Valeriya brought Roast Beast. Those of us who arrived a bit early, Valeriya, Raynard and myself, shared a few bites of steaming tender flesh while we waited. Soon, all were gathered and we set to work. Once the beasty bits were devoured and lips were smacked, we picked up where we left off…
Under the captaincy of Lerustah Half-face, the Frostskimmer pushed onward toward the great looming ice berg in pursuit of a group of Ice Hunters. Forty men, plus Garr and Brokk, worked the oars. Elwood “Four-teeth” Grim called the stroke. Soon, the great iceberg loomed overhead. The cold blue swell washed the foot of a low icy bench about 100′ wide. There, hauled from the sea, lay half a dozen or more kayaks and another half a dozen or so larger umiyak type boats.
After some brief discussion, the Frostskimmer was hauled to shore and tied off. Our heroes stepped out as the remainder of the crew set sails and tarps across the hull in preparation against the coming night. Piles of bones littered the snowy shelf, some giant sized and some smaller. Examination by Terredon revealed the scars of many great tooth marks. Even the largest ribs, some of which were 10′ long, had great deep gouges where the flesh had been rent off by great teeth. In addition, there were smaller piles of human bones, some of which were sheared off or splintered.
Our heroes gave a last nod to the crew of the Frostskimmer and followed a narrow icy ravine upward toward the looming plateau. The ravine drew more narrow as stairs cut into ice emerged from the rough snow covered slope. The sky darkened with the coming evening. Near the top, an ice wall contained a line of ten frozen corpses. Some kind of warning? Three Luskan warriors, a dwarf, and six ice hunters stood frozen inside the glacier-like frozen barrier.
Cautiously proceeding, our heroes emerged atop the plateau. More than sixty villagers stood in a quiet semi-circle. Many of the villagers bore spears or clubs and many more stood with bows at the ready. Cautiously, Tan Meng using the gift of Tongues from Chauntea, began to speak with Ice Hunters. The leader, one known as Barking Seal, and the group exchanged pleasantries. “Go away. No food here. No shelter here. You not welcome here,” said Barking Seal.
Barking Seal informed the group that the Dragon, Arauthator, is dead. His bones littered the beach below. Further, the group is not welcome and can not, must not, spend the night. The situation grew tense as our tired, cold, heroes heroes grew impatient and persistent. Tan Meng offered food. It was apparent, however, that there was a lot of food in the village. Finally, a blind shaman, of a sort, stepped forward, one “Kug’ruk.”
Kug’ruk welcomed our heroes. “Accept our hospitality and welcome. Among our people, it is customary to have a meeting of the champions on meeting a new tribe. If one of yours shall fight Orcaheart, our champion, without help or magic, and win, we shall give you hospitality and comfort. If, however, we win – then you must go and give to us gifts of steel in exchange…one dagger or more each.”
There was some deliberation but it wasn’t long before Brokk stood bare chested with his great axe before the giant of an Ice Hunter, Orcaheart, wielding a great club of tremendous size.
The fight began. Brokk could hit hard and raging, he was all froth and fury. But Orcaheart could take his wrath and deal worse. The blows of Orcaheart’s club crashed home and staggered Brokk repeatedly. Like the blows of great falling glaciers they were. But Brokk stood fast and never cowered. Some of the women of the Ice Hunter clan began to cheer for Brokk – he could take such a beating! Soon, equal numbers were cheering for both champions, and the blood of both spattered the icy field. But the blows of Orcaheart never slowed or wavered, and one final great blow brought Brokk to his knees – and many of the young maids of the ice were at his side and tending his wounds, almost before he fell hard on his face to the ice.
During the fight, some of the Ice Hunter warriors slipped away, back toward the ice ravine leading down to the Frostskimmer. Garr, especially, kept a watchful eye on this fishy business.
As our heroes all settled into a yurt-like tent, complete with cozy hides and a few comfort girls, a platter of fermented fish arrived – compliments of Kug’ruk. All, er, most helped themselves. The fish had a potent flavor; very ripe. Strong. … Soon Raynard, Garr, and Brokk passed out. Exhausted from their trials at sea no doubt (and beating by great club in Brokk’s case). All who had eaten the fish were set with retching and violent diarrhea. Luckily, Valeriya used the divine cleansing powers of her paladin knowledge to remove the poison and their comrades were awoken and much relieved.
Something off with the fish?
Meanwhile, Terredon decided to take a look around the island. In owl form he flew all around the frozen berg, from the smooth snows on the plateau, to the sea-washed edges, he saw no sign of Arauthator or any dragon for that matter. High atop one of the three points at the corners of the island he spotted a great roost – and several feed-sack-sized tightly compressed piles of human bones littering the flat and slope beneath it, apparently the roost of a great predator. Arauthator?
Tan Meng used Clairvoyance to peek into Kug’ruk’s tent. Seeing only the old man in prayer or Augury perhaps, the group set off through the snow. Garr and Himo stayed behind to enjoy the comforts of the comfort girls, and Brokk remained in the warm yurt to have his wounds tended and his biceps oiled.
The group burst into Kug’ruk’s yurt and … a long conversation began. “Yes, the dragon Arauthator still lives, in fact, he is likely slumbering somewhere in the heart of this ice mountain even now. We serve the beast because we have no choice. Some have tried to leave, but the dragon knows all…there is no escape for us. Maybe, if you leave early in the morning, you might make it. But, maybe not.” The Ice Hunters bring the dragon food. A lot of food. The dragon is also served by smaller dragons, little tiny dragon-men. Also, there are ice toads and frozen trolls, called Scrags. Many are below. Maybe twenty scrags. Yes, there had been a wizard such as the group was seeking, Maccath the Crimson. A red-skinned one with horns and a great powerful sorceror. She was captured long ago and now…who can say?
