Scaled Down Scales

Relvain the Dragonpinner
...Is Born

The Shieldmaiden Puts Her Shield…

…to a use no dwarven shield has ever been put before: pinning an exarch of Tiamat to the wall.

“The mages must be desperate to save their people. They send outsiders here to do their work. How weak! How pathetic! Soon the storm comes to them, and nothing will escape my wrath!”
— Chillreaver, Exarch of Tiamat

As she stepped into the chamber Chillreaver had constructed to house the Seed of Winter, Relvain Blackaxe was impressed by the terrifying sight.

The room was bathed in blue-white light, with beams focused on a small white object floating atop a pedestal high above her head. The beams seemed to originate from 10 silvery mirrors positioned along the east and west sides of the walkway 30 feet above the secret door they entered through.

Down on the level where she and the Shardmind stood, she could see the base of the pedestal where the beams were focused; the pedestal’s length made it appear almost like an ice obelisk. An energy hung about the room, and the air was colder than they’d felt anywhere else in the complex.

Briefly, she felt an invasive presence in her mind, as if it is searching for something . . . and then it was gone.

She saw that sat upon a rune-inscribed icy dais just in front of the secret entrance to the Treasure Chamber. A gigantic, two-headed white dragon met her gaze, its eyes black as the soulless depths and its mouths smoking with its icy breath.

A dire warning, then it attacked.

Her counter-attack was able to concentrate the dragon’s attention on herself. She and Krasire were able to create an opening so the Shardmind got around to the other side. Rather attacking from both sides, however, they decided the Psion should go about smashing the mirrors which seemed to be powering the small white object — the Seed of Winter, they assumed.

Krasire had some initial success, but he soon disappeared around the corner and Relvain heard no more mirrors breaking. She began to fear for their mission, even though the dragon was having a lot of difficulty hitting her. Trying to escape and bring back some help for Krasire, Relvain backed away from the two-headed dragon.

But the dragon was having none of that. Leaping into the air, it flew into the Treasure Chamber and blocked the only way out. That put its back against the wall and gave Relvain her chance. Her shield-trainers called it The Shield and a Hard Place. Placing her shield against the body of the dragon, she pressed it against the wall of ice, pinning it there.

And Relvain Dragonpinner was born. For the rest of her life, Relvain Blackaxe would remember the helplessness in the Exarch’s four eyes as she held it there.

“A small victory, perhaps,” thought the shieldmaiden, yet it gave her the hope she needed to continue once the dragon broke free.

Eventually, though her strength began to fade and she knew the battle was in the hands of Krasire. Unless he could break the rest of the mirrors, the dragon was sure to outlast her.

Avenglen regarded the enraged dwarf with curiosity. She found him outside the Orb Theatre, owned by a famous Drow Bard named Jerath. The dwarf was passing out handbills, which accused Jerath of plagiarizing some of his work. But it seemed to somewhat short of evidence of actual plagiarism. She went inside and saw the play — a bloody work called Titus Androwdicus — and talked to the main actor after the show. He had other explanations for Murrik Ironfell’s anger.

He knew it was a desperation measure, but Krasire was convinced he had to try something. Mental communication with the Seed of Winter was risky, yet it was something only a Psion like himself could try.

His desperation was well-informed: While the dwarven shieldmaiden was able to battle the two-headed dragon to a standstill — each of them able to damage the other only slowly — he could see she was weakening. The Exarch of Tiamat was simply able to take more damage than the plucky dwarf.

The Seed of Winter and Krasire, on the other hand, had reached a different kind of stalemate. His Irruption of the Living Gate had been able to break two of the mirrors which were powering the Artifact as soon as he had entered the room.

He had hoped to use the Gate to teleport to the upper level of the icy room where the mirrors were. The icy walls were too slick for his to climb. The Seed had stymied this plan with some kind of mental attack. Since that time, the Seed had dominated his mind, forcing him two the far end of the room where eight more mirrors poured energies from all over the world into the Seed itself.

“Why do you serve this dragon?” he asked the Seed. “Why not break free and work with us instead?”

He was not sure such a message would even get through. But answer came nonetheless. He was able to understand the mind of the Seed of Winter to such a degree that only a Psion could achieve. The Seed had four goals which informed its actions.

  • Bring the touch of winter to even the most sweltering climes.
  • Oppose the agents of the Summer Fey and elemental fire.
  • Demand obedience from the weak and frail.
  • Be reunited with the Winter Court in the Feywilde.

“We could help you,” he told the Seed. “We could take you to the Winter Court.”

