The Death of Life
Rhett is a half-fire giant Paladin with Troll Hunter prestige class. He is the Knight Commander of the Order of Secret Hope in the city of Ryhamanthiin - the Hidden City of Hope in the High Moor near the Sword Coast
10th Troll Hunter
Large sized Greathammer (from MM IV).
Giants, Minotaurs, Ogres, Trolls, Ettercaps, Ettins have warred with each other in High Moor for decades. Their size and strength was eclipsed only by their cruelty and evil Today, however, the High Moor is home to the oddest of oddities. The High Moor is now home to monsters who serve the cause of good and peace. Rhett’s is the story of how this came to be
Secretly hidden within the High Moor is Rhymanthiin, the Hidden City of Hope
It was created by, and is inhabited by, many notable good mages. Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun among others. The city is also the home of The Order of the Secret Hope Paladins. The Order regularly delves into the Moor on missions for the Mages. They are led by a Knight Commander. The current Knight Commander is Hadrith, a human from Calimport. The goal of creating a hidden city in the middle of so many evil monsters: They wanted to research different ways to defeat evil beings in order to advance the cause of peace. The mages combined their efforts to make the city unseeable / unnoticable / untraceable by non-good creatures. It is a home to many good creatures and people. Good outsiders – angels, celestials and their like – are seen within the city regularly
A mage named Alarith creates a type of “conversion” magic" this magic will convert innately evil non-outsider monsters to innately good. During his testing, Alarith discovers “conversion” magic works best when cast by innately unflawed beings Azar, a Lammasu, agrees to cast the test spell. Due to its location, monsters of all sorts regularly track near the boundaries of the City. Azar and a group of the Order’s knights wait for an opportunity.
A band of Fire Giants passes near the border of the city. Azar and the knights exit the city and the lammasu casts the spell. The magic fails on the giants who attack. They are defeated by the paladins and Azar.
After the battle, a teenaged boy found hiding. They paladins call for a sage from the city. According to the sage, he is large for a human boy his age but not as large as other Fire Giant children. He’s a true half-giant. The sage says the evil from his half-giant heritage should dominate his aura and personality but the paladins sense a goodly aura around the boy. Alarith declares the spell worked on him; his evil nature has been cleansed. He’s now good. After further study, Alarith determines the spell as currently written must only work on the young Azar, the Lammasu, suggests the boy’s giant heritage could prove to be very useful as a member of the the Order of Secret Hope Paladins
Alarith dedicates the next several years to modifying the spell to affect evil monsters of any age. The boy, named Rhett, joins the Order of Secret Hope as a Knight-Recruit.
A year later, Rhett earned the rank of Knight-Initiate after displaying his battle prowess as a member of a group of Paladins and Mages which defeated a large band of Minotaur mercenaries. The minotaurs had captured a Ki-rin and were close to discovering the location of the Hidden City. His promotion ceremony was performed by the Knight-Protector of the Order of Secret Hope. The culmination of the ceremony resulted in Rhett becoming bonded with his weapon.
Two years later, the Ogres of High Moor began losing ground in their perennial war against the Minotaurs and the Trolls. They fled to the southern border of the High Moor and during their flight they came across Rhett’s expedition which was searching for the remnants of a fallen meteor. Ogre after ogre fell to the power and ferocity of Rhett’s Greathammer. Though his band was well outnumbered, Rhett’s strategy and fighting skill saved his expedition. He was promoted to full-fledged Knight of the Order of Secret Hope. The ceremony was again performed by the Knight-Protector. During this ceremony, Rhett formed a Truebond with his weapon which imbued him with a further resistance to fire and the ability to locate the weapon at will as if he had cast a Locate Object spell.
A decade later…
Rhett, the half-giant, has used the natural size and strength from his giant-blood heritage to rise within the Order of Secret Hope. He’s grown to his full size of 7’ and about 400 pounds, his long, fiery red hair showing his heritage. While he’s normally passionate, focused and dedicated to his work, Rhett has known more than his fair share of moments of levity. His fellow paladins, normally a stoic lot, believe his dual nature to be derived from his half-breed heritage. If any of them held it against him, however, they did so privately.
Wielding his greathammer, Rhett’s participated in many, and led a few expeditions into the High Moor on behalf of the mages
Rhett’s Greathammer, which has been highly enchanted, has several stories attached to it and is well on the way to becoming a local legend. The paladins often joke that having a highly enchanted item is one of the perks of living in a city full of powerful mages It’s size and the ferocity with which Rhett swings it seem to inspire allies when they hear it during a battle. There are several stories about Rhett’s allies gaining courage upon hearing the massive impact of the half-giant’s Greathammer
In the city
Alarith declares the conversion magic spell’s ability to affect fully grown monsters with conversion magic
The Minotaur lands
An group of paladins and mages, along with Azar venture to the center of the Minotaur lands. Azar casts the spell. The magic takes hold on the Minotaurs of High Moor. The Paladins can see the the auras of the minotaurs change from evil to good.
In the city
Hadrith, Azar and the paladins provide a report to the ruling Council of the city of the success with the Minotaurs.
Azar says he has invited the Minotaur Lord to the City to establish diplomatic relations. Alarith, being greeted as a hero, states that the spell has a limitation: The spell will only work on localized bands of monsters and must be customized for each different type of monster. The mage thinks this is due to the slight variants of the same kind of monster in different parts of Faerun. Races of monsters vary slightly across Faerun and the spell must also be customized for each “areas” monsters. He says that a spell that works on Minotaurs from High Moor will not work on Minotaurs from Calimport or Amn. . The customization can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year.
