Tharg ascends the jarl’s throne and sits down comfortably with a satisfied grin, surveying the room. The party leaves him to his revelry, and interrogates the one surviving frost giant about the Star of Illithor. The giant says he does not recognize such an item, and the party asks where Jarl Haddicus’s treasure vault is. The giant offers to show the party, retrieving a key from around Haddicus’s neck. The group proceeds down a short hallway behind the throne, reaching an intersection. To the right the party can see a large, decorated bed chamber, but the giant leads the party to the left, where a huge stone door awaits. Using the key, the giant opens the vault to reveal a large square room that is virtually empty. The icy floor is mostly barren, with only a small pile of items in one corner of the room.
The giant says, “Here, here is remains of jarl’s treasure horde – nothing! Look upon work of fire giants. Horde plundered and locked away in flaming mountain, unreachable by our kind. It shall never see day’s light again.”
Crestfallen, the party picks through the few items that remain. They find nothing resembling the Star of Illithor. They do find a giant-sized magical maul, which they offer to Tharg. They also find several magical items that appear to have been claimed from recent human travelers in the giants’ lands, including a spell book. Myx later identifies the other items the party finds:
- Scroll of Protection from Fire
- Scroll of Protection from Good, 10’ Radius
- 2 pinches of diamond dust – component to the Wall of Force spell
- 2 Potions of Extra-healing
- Potion of Invisibility
- Bracers of Defense
Additionally, Swashy searches the walls of the treasure room and finds a secret compartment hiding a Potion of Storm Giant Strength.
Across the hall, Barlongren enters Haddicus’s bedchamber. It is finely appointed with an enormous bed draped in strange, luxurious furs. Laid out on the furs is a female frost giant, who is shackled to a chain bolted into the wall. The giant tells Barlongren that if he vanquished Jarl Haddicus that she is his reward by right… if he thinks he can handle her. Barlongren coughs uncomfortably and declines the offer. He calls to Swashy, who arrives to pick the lock on the woman’s chains. The frost giant thanks the barbarian for her freedom and takes her leave.
Back in the throne room, the old grizzled, one-eyed chef arrives to survey the scene, just as Haddicus begins to regain consciousness. The castle chef lets out a booming laugh, saying, “Even best expectations did not include such achievement as this.” He stands over Haddicus, and peers down at the defeated jarl. “Haddicus, I deem you unfit to rule, and demand right of challenge.”
Haddicus lurches to his feet, and barks “Rhaskos, a traitor such as you has no rights!”
Rhaskos replies calmly, “All retain the right of challenge, and I would see it exercised. Now.” The frost giant looks towards the party for their support.
Tharg nods gleefully, raising his new magical maul into the air and saying “Yes, yes! Ice giants make show, fight to death!” The rest of the party shrugs in agreement, though Cham insists on speaking with Haddicus before the battle starts. He gives the jarl a description of the Star of Illithor, describing the item as crafted of a strange, shimmering metal that seems to shift and change colors as the eye slides across it. Haddicus recognizes Cham’s description and says it was one of the many treasures of his horde that the fire giants took. The cleric breathes a sigh of relief and thanks Haddicus for his help.
In return, and feeling it wrong to not allow for a somewhat fair fight, Cham casts a Cure Light Wounds spell on Haddicus. Reinvigorated, the jarl smiles wickedly as he readies his axe. The rest of the party is somewhat disappointed at Cham’s actions. Rhaskos is an older giant, and the party can tell he wouldn’t stand a chance against Haddicus if the jarl was at full health. Cham’s spell didn’t do much, but even in his weakened state, they aren’t sure just how little help Haddicus needs to defeat Rhaskos.
The one-eyed chef is a veteran of many battles, however, and the crafty giant has a few tricks up his sleeve. As the battle starts, the two opponents circle each other, sizing one another up. Rhaskos plays up his limp as he saunters around his foe, favoring his right leg heavily. Suddenly, Haddicus leaps forward with a thrust of his axe directed straight at Rhaskos’s bad leg. The grizzled old giant pivots with surprising quickness, spinning around on his good leg and bringing his axe around in a sweeping arc. The axe comes down just above Haddicus’s shoulders, easily severing the jarl’s head from his body. As simple as that, the battle is over in a matter of seconds.