The Concordance the Artifact had reached with the Exarch was too strong. He could tell the offer was tempting the Seed, but Chillreaver was allowing the Seed to bring cold and ice to this tropical Paradise and it was demanding obedience from the Council of Mages who ruled the place.

Their agreement on these two principles had allowed the dragon and the Seed to reach a level of Concordance that practically welded their minds into one. Krasire could see the Exarch was using the Seed of Winter for its own purposes. He also saw it would never see that itself as long as the mirrors were giving it such power.

He had to break the mirrors. First, however, he had to break free of the Seed’s mental grasp.

Then, he got his chance: When the Artifact’s attacks failed, he teleported to the upper level and ran to hide from the Seed’s line of sight in an alcove where the main door was still closed. From there, he was able to finish off the mirrors on the side where his Living Gate had irrupted earlier.

“Fortunately, I was able to preserve my mental powers while I was dominated.”

But some of the mirrors on the other side were out of the reach of his mental blasts. So he ran for a different kind of protection: Each mirror was in its own tiny alcove; by keeping his body pressed against the wall of the nearer alcoves, he was able to stay out of the line of sight of the acorn-shaped Artifact.

He broke the first two mirrors by dashing from alcove to alcove. The third alcove presented a different problem. Situated directly in front of the Seed of Winter, its walls provided him no protection from its line of sight. He knew he could not allow it to resume its domination of his mind.

So he ran behind the mirror and hid from it there. When the Seed shifted its focus to Relvain, he was able to smash the eighth mirror from behind and dash to hide behind the ninth mirror.

The dwarf fell once both the dragon and the Seed were using their powers on her. So, Krasire found himself trapped in the next-to last alcove by the dragon. His Kinetic Wave was perfect for this situation, though, and he used it to blast the mirror and the dragon simultaneously.

The mirror shattered, the dragon was pushed back 20 feet, and he dashed to hide behind the final mirror.

The dwarf had recovered enough to try to distract the dragon from below and another Kinetic Wave shattered the final mirror. As it fell in pieces to the floor 30 feet below, the Seed of Winter fell from its pedestal as well.

The dragon looked around in alarm as a blast of energy crackled through the room. It flew out of the room into its treasure chamber and out a hole in the top of that room — which they had noticed earlier.

Seconds later it became apparent what the dragon was fleeing. A great rumbling sound was followed by deafening cracks. The magic which sustained Icehome was becoming undone, and the whole structure would soon crumble into the sea.

They had to get out of there.

In a hurry.

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New Heroes Arrive
...And Take Down the Ice Gargoyles...

…With a Few Comments About the Bravery…

…of the Adventurers Waiting in the Wings.

“Pass through this portal and enter the presence of Chillreaver, master of Icehome, greatest among the Dark Queen’s frozen children. Prepare for supplication in the proper manner, and you can enter his fearsome domain and receive his cold gift.” Using his arcane powers, Krasire was able to see through the illusion which was hiding these words.

But he didn’t have much time to figure out what they meant. With the sounds of cracking ice, two of the statues came to life.

At first he had a lot of confidence in his ability to damage them. When the grabbed him, he could still use his mental powers to chip away at them. The dwarven defender who came up here with him — after berating the wounded warriors below as cowards — was able to keep one of them occupied most of the time.

Even when he was grabbed, failed to escape, and imprisoned in an ice-cube jail, he could still hit the Ice Gargoyles and escape with a teleport.

Eventually his mental powers began to flag, and he ran out of teleports. Then his confidence began to flag as well.

Bloodied, he fought on. But he began to wonder if this would be his last fight. A claw attack took him down. And, as he slipped out of consciousness, his logical mind could not fail to notice that the life force that animated his crystals was fading, too.

Avenglen finally found civilization in the small human city of Fallcrest. The High Warden who ruled in his small court seemed unusually familiar with the arts in the area. Warden Markelhay even said he knew the famous Drow Bard himself. Apparently Jerath had spent a short amount of time in Fallcrest before moving on to bigger and better things in the Elsir Vale — to the west. His wife explained that the Bard had built a theater — called The Orb Theater — in the Dwarven city of Overlook. She even suggested her daughter was reporting that his fame had spread to Sayre, a university city closer to the coast.

Relvain Blackaxe gave the fallen Psion a potion of regeneration. Made from Troll blood, the potion would keep the Shardmind on his feet.

Sure enough, Krasire was able to resume his attacks. Relvain wasn’t certain he would ever resume his confidence. The brush with death had weakened his resolve and he called out an apology: “I’m sorry if my weakness caused your death.”

The shieldmaiden, however, was having none of that. “Oh, I’m not going to die. And, with that potion in your bloodstream, I don’t think you will, either.”

