History of the Forbidden Caves II
Date: Fri, December 03, 2004
Topic: Mysterious Places
This article continues the story, including who currently occupies the uppermost levels of the Forbidden caves. In the conclusion there is also some plot hooks for adventuring (level 10+) in this complex.
History of the Forbidden Caves (2nd Half)
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
When the mortals cracked open the wall of ice, this effect was felt by Thrym (who had enchanted the barrier with a warning precaution). When he magically scried the demiplane and saw what the party had done, he went to Annam and described what happened, declaring his intention to travel there and expel those intruders. For his surprise, the chief god of the pantheon denied permission. Annam explained to him that sooner or latter this intrusion would happen, if not by meddling of other gods. If Thrym manifested in the demiplane, he would need first to pass through the Prime Plane, where it laid the only entrance gate. And such move is expressly forbidden without permission of the greater gods, who would interfere, especially Hul. After all, the blockade directly impaired the Reaper’s goal. Non-divine means was the only course of action for Thrym.
Without choice, the frost giant god then thought about his agents. He wouldn’t want any more demon or giant in the place which brought so much disgust. And he wanted not only an enduring guardian, but also very committed. If a non-godly creature stood beside the gate and was powerful enough to kill any mortal or fiendish interloper, that would be a solution as efficient as his now useless barrier (which the god later dismissed its existence, leaving just a fissure in the cavern wall that led to darkness – the gate’s appearance). Indeed, the god was served by someone who fulfilled all these requirements. The vicious, diligent and greedy jailer-inquisitor of Thrym’s petitioners: a very old (690 years, now ancient with 861 years in 591 CY) tarterian dragon (cf. Draconomicon 3E, substitute with a shadow dragon if need be) called Nurhukrisurathear.
In the same day the god returned to his stronghold in Pandemonium and went to Nurhukris (shortened version of the dragon’s name which will be used for the rest of the story) and proposed a change of pace in the material plane. Nurhukris didn’t become particularly interested, as the guardianship proposed by Thrym was aimed to souls who had not condition to suffer, encased as they were. The dragon argued, rejecting the initial offer for such a boring duty. Normally, Thrym would not accept this kind of behavior, but he was in a hurry, having to play against the chance of any broken statues liberate their souls, which would leave the unsealed demiplane towards the Abyss (as it happened with a few when that human cleric smashed a part of the statuary before the arrival of Glaciath). So the god had to bargain the earnest cooperation of his jailer. Thrym spoke then of the presence of transmuted fiends (whose flesh was much appreciated by the dragon), of the city’s treasure (excepting Voninheim’s) which would belong to its keeper and some other minor benefits. But it was the promise of immortality that interested Nurhukris, for all dwellers on the demiplane were unaffected by the passage of time (as explained before) while residing in it. Albeit it was more like an indefinite longevity than true immortality, the god’s offer had some truth. No one would suffer the effects of poison, disease, hunger or thirst while in the City, though all its effects would apply retroactively (perhaps even dying instantly of old age) when someone stepped out of the gate, emerging on the Prime. This condition applied also to any objects in the demiplane, which would be untouched by the ravages of time while trapped there. Regarding the ice statues of ogres and giants, they would not melt naturally except through direct application of fire. In the end, after a relatively short (but intense) argument, Thrym and Nurhukris came to a consensus:
a) Nurhukris would compromise to impede anyone who tries to enter the city. From this date (420 CY), the dragon would stand outside the portal in the Prime for a number of years equal to his current age in the time of this pact, that is, six hundred and ninety years. When these years were completed, the dragon would enter the portal and stand his vigilance for all eternity (but he would not age anymore, and with 1380 years he would be a great wyrm, the apex of his might). Finally, Nurhukris was forbidden to destroy directly or indirectly any statue that held an accursed soul. The only exception to this was his yearly tribute (cf. item “c”)
b) Thrym would allow the looting of all treasures of the city, excepting those in Voninheim, for the palace would be off-limits to the dragon. Also, the god would grant a magic item that would grant immunity to starvation and thirst (a great bracer of sustenance, worn around in one of Nurhukris front legs – it works like the ring, without any need to recharge). Finally, all the transmuted demons were fair game as prey.
