After making their way into the Outlands through Tane Cordoba’s Sigil-centered Blood Gate, using a vial of dark blood found at Alnnahas Al-Qasr, the adventurers find themselves at the edge of the gate-town of Glorium. A small fishing village at the edge of a majestic fjord, Glorium is the nearest settlement to the massive river-bound gate into Ysgard.
The Blood Gate here—presumably the only one in all of the Outlands, if Tangrim Malfactor is to be trusted—is free-standing, placed where the doorway to a ruined house once stood.
The group make their way down the cliffside pathway to the village proper, where they are informed by the guards at the wooden palisade gates—both half-giants of some ilk—that going through the gate is not something that anyone can do. Only the most courageous heroes are welcome through. They can enter “the contest”, a fighting tournament, if they want a chance. The meadhall—for it is the only one—has more details.
There’s a strange magic to Glorium. A brawl taking place in an alleyway alternates between a sad and vastly outnumbered beatdown and a glorious, heroic duel between honorable men. The meadhall itself is quiet and dark, and a barrel on the bar contains a number of pledges for the contest. Once your coin, emblazoned with a sigil, goes inside, it can’t come out. Putting more entries inside doesn’t appear to help, as they simply vanish.
The barkeep informs the group that if they prove their mettle in the contest, they can enter Ysgard. But when the contest happens is entirely up to the gods, and they’re a fickle bunch. So Eddie, Gareth, and Ziggy decide to stick around for a little while to see if anything happens.
That’s when Flatnose Grim shows up. A shorter, barrel-chested human with a massive blond-gone-white beard and an oft-broken nose, he starts drinking about an hour before sundown. Which is roughly 2pm, according to those who keep time in these parts. And then, as the sun starts sinking, Flatnose gets everyone at the meadhall riled up and they head outside.
Turns out our heroes have stumbled upon the monthly ritual where Flatnose scares off the “Malice Striker”, a snake who cruises down the river on the eve of the full moon toward Glorium and the gate to Ysgard. For a decade now, he’s protected the town by heading out onto the longest dock into the river and scaring the big snake off.
And a big snake it is. Over 300 feet long, with a head the size of a big wagon, the pale wyrm appears over the edge of the mountains and skates along the river, sending up frozen spray. The whole ordeal doesn’t seem to have a lot of seriousness to it, with everyone raising drinking horns and drunkenly congratulating Flatnose long before the snake is “scared back off into the hills”, as they put it.
Which is all the more alarming when the snake doesn’t turn away and, instead, heads straight for the dock.
Aside from our heroes, two hulking half-giants, and a bystanding bariaur, everyone flees. Including Flatnose.
Ziggy is swallowed almost immediately, but with the help of Eddie’s flight magic, Gareth mounts the great serpent. A well-placed stab by Ru’mo nearly pierces the intrepid dwarf inside, but Ziggy calls forth a lightning storm from within the beast’s gullet. This gets the Malice Striker vomiting, and out comes Ziggy, cold and covered in drool, but no worse for the wear.
The creature shoves Gareth away and gobbles him up, but a well-placed web spell sends the wyrm into a choking fit and out comes the half-drow.
And then an odd thing happens… the Malice Striker, nearly defeated, blows raining down from the half-giant fellows, begins to sniff at Ziegfried’s bag of holding. The dwarf, convinced that the beast has been cowed, calls off the beating and slowly pulls out the vial of blood that they used to reach this place. The Malice Striker whimpers.
Then Flatnose reappears, somehow reinvigorated now that his foe is no longer a threat. He reveals the truth: a Dark Stranger came to Glorium a decade ago and helped rid them, with powerful magic, of the first Malice Striker, an aggressive serpent that destroyed the settlements upon the cliff. When the beast died, the stranger took her parts, including a great deal of blood, and disappeared into the portal to Ysgard.
Flatnose kept the beast’s head, as he “helped” with defeating her, and mounted it in his longhouse.
Eddie pours some of the blood on his hand and touches the wyrm’s head. It lovingly hisses, allowing the warlock to mount it. After some concern from Flatnose on killing the beast outright, Eddie, Gareth, and Ziggy climb aboard Malice Striker II, as the portal to Ysgard slowly opens for the heroes.
It appears that the gods were enjoying the show…
- Who was the bariaur?
- Was the Dark Stranger really Tane Cordoba?
- Who was watching from Ysgard?