An expedition to Dragonspear Castle is planned, a journey of a few days from the Hidden City. The goal of the expidition was. to collect samples of local trolls who inhabit the castle in effort to create a conversion spell
Rhett is part of the expedition led by Celestial who looks like a human with silver skin. They have a few encounters on the way to the castle but Nothing they can’t handle
They encounter and defeat trolls outside of castle. Rhett’s attacks on the trolls are extraordinary. He rends their limbs and protrusions so severely that their regenerative powers can’t keep up. They fall quickly before him.
Once the trolls are defeated, each member of the expedition takes their own “samples”, including Rhett
As they enter the castle, all members of expedition feel presence of evil. The celestial feels a demonic presence. A moment later a small band of demons attacks. Using their Smite abilities, the Paladins quickly dispatch the demons.
The celestial decides it would be prudent to investigate the castle to determine the source of the demons
During investigation, one of the paladins notices a recently unearthed door that. He feels great evil coming from it. The celestial declares this room holds a doorway to the lower pits and says it must be cleansed. The expedition enters the room. Rhett is the last one to enter
Another band of trolls nears the doorway and attacks.. Rhett and other paladins near the door dispatch them
The celestial begins the cleansing ritual. The room rocks and shift with each wave of the cleansing aura. It seems to Rhett like the evil is struggling to maintain its toehold in the Castle. During the cleansing, a jar is knocked from a shelf by one of the cleansing waves. Its evil presence is masked from the celestial and paladins by the aura of evil emanating from the doorway to the lower pits. The jar contains the remains of an evil wizard named Calas who defeated Daeros Dragonspear centuries ago.
As the spell reaches its apex, part of the wall bursts open and a group of trolls spill forth through a hidden passage. The presence of the evil trolls along with the evil emanating from the remains of Calas and the hell mouth are too much for the cleansing spell which begins to fail. There is an explosion. Rhett gets blown outside the room. His half-giant resistance to fire and magic save his life. The doorway collapses and the room is reduced to rubble
He begins to pick through the rubble as he becomes more coherent begins to pick through the rubble. His worst fears are realized. Everyone else is dead. He wishes he had some way to contact the Hidden City but he does not. A paladin alone in the High Moor, he begins the trek home
The Way Home
Over the course of the next five days, Rhett travels back to the Hidden City. He stops at the Way Inn for one good, safe night’s sleep. He dreams of Dragonspear Castle and a sees a wicked mage long ago performing horrible experiments in an effort to extend his life. Rhett awakens suddenly and in a cold sweat. His heart palpitating, the paladin feels fear for the first time.
Meanwhile, at Dragonspear Castle
The dusty remains of Calas begin to bind with the remains of the trolls. Calas begins to use the regenerative powers of the trolls to regenerate. For a reason yet unknown to Calas, the flesh which regenerates on his body dies immediately leaving him a hideous skeleton with pockets of hanging, dead flesh.
He finds a converted minotaur along with a celestial in the rubble. The celestial has lived through the explosion but barely. Although the minotaur is dead, Calas can sense something is different about its aura. He feels it has been magically influenced. By the celestial, perhaps. He thinks it bears further study.
Calas uses his magic to dominate the trolls. They begin following his commands. He orders the trolls to bring the celestial and the remains of the minotaur to the underground cages. He sets up a lab in what used to be a torture chamber. The chambers vile history provides a sort of profane power to him.
He realizes that the regenerative power of the trolls makes them ideal test subjects. In his mind’s eye he envisions an army of hideous malformed trolls. He knows the domination magic he used to subjugate them is not powerful enough to bend their will to the point where they will willingly maim themselves for him. First, he thinks, he will work on a device which will empower him with complete control his troll army. Second, he begins investigating the magic used to convert the minotaur’s aura. He thinks of many, many ways that troll army and the ability to alter the innate good or evil nature of creature these are things that can be useful.
The Hidden City
Rhett makes it back to the Hidden City, alone. He is brought to the City Council to tell his story. As he finishes the story one of the mages of the Council notices that something is off about Rhett’s aura The mage asks if Rhett has seen or felt anything different since the explosion. Rhett tells them about the dream he had about Calas and his fearful state upon awakening from that dream. The mages consult with the Knight Protector and Knight Commander of the Order of Secret Hope. They come to the conclusion that Rhett’s aura was tainted during the explosion
Several divination mages attempt to discern the nature of the taint. They, along with Rhett, are unaware of Calas’ renewed existence. Each attempt to divine the nature of Rhett’s tainted aura leaves the casting mage in a dazed stupor. They are stunned without returning any information. While they can see that he is not evil, they decree that Rhett cannot remain in the city until the taint is removed
Alarith, the mage who invented conversion magic has an idea. The spell of conversion for the Ogres of High Moor is ready to be cast. The mage also needs samples from the Hill Giants of High Moor. As before, the lammasu Azar agrees to cast the spell of conversion. The Mage suggests to the council that Rhett travel with Azar to cast the spell on the Ogres and collect samples from the Hill Giants. He thinks it is possible that his conversion magic may cure Rhett’s the tainted aura. In the meantime, the mage will begin work to customize the conversion spell for the Trolls of Dragonspear Castle using the samples obtained by Rhett. The Council agrees to assign some divination mages to study the nature of Rhett’s tainted aura and determine how it might be repaired while Rhett travels with Azar.
Some Minotaurs, reveling in sharing their skill and magic with the inhabitants of the Hidden City, suggest further enchanting Rhett’s weapon. They have warred for many years with regenerating creatures and offer to further enhance Rhett’s weapon. The minotaurs say the enchantment will cause the weapon burn anything it hits when it strikes. This fire will prevent regeneration and more importantly, it will prevent any regenerating creature from coming back to life a power shared by a number of the monsters roaming High Moor. The Minotaurs claim that a massive hit will cause a small fiery explosion. The Council allows Rhett to take advantage of the Minotaur’s new generosity however he still must wait outside the City walls.
