Rise of the Runelords

Throw Down the Gauntlet

The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 5

Wealday, 13 Kuthona, 4733

After rescuing the surviving Black Arrows, the Rune Wardens have joined with them to attack Fort Rannick and reclaim it from the Kreeg Clan ogres who had conquered it. While the rangers drew away some of the ogres, the adventurers infiltrated the fort courtyard, where Marcus slew four Kreeg ogres. The last of these, Jolly, was struck down as he pried open the doors to the keep.

The head of the Kreeg Clan, Papa Jaagrath, appears on the keep wall to taunt the party and urges his “boys” to show them “Kreeg hospitality.” He then retreats back into the keep.

A big Kreeg brute named Gragavan and two smaller comes spilling out into the courtyard, with more lined up behind them. Two other ogres take up positions on the keep wall and chuck rocks at Marcus, but can’t hit him. Behind the party, a lone ogre in the south gatehouse also throws boulders with no success.

The ogres in the courtyard move to surround Zavian, who stamps his foot on the ground and casts stone shape. He uses the spell to pull the earth out of the ground in front of the keep and form it into a heap between him and Gragavan.

The ogres on the wall tumble to the ground, as do Gragavan and the ogres in the courtyard. Stone flows over the keep entrance, cutting off the ogres inside. The maneuver provide the party with some cover from the keep and cuts off one of the ogres on the ground, where Astrid quickly kills him.

Marcus hurls a fireball onto the ogres in the rumble. He then descends to the ground with his ranseur at hand. An ogre climbs to the top of the rubble, but is quickly struck down by Lea. The adventurers regroup behind the rubble heap.

Papa Jaagrath returns to the keep battlements, accompanied by an ogre with steel teeth named Hookmaw Kreeg. Jaagrath begins barking out orders in Giant. Gragavan leaps up onto the rubble pile, but slips on the gore of his brother’s remains and falls to the ground. Lea and Astrid quickly gang up on him.

An ogre spellcaster, Dorella Kreeg, appears on the keep battlements and casts a confusion spell on the party. Zavian and Amelia are afflicted, while a protective ward flares brightly on Astrid’s magic gloves to shield her from its affects.

Amelia, meanwhile, casts charm person on one of the ogres, Jedediah. She tells him that the Rune Wardens are the Kreeg clan’s guests, that the ogres are making a mess and treating them badly, and that he should do something about it.

The third ogre leaps onto the rubble, the charmed Jedediah urges him not to attack, ultimately grabbing hold of him. Lea and Astrid finish off Gragavan, while Marcus blasts down the ogre.

With all of the ogres on the ground—save Jedediah—now dead, Lea calls out Papa Jaagrath and challenges him to a duel. There is some back and forth over the terms, but the ogre chieftain ultimately agrees. Both sides stand down while the courtyard is cleared. The ogre bodies are heaped up in a pile and burned.

While this takes place, Astrid, Zavian, and Marcus question Jedediah. They learn that a stone giant named Barl Breakbones has taken over the Kreeg clanhold on Hook Mountain. He arrived bearing a medallion with the Sihedron rune, much like the woman Lucrecia who arrived at Fort Rannick some days ago. Jedediah confirms that, as suspected, she is a lamia matriarch.

Astrid questions him about stone giants and the fate of her brother, discovering that Prince Eldrin was brought before Barl as a captive. Jedediah doesn’t know what’s been done with the prince, but speculates that he’ll be eaten.

Meanwhile, Amelia chews out Lea for this reckless gamble, as almost a dozen ogres gather on the keep walls to watch. The bard asks if Lea remembers anything Chammady taught her, while Lea assures her there is nothing to worry about.

Once the battlefield in prepared, the two combatants step up to it. The ogres on the wall chant “Kreeg! Kreeg!” as Jaagrath boasts about his inevitable victory. he stands more than twice Lea’s height, 14 feet in all, and seems to be made out of muscle. Countless scars crisscross his body, and a string of polished human skulls hangs from his belt. In his hand is an enormous ogre hook that shimmers with sinister magic.

The duel begins and Lea surges forward to land the first blow. Jaagrath hits her harder, gouging her viciously with his hook. He offers to handicap the fight, by stepping back to let her swing again.

