1 Calistril (II), 4721 AR
It begins the day the comet appears in Golarion’s sky and Mount Titania ignites, bathing the Valley of Obelisks with its eerie red-orange light. Violent attacks by monsters and tribes of demi-humans in the wilds of the Valley intensify, pressing the National Army sorely. The Luminous Order is called upon to watch the southern border against nervous orc forces making sure the chaos doesn’t spill into Belkzen. Refugees begin arriving in Sumberton within a day, reporting villages lost and even Silvermont overrun by gibbering hordes of sickly gray-skinned humanoids of unknown origin. The Ebon Cabal in the Black Tower breaks its policy of isolation and secrecy to do what it can to defend the area, but they are hard-pressed.
* * *
4 Calistril (II), 4721 AR
Nasti receives a sending from Cabal leadership, requesting aid from her and her cousins. The forces defending the Valley need more information, and the only place to get it is inside the burning mountain.
“I knew we were gonna end up in there someday. Man, but I HATE being right all the time…” Canter complains. The adventurers make their preparations and head north out of Sumberton.
* * *
7 Calistril (II), 4721
Looking up into the star-sprinkled sky, the cousins’ gaze is drawn to the heights above Firestorm Peak. A pillar of roaring fire hurtles down from on high with a thunderous noise. The cylinder of flame touches upon the summit of the mountain, feeding the massive conflagration from which it draws its dramatic name. The twisting pillar dissipates immediately but the firestorm rages on, a red-orange halo of supernatural flame living on the mountain’s top.
Following directions received by Cabal researchers, they make their way into the foothills and eventually come to the entrance they seek. Ordinarily sealed by two large doors made from some strange metal that resembles glass, the portal lies open while Mount Titania burns.
“These must be the doors that are only open when the comet’s in the sky…” Nasti says. She kneels down and rustles the grass, hoping that’ll tide her over for a while.
Beyond the open doors, the cousins see a twenty-foot wide corridor leading to the east, into the depths of the mountain. The walls, ceiling, and floor are perfectly smooth, masterfully carved from native rock. Neither scent, sound, nor light gives away any clue as to what lies in the unrelieved darkness before them.
Amaya pauses a moment to scan the chamber more closely. A moment later, she reports, “There are some glass-metal caltrops covering the whole floor.”
“Nephelium. That’s what it’s called,” Nasti says. She’s wearing a pendant made of the same glassy metal stuff.
“Bless you,” Amaya quips. “We might be able to pick our way across, slowly.”
“All that time mom chided me about shuffling my feet. If she could see us now,” Nova says.
“Perhaps someone who can fly could scout that out for us,” Nasti says to Canter.
“Or get a broom, maybe,” the familiar says. Nasti gives him a flat look and he sighs. “Fine, I’ll go. Geeze. Slavedriver.”
The corridor emerges into a very large chamber, but you cannot make out its dimensions due to the ten-foot-tall stone barrier which blocks easy access to the hall. The wall looks to be of a different style of construction than the preceding corridor, of large blocks of roughly cut granite. The top of the wall is embedded with spikes and barbs which point down at an angle, making climbing the wall difficult. There is no light beyond the wall, and silence pervades all.
Canter ascends to a point just over the wall to get a look beyond and says, “Gulp!”
A moment later, a hail of large rocks slams into the familiar, knocking him senseless from the sky. Nasti winces in sympathy and calls out, “We got giants!”
Amaya curses and begins to cross the room, knocking caltrops aside as she goes and clearing a path for her cousins to follow. She gets to the base of the spiked wall and gauges it’ll take some extra time and care to get to the top without impaling herself. Nasti enters the mountain drawing close enough to Canter to stabilize her familiar with a cantrip. Nova follows her cousins in and activates the winged boots taken from Gashkarr, gnoll warchief and former interim master of the Slaughtergarde Armory. With backup in place, Amaya gains the top of the wall.
She gets a glimpse of what Canter saw before coming under attack. Four feral gray-skinned giants with hairy backs and skull-decorated loincloths leer at her from the far side of the spiked wall. Massive lower tusks jut upward sharply from their mouths, and they each hold a primitive greataxe in one hand and a boulder in the other. The nearer two swing their blades at the half-elf, but she moves to allow her armor to take the brunt. Unfortunately, the farther giants – tucked into a redoubt of similar construction to the wall she stood atop – flung rocks to strike her from afar.