She saw the growing recognition in his eyes as he seemed to figure out how the potion could keep on healing him. His renewed determination and fancy footwork helped her take down one of the gargoyles.

Then it was easy for her to force the last statue’s attention to remain on her — she was a Dwarven Defender, after all — and Krasire was able to shift away and bring his mental powers to bear.

Then it was only a matter of time before they were victorious.

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If 2 Heroes Fall in an Iceberg
...and no one hears...

…does it make a sound?

Both Klaxi and Lyrindel died fighting some Ice Gargoyles, but no one will ever know how bravely they fought, how close they came to defeating the last gargoyle, or what they might have learned about them because no one saw they die and survived.

Those who did survive will just have to fight their fight all over again and learn it all themselves.

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Nara Strikes Back
Ice-Boosted Giants Return...

…To Take Back Their Lair

Borg could not see newcomer from his perch on the giants’ icy platform, but he could hear her. “I think it’s Andrea Ravn,” the Hamadryad told him. She seemed reassured.

When Nara returned, he was glad they had help. Nara seemed energized. When they drove her up the slide, she was hardly injured. But now the icy blue glow in her eyes was stronger. Borg could only speculate about what was different.

“Maybe the Seed of Winter has some power beyond enslaving these creatures,” he thought to himself. “It could have given her special cold powers. Or something.”

It didn’t take long before he got a look at the newcomer: Nara slid both of them off the edge into the waters below, as another Winter Wolf attacked them and the Frost Giant peppered them with icy bolts.

The newcomer was a Dragonborn warlord. Not ideal as a defender, but better than Borg himself.

Or the druid: Lyrindel was constantly transforming back and forth between her beast form — a swarm of insects — and her dryad form. It made it hard to injured her permanently, but it didn’t do much to hold the wolf back.

Andrea Ravn suddenly realized this was no ordinary dream. She had heard of DreamQuests before, but she had never experienced one. The fortuneteller in the dream…something was fishy about her. “Thank you for coming, my friends,” the fortuneteller said to those gathered there. But Andrea was not sure she was a friend. She searched the dream house for clues about what was wrong…and failed. She awoke from the dream unrested. She found she was no longer in the Solace Bole. “Back in the iceberg, I see.” She saw some of her companions still sleeping, but Lyrindel was missing. She climbed up the tunnel the Umber Hulks had excavated. But before she found the dryad, she heard a giant attacking.

When they finally killed off the wolf, Lyrindel could see that Andrea was having trouble keeping all their spirits up. They managed to get back up the ice stairs, but Nara kept pushing them toward the edges.

“Keep to the center of the platform!” she shouted. And the new elf was doing a good job at that. But it was hard for Lyrindel and Andrea to flank the other giant sometimes without getting perilously close to the drop-off.

Sure enough: When Lyrindel shifted back to her humanoid form, Nara caught her on the slippery ice and sent her off the 30-foot drop. Not into the icy water this time, but she took more damage falling to the hard ice of the iceberg.

“Now I’m going to have to cross the stream again,” she thought. “Through that nasty fog.”

Yet the new elf — Borg, he said his name was — turned out to be a fast thinker. Before she could begin the roundabout path through the fog, he pointed at the ice at his feet. Green tendrils began to form. Through the ice, Lyrindel could see them growing rapidly inside the ice, finally reaching the ice below her, near her own feet. There they burst out, forming a portal in front of her.

“Step through!” he shouted from above.

When she did, she found herself back up on the platform. “That was easier than jumping the stream through that icy fog.”

Looking around, she saw that Andrea was about to pass out, even though they had finished off Nara’s ice-giant companion. Fortunately she and Borg were able to concentrate their damage on Nara and finish her off before the Dragonborn fell.

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Another Dream
Lyrindel Dreams of Two Dragonborn...

,,,and Realizes she Knows one of them:

Andrea Ravn, the healer in their party.

Garen Bladerun pondered the meaning of his dream: How could someone else steal a part of his soul? “Sure, those who seek the Scale of War believe it is part of my soul.” But Andrea Ravn had no knowledge of his connection to Io. She thought he was dedicated to Bahamat. Not to the Platinum Dragon’s father.

Lyrindel remembered her dream. She was watching Andrea walk through a dark forest. She came to a clearing where a great spear rose from the earth itself. Andrea paused at the edge of the meadow to watch as a great bird flew toward the spear.

Lyrindel realized the bird did not see the spear. The blade of the Earth-Spear was so sharp, so thin, it could hardly be seen when viewed on-edge.

