The mummy lord’s planeshift spell returns the party to the plane of Ysgard. It’s late autumn; the leaves have all fallen, and a cold wind blows across the rocky hills and fjords of Aasgard's wilderness. While everyone else looks around trying to figure out where they are and how to get to Breidablik, Silversac Sam finds tracks in the ground that lead to a familiar road. This road takes them near the cave of Hunclay the firbolg. The companions agree that they have time to stop by and say hi for just a little bit. It's evident that Bargle is here, too, because of the two kobold guards outside. The enchanter who’d once lost his mind because of Tøki’s foul magic has since regained his wits. Inside the firbolg's home, Bargle and Hunclay pore over stacks of books to find an answer to the slaad problem. All they’ve found so far is the story of a rogue named Thomas and a mysterious woman who charmed him nearly a millenium ago.
There was once a young rogue named Thomas, who loved nothing more than to wander the beautiful countryside surrounding his home town of Erceldoune in Ysgard. His favorite spot to sit and admire the views over the mysterious Eildon Hills was a lovely old tree, said by some to be a hawthorn, and later known as the Eildon Tree. One day while taking a rest under the tree, Thomas spotted an elegant lady on a milk white horse. She threw down a challenge to him:
Harp and carp, Thomas, she said
Harp and carp along with me
And if you dare to kiss my lips
Sure of your body I will be
The woman dared Thomas to kiss her, so he did, and she asked Thomas to come away with her and serve her for seven years. She mounted her horse with him behind, and together they travelled, her horse travelling swifter than the wind itself. She told Thomas to hold his tongue no matter what he hears or sees, or he will never return to the mortal realms. On they rode, wading through rivers, and through the roaring of the sea, and through rivers of blood. They finally came to a green garden, where the woman plucked an apple from a tree, telling Thomas to take it for his wages and it would grant him “exceptional proficiency in thievery.” The story ends that:
And, till seven years were gane and past,
True Thomas on Ysgard was never seen.
Bargle thinks that whoever this woman is, she charms roguish men into becoming her servants and uses them to her own nefarious ends. When Krissy brings up Olidammara, Bargle nods and suggests that this same thing might have happened to the god of rogues. Krissy mentions that she once heard another song about this "elegant lady," who, in that song, was a faerie. Hunclay is deeply concerned. If Olidammara had been forced into service to this woman for seven years, then perhaps he is the one who stole the slaad Spawning Stone. The Stone has not been missing for seven years, though — only about a month, actually — so he cautions the adventurers that Olidammara is likely still under this woman’s spell. Bargle assures the party that he will continue his research and try to find a way to break this “elegant lady’s” charm, even if she may be a faerie. Bryta thinks it suspicious that Elden, the sprite they'd met earlier, had been so surprised to learn that Queen Titania had given the Seelie queen leafpod to Krissy. Why, the valkyrie wondered, had Titania given such an important leafpod to Krissy in the first place?
Before they leave, Hunclay mentions that Odin is no longer at Breidablik. Shortly after Baldur the Beautiful led the companions to the Infinite Staircase to begin their quest, Odin’s wife Frigg moved him to his own hall, Gladsheim, which lies on another, nearby earthberg.
Finally the party makes it to Gladsheim. They meet Calladastina, Hodd, and Letha again. Odin’s wife Frigg is here, too, as well as his son Baldur. Frigg is dressed in funeral robes. Everyone is concerned about Odin. His health has been fading fast; he becomes weaker every day. While Frigg has lost all hope, preparing to take her husband to Valhalla, Letha remains positive. Frigg blames Loki for stealing the Spawning Stone and starting this whole war against the slaad. Xenephon corrects her on this, and Baldur agrees that this isn't Loki’s doing. Krissy's suggestion that, if Odin does die, he won't have far to go since Valhalla is on this same earthberg earns her a scornful look by Frigg and Tercival.
Odin’s cure is finally delivered. Krissy thinks she knows how to drill a hole in the orb to drain out the Waters of Creation. Tercival is skeptical about this, but Krissy goes ahead and does it anyway. Bryta holds a mead pitcher and Krissy pours all the Waters into it. And as the primordial waters touches Odin's lips, renewed life courses through his veins!