c) The tarterian dragon would be responsible for the integrity of the ice statues that held the souls of the renegade giants (ogres included) but would receive a personal, annual tribute of one such statue, from the date of the compact until the last year Nurhukris stood as guard outside the gate (totalizing then 690 statues). The statues acquired this way could be guarded or devoured by the dragon, as long as their imprisoned souls didn’t emigrate to the Abyss (compelled so due to the old pact with Kostchtchie)
d) If somehow any statue meets its destruction by the hands of a third party, Nurhukris was obliged to consume the soul freed before it disappeared toward its abyssal destination. For this purpose, Thrym granted the dragon the ability to permanently see and consume these souls, which normally are invisible to the naked eye. As important, the claws and fangs of the tarterian dragon were imbued with the ability to hit them as easily as living flesh (note: in game terms, it equalize as the D&D3E ghost touch ability). It’s important to point that the only souls able to be seen and be snatched in that way were those condemned in the ice statues.
Explaining the last point, Nurhukris could swallow a statue and directly absorb its spirit herein or he could destroy the icy prison, capturing (through claw or bite) the emerging soul. In the latter case, it takes a minute for the soul migrate to the portal and after crossing it, another minute to slowly lose contact with the material & ethereal plane until it vanishes to the astral. There it will travel for several days until arriving at the Abyss, then at Kostchtchie’s layer. That’s why Nurhukris guards the gate entrance (when he is not in the demiplane itself, in the yearly collect of his tribute): as soon he sees an emerging soul from the portal he can quickly snatch and gulp it down, having a full minute to do that. In 3e game terms, the tarterian dragon has 10 rounds to use its ghost touch natural attacks to hit and grapple the spirit and then swallow, where it will be digested in a matter of hours and destroyed, with the essence slowly melding with Nurhukris’ soul forever.
Thrym knew about the hunger and greed of Nurhukris for damned souls, as the dragon had developed a feeding habit upon petitioners in the god’s stronghold in Pandemonium. The frost giant god also knew it would be impossible to let this powerful and sadistic creature guard prisoners who would not give it any satisfaction while incarcerated (for the souls could not feel, much less scream within their shells). If there were no promise of sharing some of these souls, Nurhukris could be much less cooperative, even traitorous (e.g. arranging excuses for “accidental” destruction of the statuary), risking their confinement from Kostchtchie. As Thrym’s prime goal was to avoid the possession of these souls by the demon lord, he wouldn’t mind his jailer consume some of them. After all, the belly of a dragon can be a very effective prison.
One day after the party died by the treachery of Glaciath, this devil brought near the gate a considerable part of the riches he had found in all those years. These valuables were meant to be transported to the Prime at the first opportunity. But the gelugon found odd there were no trace left of the great wall of ice (the mortals just breached it, not disintegrated). It just disappeared, leaving in its place a dark, colossal rift in the cave’s vertical surface. Nevertheless, his eagerness for freedom overran his prudence and so Glaciath crossed the passage anyway. What surprise he had when he met that gaunt, gargantuan greenish-black dragon, who had arrived an hour ago after accepting Thrym’s proposal. After Nurhukris recovered from the surprise, he used his breath (a line of force) which almost destroyed the devil. So Glaciath had two choices: he could gamble with a quick escape, leaving all the goods and ice statues in the city, possibly never having another chance to come back, or he could return to the demiplane and hide there, planning in future to evade the clutches of this creature or perhaps bribing it. Quickly reflecting which option would bring more profit and power from Mephistopheles, Glaciath returned to the city. Nurhukris soon followed, but the dragon wasn’t able to reach the devil, for he knew very well the best places to hide in the ruined city. Roaring, Nurhukris loudly declared to the hidden fiend he would forever stay as the jailer of the demiplane and the devil had no other way to escape other than traveling his gullet. Soon after, the tarterian dragon looted all the treasure Glaciath had just left behind and returned to the material plane with it, making his home the access cave to the gate. Nutrhukris would visit the city then only once a year (in order to consume an ice statue as his tribute) or when he decided to have a meal of fiendish flesh (even though the bracer Thrym gave would guarantee his nourishment), killing a fiendish hook horror or minotaur, whom reverted to their original demonic form when slain. In either occasion, the tarterian dragon sealed the treasure pit in his lair with a large rock before flying to the demiplane. This measure was done to avoid theft from the annoying devil who always escaped from the dragon’s forays, thanks to his hiding skills and polymorph magic he used in his spying missions long ago.
