Beginning with this session, we started our "sandbox part" of the campaign. Instead of a series of events, I mapped three tiers of the region around the Eye of the West lighthouse and gave them to the group to explore. It’s (together with the Soulless Valley sandbox) my favorite part of the entire campaign (that’s still going strong, approximately on its 50th game session, albeit our last game was some months ago).
Day 3, Solar Month, 757 years since the Fall of the Gods, early summer
With the troops safe and ready inside the Eye of the West, the Warbard Mellius started to give orders. While the dwarves mercenaries manned the walls and the amazons were sent to watch the road back to Baer’s Tower, the adventurers groups were tasked with scouting and cleaning the small tracks that crossed the Mountains of Eternal Fire – looking for underground passages and secret routes. All groups should leave the lighthouse the next day.
With spare time, Hilguen and Nogard spent their day training and discussing esoterica. Drícia used the day to analyze the Armor of the Valkiries, a relic that the party found during their adventures. She did a lot of talk with the amazon’s leader and learned that a sacred warrioress, wearing the Armor, would be granted the power of flight. Heian traded spells with the amazon’s wizard, Ordo – the only man among the female mercenary outfit. The elf discovered that in Cimeris (the Amazon Kingdom) men were forbidden from fighting, but the arcane arts were considered a taboo to women (female sorcerers were hunted and burned as demon spawn).
Garet spent the day with Corbie, trying to persuade Farduf, the swordsman from the Knights of the Mug (freed from the metallic pyramid by the party) to join the Hammers. He found Farduf at a “holy game” (a poker table) among the adventurer companies, promoted by the yaksha Devash Goldhands, priest of Sardur, the dead god of fortune and wealth. The yaksha was also a member of the Knights of the Mug.
Day 4, Solar Month, 757 years since the Fall of the Gods, early summer
The Hammers of the Dawn left the lighthouse early, determined to explore the Middle Scales – the mountain tracks at the same height of the Eye of the West. Properly equipped with rations and climbing tools, the party brought magic to guard them against the volcanic heat. Because of the constant dark clouds and the crimson glow of the Blaze, the Hammers had few hours of light from the Twin Suns.
The region around the fortified lighthouse was hard to travel and dangerous, without the protection afforded by the magic wards of the Road of the Mountain. With the Eye still on sight the party was attacked by giant scorpions. Although half of the group was weakened by poison, they decided to push on, only to be ambushed again, this time by goblinoids. This event was seen as a good sign, as it meant that a track or goblinoid base should be near. The party even managed to capture and charm an unlucky bugbear. Using Garet as an interpreter (only the halfling spoke Goblinoid) the group learned that indeed the current trails were used by the horde and that their masters were a cadre of goblin warlocks – the strongest called Hell-tongue, the warlock that faced with Heian at the battle before the Lower Gate. However, the bugbear didn’t know who the master of the warlocks was – the idea never occurred to him. Because of a promise made by the party (and sanctioned by Hilguen), after this information the charmed bugbears was released.
Drícia, as a priest of the dead god of the suns, could feel the movement of the celestial bodies. She told the Hammers that – outside the eternal Blaze – night has fallen and the party should seek a safe spot to rest. They camped below a giant rock wall, from which they safely glimpsed the sporadic ash rains generated by the volcanoes.
Day 5, Solar Month, 757 years since the Fall of the Gods, early summer
Our heroes returned to the goblinoid trail. During their climb, they found a strange tree whose leaves were made of fire. The party knew that is was dangerous, because there were goblin bones among its roots. But Heian, being an elf, couldn’t resist the “invitation”. Throwing a stone at the tree, the insufferable fey noted that the “fire leaves” were actually small firebats that swiftly attacked the party. Still unsatisfied, Heian approached the tree, only to be grappled and strangled by its animated roots. While the party discussed the merits of saving the irksome fey, Heian escaped by assuming crowshape.
The trail taken by the group leaded to the other side of the lighthouse’s mountain. Using Valquir as flying scout, the party learned that the mountain range ahead was still more hostile, affected by the harsh volcanic weather and honeycombed with disturbing giant caves – their entrances filled with the bones of bigger monsters. Wisely they decided to retreat.
Following a minor trail and climbing to the Upper Scales, Heian managed to locate more tracks to a set of small caves. Once inside the party kept going, until an upper exit, guarded by another “fire tree”. There were clear signs that goblinoids used this passage, so there must be a way to “deactivate” the arboreal guardian. Searching around the cave the party learned that smoke let the tree temporarily numb and so managed to cross it. Ahead there was another set of caves and a cacophony of sounds that seemed to indicate that an entire goblin tribe was making a festival. The sounds, however, were generated by a strange and intelligent red spider. Hilguen used his Divine Spark to grapple and pin the giant arachnid, while the rest of team invested against it. After the encounter, Heian and Garet found the creature’s lair and the loot taken from its previous victims – probably soldiers and scouts from the War of the Dark Banners. Among the magic items there was a small icon of Mitra’le (dead god of the Yellow Sun); a magic goblin skull; a blackened goblinoid sword and a snakeblade (a drasendór weapon).
Finding another path through the caves the Hammers crossed the mountain, only to reach a dead-end over a cliff. Dispirited, the group went back. Returning was even harder. While climbing down the mountain slope the party was hit in the open by an ash rain and had to fight through fire elementals. To make things worse, Garet’s backpack caught fire, detonating the technomagic grenades within. While recovering from the explosion, an avalanche started – caused not by the grenades but by a weird beast, half-crab, half-spider, with rock skin and a sole eye. The creature could control loose rocks around it and change rock to mud. The group survived thanks to celestial fire birds summoned from the Twin Suns by Drícia; Hilguen later managed to enter the brawl with his Divine Spark, evening the odds.
Night has already fallen, but the Hammers – battered and without resources – decided to push on to the safe walls of the lighthouse.
Day 6, Solar Month, 757 years since the Fall of the Gods, early summer
The Hammers were greeted at the Lower Gate by the priestess-monk Ylira, from the Avengers of the Gôteintor. She told them that the Road Marshal, Garamus the Hawk, had recovered from his wounds. She also informed them that the Knights of the Mug were now the only adventurer party outside the keep. After climbing to the upper levels, the Hammers meet the leader of the Avengers – Amaris D’Eris. The cavalier has returned from the upper Road of the Mountain with strange tales – there was a giant wall of magic ice covering the road some miles above. At this moment the lighthouse’s bells alerted the defenders that the horde has returned. Going to the walls, the Hammers saw thousand of torches appearing from nowhere in the peaks above the Eye. The goblinoid army was still far, maybe behind the mysterious ice wall mentioned by Aramis, but its numbers were staggering – probably four or five times bigger than the army that left Baer’s Tower.