Once the Allfather is back on his feet again, everyone cheers and praises Bryta, Krissy, T’chon, Xenephon, and Silversac Sam for a job well done. But this is not enough to stop the war. As a war-god himself, Odin is principally concerned not with the reasons behind the conflict with the slaad, or even its outcome, but rather with the raw, chaotic battle-frenzy that permeates this recent agonism. He is grateful for the aid the companions have given him, and so he rewards each of them with a blessing. Bryta reconciles with her father now, showing him the dragon slaying battleaxe Arngrim. He embraces her, teary-eyed, and she regains her place by his side as one of his valkyries.
Frigg throws a big feast in honor of these heroes. It is a time of celebration and drinking! Krissy gives the pitcher with the Waters of Creation to Tercival, who thanks everyone and takes his leave, heading back to Celestia. Shortly after the feast, a raven brings news from Thor and Nauma the Hair-splitter at the frontline, at a tower called Clontarf. There have been many victories against the slaad so far, but at the same time, more losses. While the slaad numbers grow after each battle, the number of Ysgardians dwindles. Odin says that he must go on a quest to find more wisdom, more knowledge, and more power, and then he takes his leave of the hall. Frigg asks Bryta to visit those on the front lines fighting slaad and bring the worthy heroes to Valhalla. Krissy wants to go to the Den of Olidammara and ask the god of rogues about the Spawning Stone, but it is decided that Clontarf is in more urgent need of assistance.
Frigg opts to stay here and defend the hall, and Baldur wants to return to Breidablik. Calladastina, Hodd, and Letha offer to accompany the companions to Clontarf, where Thor and Nauma the Hair-splitter are fending off the full might of the slaad army.
A severe storm blows in from the east, from the direction the companions are going. Cold rain falls, and a colder wind whips at cloaks and bites deep into bones. The sky is black, the thunder loud and angry. Despite the miserable conditions, the companions decide to push onward.
By morning, the storm has blown itself out, leaving a dense fog in its wake. Everybody is cold and exhausted. The sun rises behind a misty grey veil, providing no warmth on this chill autumn day. Now the adventurers look out upon a rain-soaked plain, which now more resembles a moor. In the distance they see the high tower of Clontarf, piercing the sky from the summit of a steep hill. Surrounding the scorched fields all around the hill are the thousands of bodies and bones of the fallen.
The first defender of the tower that the party meets is a valkyrie named Badb. She flies down upon a pegasus, lands, and dismounts, striking a pose with her spear and shield. Her gaze lingers inquisitively on Bryta. Badb greets the party and explains Clontarf’s predicament as they make their way into the tower.
There are two armies of slaad attacking the tower: one led by a chaos dragon named Jormungand and the other led by a death slaad named Nurn. In addition to the slaad, a number of demons and yuggoloths have also joined their number. Neither of these armies gets along with each other. There was a third army, who just left through a portal a few days ago. Nobody knows where they went or why. With the companions’ help, the defenders have a good chance of holding off the slaad. But Thor does not like being on the defensive. He asks the companions to help figure out a way to go on the offensive and defeat the slaad. Every time the defenders left the walls, they were driven back by the overwhelming number of enemies.
Badb points out that slaad try not to kill their opponents. Rather, slaad incapacitate them or otherwise wound them enough to render them unconscious. Aarakocra scouts have reported that the death slaad keeps a prison camp of Ysgardians behind his army, most of whom have either already been infected or are awaiting infection by the slaad. These prisoners are of utmost importance to the slaad because, without their Spawning Stone, infection is the only way slaad can reproduce.
Krissy asks Badb where all the other valkyries are, why they aren't helping out at Clontarf. Badb frowns, her response irate: "We have suffered many losses in this war."
The mist lightens as the day goes on, yet does not vanish completely. Clontarf seems afloat on a sea of fog. The companions are invited to stay here and rest while the powers come up with a plan. Besides Thor, Nauma, and Badb, the leadership also includes an aarakocra named Deekek, who the companions already met in the Vale of Syranita. Deekek brought with him a small detachment of aarakocra to assist in the defense of the tower. As evening approaches, the leaders can’t agree on any plan. And so they come to the companions for suggestions.
