Scaled Down Scales

Following the Slinger
...Into the Common Room...

…The Champions of Argent…

…find yet another Giant Slinger, plus Hill Giants, a Stone Giant, and a Firestorm.

Obanar sent Washington Cambell up the hill. He found the other Champions there, already working their way into the Giant compound.

Seeing the first two doors already open with their great wooden bars laying useless on the packed-earth floors, he found Shadowfox had already unbarred the third door.

But the Champions were hesitant about going further. They told him the Giants knew they were there and were waiting for them on the other side of the wall. They were convinced a Fire Element was in there, too. He wasn’t sure how they knew that, but it turned out to be true.

When Relvain rushed in and engaged the Giants surrounding the door, the Firestorm created a wall of flame which certainly demonstrated its Elemental nature.

“Elementals and Giants working together,” he thought. “They haven’t done that since the days of the Primordials.”

The zone of fire proved difficult to escape. Washington thought it might have some kind of magma in it which could solidify and trap their feet to the floor.

Relvain got free and forced the Stone Giant they had originally mistaken for a Golem into the fire. Once it was surrounded — by Relvain and the others still trapped in the flames — they were able finish it off quickly.

Sarissa The Seer spoke to Roland the Betrayer in contradictions: “The key is no longer the key! The sword is now the dagger! You must bring it to me!” The only dagger he knew was the one he had buried on the other side of the jungle. A long and dangerous walk.

“The Sword of Kas was the symbol of the greatest betrayal of all time: Vecna created the sword for his greatest servant, Kas the Bloody-Handed; Kas used this Artifact to betray its creator.” Sarissa paused before she asked a final riddle. “How could any betrayal surpass this?”

Roland knew the answer to this riddle. If someone were to betray the Queen of Betrayal — Tiamat herself — that would be the most epic betrayal in all of history. He knew who had committed just such a betrayal. “A symbol of a betrayal of that magnitude?” he asked.

She answered. “A dagger.” He knew of only one dagger which could be the symbol the greatest betrayal of all. His own.

Aurora was glad to see that Shadowfox was keeping the Firestorm from widening the flames she was trapped within. Her attacks on the Elemental had attracted the attention of the Slingers, who were concentrating their fire on her.

“I’m glad she’s keeping them off our backs,” she told the others. “But she’s taking a lot of damage, even in Shade form.” Fortunately the new Warlord who had joined them was healing pretty well.

Aurora knew her own healing powers would not have been enough to keep them all alive.

One the Stone Giant went down, she was able to extricate herself from the zone of fire. Then she could team up on the Hill Giants with Relvain.

The Firestorm expanded the blaze until it crossed the entire Common Room.

As usual, Relvain the Dragonpinner was concerned about how everybody was spreading the damage around. Sure, Shadowfox was keeping the two Slingers busy, along with the Firestorm. But every opponent was bloodied — excepting the Elemental — and only one was down. She decided she had better go into her Unyielding Avalanche stance. “Probably shoulda done it sooner,” she told herself.

After the Firestorm showed Grim Shadowfox how much damage the font of magma could do, she started using her Executioner’s Noose to throw the Giant Slingers into the lava.

“That sure works,” she told herself even as they concentrated their fire on her and took her down.

Aurora was able to heal her and she played dead long enough the get her Second Wind.

On the other side of the wall of fire, Relvain and Aurora — with some help from Washington — took down the last Hill Giant.

Grim was a little worried they couldn’t cross the zone of fire without dying themselves, but it turned out they were able to run through it fast enough to avoid damage.

Once they were concentrating their fire on each of the Slingers in turn, they killed the last of the Giant.

The Firestorm got away through the magma.

When they searched the scorched corpse of the Stone Giant, all she found was a small box with a hinged lid.

When she opened it, the small metal box opened with a snap and a tiny spark of fire floated out. The spark immediately began to move through the air, writing flaming workds in a strange language that remained visible for a few moments before they sizzled out.

Unfortunately none of them could read Giantish.

After the letters sizzled out, the spark began to write again. This time it was in Common.

“Ah, new Champions for Argent. Ask Elyas how the last group did. Still, it is impressive that you got this far. Come, then. Let us see if the Champions still scream when they die.”

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A Giant Shaman
...Tries to Stop...

…An Incursion into the Giant Compound.

Shade Shadowfox gauged the length of the Giants’ arms and the Giants clubs and quickly concluded that — even hanging from the very high ceiling of the Giant compound — they could still reach her.

So she used her Ghost-on-the-Rooftops power to scurry back to the whole in that high ceiling — wondering as she did so why the hole was directly over the summoning circle in the middle of the room.

“Relvain mentioned a Fire Elemental in one of her dreams,” she considered. “Maybe they summon a lot of Elementals.”

