ACT 10-2: The Witches’ Coven

Session 65: The Road to Skyrgaard

[Aug 3rd, 2021]

During the journey from the Valley of Gigas, Agandar finds that the Vault of Thorns is under assault by some ley-line attack. He consults with Abhlesh, Duke, and Kiltro, and they learn that someone is trying to assault the Vault of Thorns and siphon its power from afar, likely using one of the many magical sites that are connected to it. They decide to look into it further when they have more time.

The heroes head towards the sprawling town of Jarby, beset on the hillside below them. As they approach, a contingent of knights, clad in golden armor, ride up to them. The knights are Knights of the Golden Sword, led by Almrin Embercleave, Duke’s older brother. Almrin greets Duke and the other heroes eager to share news of their travels. He tells Duke and the others that he and his knights have been patrolling the trade roads to Jarnby. They have been beset by frequent giants attacks, particularly by frost giants. They seem far more organized than they usually are. He has been trying to get the Alliance members to send armies, but he has no firm commitments yet.

Almrin then escorts the heroes to the finest inn in Jarnby, called the Silver Leaf. The heroes are each given fine suites and able to clean themselves before a fine six-course feast. There is much wine and beer as the heroes revel in their successes against Urathash and the giants within the Valley of Gigas. The heroes enjoy themselves for a night of festivities. They find that Silvermane, Katrezra, and Droja came from Bolvirk to speak with them the next day. The heroes overhear that Esderal’s birth-father, Vuignur was murdered and robbed a few weeks ago. Arngeir has another vision with Astreya, the mysterious woman, and he learns that she worries for him and that he is in danger.

Almrin gives Duke the ancient Xaya box that once housed the Spellscar. There is a collection of notes from the university scholars accompanying the box. Duke and Kiltro are able to learn that the box can only capture the original Spellscar it was designed for. However, once that Spellscar is captured, the Spellscar’s offspring will immediately become aware and seek out the box.

The next day, the heroes meet with the three seers. Droja leads the discussion and warns the heroes about a group of hags that are working against them. They warn the heroes that they are now known and the agents of evil are actively working against them now. They suggest the heroes find Skyrgaard, but then try to take out the hags supporting the frost giants before trying to strike at Skirkatla herself. Arngeir has another vision of Astreya and he learns that she is his twin sister, they were separated when their parents were killed by an orc attack. The orc attack was arranged by the evil hag that now controls Astreya’s life. She offers a warning to Arngeir not to oppose them, but she is seemingly found communicating with him and Arngeir sees only a red eye before the connection is cut off.

The heroes spend a day shopping and repairing their equipment before continuing on their journey, travelling for eight days into the vast wilderness of the Heropeak Mountains. On the eighth day, (4th Harvest, 692 G.R.), the heroes reach the region, and find a wide valley with a mountain that rises into the snow-peaked clouds. They know that the ancient druidic site of Aukimanifell (Hill of of the Power Moon) is in the region and might provide insight into the assault on the Vault of Thorns. The heroes follow a trail of large animals and giants heading towards where they believe Skyrgaard is located, higher into the mountains.

The next day, (5th Harvest, 692 G.R.), the heroes find themselves caught in a snowstorm, pushing through thick snow up the mountainside. Arngeir, Agandar, and Brango notice a massive avalanche moving towards them down the mountain. Agandar and Abhlesh soar into the air with their magic, as the others rush towards a nearby stone. Duke teleports to a safe distance. Kiltro then summons multiple walls of thick stone to create a barrier to slow the avalanche, then a wall of fire to help dissipate it. The avalanche slams into them and they are all buried by the snow, rock, and dirt. Abhlesh tries to help free them with blasts of fire as Agandar does the same with gusts of wind.

Meanwhile, as the heroes try to dig out their friends, or dig their way up to air and freedom, a large group of glacier toads leap their way down the mountain towards them, eager for an easy meal. Duke turns into an air elemental and flies at full speed towards his friends, hoping he’ll reach them in time.

