Shimmerglen to Hook Mountain Edit
Under Yap’s guidance, the heroes continued into the heart of the Shimmerglen, there to find the White Willow and the swamp’s former protector Mariana. The pixie led them to a still stretch of water surrounded by dying willows, informing them that his mistress lay within but refusing to accompany them any further.
The men paddled warily to the far side of the lake in search of Mariana. They did not have to wait long, before a spectral form rose before them, cursing them for having allowed Lamatar to fall to the ogres at Fort Rannick. This vision of Mariana was not at all what they had expected; to say the nymph had let herself go was a gross understatement in light of the horror they faced.
Standing bravely in the face of her wrath, the companions explained that Lamatar had not in fact been at Fort Rannick when it fell, having left to visit the lady. Mariana stated that he had never arrived, but that the swamp had been overrun by ogres, defiling and destroying her home before slaying her. This ghostly vision was all that remained of her, tied as she was to the land. Mariana stated that she had tried to return Lamatar’s soul to his body but this had failed, with some foul magic presumably preventing his return. The heroes were slightly dubious given that she was in possession of neither Lamatar’s body nor his soul, wondering whether the resurrection had in fact failed because he was not dead. Mariana however was adamant that she knew he was dead, and that the ogres had either taken his body back to their abode, or would know where it was. She was desperate for even a lock of his hair, that she may use the last traces of her power to return him to life before she herself faded.
The heroes agreed to search for Lamatar or his remains, beginning in the only location they knew of that may give some clue; it seemed all roads led to Hook Mountain.
Not immediately, however, as Belor was keen to find out first when the next round of his gambling tournament was to be held; there was, after all, a wish at stake.
On returning to Turtleback Ferry the companions were greeted by the sight of a large funeral pyre. They were informed that after the flood waters had receded, six bodies were found in a shack, their deaths most certainly not flood-related. The bodies had been those of a woman and five men, found in varying states of undress, and all were afflicted with the marks of bites and scratches, as if from some beast. The victims were all identified as being residents from the pleasure barge. Further, Turtleback Ferry’s priest informed them that one of the victims was a man they had come here seeking, the cousin of Sandpoint’s mayor, whose name had been on the “refer” list the cultists had kept.
Also present at the pyre were the dwarf Milatine, his brother , and one of their companions. Conspicuously absent was Ruorn, the half-orc warrior from their band, who the heroes learned had been one of the victims. He had not been a gambler, having simply accompanied Milatine here to the contest, but was renowned as a womaniser. Milatine was unsure, however, whether this had anything to do with his death. All of the dead had little relationship to one another, it seemed.
Twitch decided to take a look at the shack where the bodies were found for some clue as to the “beast” whose marks were found on the bodies, given that the cremated bodies themselves were now of little use. However, the flood waters had washed all traces away, and several hours later the druid returned to the barge none the wiser.
Meanwhile Belor, accompanied by Jon and Tevan, had decided to investigate the “high-roller club” that Lucilla had mentioned to the warrior. Belor initially questioned one of the staff on the barge, who initially denied any knowledge of such a thing, then asked for a sign that the three did not possess. Belor, however, used the persuasiveness that only wearing a dead dragon’s skull for a hat could convey, and the three were led to another room.
Here resided a halfling who asked them if they were they to become members. On responding affirmatively, the halfling said that he would tattoo them with the required membership sigil. Belor, Jon, and Tevan all baulked at this, and on further questioning discovered that the tattoo was to be of a seven-pointed star. This knowledge made Belor and Jon even more reluctant to participate, while Tevan, unaware as he was of his new companions’ previous adventures, would not allow his beautiful body to be defiled. Thinking quickly, Belor fished out the seven-pointed star amulet he was still in possession of. The Halfling was surprised, never having seen the secret symbol in such a form, but the companions hoped they had allayed his suspicions. Nevertheless, the companions felt more comfortable staying the night in TurtleBack Ferry’s Inn.
Settling down to sleep after more turtle-based fare, Belor that night dreamed of a semi-naked woman, who said that she was waiting for him downstairs. The dream was unusual in both its vividness and the fact that there was only one woman and she was only semi-naked, and and as such his arousal also included his suspicions.
Belor made his way downstairs, but not before informing Jon. The voyeuristic sorcerer followed invisibly as Belor continued on his way, also banging on the doors of both Tevan and Twitch on the way. The paladin followed exited his door in time to see Belor descending the stairs and followed, as did Twitch, in the form of a small bat.
