Scaled Down Scales

Back in Sayre, Krasire Gets Down to Some Politics
...But a Blockade Threatens...

… to Upend his Support of Amyria…

…when another candidate tries a gambit to take advantage of it.

When Krasire returned to Sayre, he found the Coalition in disarray.

After Kalad, the paladin from Overlook was killed, Lord Torrance rushed out to avenge his death. But the Githyanki assassins had left behind an ambush, which killed Torrance himself.

With two of the top leaders dead, Amyria told Krasire the Coalition needed new leadership. After careful consideration of the alternatives, the Shardmind convinced Amyria she should run for the office.

Two other candidates had put themselves forward: Eoffram Troyas, a half-elf member of the Council in Brindol, and Quelenna Entromiel, an Eladrin merchant who rules over the settlement of Dornaithos.

Krasire believes Troyas, who hasn’t even been chosen for the Elsir Vale seat vacated by Kalad yet, is to brash and aggressive to lead the Coalition. And Quelenna is just the opposite — convinced a defensive posture will eventually win without diverting too many resources from trade.

With Bejam already backing Amyria because of Krasire’s intervention to save his island from a Winter-Court dragon who had thrown in with the Githyanki, Krasire decided to start his campaign for Amyria by targeting the respresentative of the distant city of Sherrbyr, Deacon Inogo Dravitch.

Belinda was able to open a portal to the village of one of her father’s vassals, which made his journey to Sherrbyr a lot quicker. He found a religious community open to many religions. So varied were the opinions, the entire society seemed caught up in endless debate.

Open-air forums were everywhere, so Krasire decided to take advantage of this. He set himself up on a soapbox in one of the open squares and began propounding on the history of warfare and the importance of all the various religions in that history. Didn’t take him long before he had the crowd squarely in Amyria’s court.

“That should help Inogo see the wisdom of siding with Amyria,” he told himself.

As Belinda got ready for the musical to start, a young elven lady sat down beside her. “That’s funny,” she thought. “Here I am at a play about an elven princess, and a girl sits next to me who looks just like a high elven princess.” So she started up a conversation.

Returning to Sayre, Krasire found the city in an uproar. Hobgoblin brigands were blockading trade in the Elsir Vale. The Elsir Consortium was crippled by the blockade, and Quelenna Entromiel was quick to exploit the situation for her own political gain.

“The Consortium is a competitor of mine,” the ruler of Dornaithos told the people. “But this demonstrates what I’ve been saying all along. Trade will be vital to defeating the Githyanki threat.” Quelenna announced she was hiring mercenaries to break the blockade. “Trade protects itself. I will put up the money to keep the resources flowing.”

Figuring that hiring mercenaries would take awhile, Krasire decided it was time to fly his hippogriff, Xerxes, to break the blockade before Quelenna got all the credit.

He flew out and found a few Hobgoblins blocking a bridge.

“Not much of a blockade,” he thought. “I can take them out before the mercenaries arrive. Then I can tell everyone Amyria sent me out to scout the blockade and her quick thinking and careful planning allowed me to break it quickly.”

Sure enough, he was able to kill two of the Hobgoblins with a quick Irruption of the Living Gate. The third Hobgoblin was obviously a lot tougher.

“Must be a veteran,” Krasire realized.

Hanging back and hitting the creature with his mental powers, the Shardmind was able to bloody it without taking damage. But then he got overconfident and had Xerxes swoop in for the kill.

The Hobgoblin was ready for it. With a heroic leap, he grabbed Xerxes’s claw and pulled him close enough to swing his axe at the Hippogriff.

Seeing the wound his mount had taken, Krasire jumped to the ground and engaged the Hobgoblin Vet hand to hand.

Much more to the Hobgoblin’s liking.

Soon the Shardmind was bloodied as well, desperately trying to heal himself while he wore down the veteran. Then the Hobgoblin got in a lucky blow and Krasire went down.

When he regained consciousness, Xerxes was licking his face and the Hobgoblin was dead nearby. He could see Quelenna’s mercenaries removing its head and mounting it on a pike. Apparently they had arrived in time to finish off the Hobgoblin and revive him.

By the time he got back to Sayre, Quelenna’s partisans were already celebrating her “victory” over the blockade.

The trade queen’s gambit had paid off.

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One Week After the Coalition Meeting
...Failed to Decide They Need a Leader...

…Civiron, a sister city to Sayre, was burned to the ground…

…5,000 were killed, and the Coalition elected Lord Torrance as its leader. Torrance sent an emissary to Overlook, telling Kalad that the Coalition was willing to admit they were wrong about selecting a leader. This proved to be enough to convince the proud dwarven paladin to bring Overlook back into the coalition.

Krasire stopped to try to find the bodies of Klaxi and Lyrindel before he fled the collapsing iceberg. Without the enhanced magic of the Seed of Winter, its structural integrity was not going to last long.

Relvain Dragonpinner showed no such compunctions. The shieldmaiden headed out the secret door as soon as the first cracks began to show in the ice overhead.

Noticing objects embedded in one of the icy walls, the Shardmind threw everything he had into breaking them free. Sure enough, it was Klaxi and Lyrindel as they had been captured in ice by the gargoyles.