Andrea seemed to realize this. Her view of the spear was slightly aside from the path of the bird. She shouted warning the bird, but the great fowl did not heed her. It flew straight into the great head of the Earth-Spear and cleaved itself into two.

It took Andrea Ravn hours to get back to sleep. When she finally did she found herself in another dream: a quest dream, from which it seemed she could not escape without fulfilling some quest. Not as herself but as a human tasked with rescuing urchins from the grasp of an evil criminal who forced them to steal for him. His name was Gaedren Lamm.

Lyrindel looked on in amazement as the two pieces of the great bird fell, one on either side of the giant spear. For the two pieces did not die. Instead they sprang to the sky again, each a dragon. One of the dragons had metallic scales; the other did not.

Clinging to the head of the spear was a third portion of the great bird. It appeared to be an internal organ, sack-like in shape.

“Probably its stomach,” Lyrindel thought as the organ split open and spilled eight seeds onto the soft ground.

Seven of the seeds grew into dragons who flew off into the distance. The eighth seed sprouted last, into a dragonborn who was fully clad in full plate armor, shining in the sun in the manner of a paladin.

The armored dragonborn walked over to Andrea, who seemed to recognize him. Together they walked back into the wood.

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Two Against the Leader of the Giants
Well, the Local Leader, at Least

Borg and Lyrindel Take on Nara

Lyrindel woke the rest of the Order of the Black Feather — or whatever they were calling themselves — inside the Solace Bole before the ritual’s effect dumped them back on the icy floor the crevasse room. They were still so groggy that most of them went right back to sleep.

Andrea, the warlord, didn’t even really wake up. She seemed to be caught in the depths of some dream. As soon as they were out of the Solace Bole, she lay down on the floor and fell back asleep.

But Lyrindel could see footprints in the snow which told a story: Someone had entered the room while they were hidden away in the Feywilde; the interloper had come in the way they had and immediately turned toward the tunnel excavated by the Ice-Touched Umber Hulks.

Inspecting the footprints, the druid became convinced they were made by an elf.

Re-assured, she entered the excavation and ran into an elven ranger returning to the crevasse room. The elf asked her who she was and explained that he had been sent by the High Lady to warn her about the dangers of the Seed of Winter.

“She told me it was dangerous for a member of the Summer Court to become attuned to it,” the ranger said. “We may need to find a Winter Court fey we can trust so we can hand it off to them. We might be able to carry it for a while, even use it. But we cannot risk extreme attunement.”

She introduced herself and found out the ranger was named Borg. He came from the Moonshae Islands. He told her that he had scouted the next room without being seen. It didn’t look like the giants there were watching the hole that was dug by the Umber Hulks, but they might be spotted if they enter by the main entrance.

The description of the room — which spiraled up to an ice bridge exiting to the next level — gave Lyrindel an idea: If they could sneak past the giants, she might be able to bring down the bridge with Earth Roots.

That might trap the giants on this level. Unfortunately, it would trap her sleeping companions down here with them.

So, they just went with a frontal assault. Borg went with a favorite ranger stance, the Skirmishing Stance. This stance was hampered somewhat by the fact that the giants’ ice arrows and frost attacks could slow or immobilize. Fortunately, they seldom were able to hit him.

Which was good, with their healer asleep and dreaming warlord dreams.

Once they got closer to the stream which flowed through the room, they realized the mist rising from it was dangerous in its own right. And the wolf on the other side was breathing frosty blasts of its own.

But they killed it quickly once they got under the bridge.

Andrea Ravn woke from a strange dream about a dragon and an elemental. She was still in the Solace Bole. The rest of her team was still sleeping around her. But thoughts about the dream kept running around in her head. The elemental clove the dragon in two. That was straight out of her religious training. All dragonborn are taught about the battle between Io and Erek-Hus at an early age. And two dragon-gods arising from the two halves of Io was well-known. But the part about the scales…she had no recollection of that. These thoughts seemed important somehow. And she kept going over and over them in her head. “I must get back to sleep,” she said. But it took her hours before she could actually rest.

Borg finished off the wolf before he tried to cross the river. But the crossing river was hard. As he got close, the mist around rising from the stream began to condense around his legs, slowing his progress.

“That’s gonna make it hard to jump across,” the dryad warned.

So, he decided to swim. Even that was impeded the freezing fog, but he was swept downstream. Finally he emerged from the water to discover an enormous stairway leading up to the ice bridge. He danced across the ice.

Before he even got to the stairs the first giant fell up on the ice bridge.

Seeing her companion go down, other ice giant — apparently named Nara — hightailed it up the steep incline.

