QUEST: Wild Sheep Chase
The party’s attempt to grab a rare afternoon of downtime is interrupted by a frantic sheep equipped with a Scroll of Speak to Animals and a fierce determination to get their attention. With the aid of some magic, the creature reveals itself to be no mere beast, but a wizard who fell victim to an embittered apprentice and a stolen Wand of True Polymorph. After two years imprisoned with nothing to eat but his own lawn, the ex-elf has escaped and is in
dire need of aid. Transformed assassins are looking to grab themselves a mutton dinner, while the only object capable of restoring his opposable thumbs lies in the hands of his former pupil and current nemesis. Fortunately, the woolly wizard has found new allies he can rely on, right? Can the heroes put an end to Noke’s transmutational tyranny and restore an innocent wizard to his true form? There’s only one way to find out…
“Finethir Shinebright, at your service ladies and gents.I seem to be in dire need for your help in taking back an extremely powerful magical artifact from a dangerous, possibly insane wizard. If he is left with the artifact in his possession, it’s baaaaad news for anyone in a three hundred mile radius. It’s a wand of true polymorph, the source of my, ah, predicament. I fear one day he will become mad enough to polymorph everyone in the Ulvenwald forest into beasts!”
He bleats suddenly, and then blinks, as though he had startled himself.
Why come to us and not the authorities?
Who would trust the word of a sheep over a trusted and feared wizard? And no guard I’ve met in these parts is even capable of casting spells!
Doesn’t Speak with Animals only last 10 minutes?
The scroll is of my making, modified to last for up to eight hours. Though that isn’t a surety…
Why do you need the wand? Can’t any wizard turn you back?
True Polymorph is a 9th level spell, so unless your party boasts a prodigious of magic able to cast such a spell, I need the wand.
What happened to you?
Until two years ago I owned and worked out of a tower on the outskirts of town. I’m a wizard of no small talent, specializing in transmutation magic. My most prized possession-and probably the key to my success-is an incredibly rare Wand of True Polymorph, which I used to work many wonders on behalf of local officials, nobles and merchants. However, one fateful night I ended from my meditative trance to find my apprentice, Sememmon Noke, standing over me, clutching the wand. I demanded to know what the boy was doing, but the only noise I could produce was an angry ‘baaaaah’. It was already too late. With the wand representing my only chance of salvation, I became a virtual prisoner in my own garden. He was forced to graze on nothing but grass and butter cups while hungry wolves and other beasts-that I suspect were polymorphed guards-looked on. Last night I felt hope for the first time in many months when Noke left his home without closing the door. I snuck in, made my way to an old bookshelf and stole the Scroll of Speak to Animals. I then rushed into town with the scroll clenched between my teeth, and was searching desperately for the aura of magic that would indicate someone able to activate the spell when I found you.
Where is Noke?
He resides in my house, north-east from here. It isn’t too far from town, just a half-day’s walk…
The path the sheep takes you on cuts off from a main road a few miles out of town, darting off between a gap in the bushes. It is a well-trodden route that soon begins to weave its way between tall oak trees.
Anyone who cares to examine the path for tracks will easily see the impression of many feet and paws, with the most fresh sets appearing to match up with the group led by Guz.
A turquoise-blue stream wound its merry way through the forest alongside you. Babbling and burbling, it sprung over the limestone rocks in its way. Pebbles whisked about in the under wash like pieces of glitter. Streams are the liquid soul of the forest, and this one was glowing. Chords of soft light speared down from above, bathing its surface in gold. It was glinting with little sparkles, like a thousand diamonds blessed with an inner fire. A galaxy of dragonflies fizzed through the beams of light, wings a-glitter in the sun. The hedgerows were pregnant with berries and the sheep bleats happily as you pass them, chomping messily on them. He urges you to taste some. They energize you with their pleasant waft. The delicious taste stayed with you for an hour, and your tongues feel warm.
An hour later, some of the trees parted, and you notice the serrated mountains that loomed in the distance. You make your way towards them. They were flour-white and brooded over the land. Just as you approached, a chute of snow detached itself and went trundling down one of the mountains. It slid over the knotted edge and then went crashing into the chasm below. The silence that followed was spine chilling. It froze your marrow to think that you could have been on that giant when the avalanche had happened. The heaven-touching apex of the mountain was drenched in brilliant light. Spikes of thin light impaled the snow in a bristling, moving line. All across your line of sight, the tips of the mountain range stuck up like a row of thorns. Swaddled around them were necklaces of powdery snow.