She tried to hook a Giant with Executioner’s Noose, but they had simply too much Fortitude for that kind of attack. And the Giant Slinger was demonstrating he could fling rocks with disturbing accuracy.

She decided to climb back down the outside of the building.

Aurora told the others, “I do wish Shadowfox would just climb down and unbar the door for us.” They were all desperately trying to open it from the outside.

Andrea Ravn tried to lift the bar by sliding her sword through the gap between the doors.

“Someone is grabbing it from the other side!” she shouted. “We need a thief on this side of the door.”

Meanwhile Nox was blasting away at the stone doors themselves. Andrea could see that he had created a hole in the door … but the doors were very thick.

“Maybe someone can help me pull the sword away from the Giant,” she suggested.

Just then, Shadowfox sauntered in. She came over to the sword and used the leverage against the Giant’s grasp to pry up the bar and the doors opened to reveal a bunch of Giants.

Shadowfox was somehow dissatisfied with their numbers. “I’m sure there was another. Some kind of Shaman.”

Sure enough, a Shaman appeared in the summoning circle. “I wonder where he went,” she thought to herself. “I guess we should assume the rest of the compound has been alerted.”

Roland the Betrayer found the denizens of the shantytown a bit strange. Distrustful and defensive, they did not seem willing to share much information. Sarissa, the seer who lived at the edge of the shantytown seemed to be the exception. Although some of the locals also spoke of another, Rolain. He decided he had to explore the tower in the center of the town.

Nox Rhasgar was glad to blast softer targets than the giant stone doors, and he quickly sent some of the Giants running. But the Shaman rushed them and hit them with an elemental attack of his own — an Earthstorm.

The blast knocked them back and they had to retreat to the four corners of the room. No one wanted to give him a chance to his them all at once with that attack again. The rush put him in the middle of the room, so when he realized he was losing, he was unable to escape before they killed him.

The Giant Slinger did make a run for it. And escaped unharmed deeper into the compound.

Searching the bodies, Nox found nothing — as usual — but the others turned up some potions and treasure among the furs in the Shaman’s quarters.

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Into the Giant Compound
...The Entrance...

…Proves to Be Lightly Guarded.

Andrea Ravn found herself once again before Queen Ileosa with Nox.

The queen thanked them for returning her broach and invited them to join the Korvosan Guard. Nox got an assignment to round up some deserters. She got a different assignment — and a new companion.

Vencarlo Orisini — she remembered he was a famous fencing instructor — had learned of a plot by the ambassador from Cheliax. Andrea’s new boss told her his name was Darvayne Gios Amprei. “His disdain for Korvosa is well known, though he’s taken great pleasure in what our city has to offer.”

“Even before the recent unrest,” Vencarlo told her, “this man was ready to recommend to his government a sanction on trade, or even an embargo.”

“Vencarlo has learned through his own considerable sources that Ambassador Amprei’s actual goals are to undermine Korvosa’s economy to the point where he can buy up large portions of the city from desperate landholders. He plans to establish himself in a position of power here before recommending the end of the sanctions to his friends in Cheliax.”

“Fortunately, the ambassador has his foibles.” Vencarlo told her the ambassador had been making regular visits to a place in Old Korvosa called The Eel’s End.

Andrea knew about this den of vice. Run by a dangerous man named Devargo Barvasi — known on the streets as the “King of Spiders” — it was located on an isolated pier and actually was built of boats moored there.

Her new boss — Field Marshal Cressida Kroft — gave her some money to bribe the vicelord, but admitted she wouldn’t mind seeing him put out of business.

The crime boss was interviewing thugs when she got in to see him. He seemed impressed with her from the start. So, when she gave him the bribe, he turned over some letters, incriminating the ambassador.

She woke and found herself next to Shadowfox.

Grim remembered how she had found a Giant Centipede the last time she had this dream. “Tracking. Easier to follow their path than try to stake out a watering hole.” It worked. But she still could not kill it before it killed her. Even her Executioners Noose did not work. She was devoured. Again. This time she rose to become a lich. And discovered her skull had been stolen by agents of the Raven Queen.

She woke with a start to see a Dragonborn staring down at her. Andrea Ravn. “What do you mean ‘Not the Raven Queen’?” Andrea asked.

They were told the others had gone back to Argent, so they went to the Silver City. Obanar was desperately defending the place, but he told them the others had gone to scout the encampment of besiegers. They followed signs left by Nox which led them past the encampment itself to a fortified compound.

Nox Rhasgar was glad to see Shadowfox and Andrea had slept off the effects of the battle for the shipyard. Andrea had been particularly badly injured after her heroics on the flagship.

He had already found the Giant compound when they caught up. It was built into the side of a hill, its walls about 20 feet high.

A Hill Giant — Nox supposed he was supposed to be looking out for intruders — was so busy yelling at a pair of Ogres he didn’t notice them approach until Nox was already unload Elemental Bolts.