She lands a devastating blow with her earthbreaker, then charges. Jaagrath is unable to strike her as she brings him to his knees. The blow should have killed an ordinary creature, but Jaagrath surges on, lashing out with his ogre hook and nicking Lea’s face as she ducks her head back. She brings the earthbreaker down on his head and it is over.

The remaining Kreeg ogres look uncertain what to do. Lea plants her foot on Jaagrath’s body and orders them to carry a warning back to Barl and then flee from Varisia or suffer her wrath. The ogres submit and Astrid further demands that they leave behind their weapons. She warns that she will be coming for her brother. The sullen ogres mutter that the Kreeg Clan will rise again and march off, with Jedediah still trying to make apologies to the party.

Concerned that Lucrecia and who knows what else is still lurking in the keep, the Rune Wardens decide to rest in the south gatehouse. They greet the Black Arrows as the rangers return, carrying a wounded Kaven Windstrike.

Zavian tends to the injured ranger, who was hurt while fending off an ogre brute from attacking Jakardros. Meanwhile, Shalelu questions Lea about the terrible gouges in her armor. The paladin asks her not to mention this to Ameiko. After a long moment, Shalelu agrees. For now.

Jakardros, meanwhile, inspects Jaagrath’s body, noting that the ogre owed him an eye.

Astrid confides in Galodar about Prince Eldrin’s capture. The elf ranger is eager to go rescue him, but first they have to clear the castle.

The adventurers, the Black Arrows, and the elves enter the fortress, where they immediately come across the ogres’ grisly handiwork. Graffiti is scribbled on the walls in blood, while the mutilated bodies of Black Arrows lie everywhere. The stench is awful.

The Rune Wardens head upstairs while the others explore the dungeon. In the commander’s quarters, they discover love sonnets written by the Black Arrows’ leader Lamatar Bayden to someone named “Myriana” along with a lock of nymph hair and a pair of boots of the mire.

The poems suggest that Myriana dwells in Whitewillow, which Jakardros identifies as a location in the Shimmerglens that is close to a portal to the First World. The sonnets explain what Commander Bayden was up to on his monthly “communes” in the swamp. He was absent from the fort on one such commune when the ogres attacked, and his body is not among those in the fort. Jakardros and Vale are suddenly excited at the thought that he might still be alive in the Shimmerglens.

The rangers report that the dungeon has been converted to a sensuously decorated lounge with hanging silks and soft cushions, most likely where Lucrecia was staying. The lamia matriarch herself appears to have fled the fort, unfortunately.

The Rune Wardens plan their next move. Fort Rannick will be left in Jakardros’ hands, with Vale sent back to Turtleback Ferry to recruit some townsfolk to help stand guard and begin repairs. They have Shalelu and Galodar track the ogres back to the Kreeg Clanhold and get reconnaissance on Hook Mountain.

In the mean time, the adventurers are concerned about the purpose of the unnatural terrain. They ask the Black Arrows what purpose the rains might serve. Vale, the order’s engineer, thinks that they might be trying to burst the ancient dam known as Skull’s Crossing. This would flood the region, killing everyone in Turtleback Ferry and points beyond.

Investigating the dam becomes priority one, and the adventurers immediately set out north, following the western shore of the Skull River back towards the dam. Skull’s Crossing itself stretches across this massive gorge. An ancient stone staircase is gouged out of the canyon wall, leading up towards the top of the dam.

Amelia does a quick pass over the area on her hippogriff, spying a group of six tired ogre on the dam, hacking away at it with sapping tools. Elsewhere, a huge chunk has been torn out of the top of the dam and water is spilling out.

Near the top of the goals, the stone stairs end in a cave. Astrid stealthily investigates and comes across a guilt-wracked ettin. The huge two-headed creature is in deep conversation with itself about how the ogres bribed it into letting them pass.

After Astrid tells the others what she found, Marcus casts spider climb on her. Walking on the cave ceiling, she stealths back inside while the rest of the party follows. Attempts to talk their way past the ettin fail, and the creature prepares to charge. But Astrid drops down from the ceiling and takes him apart.

The ettin’s cave opens out onto the rain-slicked top of the dam. Zavian and Astrid use magic to walk along the side of the dam until they draw close to the six ogres. Zavian then bends the stone with stone shape to tilt the top of the dam and sends the ogres tumbling off. They plummet hundreds of feet to the churning waters below.

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