Saturday, August 10, 2019

Rise of The Runelords Chapter 18: The Taking of Jorgenfist

While the invaders were repelled from Sandpoint, it was only the first, probing assault to come out of the north. The giants are massing, and once they've formed a full spear, they will crush the lands of the small folk beneath them... unless someone can break that spear before it's ready to fall. The Companions are willing to take that burden, mounting up and heading into the wilds of the north, seeking a citadel that appears on no maps, and that is often thought of as a legend to those who weren't born with a giant's blood in their veins.

For those who need to catch up:

- Chapter 1: Blood and Butterflies
- Chapter 2: Murder and Glass
- Chapter 3: The Sin Pit
- Chapter 4: Tussles in The Tangle
- Chapter 5: The Assault on Thistletop
- Chapter 6: Secrets Behind The Curtain
- Chapter 7: Murders At The Mill
- Chapter 8: Halflings and Ghouls
- Chapter 9: Fox in The Hen House
- Chapter 10: Something Rotten in Magnimar
- Chapter 11: The Crumbling Tower
- Chapter 12: Demonbane
- Chapter 13: Trouble at Turtleback Ferry
- Chapter 14: The Taking of Fort Rannick
- Chapter 15: Water Over The Dam
- Chapter 16: Mad Lovers, And Lost Captains
- Chapter 17: The March of The Giants

And now, onward into the spire of the giants!

The Massing Horde

Finding the road to Jorgunfist was not easy. The Companions traveled through treacherous mountain passes and the biting teeth of the freezing wind, searching for a sight of what might be called civilization. They climbed the great stairs to the Storvald plateau, and that was where they were met with the first outriders. Stone giants who sought to crush the invaders, but who quickly found black-fletched arrows buried in their throats, and the ground opening up at their feet to swallow them whole.

That's a pretty neat trick... how many times can you do that?
When the Companions finally reached Jorgenfist, they saw the colossal fortress commanded a huge swath of the plain... but even the giant keep was not large enough to house the forces that had gathered around it. A battalion of stone giants had staked their claim to the west, and a sprawl of hill giants were camped to the north. The east was a chaos of ogres, several hundred of them, all sitting and stewing as they prepared to put their raw muscle and brute cunning to the test in the self-proclaimed king Mokmurian's upcoming war.

It didn't look good... the Companions would have to go through those forces, or sneak around them, in order to breach the walls, and have a chance at slaying Mokmurian himself. A chance they took just after sunset.

While the Companions destroyed the rune-branded ogres at the edge of the camp, slaying their Taiga giant commander, they didn't manage to evade notice entirely. Barely halfway to the walls of Jorgenfist, and a stone giant scout patrol spotted them. With the rest of the forces being roused, discretion became the better part of valor as they fled to the hills.

Though the scouts were frightening foes, able to cover huge amounts of ground quickly, the Companions managed to slip away in the darkness, secreting themselves in a mostly hidden cave. Patrols of giants, and hunting squads of ogres combed the area, but as dawn came they gave up the chase.

What If We Go Under?

Unwilling to try their luck at a secondary assault, especially with the giants riled up and looking for outsiders, Mirelinda shuffled her cards to ask for answers from the weave of the world. She drew and placed, frowning at the messages, and trying to make sense of them. Then she looked up.

Water from the dew had formed a small stream, and it flowed along the ground at the base of the cave wall. There were two pockmark holes in the stone. A spider crawled from one, peering out into the day to examine the new residents of the cavern.

It's a sign! Also, Thok, kill that thing please?
Moving with great care, avoiding the clumsy patrols of ogres, the Companions came to the cliff wall where the great plateau fell away to the east. As Mirelinda's vision had shown her, a river ran alongside the wall... and what looked like two caverns could be seen below the fortress.

Perhaps they were a way in, and perhaps not. The only way to be sure was to look.

Zordlan reached into his bag of tricks, and brought out the wand of spiderclimb that had served the Companions so well at Fort Rannick. Swarming over the side, they made their way down, counting the minutes in their heads. When they reached the cave mouth, Zhakar entered first, followed by Thok and Chikara.

In the darkness, something moved.