Rhaskos claims rulership of the castle, sparking a confused, angry response from Tharg. The party explains to the hill giant that they must be leaving soon, and can’t stay in the castle. Tharg agrees that the place is too cold to claim as a home. Rhaskos assures the party they can rest the night in the castle’s walls, and no frost giants will harm them. However, once they leave the castle he can’t promise them safe entrance again.
The party asks Rhaskos about the fire giants that plundered the vault. He says the fire giants live inside a volcano only a few days’ travel from the ice castle. They were defeated in their war with the frost giants many years ago, but clearly not before a successful incursion into the castle to plunder its vault. The fire giants have not been seen for years, but most believe some still survive inside the halls of their volcanic mountain. The party recalls seeing a mountain billowing smoke into the air in their journey to the frost giants’ castle, and are confident they can make their way there.
Barlongren heads out of the castle to retrieve Onjon from his hiding spot in the mountains nearby. He finds the bard curled up in a ball against the freezing cold. Upon seeing the barbarian, Onjon says in a sarcastic tone, “Has anyone ever written an epic about their nose freezing off? Well, tell me what I missed so that I can immortalize you.”
The next day, the party begins the journey to the fire giants’ hall. Tharg enjoys his new ‘tribe’ very much, and it takes little convincing to get him to stay by the party’s side for the journey. Gruu and Laddum, however, are not as eager to risk their life in the pursuit of the party’s goals. The hill giant and ettin both take their leave and start the journey down out of the snow-covered mountain range toward the hills to the east.
The party marches through the rocky terrain for a couple of days. The time cannot pass quickly enough for Cham, as he is eager to finally obtain the Star of Illithor and meet his destiny. Myx says she is certain they will arrive only to find that a tribe of cloud giants has taken the artifact from the fire giants, and that they will track down the cloud giants and discover they were robbed by storm giants.
The party does actually encounter another type of giant the next day. A group of stone giants awaits them on their path. They do not appear to be hostile, and Cham mentions that this race of giants is generally known to not be evil like most. The party hails the giants and the hulking creatures approach to speak to the party. The leader of the group asks the party what they are doing in the land of the giants, his deep voice bellowing out like the rumbling of a mountain avalanche.
They tell him they are looking for an artifact in the hall of the fire giants, and the stone giant is clearly surprised by this. The leader tells the party the heat inside the volcano is too great for any to survive. Myx assures the giant that the party is capable of wielding magic to protect themselves against such dangers.
This makes the stone giant take on a curious look. He steps back to consult with his fellows for a time, then returns to address the party, “Fire Giants revere the ancient giant tongue. Their hall is rumored to be laden with traps and riddles left for their kind in the runic language of giants. The tongue is an ancient and magical one. It cannot be deciphered by magic spells. You will need this.” He hands the party a large stone tablet with strange runes engraved on it. “It is a Ruuskata Stone, and it will let you translate the runic tongue of ancient giant to common. In return we ask a promise of you, held on pain of death. If you reach the treasure room of the Fire Giant king, Magnus, recover a stone scepter there and bring it back to us. It is a holy relic of our tribe, and we would see it returned.”
The party agrees, and thanks the giants for their help. They notice that the Ruuskata Stone shows that ancient giant had only half as many letters as common, and every rune can translate to two, sometimes, three letters in common. This may make the translating process a little difficult.
The stone giant tells the party to look for the entrance to the fire giants’ hall on the west face of the volcano, a quarter of the way up the mountain, in a promontory that juts out between two steaming ravines bellowing smoke. The directions prove accurate, and a day later the party finds themselves standing before the entrance to the fire giants’ hall.
Two huge stone doors stand solemnly closed. Runes are engraved on the doors, and using the Ruuskata stone, the party is able to translate the message – ‘Enter, stranger, and burn.’ Cham prepares a number of Endure Heat spells for the journey into the volcano. Since Cham has a limited number of spells, the party decides that Onjon and Tortette should not enter the volcano. They find a good hiding spot nearby to set up camp.
The tortle is very disappointed to be left behind, but Onjon is relieved not to have to enter the flaming mountain. Although, this makes him reflect on the wisdom of joining the party on their journeys, as he never seems to be around to witness their legendary achievements. He says when the group returns to Gatetown, he’ll likely take his leave of the party and compose his epic based on secondhand accounts of their deeds.