By evening, the forest around you had become far more dense. In the distance, for some time now, you have been hearing the sound of a waterfall. After some time, the small, well trodden path leads between two masses of branches and leaves, and opens up, and you are standing beside the river from earlier. Ahead, it drops off a sheer cliff and crashes into a pool beyond your sight. The goat wanders over to the cliff, looking down, and gestures with his head for you to follow. The waterfall before you is sapphire-blue and magical, and is swishing over the rocks joyfully. It thundered down into the pool below like a gigantic water spout. When it toppled into the ecstasy-pool, it foamed it at the bottom. The rest of the pool was as clear as cellophane, enabling you to see down into the rocky bottom, even from here. Fronds of forest-green plants waved gently in the depths. The waterfall looked like a sheet of blue velour as it swished down. Its edges were hemmed with whipped-white lines.
You see a gaggle of geese grazing by the bank and the scene was picture perfect. A group of ferns, edged with saw’s teeth and statue still, added a tropical flavour. The nectar sweet smell of the flowers lining the banks wafted.
“Home sweet home,” the sheep says. “Jump.”
Jump. You’ll be fine. You have to jump to get in.
The entrance is in the pool, you dolt! Jump!
I can’t go into water.
You’ll be fine. Have faith in me. I know what I’m talking about. This is going to be strange, but it’s quite the experience. Prepare yourselves.
The wind whips your clothes and hair about, and the pool below closes in faster than you would have ever expected. The pool ripples before you hit it, and a bubble snaps out from beneath the surface, enveloping you in a protective orb. The water is displaced in a perfect sphere around you, saving you from getting wet.
At the bottom of the crystal-clear pool, the ground opens up with a puff of dirt, and the ground rumbles as a perfect circle of crimson light manifests in front of you, illuminating the water in red. The sheep swims toward it, and you feel compelled to do so as well. You realize, however, that even if you hadn’t felt compelled to, you would have no choice, as the portal begins to suck you in.
Since before fire giants can remember, Gilgirn (Fiery Mountain hold in the Fire Giant language) has existed. The mountain was an active volcano many millennia ago, but there have been no signs of geologic activity since, aside from the simmering pools of lava. For this reason, the fire giants regard the mountain as their sacred home—they believe that their deity has used divine power to prevent eruptions so that Gilgirn could be carved out of the volcanic rock directly above the lava throat, and that both of the wizards that live there are agents of their god.
Gilgirn has always been inhabited by the fire giants. Valbryn has devoted considerable resources to restoring the dilapidated portions of the volcanic fortress, and Gilgirn is now no less impressive than when it was first constructed. A fire giant paragon has taken up residence there with her daughter Helthra, her confidant Thaden, a garrison of warriors, and her own private guard, the Urdred.
The following general properties apply to all rooms unless otherwise noted in the area descriptions.
Walls: The curtain walls around Gilgirn are reinforced masonry. They are 20 feet thick and 50 feet high, and have hardness 8 and 3,600 hit points. The barracks, gatehouse, and tower walls are also reinforced masonry, but are only 5 feet thick, with hardness 8 and 900 hit points. Scaling reinforced masonry walls requires a successful DC 15 Athletics check. The volcanic cavern walls are unworked stone and have hardness 8 and 900 hit points per 5 feet of thickness. Scaling unworked walls requires a successful DC 20 Athletics check.
Floors: The floors throughout Gilgirn are flagstone. Each floor is at least 5 feet thick by necessity, since a typical fire giant weighs approximately 7,000 pounds.
Doors: The ground-level doors are carved from 8-inch thick stone. Each door is 10 feet wide and 15 feet high and has hardness 8 and 120 hit points. The doors on the second and third levels are carved from 4-inch-thick stone. Each upper-level door is 5 feet wide and 13-1/2 feet high and has hardness 8 and 60 hit points.
Ceilings: In the rooms of the fortress, the ceilings are 20 feet high. Outside the walls, the ceiling of the volcanic cavern is 150 feet above the main lava throat.
Staircases: All staircases in Gilgirn are made for fire giants and are considered steep, affecting the movement of creatures climbing up or down (DMG 63). In addition, while on the stairs and attacking opponents below them, creatures gain a +1 bonus on melee attack rolls for fighting from higher ground.
