Jahlvoraz was dead. The so called "Flame of the Forge was no more, and with him, the dragon fire needed to complete the ritual of relighting Minderha’s Forge. The heroes we spent, and thankfully, no dangers seemingly remained on the ruined cathedral tower. Gathering up what valuables the dragon had within its nesting area, the party descended back down to the lower levels of the structure.
The bound duergar and the hobgoblin troops had seemingly escaped, but no severed bounds could be seen. Something or someone allowed them to evade capture, but this was not a pressing matter right now. The magic wielders of the group were all but out of their abilities to call on arcane and divine magic, and all the heroes were in need of rest.
The best agreed option was the secondary chamber off of the main hall, where Fydon had encountered the hill giants. They would rest here, but do so with the utmost caution. Bor wove glyphs of warding around the chamber entrance, while Dorian brought forth his spell to provide a secure place to rest. As usual, Cyrus took the full watch after his evening prayers and brief rest, thanks to his magic ring.
Just as the dawn light began to shine into the cathedral, Cyrus prayed to Iomedae for guidance, and sent his lantern archon emissary on its usual way to deliver word to his beloved family in the North.
No sooner did he finish his prayers, Cyrus heard the unmistakable voices of giants entering the grand hall. The paladin quickly signaled his companions to prepare themselves and made his way up the stairs to listen more closely. The trio of giants made their way down the hidden passage to the lower level, and returned in moments with Etena the Forge Keeper.
By now, the heroes had assembled and preparing to take these giants by surprise. Dorian cast a spell of invisibility, while fydon crept out of sight along the walls. The two saw their targets clearly now- the old giant Etena, along with three stone giants.
As they watched, the other companions used magic to strengthen themselves in the lower chamber. However, this did not go unnoticed. The lead stone giant turned towards the lower chamber as his hammer burst into flames.
“Show yourselves little ones. The forge will be lit now. Thank you for eliminating our hindrances. Bring me Aggrimosh, and you will be spared.”
The heroes had learned their lesson by this point; there would be no bargaining with these zealots. Spells flew as the warriors dashed into the main hall. Before the groups closed, a stone giant fell under arcane spells and arrows, while the warriors moved in. Valgoth closed in on the lead giant, aided by magic allowing him to spider climb up the steep ledges of the dais, while Cyrus and Fydon flanked around past the forge.
Bor, Gage, and Dorian kept up the barrage of magical attacks, and beneficial spells to aid their allies. This kept the giants from gaining the upper hand long enough for another stone giant to be felled. But the good fortune would soon run out, and Valgoth and the final stone giant both saw the rogue Fydon find himself in the midst of the melee.
“Come face me, ya overgrown bastard!” Valgoth shouted as he tried to dissuade the giant from engaging his vulnerable, and oft in the wrong place at the wrong time, friend.
“Take him down now Valg-” Fydon began to yell as he drew his blade to surround the massive foe. Unfortunately, the giant took the opportunity to unleash its fury on his vulnerable assailant. With a riposte of its hammer, the stone giant stunned the rogue with a blow across his midsection with the heavy shaft of the weapon. A follow up crush with the full weight of the hammer spun the rogue around in a bloody spiral as the rest of the companions watched in horror.
As the giant lifted the large weapon for the killing blow, Cyrus cried out to his dear friend.
“FYYYYDOOOOOON” Cyrus screamed as he gestured an act to prostrate himsef as he called on Iomedae’s divine pity. As the cruel blow from the giant came down with a wet crunch on the helpless rogue, the magic took hold. Fydon, in a final act of refusal to go easily into the darkness, drove his rapier up.
The blade struck true, and spilled a like amount of giant blood as the half elf collapsed; a smile of defiance on his face as the stone giant howled in pain. Both fell back, but at Fydon’s body fell to the ground, the divine grace of Iomedae grew luminescent around both he and Cyrus. In an act of selflessness, Cyrus begged his god to spare his young friend, for all his faults, and allow her servant to receive the wrath of the fatal wound in his place.
