After three months of research, the Dwarven cartographers concluded that the fortress Ironcrow recalled from his memories of the Necromancer must reside in the Black Peak, to the south of the Silver Kingdom.
Ace, Alice, Alishia, Culgalath, and Ironcrow formed an adventuring party of five and traveled alongside an underground caravan to the southern outpost of the Eyrie, with new dwarven-forged armor and equipment. The journey took three days.
The Eyrie is an outpost famed for its trained crows and high location atop a mountain. Here, they encountered the innkeep Tosid, and the prospector Ahab, who swore he’d found gold in the southern mountains. The dwarves never ventured there, for fear of the giants and giant animals that dwell along with them. Culgalath persuaded Ahab to join the group as a guide.
After spending the night in Tosid’s inn, they ventured down the precarious mountainside and soon discovered a dead giant, tainted with undeath. Carefully venturing on, they stopped for a meal in a small patch of trees, only to be ambushed by a giant mountain lion that nearly bit Ace in two. They slew it and spent some time debating what to do with the hide, but eventually decided to leave it – it was too big and bulky.
Continuing south, eventually night approached. They split into three parties to search for a suitable place to sleep; Alice and Ace discovered a rocky overhang, but upon investigating it, found that it was a makeshift grave for three hill giants. These giants rose from the dead as Ace approached, and the group destroyed them – only to discover some mysterious necromantic ash, that spread from the bodies as they were hacked open. The ash would cause sickness in any giant who inhaled it, and it would rise as a zombie upon death, explaining why the giants had dumped the bodies rather than eat them (as is their custom) or destroy them (to prevent more uprisings).
The six travelers made camp on a hill near the slopes of the eastern Twin Peak. There, they saw signal fires and warning systems prepared by the giants, who seemed to have banded together against the external undead threat. At night, Alice witnessed some of them be overrun by the undead, and flee towards the pass between the peaks.
The following morning, they continued through the giant rock fields (where the giants throw boulders for sport) toward the mountain pass. To Ahab’s great surprise, the tribes had banded together into one massive fortified village, keeping their zombie brethren at bay with walls of mammoth tusks and rocks. They decided to negotiate with the giants for passage, rather than attempt to sneak past.
Ace approached, and by using Enlarge Person to appear larger drew the giants’ attention, and then managed to amuse them by shrinking back to halfling size so much that their aggression was defused. The leader of the giants, a white-haired elderly Plains Tribe chieftain, invited them to the village. When they explained they would kill the lich who had no doubt caused the zombie plague, they allowed passage for Culgalath (for his wisdom) and Ace (for his magic), but took an interest in Alice, who was big and well-built enough to either take as a wife or serve as emergency rations. Alice had to prove that she was instrumental in the destruction of the lich.
An impromptu wrestling match was arranged; if Alice could prove herself stronger than a giant, she would be proven strong enough to kill the lich. Otherwise they would keep her. Alice chose the largest and most powerful giant as her opponent, and through a heroic feat, slammed his face into the ground in an instant.
The three were allowed to pass, and to bring their two companions Alishia and Ironcrow, who were proven to be magical enough to surpass the giants’ knowledge. Culgalath managed to scoop up some golden ore from the giants’ water supply, and brought it back to Ahab as payment – finally giving him proof that these mountains held ore of the precious metal. A grateful Ahab returned toward the Eyrie.
They entered a grey, misty and cold marsh, now without a guide. Not even Ahab knew anything of the lands beyond. The marsh was full of aimless undead giants, but thanks to a Hide from Undead wand (and the fact that the giants were easy enough to avoid) no confrontation occurred. After a while, a great lake full of bodies, surrounded by stolen trinkets hanging from the trees, revealed to Ace that this marsh was home to Chuul, horrific crustaceans who love to take trophies and trinkets form their victims. They bypassed a precious magical necklace in a tree, to not draw the creatures’ attention, and continued south.
As night fell, willowisps appeared. These evil creatures drew the attention of the chuul, as they feed on terror, and hoped the chuul would paralyze the heroes and devour them alive. The evil crustaceans were defeated, however – but the night had only begun.
Sometime later, the wisps returned with three hill giant zombies in tow. With the help of Culgalath’s Hide from Undead wand, the heroes outmaneuvered the zombies and confused the wisps. They hastily gathered their camp and wandered south in the dark, away from the zombies. The invisible wisps followed, trying to lead them into a trap, but Ace could hear what they were planning. He advised Red to seek another path. The wisps, infuriated, attacked, and one was slain, causing the others to flee.
The group pressed on until they came to the edge of the bog, by a group of rocky sulfurous hot springs that fed into the swamp. Some were so hot as to boil. Here they collapsed and rested for a while, then as the sun rose, cleaned themselves in a moderately warm spring. Ironcrow kept watch, unwilling to relax and bathe so near the fortress, while Red took a quick dip before scouting. He discovered that the necromancers had bound steam mephits to do his bidding, boiling the flesh from a still-living orc in a spring not too far from the camp. They seemed to be building something.
He warned his friends, who got dressed and moved on. Soon they found out what the mephits were doing – a horrid bone abomination rose from a spring and spewed boiling hot water over Alice. It was defeated, largely thanks to Ace and his lightning bolts, but it made an awful noise, sending the nearby mephits into a craze. Alice tried to draw the attention of the mephits, who used their ability to boil the air, fleeing after two of them were shot out of the sky.
Continuing, the party found a petrified forest on the other side of the springs. This eerie place had no animal life whatsoever, and seemed to have a slowly petrifying effect on anything organic, including the boots and clothes of the travelers. Red found a petrified orc, mid-movement, near a camp further ahead – and discovered that it had fallen victim to an undead medusa.
The heroes attempted to spring a trap for the medusa and rescue the orc, to interrogate him. It went wrong when a group of orcs bumbled into the camp, and a fight broke out, ending in the medusa’s destruction and the death of the hostile orcs.
Ace rescued the first petrified orc, who helped them slay the intruders. This orc was Urgor sho-Grobor, leader of the Sword Tribe of orcs. The Axe tribe had followed him into the woods in an attempt to assassinate him, but he’d run afoul of the medusa first. He soon struck a deal with Ace…