Pavander barreled off down the southern passage, the rest of the party not far behind. The badger was double his normal size due to a spell Melissah had cast, and was doing a fine job of clearing the path. He burst into a room full of boiling cauldrons and assorted muck, all overseen by three enormous green-skinned hags. Melissah threw a snowball at the first hag, while Pavander leaped on her, shaking in badger rage and leaving huge gashes in her rubbery green flesh. The hags surrounded the badger, clawing him back, but Foss leaped in and the melee was soon far less one-sided. Two of the hags dropped and the third shrieked and retreated.
“Mercy!” she howled. “Mercy, I beg of you!”
Jori stepped around the corner and dropped a flame strike on the hag, scorching her badly.
“You have two choices,” Foss said, raising an axe. “Spill your guts, or I can spill them for you. Where is Lamatar?”
“In the shrine!” she shrieked, pointing off to the northwest. “Barl gave him to us when he was done with him, to reward us for bringing the rains, but we thought he was spying on us, so he guards the Mother's place!”
“Does that mean he's dead?” Iozua asked.
The hag grinned wickedly. “Not any more.”
Melissah jumped as a shadowy human form shambled up behind her, its hands reaching. It was covered in ice and hideous in undeath.
“Gods,” Iozua said. Nevis cast a hasting spell and the fight was on again, Foss keeping his promise to the remaining hag and Pavander trying to keep the corpse of Lamatar from destroying his druid. Iozua cast grease on the stairs and the wight and badger skidded ungracefully across the floor, winding up at the bottom with Pavander more or less on top and Lamatar in half.
“Poor guy, that sucks,” Melissah remarked, and then kicked Pavander savagely as the badger attempted to roll in the ick.
“Can we salvage the body?” Iozua asked. “Or is this going to be a closed-casket situation?”
“The ghost nymph said she only needed a piece of it,” Nevis said.
“Oh, right, she wanted to reincarnate him?”
Melissah nodded. “Now that his spirit isn't bound to this unholy monstrosity, it should be able to join with a new body. My preference would be to carry the poor man out of here and give him a decent burial, taking only a relic back to the nymph.”
“First everything else in this place dies,” Foss said.
The place pointed to by the hag contained an altar and shrine carved with the image of a monstrous pregnant woman with the head of a three-eyed jackal, Lamashtu, Mother of Monsters. The room was otherwise empty, so the group headed north, where the cavern opened into a massive chamber, open to the sky, that sloped upward between two wide ledges. Statues with angular faces stood above, and the ramp stepped up to the foot of an immense stone throne, where a stone giant was seated. Another giant stood beside him, glaring down at the adventurers.
“So, this does all end in tiers,” Iozua said, deadpan.
“Lidiar con estos ácaros. Ya me han causado suficientes problemas,” the seated giant grated.
“No hablo Gigante,” Iozua snapped back.
“Que lastima! Pendejos Gigantes!” Nevis yelled.
“He said 'deal with these mites, they've caused enough problems for me',” Jori translated. The second giant lumbered forward, roaring. Behind Foss, Melissah finished casting a spell and the cavern shook as lightning struck the attacking giant. The other one stood from the throne and hurled a fireball, scattering the adventurers as they attempted to take cover. Iozua beat at his smoking clothes and made an arcane gesture, a wall of fire blocking the giant wizard's view.
Nevis began to sing, somewhat oddly. “Magnificooooo, no no no no no no no!” Foss charged and Jori cast a ray of searing light at the same moment, dropping the first giant, leaving only the wizard, who stepped through the wall of fire and cast another spell. Foss winced, but managed to shake off the effect. He was not so fortunate as the giant's earthbreaker hammer struck him in the chest, sending him crashing to the ground.
“Crap,” Jori said, and raced forward with a healing spell in her hands, but the giant struck again, crashing through the arm Foss raised to defend himself and leaving the fighter unconscious in a pool of blood. The backswing cracked against Pavander, who yelped but continued to claw and bite in best badger style. Iozua's force missile struck hard and the giant staggered, coming into range of Jori's knife. She dropped the healing spell, and with a look of concentration, she sank the blade into a stony eye and wrenched. A torrent of dark blood followed and the monster collapsed at last.
“Ohthankthegods,” Iozua breathed, rushing up the steps to see if Foss was still alive. He was, barely, and Jori frantically healed the damage, restoring him to consciousness.
“Hey, look, there's loot!” Nevis said, pointing to the throne. Indeed, there was, but even more valuable than trinkets was a rolled mammoth hide with a message written on it.
“Latest contact with Teraktinus indicates he has narrowed the search—he believes a human town called Sandpoint could hide what my lord seeks. Teraktinus will lead several of the people, as well as the dragon, on a raid into the town soon. When they return, they may be pursued, and I may need your ogre slaves to aid in Teraktinus' retreat to Jorgenfist. Be ready to return at my command!
“What the hell did Sandpoint ever do to anyone?” Iozua grumbled, reading the message.
“And what the hells could be so important that we don't even know about it?” Jori asked.
“'M' could be for 'Mokmurian',” Nevis suggested. “That's who Lucrecia said she was working for.”
Iozua nodded. Melissa shook her head. “How big of a dragon are we talking, here?”
“I can't imagine M would bother to include it in this message if it was a tiny one,” Nevis said. She seemed excited at the prospect. Iozua grimaced.
“Probably not,” the wizard grated.
“We should get back to Sandpoint sooner rather than later,” Jori said.
“We still have those trolls at Storval Deep to deal with,” Melissah reminded her.
Iozua shook his head. “I know, but my parents are at Sandpoint.”