It’s interesting to point that in the beginning, Nurhukris imagined the ice devil would avidly attempt to escape but that never happened. Occasionally the dragon spotted the gelugon, beginning another chase and successful escape of his prey. For Nurhukris, the devil was a pest that needed to be eliminated and an inconvenience in his jailer’s duty, for he promised Thrym he would never let anyone pass, especially giants and outsiders (much less fiends). For Glaciath, his pretense predator menaced every spoil he dreamed about after almost fifteen centuries of waiting. The ice devil imagined the loss of prestige and the punishments inflicted that would happen should he return empty-handed to the Nine Hells. He would be humiliated at the court of Mephistopheles and the archvdevil would surely kill for his incompetence. Not that any other devil noble would accept someone who made such a blunder. It was safer to endure this incarceration a bit longer and try a more convenient opportunity to fool or bargain with the dragon, then leaving the demiplane as fast and with as much treasure and trapped souls as possible. Until now, the stalemate between them still holds, both unable to finish this little game of 171 years old.
Although the arrival of Nurhukris meant a formidable guardian of suffering, the intrusion of the mortal party nevertheless inflicted a partial failure in the plans of Thrym. When they arrived at the demiplane, the cleric of Nerull smashed some ice statues before Glaciath intervened. These freed souls exited through the gate before the arrival of Nurhukris and crossed the Astral Plane, entered the Abyss, until they ended in Kostchtchie’s layer. How surprised the demon lord was when his long expected reward arrived, or at least a modicum of it.
Questioning the newly-arrived spirits, Kostchtchie understood a little of what happened in the city (though the fate of Vafth, the existence of Glaciath and Nurhukris were still a mystery) and contemplated with joy the idea of rescuing the rest of his souls. Contacting a few of his mortal followers and instructing them to travel to a certain mountain and loot a city beneath, the demon lord was surprised his agents failed to relate any news (all perished by the breath of the dragon, whom was out of their sight). Losing his temper, Kostchtchie began to amass a small army of demons to migrate to the Prime. It was true that he knew none of his servants could enter the plane without external help or finding a natural portal, normally heavily guarded by the god’s servants (normally celestials or lawful outsiders). However, some of these portals were relatively unknown and less-guarded, so he would send a large demonic contingent to one whose passage could be temporarily won by overwhelming its defenders and passing through before reinforcements were called. True, most of the original force would die, but as long as some fiends reached the material plane, all they had to do was to enter the abandoned city and cause the destruction of those ice statues, which would liberate its souls to freely arrive to their patron’s layer.
However, this time things did not fare so well for the demon lord. His gathering of abyssal troops was noticed by Thrym, who had cover agents in the fiend’s domain. It was Kostchtchie who now was surprised with a sudden invasion of a contingent of frost giant champions, led by the god himself, wreaking havoc in the layer. Thrym cornered Kostchtchie, knowing his enemy could escape but not without abandoning its layer (at least temporarily). The demon however, was a bit more concerned for his safety and asked what the frost giant god wanted. Thrym told in no uncertain terms to no longer meddle with his affairs, much less to send demonic lackeys to snatch the souls of his followers, no matter how corrupted. Leaving Kostchtchie alive, but impotent, the god also pointed out that his machinations would be observed and there was nothing he could do to avoid this. Surely, this intervention caused intense frustration to the demon lord, but he acknowledged there was nothing he could do without risking the wrath of Thrym.
