The Stoic Man has not been idle. Their entrance to the lightning-forge’s main chamber is obscured by a large, heavily reinforced carriage, with two reanimated horses in the harness. The horses, though clearly awake and powerful-looking golems themselves, do not respond to the slayers. As they carefully maneuver around the carriage, they spot the Stoic Man. He has laid out one of the inanimate golems from the vault on a table, chained to the lightning-forge. He turns to face them as they approach.
“You don’t learn, do you?” rumbles the Stoic Man.
“Actually,” says Honora, “I think we’ve got you figured out.”
She charges him, pulling Kravoss’ knife. The golem horses kick out at her as she dashes past, but she absorbs the blows and slams the knife deep into the Stoic Man’s shoulder. The golem reels, and Baden quickly closes in behind her to join the attack.
Abbron quickly ascends the iron carriage for a better vantage point. Leery of the Stoic Man’s capacity to drink lightning, he instead relies on the power of thunder, though it has little effect on the golem’s dense frame.
Again the Stoic Man reaches for Honora, hoists her steel-clad frame as easily as a farmhand lifting a scarecrow, and hurls her into Baden. While the two untangle themselves, the golem advances on the carriage. Abbron conjures winds and a storm-spirit to keep the beast at bay while Honora and Baden recover their feet, catch their winds, and close in.
Honora fights defensively with sword and shield, focusing all her attention on surviving the Stoic Man’s attacks while Baden hews into the golem and Abbron continues fire. Though the golem still outmatches her in strength and power, her tactics give her the edge — he can’t land half his blows, and the group is able to worry him down. Finally, wounded and angry, the Stoic Man smashes past his opponents and leaps onto the coach’s buckboard, snatching up the reins and stirring the unliving horses into action.
Honora tries for the carriage as it begins rolling forward. Its reinforced wheels deflect the first blow of her swird, though, and although she redirects to swing for the reins, the Stoic Man pulls them out of reach at the last moment. Baden is quick to follow her offensive, and leaps aboard the carriage as well. With a prayer to Amaelin, he strikes the golem, and the two of them blink off the coach in a shimmer of divine sunlight. A surprised Bralta lunges for the reins in an attempt to pull the horses under control and halt the carriage, but the attempt is futile — the horses just barely clear the entrance, while the coach slams into the wall and overturns, spilling her and Abbron onto the ground.
But the Stoic Man has it worse. Honora challenges him once more, and she and Baden pin him down. The Valysan is badly battered, but stands strong, and finally Baden sees his chance. He strikes the hilt of the knife that still protrudes from the Stoic Man’s shoulder, driving it fully into the golem’s torso. The hulking pseudo-man staggers, releases a sigh, and finally collapses.
The group is still binding their wounds and resting when Countess Vainharte’s band joins them. The Countess offers her congratulations, and she and her followers join the group in investigating the lightning forge. The captive troll donor is put down summarily, as are the golem horses. The group carries out a fair amount of plunder from the Stoic Man’s reserves, but most interesting is the collection of books and journals. The journals use alchemical sigils and shorthand throughout, and seem to be a mix of technical notes, philosophy, and musings on current events. Abbron takes the journals with the intention of decoding them.
Vainharte announces her intention of throwing a banquet for the heroes. With the Stoic Man defeated well before the storms of Chass, and most of the remaining vassalage members unlikely to stir from their lairs, the four decide to spend the remainder of winter training and preparing. They will set out for the False Gryphon’s lair come spring.