Rhett spends a week just outside the border of the Hidden City. Unprotected by the city’s mages and alone in the Moor he feels fear again, something even more troubling given that knights of his Paladin order are supposed to be immune to fear. He manages to remain undetected by the monsters of High Moor. A week later, Azar the Lammasu shows up. He sneers as he gives the newly enchanted hammer to Rhett. While Azar is a good being, he’s not pleased to be forced to associate with the tainted half-giant. Rhett is still angry and upset at being forced from the only home he has known. While he has been away from the Hidden City many times, sometimes even for weeks, he always had someplace to which he could return. A home to lay his helmet, as it were. Now he is forced to babysit and protect a being that shows him nothing but contempt for his disrupted aura something over which he has no control. In silence, they set off toward the lands held by the Ogres
On the road
Rhett and Azar speak rarely while they are on the road. One of the few times they do speak is to study a detailed map of the High Moor. They focus on the border of the Ogre lands. Azar notes a spot on the map and declares the spell must be cast from that point. The spell takes one minute to cast and Azar cannot be interrupted during its casting. They are attacked at night by a group of owlbears, ettercaps and trolls.
Rhett’s improved Greathammer crushes the, heads and limbs of the ettercaps and trolls. The fire burns the creature’s wounds making the damage impossible to regenerate. Azar fights the ground based monsters wisely by using his advantage of flight. His strafes, rakes, claws and fire breath demolish the monster ranks.
After the fight each has a different opinion of the other. Rhett is impressed by the being he thought to be so fragile. The lammasu begins to recognize that even someone whose spirit is not completely pure can choose to serve the cause of good. Rhett notes that the trolls have ventured pretty far from Dragonspear Castle, a troubling fact to be sure.
The Ogre lands
Rhett and Azar sneak as much as possible. Azar uses some magical items and spells to help conceal their presence. They fight as little as possible to avoid attracting attention while weaving their way around several groupings of huts the Ogres call “towns”. Having only had to fight on two occasions, both where Ogre Mages saw through their invisibility, Rhett and Azar reach the location Azar noted on the map. It is just on the outskirts of the centermost “town” in the Ogre lands. The Ogres notice them as Azar begins to cast the spell.
Only a few are within range to charge and attack before Azar completes the spell. Rhett is able to hold those Ogres at bay. In the heat of battle, Rhett recognizes that these Ogres are moments away from becoming allies and he chooses to avoid killing them. The attacks slow as the conversion magic takes hold.
Azar looks around after the completion of his spell expecting to see pulverized ogres dead and dying at Rhett’s feet. He’s surprised to see the Ogres alive and lowering their weapons. Azar’s appreciation for his half-giant companion grows. The Ogre Chieftain, following the lead of those ogres who fought Rhett, shouts to his clan to lower their weapons. He strides over to talk with Rhett and Azar. A slight nod from Rhett conveys the leaders thoughts of thanks them for their newfound awareness and conscience.
The Ogre Lands, two days later
The Ogre Chieftain invites Rhett and Azar to stay for a few days and they gladly accept. In the middle of the second day, one of the ogres Rhett had defeated and let live brings a gift to Rhett as a way of saying thank you for sparing his life. He gives the half-giant a cloak which the ogre claims makes scoring a hit on the wearer very difficult. The ogre claims opponents the magic of the cloak will cause opponents to miss the wearer as often as not. Rhett is humbled by this display of humility and graciously accepts the gift..
On the final night, the Chieftain holds a feast in honor of Rhett, Azar and the magic which he says “freed his people by giving them conscience”. During the feast, Azar informs the Ogre leader of the existence of the Hidden City and its purpose. He invites the Chieftain there to establish diplomatic ties. The ogre chieftain says he’d be happy to come and invites Rhett and Azar to be his guides in the city. With a sullen look, Rhett tells the Chieftain that he is not allowed back until the taint has been removed from his aura and that he does not know how to remove it. The Ogre Chieftain offers to help Rhett. He calls on a shaman to divine the nature of Rhett’s tainted aura and how to remove it. Rhett stops the Ogre Mage Shaman before he begins casting the divination and explains how the mages from the Hidden City have tried to divine this nature but failed due to magical recoil. He also explains the spells left them dazed and stunned. The ogre shaman explains that his magic is of a divine nature, not arcane. He says it should prevent such backlash.
Rhett acquiesces. The shaman begins to casts the spell. The shaman says that he sees skeletal mage which he describes as “wicked” and calls him Calas. With detail, he describes the inside of a castle filled with trolls. Rhett recognizes the description as Dragonspear Castle. The shaman continues describing the skeletal mage as “having dead skin which regenerates in patches but dies immediately as if diseased”. Azar recognizes the description of the skeletal mage as a lich and he whispers the word aloud. Rhett has never seen a lich but living in a city of mages, he’s heard of them. Powerful wizards who achieve immortality by purposely becoming undead are the stuff of nightmares. Rhett feels a cold chill down his spine.
The ogre continues to describe the scene at the castle. The lich stands atop a podium casting a spell in a large underground room filled with trolls. As the spell completes, the ceiling opens to a rain of sharp blades. Blood and gore pour out as the trolls are cut to pieces. A purple glowing ray springs from a gem inserted into an ornate silver helm. As he describes the helm, Rhett recognizes it as an Angelhelm, the helm worn by the Celestial during their expedition to the castle. He is revolted by the thought of this evil being wearing it.