With their two companions settled, the rest of the group approaches the entrance to the volcano. Swashy investigates the doors, and finds no evidence of traps on the door. They are unlocked, and, with some effort, Barlongren and Tharg push them open.
A long, dark stone hallway extends out before the party, heading deep into the volcano. Cognizant of the warning on the doors, Swashy searches the entrance to the corridor for traps. She finds some magical runes engraved on the stone floor just inside the doorway. It appears they are the trigger to a fire trap spell. The runes only extend a few feet inside the hallway, so the party takes turns leaping over them. Myx is not confident in her leaping ability, so Tharg lugs her over one of his shoulders and jumps across with the wizard.
The party heads down the hallway which slopes downward into the heart of the mountain. They walk for a couple of hours past steamy caverns of boiling water and rivers of magma that provide an eerie, ruddy light. The heat grows too intense to bear, and Cham casts Endure Heat spells on Myx, Swashy, and Tharg. Fortunately, Cham is protected by his Cloak of Protection from the Elements, and Barlongren by his Ring of Fire Resistance. The group continues onward, and just when they are starting to wonder if the caverns will ever end, the party reaches a hewn, stone door.
They push it open to find a long, carved chamber, sized for giants. The hall is flanked on either side with rivers of lava, sunken a bit below the floor. The walls above the troughs of lava are extensively carved with reliefs depicting different fire giants, who the party presumes are past kings of the fire giants’ domain. Some scenes depict the giants in battle with frost giants or other strange creatures, while other carvings simply show a fire giant sitting proudly on a throne. There is a door at the opposite end of the hall. As the party approaches, the door they entered slides shut. The heat in the room seems to grow, and the party notices that the rivers of lava on either side of the hall are beginning to rise.
They rush forward to the door at the end of the hall, and consult the Ruuskata Stone to translate the runes they find there. The door is engraved with the statement ‘Give me the hand of a giant and the head of a demon’. Below are two rows of four dials each. Each dial in the first row has all of the runes of the ancient giant language, but Cham notices that the bottom row of dials has the runes of the demonic tongue. By this point, the heat from the rising lava has grown so intense that it is overcoming Cham’s Endure Heat spell. The party members cringe in pain as they hurriedly rotate the dials to spell out ‘hand’ in the giant language and ‘head’ in demonic.
The door gives a click and swings open. The party quickly piles through into the next room. They find a circular chamber with a statue of a fire giant standing stoically in the middle. Its eyes glisten, and upon closer examination appear to be two large diamonds. The door the party entered through slides shut, and the statue’s eyes come alive with energy as they each launch a Magic Missile into the room, striking Tharg and Myx.
The party hurries to the other side of the room where another door with runes engraved on it awaits. As they continue to be pelted by Magic Missiles, they translate the message as ‘The worst way to die’. Below the message is one row of six dials with the ancient giant script. The party debates briefly before Barlongren suggests ‘freeze’, as this is a hall of fire giants. They dial in the answer and the door opens before them.
The next room is a plain square chamber with another door across from where the party enters. No script awaits them this time, though. Instead, next to the featureless door is a carved stone arm extending out of the wall. Before the arm is an empty stone pedestal, at about elbow level with the arm. As the door shuts behind them, the walls on either side of the room lurch to life and begin slowly sliding inwards to eventually crush the party.
The group decides this must be a test of strength, and they resolve to use the Potion of Cloud Giant Strength they obtained some time ago. A brief discussion ensues about who should use the potion, and the group eventually settles on Tharg. The hill giant quaffs the magical liquid and steps up to the carved stone arm. Placing his elbow on the pedestal, he then grips the stone hand, which suddenly comes alive. The arm bulges with corded muscles as it begins arm wrestling Tharg, but, aided by the potion, the hill giant is able to defeat the disembodied arm. As Tharg pushes the arm horizontal, the door clicks and slides open.
The party finds a long corridor, which they travel for a time before coming to a fork in the passageway. On the wall is inscribed another message, which they translate simply as ‘Choose right’. They decide to trust the directions and head down the passageway to the right.