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Session 66: Valley Below Skyrgaard

[Aug 10th, 2021]

The heroes find themselves in a dangerous situation. Six large glacier toads leap towards them, having just caused the avalanche as a crude hunting mechanism. Brango, Shrugga, Kiltro, and Arngeir do their best to push through the snow above them and reach the surface. Arngeir and Agandar try to help from above. Duke races towards them. The toads climb over the spot where the heroes try to dig to the surface, eagerly awaiting their prey. They try to leap at Agandar, but find he hovers just out of reach of their long tongues.

Brango reaches the surface and immediately uses Agrimmosh to grow to giant size. This attracts the toads as they begin to bits and tear bits of flesh off the giant dwarf. Agandar and Arngeir try to keep Brango alive as the other try to surface. Duke changes back to a human briefly, before turning into an earth elemental and striking at the toads nearest him. He slams and punches them with heavy rock fists.

Kiltro and Arngeir eventually surface, and Kiltro teleports to safety immediately. Arngeir gets to his feet and tries to fight, but is immediately eaten by one of the toads, swallowed whole into their icy belly. Brango tries to free him, but the toad manages to grab Agrimmosh with its tongue and swallow the mighty hammer. Brango draws Nordspar and cuts at the toads, slowly felling them. Shrugga breaks free and fights off one of the toads with Kiltro’s help. Duke finds himself defeating one of the toads, but is swallowed by another. Agandar flies over and blasts it with magic to release an unconscious Duke. Brango chases down a toad to release Arngeir and the other toads are destroyed.

The heroes climb to safety, finding protection from the wind near some rocks. The blizzard begins to clear a bit and the heroes see a settlement nestled on the high peak of the mountain on a plateau. It must be Skyrgaard.

Abhlesh struggles with the high altitude and everyone finds the mountain to be too cold for resting. They decide to hike back down to the valley. It takes them quite a few hours and they reach the valley by nightfall, resting in a hidden glade.

The next morning, (6th Harvest, 692 G.R.), Arngeir prays to the Noradrie gods, but finds his prayers interrupted by a vision of his supposed twin-sister, Astreya. He sees her in pain fighting with a red-eyed hag. He learns that the hag wants to draw him to her. He tells his friends and they realize its a trap, but he is eager to save Astreya none-the-less. The heroes head out and sweep along the eastern side of the valley’s hills, looking for Aukimanifell. They have little luck finding it. During a break in the evening, Arngeir tries to force the connection between him and Astreya and see what she sees. He is able to make contact, he sees her in a large cavern of ice. She is able to tell see through his eyes as well, and Astreya tells them that they are near to her, but the connection is abruptly broken.

Arngeir leads his friends higher into the mountains, where the cold winds and snow dwell. They search for a couple hours until they find a wide ravine with a cavern at the end. The mouth of the cave has numerous pointed icicles that create the illusion of a massive frozen maw. As the heroes approach, they are ambushed by armored men with spears on either side of them. Then a group of white-haired women step out, led by a giant winter hag. She introduces herself as Issvildr. She says that she wishes for Arngeir’s blood. A battle breaks out and the heroes are forced to defend themselves against the winter witch and her minions.

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Session 67: The Winter Witch

[Aug 17th, 2021]

The heroes are clustered together trying to fight off the armored men who bear the holy symbol of Skathi. The priests of the Winter Witch throw spells at them from afar, blasting them with nature’s fury. Issvildr, hidden in the darkness of the cavern, summons a wall of thick ice, cutting Kiltro and Duke off from the others. One of the priests then summons a wall of swirling wind to protect them from the heroes.