The solution for the abyssal lord came roughly after a century and half later. In 583 CY, amidst the Greyhawk Wars, giants descended en masse from the Crystalmist range to attack the human lands, especially Geoff and Sterich. The situation was noticed by Kostchtchie, who imagined that such event would certainly draw the attention of Thrym, leaving the demon with just enough freedom to plot. Believing to be an excellent opportunity, Kostchtchie tried a subtler approach and called Trau’gh to go alone to the material plane. Trau’gh was not only one of his most trusted (as much as this quality refers to demons) and clever minions, but also was the Ghour demonic general of the fiendish army who sided with Vafth and his followers in that giant civil war that happened almost 1500 years ago, the same army who was devastated and cursed by Thrym when the god manifested in the City of Giants. As it was said before, Trau’gh wasn’t in the city at that moment and could escape the horrible transmutation the other fiends suffered. So, the Ghour demon was sent to the material plane to investigate the site of the entrapped souls, arrange an expeditionary force of mortal troops to conquer the demiplane (if necessary) and most importantly, return with city’s souls and treasure, especially the soul of the titan Vafth, considered the most valuable good for Kostchtchie.
When Trau’gh arrived, instead of going directly to the mountain whose passages led to the underground city, the demon preferred to investigate first what was known about the area before entering it blindly. His expertise in possessing mortals wouldn’t hurt in this research, either. In fact, apparently the location of the city was clearly marked as taboo for the local giant clans (especially frost) or generally unknown or considered a fanciful legend for the other races. The only exception to this ignorance occurred when the demon watched a group of dark elves who were exploring relatively near the mountain through UnderOerth. This group seemed to have some grasp of the old legends of the City of Giants, but could not ascertain its exact location. After watching the elves’ prowess against some relatively dangerous monsters, Trau’gh considered they could be perfect pawns to be used in the investigation of the city. Possessing one of the drow, he began subtly to drop hints and evidences which the group later “found” along the exploration. These, coupled with some “guesses” and “suggestions” toward the origin of these evidences made the elves finally reach the mountain, first by ascending to the surface then entering the former outpost and now the site of the known “Forbidden Caves” named by giantfolk. Even after fifteen centuries, there were still some utensils left in the watch outpost, formerly the first entry towards the underground stairway that led to the city.
Nothing prepared them when they draw near the colossal dark fissure in the cave where the stairs ended and the malicious voice of Nurhukris echoed. While the dragon was the city’s jailer, he still had some disposition to allow the group enter the demiplane if they paid their respects, not disturb anything and especially, bring the corpse of that irritating ice devil. The dark elves, though disturbed by the powerful echoing voice, could not spot its author, beyond their line of sight. Trau’gh was worried about this unseen guardian but planned to talk and either deceive or bribe passage through the gate which the cavernous voice referred to. However, he didn’t expect the arrogance of the cleric of Lolth in this group would erupt in a so inconvenient time. The female drow used a far more aggressive and less subservient tone than desired by the tarterian dragon. This diplomatic failure resulted in the elves’ onslaught and the escape of the possessing Trau’gh to the ethereal plane after the disastrous initiative of the priestess. What the demon didn’t count was the fact Nurhukris could see his ethereal form. The dragon was surprised to act in time, but this knowledge would be later used against Trau’gh.
After his escape, the general of Kostchtchie had to reconsider his plans due to such a powerful guardian. The demon wasn’t expecting his lord would send any additional aid, so he imagined that only a group composed of powerful mortal creatures would be able to kill the beast and unknowingly grant him access to the demiplane. Unfortunately for Trau’gh, the nearest creatures most probable to do such a feat were the frost giants themselves, who were too fearful to tread forbidden ground. Even with such a bad start, the demon made good use of his investigative capacities to search for someone who could be ambitious, strong and brave enough to ignore the superstitions about the Forbidden Caves. Seven years passed until, in 590 CY, Trau’gh found a mighty frost giant named Hjornar, still young to be clan chief but powerful enough to be recognized as the second stronger member of the community besides the jarl. But contrary to his leader, Hjornar was more ambitious and less tradition-inclined, believing if one was mighty and successful there were no banned action for Thrym, as long it led to conquest and glory in his name.