The Ogre Thugs ran as soon as they got hit by the fiery bursts from his Ignition spell — one ran down the hill toward a camp; the other, into the compound.

“I hope he doesn’t bring back friends,” Relvain told him.

The other Ogre seemed to be made of sterner stuff. So Relvain suggested they concentrate on the Hill Giant — the one who admitted his name was Billy after Shadowfox called him that.

Sure enough: Another Hill Giant and another pair of Ogre Thugs came out of the compound a few minutes into the fight. But the Thugs seemed to be just as afraid of his fire as the first two.

Relvain the Dragonpinner was doing a good job of keeping the Ogres and Hill Giants attacking her. Some of their attacks, however, were broad, sweeping blows which hit her companions as well. Aurora was darting in occasionally, but the size of the clubs and flails were able reach her when she did.

Andrea Ravn was content to stand back and shout out attack opportunities.

“That helps keep them all worrying about me,” the Dragonpinner told herself.

Aurora kept up her attacks from a distance, using her Fire Hawk when she could not attack herself.

The Dragonpinner told Shadowfox the last Hill Giant was on his last legs. “Pull your shrouds now!” she shouted. And the second Giant fell.

With a thud.

Soon she realized Relvain was right about the Ogre: “Really tough.”

But, once they were able to concentrate on it, Relvain forced it back into the compound and they finished it off.

Shadowfox volunteered to scout the placed by climbing to the roof and peering in through a smokehole the Assassin had noticed in the roof. It seemed like a good idea to Aurora. She was the stealthiest of them.

But when she got to the hole, they saw her slip inside. “Seems like it’s time for us to go into the Entry Hall,” she told herself. They all arranged themselves at the door that seemed to lead to the part of the building Shadowfox was exploring.

As the seconds turned into minutes, she began to wonder if the Assassin was the best choice to scout. “She does seem to have difficulty with the reporting-back part of a scout’s job.” She began to hope that Shadowfox was trying to unlock the door for the rest of them.

When she heard a deep voice shout, “Hey, what are you doing in here?” she knew their scout had been spotted.

“I do wish she had opened the door for us.”

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A Dream and a Scouting Party
...Nox Returns to Korvosa...

…And Then Takes Sered to Meet Obanar…

…who sends them on a scouting mission.

Sered found a gem and two Potions of Vitality in the scout ship they had commandeered. They gave the Ring of Heroic Health they found on the admiral to Relvain.

While they were removing the ring from Kada’ne’s finger, he noticed the armor the admiral was wearing was also magickal. Because it was made of Feyhide, they decided to give it to Delis.

On the admiral’s flagship, they found a strange sash.

“Looks like it was designed to be tied around someone’s waist,” Nox told him.

As it lay in the blood and gore, it was strangely unstained. Sered tried his Arcana against the belt after Nox told him it was magickal, but all he could do was detect the magic. What it did and how to use it eluded him.

When they took it to Haryssus, the Astral Giant they had left in the library at the Singular Portal, he told them it was a Healer’s Sash.

“Beside its ability to resist bloodstains,” Haryssus told them, “it can help you share Healing Surges.”

“Like Comrades’ Succor?” he asked.

“Even better. The sash allows you to do it in the midst of battle. But only once a day.”

They decided to rest.

Nox Rhasgar found himself standing once more before Queen Ileosa on her throne in Korvosa.

He knew he was dreaming, but it seemed so real as he stood once more before the queen. Still dressed in mourning black, Ileosa Arabasti sat on her throne.

Next to the empty throne her husband once sat.

Andrea Ravn was there as well. She strode forward and offered the queen the broach they had found on Gaedran Lamm. She accepted it graciously.

“This broach was stolen from me some time ago. I had not expected to see it again, truth be told. And yet, here on my darkest day, you come before me with kindness. The return of this broach is much more than an honorable deed. It is inspiration. It is hope.

“I love Korvosa, ash my husband did before me.” Somehow the words did not ring true to Nox. Sure, the king loved Korvosa…. “His death has shocked the city as it has me, but I will not see my city torn apart. All Korvosa stands at the precipice of a disaster wrought by her citizens — these riots cannot continue. You have already done my heart a great service in returning this precious heirloom to me on this dark day, and you shall be rewarded. Yet perhaps you can serve your city more.”

Despite his misgivings about the sincerity of Ileosa’s protestations of love for the city — but not the “people” she blamed for the riots — Nox thought she did seem sincere in her desire to stop the riots.

“The Korvosan Guard is stretched thin, and it could certainly use the aid of heroes such as yourselves. If you so choose, have Sabina here see that you have an escort of guards when you leave here. They can see you safely to Citadel Volshyenek. I shall send word ahead to Field Marshal Cressida Kroft to let her know you are on your way.”

