"SHANATAAAAAAR!" – Purple giant, shouting at the party
When we last left the party…
The party ventured into the dwarven dig site, where they sought the tomb of the Scarlet Scourge High Chieftain named Uthuk Urkrypt. The High Shaman had a legend of reincarnation, and they hoped to reincarnate their friend and recently dead companion, T'avin, killed mysteriously when they passed the ruined Temple of Shar. Prior to that, they had agreed to find two missing monks from Lockridge Monastery, though after the death of their friend and the discovery of Frost Giants in the Shivering Scar, they had reassessed their priorities. The monks had already been missing for more than three tendays, and Alamathar was sick with the Mark of Bane at Lockridge for nearly 7 days, and surely would not survive in time for them to return to cure him. Instead, they decided to prioritize the pursuit of T'avin's reincarnation, and after that, Haxiris' Hideout.
So there they were, at the entrance of the dig site, standing just behind the head of the project, an old gnome named Dr. Pilgrim – and the brother of Thaldrak!
- Thaldrak was reunited with his brother, Ben.
- The party met the leader of the dwarf expedition, a clean-shaven gnome named Dr. Pilgrim. The Doctor wasn't keen on letting them explore the mine unsupervised, and they agreed to an impromptu dinner that evening to discuss the possibility of a trade.
- During the dinner, the party learned that Dr. Pilgrim was an avid scholar of the region's orc tribes, but had taken a particularly keep interest in the Netheril since learning of a possible map to one of the five sets of Nether Scrolls – and that the map was buried with the High Shaman of the Scarlet Scourge tribe, when it was nearly wiped out by Svirfnebli many years ago.
- Dr. Pilgrim kept clockwork devices to protect himself, who he said was given by a wizard friend named Dilp, a leader of the Harpers who had travelled to the Plane of Mechanus, home of the Mordrons.
- Together, they agreed to take care of the 3 Earth Elementals who were present in the mine in exchange for being able to scope it out. They agreed to meet the next morning and go with the doctor to the Elementals.
- The party also met a paper Dragon that the gnome kept behind bars in his office, and when Siras interacted with the peculiar creature, she saw that it had a propensity to changing ink on paper. The doctor complained that the Dragon had caused problems with his notes. The dragon could speak with Siras, and insisted on providing more parchment and ink, but the patterns produced by the drake had no discernable meaning to the woman. She narrowly avoided a spew of ink as the dragon breathed the black liquid all over that corner of the room… and Dr. Pilgrim.
- Siras messaged Drothaak – whom they had instructed to hide nearby – that they would be proceeding without him. He did not seem happy about that.
- The next morning – after a rowdy dwarven celebration of the party's – well, of Thaldrak's – arrival into the camp, Ben and Zanzibar were awoken by the sounds of distant thunderous vibrations. None of the others had heard or felt it, though, and as it had shifted away from their current position, they were not overly concerned.
- They went into the mine together and halfway to the Elementals, Siras spotted a false wall – the false wall, and the presumed entrance to the tomb. They entered and began an arduous journey into the depths of the mountain in pursuit of the tomb, together with a very excited Dr. Pilgrim, but without Drothaak.
- Nearly an entire day of travel went by when they had encountered a giant. The creature was massive and violet-coloured, lumbering from a left passage and absently singing to itself. It had various objects protruding from it's skin, including numerous recognizable dragon bones and skulls. The monstrous being spoke with Siras, who had gone ahead – invisible – to speak to the being before it could run into the party. They tried to hide from it, but it spotted them. It – loudly – asked Thaldrak, Ben and Kay about a place called Shanatar, and told Siras that it was headed there "to find the Dodkong and awaken the Sleeper". When Kay asked Siras to ask more about the Sleeper, the giant answered only "It is near my home, beneath the thousand sands." The giant gave it's name – Fribog – and was fairly insistent on taking Ben with him on his journey. the giant even took Ben's wooden warhammer and absorbed it into his chest, but the party convinced it to leave them alone while they backed down one of the nearby passages.
- When they learned from Dr. Pilgrim – who seemed particularly disturbed by the Giant's speech – that they had to pass the creature again to continue their journey to the tomb, Ben came up with a plan to speak to the being and distract it. He asked Siras to come with him and speak for him, and that he would pretend to speak while Siras did the talking. Miraculously this plan worked, though Fribog decided that Ben no longer had a say in whether he would become Fribog's travel companion or not, and the giant plucked the Dwarf Druid from the ground and took him along, continuing to march down the underground passages, in the direction of the dwarf dig site.
- Siras trekked after the pair, not keen on losing another ally so soon after he had just joined the party. And good thing she was there, for when Ben tried to shapeshift away from Fribog, the giant nearly crushed him altogether, coming just short of obliterating the druid before being held by a spell that incapacitated the giant, allowing the extremely wounded and exhausted Ben to flee for his life, in the shape of a Deer.
- When they finally caught up to the party, they sprinted away until they were certain that the giant's pursuit was no longer a concern. They rested, but not all of Ben's wounds healed; he remained incredibly exhausted from the encounter, and his leg still was displaced from his hip joint. He'd need another few days to heal up to normal, he figured.
- They continued onward and eventually reached the tomb, a place marred by strange designs and etchings in the stone of violent, beastly rituals and drawn goat's heads. Dr. Pilgrim had earlier told them that the Scarlet Scourge worshipped Bahamut to create Tanaruks, so they were sure they had arrived.
- However, at the entrance to the maze, the party discovered that many traps had already been set. Immediately, Dr. Pilgrim began to panic, and sprinted along, following the trail of triggered traps with wails of "Oh no no no no!" until they reached the center. Kay tried to keep an eye on where they were going, but lost track near the end.
- When they reached the center, they saw a massive statue of a garguantuan humanoid, holding two fingers erect to the ceiling and donning a beastly goat head, horned and etched with demonic runes. The altar emerged from an opaque black circle, around the circumference of which were four sarcophagi, all of which had already been opened. Someone had beat them to the tomb. Someone had already been here.
- Immediately, Dr. Pilgrim began to wail as the rest considered what to do next. As Thaldrak stepped forward onto the black circle, aiming to investigate the open sarcophagi, a booming, beastly voice entered his mind – the voice of Baphomet, the demon lord, demanding that they kill Dr. Pilgrim in exchange for what they wanted — the resurrection of T'avin. Thalrak refused the demon lord, who asked them then to track down those who desecrated the tomb. When the demon lord didn't provide any information, Thaldrak refused again, to which the demon lord laughed, responding "you have made your choice…" and all the traps reset.
They had gotten to the center of the maze… but could they get out?