Arrival +13 days, 4 hours, 48 minutes – +13 days, 5 hours, 15 minutes – Grigori and Emmiven work in tandem on the wolf; the former pouring golden energy into him, restoring flesh and bone, the latter urging him to waken. Down here, in the bitter unnatural cold, surrounded by shadows and the stink of the slain dracani, hope is in short supply. However, after what seems like a small eternity, the huge beasts breathing grows deep and strong, and its angular tawny eyes slowly open. Then, with a low growl, Mord Bit leaps to his feet, before bowling over the slight cleric with a massive pair of paws and a slobbering tongue.
Ulframm is simply speechless with joy, and knocks both Grigori and Mord Bit to the scaled flank of the slain monster with a crushing bear hug.
Arrival +13 days, 5 hours, 16 minutes - +13 days, 5 hours, 50 minutes – Still stiff, dizzy and weak from their trials, the group take a moment to centre themselves before scaling the slippery cliff that leads back up to the ledge. Limbs burning, heads spinning, they eventually scrabble back onto the black ice above, and allow themselves a few moments to let the pain of their weary ascent pass. Then Jaeger takes the mummified eyeball given to them by the Nordvyrr ghost, and holds it before his own eyes. To his shock, he is able to see through the wretched orb as if it were a telescope, though the world it reveals is a place of shifting shadows, where there is no real darkness, only gradients of glowing gloom. Scanning the way ahead he groans a little, for the eye reveals that a wide path runs behind the waterfall, clearly obscured by a powerful illusion. And it is next to that path, directly behind the fuming fall of deadly clutching water, that he spies the way into the mountain; a massive pair of black stone doors, carved along each side with complex glyphs of alien origin. Joining these are tangled lines of magical conduits, and although he cannot fathom out how, the assassin realises that there is some trick to opening the door safely.
One by one the group peer through the eyeball, and soon Grigori, Seren, Varracuda and Jaeger are discussing how they feel the door could be safely opened. The assassin states that some of the runes seem to be variants of glyphs he has encountered before when hunting mages; glyphs designed to unleash a temporary but deadly distortion of the local planar fabric. Grigori tries to divine some pattern to the way the runes and lines flow by putting himself in the mindset of the creatures that created it, whilst Seren and Varracuda draw on their respective understandings of magic to try and decipher how they were laid down. However, with all their input they are still unsure as to how to open the door – that is until help comes from a very unexpected direction.
Emmiven, silent until this point, suddenly moves forwards, his steps oddly invigorated for one who has been so much. Eyes bright and dark, he offers some insights into how the lines are aligned, and impossibly, his analysis proves to be not only true, but the key to solving the mystery.
...No one, in their exhausted state thinks to question how a warrior could know so much about this ancient and alien magic...
After a while, they agree that the runes on the right hand side of the door must be awoken from top to bottom. This they feel, is done by activating the rune on the left hand side that is linked to each through one of the tangled conduits. This of course means that they then have to carefully trace each conduit through its contorted path from its source glyph to its destination one – a task made difficult by the weird light of the world the eye sees into, and by the sheer weariness that presses like a cold vice on each adventurer's mind. However, eventually, they feel they have worked it out, which means that they now only have to activate the runes. Unfortunately, as far as they can tell, the only way to awaken a rune is to channel arcane energy into it, and with most of them being very high up, the only one who can try this is Seren. This means that one of the groups most fragile member (although how anyone can refer to the 7' tall, quarter ton draconic humanoid as “fragile” is a mystery to most) must bare the brunt of any mistakes made – though she will be accompanied by Ulframm.
And so, with the cold vapours of the fall whipping around them, and spying through the eyeball for reference between each casting, the drakven throws her spells at the runes in the order prescribed by her and her allies calculations. Alas, forced to work almost blind, with only the gaze before the act of spell casting to guide her aim, the sorceress misses the appropriate runes twice, and each time is rewarded with agony and injury as the entire area in front of the gates is briefly plunged into dimensional chaos; the very air igniting with every kind of energy imaginable for a split second, freezing, blasting, warping and ripping the scales in chunks from her flesh, and leaving poor Ulframm bleeding heavily from several deep lacerations and burns. Luckily though, on her third attempt, the sorceress gets it right, and her spells ignite the runes in perfect order, the air resonating with the power awoken in the vast portal.
As her last spell strikes home, so the illusion masking the door and the ledge is washed away, and all can see the dazzling lights of the glyphs as they awaken with the magic forced into them. For a moment it seems as if the only thing that is going to happen is this luminous display of harnessed power, at least until the massive portal, with a crack like lightning, begins to swing open with ponderous inertia, the groan and roar of its movement and the rush of air as it swings wide, enough to send the nearer adventurers back on their heels.
Brilliant blue-white light strobes from within, throwing eerie rainbows through the plummeting fall of frozen vapours, and steam dances like wraiths in the doorway as the warmer air from inside freezes in the utter cold of this barren world. Gathering their strength, the party move towards the doorway and into the corridor beyond.
Arrival +13 days, 5 hours, 51 minutes - +13 days, 6 hours, 00 minutes – Beyond the vast portal is a huge corridor, almost 60' across and three times as long, who's vaulted ceiling arches some 80' above. It is carved from the rock of the mountain, and every inch of it is decorated with gorgom runes of vast size. Approximately 45' from the entrance to the corridor rises an incredible structure; a vast portal of dancing white and blue light, stretched between the talons of two full-sized dracani skeletons, each posed to look as if they are holding the gateway's disc. A wide stairway of dull stone reaches 30' up from the floor to the lower edge of the portal; a convenient access point to the gate – or from it. The portal is clearly active, and every now and then a lazy arm of radiant energy reaches from it and rolls over the skeletons in a liquid caress, the air spitting as it is agitated by the potent planar disruption.