The party soon comes to another stone door, which opens into a plain square room. The exit door stands across from them. As the door behind them slides shut, a small panel opens near the roof of the chamber and water begins pouring into the room. They translate the runes on the other door as saying only, ‘Hurry’. Below are three separate handles on the door, each with one rune carved over them – one for the letter ‘a’ or ‘e’, one for ‘n’ or ‘m’, and one for ‘i’ or ‘th’.
The party debates as the water level rises. None of the runes appear to indicate anything about what the right answer is. There seems to be some piece of this puzzle they just aren’t equipped for, and with the water at their chests, they desperately turn the third handle. The other handles magically withdraw into the door, and it stays closed. The party seems to be out of options, and have gotten this riddle wrong. With the water near their heads, Swashy activates her Ring of Water Elemental Command to Lower Water in the room. In seconds, the party is standing safely in a shallow puddle, though they still have no way out. The doors appear to be magically sealed, and are resistant to all physical attack.
Barlongren decides to investigate the source of the water. He climbs up to the open panel and manages to wedge his way into it – it is too small for a giant to fit, but just large enough for a human. Barlongren fights through the streaming water into a shaft angling upwards. After an exhausting climb, he arrives in the bottom of a pool where he swims up to a small, non-descript room. He gets out of the water and finds a staircase heading back down the direction he came. The barbarian comes out in a stone corridor with a door on his left that he figures must lead to the room where his companions are. From this side, the door opens easily, and the rest of the party thankfully joins Barlongren in the hallway.
The group continues deeper into the volcano, winding their way down the corridor for a time without encountering any more traps or wards. Eventually the hallway opens into an enormous underground cavern that houses the city of the fire giants. It is an amazing site, unlike anything the party has ever seen. The huge, open cavern is breathtaking in its magnitude. The whole complex is lit by a waterfall of lava that pours out of one wall of the cavern, near its roof, running down into a river of lava below that flows straight through the city and continues out of a low passageway on the other side of the cavern. The city below looks to be entirely made of brass, and it gleams brilliantly in the red light of the molten rock.
The party makes their way down a stone stair case cut into the wall of the cavern and approaches the city. They find it eerily still and silent, and see no signs of movement or life of any kind. They soon come across a number of fire giant corpses littering the streets, which appear to be long dead. The party can tell that some of the giants died fighting each other.
Making their way through the city, they soon approach the center, where a long, wide avenue leads up to a brass bridge extending over the river of lava running through the cavern. The party is surprised to actually hear noise, as they notice the sounds of rummaging coming from one of the buildings on the street. Swashy stealthily approaches to investigate, peering through an open doorway.
She is shocked to see a strange, snake-like creature digging through the scattered rubbish inside the building. The swashbuckler vaguely recognizes the creature as a salamander, a rare fire-dwelling monster. It has a human torso and head of coppery skin, which fades into the scaly body of a snake with orange coloring shading to dull red at the tail end.
The creature is alone, so Swashy decides to engage it, calling out to the salamander. It turns in surprise, then takes on a curious look at the sight of the swashbuckler. “My, what have we here? What bringsss one sssuch asss you to thisss place?” The creature talks with a rasping, snake-like hiss.
Swashy places her hand on the hilt of her sabre and confidently replies, “My friends and I are looking for the hall of the fire giants.”
The salamander’s thin lips break into a sly grin and with an eager look he says, “Interesssting, indeed. Outsssidersss have not ssset foot in thisss hall for many yearsss. Humansss sssuch asss you should not be able to sssurvive the heat of the volcano.”
Swashy shrugs, saying, “I travel with powerful magic-users.”
The salamander looks a little disappointed at this. He asks, “What isss your name, traveler?”
“Swashy, and yours?”
“Sssuch a sssimple name, I thought you humansss were ssso many, how can you have sssuch sssimple namesss and keep them all unique?” the salamander asks.
Swashy furrows her brow in confusion, “What do you mean? Our names don’t have to be unique – some people have the same name.”
The salamander is shocked at this statement, “What ssstrange cussstomsss! Our kind would accept no sssuch ssslight. If one took the sssame name asss me, I would have to kill them.”
It is Swashy’s turn to be shocked. She asks what the salamander’s name is, hoping that it isn’t ‘Swashy’.
The salamander replies with a grand bow, “I am Slyustrusvilmonner Grildamanoxtren. But you can call me ‘Sly’.”