Garen Bladerun jerked awake. He found himself in an unaccustomed luxury. “The River Jewel,” he thought to himself, remembering the name of the inn he was staying at. “In Sayre. But that was a weird dream.” Another dragonborn was in the dream, a warlord. And it seemed like she was trying to steal something from him. “Like she was trying to steal a part of my soul.” But that didn’t make any sense. The three who had tried to steal his soul had nothing to do with some warlord.

Hearing the laughter of Lyrindel, Jonalith made his way cautiously up the slope leading out of the crevasse room where they fought the Blue Hulks — the last thing he needed was to slip back into the hole.

Another voice — an elven voice? — joined the hamadryad’s. They seemed to be celebrating their victory over a wolf and a Frost Giant. A very large wolf. “Winter Wolf it looks like to me,” Jonalith. “It almost enough to give credit to the fey stereotype. Frolicking while there’s treasure to be found.”

As Jonalith looked around, he saw piles of equipment. Most of the weapons were too large to swung by any but a giant.

“But that doesn’t mean they don’t have baubles hidden among their personal belongings.”

Sure enough. A quick search revealed a large sack of coins, covered with runes. “Have to ask someone who knew Alexander Winterforged. These look dwarven to me. I’d guess there’s about 10,000 here.”

And Jonalith’s guesses were notoriously accurate, especially where gold was concerned.

It took a little more searching, but he also found a platinum ring with Bahamut’s symbol and a ruby-encrusted letter opener.

Introducing himself to the new elf — who turned out to be a ranger, too — he suggested they go wake up the others. “From the looks of things, about 15 Frost Giants live here. Even with this one, we can’t have accounted for more than a third of their number.”

The two wayward fey agreed, telling him the leader had escaped.

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Ice Cold Umber Hulks
Proof that the Seed of Winter...

…Can Corrupt Creatures Already Corrupted…

…by their very nature.

Klaxi inched his way into the icy chamber. He could hear something moving around in the rugged crevasse which split the upward slope. To his right, a newly excavated tunnel angled upward.

The high end of the tunnel (to the north) appeared to have another exit, but it was obscured by a giant stalagmite of ice.

But the Umber Hulks who had excavated the hole in the wall and were hiding in the crevasse must have heard him, too. Because they exploded out of the gap and rushed toward him.

Blue Umber Hulks.

Ice-Touched.

Klaxi raced out of the crevasse room just ahead of the creatures. Which were obviously under the control of the Seed of Winter.

Making his way to the fancy inn, Borg discovered it was called The River Jewel. It didn’t take long to find the member of the Coalition the Githzerai had told him about. Belinda was young, even for a human. She told him her parents would not like her to spend too much time in Nefelus. “It is under siege, surrounded by a ring of ice which blocks all shipping,” she explained. But I can get you past the ice.

Lyrindel was frustrated. The Ice-Touched Umber Hulks — “Blue Hulks?” she asked herself — had an attack which could daze creatures over a wide area.

They first used it when Klaxi came running out of the room where they hid. Raxor Steelwall rushed in to block their attack and found himself dazed and sliding toward the crevasse.

That seemed to be their strategy: Daze and slide their opponents into their hidey hole, then do a double grabbing attack with both of their claws. Once they had their prey in both claws, all they could do was crush their prey.

And most of the time the members of the Golden Scales — or the Order of the Black Feather, or whatever they were calling themselves these days, now they had joined the Alliance — were able to squirm free.

But dazed they couldn’t do much but swing at the creatures. And it took a lot of swinging to put a dent in the hulks’ armor. They concentrated their damage when they could. And, once they had bloodied the first of their targets, a new set of tactical options opened up.

For the creature could no longer daze with its gaze attacks, although it could still use the blasts from its eyes to slow its opponents.

“I suppose we could bloody all three, before we try to finish this one off,” she thought to herself. Then she saw the bloodied creature lift Klaxi off all of his feet.

“No, I think we should kill this one first. I’m not sure we can afford to take this much damage. After all, we are down to one healer. Warlords are all very good for encouraging others to keep fighting, but they have their limits.”

At the library of Nefelus, Borg asked the librarians about the Seed of Winter. Unfortunately, that raised suspicions. He was soon surrounded by official-looking people who wanted to know if he was part of the forces besieging their island. Once they found he was not, they asked him to help the forces trying to break the siege. He then found himself making his way toward the iceberg (where he suspected the Seed of Winter could be found) in a strange submersible craft which looked like a lobster.

Andrea Ravn could see that Raxor was handing out most of the damage, even if he wasn’t living up to his last name. “Steelwall, indeed. I never spent so much effort healing a wall.”

Indeed, the warlord had to resort to her best group heals to keep everybody alive.

