Prior the leaving for Altaruk, the PCs managed to clandestinely retrieve Shin from the city of Tyr, who had not been inside the House M’ke compound while Templars swarmed the place.
The party, at the urging of Snapgnaw, decided to journey to the city of Altaruk to see if the town and the nearby tribe of hill giants were actually able to cooperate or if instead Altaruk was lying in a pile of rubble and was destroyed by said hill giants. On the way, the PCs were attacked by an id fiend. Though the party was ill-prepared for a desert excursion, by sticking to the major caravan routes the party managed to not die of heat exhaustion or otherwise run out of provisions. I was more surprised than anyone.
Much to the party’s surprise, Altaruk remain standing when they returned. The hill giants were providing protection for the city and its trade routes from bandits for supplies and provisions. Seeking an audience with the local lord, Arisphistaneles, Melhavoc noticed that something was amiss since she had last visited him only a few weeks prior when the party was last in Altaruk.
Noticing a scene in the market square before reaching the local keep, the party stumbled across a djinn and a mob. Al’Akbar, a djinn who has taken residence in city, was being accosted by a drunk and mob for selling faulty goods. The PCs were able to convince the mob to leave, and Al’Akbar was impressed that the situation was handled with cunning and deceit.
Arriving at the local keep, it turns out most the court had been infiltrated by doppelgangers, including one posing as Arisphistaneles. The party did not hand over the mysterious amber orb to the doppelgangers, and instead carved a path of blood and vengeance through Arisphistaneles’s audience chamber. The real Arisphistaneles, being stored in his bed chambers, had been petrified some time ago. The party, seeking to reverse this very inconvenient state of affairs, sought out the blood of a stone giant to help reverse the petrification.
The PCs were able to get an audience with the stone giant Virning Sael, leader of the local tribe of hill giants that was protecting the village of Altaruk. He sized up the PCs, and tasked them with ridding his people of an unusual presence his hill giants uncovered while digging in the cavern complex they lived in. If a solution could be found, he agreed to give the PCs a portion of his blood to help restore Arisphistaneles.
The “unusual presence” was unusual indeed. A group of clockwork automatons, calling themselves “Designators” wanted to purge the hill giants from the local cavern complex. They proposed either extermination, “evolution,” or evacuation for the hill giants. “Evolution” consisted of applying a serum to the hill giants that would change their physiology in minor ways, but make them significantly more intelligent. The party, never give anyone a distinct advantage, decided it would just be best to convince the giants to relocate to another cave nearby and closer to Altaruk.
While beginning the mass evacuation of the hill giants to another cave closer to Altaruk, the party was stopped by a woman named Yerra the Tenacious. A member of the Cult of the Dragon, Yerra was ordered to kill the party for reasons she did not care to divulge. Faced with an army of 50 or so hill giants, Yerra’s mercenary’s immediately surrendered. Yerra, after being interrogated by the PCs, revealed that she was a member of a Cult of the Dragon, and that she was sent to take the orb from the PCs. Davolcon Ebonsnarl, Valthrun the Backword, and one other person who she never met personally hired her to slay the PCs and retrieve the orb. Snapgnaw, enraged that his former mentor would betray him so, killed Yerra in a fit of cold rage.
Once the giants were situated, Virning Sael lived up to his end of the bargain and provided the PCs with a large vial of stone giant blood. The party returned to Altaruk and restored Arispistaneles to health.
Time elapsed on Athas this sesson: Two weeks and two days
Overall time elapsed: Four weeks and three days