keleren: (Ereköse)
[personal profile] keleren
After our encounter with the snow maiden, my companions and I headed towards the besieged frost giants of the Tribe of White. The giants in question were women and children trying to hold off a force of attackers under the thrall of the Witch Queen. Our journey was proceeding rather well with the snow maiden's blessing upon the weather, negating the blizzard as we travelled.

Alexis and Tomas were out scouting on their winged steeds, while the rest of us proceeded at a much slower pace on our sleds. One afternoon, during which I was riding alone on a sled -- for Samkin had taken flight upon Swiftsilver, at her insistence -- we noted Tomas and Alexis returning from a forward patrol rather hastily. Apparently, they had encountered a large creature that burrowed through the ice, and that had taken a bite out of Alexis's leg. Apparently, the creature was responsible for the frost giants we had encountered that had been slain via fire and left buried under the recently refrozen ice.

At this point, the creature erupted from the ice and attacked us, having followed them on their way back, or having noticed our trek across the glacier. Oskur and I tried to maneuver our sleds out of the path of the large reptillian worm creature -- a remhorraz -- while Alexis, Swiftsilver, Gwynn, and Sam attacked it in return. The creature produced an abyssal heat, melting the ice around it almost instantly, while also threatening to incinerate any who came near it. Indeed, I finally dismounted the sled and fired Elrithin at the thing from a distance, once my sled was clear of danger. The beast eventually consumed Alexis -- swallowed her whole -- followed by Samkin. We had likely almost defeated the thing when it dived under the ice again, escaping with our camrades in its belly.

Gwynnion, having little other recourse, invoked a powerful magic that transported Samkin and Alexis to our presence. Although their wounds had been healed, they had both lost the weapons they had been wielding. Alexis's lance (although not her dragonlance) had been in her hands when she had been ripped off of the badly burned asperi, and it had been left in the remhorraz's gut. Similarly, Samkin's favorite great sword -- a blade enchanted against wolves, as well as a dangerous blade otherwise -- had also been lost.

This incident behind us -- although I am somewhat surprised at how often our foes escape us in the end -- we finally made our way to the besieged frost giants. The leader was one of the covey of night hags that had transpossessed one of the giantesses, but at our assault she immediately teleported to safety. Their assault fell apart quickly thereafter, and the women and children of the Tribe of White were freed.

With their assistance, however, we headed towards Kakartha, which had been our original destination. The ruined Irda city had been constructed in the Age of Dreams at great cost to the first ogres. Galen Dracos had used the city as a stronghold in the last Dragonwar, and the white dragon, Kryonisa, preferred the site for her personal researches. Finally, we learned that the White Witch was using their city as her own seat of power, likely trying to find the means to enter Dracos's ancient laboratories. With the aid of the frost giants, pulling our sleds across the glacier, we made good time, arriving in but five days.

At this point, we spied on the city from a distance. The city rested in a gigantic crater, perhaps three miles across, that, because of ancient magicks laid by the Irda, existed within a zone of tropical heat. The city proper stretched for perhaps a mile across at the center of the crater, where we could see tropical trees and parklands left over from the Age of Dreams. Tomas went on a reconnaissance mission into the city, looking for information and a way into the structure we sought. Meanwhile, I conjured a phantom steed and rode around the perimeter of the crater, examining the city from a distance, searching magically for what would probably be the best route through the city without attracting too much attention.

After Tomas returned, and after further deliberation, we opted to proceed as stealthily into the city as possible. The city seemed to be occupied by ogres and a smattering of other creatures, but we hoped to avoid detection for as long as possible. While Tomas scouted ahead, skulking in the shadows, I rendered the rest of us invisible with an illusion. Although we encountered some resistance, we were able to deal with the outer guards before they could raise an alarm.

We determined that the central structure was likely where we needed to go. The main gates into the building were constructed so that any human-sized person walking out of them would be at eye-level with the scattered giants we had seen in the city. However, while Tomas had dealt with the more "mundane" ward on the door, Gwynnion would have to try to determine the arcane passphrase required to bypass the more pervasive warding magic. This, however, would require time -- upwards of 40 minutes, depending on how things went. While Samkin, Alexis, and I guarded her at the door, Tomas and Oskur kept an eye out on either of the two paths leading to it.

At some point, a couple of minutes before Gwynnion's incantation was complete, we heard Tomas begin barking orders and reprimands at someone in what I can only assume was the Irda tongue, Kolshet. Meanwhile, from the other direction, an ogre approached with a remhorraz literally on a leash. Tomas apparently bluffed his way past the one group approaching from his path, sending them off on a fool's errand, and the others dealt with the ogre and remhorraz.

As we made our way through the door, speaking the arcane word "Asir", we immediately encountered what appeared to be an incredibly dense fog -- most likely caused by another ward known commonly as guards and wards. Gwynnion successfully dispelled the fog, at least, revealing a sight one would think we would be used to by this point.

Oh, I, of course, forget to mention that after several weeks in below freezing temperatures surrounded only by ice, we were now in humid tropical weather, surrounded by trees and utterly snowless -- even though glacial ice was no more than two miles away.

Still, once the magical fog was cleared by Gwynnion's sorcery, we realized we were in a rather large structure. A walkway extended out across a vast open space filled with hundreds of corpses. I wondered if perhaps these were relatively recent, gathered here during the Witch Queen's rise to power, or from the time of Huma, or perhaps since the Irda ruled this realm thousands of years ago. However, we had little time to consider such questions as we penetrated deeper in to the complex.