Cover: Murder holes grant fire giants a +8 bonus to Armor Class and a +4 bonus on Dexterity saves. Battlements atop each barracks, curtain wall, gatehouse, and tower grant fire giants a +4 bonus to Armor Class and a +2 bonus on Dexterity saves.
Lava Canals: Canals of lava have been redirected off the central lava throat to feed the moat around Gilgirn. These canals are 5 feet deep and filled with rocks that fire giants can reach in and grab for throwing. Coming into contact with lava deals 2d6 points of fire damage per round of exposure, except in the case of total immersion, which deals 20d6 points of damage per round. Damage from lava continues for 1d3 rounds after exposure ceases, but this additional damage is only half the amount dealt during actual contact.
Steam Vents: In lieu of natural chimneys that release pressure from the magma reservoir beneath Gilgirn, artificial chimneys were installed in the fortress during its construction thousands of years ago. These vents randomly discharge superheated steam once every minute (roll 1d10 to determine the round in which a vent discharges). Anyone caught within 15 feet of a discharging vent must make a DC 16 Dexterity save. Those who fail take 2d6 points of fire damage and are permanently blinded. Those who succeed take 1d6 points of fire damage and are not blinded.
Illumination: Any lava source emits shadowy illumination to a radius of 30 feet (60 feet for those with low-light vision). In places where lava is not present, non-removable sconces built into the walls every 40 feet emit light to a radius of 20 feet.
Traps: Noke has cast a number of greater glyphs of warding around Gilgirn, most of which are keyed to remain inactive around creatures of the fire subtype. Some are greater blast glyphs that deal 10d8 points of sonic damage to the intruder and anyone else within 5 feet (Dexterity DC 34 half), while others are greater spell glyphs, detailed individually. A sonic greater blast glyph also alerts fire giant guards. The entire surface of every foot bridge over a lava canal is covered with a sonic greater blast glyph. A rogue can find a greater glyph of warding with a successful DC 31 Investigation check and thwart it with a successful DC 31 Sleight of Hand check.
Temperature: The volcanic cavern is bearably hot, but the temperature within Gilgirn is 90 degrees F, requiring visitors to make successful Constitution saves to avoid nonlethal damage (DMG 303). Within 30 feet of lava, the temperature exceeds 110 degrees F, requiring more frequent saves.
If the PCs set off a greater glyph of warding or are detected by fire giant guards or death maidens, the entire fortress goes on alert. Noke, Valbryn, Helthra, and Thaden cast or use their buffing abilities and spells, while brigades of fire giants and hell hounds arrive to attack the intruders. These warriors soften up the PCs for the Urdred, who enter melee using their ghost step ability to make sudden strikes. Helthra and Thaden appear next, focusing on the lead melee fighter and spellcaster, respectively. Meanwhile, Valbryn casts dimension door to position herself atop a tower or wall within 60 feet of the battle, and then begins casting offensive and defensive spells. Noke stays in his room unless it is compromised.
0. The Gate.
Everything flashes in hues of bright red and orange, and then your feet hit solid ground, and your stomach lurches. The world reforms around you, and you now stand in a smooth, black tunnel lined with cracks that sizzle with magma. It’s extremely hot in here, and the smell of brimstone has never been stronger in your nostrils. A monstrous black gate fully encompassing the opening blocks your progress along this smooth, volcanic tunnel. Fully fifteen feet high and eight feet wide, the gate is emblazoned with a symbol.
A wizard can identify this as the symbol for the School of Transmutation.
A twisted, leering visage sculpted from the same metal as the gates adorns the lintel over the door. The face seems both calm and eerily insane, if such a thing is possible, and its face and gender are indeterminate. Its glowing eyes have also been carved into the symbol (for the School of Transmutation).
This gate is adamantine and is both locked and trapped.
Adamantine Gate: 1 ft. thick; hardness 20; hp 480; Open Lock DC 40 if arcane lock is dispelled; Break DC 50 (arcane lock).
Traps: The alarm is triggered if someone opens the gate without the proper password.
(Shinebright’s name, pronounced by two people, one spoken in Celestial and the other in Abyssal while within 20 feet of the gate). The password also deactivates the disintegrate trap for one minute. The disintegrate trap can target two creatures per round within range. The sickly green beams of the spell launch from the eyes of the visage over the door to strike at the two nearest creatures within 10 feet (26d6).