Kug’ruk had peered into his seeing bones and seen that though our heroes will attack the dragon, “many others will die – and death awaits for the People of the Ice, and Kug’ruk … his days are nearly done.”
The old man showed the party a concealed staircase beneath his hut. “Very steep,” he warned. Valeriya led downward.
About 40′ down the steep icy stair, a rime of frost covered the steps and Valeriya lost her footing – only to tumble the 60′ remainder of the stair and then fall 15′ into the center of a large open chamber in the ice. After roping themselves together, the others followed quickly. Soon, all had descended and took in their surroundings. The chamber was cut from the heart ice of the great berg. There was one exit. The wide doorway sloped downward to a lower hallway, also wide and dimly lit with seal oil lamps. The floors were tremendously slippery and it was the best any could do to move at half speed. After some careful figuring and failed attempts at innovation, iron spikes were attached to everyone’s shoes using the jar of super adhesive found in Castle Naerytar.
About that time, the scritching stomping sound of heavy clawed feet approached. Everyone stood quiet and sought cover to one side of the entranceway. As two Scrags entered, our heroes jumped to the attack! Valeriya had purchased a magical shield in Waterdeep. It allowed her to use her voice in a very commanding way and be heard above the din of battle. It also resounded with a very loud “whang!” when struck by an enemy. The Scrags rang it loudly – first with their trident-like spears, and then even louder with their hammering clawed fists.
But our heroes were quite too much for the pair of scrags. They cut them, burned them, decapitated them, and then burned them some more. Other sounds were stirring in the hallway outside. The sounds of battle had summoned the curious and the alarmed. Several giant ice toads approached the doorway from one direction, and two whole ranks of kobolds approached from the other with their crossbows readied.
Terredon opened up with a wall of flame on the ranks of kobolds – all were incinerated in a flipping writhing mass. One toad managed to swallow Garr at one point – but he was soon cut free from the corpse of the riven thing. Several other toads were slain, and a couple escaped.
At the end of the fight, a lone figure with crimson skin approached. It was Maccath. The Tiefling wizard of the Arcane Brotherhood. There was much discussion. Maccath was spared by Arauthator for two reasons (according to Maccath). The first was to help decipher some of the more challenging volumes of the Arcane Brotherhood that Arauthator now owns. Secondly, to serve as rider and master of Arauthator’s mate, Arveiaturace, and to help the great worm overcome her grieving at the loss of her great wizard master (whose decaying corpse still rides the dragon in a great black saddle).
Maccath could testify to several things. One was that she was fairly certain that indeed, the dragon was present in lower chambers slumbering. “The Draakhorn? Oh, yes. That was here, but several servants and attendants dressed in purple robes came and took it after much discussion with Arauthator.” In regards to the ice toads, “they hold a treasure of knowledge beyond accounting. Their leader, Marfulb, is a scholar and a seeker of great wisdom and much is recorded beyond human knowledge in their library below.” Maccath was not really willing to leave without the treasures, the books, the knowledge of the Arcane Brotherhood. “Besides, there is no point – this whole place, it’s all one trap…designed to draw you ever closer and ever deeper and there is no return…there is no escape from Arauthator. Trying to leave via ship while the dragon still breathes is suicide.”
All were a bit beaten. A bit dented, a bit bloodied, and spell slots were empty where before they were full. Maccath commented a time or two with some surprise and more fear that the dragon was not aroused with the sounds of battle. All need to rest!
Everyone climbed back up the stairway and rested. All except Maccath who said it would be safer if she returned to her quarters.
Time passed. Eight hours. In the frozen narrow steep stairwell. Then, down again. This time, below, all lay in shrouded in deep thick fog which limited vision to 15′. It was cold. And dark. Himo went down first. Then others. Soon, all followed down onto the floor of the large ovoid storage chamber. The group set a marching order and walked slowly forward, down into the adjacent hallway.
Suddenly, all hell broke loose. A freezing whirlwind exploded among the group. Many took frost damage. An ice wall appeared in the midst of the party cutting off the front three; Valeriya, Brokk and Himo. A frozen blast of icy death washed through the same, damaging and freezing some. At the same time, the blood curdling roar of a great dragon shattered thought and sent fragments of ice splintering and falling from the ceiling.
And yet, not one of our group of heroes fell into a state of fear. All stood fast. Terredon set to the ice wall, shattering a hole with druidic fire. Valeriya leapt into the fog, drew the black blade Hazirawn, and attacked. The long black blade crackled loudly with evident glee at such a worthy foe. Brokk also joined the fray with his great axe! Shrouded by fog, there was a furious struggle out of sight from the main group. Claw and tail and snapping jaws! Slashing axe and crackling black blade! Raynard stepped forward to cast his Warlock fire! Two rounds in and both Valeriya and Brokk’s blood spattered heavily on the icy floor of the hall – but it was mixed with rich gushes of dragon blood!
Just as Brokk was about to fall from his wounds, Terredon emerged to cast Polymorph on the muscled brute, thereby transforming him into a…. Tyrannosaurus Rex! Then, in a whirl, a wall of ice appeared between Arauthator and the group and the dragon slid, with amazing speed, into the fog and away.
Other than the heaving breaths and gasps of our heroes, and the dripping of their blood, silence.
All is suddenly quiet.
And that is, more or less, where we left off…some weeks ago.
And now, we return. Why are you here? What can you accomplish in your quest to thwart the goals of the Dragon Cult? Where is Maccath? What of the Ice Toads and their leader, Marfulb? What about the Arcane Brotherhood and their treasures and tomes? They would be a worthy ally in your struggles against the Dragon Cult! Was Kug’ruk correct? What about Maccath? Is there actually no escape from Oyaviggaton, the Island of Eternity?