Sabina took them to the citadel and introduced them to Kroft who offered them a job running down some deserters. Nox surprised himself with his Streetwise skill when he found out the deserters were calling themselves the Cow Hammer Boys and operating out of an abandoned butcher shop called All the World’s Meats.

Apparently they were giving away meat to the poor.

“Not what you usually expect from deserters,” he thought.

But appearances are not always everything. An urchin called him over and told them they were running a side business selling services as thugs if you asked for the “Special Cuts.”

He went to the shop, asking for the “Special Cuts.” But negotiations went awry when he didn’t have anybody for them to beat up. They assumed they were being investigated and immediately attacked. Nox was hit by an arrow from behind, but quickly dispatched them with an Elemental Bolt, followed up with Elemental Escalation.

Upstairs Nox found Verik Vancaskerkin, the guardsman who had convinced the others to desert. He convinced Vancaskerkin to go peacefully — so the field marshal could question him — but he didn’t tell Nox who was financing the whole operation until the Dragonborn spotted a silver dagger on the desk. It was not a magickal dagger. His Arcana revealed it to be a Raktavarna Rakshasa, a creature capable of disguising itself as almost anything.

When the Rashasa realized it had been spotted, it turned back into its Rakshasa form and attacked. They beat it down, but Verik was devastated. He told Nox he had no idea the knife was a “snake spy” and said it was a gift from Meliya Arkona, the society lady who had been financing the free-food operation.

Obanar told The Skywalker how to use the Healer’s Sash. But that left Sered in a quandary: The sash would increase his group-healing skills — always the weakest part of a sacrificial-healer’s repertoire — but it would work just as well if someone else wore it.

The sash would also enable his allies to bring him back if he went down — but only if someone else wore it.

Then the Guardian of Argent told him about the problems he was facing: He was unable to finish the Sky-Metal items he was fashioning for the members of The Order of the Black Feather.

The Giants and Elementals assaulting Argent were stepping up their attacks. And all of his attention had to go to defending the city.

He suggested Sered and Nox could scout the Giant’s encampment to counterattack their position.

Sered found a trail leading from those attacking Argent toward a nearby hill. Following the trail, they rounded a corner and ran into a group of Hill Giant raiders on their way to the siege of the city.

Nox strode forward and told the Hill Giants they were on important business. The Bluff worked and the Giants let them past. The trail petered out after that and they had to look for signs of the Hill Giants’ passing. Nox found the signs pretty easily and that led them to the main encampment of the Giants and Elementals.

Sered examined the camp and found a compound further on…built into a cave in the hill. Concluding it was the headquarters for the siege, they prepared to assault it.

Two Ogres waited beside the path. A Hill Giant stood in front of the Giant-sized door. Neither of them knew what was inside. Nox told him a bluff would not work.

This was gonna take a fight to get inside.

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An Admiral Dies
...And the Hundred Heroes...

…Capture the Crystal Key…

…as well as a vital Githyanki shipyard.

Relvain Blackaxe the Dragonpinner saw the fleeing slaves pointing upward. Not believing they would fight hard for their Githyanki overlords, she was not surprised they were fleeing.

What she saw next did surprise her: The the Githyanki themselves were fleeing.

They had more to fight for. She was part of the third wave of the attack, but even that wave should not be enough to collapse Garaitha’s Anvil’s defenses.

They, too, pointed upward.

Relvain looked where they pointed.

The admiral’s flagship, the Cev’ren, was making its escape, its sails aflame.

A cheer went up from the Hundred Heroes. Yet she was not cheered.

“Remember the mission!” she cried. “Kada’ne must not be allowed to escape!”

And began running to the dock where their maps had indicated his flagship had been berthed. “That’s where we’ll find Team Admiral,” she told herself. The priest who had been healing her in the fight followed right behind.

When she got there, she found Nox Rhasgar helping the semi-conscious members of Team Admiral onto a Githyanki vessel. She introduced the priest, Sered to the others.

She was able to help with the sails and get the ship moving quickly, but Aurora lost control and their ship spiraled right on past the Cev’ren.

Then grapples shot out from the pirate vessel and latched onto their ship.

It was only then that she realized who had set the sails ablaze: Admiral Kada’ne was standing over the unconscious body of Andrea Ravn.

Admiral Kada’ne looked up from the body of the unconscious Dragonborn. “No!” he shouted, as his minions fired their grapples into the scout ship spiralling past them out of control. “Pirates will be pirates,” he told himself as his men leaped onto the grappled ship.

Nox Rhasgar knew they had to drive the Minions from their vessel. But he saw an opportunity to hit even more before they had time to come across. Quite a few of them had gathered near the forecastle of the admiral’s flagship.

So he hit them with an Ignition burst before they got their chance to board. They had nowhere to run, so they jumped onto two of the Astral Whitewings. The overburdened reptiles dropped suddenly and flew back to the shipyard.

“That should cut their shrieking.”