The shaman describes how the troll pieces become animated by the ray and how the pieces begin forming into new even more monstrous trolls of hideous size, shape and dimensions. The ogre tells of one troll with three arms and three legs. He tells of another with a mouth on its head and another mouth in its midsection. The newly enlightened ogre shaman shudders with disgust at the horrors he witnesses. As some of the trolls combine to become monstrosities, others pieces begin to form into entirely new trolls. Within a matter of hours, a small troll army stands before Calas. The gem on his helmet glows again and all of the trolls bow to him.
The ogre shaman regains his own sight and tells Rhett that he senses Calas’ tainted aura on him. Azar thinks the explosion at Dragonspear castle somehow imbued Rhett with Calas’ aura. The shaman and the lammasu agree that the only way to restore his aura is to permanently destroy this wizard. Azar explains that a lich such as Calas can only be truly destroyed if his phylactery, the storehouse of his soul, is destroyed.
This troubling news brings an end to the feast. Rhett goes off on his own to think about what the shaman and the lammasu have just told him.
On the road again
The next morning, Rhett and Azar leave the Ogre encampment to begin the trek toward the foothills of the Lost Peak where the Hill Giants live. Azar no longer sneers at Rhett but begins to appreciate the strength of character shown by the half-giant. During the weeklong trek they encounter several bands of trolls, each led by a nightmarish troll amalgam. Some amalgams have three arms. Some have two heads. Some have four legs. Some are 12’ tall with legs standing upon other legs. Wearing the new cloak given to him by the ogres, the trolls are no match for Rhett. He pulverizes the trolls to the point where they are unrecognizable. The limbs and torsos scorched and burned. On the third day of the trip, Rhett even took some enjoyment at the frustration shown by a troll amalgam with two arms, two heads and three legs miss him badly five times in six seconds. The ogre was right. Sometimes they attack as if Rhett were standing several feet to one side or the other.
Between the inability of the trolls to hit Rhett and Azar’s spells and fiery strafing attacks, the trolls stand no chance against the pair.
Only one thing about the trolls bothers the half-giant. They are a long way from Dragonspear Castle. This is a thought which disturbs Azar when Rhett shares it with him. On the night before they enter the Hill Giant lands, Azar notes the spot on the map from which the spell must be cast.
The Hill Giants
Azar and Rhett run into a several gangs of hill giants which they fight and defeat. They take the samples needed by Alarith. While looting the bodies of a hill giant after their third battle with them, Azar finds two stones in the bags of the Giants which interest him. He calls them Sending stones. They allow for messages to be passed between their holders over great distance each day. They each take one of the stones and the samples and begin back to the Hidden City
On the way back, Rhett dreams again of the wicked mage. The gem on Calas’s helmet glows purple again as the trolls begin obeying every command. They begin attacking each other again, tearing each other apart, cutting each other with blades, cutting pieces of themselves off. Rhett sees Calas glaring intently at the trolls as tests the limits of their regeneration on themselves. Horrendous cries of pain echo in the cabin He wakes up with a start and relates the story to Azar
Surprising himself, Azar feels compassion for Rhett. Azar had lived in a bastion of good for his entire existence.
His only experience with anything non-good was when he was called upon to battle evil monsters who were raiding towns or torturing innocents. He had never experienced the kind of gray area he was experiencing while travelling with a good but tainted creature. He began a newfound appreciation for Rhett, a man who willingly put himself in danger for the cause of good while being visited by dreams of evil.
The Hidden City
Rhett and Azar return with the news of the conversion of the Ogres of High Moor. Rhett is allowed into the City to deliver his report. He is informed that he will be asked to leave upon finishing it. Azar speaks up for him telling of his bravery and how, even though his aura is tainted, he is a servant of good. Azar believes Rhett’s decree of banishment should be lifted. The Council listens to Azar and considers his words. After some debate, they restate that Rhett is to leave the city when his report is finished. Rhett is moved by Azar’s loyalty to him and stops the lammasu from escalating the disagreement. He agrees to deliver his report and then leave the city once again.
He tells the Council how they snuck as much as possible and fought only when necessary on the way in. He tells of the differing kinds of trolls, and how well his hammer did against them which causes the minotaurs in attendance nod in approval. As Rhett tells of the fight during Azar’s spell cast, he is interrupted by Azar who tells of how Rhett spared his adversaries, knowing they would shortly become allies. Rhett bows his head in agreement but says nothing more on that topic. He continues the story and tells how quickly the magic took hold, of the Ogre Chieftain and the gifts Rhett received.
Then he tells the story of the feast and the divination spell cast by the ogre shaman. He explains that his tainted aura was caused during explosion when, somehow, the aura of evil from remains of the evil mage Calas became fused within his aura. Azar adds on by saying the evil mage is risen again as a lich and only way to remove his taint is to destroy the lich and his phylactery. Rhett then explains about Calas’s and his experiments with the regeneration powers of the trolls. He tells them about the blade storm and the monstrosities created by the lich. And then he tells them of the troll army. The room is stunned in silence as he describes it. An army of heavily modified, regenerating monstrosities lead by a lich? The tension in the air is palpable. The only sounds heard are of Rhett’s footsteps as leaves the room with Azar.
Azar agrees to deliver the Hill Giant sample to the Mage and tells Rhett they will meet outside the city walls at the same place as before. Feeling like an exile, Rhett is forced from his home again.
The Council Chambers
The City Council is comprised of Mages, Paladins and other goodly beings. They all agree that the troll army must be stopped. After Rhett and Azar depart, the mages tell the stories of Calas. Within the hour, even the most powerful mages in the room give pause to the idea of confronting him as a lich with command of an army of trolls. Hadrith, The Knight Commander of the Order of Secret Hope, agrees to lead the Order in battle against the trolls. Khelben agrees to lead a group of mages to engage the lich while the armies are engaged in battle.