After dealing with some rather large spiders skittering on the underside of the walk way, thanks to Tomas's keenly paranoid mind, we realized we were inside a grand temple. Before us, on the far side of the walkway, were three gigantic statues. In the center, dominating the scene, an idol of Morgion, Lady of Disease and Schemes, rose triumphantly. On either side, we noted kneeling idols of Sargonnas, the Dark Queen's consort and patron god of the minotaurs, and Chemosh, Lord of the Undead.

I was not surprised that the two figures kneeling before the idol of Chemosh were skeletal and undead -- one apparently an Irda woman in ancient finery, accompanied by a human skeletal warrior. An elf woman and a ritually scarred minotaur knelt before Sargonnas's shrine, and at the far side, two robed figures prayed to Morgion. At our approach, they rose and regarded us. Oskur seemed to recognize the undead Irda woman as the sister of the undead ogre warlord of Daltigoth, whom he had destroyed in single battle years before after our trek to Huma's tomb. I examined the elven woman's regalia, but I could not immediately place her -- her heraldry seemed to predate the time of Sithas and Silvenesti.

I had a thought then, and recalled what I could of my time investigating Sorrow's Thorn's memories -- the face became familiar then. The elven woman, at least, was Sorrow's Thorn's mother. Immediately, I worried that what I was faced with was some other kind of undead, or at the least one tainted by Chaos -- but Gwynnion believed that none of these we faced were allied with Chaos, for she sensed their skill in amadallo, the weave magic of the Tobril.

The minotaur who accompanied Sorrow's Thorn's mother had no horns, and he was covered in ritual scarrings and tattoos. However, an examination of his own regalia noted that this was the first minotaur lord of Mithas and Kothas, the kingdom of the minotaurs, dating at least to the time of the Greystone of Gargauth. The foes we faced were ancient indeed; the Irda was the sister of Igraine, the Irda who had betrayed his people by freeing the human slaves under his control, leading eventually to insurrection and the dissolution of the Irda dominion over Ansalon.

Swiftsilver reacted first, breathing a cone of frost over the elf and minotaur, which only seemed to irritate the elven woman, for now her clothing was covered in ice. I immediately became even more paranoid, fairly sure they were undead. Tomas fired a probing arrow at the minotaur, who caught it and jabbed it into his own thigh, yielding no blood or even sign of pain.

Oskur headed towards the Irda woman and her human companion, while I prepared the spell of mirage image in preparation of facing off with the minotaur and the elven woman. Gwynnion took to the air, riding upon her feathered wings, while Alexis considered what to do. Tomas dove into the temple's pews for some cover, readying to loose arrows against his foes, while Samkin began charging down the middle towards the robed figures before the idol of Morgion.

Gwynnion read a magical scroll, prepared by her half-brother, Ke'Lanthinel, unleashing a torrent of flame at the figures before the idol of Morgion, which seemed to have no effect other than to melt a large section of the idol. The four closest of our foes -- the Irda, the human, the minotaur, and the elven woman -- raised their medallions of faith against Alexis, sending her to her knees with unholy power as she cringed and cried out in terror. I engagd the minotaur, while the robed figures unleashed unholy magicks against Samkin, slowing his charge.

I don't honestly know what the rest of my companions were doing for a large portion of the battle. I was entirely focused upon the elf and minotaur, engaging the minotaur cautiously, playing a defensive game while I tried to whittle him down. The elf took off after Alexis, so I don't remember too much of what happened in that regard, other than I looked up at one point to see Alexis grappled by the elf in the air, flying, while the elf sunk fangs into the Knight's neck, drinking her blood.

The minotaur was incredibly strong, wielding a huge two-handed axe. My spell of mirror image stopped his first blow, but he then went into a flurry of frenzied blows, tearing a deep gash in my shoulder, forcing me to my knees. I continued my assault on the undead minotaur's body, making some progress, although I was badly wounded. I had just channeled arcane energy through Ilrethil into the brute when he drooped his axe, evidently planning to grapple with me to do what his companion had done to Alexis. At this point, however, I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder from Gwynnion, as my wounds were miraculously healed in totality -- resulting in a bellow of rage and frustration from the minotaur. Invigorated, I renewed my assault, until the minotaur's body collapsed into a pale mist that began to float away, even as my blades passed harmlessly through it.

I whirled around, preparing to deal with the elven woman. Samkin's original foes teleported away at this point, although I noted Samkin standing over Tomas's broken body, a glazed look in the Knight of the Crown's eyes, as well as a gaping and bloody wound on his chest and a hole in his armor. The elven woman turned to mist and began ascending out of the melee, and Oskur had seemed to force surrender upon his opponents. The King of Ergoth's terms were apparently that the Irda woman would travel to Daltigoth so that she might give her brother's body a proper funeral, with full Ergothic honors. At this point, she took the human skeletal warrior's head, claiming that "here is the head of your emperor," before departing. It seems that her companion had been none other than the first human freed by Igraine in his "heresy," recaptured by his sister and others, and drug into "immortality" with many other Irda who had sought to cheat death once the Dark Queen's blessings had been revoked upon their race.

Licking our wounds, we took stock of what spoils we could, as we prepared to penetrate deeper in search of the Witch Queen and her (likely) secret entrance to Dracos's compound.
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keleren

August 2006

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