied, though the gate and portcullis were damaged and easily passed. The party retreated briefly and ZZ cast augury to inquire about a parley. The augury favorable, he and Aldberon approached openly while the invisible three rushed towards the gatehouse under a silence spell. ZZ and Aldeberon then tried to buy some time, keeping the attention of the defenders focused on them while asking questions such as the meaning of the green light. The defenders seemed amused that two people would demand entrance and the parley collapsed into laughter from those inside.
Meanwhile, the invisible three made their way to the roof of a center bridge area connecting the two halves of the gatehouse. They failed to pick the lock of a door going north but succeeded on the one going south. It opened, but the opener (Iban?) was hit by a glyph of warding electrical blast. Though silent, the light alerted those inside, and a huge warg came out and attacked. This was slain but followed by a winged, bird-headed lion that also attacked. Additionally, the other defenders grew irritated and began to shoot at ZZ and Aldeberon, who took shelter within the confines of the Shield of Defense, which Aldeberon deployed to form a small palisade for cover. But many arrows came their way. They also noted a great hawk fly from the tower, circle, and head west.
There ensued one of the more complex melees I’ve seen in a long time. Much of the fighting occurred atop the bridge. While the two monsters were slain, their master, a powerful fighter, proved to be far tougher, and Iban was nearly slain. He summoned his Valhalla warriors, while Cadwallider used his wand of conjuration to bring in three huge Boring Beetles. From the unopened door several fighters eventually came forth. The powerful warrior (Antarcus, they later learned), was meanwhile driven back but not slain by Cadwallider’s spells. The fight atop the bridge was a mess, but with so many summoned creatures fighting for the party atop it, Thren (invisible) slipped into the courtyard while Cadwalldier (invisible again) slipped down the rope to the outside, then ran inwards. Meanwhile ZZ, growing tire of the arrow barrage against him and Aldeberon, ran across the open ground through many arrows and into the Keep (which was poorly designed, in my opinion).
Inside the southern building, Iban sent two berserkers down a trap door and six up (he had thought there was a level above, but it was in fact the roof); he followed the two down. Below, he found the wounded warrior and a group of bandits. The two warriors did not last long and Iban found himself in trouble, so he now retreated back up and called down his warriors from the roof. Meanwhile on the bridge, the boring beetles vanished (dispelled, likely) as a pair of fighters, backed up by a gnome spellcaster, and human cleric, joined the fray against Iban and his berserkers.
Meanwhile, Thren and ZZ moved to either side of a door at ground level to the south tower, which opened shortly after. They slew the officer that came out first and pushed a group of bandits he was leading back inward. Cadwallider came up and blasted a lightning bolt across at a few that were on the stairs across. However, the enemy had a thief that came in for a backstab, but failed. He died soon after that failure. Aldeberon soon rushed the open space, as well, and joined the others in the gatehouse.
During the fight, it became clear at times that Antarcus was having trouble getting his men to do some things, usually insanely foolish things like climbing a ladder into the swords of the party and their allies. Also, the gnome and cleric disappeared at some point during the fight and were not accounted for later. A few Bugbears popped up eventually but were also slain by the remnants of Iban’s berserkers.
Finally, the party had turned the tide and began to hem the warrior and his remaining men in. As the last bandit died, Cadwallider charmed the fighter and the fighting ended. Antarcus was in command, he told them now, and the chief employee of the wizard Leptos who was in the main keep building with his mistress. He hated his employer, who he said was months behind on their pay. He could care less about the dead bandits (common vermin) and only mourned the loss of his animals. The hawk, he told them, carried a message to the king of the lizardmen, begging for aid…they would not come for a day or two, if at all. The worshipped the green bacon, he said, rather dismissively.
Much battered, the party took a raft shown them by Antarcus and poled themselves wearily to shore to rest for a day or two, before they would return to the keep…
– Experience: carried over.