A huge, multi-segmented form scuttled out of the darkness, hissing and rasping. Cold as death, the massive, undead spider lashed at them with fangs and pincers. While Chikara hacked at it, her ax sparking against the empty exoskeleton, Zhakar's hand blazed as he blasted open a hole in the creature. The thing let loose with a hollow shriek, half its form crumpled and smashed away by the purity of the beam. Before it could limp away into the shadows, Thok sent a pair of blessed arrows into it, driving out whatever ghost had animated the creature.

It was far from the last threat to be found in the darkness beneath the fortress. The companions came across a furious kobold, as well as a scattering of redcaps, but it was when they found a huge, stone giant general that they knew they were truly inside the boundary of Jorgenfist. Falling on the giant before he could raise the alarm, the Companions tried to take stock of where they were, and how they could find Mokmurian before their presence was discovered.

When the curtain twitched aside, every hand reached for a weapon.

An Unexpected Ally

The giantess who stepped into the room was different than the others the Companions had seen. She carried no weapon, and was not garbed for war. Her simple shift was almost religious in its simplicity, and she whispered rather than shouting. She had known they would come, and their purpose, telling them that if they would see Mokmurian dead, then she could lead them to him.

Trusting to fate, the Companions scooped up the spoils they'd found in the erstwhile general's chamber, and followed the giantess deeper into the caverns.

A calculated risk is still a roll of the die.
The Companions' new ally was a giantess of faith, and one who told them that it was only the sheer potency of Mokmurian's magic that kept many of the giants there. Without him, this raid on the southlands would fall apart. Her people would return to their mostly peaceful way of life, and the ogres would disband, unable to function in such a large group without a greater force holding the reins. She paused at a shrine, and left a small offering. Mokmurian had killed her husband for opposing him,she said, and she would see him thrown down, the great war machine he was building broken.

The Companions were all too happy to oblige.

The shaman pointed them down a pathway, warning them that it was guarded by fell forces. A warning the Companions took to heart, but which did them small good as the creatures guarding Mokmurian tried to block their path. A demon that belched molten iron emerged from the wall, its belly burning hot. It chose Zhakar to unleash its fury on, but the enchanted pick he'd taken from the dead general's quarters, along with the strange spirits that flowed through him, quickly put an end to the thing. A glowing, howling wraith emerged from where it had been bound in a door, swiping and sucking at their life essences. Chikara gave it the blade of her ax, and Thok pierced its heart with a flurry of arrows. A pack of Tindalos hounds thought they had the Companions surrounded, but as Bostwick's fists splintered teeth, and Zordlan's holy rapier slid between their ribs, the creatures learned the invaders had not come to play games.

The Fall of The Great Wizard Mokmurian

Beyond the final doors loomed a strange mist... and the scent of danger. The Companions knew Mokmurian awaited within, and that someone of his supposed powers would be prepared for them. Taking a deep breath, they charged once more into the fray.

Blow the door, I'm going in!
The mist was no mere smoke screen. A thick, enchanted fog, it sapped at the Companions' strength, and tried to slacken their limbs. Chikara forced her way through, followed quickly by Zhakar. Mokmurian, a towering stone giant dressed in a patchwork wizard's robe, was waiting for them. With a huge club he wielded like a staff, he wasted no time on pleasantries. He rose into the air, snarling words of power and unleashing his magic upon the Companions.

Chikara took the brunt of the assault, howling with fury as she tried to resist the spells he wove around her. Zhakar sent forth another blinding ray, blinding the wizard and sending him reeling. Thok coughed and spat, trying to put an end to the wizard before he could do any further harm. Mokmurian recited the words of an ancient spell, the ashes dropping away from his face as new sight returned to his gaze. Enraged, her strength siphoned off by the fog, Mirelinda pointed at Mokmurian, and spoke an incantation none of the others had heard before. A harsh, scolding command that reverberated like a thunderclap. The wizard stared at her, his mouth slowly falling open. The brutal, wicked gleam of intelligence faded from his eyes, leaving behind nothing but the slow churning of a brute mind.

His wits enfeebled, Mokmurian had nothing but his strength and staff to rely on. Potent weapons, to be sure, but no match for the tools the Companions had brought with them. In moments the hulking form of the would-be warlord fell from the air, settling to the ground in a puff of dust. His dreams of conquest and death stilled as surely as his heart.

But What Happened Next?

With the wizard slain, the Companions appeared to have stopped the giants' march south... but why had they gone in the first place? What did they need? And who lurked in the shadows, whispering into Mokmurian's ear?

Find out on the next installment of Table Talk!

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