Back in mid-December, the gang rallied for yet another spirited romp through Faerun as part of our ongoing 3.5 FR campaign. Then I got caught up in the spirit of the holidays and set aside my recap duties, so without further ado, here we go!
There was scant little time for our intrepid band of adventurers to down a few cold beverages at The Blazing Hearth in Mulmaster before it was time to saddle up and gaze into the eye of the dragon once more. Last time, it was the sights and sounds (and smells) of Myth Drannor. This time, we strike out for the scenic Galena Mountains at the eastern end of the Moonsea.
Our contact in Mulmaster, a crusty Loremaster by the name of Jotim, tells us there is a cave in the mountains that contains the Pillar of Fire, which may or may not be able to sever bonds in attuned items – say, for example, the Red Sword – so we head there, in search of information. Well, it’s also likely that T’See Larak may be looking for it as well, so perhaps we can kill two birds with one stone. Jotim comes with good references, as we were sent to him by Shimanit of Shadowdale, a woodland guide we met in Myth Drannor. We feel fairly confident that we are on the right path at this point in time, so off we go!
We are able to find the cave with minimal fuss and without running into any undesirable elements, so we begin our exploring at full strength. This is a good thing, because we are tested by three brief but violent encounters. First is a massive fire elemental that attacks us as we attempt to bypass it. The creature must be some sort of guardian, or so we surmise. We extinguish the elemental threat and continue on. Next up is a quartet of massive ogres who set upon us with quite a bit of vigor. They are, however, no match for our ranger and his little friend the rogue.
As we plunge deeper and deeper into the complex, we discover several more chambers guarded by more fire elementals. Garrity recalls that the Sarrukh were followers of Kossuth, so he invokes the Lord of Flames name and what do you know, the elementals hold their ground but do not attack! The last encounter in the caves is with four chimeras (what do you call multiple chimeras? A flock? A pride? A gaggle?) that our party is able to deal with without too much drama.
Finally, we enter a cavernous room with a massive stone pillar jutting out of a pool of water. The pillar rises some two hundred feet into the air, with stairs carved into the exterior that allow access to the top. We climb the stairs without trouble, and discover to our relief that we have, in fact, found the legendary Pillar of Fire! It is a modest altar topped by a pair of interlocking arches. There are runes on each side of the altar, and after thorough examination and rumination, it is determined that there are four slots (one on each side) where a tile could be seated. Said tiles are of course nowhere to be found.
We head back to Mulmaster to consult with our contacts there and attempt to find out more information about the Pillar of Fire and the missing tiles. There is an active dig site at a set of old ruins a day or three away from the Pillar of Fire cave, so perhaps the tiles can be found there. Rested, we resume our adventuring. Five wyverns are unable to hinder us, and we reach the dig site. It is cold, windy, and there is snow on the ground. Even more hostile than the elements are the inhabitants of the dig site – hill giants and their ogre servitors! The ranger seems nonplussed by this revelation. Rangers.
After Palau scouts the ruins, he reports back that 3 hill giants and 4 ogres we are watching are only the tip of the iceberg. There are at least a dozen hill giants and close to two dozen ogres in and around the encampment! It’s going to take some planning to tackle this lot. Putting our heads together, this is what we come up with:
Posht will cast spell immunity (fireball) on Callum and Nikola. Garrity will cast greater invisibility on himself and Palau. We will engage the first set of giants & ogres and attempt to dispatch them as fast as possible. If all goes as planned, we will eliminate the first set of guards before reinforcements arrive. As always, the battle hinges on things going as planned…
The giants wade into the party...
Wonder of wonders, things pretty much DO unfold as planned! Garrity is able to safely immolate the giants with multiple empowered fireballs without harming his comrades. Palau unleashes his deadly sneak attacks with impunity. The paladin and ranger hew into the giants while the cleric keeps them healed. The giants arrive in waves from their various locations around the dig site, and we are just barely able to keep pace with the tempo of violence. It was especially hairy when about 6 hill giants and 8-10 ogres all showed up at once, but somehow we managed. I think it was due in no small part to Posht’s blade barrier and smite spells that really made the difference.
...Garrity unleashes one of his more potent empowered fireballs...
Perhaps the most troubling part of the fight was when some unseen enemies started casting charms or confusion-type spells on Nikola, Callum, and Posht. At one point, Nikola succumbed to one of the spells and began seeking out Garrity, providing some rather humorous in-game dialogue. After the battle, we found large snake-like slither marks in the snow. So it would seem the yuan-ti were involved, if not running the dig site. Hmmm…
...and the giants feel the burn!
15 hill giants and 20 ogres later, the battle was at last over. It was a rip-roaring affair, a good old-fashioned brawl that left the snow stained crimson and the battleground littered with the corpses of the oppressors. After healing up and gathering ourselves, we poked around the dig site and found what the yuan-ti were looking for: a buried cache of ancient coins, baubles, and 4 magic tiles. It pays to dig in the right location, and also to correctly answer three questions posed by a magic mouth.
Returning to the Pillar of Fire, we don’t even have time to reveal the secrets of the altar, for as soon as we place the magic tiles, we are greeted by the taunting voice of our old friend T’See Larak! He and his minions are levitating in the darkness above us, and orders us to back off from the altar. As this exchange is taking place, a third party arrives: a half-dozen Thayans, led by a pair of Red Wizards.
Holy dilemmas, Batman! What do we do? Stay and fight? If we fight, do the drow and Thayans gang up on us, or will it be a true free-for-all? If we win, there’s a good chance we could even recover the Red Sword! Or do we flee, and live to fight another day? We manage to surprise our DM by the swiftness of our choice: turn tail and run. Garrity teleports and Posht word of recalls the party to safety, but only after we take one of the four tiles from the Pillar’s altar for good measure.
Leaving the tile with Garrity’s father in Relkath’s Foot for safekeeping, the party teleports back to the cave to investigate. We find several bodies at the scene of the battle, and we surmise that the Thayans appear to have come up short. Their meat shields are all dead (3 or 4 of them), while only a couple of drow bodies are present. The damage indicates a pitched battle, and even the altar has been battered. I’m not sure who would benefit more from destroying the altar, the Thayans or the drow, but now it would appear that the only way to un-attune the Red Sword from Nikola is to kill him. And I’m pretty sure that T’See has no qualms about that particular scenario.
Whew! That was a busy 16 hours. Sure, we weren't gaming every minute, and our cleric was AWOL for a couple of hours, but we still managed to wring every ounce of fun out of the time spent around the gaming table. My friends are the best! Happy New Year one and all, and may 2012 be a peaceful and prosperous year for you and yours. Thanks for stopping by.