But when she was handing out the orders, the monk was her go-to guy. All she had to do was point out an opening and he would deliver a good hit followed up with a flurry of blows. And when he was surrounded he could distribute that Stone Fist Flurry to a second Hulk.

And he was surrounded a lot. Finally the last of the blue creature went down.

After arguing with some of the others about a ring they found in the nose of one of the blue hulks, Andrea was glad when the druid identified it as a Ring of Personal Gravity. While the warlord knew she could use it, she gave it to Klaxi. Now she was the only healer. She would not be jumping to the fore, where the ring would be most useful.

“I guess my tanking days are done,” she thought ruefully.

Everyone agreed when she pointed out they needed to use their Scroll of the Solace Bole. When she read the words on the scroll, they all found themselves transported to a narrow space inside a tree located somewhere within the Feywilde.

Before she fell asleep, Andrea heard the hamadryad mumble, “Feels almost like home.”

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Uarion Rescued
Against his Will

The Githzerai Mindmage struggled…

,,,with the Seed of Winter even as it forced him to fight against his rescuers.

Klaxi was sure some of the pillars of ice between him and the figure on the far side of the prison were more than just ice stalagmites. He could see motion inside them, and he was sure they contained some of the elementals he had seen when he scouted this room earlier.

“But why would someone hide the elementals inside the ice?”

He approached the nearest pillar and began hacking at it to get to the elemental within. Some kind of fiery glow was visible inside. “Why would magma be associated with an ice elemental?” Klaxi was sure he had seen wind elementals as well, but that made no sense either.

“You have come to threaten the will of my master," a voice from the other end of the room accused. "The Seed must be protected at all costs. Approach no farther and leave the way you arrived, and I shall spare you the agony of the change.”

Klaxi thought he detected a glimmer of uncertainty in the way the creature he had been spoke, as if it were fighting against a force which was dominating its will.

Andrea Ravn rushed past to get to Uarion, the last survivor of Nefelus’s previous expedition to the strange, icy blockade of their tropical home. The Dragonborn Warlord was startled when the Githzerai unleashed a Chillfire Destroyer from the pillar Klaxi was attacking.

“An ice elemental powered by a core of super-heated magma. That explains the fiery glow.”

As Andrea tried to convince the Gith to be rescued, it continued to release elementals (Windwalkers as well as another Destroyer) cackling about how he was not so weak as to be vulnerable to Andrea’s intimidation.

As he continued to damage the first ice elemental, he realized its super-heated core was no longer being confined by the ice. In fact it was starting to burn him if he stood too close.

Once Amyria took him to the iceberg which seemed to be the source of the icy blockade, Raxor Steelwall made his way up through the caves below the ice to a chamber where a dead Behir was surrounded by a group of adventurers. They were plotting their next move, which seemed to revolve around rescuing a captured Githyanki.

Andrea Ravn could see her efforts to negotiate with Uarion were unsuccessful. So she concentrated on knocking the Githzerai unconscious before it could release more elementals.

Unfortunately, two of the ice elementals with red entrails were freed and a bunch of the Windwalkers before they were able to subdue the creature they were sent to rescue. Fearing mindmage shenanigans, he tried to tie the Gith up with rope after gagging him. Lyrindel, the dryad, was able to help (in between unleashing hordes of bugs on the elementals).

Borg followed the monk up the winding corridors inside the iceberg. He was cold. Maybe hitching a ride on the strange craft was not such a good idea.

Jonalith thought he saw the trick: The mindmage would have to be weakened before he could be convinced to shake off the will of the Seed of Winter.

But before he could tell the others, they had knocked out Uarion and were whittling down the Chillfire creatures. Each time one of those succumbed, it exploded in a ball of magma.

But by the time the second one died, they had learned to stand back as it exploded.

Searching the still-unconscious body, they found two potions of vitality and a large blue diamond. “Gotta be worth four or five grand,” the elf thought. But he still wasn’t sure a gag would do any good against a mage whose powers emanated from his mind.

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Even in Death
Li Sun Manages to Save the Party...

…One last Time.

Li Sun knew he was on his last legs. Losing consciousness during the fight with Xurgelmek was the latest sign, but even during the battle at the entrance to Icehome he knew he was burning his inner resources at a furious rate.

As an ardent, he had been taught that a body can only heal so much.

And he knew that his had little left.

But the new fighter — a giant insect of some kind, who called himself “Klaxi” — was going to need some healing if he was to fight the behir. And everybody else seemed to be out it, except Valna.

Hardly a healer.

And, if they didn’t go fight the behir, the giant six-legged magickal lizard was going to come to them. It was already trying to widen the stairway down to where they resting.