For that reason Hjornar was chosen by Trau’gh as a target. Using cunning and subterfuge, the demon possessed the giant while asleep and once hidden within his body sent through telepathy a vision, making his victim believe “he was chosen by bravery on Thrym’s behalf and would be blessed for this, as long as he was worthy of the god’s attention ”. Hjornar’s pride blinded him from the possibility of anything other than his god, the frost giant unable to understand he was being possessed passively (if you have the Fiend Folio 3e, Trau’gh has 5 levels in the Fiend of Possession prestige class) and the “blessing” (+4 strength) was derived from a demon’s action. This episode heightened the haughtiness of Hjornar with his clan members, behaving like he was the emissary and favorite of Thrym, a posture that was met with skepticism and distrust from his mother, Griselda, a cleric of the frost giant god. In the same year, Hjornar was banished from the clan, after a strong argument the jarl (who also noticed his follower growing stronger and more ambitious each passing day). However, in his expulsion Hjornar was accompanied by a few frost giants who were either close friends or family kin (like Griselda and Nott, is younger brother). In his search for a new lair, he declared the ideal location: The Forbidden Caves.
Of course, the legends of the Forbidden Caves mentioned the frost giants committed a great crime against their god and were punished and expelled from the site which was once the mightier stronghold of their race. It was a story to be remembered and feared by the superstitious giants, even it was actually filled with half-truths and misguiding. The Forbidden Caves became a taboo, so great his mere mention was avoided, except when taught to frighten the youngsters of their race to never, ever go there. Hjornar’s entourage was horrified when they listened his leader speak so freely of the cursed place, but the frost giant’s speech was so intense, declaring that Thrym proclaimed to him the isolation of these caves ended, that made the others not to immediately rebel against the idea. Griselda fiercely disparaged against such notion, but his son quickly silenced her through intimidation. In the following days the group became more convinced by the veracity of Hjornar’s claims when they were ambushed by a large band of Braxats (from MM II 3E; use a party of raiding fire giants as substitute). Hjornar’s possession was essential to victory, making the monstrous leader vanish “in the name of Thrym” (maze spell-like ability used by the demon). This and other deeds made the leader of the frost giants grow quickly in respect and awe. Trau’gh, remembering that it would be needed a large contingent to make opposition against the tarterian dragon, instructed Hjornar to gather more allies.
After establishing contacts, this group grew to 8 frost giants and 7 ogres led by Qogur, an ambitious ogre mage who had no respect for the old legends. Confident with this gathering, Trau’gh (or “The Voice of Thrym” as he addressed himself to Hjornar) instigated his possessed minion to finally enter the cave complex. During the night they arrived at the ancient watch post and before descending to the lower level towards the gate and the dragon (both unknown to everyone else), they settled these superficial chambers. The only challenge to the authority of Hjornar was from his mother Griselda, who was caught trying to cast an augury in runic stones to know if the giants should really follow “The Voice of Thrym” (But the augury wasn’t successful). His son was furious for this distrust and treacherous act, destroying the runes and only spared Griselda because of his family ties and because she was a cleric of Thrym, as was his younger brother Nott. Killing one or both of them would draw suspicions of his claim. It’s also important to point that in this period, almost in 591 CY, Trau’gh decided to teach the ambitious giant the “pathways to power”, his pawn becoming in a blackguard in the end of this guidance.
When the war party prepared to descend the stairs, Hjornar suggested Qogur could scout ahead invisibly. With some reluctance, the ogre mage accepted, half thinking if that was a way to dispose of his ogre leadership. Qogur was caught totally unaware after arriving in the bottom cave, spotting the gargantuan dragon and being detected by the beast. After the mild shock of newcomers, Nurhukris had no interest in attacking Qogur at first. When he was told the coming of a group of giants intended to reach the city, the tarterian dragon explained he was entitled gatekeeper and city’s jailer and even though Thrym had forbidden any crossing of any giant, perhaps it could be possible to reach a deal for a brief passage. But first, he demanded to see and talk with all the members of this group.
