Having been granted temporary freedom by Beatrix so they could acquire the head of the giant, the party moved deeper into the mountain caverns. Their first encounter was with a chained-up, badly mistreated dog who snarled at their approach but was calmed by Linny’s animal handling ability. While the gnome bonded with the dog, Osborne heard three rowdy voices coming from the next room. He and Ye’Kan entered with Gaius in tow to find three drunk guards gambling over a game of knucklebones. Under the guise of being new to Beatrix’s crew, the rogue and the bard joined the game with their loaded dice in hand while Gaius partook in some wine that he found less than adequate and judgmentally snacked on an incredibly long baguette. After a few rounds, the guards passed out in a drunken stupor and the group rounded up the remaining gold in the room. Moving forward, they spied a single sentry guarding a large room below them. Unsure of whether or not they should continue attacking guards now that they were on an errand for Beatrix, they sent Gaius out to approach the sentry casually. When the guard drew his weapon, Ye’Kan knocked him off his perch and down to the depths below.
The group saw that the large room ahead was occupied by six guards, three prisoners in cages, and two dogs in the center being forced to fight each other. No longer hesitant about using force, they charged in for a surprise attack and killed the guards, with Gaius claiming he sent the final one flying through a giant chain length with his killing blow but with no witnesses to confirm. The fighting dogs ran away and Linny hurried to open the cages for the prisoners and provide them with food. The most talkative of the trio identified himself as Barnes and said they had come to the cave to negotiate a peace treaty with Beatrix. He said he was a member of the Kingsguard from the Forgotten Keep, a group who was just returning to the area after a long exile following the death of their king. Barnes also knew that the ivory tower the party had visited the day before had once been occupied by an old wizard, but that he fell to ruin long ago. He agreed to receive the adventurers peacefully at the Forgotten Keep if they decided to visit in the future, since Trevor Belmont had mentioned it as a place of interest and it also appeared in Leon Belmont’s journal, and the prisoners were allowed to leave.
In the corner of this room was the bottom of a humongous chain that traveled upwards and out of sight somewhere higher in the cavern. With nowhere else to go, the group decided to ascend it and see where it led. Linny secured her fox using an improvised baby bjorn and began climbing with the aid of her grappling hook while the boys attempted to scale the chain manually. She and Gaius made it to the top without much difficulty, but the usually dexterous Osborne and Ye’Kan slipped and fell back to the bottom over and over and over and over again, each taking turns insulting each other as they went. At the top Linny peered into the room that awaited them and was surprised to see a large giant sitting and tinkering with something at a desk. When the entire gang finally regrouped at the top of the chain, they formed a plan — Leon’s journal mentioned meeting this giant and that the giant could be easily tricked, so rather than engage him what would surely be a difficult battle, they decided to try to befriend him.
Linny and Ye’Kan entered the giant’s chambers while Gaius and Osborne stayed back so the party wouldn’t seem as imposing. The giant was initially on alert at the rare site of visitors, but became pleasant at the mention of Leon, whom he said was his friend. Introducing himself as Logarth, the giant said Leon had visited and left him a drawing of a candle flame being extinguished, but did not know where he had gone after. Linny and Ye’Kan informed the giant of Beatrix’s plan to kill him and asked if he would help them fight her instead to rid the cave of her treacherous ways. Logarth agreed but only if they could beat him at his favorite high-or-low dice game, and to raise the stakes he bet his shiniest shield versus Linny’s talking sword that they had recovered earlier in the cavern. The two adventurers managed to win the contest, while all the while Gaius and Osborne waited and enjoyed pieces of the ridiculously long baguette and espresso from the young paladin’s portable french press. Logarth agreed to give them his shield and his services, and even threw in the drawing from Leon (which seemed like a missing journal page) when Linny agreed to give him the talking sword as a new companion anyway. The giant loaded the party up onto his back and descended the chain for Beatrix’s chambers.
At the door, Gaius asked to go in alone so that he could taunt Beatrix just a little more before they took her on. Leaving the other three and the giant waiting outside, the paladin kicked the door and strolled in to confront the arrogant ruler. Pretending that they did indeed have the giant’s head, Gaius demanded any more information Beatrix might have about the missing Almamoon children before handing over her prize. She reiterated that she was not interested in the children whatsoever, but that the Miasma Marshlands would be a good place to investigate. After trading a few more barbs, Gaius called for his allies to storm the room. Logarth instantly killed three guards just by entering and the battle was underway. Gaius, Osborne, and Ye’Kan engaged Beatrix and two guards in close quarters combat, with the bard twice grabbing her by the arm to bestow a curse upon her and twice awkwardly failing. She proved to be a worthy adversary but was finally brought down in an epic slow-motion sequence in which each of the three boys got in an opportunity attack, with Osborne delivering the final killing blow. Little Linny and leviathan Logarth handled the remaining guards as the most disparate tag-team of all time, and the villains were defeated. Having cleared the cave and figured out that it had nothing to do with the missing children, the party thanked Logarth for his help and headed out for their next destination.