She and Delis concentrated on the other Minions as the admiral came across to their vessel and was engaged by Relvain. Finally the only minions who remained were the Psychic Archers.

And one Whitewing with a couple of minions on its back.

Its Stunning Shrieks were even worse than the Psychic Shots from the archers, so Nox concentrated his attacks on the flying reptile. Eventually, he was able to drive it back to the battle below.

Delis the Unselie was concentrating on the Psychic Archers which had so bedeviled them on the docks. But now they had their admiral to protect them. Kada’ne would point at them just as she got them in her sights and banish them — temporarily — to another dimension.

Sered the Skywalker got the message: Relvain wanted him to go over to the other ship, to prevent the admiral from using his flurries to bounce back and forth between them.

He was pretty sure the dwarf didn’t know the advantages of sticking close to a Priest of Pelor, Going over to the other ship was easy. And back, if necessary.

He strolled on over to the other vessel. Walking on air.

“That’s why they call me Skywalker,” he told Delis who was standing open-mouthed on the other side.

The admiral did not make it easy for them. Another flurry of blades — this one centered on Relvain — left her in need of healing.

They were all in need of healing. And the only mass heal Sered could do required them to group up. Close together. Where the admiral’s Flurry of Blades could be used on all of them.

The Flurry of Blades could be used for another purpose: Kada’ne used it on Relvain, nearly killing her; when the flurry got him clear of Relvain, he used a Telekinetic leap to cross back to his flagship and engage Sered.

“Oh, well,” he thought. “Time for the Aura of Astral Radiance.”

His body began to glow with swirls of divine radiance darting ever further from his body until the area within 15 feet was granting both protection for his allies and destruction for the enemies of Pelor.

“Not quite a mass heal,” he shouted. “But, if you’re bloodied stay within the aura and it will heal you!”

He didn’t tell them they would also do more damage to their enemies.

Protected by the aura, Relvain was able to get between the admiral and Sered. That gave them all they needed to bring down the coward. The entire area between the forecastle and the sterncastle was dangerous to Kada’ne now. Whenever he entered that main deck of his own flagship, the divine radiance attached him and protected the enhanced Team Admiral.

When they searched the admiral’s body, they found the crystal key Haryssus and Bejam believe is crucial to taking control of the Sovereign Gate.

When they flew both ships back to Garaitha’s Anvil, they found a surprise: The Hundred Heroes, backed by the slaves who revolted against the Githyanki, had routed the remaining slavers.

Megan Swiftblade told them how it happened. “When the Githyanki saw their admiral fleeing the grabbed the remaining ships and fled as well.”

It made sense to Sered. “So they were not willing to fight and die for leaders who would not stand with them?”

“The few left behind either died bravely, scurried to hidey holes in the shipyard, or surrendered to the Hundred Heroes,” she told him. “We are still ferreting out the last of the hiders. With the help of the ex-slaves, who know the place better than we do.”

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A New Hero Emerges
...To Help Nox Rhasgar...

…In a Desperate Chase…

…to catch Admiral Kada’ne before he escapes.

Sered the Skywalker was assigned to healing the Dwarven shieldmaiden.

“Not hard to keep her alive,” he thought. “Relvain attracts all the attacks and then blocks them. Either that, or they glance off her armor.”

When the blows did land Sered easily healed her. He didn’t even have to exhaust his own health to do so.

The a cry went up among their enemies. The Githyanki were all pointing upward — which in the Anvil meant toward the great portal which occupied the center of the demi-plane. Their cries were not happy. The ship they watched was damaged and lurching upward, almost out of control.

“Kada’ne! Kada’ne!” they shouted, among much else. As they began to flee — some leaping on other craft to get away; others running to hide in the storerooms of the shipyard itself — Relvain came over to explain.

“They think their admiral is abandoning them,” she told him. “They will surrender easily now.”

When Sered told him that was good, that no more heroes need suffer and die, the Dwarven Shieldmaiden disagreed.

“Remember the mission! We are trying to stop the admiral to get the Crystal Key he carries.”

Then she took off running.

Sered could think of nothing else to do but run after her. She seemed to know where she was going.

That turned out to a ship, at dock. A small ship. Some kind of scouting ship for the Githyanki navy.

“Pirates,” Sered told himself. “Pirates would need a fast scouting ship to find their targets in the Astral Sea.”

A lone Dragonborn was helping other adventurers onto the ship.

“The admiral is getting away!” Relvain shouted to the Dragonborn.

“I know,” the Dragonborn replied. “We have to chase him down. His ship is badly damaged. And Andrea Ravn is on it, trying to damage it further.”

“Damage it further?!”

“Last I saw her, she was using her breath on the sails. I don’t know what’s gotten into her. She says she has the Blood of Io. Says we all have it. All us Dragonborn, anyway.”