Bryta remembers that slaad fight for only two reasons. The first is for food; the second is to prove who’s the toughest. They are so wrapped up in this reverence of individual strength that they never cooperate in combat, preferring to take turns and watch. If one champion were to challenge the death slaad in single combat, the grey slaad beneath it in the pecking order would fight each other for the right to devour the death slaad’s body and thus become a death slaad themselves. After the leadership breaks down, the slaad would end up fighting each other and their army would unravel. But who should duel Nurn?
Badb gestures to speak privately with Bryta. First Badb wants to know how Bryta returned to Odin’s favor. A long and exciting story, indeed! Then Badb reminds Bryta that, now that she’s a valkyrie again, they should discuss the matter of who will die tomorrow. These petitioners have forgotten what real death is, and this war is reminding them. Badb is confident that whoever fights Nurn tomorrow is doomed to fail. Even if this champion kills the death slaad, he will suffer festering necrotic wounds that cannot be healed, and so will ultimately die. If any of Bryta’s friends dies, their soul will not go on to the afterlife, but instead will degrade and dissipate into nothing. Badb stresses this again: The death slaad’s wounds inflict permanent damage, and so the secret to success is not getting hit.
Bryta decides that she will fight Nurn herself.
Everyone agrees to this plan. Thor will take half the army and strike at the death slaad’s army’s rear, breaking the Ysgardian prisoners free. Thor can’t duel Nurn himself because he has to lead his army; they trust him more than the party. Meanwhile, Nauma will lead the other half of the Aasgardians and attack the slaad army led by Jormungand. Their chances of success will be vastly improved if they only have to fight one army. Badb will wait behind at the tower with Deekek and some others in case the third slaad army shows up.
T'chon leaves with Deekek on a scouting mission. They find the prisoner compound at the rear of the slaad army, a chaotic jumble of tree logs and rocks — the closest thing any slaad will ever come to creating a structure.
Clontarf’s meadhall is gloomy and quiet that night as the defenders eat what may be their last meal. The only sounds are the clink of dishes, the sniff or cough of brooding warriors, and the whimpering of a wardog scrounging for scraps. Letha chimes in that this plan will work and they have nothing to fear. Silversac Sam watches Thor, and suddenly has a vision of disaster for the Aasgardians: Thor will be killed by Jormungand, and Baldur will be killed by his brother Hod. This reminder of the inevitability of fate, of the pointlessness of it all, brings the half-orc to tears.
Bryta, T'chon, Silversac Sam, Krissy, and Xenephon, accompanied by Calladastina, Hodd, and Letha, set out before morning’s first light. Under the cover of darkness, the aarakocra fly the companions out to the death slaad’s army and drop them off where they need to be — Bryta and T'chon by Nurn and the others nearby the prisoner compound.
As slaad of all colors circle around T'chon and Bryta, the aarakocra introduces her as a champion that challenges Nurn to a fight. The other slaad would sooner tear them both apart, but Nurn accepts the challenge. And so a crowd gathers to watch. More slaad pile in so they can see, too, and more and more. And soon enough, most of the slaad army is here to watch the duel between the death slaad and this puny-looking valkyrie. T'chon pats Bryta's shoulder, gracing her with a haste spell.
Just the distraction her friends need to attack the prisoner compound. Only five slaad stand in their way. Krissy sneaks up and fires her crossbow from the shadows. Xenephon blasts the slaad with a fireball. Silversac Sam charges in with his greatsword. Letha and Hodd shout warcries and follow right after him, and Calladastina prays to Torm before throwing herself into the melee as well.
Bryta draws the Sword of Aaqa and bangs the blade against the rim of her Shield of Lightning, causing a wave of thunder to erupt before her. The death slaad, staggered by that initial blow, lunges forward, snapping its mouth and flailing its claws. The terrible jaws gnash upon Bryta's shield, and one claw bangs off her helmet, but the other claw slashes low, cutting through metal, leather, and flesh. Bryta grimaces and shoves the slaad away, simultaneously slashing with her longsword.
Xenephon, Silversac Sam, Krissy, the two dwarves and Calladastina are wrecking the slaad defenders, cutting down one after the other until there are only a few left. Xenephon's fireball sets the wall of the compound ablaze. Silversac Sam goes up and drives a boot against the timbers, causing a thunder wave that shatters what's left of the flaming structure. Those prisoners inside, now freed, make their way out, stumbling and carrying those too weak to walk themselves. Aarakocra fly in and start picking them up and taking them back to Clontarf.