Swallowing hard, Ulframm points at the portal and says “So, this must be the door that leads to the Altar within the Gorgom high temple. I guess we are almost at our goal, and...” he stops, his voice seeming to catch somewhere in his throat, “where we find out what the shaman's prophecy means.”
The portal flares suddenly, the corridor drowned in a burst of harsh white light, and the ground begins to shake. Agitated feelers of magical disruption play around the edge of the portal, their snap and hiss bloodless in the cold air of the corridor. And then something emerges from the disc of light; something so huge that the party almost find it impossible to accept how it can move and act with such speed and focus – a vast humanoid, clad in dark chain armour, its huge head armoured by a spectacled helm, an axe of impossible dimensions clutched in its hands. It is bearded, the pale white hair bound into elaborate plaits, and over its armour it wears the skins of vast mountain bears, stitched together as a barrier against the cold.
“A gorgom!” Yells Ulframm, hefting his axe, “By the old ones, a gorgom!”
The entire group spend a moment rooted to the spot, watching the terrible, inexorable advance of the gigantic humanoid, and the horrific momentum that its vast weapon picks up as it swings forth. Then a second figure emerges from the portal – another titanic warrior – and the spell is broken. Weapons are raised in defence and offence, and magics is called upon as they prepare to face the oncoming juggernaut.
It is Ulframm who first clashes with the leading monster, the Neck Cutter slicing in a silver arc towards the leg of the lead gorgom. Unfortunately, even that blade's razor edge is unable to do much more than dent the thick rings of mail that protect the deadly brute, and the Nordvyrr suddenly finds himself hurtling backwards, his own armour almost laid open to the flesh by the scything edge of the gigantic axe.
A third gorgom, every bit as huge as the first two, but bearing a massive mace in one hand, a rimed scimitar the size of a small ship in the other, emerges from the dazzling surface of the portal, the sword raised in a the air, a wordless roar of fury escaping it as it summons spectral light and bathes himself in its glow. The second gorgom to emerge from the portal gives a strangled scream, and seems to become somehow even more huge. His flesh, previously pale blue-white as if frostbitten, flushes an ugly blotchy purple, and his eyes boggle, suddenly bulging with veins. Bloody foam froths from his mouth, and his thunderous voice becomes a painful screech as he allows a berserk rage to overwhelm him, and with his huge axe raised charges...
...Only to meet the warlord in a catastrophic impact. Emmiven seeing the gorgom berserk charging the still tightly packed group gives his own battle cry – feeble and almost unheard in the face of the monster's deafening voice – and runs to meet him, his hammer shimmering with power as he surges forth. The shapeshifter does not even reach the massive monsters knee, but his weapon, forged of magically dense metals and enchanted to smite even the largest foe, strikes with terrible force, blasting the gorgom to its knees with a deafening howl. The entire chamber shakes as many tons of gorgom hits the ground, its own blade screaming off the warlord's armour – though there is enough force behind the blow to send him sprawling, and lay his shoulder open to the bone.
Grigori's voice rises above the tumult of the battle, somehow heard by all, and a golden light surrounds him. Feelers of restorative magic flicker from him and lightly touch the warlord, immediately mending his ravaged flesh. With this done, the priest utters a word of divine power, which smites the berserk that struck the warlord, sending it reeling, its defences lowered temporarily. Schnecke gives into his rage, and flies at the nearest berserk, his flaming axe melting and blasting links of armour, whilst magic crackles and flashes from the sorceresses staff and from the blades of the swordmage, and poisoned bolts snicker from the assassin's delicate crossbow, the venom surging with terrible force through the colossal monsters.
Quite quickly the battle settles into a deadly rhythm; the gorgom strike hard, leaving terrible spurting wounds and weeping contusions in their wake, Grigori summons incredible amounts of healing magic, erasing or reducing the lethality of the blows, and the rest of the group unleash their attacks upon the foes that smote them. First to go down is the first berserk that emerged from the portal, his thick skull chopped and leaking pink and orange tissue from a multitude of strikes, his flesh burned and tortured from the flaming strikes of the barbarian and swordmage, the chewing magics of the drakven, the searing poisons of the assassin and the unrelenting pounding of the warlord's hammer and the Nordvyrr's sword. Slumping down, the floor ankle deep in his gore, the monsters' corpse forms a barrier that the group use for cover against their other foes.
The dual-weapon wielding gorgom is the next to go down, unable to keep all the group from him at once. He manages at one point to almost kill Ulframm, his mace crushing the Nordvyrr's head so seriously that shards of bone punch through his scalp, and he is thrown across the corridor, where he crumples against the wall, blood pouring from his ears and nose, his breath bubbling in his crushed chest. Fotunately for him, Ulframm is saved by the priest, and the monster is cut down in short order, its howls of rage and agony leaving everyone's ears ringing.
By now the group's initial fervour is once more fading under the weight of their continued efforts and extended privations, and the last enemy is still stubbornly attacking, its axe leaving red ruin in its wake. However, it is Schnecke who concludes the battle; raising his axe into a high guard position and emitting a piercing battle cry as he charges, heedless of the monstrous axe that sweeps out to meet him (missing and gouging a huge divot in the stone of the stairs leading to the portal) and lands a horrific blow on the brute's shin. The searing razor of the axe snips through the armour guarding the gorgoms shin, and kerfs a neat, agonising wound into the bone, sending the berserk hopping back in shock - straight into the portal, which swallows it with desiccated boom of warping magics...
“Urrm, did you mean to do that?” Asks Emmiven, struggling to his feet after being knocked back again.
“Let's get in there and kill everything.” comes the snarled reply...