Descending the stairs Belor discovered that the woman from his dream was indeed waiting eagerly for him, introducing herself as Lila. Deciding to play out the situation and see where it led, he was just unbuckling his pants when three armed and armoured men stormed in from another door. The leader cursed both the woman for cheating on him and Belor for perpetuating the act, and the three attacked.
Tevan tried to reason with the men to avoid bloodshed, as it seemed they had all been duped, but to no avail. The leader charged forward, while his associates primed crossbows.
As Belor joined combat, supported by Jon’s magic, Twitch threw up a wall of air to deflect the crossbow bolts. One man threw sown his crossbow and charged into combat, while the other was transfixed by Jon’s beautiful rainbow. The battle was brief and bloody, and ended with the jealous man unconscious and his companions dead.
The woman was questioned, and revealed she was here at Lucilla’s insistence, and had not meant to cause any trouble. After an extensive body search, Belor found that the woman did sport one of the star tattoos. The companions decided that it was time to leave Turtleback Ferry for now; addressing matters at Hook Mountain seemed more urgent. They departed immediately for Fort Rannick, keen to inform the remaining Black Arrows of developments, taking the woman with them as it seemed unlikely that she would survive if left here.
Arriving at Fort Rannick, tehe heroes were greeted warmly at the gate by Vale, who informed them that Kalar had disappeared, presumably having deserted the Black Arrows. The heroes filled in Vale, Jakardros and Deeliah on their search for Lamatar, and their intention to head to Hook Mountain >Jakardros ponted out the mountain peak in the distance, but admitted that he could provide no further information, as none of them had ever ventured near enough, except that they believed the leader would be at the top. The heroes left Lila at the Fort and headed to the ogre stronghold.
Approaching Hook Mountain it became clear that the ascend would be treacherous, snow and ice compounding the already challenging climb. Twitch transformed himself into a storm roc, and circled upward toward the mountain peak with his companions nestled on his broad feathered back. There was only one entrance apparent to the mountain, and Twitch glided down to alight on the landing, where the rest of the group jumped to the ground.
Two ogres emerged from the cave, and Twitch quickly winged his way forward to rend one with beak and talons, his companions on foot chasing behind. Based on their previous encounters with ogres the druid was confident he would easily dispatch this beast, however it quickly became apparent that these guardians of the Mountain were more competent than those he had faced before. While scoring several deep wounds on his opponent with his natural weapons, the druid’s ferocity was no match for the ogre’s skill with his wicked ogre hook, and Twitch soon became a mass of bleeding feathers. Fortunately his druidic connection with all things natural allowed him to control his bleeding even in his unconscious state, and he narrowly avoided a grisly death. His companions, meanwhile, engaged and defeated the ogres.
Tevan used his healing powers on Twitch, and then the group as a whole as they had been badly mauled by the ferocity of the ogres. It occurred to the heroes that they had become extremely reliant on the abilities of their newest companion, and they began to feel fortunate they had ever made it to this point without him.
As they entered the cave entrance, the group noticed what appeared to be enormous rib bones jutting up from the ground.
“Dragon” Jon stated confidently “Possibly blue?”
The group had no idea how the sorcerer would be able to tell the colour of a dragon from a few bones, but decided not to ask.
The cave soon opened up into a larger area, notable for the enormous staircase at one end, and the even more enormous statue in the room. The statue stood fully 40 feet high, encrusted with gems and precious metals, and a sculpted Sihedron amulet lay against its chest.
As they cautiously approached the stairs they heard voices from ahead, and Twitch decided to try to scout ahead in the absence of Krolmn. While not making the most stealthy progression ever seen (or not seen), he did manage to peer over the top step and observe another ogre and a Hill giant in the chamber ahead.
Feeling more cautious in light of their recent encounter, Twitch informed his companions and recommended they try to damage the beasts from a distance this time. The druid called upon the storm energy of which he was so fond, then returned to the top of the stairs and unleashed a flurry of sleet and ice into the chamber.
The ogre and giant attempted to charge toward the companions but struggled with the slippery surface, the ogre in particular making little headway toward them. While the beasts lumbered slowly toward the stairs, they were met with bolts of lightning from the druid and arcane and acidic energy from Jon. Belor even pulled out his little-used bow to send a few arrows toward them, as Tevan braced for the inevitable melee that would ensue as the distance was closed.
Had Krolmn been present with his steady eye and hand speeding his small arrows toward their foes the plan would probably have worked even more effectively, but despite his absence the ogre fell before closing within range, as they focused their attacks upon it. The giant thus made its way to the edge of the sleet storm with little damage, but was heroically cut down by Tevan and Belor.
Twitch dismissed the icy storm, and they made ready to continue further into the mountain.