The converted minotaurs attending the Council meeting ask why the Council will send only a group of mages and not all or even most of them.Khelben explains that the Weave is fragile. If a multitude of mages cast in the same immediate area, the Weave can be damaged so severely that it could explode. Kehlben says this is the reason that you never see an army of mages.
Azar, returning to the Council after giving the hill giant samples to Alarith, states that the mage has finished the spell of conversion for the Trolls. The casting point is just outside Dragonspear castle. The wise lammasu explains how the banishment has affected Rhett’s morale and asks Hadrith to allow Rhett to fight alongside his Order against the trolls. Hadrith agrees. They discuss strategy for a while longer and then disperse to begin preparations.
Outside of the city
Azar meets with Rhett to tell him the plans. The lammasu can see that Rhett feels fear again at the mention of Calas’s name. Azar’s eyes glow bright blue as he uses his innate abilities. According to Azar, at the mention of Calas, Rhett’s aura takes on a yellow hue. He believes the aura shift is what causes the paladin to feel fear. Rhett opens up to the goodly lammasu. He explains how he feels terror whenever he thinks of his aura, Calas or the castle. The lammasu thinks that the taint of Rhett’s aura has injured the paladin’s immunity to Fear. Azar says he should return to his normal, fearless self upon the defeat and destruction of Calas. This comes as small comfort to Rhett who shudders at the thought of fighting the lich.
Outside the City, a week later
Rhett’s dreams of Calas become regular. He begins to dread sleep as the thought of seeing the mage perform obscene and profane experiments on his troll subjects sickens him. Their cries of pain and suffering almost have the half-giant feeling pity. On his seventh day outside the city, Rhett dreams of
Calas wearing the Angelhelm and commands the troll army, in preparation for battle. The army’s howl for blood ring still rings in Rhett’s ear as he leaps awake in a cold sweat just before dawn. His panic fades as he comes to his senses and realizes where he is. Alone, stewing in his fear, Rhett waits.
An few hours later The Order of Secret Hope, led by the Knight Commander himself, begin exiting the Hidden City. The Order, a thousand strong, leaves a token garrison of recruits and younger members inside the city. They are followed by Azar, a group of mages, and two celestial beings: one copper, one gold. They make the 3 day journey encountering increasingly heavy troll resistance as they near Dragonspear Castle.
Outside Dragonspear Castle
The army fights their way in. Outnumbered by a large margin, the paladins fight bravely and kill 10 trolls for each paladin lost. Their efforts are aided by the mages and celestials who use their magic to push the trolls ever further back toward the castle. Khelben watches and directs as a Mage-General from the back. He is clearly reserving magical energy for his upcoming fight with Calas
Rhett and Azar, however, take part in the battle. As a team, they create an ever widening circle of dead trolls. Pulverized and burned beyond the point of regeneration, Rhett destroys the trolls. The blows he delivers are so strong they can be heard from nearly 30’ away. Nearby, his allies feel strengthened just from hearing the half-giant’s massive blows land. A few hundred yards away, the gold celestial is bitten in half by a troll with a giant mouth filled with rows of sharp teeth in the middle of its torso. He falls to the ground, dead.
The plan calls for the mages to enter the castle and seek Calas. As the Paladin army pushes the trolls back toward the castle, the mages begin to cast spells of invisibility and they disappear. Those nearby only hear a “whoosh" sound as the invisible mages use their magic to fly. Before he departs, Khelben asks Rhett to return to retreat well behind the rear lines. He believes that due to their bond if Rhett is too close to the phylactery when it’s destroyed, Rhett may die along with Calas. Fear of the lich swells in his chest and Rhett hastily agrees. He retreats as Khelben disappears.
Inside Dragonspear Castle
A few minutes later, magical energy can be seen streaking out of the castle from the area where the celestial cast the spell of cleansing some months ago. Massive bursts of arcane energy, shapes both sacred and profane, bolts, rays, and globes fly about. Arcs of lightning, bursts of fire and rains of acid pour down.
The Paladins have pushed the trolls back to the point where Azar can begin casting his spell. At the same Azar begins to cast the spell of conversion, Khelben locates what he believes to be the phylactery of Calas and aims to destroy it. Khelben notices a green glow around the jar as his magic hits it. Khelben’s magic is absorbed by the magical energy of the jar and released in a giant explosion of arcane energy just as Azar finishes the spell of conversion.
Already weakened by the cleansing spell explosion a few months ago and further endangered by the magic used by Calas during the intervening months the Weave completely gives way and explodes.
The explosive wave of arcane energy rocks the foundation of the massive castle. The stone itself seems to bend and twist at the massive shockwave demolishes everything in its path. In a wave of magical power, the trolls, the paladins and the mages are destroyed. Being some way away from the center of the explosion, Azar is flung into the air and knocked unconscious. Khelben is saved by a contingent magic item which transports him to a pocket dimension. The Order of Secret Hope is destroyed
Continued from previous post….
The next day – somewhere in High Moor
Rhett, is despondent. His companions have fallen. His friend is gone. His Order is destroyed. He thinks even the mighty Blackstaff fell! Worse still, Rhett can feel that the Calas still exists! He cannot even comprehend how he can return to the Hidden City with such news. The Order lost, the celestials, the mages…all for naught!
While wallowing in shame, misery and anger, Rhett feels a jolt of energy from something in his pack. The stone Azar gave him buzzes. Azar, using the sending stones they had found on the giant, is alive!
After a few hours, they find each other. Azar senses Rhett’s state of despondency and explains that the Paladins died doing what they do fighting evil. He reminds the half-giant that each Paladin takes an oath to do exactly that an oath Rhett himself has taken. They talk for a few minutes about what should be done next and agree that, however painful, they must return to the Hidden City.