Brango tries to cut down the soldiers, but struggles in the fight. Shrugga and Arngeir try to fight them off as well. Agandar and Abhlesh try to keep everyone alive with healing magic. Issvildr then summons down another blast of icy storm to match Agandar’s storm. This pelts the heroes with heavy chunks of ice, and nearly kills some of them. The priests fire bolts of lightning. Kiltro throws a couple fireballs at Issvildr and her priests, felling the young women. Issvildr flies into the air and blasts the heroes with a wave of freezing cold. The heroes are barely able to survive, but heal as best they can before another blast of cold comes down at them.

Arngeir is revived, but he fears death is near. He pulls back as it is clear that Issvildr wishes him dead the most. Abhlesh dispels Issvildr’s magical flight and she falls hard onto the ice lake. After she crawls out, Arngeir blasts her with holy fire from afar. Brango then leaps forward and climbs up the rock, using Agrimmosh to grow to giant size. He leaps from the rock, but she dodges his blow, and he falls hard to the ground nearby. Agandar summons a troll to hold Issvildr at bay as Duke and Kiltro pelt her with magical missiles. Brango then flanks with the troll to hold her back. Kiltro and Duke then blast Issvildr until she falls dead upon the cold hard ground.

Arngeir heads into the cavern and revives Astreya. For a moment, as they look upon each other, we see a glimpse of their past and how they became separated.

Arngeir: Separated

She thanks him for rescuing her and tells the others about the three hags. There is the annis hag Berkvildr, who runs slaves to and from Skyrgaard, to a field they tend near the river. There is also Dimmvildr, the powerful moon hag, and leader of the three, she and her minions are performing a ritual on Aukimanifell nearby. She also warns them that Skirkatla has received some power from the hags long ago and the frost giant queen is more dangerous than she may appear.

Arngeir and Abhlesh are able to learn some powerful rituals from the holy texts left by the Skathi cultists. They then set a fire within the ice cavern, a blasphemy to the dark goddess, Skathi the Winter Witch. The heroes then hike down a few hours into the night to find refuge in the valley below. They then rest until morning. The next day (7th Harvest, 692 G.R.), they say farwell to Astreya, who fears the remaining hags will use her to spy on them. She says she will head to Bolvirk and learn about her parents and her past. The heroes then set out to find Aukimanifell in an attempt to stop whatever profane ritual is being performed there.

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Session 68: The Hill of the Power Moon

[Aug 24th, 2021]

The heroes race off through the wild woods of the secluded valley. Arngeir leads the way as he thinks about how these hags have intervened upon his family, taking his sister from him. We see a glimpse of what drove the hags to seek such action.

Arngeir: Hag’s Foil

The heroes climb towards the hill where they get a brief glimpse of stones upon a flat-topped, steep hill. As they approach, Arngeir and Agandar search for tracks, and find many bare footprints of giants as well as what appears to be roots ripped out of the dirt in many places. The heroes then notice the sky darkens and stormclouds roll in above the western mountains. As the heroes get closer to the mystical hill, the cloud swirl above the hillside and lightning strikes. The heroes see a faint purple light emanate from the stones on the hill.

The heroes rush up the hillside, following the curving spiraling path towards the peak. By the time they get near the top, the midday sky has darkened to night and the storm clouds release billowing waves of heavy rain. The storm creates loud bursts of lightning and thunder as an inverse funnel cloud swirls above the magical hill. Agandar realizes that the profane ritual has begun, and he feels the hags striking at the power of the Council of Thorns, cutting into the ley lines connected to Aukimanifell.

The heroes reach the hilltop and find Dimmvildr, the moon hag, stepping away from a burning purple fire as the ritual becomes self-sustaining. She sends her minions to attack them, which include a two-headed troll, two marsh giants, two dark arboreals (trees imbued with evil life), and an erinys devil as her guardian. The heroes rush in, fighting the giants and troll as the arboreals slowly lumber closer. Dimmvildr throws powerful curses and draining spells upon the heroes, nearly taking over Brango’s mind. She curses Arngeir, Agandar, and Duke with a powerful mind-draining spell, and they struggle to cast spells. She then curses Agandar, transforming the slender elf into an aberrant bestial shape.

