Into the Fortress
The party surveys the immense valley beneath them, dominated by the massive fortress of the stone giants, Jorgenfist. It is little more than a massive curtain wall anchored by siege towers, but one of the towers is foreboding and unspeakably ancient, hinting at, perhaps, hidden secrets beneath. Around this massive fort, armies of giants camp, clearly building for a massive war. Massive.
As the sun lowers, Balekh casts a series of spells, giving himself a few minutes to fly, silently and invisibly, over the area. He takes a long pass in an elliptical over the valley, noting cliffside caves that might lead into the structure beneath the fort, another massive cave overlooking the valley, and counting the armies and structures within and without the fortress. He lands and shares his information with the party.
After some debate, they decide that the cave overlooking the valley would be the easiest to investigate first, so they wait for nightfall and then take a long walk along the fringes of the valley confident that, barring scouts, the giants’ reliance on darkvision makes them safe at a distance from the armies. The trek is long and anxious, but they reach the base of the mountain where Balekh saw the cave with no incidents. With some additional magics to make climbing possible, they all pile into the cave. Inside, they find what is clearly the abandoned treasure of a dragon, likely the one they killed in Sandpoint. Mountains of (mostly low-value) coins surround a few more pricey treasures, including two interesting pieces of art. The first is a tapestry that depicts monks practicing outside of the black tower in the valley (but without the walls of the fort incorporated); surprisingly, they seem to be using the same style as is used by Haggor, though he had never met anyone other than his mentor who fought in that style. The second is a statuette of precious metals, included in a set of other figures it doesn’t truly match, of a man wielding a polearm; he looks shockingly similar to the holographic image they saw long ago at Thistletop, a recording from the doomed Thassilonian empire.
They camp for the night within the cave, and are awakened early the next morning by faint alarms within the fortress. Clearly, their massacres upon the plateau have finally been reported. A scouting party makes its way out to almost directly beneath them (as they watch, as hidden as possible, from the cave mouth), but passes by without attempting to climb up and search. Nonetheless, they decide they are likely not safe here for long. They rest for the remainder of the day, then fly out that evening to the caves beneath the fortress, overlooking the river below.
The first cave turns out to be a roost for wyverns, stirring as they wake for the evening, and the party decides to attack rather than risk that the creatures smelled them and would give chase. In a short and surprisingly quiet fight, the scaly beasts are put down without anyone getting poisoned. Amongst the treasure in the cave, Balekh finds a potent staff that had obviously been carried by one of their past victims.
With a few moments of magical flight left, the party decides to enter the second cave. Within, they find it covered in webs and crawling with insects and other bugs. Shayliss, almost without thinking, fireballs the back of the cave and then dodges onto the lip of the entrance. There is a terrible screaming within, and as the rest of the party is swarmed by fleeing lesser insects, in the light of the burning webs they can make out two immense arachnid forms beginning to struggle forward. They charge these foul beasts, and discover that they appear to be not just massive spiders, but undead constructs, as each of Haggor’s blows crunches into necrotic chitin and ichor. The beasts were caught off guard by the fireball, and are unable to bring their more disgusting weapons to bear before they are put down by the party.
This fight was not so quiet, and Shayliss darts back into the cave as she sees giants looking over the edge of the cliff. Searching frantically, the party finds a hidden door at the rear of the cave, and enters ahead of giant investigators. Within is a series of mostly natural caves that ultimately lead them to a room that appears to be within the fortress. With trepidation about what they might find, but hoping that the guards are focused outside for now, they step through…