When Qogur returned to the party, the giants were quite apprehensive, but Hjornar, impelled by the demon, accepted, prodding all the others to parley. During the conversation with Nurhukris, this creature described there was a devil beyond the gate, who always managed to evade and hide from his grasp. As fiends were also barred from entering, the presence of that “pest” was a flaw in his duty, so he was disposed to temporarily ignore the presence of one of the giants in the city if he managed to return within a reasonable time. This period, the dragon explained, corresponded as “how much he thought a day has passed” so the volunteer would better hurry. The city’s treasures must not be disturbed and while the statues were not considered treasures, they were worth contemplating, for encased the souls of their kin - the dragon smiled. That was a subtle hint for the destruction of the ice statues. Nurhukris craved more souls and could do nothing to directly or indirectly harm their shells, but if a furious giant destroyed an ice statue, the dragon would be obligated to eat its fleeing soul and then cynically accuse of treason, satisfied to kill all the other giants in the cave (who would have to stay in the cave as hostages while the volunteer explored the demiplane) with a good excuse. The returning giant would be the last in the slaughter, regardless of his success in the killing of Glaciath.
None of the gathering was willing to agree to these terms and when Hjornar volunteered, several argued and questioned, especially Qogur. In that moment, Trau’gh accepted full control of Hjornar, as he had done several times before when decided to proof with his magical might, red eyes and booming voice he was the emissary of the frost giant god himself. “Hjornar” addressed the others in a loud angry tone how they dared to question the designs of Thrym. That was a critical mistake. Nurhukris identified some mannerisms of Hjornar with the behavior a certain drow almost a decade before, when that humanoid argued with a haughty, pitiful Lolth’s priestess. It was the same drow whom Nurhukris saw an ethereal demon emerging from him and flee in that occasion. It wasn’t difficult for the dragon deduce what happened with the transformed giant. So, he addressed sarcastically the frost giant, as not only another outsider in City was definitely unwelcome, the flesh of a fiend was indeed a delicacy: “Yes, I know you, though the last time we met was in a darker and smaller circumstance… I changed my mind. You will all die here and now”. In the combat that followed, Hjornar and some followers even managed to hurt Nurhukris, but in the end, excepting Hjornar (who teleported by Trau’gh’s command), Griselda (who refused to accompany) and the fleeing Qogur and Nott, all the others (six frost giants and eight ogres) perished.
Back to the upper caves, Hjornar reunited the party and declared that a larger force would be amassed to kill the dragon. All of them, especially Qogur (who didn’t figure how Hjornar escaped) were skeptical about this idea. The ogre mage easily changed his mind when he was showed a much coveted book (a tome of leadership & influence +1) which Hjornar had stolen from the treasury of his former jarl, who always frustrated Qogur’s biddings for it. Promising it as a gift if he reaffirmed his loyalty, Qogur conceded at once and left to gather more ogre allies, while plotting treachery in this suicide mission by “hesitating” his spell casting at a crucial moment, letting the dragon kill Hjornar while he would loot the tome and escape. Regarding Nott and Griselda, Hjornar promised them a proof that victory WAS possible if they waited for two weeks in the caves.
In fact, when the frost giant leader returned, his family couldn’t help but admire him mounted in the largest winter wolf known in the Crystalmists named Carcaroth, who never allowed himself to be the steed of any giant, unless one could defeat him in single combat. This appearance was enough to Nott declare his eternal loyalty to his older brother and Griselda resign to his son’s leadership. Carcaroth accepted Hjornar for two reasons: first, the possessed giant was already strong enough to tame him; second, the demonstration of magic that Trau’gh used in the fight convinced the winter wolf that Hjornar was much more than a simple frost giant. Gathering his pack (all of them nowhere as large as himself), Carcaroth joined with Hjornar and this union was key to attract more allies and followers from the nearby frost giant clans. Soon, the fame of the “Tamer of the Great Cold Wolf”, added to his bravery and the rumors about Hjornar being a direct agent of Thrym (loudly denied by the traditional clerics and jarls, considering him a dangerous rebel, renegade or heretic) made several young and brash frost giants of varied strongholds join forces at the Forbidding Caves (whose stories began to be dismissed among youngsters as plain falsehood, which alarmed the giantish clergy and skalds, who were shocked the degree of influence the pretentious upstart had on their age-old folklore). At the end of 591 CY, the upper level of the Forbidden Caves was occupied by the following contingent:
- Hjornar (frost giant barbarian 4 / blackguard 2, possessed by Trau’gh, a ghour demon with five levels in the fiend of possession prestige class)
- 22 frost giants (Nott a 1st lvl cleric + Griselda 3rd lvl cleric + 5 frost giant 1st lvl barbarians + 15 common frost giants)
- Qogur, the ogre mage (sorcerer 4/ barbarian 1/ spellsword 3)
- 13 ogres (3 barbarians ogres of 1st level, 9 common ogres plus Darg, an ogre fighter level 4)
- Kurznok, a powerful ettin (ranger 1/barbarian 2) allied with the giants in exchange for loot.