Nasti sprouts her wings and flies up to the top of the wall south of Amaya’s position to survey the enemy. Nova heals Amaya and flies up to the wall just below the half-elf, out of sight of stony missiles. The giants continue to attack Amaya, and though she can evade some blows, those that land are painful. She leaps down, sword leading, beside the nearest giant and carves into him as she falls. The landing hurts her knees a little, but she pivots and twists her blade into her foe’s wrist, severing the tendon and making the brute drop its greataxe.
Uncomprehending, the giant lashes out with his other fist but pulls back each time Amaya’s blade comes in line, apparently not wanting to lose any fingers. The other frontline giant rounds the wall and cuts into Nasti. The tiefling shows her teeth, glances across the chamber, and nods decisively, unleashing a cone of frigid energy across the giant attacking her and the two flinging boulders from farther back. The spell absolutely devastates the creatures, flash-freezing one’s eyeball, which shatters. Satisfied with the results, she retreats to just above the north wall.
Because it is necessary, Nova flies to the top of the wall and continues healing Amaya. The fight continues, but the giants have lost the edge. The cousins begin dropping the brutes left and right. Nasti’s fireball eliminates the two rock-throwers, and the rest is helping Amaya mop up.
When the last giant falls, Nasti flies over the wall to retrieve Canter. The cousins huddle up in the northwest corner of the chamber and try to steal a short rest, Amaya tending to her own and Nasti’s wounds while the tiefling sees to reviving her familiar.
When he comes to, Canter cries out, “Ahh! Cave clowns! Get ’em off me!” He blinks up at Nasti until recognition settles in. His tone normalizes as he says, “‘Fly ahead,’ she says. ‘Check it out,’ she says. Phooey.”
They decide to try to risk spending a bit more time seeing to their injuries, but an unseen threat makes noise on the approach and warns them of the danger. A pair of oversized gray-skinned dwarves with bald heads and rust-red beards appear from their veil of invisibility when they attack with ranseurs. Unfortunately for the duergar guards, though they manage to score some minor hits, they are no match for the cousins, even injured.
When they are both dead Nasti says, “I pre-hate those guys.” Nova notes that the duergar spears appear to be enchanted, and Amaya collects them in her bag of holding after they and the bodies shrink back down to normal size. Deciding they can’t risk another rest for the time being, Nova uses one of her wands to heal Amaya a bit more, then the cousins head around the giant’s porcupine redoubt and farther into the mountain.
A wall has been built with large blocks of crudely quarried stone, bisecting what appears to have once been a much larger chamber. It is apparent from the contrasting stonework that the wall was not part of the original construction. The only visible break in the wall is a twenty-foot-high by twenty-foot-wide arched opening leading to the east.
When they reach the arch, another pair of duergar block their path and tell them to go back in heavily accented Dwarven.
“I’m sorry but we can’t go back,” Amaya answers, one hand on her enchanted belt.
“Last warning,” one of the duergar responds.
The half-elf translates for her cousins. “They want us to leave. This is their last warning.”
“That’s cute,” Nasti says in Undercommon. One of the duergar hisses in recognition of the slight, and the tiefling shows her teeth.
“We’d like them to leave our valley too,” Nova says. “But I don’t think they’ll just turn around either.”
Amaya nods in agreement then turns to charge. A fifteen-foot-tall duergar standing behind the northern spiked wall appears when it tries to skewer her. She evades and continues her rush, getting stuck by her target’s ranseur while juking out of the way of its partner’s spear. Her blade carves a furrow out of him, and she takes a defensive stance.
Nova hits Amaya’s target with a mental attack, and Nasti follows up with an electric arc against two of the oversized deep dwarves. One of them stalks past Amaya to flank the half-elf and threaten Nasti. The wounded duergar takes advantage of the flank to score a hit against Amaya, who unleashes a veritable whirlwind attack, striking both enemies before returning to her defensive stance. Nova takes cover behind the wall and heals Amaya again.
Nasti pivots out of the way of an oncoming ranseur and strikes a pair of duergar with a lightning bolt. She cannot evade all the follow-up attacks, and her blood splashes to the stone floor. When the first duergar falls, the fight begins to end. Nova lashes out with cold, Nasti unleashes various elements, and Amaya plies her sword work until only one duergar remains.
And it could not stand long…