The trip back
On the trip back, Rhett dreams again of Calas. He senses that the lich is weakened and severely injured but he is healing, thanks to the combined powers of the trolls and his lich state. Rhett sees Calas in one of the few still-standing rooms. The lich opens a secret door which reveals a long downward corridor. The lich travels the corridor downward several hundred feet until he reaches what Rhett can only describe as a zoo. The cages which line the room are almost all filled with dead troll bodies. The lich sneers as he passes a particular cage which holds a trapped, barely alive copper celestial. A wicked smile crosses Calas face and he begins his work again.
Rhett wakens and is visibly shaken. He tells Azar of the dream and asks if an explosion of that size did not kill the lich, what chance did he have? Nodding in understanding, Azar offered no answers.
Outside the Hidden City
For the second time in a few months, Rhett returns to the Hidden City the almost sole survivor of a magical explosion. The days on the road with Azar have calmed the paladin somewhat and steeled his resolve to deliver the news of the Order’s destruction. Alarith stop them as they approach the City. He tells them that Khelben has also just returned, news which turns overjoys both Rhett and Azar, and is preparing to speak to the Council. The mage ushers the pair to the Council chambers while telling them that he has finished the conversion spell for the Hill Giants.
The pair enters the chambers. Khelben is explaining how Calas’s magic was able to conceal the true location of his phylactery while making a fake appear real. The jar was enchanted to absorb any magical attack on it and use that magical energy to produce a greater level explosion. That explosion, Khelben explains, combined with the power of the spell of conversion and an already weakened Weave served as a primer which caused the Weave to collapse in upon itself. When that happens, Blackstaff continued, the Weave will collapse into a singular point, absorbing magical energy until it reaches a point of magical saturation. Once the saturation point is reached, the collapse point violently releases the arcane energy. Blackstaff began to weep when he said that force is the explosion that leveled most of the rest of Castle Dragonspear and destroyed the paladins and other mages.
The Council Chamber
The Council, saddened at the loss, takes a short recess to allow everyone to compose themselves. Upon their return, they ask Rhett and Azar to speak. They tell the same story from their points of view. Rhett also adds that in his dream, he sees Calas beginning to rebuild his army.
At the end of the report, Alarith steps into the room. He’s says that he has been speaking with both the Minotaur Lord and the newly arrived Ogre Chieftain and both have offered their help in dealing with the Lich
The Council members ask for more information and allow the Ogre Chieftain and Minotaur Lord into the Chamber. Both commit to 400 warriors to be ready for battle within a couple of weeks. The Council members and Blackstaff note that a rebuilt troll army could number in the few thousands in that time. A few hundred minotaurs and ogres, while formidable, would not provide enough of a force to be used to attack the lich. Rhett asks why they don’t just try to the conversion spell on the trolls. Khelben explains that Calas’ Control device is stronger than the spell of conversion. If they are put against each other, the conversion spell would fail
Alartih suggests that its possible for them to convert and recruit the Hill Giants. He asks if that would provide enough might to engage a rebuilt troll army. The Council agrees that it might. They set Azar and Rhett to the task of converting the Hill Giants in preparation for an attack on the Castle three weeks hence.
One of the members, a feathery creature mage schooled in the use of sonic magic, asks how they may locate and destroy the true phylactery. Rhett, visibly steeling his resolve, asks if it is possible to “use” his dream connection with Calas to find the location of his phylactery. The divination mages present nod in agreement. Khelben, concerned of a more powerful explosion, says that he can create an item which will allow the wearer to see things as they truly are.
The mages say it is possible for Rhett to do so but tell the paladin that while he is under the spell, Calas will be able to see Rhett’s location as well. Rhett feels the cold, icy fear down his spine again. In his mind’s eye he sees the leering, snarling lich but in his head, he hears Azar’s words about how only destroying the phylactery can remove the fear. Looking at his surroundings, gathered with so many goodly and powerful beings inspire Rhett. He overcomes his fear and agrees to do the spell. Khelben suggest doing the spell somewhere away from the Hidden City in order to protect its location.
Somewhere Outside the City
The divination mages cast their spell. The half-giant falls into a waking dreamlike sleep
Rhett realizes that he’s seeing through the eyes of Calas. He “feels” that Calas is in an underground area of the castle and knows that Calas is now fully healed. It also feels to him as if the magical power of the Castle has been altered, wildly. He knows that he is an area which survived the Arcane blast unscathed by the explosion.
The table has a jar on it along with a book and some lit candles. Rhett begins to read the words in the book. He does not notice that he’s reading them aloud. Azar and the mages hear the words to the spell Rhett reads. They recognize the words as those of a spell to create a pocket dimension and agree this must be where the lich plans to store his phylactery.
As he begins to awaken, Rhett sees directly through Calas’ eyes as the horrid lich looks at a mirror. He watches Calas cast a spell. Rhett, now fully awake, knows that Calas is looking directly at him. He relays this information to the gathered mages and Azar. The group realizes that the lich is planning to attack. They rush back to the Hidden City, disappearing into its secure confines a mere moment before Calas appears.
Calas looks around the area but does not see anyone. The strong magic of the Hidden City prevents the lich from seeing, hearing, sensing or in any other way discerning the Hidden City. Rhett stands just inside the border of the City, no more than three feet from the lich, hyperventilating and paralyzed by fear.
Calas curses as the only thing he detects is the recent use of divination magic. To his frustration, the Paladin has vanished. Calas casts a spell and disappears. Rhett collapses to one knee, shaken to his core by his fear of the lich. Azar stays with him, wisely guiding the conversation to a point where the Paladin’s emotions return to normal.