Along with an Elven Ranger they introduced as Delis, they helped the others onto the ship.

They unhooked the lines holding the ship to the dock and it lurched upward.

“Not as awkwardly as the admiral’s flagship,” he admitted. "But we’re going to have to learn fly this thing, if we’re going to catch Kada’ne before he reaches the portal.

Andrea Ravn continued her game of cat-and-mouse. She knew her allies were shooting at the admiral’s flagship. Some of their blasts were hitting. But she had no way of letting them know how well she was doing.

Nox Rhasgar agreed with Sered’s assessment. Controlling the scout ship — known as the Iliyoru — would be difficult. Seeing the sails flapping loose in the wind, he sent Relvain aloft to secure the sails.

“I may not know how to sail this craft,” Relvain shouted from the mast. “But I can surely pull on a rope!” She did just that and the mainsail was no longer flapping.

The scout ship pitched under Nox’s feet as Aurora tried to bring her under control, swinging wide over the shipyard below. He could see some Githyanki and Coalition forces still locked in combat, neither side giving ground in the ongoing assault.

Then suddenly, a group of white shapes peeled away from a skirmish with the Coalition’s griffon riders. At first, Nox thought they were running.

Eight white reptilian creatures winged their way up and toward Iliyoru with a shriek, their
Githyanki riders spurring them on. He jumped into one of Spell Turrets and cast one of his Elemental Bolts at one of the Astral Whitewings, which were now assaulting their vessel.

The creature was hurt, which frightened its rider. Nox could now see the reptilian creatures — he wouldn’t call them dragons unless he saw their breath weapons — were ridden by Githyanki.

“Minions, by the look of the way that one is running,” he told the others who took up positions in the Force Ballistas to blast at the other Whitewings and at the admiral’s ship as well.

Aurora was having difficulty figuring out the arcane secrets of the Helm which controlled the ship. By watching the Cev’ren’s erratic flight, Nox guessed Andrea was having some success disabling more sails on the ship ahead of them.

“We might even be gaining ground!” he shouted.

Then Relvain fell to the deck as she tried to swing to the other mast. Aurora gave up on the Arcana and simply grabbed ahold of the wheel and used it to swing their ship back and forth, to prevent the attacks from above from hitting them.

Sered missed twice with the Force Ballista, and Aurora continued working the wheel with great effect.

“I think she’s even learning to speed us up by using the wind,” Nox told himself. An explosion on the admiral’s flagship told him Andrea was having some success. “And Relvain’s great strength has got the rest of the sails under control.”

“Little more we can do with the sails and the Helm,” Aurora told him. “I’m going to try figuring out the arcane controls again.”

Sered fired an Astral Seal at the flagship.

“That will make it easier for me to hit it.”

But whatever Aurora was trying, it failed. The Iliyoru went into an out-of-control spiral which brought it into range of the Cev’ren’s grapples.

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Andrea's Plan Backfires
...When the Admiral...

…Is Frightened into a Desperate Run

Nox Rhasgar listened intently to Andrea’s plan.

She had told him all about the Blood of Io.

She also decided to trap the admiral by further crippling his flagship, which was still under repair. Without further explanation, she leaped into the air, flew past a Warmaster who wounded her badly, jumped onto the side of the Cev’ren, and set one of its sail aflame.

Nox could see the terrified look on the admiral’s face. He turned to tell Delis what had happened. His words were drowned out by three cracks of lightning.

Before Nox could ask himself whether Kada’ne’s response would be fight or flight, he got his answer: When he looked back, the admiral’s ship was already floundering its way upward.

Although it was rising quickly, he could tell it was not flying as fast as it might.

“Not with one of its sails in flames and its repairs still incomplete.” But it was rising…

…rising toward the portal at the center of Garaitha’s Anvil.

The crew of the other ship was looking uneasily toward their fleeing leader. Nox could tell they knew they were being abandoned to allow Kada’ne’s getaway. So he decided to attack.

They were all perched atop a higher shelf of the shipyard — up where both ships had been berthed. Perched behind a makeshift barricade of supplies and ship-repair parts. The shelf itself protected them from Nox’s sorcery.

So he climbed one of the strange ladders the shipyard workers used to get from one level to another.

And came under withering fire from the Githyanki behind the barricades as soon as he got to their level.

Andrea Ravn knew what she wanted to do: Disable the Kada’ne’s flagship before it was repaired and make a run for it.

Grasping the edge of the gunwale and heaving upward, she saw the nearest sail, blasting it with her Dragonbreath. The Blood of Io let transform the lightning of her breath weapon into fire. The sail erupted in flame.

From her vantage clinging to the rail, she could look directly into Admiral Kada’ne’s eyes. And saw fear … pure unadulterated fear.

He began shouting orders to his crew in Deep Speech. Andrea could not understand the language, but she could tell the crew was confused, somehow conflicted between the their fear of the admiral and their unwillingness to carry out whatever order he was giving them.