The prospect of carrying two bodies out of the magickal ice structure that was already breaking apart around him was too much for Krasire to try on his own, so he headed off to the dragon’s treasure room. He was able to leap up the slippery blocks of crumbling ice to get to the secret door to the Grand Hall where the Ice Gargoyles had killed Klaxi and Lyrindel, but he got the idea that acrobatics — as good as he was at them — might not be the best way to handle the slippery surfaces.

A hard run through the hall convinced him that was little better as a strategy for dealing with the dangerous surfaces.

In the Frost Giant Enclave, he found the rest of the party had left with Relvain, abandoning Uarion. The Githzerai mindmage insisted he was no longer under the control of the Seed of Winter and asked Krasire if he brought it with him. When the Shardmind admitted he had forgotten the Artifact, they returned to Chillreaver’s Chamber.

That return was made easier by the fact that Uarion had spent so much time as Chillreaver’s slave. He knew exactly how to open the door straight into the chamber. He simply dropped to his knees and bowed his head to the ice.

“Prepare for supplication in the proper manner,” Krasire said, remembering the words written on the ice. Those words, along with the door they were written upon, slid into the wall and they could see the Seed of Winter lying on the floor below.

As the Seed implored them to return it to the Winter Court, Uarion told Krasire to stand on the other side of the gallery. He blasted a Concussion Orb directly under the Seed, throwing it up into the hands of Krasire.

Snatching the acorn-shaped artifact from the air, Krasire spotted the best way back to the enclave where he saw the body of a Winter Wolf he had checked out earlier. It was still dead.

By now, the Shardmind was convinced getting out was going to prove harder than he thought at first. So he began using his arcane knowledge to find the best way out. After all, the iceberg was little more than a crystal held together with magic. Who better than a Shardmind to figure out how it would come apart?

This insight told him athletics might be the best way to climb down, followed by a leap or two to make his way the room where Uarion had imprisoned his ice-magma hybrids. He found the best way down a hole where Klaxi had left a rope pinned with the stolen trident.

When he got to Xurgelmek’s Chamber, his crystal prowess showed him the spot where a strategic stomp created a rough stair down to the lower level. Calling on all his endurance he was able to make it to the stairs before they collapsed.

The combination of his perception and his arcane knowledge was all it took to get him and Uarion to the last of the strange vessels — the Apparatuses of Kwalish — which looked like mechanical lobsters.

“They brought me here,” he told Uarion. “They should get us back to Nefelus.”

On his way to join the Coalition Council in Sayre, Kalad was assassinated by a crack team of Githyanki killers.

The actor who played Titus Androwdicus in Jerath’s play told Avenglen the bard was currently working on a much better play, called Roland and Juliette, which was currently on the road in a place called Sayre. He suggested it was a much more cultured city than Overlook and a better place to see good theater.

As she headed out of Elsir Vale toward this university town, Avenglen recognized the signs of war all around her. She had seen enough wars in her 146 years to spot the clues: refugees on the road, soldiers looking very serious on patrol.

As she neared Sayre, she saw a large group of soldiers heading out on what looked like an important mission.

Inside the city, she found accommodations at the River Jewel which turned out to be quite a nice inn. The clerk told he how to find the theater where she could see Roland and Juliette. He even mentioned Jerath was staying at the River Jewel himself.

Lord Torrance of Sayre ordered an immediate response to the outrage — the heroic dwarf paladin assassinated by Githyanki. But the Githyanki had already escaped via a portal to the Winter Court area of the Feywild. Anticipating the response, they had laid an ambush — manned by Hobgobilins — which caught Lord Torrance off guard and killed him.

Krasire brought the vessel back to Nefelus and was greeted by a very happy member of the Thraxinium, named Bejam. Amyria was there as well and they led him to a big parade were the people of the city feted him as the hero who had saved their city. The mages who had protected the island while Krasire was defeating the dragon were also hailed as heroes.

Amyria reminded him that the purpose of all this was to get Nefelus to join the alliance and send a representative to serve on the council. She suggested the end of the island’s isolation was over and the only problem might be Bejam’s willingness to serve on the council.

Krasire talked it over with Bejam and found that mage was struggling with this decision and wanted to do what was best for his people. But the Shardmind was able to convince him that representing those people on the council might be the best way to serve them.

Impressed with the arcane power of the mages of Thraxinium, Krasire pointed out those powers could best be applied to the protection of Nefelus through the alliance if he was representing them on the council. All it took was a bit more diplomacy and Bejam agreed to leave with Amyria as soon as he told the Thraxinium of his decision.

Once on the Conqueror, Krasire discovered the vessel was capable of flying. Although it had been anchored in the harbor at Nefelus, once Tokk’it and his ghostly crew got it under way, it was airborne in a short time, flying towards Sayre. Belinda went on ahead to get back to her studies at the university.

But it wasn’t long before she was back with bad news: Although the Coalition’s decision to name a leader — Lord Torrance, as it turned out — convinced Kalad to rejoin the council, he was assassinated on his way to rejoin them in Sayre. Lord Torrance was riding out to capture the Githyanki assassins who had pulled off this foul deed.

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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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