After successfully liberating the khyber mines and defeating the cultists at the southern Giantish ruins, the party sends the slaves, supplies, and troops back to Voss Che’el to recover and plan their next steps.
The fellowship’s eyes looked eastward where about a day’s travel away, they would need to lay siege to an ancient fortress inhabited by the cultists in order to locate a rare Giantish artifact that would allow the council in Voss Che’el to communicate with the Xathrid regarding the looming threat in the jungles of Xen’drik.
As they discussed how they would assault the castle, they found that there are two ballistae atop the two westernmost towers, guarding a walkway that led to the primary portcullis, so attacking in the front seemed to be a bad idea. Orryn used his orb to spy on a group of incoming cultists, learning that there was a secret cliffside entrance to the keep, but that the path was difficult: usually used for smuggling in and out supplies that the lower-level cultists didn’t want their superiors to know about. Orryn blasted the group while they were on the raised walkway before they could enter the keep, causing a lot of confusion within the keep. The party camped a ways off the road that night, and none of the cultists found them.
In the morning, En took his spider form and he stealthily carried Thenan on his back to sneak attack the southern most ballista. While En took the Ballista, Orryn and Serra would sneak around through the cliffside entrance, coordinating the timing of their attack with their mati stones.
Simple Ballista used to guard the entrance to the keep
With their quick, deadly efficiency, En and Thenan easily took control of the ballista from the Yuan-ti pureblood who was operating it, their actions passing unknown to the rest of the keep due to the chaos therein. A higher ranking cultist had summoned a terrifying aberration from the far realm, which had begun consuming the brains of the lesser cultist: she had unleashed a mind-flayer!
a mind flayer feasts upon the brains of a lesser cultist
Orryn sent his orb in to melee, firing bolts of flame at the distracted drow. Serra, ducking behind a corner, readied herself to smash anything that came near her. En took aim at the other ballista, thoroughly smashing it with a single bolt. Thenan found that there was a caged and chained ogre that had been twisted by aberrant magic: on its head there were dozens of eyes, and in place of its humanoid mouth, the jaw grew longer, allowing for rows of needle-like teeth, and its stomach had been stitched together. Who knows what this vile cult had done to this poor, twisted creature. Her pity immediately turned to revulsion and fear as it spotted her and began destroying its cage in a fit of rage.
By the time the cultists began to realize that they were under siege from without, they had lost two lesser cultists, and had nearly lost another of their commanders as two of them fought the mind flayer. The commander who had originally summoned the aberration, smoldering from Orryn’s fire, was moving to enact retribution on the gnome. En aimed the ballista at her, Orryn asked if she would surrender, that they could join forces against the mind flayer, but she stubbornly refused. En eviscerated her, pinning her dying body to the keep’s wall with a massive bolt from his ballista.
By now, the mind flayer had been beaten up pretty badly, and it appealed to Serra, asking that she and her friends leave it alone, and it would go about its business, but Serra did not care for this despicable creature, so responded by crushing its skull.
The party drew out the ogre and put it out of its misery. Its chains were strong, so the group merely had to blast it to death with magic and projectiles until it died. Moving into the keep, the party encountered two more nothics, likely former high-ranking cultists who had been twisted into their current forms by magic from the Far Realm, and a new aberration called an intellect devourer. These small creatures resemble a brain with four reptilian claws. Judging from their encounter, they apparently try to find hosts, to inhabit their skulls and consume their mind. Fortunately, the party felled the aberrations and took the fortress from the cultists and the aberrations.
After a time of searching the fortress, the group found the Giantish scrying stone, which actually resembled a large lens, a disc some three feet in diameter, thinner around the edges and about four inches thick in the center. At the fortress, they were met by an gargantuan dragon atop which rode their contact in Voss Che’el: Mara of the Copper Fingers. She introduced the group to her master and teacher, the ancient copper dragon: Chellewis. Part of her duty to her master is to locate and acquire powerful artifacts, specifically Giantish ones whenever possible. He is a collector and quite interested in Giantish magic. Though Chellewis wishes to have the scrying stone, he understands the importance it holds for the dark elves and their civilization, and the crucial nature of the balance they hold in Xen’drik. So, he will wait until it is no longer needed by the drow, and he will acquire it.
Chellewis discusses the scrying stone with the party
Chellewis takes the group back to Voss Che’el where the party gives the council the scrying stone, and they are able to communicate with the Xathrid. A temporary truce is struck, as the Xathrid focus on purging the final Giantish ruin on their southeastern border.
The party decides to stay for a month in Voss Che’el to rest and learn more of the city. After that time, Chellewis grants them passage back to Sharn in Eberron.