Then one of the Blademasters in the crew stepped forward — apparently willing to do Kada’ne’s bidding. He pointed at the admiral, drew his hand into a fist, and threw the fist over the side.

Then Andrea knew what the admiral was ordering. The admiral soared over the gunwale. She just didn’t understand why. She was sure Kada’ne — like most Githyanki of his rank — could telekinetic leap off the ship if he wanted to run away. Why did he need his crew to throw him overboard. From the looks on the other crewmen, she could tell they were equally baffled. Even the Blademaster seemed to be puzzled.

Lightning burst from the admiral’s outstretched palms. His Soulstorm Strike blasted the chains which held the Cev’ren to the dock — surpassing the damage Andrea could accomplish with her Lightning Breath and turning the chains into molten metal. Then he used his own Telekinetic Leap to fly back to the deck of the ship…

… just as the ship lurched upward, into the sky …

…toward the seething portal at the center of Garaitha’s Anvil.

That was when Andrea realized what the admiral was doing: He was running, like the coward he always was.

But this time the coward was running on a crippled ship … with its sails in flames.

And she was clinging to the gunwales of that same ship. She could jump off and rejoin her party. Or she could stay on the flagship and try to stay alive and damage it further. “That would be quite a game of cat-and-mouse,” she thought. “Only who would be the cat? And who would be the mouse?”

Delis knew Nox was in trouble.

“The Dragonborn is not used to fighting without an armored wall in front of him. He rushed right in, never knowing how dangerous that is for a Sorcerer.”

The Psychic Archers from the Iliyoru dazed Nox with their Psychic Shot arrows and had him bloodied in seconds. Delis concentrated her fire on the archers even as the Corsair Cutters moved in to finish the job.

And now the archers were dazing Delis as well.

Nox used a desperate teleport to drop back and heal himself while they finished off the minions. None of whom looked very willing to fight to the death for a leader who had already escaped and left them to fight and die.

They still had to deal with the Warmaster of the Iliyoru. He took Nox right to the brink of death.

But Delis knew she could out-maneuver the Githyanki, even if he was able to take Nox out of the fight. Nox might die, but the Warmaster was going down as well.

The Warmaster seemed to realize this about the same time Delis did. He made a run for his ship, making it back to the deck, trying to release its chains and escape with his admiral.

Delis caught up with him first, then the wounded Nox.

They finished him off before he had a chance to release the Iliyoru. And Delis knew what would come next: a chase — if they could figure out how to fly the ship — and a boarding action — if they could figure out how to fight one of the most powerful Githyanki they had ever faced.

“I don’t think just the two of us will be enough,” she told Nox.

Nox Rhasgar, the bleeding, Dragonborn sorcerer.

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On Her Own
...Andrea Decides...

…To Stop the Admiral’s Flagship.

Andrea Ravn tried to explain how she got her wings to Nox.

“We all have the Blood of Io within us,” she told him. “Some of us — like Garen, and now me — just come to realize it more fully.”

She unfolded her wings. Once vestigial, they now were large and strong enough for her to fly short distances.

She told them she was worried. the admiral was trying to get his flagship into condition to flee. And they had no one who knew how to fly the other ship or how to fire its weapons.

She assumed that, if they could set his sails afire, the admiral would have to give up his chance to run.

And they needed to kill or capture the admiral…to get the key he carried.

That gave Andrea something to do with her wings.

She got a running start and leaped into the air. She flew over the first barricade before her wings began to tire.

Relvain the Dragonpinner took up the chant as the third wave prepared to go through the Portals. “A hundred as a thousand. A hundred as a thousand!”

Nox Rhasgar watched in amazement as Andrea flew at the largest of the Githyanki. It drew its silver sword and prepared for her attack.

Andrea landed on the barrel it was hiding behind.

Landed hard, because her wings were tired. The Githyanki drew back to defend himself…

…from an attack that never came. Andrea launched herself once again into the air above him. He swung wildly and his silver sword cut her badly. But she flew over him and landed well behind the line of defenders.

She taunted the Githyanki, but the admiral ordered them to stand fast.

For protection, he ordered the last crewmen off a nearby boat and demanded they stop Andrea. Then he went back to the repair of his own flagship….

…Well, to order the repair. He was yelling at dockworkers as well as the crew of his ship, which was obviously not yet ready to fly.

The admiral was also yelling at the few crewmen who still remained on the other ship. Nox thought he was ordering them to attack Andrea and protect him from the crazed Dragonborn Warlord.

Andrea did not wait for them to attack her. She ran toward the flagship and threw herself one more time into the air. This time she flew to the side of the admiral’s ship and grabbed ahold of some nets hanging over the side just as her wings gave out.

Nox knew what she planned to do next. He saw her drawing in her breath.