“Well, Sly, do you know what happened here?” the swashbuckler asks.
The salamander has developed a strange rapport with Swashy, and deigns to answer her. “I do. The fire giantsss reigned here for centuriesss, building their city. They blossssomed in the heart of the volcano, and extended their dominion into the mountainsss beyond. Sssome yearsss ago, however, they began dying off. You sssee, the fire giantsss need to sssupplement their diet with a rare form of igneousss rock. The volcano ssstopped producing thisss rock sssome yearsss back. The fire giantsss fell to battling each other over what little ssstoresss remained. The fire giant king, Magnusss, sssoon locked himssself in hisss throne room with what little remained, while the ressst of the giantsss were left to fend for themssselvesss, eventually killing each other off. I believe the king and sssome of hisss closssessst alliesss ssstill dwell in the throne room at the far end of the cavern, though they never venture back out into the city.”
Swashy thanks the salamander for his help, and Sly says, “You make for interesssting company, perhapsss you and your friendsss would like to join me for… dinner?”
Swashy declines and makes her way back to the group. Myx assures Swashy that salamanders are known to be evil creatures that feast on any humanoids they find. The swashbuckler is very relieved she didn’t take Sly up on his ‘dinner’ invitation.
The party makes their way over the gleaming brass bridge, hurriedly rushing across the river of molten rock below. Navigating their way through the shining brass buildings on the other side of the cavern, they eventually reach the entrance to the throne room of Magnus, the fire giant king. They find the doors locked, though Swashy is able to navigate the lock and push open the heavy stone doors. As they enter, they hear a booming voice welcome them, “So, you have finally come for Magnus’s treasure! You couldn’t just wait for me to die… you will pay for your eagerness.”
Magnus is a fiery terror, standing close to twenty feet tall and wielding a huge flaming sword. The fire giant king is accompanied by three other fire giants, one of which is a rune priest. The priest summons a gargantuan fire elemental just as the party rushes into the room, and it tears into the party with its fiery fists. Somehow, Tharg is able to dodge the first of its blows – fortunate since they surely would have killed the hill giant outright.
The party focuses its attacks on the elemental monstrosity, with Swashy sneaking across the ceiling of the room on her Slippers of Spider Climbing and dropping down behind the creature to strike with her sabre. With Barlongren and Tharg beating the elemental from either side and Myx unleashing a Cone of Cold into the room, the elemental is quickly brought down.
However, the giants hack into the party with a lethal volley of attacks. The rune priest launches a fireball into the midst of the group, and one of the giants pummels Swashy near death in a single blow. The rogue then faces the flaming blade of the fire giant king, which is sure to bring an end to her life, but she somehow manages to deflect the blow just enough with her main gauche to avoid certain death. Meanwhile, another fire giant faces off with Cham near the back of the room. The cleric’s giant slayer blade cuts into the creature deeply, but the giant dishes out just as much as it takes, and Cham finds himself quickly close to unconsciousness as well.
Things already look terribly grim for the party, with most of them on death’s doorstep, and the battle has barely just begun. Swashy looks to give the party a chance to regroup – and to save herself from the two giants bearing down on her. She activates her Ring of Water Elemental Command and erects a massive Wall of Ice across the entrance hall to the room, separating the party and one of the fire giants from the battle. The other three giants begin quickly chipping away at the Wall of Ice, but not without giving the party some time.
They surround the one fire giant remaining on their side of the wall, and he is quickly slain. The party then imbibes a number of healing potions, and Cham doles out his most powerful cure spells along with a Prayer. With their backs against the wall, Barlongren decides it’s time to use the Potion of Speed. The barbarian becomes a raging whirlwind of attacks, charging back into the fray when the giants bring down the Wall of Ice. Myx creates a globe of darkness in the entrance hall, but finds it is little defense against the rune priest’s fireballs. The wizard decides to go back on the offensive, stepping forward and unleashing another Cone of Cold that drops the other fire giant warrior.
Cham rushes forward with Tharg to attack the rune priest, preventing the giant from using more spells, and Barlongren goes toe to toe with the fire giant king, Magnus. He is aided by Swashy climbing the wall again and hurling blinding powder at the king at eye level, though the giant narrowly dodges the attack. Though Tharg is heavily wounded, the hill giant and Cham are soon able to cut down the rune priest, and the group turns its attention to Magnus.