And so it was…
Fydon’s shallow breath lifted his blood soaked chest, as the heroes screamed in both anger and praise. They did not pause at this moment, driven by the sacrifices of their allies, and pressed the attack. Cyrus’s wounds were grave, but his holy armor breathed life into the aasimar as he drew the fury of the two remaining giants. He did as his god demands; he fearlessly waded into battle at all costs.
Foaming at the mouth, with tears of rage, and a white knuckle grip on Aggrimosh, Valgoth leaped at the stone giant. With the sound of a stone cracking upon an anvil, Aggrimosh sent its enemy to whatever afterlife awaited it. The killer was dead, but the dwarf turned to regard ruined body of his one true friend. A mistake the proud dwarf never makes in combat… almost.
The cackling crone of a giant Etena seized the moment to call on a chant of evil power and grabbed for the distracted dwarf. As she spat a vile curse, her wretched claw reached over the helm of Valgoth to deliver its dark power; the dwarf reacting too late to stop her.
CRRRRRAACKKKK!! A huge stone caught the aged giantess across the face, sending her wrinkled corpse staggering backwards to fall in a heap of blood. The form of a fur covered hill giant stood silhouetted against the sunlight flooding in from the entrance of the great hall.
It utter disbelief, the heroes all stood slack jawed at this sight. To further confuse them, a score of armored mounted knights galloped into the cathedral behind the giant. The echo of the horses made it seem as if an army was charging into the fray. The moment, which seemed an eternity, was driven back to reality when the archon “Michael” flew in and above the scene.
Relating quickly what had transpired elsewhere, the lantern archon described his finding of these holy knights, and their guidance by the recognizable hill giant, Orud. It would seem through their mercy and deeds within the cathedral, the giant had found it within him to lead these knights into the valley. It was only by divine grace did Michael answer the call of the leader of this band of Iomedae worshipers; a tale he would speak to Cyrus about another time.
For now, the knights began to speak of their journey from afar, and their quest for atonement. They believe that their path, and that of the heores, was destined to cross by the will of the Last Herald, Iomedae. They would see to leading the heroes to the secluded mountain settlement known as Shinnerman’s Fortune; a place of refuge in these dangerous mountains.
The heroes agree to a much needed respite from the cold and dangers of Minderhal’s Valley, and prepare for the journey.
“What of the forge? We still cannot light it, but could others? Dragonfire and Aggrimosh, aside, is it wise to just leave it idle?” Dorian questioned.
“We have the hammer, and it was wise we did not light it given the opportunity with the dragon. Besides, where would one get dragon fire now that Jahlvoraz is dead?” Bor stated, very matter of factly.
The simple minded hill giant Orud scratched its filthy head, pondering something with its weak mind. It nervously pointed to the corpse of the slain giant speaking a simple word, “firerocks” and grinning its cracked, yellow teeth. And indeed there were three odd stones, warm to the touch, seemingly lit from withing with a brilliant flame- Dragon fire!
The snow began falling heavily as the party watched a dozen knights shut the doors to the grand cathedral, as the set out south. They all prayed that the coming storm would secure the cathedral, for the sake of the brave knights tasked with defending the gate. Their greatest adventure had nearly cost the lives of several of the party, but with great risk came great reward. They would go to this mountain village to reconnect to the world, but would return to the cathedral of Minderhal with haste.
“Think the snow will keep them gobbies & giants away til we come back, Val?” Fydon said, a slight slur in his voice from his real or imagined lingering jaw pain.
“Nah, Jahlvoraz will be keepn’ them at bay” Valgoth said sternly, as he pointed to the beast’s head adorning the mountainside above the cathedral where the stone hammer of Minderhal was proudly stood.
“HAHAHA, I go him good, didn’t I buddy?” Fydon said acting out a bow strike with his hands.
“You sure did, kid. You sure did” Valgoth said as the other heroes quietly followed, realizing at that moment, just how close the dwarf and half elf truly were.