She was about to breathe fire and try to set the sails of the warship aflame.

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Delis Fights her Way
...Through the Giants...

…To Link Up…

…with Team Admiral.

Delis saw the Eldritch Giant was now working on the control panel. She was sure it was one of the Fire Giants.

Even though its attention was on its task, it still heard sneaking around in the piles of equipment.

“Better hearing than a bunch of serfs used to toiling at the forges,” she admitted.

Luring the Giants back to the corridor where she could fight them one at a time, she started picking them off one at a time. The Fire Giant Serfs ran for it the first time she hit each of them with one of her arrows.

Then she came to one which was tougher — a Fire Giant Forgemaster.

Krasire made his way back to the Swiftriders. Megan needed to be told they had tried to find a way to get the team going after Admiral Kada’ne. But some giants were between them and the team.

It took the Eldritch Giant longer than Nox Rhasgar expected to bring down the force gates. But he was definitely better at it than the Fire Giants.

Now they were fighting both — Fire Giants and the Eldritch Giant.

He was surprised at how quickly the Fire Giants were defeated. The Serfs ran away at the first opportunity. The Forgemaster broke out of the Blood-Shadow trap Shadowfox penned him in, but he died quickly after that.

“Must not have any protection from my fire.”

Aurora didn’t really want to fight the Giants. When they broke through the force gates, however, she didn’t see an alternative. “I don’t think we can assault the barricades with Giants at our heels.”

Trinity Shadowfox was disappointed the Blood Shadows were unable to pen the Fire Giant, but he was glad it went down.

The Eldtritch Giant was a different story. It kept casting enormous fields of undulating magic.

As soon as he pulled it out of the center — or Aurora whipped it out with her Thorn Whips — it could call it back into itself and send it out as a blast. They were all taking a lot of damage from that.

Eventually they killed it.

Not a lot of time to search the body.

The admiral was preparing to get away.

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The Stealth Wave
...Goes in Behind Team Admiral...

…With Delis Erinthal and Krasire…

…trying to maintain contact and Megan Swiftblade’s Freeriders trying to make sure they can all get out. And Relvain the Dragonpinner waiting for the third wave … the main assault.

Krasire was somewhat satified that Aurora had incorporated some of his ideas into the plan they eventually settled on.

Team Admiral were going in first. Megan Swiftblade and her Freeriders were going in on the second wave — which was dubbed the “Stealth Wave.” He and Delis Erinthal would go with Megan and try to help her maintain contact with Aurora’s Team Admiral. The third wave was being called the “Main Assault” — led by The Dragonpinner herself — but everybody knew it was really a feint to draw attention from Team Admiral.

He and Delis were taking a lot of explosives in with them — all they could fit in his Bag of Holding.

When they got to the scaffolding Team Admiral planned to use as their entry point, they found evidence of a fight there. Dead Githyanki all over.

“Looks like their cover was not maintained.”

Privately, Krasire hoped they had just run into a routine patrol.

They placed barrels of explosives a key points on the scaffolds ready to blow if they needed to cover a hasty retreat. That was looking more likely if Team Admiral’s cover was blown.

They climbed the rickety structure and went through the hole in the wall. They found a small storage room. Then a hallway.

At the close end of the hall was a room with two Eldritch Giants bringing in supplies: wood and ingots mostly. At the other end of the hall, they found a forge — sized for giants.

He heard shouting behind him. Before he had a chance to hide, Delis was behind a forge furnace and the Eldritch Giants had spotted him.

The Dragonpinner sat sharpening her axe. The first two waves were just not her style. “I’m not built for stealth,” she said as she prepared for the main attack on the shipyard.

Delis Erinthal had to change her tactics once Krasire disappeared … seemingly shattered into a cloud of crystals.

The Eldritch Giants had spotted Krasire right away. Delis hid as soon as she heard the Giants shouting at each other. She wasn’t surprised they had heard Krasire. He wasn’t very stealthy.

“Stealthy for a rock, I guess.” But not as stealthy as an The Huntress of Winter’s Eye.

She had stayed out of sight while Krasire was attacked by the two Giants. Then he was shattered into a thousand crystals. One of the Giants left.

She decided she should work her way back to Megan without letting the Giants spot her. But the remaining eldritch creature was able to spot her before she got out and she had to start fighting it.

The room, with its giant forges and enormous anvils, proved the perfect battleground for her run-and-shoot tactics, allowing her to hide most of the time. The Giant had no such advantage and Delis found herself humming the tune to “Giants Don’t Sneak.”

Even before Krasire came back — “How did he do that?” — she was pretty sure she could kill the big creature and continue their mission without him. Once he got back they finished it off fairly quickly.

She scouted ahead and found the other Eidritch Giant had joined some Fire Giants who were trying to get through a magickal force door.

Beyond, she could see Nox trying to jam the door against their efforts.

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