Pretty much the whole of Nurn's army yells and croaks and cheers at the spectacle before them. Bryta ducks low under the death slaad's flailing arm, driving her sword in between her foe's ribs. She jerks the sword back and thrusts again. Nurn inhales, but the breath is wheezing, strained. Bryta pushes the attack, striking a third time. Her blade cuts so deeply through Nurn's chest that the tip juts out of his back. Nurn shudders, convulses, and slumps forward. Bryta kicks the slaad's body away and turns to face all the rest.
A couple of events transpire after Nurn is defeated. First, the ambitious grey slaadi who’d been watching with anticipation leap forward to fight over the right to devour the death slaad’s corpse. Next, the rest of the slaad, inspired to show off their own strength, immediately begin fighting each other. The whole slaad army turns into a giant brawl. And with a rumble like a thousand chariots, Thor’s warriors blitzkrieg into their midst, the god of thunder and lightning so incredible to behold.
T'chon grabs Bryta and flies straight up, away from the slaad that swarm in to tear her apart. From above they can hear the shouts of battle, steel upon flesh and claws tearing through mail, the screams of the dying. And then the aarakocra archers loose their bows, and a moment later the Ysgardian spears come, arching over the slaadi. Bryta watches Thor in the front of the fighting, the tip of the wedge, and she sees the shieldwall behind him rushing forward like an armored beast. T'chon swoops low, dropping Bryta off even as he hurls fireballs from his hands. Bryta puts her horn of blasting to her lips and annihilates a great swathe of slaadi an instant before she lands among them. All around her blades are rising and falling, and she hears that sound, the real music of battle. The crackling of Thor's lightning bolts sends bodies flying, and the Ysgardians move forward, and though the superior number of slaadi wrap around the shieldwall, it seems the Ysgardians are winning for they press forward across the mire now sodden with blood, and the warriors behind cheer and surge to run down the retreating slaadi.
On the other side of the field, Nauma’s warriors clash against Jormungand’s army. After the companions and Thor are finished with their half of the slaad forces, they join Nauma with hers. Silversac Sam gladly leaps into the thickest of the fighting. All around him men and slaadi are screaming and the Ysgardians axes and swords are chopping and swinging. The grim work, the blood feast, the song of the blade. Jormungand, sensing defeat, takes to the air and flees the battlefield. It is a furious and epic clash that will forever be remembered in song. Oh, what glorious death!
After the dust settles and the slaad armies are routed, Badb flies out to survey the field. There was a time when she would have collected the bodies of the greatest warriors to bring back to Valhalla with her, but today there are no souls to carry. The chaotic nature of Limbo and the presence of so many slaad here causes the souls of the fallen to disintegrate into nothing.
Hodd then approaches the companions. In his arms he carries the dying body of a dwarf female up to Bryta… his sister Letha, dying. She has been infected with chaos phage and will transform into a red slaad very soon. Xenephon lays his healing hands upon her, but this region is so saturated with chaos that his spells cannot remove the disease, nor reverse the transformation. Hodd desperately asks Bryta to give his beloved sister a place in Valhalla, and with tears in her eyes the valkyrie takes Letha from him. Badb tells them that Letha must be burned immediately to stop the slaadspawn incubation; there’s nothing to be done for her. Hodd crumples to his knees and wails.
Thor, flicking blood from Mjölnir, says they should push the attack and drive all the slaad back to Limbo. Silversac Sam raises his greatsword and cheers. But most of the Aasgardian lords wish to return to their halls and celebrate this great victory. They have enjoyed so few victories of late in this war, after all. Silversac Sam tries making a rousing speech to rally everyone, but the army still breaks up, and those willing to continue the fight are now too few.
Thor reluctantly says goodbye, returning to Thrudheim; Calladastina goes with him, thirsty for vengeance against the slaad who took her dwarf friend. Nauma returns to Breidablik. Deekek takes his aarakocra back to the Vale. Badb, feeling like the valkyries have no purpose in this war anymore, storms off to Valhalla.
And the companions build a funeral pyre for Letha.