“I’d suggest you not touch that gate yet. Does anyone here speak Celestial by chance? Excellent! On the count of three, in Celestial, say Finethir Shinebright. I will say my name as well, but in Abyssal. It will deactivate the gate’s traps and prevent the alarm from alerting the entire castle.”
Myriad, mazelike tunnels leading in from outside the mountain eventually connect and widen to accommodate an archway cut out of the volcanic rock. The opening is 15 feet wide and 15 feet high, and sculptures of hell hounds carved into the sides seem to threaten anybody who walks through. Just beyond the archway, a flagstone bridge 15 feet above a lava moat leads to a gatehouse that guards the entrance to the inner ward of Gilgirn.
(See tactical encounter 7–1) A sonic greater blast glyph (Investigation DC 31 to find; Sleight of Hand DC 31 to thwart) is set to activate if any creature that is not of the fire subtype walks through the archway.
The severe neatness and organization of the chambers stand in stark contrast to the brimstone and animal stench that fills the room—a combination of sweat and brimstone makes the air thick and fetid. It is quite obviously a barracks, but the room is so massive that it seems it also doubles as some sort of dueling or training chamber. Fifteen-foot tall practice dummies line the walls and are scattered about in the middle of the room, along with weapon and armor racks displaying exotic equipment of all sorts. The most disturbing thing about the chamber are the spikes protruding from the walls in clusters of varying heights. The floors and walls are decorated with dire bear rugs, and the fifteen-foot beds are made of animal bones and hides.
Gilgirn has a total of twenty-eight fire giant guards. Each of the four enclosures that frame the inner towers serves as a combination lookout tower and barracks, with modest living quarters for seven of the guards. Under normal circumstances (if the complex is not on alert), one fire giant is training on the first floor of each tower, two more are relaxing on the second level, and a fourth stands atop the tower next to a pile of unheated rocks. The other three fire giants who live in each tower are on duty elsewhere around Gilgirn. The guards rotate their locations approximately every 8 hours. If an alarm sounds, the fire giants on duty around the complex are the first to respond, followed by the training fire giants 1 round later, followed by the resting fire giants 1 round after that. The fire giant that stands atop each tower holds his position and directs the others to any perceived disturbances. On the first floor of each tower, the guards keep their armor, weapons, an extra bunk bed, and two strongboxes for personal storage. The second floor features three sets of bunk beds, a table and chairs, and six strongboxes.
Fire Giant Guards: hp 142 each (15 HD)
Treasure. Three of the weapons on the rack are unusual. One is an adamantine morningstar and another a silver flail. The most impressive weapon is a trophy one of the fire giants won from a paladin; a holy avenger emblazoned with the symbol of Pelor. On the blade are the words, For my wife, my warrior, my love. Safe travels.
3. Southwest Tower:
Beyond the heavy door is an irregular room. Odd, uncomfortable-looking pieces of furniture lie about the chamber, including several long, narrow beds. Bizarre statuary and paintings adorn the walls and several low pedestals, and a thick, black, tarry substance lines the floors, filling cracks where magma seems to try boiling through. The room on the far side is lined with cage, and you can hear the low growling of many, many dogs. There is a massive giant sitting at a desk, tinkering with a collar. There are several collars piled on his desk, most of them seeming broken, ripped or burned. There are two sets of spiral steps to your left, one leading down, the other leading up.
The southwest tower contains a basement, three levels, and a lookout. The basement is a dungeon for prisoners. The first floor is a hell hound kennel where the fire giant stablehand works. The second and third floors are split into four private bedrooms for the Urdred. The fire giant stablehand defends himself if attacked, but otherwise avoids conflict.
Fire Giant Stablehand
Male fire giant expert 1 LE Medium giant (fire)
HP 82 (11 HD)
Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception 8)
Str 27, Dex 9, Con 17, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 11
Possessions: Potion of cure wounds, gauntlets of ogre power, 33 pp, 20 gp.
4. Southeast Tower:
The southeast tower contains a basement, three levels, and a lookout. The basement is for livestock that produce food. The first floor is for meat-yielding livestock. The second floor is a kitchen where the fire giant butcher/cook works. The third floor is a gathering place for eating and meetings. The fire giant defends himself if attacked, but otherwise avoids conflict. He has access to hot rocks, used in cooking, that deal extra fire damage when thrown.