The heroes manage to slay the giants and troll, and their fire spells quickly burn away most of the arboreals. However, one arboreal awakens more trees to strike at them. Eventually, Dimmvildr feels she has inflicted enough harm and can see the heroes gaining the upper hand. She teleports away, promising revenge and pain in the future. Her erinys devil flies into the storm clouds and disappears as well.

The heroes rush over to the burning fire and Agandar knows he needs to stop this ritual quickly or it will be too late. He can feel the constant attacks on the Vault of Thorns and the source of his primal power. Agandar, Arngeir, and Brango attempt to counteract the ritual together, following Agandar’s instructions. However, they are unsuccessful, and they are all blasted by a bolt of lightning as the profane magic defends itself. The storm is growing worse and Agandar feels he has little time left. They attempt it one more time, with Abhlesh filling in for Brango. They are successful, and Agandar breaks the dark connection, protecting the Vault of Thorns from the magical attack.

The heroes rest through the rest of the day and into the next morning. Arngeir and Abhlesh do their best to remove the dark curses upon them, but find them to be quite pernicious. Agandar has his friends help him reconnect Aukimanifell to the Vault of Thorns, restoring the primal ley line connection. They succeed and Agandar feels a wellspring of magical energy flow into him as another piece of the northern region is reconnected to his ancient seat of primal power.

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Session 69: Berkvildr’s Field Slaves

[Sep 7th, 2021]

The heroes spend a few days at Aukimanifell. Agandar binds the ancient ley-line of the site to the Vault of Thorns and his source of power. As he does so, he has a vision of an ancient gathering of the druids, fortelling their own demise and the return of the power with the prophesized leader. A prodigy Agandar has been told would be his own daughter that he has never met.

Agandar: Power of the Council

Duke spends the time pouring over the many runes and writings upon the ancient stones, learning new ways to manipulate elemental forces. Brango spends the time perfecting a beer recipe, insisting that Kiltro takes a bottle before they face the hags again. Agandar meditates on the ley-line and learns that one of the seven magical sites is not connected to the Vault of Thorns. He meets with Duke and Abhlesh, and they are able to decipher the other sites based on the notes Duke inscribed from the Vault. They believe that the Flame Order’s ley-line is the one missing from the connection. However, it doesn’t appear to used to attack the Vault, like Aukimanifell, the Stone Order’s sacred site. The Flame Order’s site is simply disconnected, perhaps lost after the many years since the fall of the Council of Thorns. In any case, they identify the likely site as being in the Frostrim Mountains near Red Lake Fort.

After four days, the heroes are ready to set out again. They decide to head towards the fields Astreya told them about. They believe that the hag Berkvildr brings slaves there to work the fields. The heroes reach the fields, but find them empty. Agandar determines they’ll return again shortly as new harvests are eminent. The heroes follow a trail of old wagon wheel that head up towards Skyrgaard. They follow the tracks, looking to find the best place to ambush the hag and her minions. Brango finds an ideal spot and the heroes prepare themselves. However, the long day passes and no one comes down towards them. They rest the night and set up the next day.

It is in the late morning of the next day that Kiltro spies a group of creatures coming down the mountain path. The heroes prepare themselves and ambush the patrol. The hag Berkvildr leads the group, surrounded by sixteen human slaves and six wooly rhinoceroses ridden by strange fey creatures with icy glaives.

Berkvildr immediately spots the heroes and captures Brango in a iron cage of her fingernails and tramples through the slaves. A rider tramples through the slaves as well, killing a few innocent people. Kiltro is slashed by the riders and is forced to teleport to the nearby cliff. Agandar and Duke blast the enemies from afar, but find the riders charging in on them quickly. Abhlesh is caught in an icy blast by the hag, and is forced to manipulate time to stay alive. Brango then grows to giant-size and strikes at the enemies. Arngeir summons a celestial to help him as he assault the riders, then heads north to find Brango and the others.