They agreed to investigate the Miasma Marshlands next based on its appearance in Leon’s journal and Beatrix’s suggestion, and they decided to go straight there without returning to Almamoon or consulting with Trevor Belmont. Before they could leave the Mountains of Yule, however, the two grimlocks Deetry and Dumock that they had met previously in Almamoon reappeared at the cave exit and once again demanded they hand over the journal. In a repeat performance of their first meeting, Osborne quickly struck Deetry before the henchmen could do anything, dealing enough damage to make the pair reconsider the battle and teleport away after vowing they would meet again. As the grimlocks disappeared, the party saw another figure up ahead slowly floating toward them. Seemingly made of shadows, this figure approached and seemed to hold the group in their places as it spoke to them in a frightening raspy whisper. It asked why the adventurers trusted each other despite not truly knowing anything about each other, and finished off by saying “do you even know why you are here” before vanishing out of their sight. Thoroughly spooked and confused, the group left the mountains and headed for the marshlands with the shadowy figure’s words lingering in their minds.
The Miasma Marshlands were covered in mist and gave the group an uneasy chill. After walking for a bit they came to a small cottage with the lights on and smoke pouring from the chimney. They knocked and were let inside by a fragile old woman who introduced herself as Camilla, who was mentioned in Leon’s journal but as a monstrous hag who feeds on children. The walls of the cottage were lined with shelves upon shelves of books, which Leon had apparently come to study at some point before he went missing. Camilla told the party that she knew nothing of any missing children, but Linny sensed that she was lying and also that her home may not necessarily be real. The old woman offered soup to Ye’Kan, but still feeling a general sense of uneasiness, the bard “accidentally” dropped the cup onto the floor before he could eat it. Annoyed by this clumsy move, Camilla grew even more agitated at the mention of Leon’s name and abruptly told the party to leave. Before she could throw them out, Linny cast Zone of Truth and things rapidly took a turn.
The facade of the old woman quickly melted away as she transformed into a big gangling hag, and this new form started cackling and revealed that the soup was made from children. No longer able to lie, Camilla told the party that she was occasionally brought missing children to feed on by a man with long hair, while some of the other children were taken to the ivory tower. Gaius threatened to start burning her books if she did not start complying, and as he moved toward them a single page fell off a shelf which the hag quickly grabbed and magically made disappear. She said that the page was of great importance to the party’s quest for the missing children, but she would not give it to them unless they completed a task for her — a similar deal she had made with Leon, she claimed, in which he traded something of great value in exchange for knowledge of a powerful spell to protect his mind. Camilla would only bring the page back into existence for the party if they traveled to a distant island and retrieved the tail of a polar bear, which she needed to complete a spell. She told them to go to Castaway Cove to secure a means of transportation, and to hurry back before anything else bad happened. Troubled by this turn of events, the group begrudgingly set out for the port town to fulfill the hag’s request.
Upon arriving in the small shanty town of Castaway Cove, Ye’Kan decided to use his history as a sailor and pirate to find a connection that could help them get to the island in question. They entered a tavern called Cat’s Cradle and the bard scanned the room for seamen who fit the bill while Gaius, Linny, and Osborne went to the bar for a drink after their long journey. Sitting in a dark corner of the bar was a hardened but knowledgeable looking man wearing a hood and smoking a pipe. Ye’Kan approached and salty seaman talk ensued, in which he divulged bits of his history serving under the famous pirate Captain Soze and showed off his tattoo to prove it. The man, who introduced himself as Vincent Dorrin, paid attention but wasn’t overly impressed by the pirate’s tale. When the topic turned to the purpose of their journey, Vincent became gravely concerned — he knew of Camilla because she had abducted his 7-year-old sister, and he was hunting for a polar bear tail as well to make a potion that could kill the hag. Now joined by his fellow adventurers, Ye’Kan and the group offered to help Vincent if he was willing to take them to the island on his flying ship, the Icarus Two. The captain agreed at the price of 50 gold pieces each and told the party to rest up for the evening as their ship would be leaving at dawn.