When Klaxi charged the creature, Li Sun hoisted his weary bones off the icy floor and circled around to the other side. The behir was able to breathe lightning periodically so it wouldn’t help to stand back. “Might as well trap him between us,” Li Sun thought. “A little flanking never hurt.”

It turned out that getting up close and personal with the creature had its own problems. Not only did it have teeth and claws, but it was able to stomp so hard it could knock everyone around (for a considerable distance) to the ice. And then it devoured Klaxi.

“Well, that’s gonna make it hard to heal him.”

Li Sun could tell the fighter was trying to force his way back out. But even the ardent’s mental powers could not heal someone — or some insect — he could not see.

Fortunately, Li Sun had planted Treachery’s Seed in the behir’s weak little mind at the beginning of the battle. So every time it clawed him, it took a little bit out of itself.

The High Lady reguarded Lyrindel carefully. “You have served the Feywilde well. Mapping the Feydarke was a harrowing mission, but an important one. Now a new threat has arisen, one that cannot be charted. The Winter Court has taken an interest, and the Summer Court as well. The Moonshaes cannot afford to be ignorant of this new threat, an artifact known as The Seed of Winter. It may not even be safe for us to capture it, for it might corrupt us. We may even need it to be in the hands of the Unselie Court themselves.”

Klaxi had never been devoured before. But that did not mean he had to stop fighting.

On Athas, he often fought for his life. Not like this. He could still fight the creature from inside its maw, but getting out was his highest priority. Occasionally he got in an extra blow with one of his arms when the behir tried to attack the ardent.

But he still tried to pry his way out using his athletic skills.

Still having trouble getting free. “At least it cannot swallow anyone else while I’m stuck in its craw.”

When he finally forced his way out, he was close to dying. (“Or being digested,” he thought as the lightning breath flashed around him. “Who would have thought you could be digested by lightning?”)

Li Sun was able to heal him heroically before the behir turned on the healer.

And devoured him as easily as it had devoured Klaxi.

The Thri-Kreen warrior redoubled his attacks on the behir, which was still doing a lot of damage to itself. But Li Sun was having a much harder time escaping the creature’s jaws than Klaxi had. The ardent was trying a different approach — apparently impressed with how difficult his own brute-force methods had proved. He was trying to finesse his way out, twisting and turning as he trying make his way past the creature’s lashing tongue.

But Li Sun was no better as a acrobat than he was as an athlete. Klaxi could tell he had little chance of avoiding digestion. So he attacked the creature with everything he had.

It was not enough.

The behir was still unbloodied when the Thri-Kreen warrior admitted he had to retreat. “Maybe some of the others I saw in the entrance to the strange place will be able to help me pry the ardent clear,” he thought, even while he admitted to himself he was just rationalizing his failure.

He was able to convince one of the elven archers — the one who had come across with him in the mechanical lobster — to race back upstairs and help him rescue Li Sun.

He stood at the top of the stairs in shocked disbelief: Li Sun had somehow extricated himself from the behir. But the ardent lay unconscious at the creature’s feet. Klaxi could see he was still breathing, but he seemed to lack the inner resources to rouse himself.

Even as the behir devoured him again.

Lyrindel looked up at the librarian. The Great Temple of Nefelus was not a place where researchers were often disturbed. “Why have you been so interested in this Seed you seek? Our ritualists have need of the book you are reading.” When she explained that The Seed of Winter was an important artifact and might even be sentient, she was met with a cold stare. Then the ritual casters behind the matron explained that they believed that The Seed of Winter was part of an assault on their island nation. She told them they had to act fast. But the ritualists were dead set on maintaining their protections, not on journeying to the iceberg. So Lyrindel decided to help the brave adventurers they had sent to break the blockade.

Valna of the Moonstair came up the other stair just in time to see the behir devour the ardent healer.

That left him glad he had circled around while the Thri-Kreen charged up the most direct route. Valna found a room with a clear shot at the creature, along with plenty of ice pillars — stalagtites of a sort — behind which he could hide.

Once the blue lizard swallowed Li Sun, it became more lethargic and Valna was happy to reward its digestive torpor with a rain of arrows. Meanwhile, Klaxi was maintaining a steady attack on the creature himself.

All the while swearing to cut open the creature when it died.

They were able to bloody it quickly and then finish it off before it did too much damage to Klaxi. Indeed it hardly even injured Valna himself.

“That the advantage of being a ranger: range.”

When it was all over, they were able to cut Li Sun free of the behir stomach. But he was beyond all healing, partially digested and barely recognizable.