- Carcaroth (18 HD huge winter wolf – CR 12)
- 5 winter wolves
- Domag, a barl-lgura demon which Trau’gh summoned later which now serves as guard of Hjornar’s chamber. The other giants, especially Griselda and Qogur watch Domag with caution and fear, but the forceful personality of the frost giant jarl (as Hjornar now entitle himself) silenced any question about the demon’s presence.
There are but a few more journeys left of the Hjornar’s entourage for gathering allies in the frost giant communities. Soon will come the time Trau’gh will feel powerful enough to defeat Nurhukris and make his puppet lead a charge in the deepest of the Forbidden Caves against “The enemy of Thrym” (as Hjornar address the tarterian dragon to his followers). It’s not certain which side will prevail. Should Nurhukrisurathear remain triumphant, this time he will eradicate Trau’gh’s ethereal form with his force breath. Should the possessed giant wins, the Ghour demon will look at the first opportunity to betray Hjornar and all his followers while they’re weakened from the fight. This is how ends the story and the current situation of the Forbidden Caves. For Dungeon Masters interested in this scenario of level 12-14 (17-20 if intending to fight the tarterian dragon, the other creatures needing to scale up), there are some plot hooks:
- A mission against the giants: Someone feels this growing community is beginning to mean trouble. Perhaps snow elves or mountain dwarves who are being attacked by large numbers of giants. Those who can propose the mission do not even need to be good. For example, the monks of the order of the Sons of Winter are allied with clans of frost giants who want to destroy these renegades, but are too reluctant to enter the forsaken site. These clans may have asked a favor or even demanded the monks do their dirty work. But instead of risking this battle themselves or perhaps because they were unwilling to battle “cold brothers” (even if other giants considered them renegades), the Sons of Winter could bargain with the PCs to do this mission for them.
- The age-old “explore the dungeon”: from the classic treasure map to rumor-mongering about a group of giants hidden in a cave with stolen treasures from decent folk or even finding the site by plain exploration.
- Used! Someone is manipulating the characters to enter the cave or the demiplane. Perhaps Thrym sensed Hjornar’s intention and noticed the PC’s prowess and don’t want to send any of his followers into that cursed area. Or maybe Nerull, through the Horned Society, deceives the characters to enter the City of Giants and destroy Vafth and thus the demiplane itself. If someone in the party owes favors to a devil or demon, maybe Mephistopheles or Kostchtchie could order him to collect the ice statues as payment.
The Forbidden Caves in my campaign ended with the death of Vafth and Glaciath, the collapse of the demiplane, the destruction of the ice statues, whose souls quickly left the gate with a desperate tarterian dragon busy in chewing and swallowing all, which caused so much strain in his body and spiritual essence that he died and became a ghostly dragon (cf. Draconomicon 3e) who guarded forever then a fissure that led to nowhere and his hoard who contained the last vestiges of the City of Giants. In any case, this story is assumed to have three crucial points in a adventure: the defeat of Hjornar and the revelation of a much angry demon (who may even possess on of the PCs), dealing with an ancient dragon (a CR 21 encounter that can be a real challenge for high-level characters or an interesting roleplaying opportunity to bargain passage in exchange for killing Glaciath, who will try to trick the PCs) and finally destroying Vafth, which will also mean the impending end of the demiplane (30-60 minutes after the nightwalker’s destruction), forcing the PCs to quickly return to the gate before they join the City of Giants into oblivion.
Return to part I: History of the Forbidden Caves