Kiltro faces off against a cold rider that climbs the cliffs and strikes at him, but the wily half-orc manages to blast him with flames. Duke summons a powerful elemental confluence that blasts a rider to oblivion as Agandar blasts Berkvildr with numerous bolts of lightning. In the end, Berkvildr is smashed to bits by Brango’s deadly hammer and the riders and their mounts destroyed.

As Berkvildr falls, Agandar picks up her magical staff, finding its primal power should not belong in her hands. Six of the slaves survive the deadly battle, they lay upon the ground, chained together and to the corpses of their fellows, too afraid to make a sound…

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Session 70: The Scouting of Skyrgaard

[Sep 14th, 2021]

The heroes console the remaining commoner slaves who are now freed from Berkvildr and her minions. A middle-aged merchant, named Graymud, speaks for the others. He explains that there are at least 50 more slaves captured up in Skyrgaard, the frost giant camp. Most of the slaves are freezing or starving to death, a slow agony as they are forced to work in the mines, quarries, and fields for the frost giants.

As the others speak with the rescued slaves, Agandar leans over to pick up Berkvildr’s staff, finding the ancient Dyrferd magic within reminding him of his own past. He falls into a distant memory, when he first began to learn the ways of the druids.

Agandar: First Lessons

After much discussion, the heroes decide to bring the Graymud and the survivors to the other side of the river, past the giant’s fields of crops. They find an area tucked within the hills where Brango and Duke use the hides of the great wooly rhinoceroses to create warm tents. Abhlesh encourages them with some stories. Meanwhile, Kiltro, Agandar, and Arngeir scout the mountain pass, trying to find more tracks or signs of the giants. It seems they had not yet discovered the missing caravan. Agandar has a short encounter with a strange, black hawk, with crimson tinged at the tip of its feathers. The strange bird watches them.

Agandar and the others return and join in the feast of rhino meat as they help the survivors settle into the camp. They tell Brango that a dwarven woman named Ingrahild has been helping them survive. Brango becomes determined to rescue his cousin. They decide to leave the survivors here where they have food and water, until they can rescue more of the slaves and bring them all through the mountains back to Jarnby. The heroes rest for the night and set out the next morning to check out Skyrgaard.

The heroes climb into the cold mountains, finding the thin air hard to breathe and the cold winds nearly intolerable. Only Agandar and Shrugga seem impervious to the frigid winds. Agandar spots that black and crimson hawk again, but it seems only to watch before flying offf. The heroes send Agandar, who takes the form of a black hawk, to scout overhead and get a good overview of the camp.

From the high vantage, Agandar sees the entire encampment. He finds hundreds of giants going about their work. The place is guarded by eleven watchtowers at critical junctures. Agandar spots the slave pens and heads back before the blue-scaled drakes spot him.

The heroes decide to wait until nightfall, since the frost giants cannot see in the dark. They camp out along a ridge, using the magical spike to stay hidden. After night falls, they sneak their way into the camp. Brango leads the way and Kiltro helps the others follow. The moon-less night makes it difficult for the others to see their way through the camp. Brango avoids a wandering patrol and leads the heroes deep into the encampment. Kiltro uses his magic to spy on a nearby watchtower, and sees that the guard only sits and listens to the darkness. The heroes then slip around a massive brewery and climb behind a large stable. Then then rush across the path towards the slave pen.

Brango spots movement near the slave pen’s door, suggesting guards outside. However, he and his friends are able to climb over the palisade wall and into the pen. Agandar, Brango, and Kiltro sneak into the slave camp and speak to two men warming themselves over some embers. The men are ecstatic to see them and point out where Ingrahild is located. Brango speaks with Ingrahild, while Agandar is approached by a strange, young elven woman with fiery red hair and pale skin.