Valna pointed out the obvious to Klaxi. “The creature was only able to devour one of us at a time, with a stomach his size. It appears Li Sun has saved our lives one last time.”

The Thri-Kreen turned to him and said, “‘Even in death, the hero can save others.’ The words of my people always rung true to me. But I never dreamed they would apply to a healer.”

Nearby they found some bodies of the sailors who came with Uarion. The blue frog people were apparently feeding the remains to the behir.

Among the bones they found a set of finely made hide armor. Klaxi recognized the hide as coming from a beast from his home world. Kanks are large hive insects that can sometimes be trained and domesticated. When they cannot, they are hunted for their hides.

Their hides are not as highly valued as those of the Athasian roc or the nightmare beast. But on a world where metal is rare, any hide which can be enchanted is highly valued.

Also found among the bones:

  • a small wooden box containing an elixir of some kind;
  • 2 pieces of amber carved to look like stars;
  • a strange pair of studded leather boots; and
  • some bracers which appear to be nothing more than white linen arm guards.
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Baron of the Blue Frogmen Attacks
With the Reluctant Help of A Frost Eye

Klaxi made his way to the iceberg…

…so much water…

…cold water…

…so cold it became hard like a rock.

Klaxi had a hard time getting his Athasian mind around the concept. Some of it was almost soft, but some of it was so hard that the structure he had entered — the Nefelese called it an “iceberg” — seemed to have been carved from the hard kind.

Inside, he found a wounded dragonborn, an elven archer, and an ardent healer. The archer pointed up one stairway and said told Klaxi there was a multi-legged blue lizard there. “But the big frogman up this one is headed our way!” he shouted, turning to face the other stairs.

Klaxi rushed up the stairs in time to stop a large blue creature frog-like features from rushing the stairs.

“How dare you invade the barony of Xurgelmek!” shouted the frogman. Pretty soon Klaxi was being peppered by icy blasts from a nearby Beholder while the ardent used one of the tridents (apparently seized from a dead frogman) and provided what healing he could.

The ardent did not seem to notice, but it was readily apparent that the Frost-Eye Beholder’s heart was not really in this fight.

“Maybe I can intimidate him once the baron is dead,” Klaxi thought. “We should be able to demonstrate our ability to hurt him, then he may just take off.”

Andrea Ravn shivered on the small ice floe. She was exhausted. She could hear the battle going on up the stairs. It sounded like they needed her healing. But it was all she could do to heal herself. “At least I told them about the Beholder.”

Li Sun was frustrated with the way the Beholder kept vanishing up a hole in the ceiling each time he took a potshot at them, so he concentrated his attacks on Baron Xurgelmek.

And, with Jonalith taking his own sweet time coming up to help them, Li Sun concentrated his healing on the Thri-Keen who was leading the fight. Li Sun had to be impressed with the way the insect creature was able to get in an extra hit every time they had the baron surrounded and it tried to slip away.

Then two more Arctic Suahagin popped out of a hole filled with sea-water, and Li Sun was glad to see Jonalith show up with his bow.

Amyria asked Belinda to take her back to Sayre. “I think it’s time to shore up our Alliance.”

Jonalith concentrated on taking out the two smaller froggies first, then they were able to surround the big one, who kept calling himself Xurgelmek and demanding they surrender.

Once they took out the smaller creatures, Xurgelmek was easily surrounded. Especially with the fancy footwork of the insect warrior who had joined them. The big frog was harder to take down. But, once they did that they were finally able to prevent the Beholder from dodging up a shaft.

Jonalith finally bloodied the icy Beholder, but he was on his last legs. The Thri-Keen warrior was in no better shape, but he began to threaten and intimidate the Frost-Eye. “These froggies sure had plenty of loyalty to their baron, and look what it got them,” he shouted.

At first the intimidation seemed to have little effect, but Klaxi persisted. Eventually the Beholder gave up, babbling something about the broken promises of dragons. Some sharp questioning gave them a basic idea of the layout above. He also told them the captured githzerai was in the room at the top of the shaft in the ceiling.

“The dragon is doing something with the Seed of Winter up near the top.”

Jonalith asked him if he could be trusted if they let him go.

“Yeah, sure. Frost-Eyes can be trusted. I ain’t coming back to this place. They promised me slaves, and I got none. Instead they almost got me killed. You notice that baron guy trying to protect me? Neither did I.”

With that the Beholder dove into the water and disappeared.

A search of Baron Xurgelmek’s body revealed some unusual magical leather bands on his feet, apparently designed to aid in fighting while prone. Since Klaxi spent so much of the fight on the floor, Jonalith immediately thought of the Thri-Keen fighter.

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