Freeday, Patchwall 7, 552 CY (50 AN)
Dhavita dreams of a stone archway, revealing only darkness beyond. The vision of it fills her with dread.
Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, Southie, and Thava awaken, and Dhavita recounts her dream to them. As Dhavita seems agitated, Southie pulls Marguerite aside and asks if she and Dhavita are having marital problems. Somewhat perplexed, as she often is with Southie, Marguerite replies that they are not, and Southie says to make certain she keeps plying Dhavita with sexual intercourse, as that should keep her mood elevated. As they break camp, Dhavita inquires about the wisdom of trekking toward the Creation Forge. As Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Thava discuss these matters, Southie continues to walk at a brisk pace, leaving them behind. Quithyra joins him first, followed by Manny; after discussion, the general consensus is that it is probably wiser to travel with Southie so that any unfortunate circumstances caused by activating the Creation Forge can be examined and remedied, rather than Southie creating them on his own and the consequences happening without anyone else’s knowledge. Dhavita, for her part, is concerned about the wisdom of investing souls into Warforged in the first place. Resh notes that in terms of Southie using them as weapons of war, the Warforged are supposed to have free will, and so Dhavita would have the opportunity to argue against warfare when they are created.
As Southie walks ahead, with Quithyra having joined him, he passes an old man sitting on a rock. He is dressed in robes, and surrounded by seven fluttering canaries. Of note, he has no pack or gear. He greets Southie, and as Southie is about to travel past him, he notes that things do not have to go the way they are going. Over the course of the conversation, Southie surmises he is some deity in mortal form, and asks what his purpose is. The old man replies that the deities are the holders of natural forces, and if they are destroyed, those forced may go awry. He notes that he knows of two places where the gods hold no sway, and that he can take Southie there if he wishes. Southie indicates he would rather finish his work here first; given his philosophical proclivities, the old man notes he would probably feel at home in the planar city of Sigil, where the gods are unable to tread, either. Southie notes that given the old man’s gentle demeanor, he is likely against slavery, so their goals are currently in alignment. The old man agrees, although he notes he does not agree with Southie’s methods. With that, Southie takes his leave. Manny joins Southie’s advance group at that point, and waves at the old man.
Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, and Thava arrive to find the same old man, and Croitus and Thava instantly recognize the Old Man with the Canaries, a folkloric form of the Platinum Dragon Bahamut. They give greeting, and after some conversation, Bahamut indicates he tried to speak with Southie, but to no avail. The others acknowledge this, and before they leave, Thava asks for a blessing on her people and her kin, Torinn. Bahamut grants this.
Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, and Thava finally catch up to Manny, Quithyra, and Southie, and within an hour or so, Resh finds very strange tracks. Someone — or rather, several someones — has crossed their path. It appears to be a densely-packed group in the middle surrounded by a looser gathering of people. No one in the middle wears shoes, and only some in the outer group wear them; they appear humanoid. Not wanting to encounter this apparent army down the road, the group decides to track them. After wandering through the mountains for another hour or so, following this strange trail, the group finds their quarry — a throng of soldiers gathered around a cloaked giant with a massive axe. Close examination with Southie’s spyglass discovers the apparent discrepancy as the soldiers are all dead, bearing rusty armor and battered swords. The giant comprises several bodies melded together to form one large creature, explaining the more tightly-packed tracks in the middle of the group. While the group deliberates, the giant turns and looks at them, an amalgam of human faces melted together to form one giant face.
The group retreats to find a defensible location. Wanting to keep the location of the Creation Forge secret at all costs, Southie sends Manny and Quithyra with the map and Warren, his war pig, to travel to the Creation Forge and begin plans without him. As Manny and Quithyra leave, the others wait to make their stand, and Resh starts assembling a trap to collapse on the entrance of this pass. However, his trap falters, and the giant evidently found another way around, meaning that the group is sandwiched between the army of undead at the pass, and the giant at the other end. Southie deigns to hold the pass while the others try to fight the giant.
The battle is chaotic. Croitus unleashes his ghoul amalgam to antagonize both the army of the dead and the grotesque giant. Southie holds the pass, keeping the legions of the dead at bay with his axe. Dhavita and Marguerite try to offer Southie aid in holding the line, but end up riding into the thick of the undead soldiers and are nearly pulled off their horse when Croitus’ ghoul-amalgam intervenes. Resh antagonizes the giant with arrows, but it rushes at him and flings him across the pass with a savage axe blow. He stands and continues to fire arrows at the beast while Croitus’ summoned monstrosity attacks it. Thava attacks the giant with her magics before turning on the army, transforming into a dragon to rain fire upon them.
As Resh peppers the giant with arrows, its attention turns upon him again. It crosses the battlefield in a few long strides and swings its axe. The force of the blow knocks Resh back, and the axeblade severs his right leg. As he flies through the air, before he loses consciousness, he flings his spear. It flies true, embedding itself in the creature’s head. The beast falls and the spear dislodges itself to return to Resh’s waiting hand — but life has already left him, and the spear twists and lodges itself in the dirt several paces from his corpse.
With the giant slain, the rest of the group makes short work of the undead warriors. Dhavita checks on Resh to find there is nothing further to be done, and then bandages her arm — one of the undead warriors touched her there during the battle, and the skin is blackened with frostbite.
Once the travelers have recovered and bandaged their wounds, they turn their attention to the day’s events. Although some initially think that the undead noticed their passage, most of the group quickly agrees that the things were probably sent by Lazghul, and were tracking them by use of his bound ghosts. Thava quickly weaves a spell to reveal the presence of the hidden, and the passage of energy reveals two such creatures. Temporarily solid, she slings fire at one while Southie cuts the other ghost in half. The first only appears injured, however, and quickly becomes incorporeal again. She prepares herself, and attempts to invoke arcane power to exorcise the remaining spirit.