The Council declares Rhett would be in grave danger if he steps outside the Hidden City unprotected. They all agree upon allowing him to stay within the confines of the City – with the caveat that he does not have interaction with anyone but Azar and members of the Council. They also insist that he stay at the outermost edge of the Cities magical barrier.
Inside the Hidden City, a week later
Azar, working with the greatest divination mage within the city, has created a ring of non-detection which he gives to Rhett. The lammasu ensures Rhett that it will prevent Calas from locating him. He tells Rhett that Alarith has provided him with the conversion spell the Hill Giants and it is time to leave the City.
Even wearing the ring, Rhett succumbs to fear and is so frightened that he cannot leave the city. He is sure that the lich will appear and kill him…or worse. Azar, recognizing the worsening nature of Rhett’s fear realizes that the paladin’s aura has not been damaged, it’s been poisoned. The lammasu suggests stepping just outside the barrier and waiting a few minutes. If they feel a magical surge, they will step back into the City. Rhett agrees and though struggling, takes his first step outside the City. Nothing happens. After a few minutes, Rhett relaxes and the pair begin their trek to the Lost Peak, the lands held by the Hill Giants.
On the road…again.
With the ogres and minotaurs of High Moor on the side of good, the trip to the Lost Peak was uneventful
Each passing day, hour and minute gave Rhett more confidence that Calas could not locate him.
Azar and Rhett have long discussions about overcoming fear, about what it meant to be good and what it meant to be evil and how to handle the gray areas. The lammasu would never have dreamed Rhett for a friend but the strength of character shown by the half-giant had won him over. Rhett was not evil, even with his tainted aura. He had proven that he was a companion worthy of respect and admiration and certainly a warrior of good to be feared. Rhett had come to rely on the advice given by the wise Azar. Even as damaged as he felt Rhett realized that he had never lost hope which he found ironic, given his background. He was proud to call the lammasu friend.
They entered the area of Lost Peak using stronger invisibility magic than they had access to at the Ogre camp. There were no encounters as the pair easily reached the Conversion spell casting point.
Upon finishing the spell, Rhett spotted a group of 5 hill giants. To his amazement, two had burst into laughter. Another had been brought to his knees – weeping at the horrible things they had done, crying out for mercy and forgiveness. Rhett and Azar approached them and explained what was happening. Azar took his time and explained the spell, the conversion, the trolls and the lich. At the end, Azar told the story of the battle at Dragonspear Castle. He asked for their help and they quickly agreed, seeing it as a chance at redemption. The hill giants vowed to convince their army meet the pair along with their army at Dragonspear castle a week and a half later.
The Hidden City
Rhett continued to dream each night of the lich and the morning that they neared the City, Rhett told Azar that the troll army, while smaller in number and with fewer abominations, had been reconstituted. After speaking again with the Council, Rhett was given command of the 20 remaining Order of the Secret Hope paladins
Khelben explained that the mages would not accompany the army to the Castle as the area had become a wild magic zone which could provide unpredictable results. He also explained that with the Weave in a weakened state, Rhett need not fear of dying upon the destruction of the phylactery and that the lich’s spells would also be likely to have somewhat bizarre results. A wild mage named Harold said that he had an item he called the “Litany of Harold". The wild mage claimed that reading the Litany would calm an area of wildness around a caster. He had modified such that a single spell could be cast with far less worry to the affects of wild magic.
Khelben gave Rhett a pair of eyes to put over his own. He instructed Rhett that these eyes would help him spot things better and upon command, they would let him see things as they truly were once each day for a few minutes. Khelben, cursing himself for not thinking to bring them before, believed they would help Rhett in finding the phylactery. Alarith gave Azar a new copy of the spell of conversion for the trolls.
On the road
Rhett dreamt of giant trolls and a rebuilt troll army. This time, however, he took control of his dream and envisioned the trolls being destroyed by army of massive Giants, brutal Ogres and vicious Minotaurs.
For the first time in months, he woke up rested, ready and determined.
Outside Dragonspear Castle
In one of the oddest sights anyone could remember, the ogres, minotaurs and hill giants massed outside the remains of Dragonspear Castle in friendly greeting. Rhett arrived with Azar and the remaining Paladins. The Minotaur Lord, Ogre Chieftain and Hill Giant leader, called a Jarl, briefly discussed strategy. They agreed to provide cover for Rhett and Azar to slip in after drinking potions of invisibly which the pair had been told would not be affected by the wild magic. Rhett and Azar would find the phylactery and destroy it. After the lich was destroyed, Azar will convert the trolls. Upon Rhett’s command, the army charges the ruins of the castle. Fewer in number than before, the troll army fights as if they are possessed. Using their potions, Azar and Rhett invisibly slip in behind the troll lines. Rhett leads the way to the room he had seen in his dream.
Before they can get to the room, they encounter Calas who is wearing the control Angelhelm. The lich recognizes Rhett as the paladin who has been viewing him through his dreams and starts casting a spell. Azar takes flight and begins a strafing attack expecting Rhett to attack. However the half-giant becomes frozen in fear, shaken to his core at the sudden sight of the lich. Calas, sensing the paladin’s feared state, unleashes his spell of arc of arcane fire on the lammasu instead, burning Azar badly. This attack on his friend and confidant forces Rhett out of his fear. A holy fire takes over Rhett as he overcomes his revulsion and fear. His hammer ignites in flame as he approaches the lich.