Fire Giant Butcher/Cook
Male fire giant expert 1 LE Large giant (fire)
HP 137 (16 HD)
Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception 11)
Ranged rock (2d6+11 plus 2d6 fire)
Str 32, Dex 9, Con 19, Int 10, Wis 17, Cha 8
5. Lava Throat:
This opening continually produces lava that runs through canals and feeds the moat around Gilgirn. The lava then drains into the natural magma reservoir deep
beneath the fortress. This area is easily the hottest part of Gilgirn. Within 5 feet of the lava, the temperature exceeds 140 degrees F and deals lethal damage (DMG 303).
6. Northeast Tower:
The first floor of this tower reeks of a strong, acrid odor. Strange, warped furniture can be seen among the room’s contents. Against the far side of the room a rack has been attached to the wall, and stretched out on it are the burned and disfigured remains of at least seven humanoids, although the exact number is hard to discern given the condition of the corpses. A well-armored fire giant swings his massive hammer down on an anvil larger than your body several times over, and has a red-hot blade that he reshapes with nearly every strike. A burning fire crackles behind him, it’s base filled to the brim with hot coals.
The northeast tower contains a basement, three levels, and a lookout. The basement is a storage area for the fortress’s finest metal goods. The first floor is a masterwork blacksmithy where the fire giant artisan works. The second floor is a study and place of reflection, adorned with antiques that belonged to fire giant ancestors. The third floor is the personal quarters of Helthra Morlydd, though she is not currently present. The fire giant artisan defends himself if attacked, but otherwise avoids conflict. He has access to hot rocks, used in the smithy, that deal extra fire damage when thrown.
Fire Giant Artisan
Male fire giant expert 3 LE Large giant (fire)
HP 152 (18 HD)
Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception 10/×3)
Ranged rock (2d6+10 plus 2d6 fire)
Str 31, Dex 8, Con 19, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 9
7. Northwest Tower:
The northwest tower contains a basement, three levels, and a lookout. The basement is a storage area for valuable gifts and tomes. The first floor is a library where the fire giant elder works. The second floor is split between a study full of books and journals, and a cell for Thaden Felstorm, which is outfitted with all the comforts of a guest room. The third floor is the personal quarters of Valbryn Morlydd. Neither she nor Thaden is currently present. The fire giant elder defends himself if attacked, but otherwise avoids conflict.
Fire Giant Elder
Male fire giant aristocrat 5 LE Large giant (fire)
HP 132 (18 HD)
Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; perception 8)
Ranged rock (2d6+8)
Str 27, Dex 4, Con 15, Int 16, Wis 18, Cha 13
8. Meditation Chamber:
The floor, walls and ceiling are polished to a mirror finish in this stiflingly hot hall, the light of dozens of cages of glowing yellow grubs reflected a hundredfold. The western wall has been carved in a series of terrifying scenes. Fiends of all shapes and sizes force creatures of an even wider variety into burning servitude. Lording over them all, however, is a horrifying menace. Its misshapen face seems to face two directions, implying that nothing escapes its fierce, maniacal gaze. A man is sitting cross-legged in the middle of the room. He is a middle-aged man in excellent health. He has thick, black hair and hes clean shaven, and has a long, black cloak that fans out on the floor behind him.
“You’ve returned to me. Good. It would have been more painful if our new friends would have had to take you by force.”
“Noke,” the goat bleats. “Give me back my wand!”
“You’re wand?” the man sitting asks. He rummages around in his robes, and pulls out a small, black wand. It looks nothing more than a glorified stick from here, except for a single red gem on the end. “What lies have you been telling yourself, you old fool? This wand was never yours.”
He stands, and turns to face Ravenswatch. “I apologize. It seems you’ve been duped. This old goat has been a thorn in my side for years. Strangely intelligent, that one, but this isn’t the first time he’s tried to get some trusting fellows such as yourselves to help him usurp my castle. If it is any consolation, I am a very wealthy man. If it pleases you, I’d like to give you some gold for your trouble.”
“Don’t listen to him! he’s trying to trick you!”
Valbryn and Noke come to this room to prepare their spells. Valbryn keeps her spellbook here, along with a highly polished silver mirror for scrying and an extensive library of focus components, material components, and spellglyph ink. A flame breath (cold) glyph cast on each door (Search DC 31 to find; Disable Device DC 31 to thwart) is keyed to activate by touch.