Barlongren is a terror under the effects of the Potion of Speed, viciously hacking away at Magnus. Fortunatley, he is also light on his feet and, with a good deal of luck, is able to dodge the king’s deadly flaming blade. After landing numerous blows in rapid succession, the barbarian’s axe lands with a final thud in Magnus’s gut, and the fire giant king is brought low.
The party breathes a collective sigh of relief at their narrow victory. They search the hall and find a short hallway that leads to Magnus’s treasure vault. The horde does not disappoint, as the party’s Bag of Holding is filled to bursting. They find roughly 4,000 gold pieces, 500 platinum pieces, and another 4,000 gold pieces worth of gems and jewels. They also find the scepter the stone giants requested, as well as numerous human-sized magical items, which Myx later identifies:
- Ring of Elemental Command (Fire)
- Cloak of Displacement
- Cloak of Protection
- Ioun Stone of Wisdom
- Ioun Stone of Protection
- Girdle of Dwarvenkind
- Ring of Free Action
- Magical Shield
Of course, most importantly, Cham finds amidst the treasure the Star of Illithor, recognizing the magical item from the image shown to him by the angel of Pharsma in Arvendor, the Plane of Dreams. He grasps the key to his destiny with relief and excitement at finally being close to living out the path Pharsma has chosen for him. Swashy says, “Now we can finally resurrect that demon-lich,” drawing a few concerned chuckles from the group. Cham shrugs, not sure what to make of the marilith’s claims, but certain he must do what Pharsma asks of him.
With time running out on Cham’s Endure Heat spells, the party spends little time celebrating, packing up their haul of treasure and making their way back out of the volcano. The trap-filled rooms offer no obstacles when entered from the opposite direction, and after a few hours of hiking through the caverns, the party exits onto the slopes of the volcano just as the sun is setting.
They are surprised to find Onjon waiting for them just outside the entrance. The bard rushes to meet them eagerly, saying, “You’re alive! Well done, did you get what you came for?” The party nods proudly, assuring Onjon they have a lengthy tell to tale from this latest adventure. The bard says, “Well let me see what all this fuss was about. Where’s this magic star thing that we came all this way for?” Cham pulls the Star of Illithor from his pack, displaying it for Onjon to see.
The bard’s eyes alight with wonder, “Wow, can I hold it?” he asks in awe. Something in the back of Cham’s mind makes him hesitate, but with the rest of the party looking on expectantly, he decides he can’t bring himself to distrust a member of their group. He begrudgingly hands the star over to Onjon.
The bard takes it in his hand, and the illusionary magic around him dissipates. Onjon’s face and clothing fade from sight, and the party sees a rakshasa standing before them. Barlongren recognizes the creature as the one rakshasa at the temple of Gam Ysran that the party did not finish off. The creature left the temple to investigate Myx’s feigned attack on the camp, and the party never knew what become of it.
In the instant that all of this recognition dons on the party, the rakshasa has already removed a thin glass rod from its sleeve. With an evil smirk, the creature calmly cracks the glass activating some kind of teleportation magic. In the blink of an eye, the rakshasa, along with the Star of Illithor, is gone.
The party screams in frustration, looking around furiously before accepting that the rakshasa is likely hundreds of miles away. They head back to the hiding spot where Tortette and Onjon had set up camp. There, they find Onjon’s dead body, freshly slain. It seems they were travelling with the real Onjon until they entered the volcano. They recall being scried on during their journey up into the mountains, and realize the rakshasa must have been following them for some time now.
Tortette is there as well, tied up and severely injured, but somehow still alive. They don’t understand what twist of fate led to the rakshasa not killing off the tortle as well – perhaps he wanted to take pleasure in inflicting a slow, cruel death on the tortle and ran out of time, perhaps a wandering monster passed by and flushed the rakshasa away. Whatever the reason, the party is grateful that Tortette is still alive. They make camp and rest to consider their next course of action. Surprisingly, Cham is not devastated at being so close to fulfilling his destiny only to be robbed of the chance. He keeps faith that this is only another step in the journey, and the party will find the rakshasa and retrieve the Star of Illithor. The cleric assures the party that it is Pharsma’s will, and his will cannot be circumvented.