Rhett screams and attacks the lich. His attacks are joined by calls of vengeance for his Order, for his friends, for Azar and lastly for himself. The lich’s defensive spells act strangely. His shield spell repels the half-giant while his spell of mislead creates a swarm of butterflies that attack the lich himself. Calas uses an arcane fiery bolt to attack Rhett but the spell seems to dissipate when it hits him. A bolt of lightning damages Rhett, but he seems to be able to resist the strength of the death and energy draining spells. He uses his hammer to pound away at the magical defenses of the lich, making it difficult for the lich to concentrate and cast.
Azar pulls himself together, partially heals himself with a potion and rejoins the fray. Rhett seizes the opening caused by Calas’s momentary distraction at the rise of the lammasu to level a blow on the lich which pounds evil mage’s left arm into pulp. With a massive war cry, the half giant leaps with the intention of pulverizing the lich’s head down through his body and into the floor. The lich disappears just as Rhett’s massive Greathammer begins to make contact. Rhett’s hammer blows a fiery hole in the floor. In frustration he screams for Calas.
He attends to Azar whose drank another potion of healing and seems only slightly worse for wear. Alert for any clue as to Calas’s location, Rhett and Azar continue forward.
They arrive at the room which Rhett had seen in his dream. The book is there but the spell is not finished. The last character is missing. Rhett cannot finish spell. Without the spell they can’t enter the pocket dimension and destroy the phylactery. After a moment, Azar remembers Rhett telling him that there is a secret door in this room. They find it and open it. Azar takes the spellbook and they travel the long corridor downward to the room Rhett described as a zoo.
They locate the cage of the copper celestial who resembles a large human, almost the same size as Rhett, but with copper skin. He’s been beaten, tortured and experimented on. Azar looks to Rhett with sadness. He is clearly dying. The celestial and the lammasu make eye contact; the goodly beings both know the end is near. With no final words, the celestial dies; his eyes wide open. As Rhett reaches into the cage to close the eyes of the celestial, something clicks in his mind. He remembers the eyes given to him by Khelben. He puts them over his own eyes and utters the command word. Looking at the spellbook, he can see the final part of the spell. He describes the information to Azar who casts the spell. The pocket dimension opens before them and they enter it.
In the room, Rhett sees more than just the phylactery. He sees a dozen of them. Remembering how Khelben was fooled, he uses the eyes to determine which one is the true phylactery and takes it. As he about to smash it, Azar stops him and says he should destroy the control device first. The magic of the control device might still affect the trolls after the lich is dead unless it is destroyed first. Once the control device is destroyed, Rhett can destroy the phylactery and the lich. Looking around the room Rhett also sees the large Copper celestial’s armor and vestment, some crystals and other magical items. He takes them all, vowing to return them to wherever the Celestial called home. They exit the pocket dimension and begin listening for the sounds of battle. Azar and Rhett return.
The Troll army, has been pushed back by the combined forces of the Minotaurs, Ogres and Giants. As Rhett and Azar return to the top level of the ruins, they run into several squads of trolls. They are able to navigate around some and they battle others. Rhett’s hammer destroys the trolls. Many of them begin to run but are re-possessed by the magic of the control helm to fight on. Rhett feels pity for these beings but he knows they are unable to be defeat without killing them.
As they reach the top level of the ruin, what used to be a courtyard, Rhett and Azar encounter the weakened lich whose left arm is slowly growing back into place. Swinging his fiery Greathammer, Rhett dives at the lich and bashes him into a crumbled wall, stunning him. The control helm flies off the wicked mage’s head, landing right at Rhett’s feet. The half-giant paladin lets out a mighty shout as he slams his Greathammer into it destroying the Troll control device.
The sounds of war take a pause. The troll army reacts as if they woke from a terrible dream. At that moment, Azar reads from the Litany of Harold and casts the spell of conversion. The magic holds steady, fighting against a broken Weave. After a few moments, all present feel the powerful spell permeate the area. Azar converts the troll army.
Regaining his senses but out of magic, the lich runs from Rhett and Azar. He gets about twenty yards before being caught by a squad of his former troll slaves. The trolls attack the evil being who had experimented so cruelly on them, who had enslaved them and forced them to perform evil magic on themselves. With howls for blood and vengeance, they rend, rip and tear Calas’s body to pieces.
Looking at Azar, and receiving a smiling nod of approval, Rhett places the phylactery on the ground. Without wasting a moment, he slams his hammer into the jar, smashing it to dust.
While he had overcome his fear on his own, Rhett senses the feelings of fear, despondency, panic and terror leave him. He knows his aura has been cleansed. Without knowing how Rhett knows his aura is cleansed.
Return to the Hidden City
His aura cleansed Rhett returns as a hero to the Hidden City with Azar, the Giants, Minotaurs, Ogres and their new friends, the Trolls. Diplomatic pacts are worked out over the course of the next few days with invitations for each nation to receive the magical benefits of the Hidden City, all agreeing to an oath to keep its location secret.
The day after their return, Rhett receives a visit from a female elf with silver toned skin named Vidya. Rhett recognizes her as a celestial. They meet and talk about the battles and friends that were lost. She asks him about another celestial, one with copper skin stating that she was his wife. As gently as he can, Rhett explains that he was captured during the first foray into Dragonspear Castle and has died, leaving out the gruesome torture and experiments he endured before passing on. The paladin tells Vidya that he did recover several items which he believed belonged to her husband and asks her if she’d want to take them back. Vidya declines asking Rhett to use them and that they are better off being used to fight evil than they would be as a memorial. With great humility, Rhett agrees.
During the negotiations, it becomes to the Council that they will require help to rebuild their paladin Order. They realize that those converted by magic to good have the ability to be paladins and ask that each of the groups leave some warriors to become members of a newly rebuilt Order. Each of the groups agrees on one condition. They request that the Order to be led by Rhett who accepts his position as the new Knight Commander of the Order of Secret Hope