She introduces herself as Danarya and says she has the sight, she can see the future in her dreams. She claims to have seen Agandar many times in her visions and feels like she knows him. She warns them that they cannot free the slaves yet, or many more will die, including Ingrahild. The elves join the others and jointly decide that it is best if the heroes try to work on demoralizing the giants while Ingrahild and Danarya keep the slaves alive until it is safe to escape. Before the heroes leave, Danarya tells them to seek the black and crimson hawk.

The heroes head away from the slave pen and decide to check out a large statue to the east. As they approach, they find a massive ice statue carved into the likeness of Thryissmyr the Frozen Jarl, the patron god of the frost giants. Duke steps towards the ice sculpture to read the magical runes upon it. It is then that the heroes are assaulted by four icy elementals that blast them with freezing air.

The battle immediately turns sour as the heroes are frozen and place and the elementals claw at them. The heroes scramble to come up with a plan to get out of the predicament. Agandar, however, notices that the black and crimson hawk watches them from afar…

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Session 71: An Unlikely Ally

[Sep 21st, 2021]

The heroes continue their attack upon the ice elementals. Brango breaks from the ice around his legs and grows to giant-size. He then slams and crushes the elementals with Agrimmosh. The ice elementals send waves of chilling air at the heroes, greatly weakening them. Abhlesh, Agandar, and Arngeir do their best to keep everyone alive with healing magic. Kiltro and Duke throw a few deadly spells and eventually shatters one of the elementals.

The heroes then break free and are able to move around, slowly gaining the upper hand in the battle. Duke throws a deadly lightning bolt, hoping to not attract too much attention from the giants. Kiltro summons a couple fire drakes to help break down the ice elementals. Eventually another elemental is shattered and Brango is surrounded by the remaining two. Arngeir steps in and slams them with his axe. With a few more well-placed spells and the Brango’s swings with Agrimmosh, the other two elementals fall.

With the guardians of the ice statue defeated, Duke is able to read the ancient Jotun runes in more detail. He learns that the statue does indeed depict Thryissmyr the Frozen Jarl, patron deity of the frost giants. The runes tell stories of his conquests and mastery over the northern world. Duke finds the the statue hsa a powerful abjuration spell upon it to keep the ice cold and strong, even through the summer months. The heroes decide, after much debate, to destroy the statue to send a message to the frost giants. With fire spells and the beating throws of Agrimmosh, the ice statue is destroyed.

The heroes then begin to debate whether they should leave a written message for the giants behind, but as they debate this, the black hawk with crimson feathers tells them to “run”. The heroes take heed and take off, taking advantage of Brango’s magic belt to scurry more quickly out of the giant’s camp. After they are farther away, the black hawk returns and asks them to meet farther down the mountainside. The heroes agree and head down out of the high altitude and into the canyon where they fought Berkvildr. They find the bodies have been removed.

The black hawk reveals its true form, that of an adult red dragon. She introduces herself as Nakimarra and seems to have some disdain for mammals. However, she says she needs an ally to help her defeat the giants and the heroes are the best she can find. She warns them that the Storm Tyrant has a magical artifact from the ancient Dohkan, called the Orb of Dragonkind. With it, he has enslaved numerous dragons, including an ancient great wyrm named Akazerath. She tells them that the Storm Tyrant uses lesser dragons to send messages between his outposts, including here at Skyrgaard.

Nakimarra warns the heroes that the giants are too numerous to face head on, and applauds them for their guerilla tactics. She asks them to continue doing so to lower the giants morale and get the camp to disperse before trying to face Skirkatla. She says that she has come into conflict with Skirkatla many times and believes the frost giant jarl to be immortal. However, she must be killed, otherwise Skirkatla could easily start a new camp and continue the Storm Tyrant’s plans.

Nakimarra promises to serve as a look-out and will try to warn them of anything dangerous, such as if Dimmvildr returns. The dragon then turns back into a hawk and flies off. The heroes find a small crevice in the side of the mountain and make a crude camp to rest and to discuss their next foray into the frost giant camp. The heroes feel emboldened by their efforts and experience.

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Continue to ACT 11

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