In a matter of seconds, it was over.
The party charged the guard tower, unleashing their most powerful attacks, tackling the orc mage out of the sky and laying waste to every enemy in a single bloody blink of an eye. Even the mythic Great Cyclops did not foresee or have time to react to the slaughter.
The party quickly realized there was a new unknown, a potential ally. The blast sounds coming from a nearby hill to the right reminded the group of Aven’s pepperbox, but were somehow different.
Looking in that direction, a lone figure stood upon the snowy hill of grass. His cloak billowed in the wind and the party glimpsed a flash of light as if his skin was metallic: was this another iron-skinned hero? Perched upon his shoulder was another metal oddity: a small winged thing, turning its head to and fro, resplendent with color. Was it an ironborn parrot?
Quiet settled over the scene, as the captives’ panic turned to a low murmur of concern. For a brief, moment, the only sounds were the wind whipping snow around the mysterious stranger on the hill, and the ragged breaths of injured and exerted warriors.
Then, from the west, from the distant, icy mountains, bellowed the low rumbling sound of a animal horn being blown, then another, then another, and signal fires began to dot the white backdrop.
The stranger approaches with a noticeable increase in speed. This stranger has an eye patch which is quite intimidating against what looks to be a rough chiseled face. What can been seen of the face looks to be part skin and part metal, with the flesh sort of merging together in some sort of desire to keep the humanity intact as best as possible. Only the top part is visible because the bottom part is hidden behind a bandanna. Gears, peeking through the crevices of the flesh like metal plates, create low whirling and ticking sounds as he moves about with precise motion, as fluid as that of a clockwork timepiece. The metal plates seem to have replaced what was maybe once skin in certain areas, now provides the protective covering for the internal mechanisms that allow the creature act and move so precisely. This relationship of the gears to the metal plates is similar to that skin and blood for more fleshy individuals. The high polished sheen of the metal plates gives the stranger quite an alluring look, that and the awe of such a creature… living, makes it almost hard to not take notice of him.
The creature on his shoulder looks to be be a mix of faerie and dragon crafted from metal. Colors have been applied to make the creature more colorful and to match its appearance a bit better. It continues to look back and around without paying much attention to you. The mysterious figure speaks to it, referring to it by the name “Orn”.
MYSTERIOUS STRANGER: “We need to move quickly or we might be encroached upon without readiness and that would not do for any type of tactical advantage.”
He pulls his bandanna below off of his nose and down around his neck. It’s Aven! “I’m back but not without lots to discuss. Hold off on your questions until later. We will catch up then. Now its important to get prepared and survive. He drops several bags with name tags on them. Each of these I have crafted for you with expectation that it will help to the best of my knowledge and efficiency.”
For Sentinel: Amulet of Might Fists +1, Daredevil Boots, Bodywrap of Might Strikes (shock), Bracers of armor +1
For Zinn: Belt of Mighty Con +2, Medallion of Mind Sentinel
For Fraas: Rod of Metamagic of Lesser Empower Spell
For Bork: Cloak of Resistance +2, Necklace of Fireballs (II)
For Gfedcba: Eagle Cape
For Rand: Crown of Swords
For Shah: Boots of Striding and Springing, Ring of Feather Fall
Fraas stares agape at his rod with wide eyes for a good 30 seconds, then smirks. “I sure do hope some of the oncoming horde are flammable.”
RAND: “Aven this is amazing! I’m so glad you’re back. When we get the chance you’ve got a lot to tell us. Particularly, what’s happened to you. It looks like we don’t have much time until more of the winter army gets here. Zinn would you ‘Speak with Dead’ with the Cyclops while we break these Belheim captives out of their chains? Fraas do you think you could engineer a cart out of the stuff in the tower? Some of these people might be slow movers and we’ll need to carry them. How about we bring the two Orc sorcerer bodies with us back to Griffton, or at least until we’re safe, and ‘Speak with Dead’ to them too? If we can get this crowd back to the forest, we might be able to cover our tracks if we follow the same path the previous giants made on the way to the portal to Griffton.”
GFEDCBA: “Perhaps we should spread out. That way if they take a few of us, they might think they got us all, and a few could survive.”
SHAH (looking at the prisoners): “Are any of them capable fighters?”
Walking among the prisoners and speaking to those who are not in shock, Shah gets the sense that it is a mix of roughly 80% skilled artisan caste and 20% warrior caste. Some of them are wearing tattered green tabards emblazoned with Lord Garland’s sigil. The chains look easy enough to break off and the shackles easy enough to pick, if desired. They speak of the attack, and it reinforces what has already been heard: a surprise attack “from all directions,” a freezing storm, and many captives caught in nets. (One captive is a brook trout fisherman who seems to take morbid enjoyment in that irony.) The Belheim folk indicate many more captives were taken west, and they had been kept in the guard tower for roughly a week. It looked like the prisoners had been mining a dark rock/metal, perhaps coal.
The group notices a great amount of tracks heading west, over the grassy, snowcovered hills, towards the mountains, as if a great group travelled that way. Sentinel’s perceptive eyes do not see any movement from the signal fires on the distant mountains, which are roughly 50100 miles away.
Fraas detects magic and looks around the corpses, prisoners and tower site. Nothing magical among the corpses, captives or tower wreckage. However, the two orc mages were wearing valuable looking garments: furs of white winter stoat, over thick, fine wool cloaks, set with red garnets. The appraisers of the group think they are worth perhaps 5000gp in total. Otherwise, the group find provisions to make a thick porridge to feed the captives, and the frozen carcasseses of three enormous, shaggyfurred elk. One haunch has been processed somewhat, partially eaten and its fat rendered and collected in enormous frosted glass jars. The giants and cyclops appear to have been eating captives, which the shaken Belheim inhabitants confirm.
Rand detects evil across the crowd, seeing a couple goods and a couple evils, both in the artisan and the warrior groups. The auras are faint, when present. Laush sets to healing any ailing prisoners.
Sentinel points out that the group should light our signal fire probably to avoid looking suspicious as the only tower without one lit. Other than that sentinel looks to the group, out of earshot of the prisoners, “we need to figure out a way to get these people to safety as well as ourselves to safety if we can’t figure out a way to accomplish both of those tasks we need to find a way to get ourselves to safety. We also need to ask all these people where the mines in this region are. With so many artisans we probably have a good understanding of the general lay of resources in the surrounding area”
RAND (to Sentinel): “Lighting the signal here is a great idea, (aside) but we couldn’t possibly leave these people. Once we speak with dead, and free the prisoners, I think we should have enough time to get them to the tree portal and safely into the tunnels to Griffton. Rand starts breaking chains off people, assuring them and telling them to stay calm and follow us.”