Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Against the Giants”
We tried out some of the magic rings from our attackers. One of the sketchy thief types had a gold ring – Ezekiel said it made him feel calm, but who knows what practical application that would have (Raven said he could think of a few). Another ring, Aliana called a “ring of faery” – but Mikael couldn’t get it to do anything. She says it has to be in tune with the wearer’s alignment to activate. Mikael, Agnar, and Lydia upgraded their rings of protection (Lydia didn’t even have one somehow, which must be an oversight), and Ezekiel took a sip of a potion that he said let him “look through our foreheads,” which sounds gross. He said he could tell something was going on in our heads, but not what was going on – he’d need a higher dose.
Approaching Istivin, the weather has been toasty…but more than that, there’s a taste like a storm in the air. Raven said it reminded him of the blue fire in the dungeon below the stockade. It makes Mikael uncomfortable, too. Even from a distance, you can see the huge ebony sphere in the center of town. You can’t see it moving, but it sits there, swallowing light like something out of a nightmare.
The refugee lines along the road have disappeared – probably because everyone has already left. The only people we met were a patrol of Keoland guards, who seemed more at ease once we explained we were heading to the king’s agent to offer our services. The commander gave us directions, and before very late in the day, we rode up to Algrathas’ manor above the river and announced ourselves.
They ushered us into a room stuffed with expensive things, that somehow reminded me of our vault room at Haven…maybe because of all the different things pulled from various collections and adventures all stacked together.
For telling Klim where he could kill us, Master Algrathas seems like a nice enough well-to-do old man. (We got in a little private conversation with him, and he explained Klim just asked for his information services…without spilling his whole identity as a vengeful priest of the Earth Dragon. Ezekiel and Raven asked if he could “research” the identity and location of “E” for us, so perhaps we’ll get a useful lead there. If Master A isn’t on the up-and-up, then he’s been lying the whole time we’ve known him.)
As for the king’s agent overseeing this crisis, Master Lashton – we first met him yelling at Master Algrathas over something.
He made a political jab about the respect owed the king of Keoland by His Grace the Grand Duke (as Uncle might say, what century does he think he’s living in?) but finally gave us some actual information on the situation.
The black sphere appeared about a fortnight ago. No one knows what caused it, but the most popular theories are: demons; a “gift” from another country; a mis-guided magical experiment. As Aliana remarked after we left, that about covers the gambit.
Making matters worse, the giants from the Jotens are taking advantage of the confusion and panic, and mounting more and more raids on the land. They seem to be coordinated, so there must be some leaders of the giants urging them on.
Master Lashton said he was handling the bubble, so we could handle the giants…not in those words, exactly. He made a show of being too busy to explain further, then stood listening to his assistant explain we could start in the southern mountains, and we could keep any treasure we found (which was not something we were worrying about, but it makes the accounting much easier). Overall, he felt like Archie – but if Archie never did anything, maybe?
Before we crossed the river, Ezekiel and Lydia wanted to examine the sphere – confidence in Master Lashton’s magical competencies notwithstanding… They say that a stranger approaching the sphere will find it hard as rock, but a native of Sterich/Istivin can pass through it…only none of them have ever come out again.
The city looks like a war is approaching. Houses are boarded up everywhere, and once in a while we spotted a cart of belongings just abandoned by the refugees. The pressure builds in your head, with a smell like a storm, but without rain. It’s a wonder we didn’t all get headaches.
As for the sphere itself… Tressarian said he could smell Evil and magic on it, but Fetafencer didn’t think it was demonic. So no luck trying to banish it. The surface looks like a ball of yarn – a myriad various cords crossing and recrossing each other into the heart of the sphere…but the surface is very much solid like stone (Raven tossed a pebble at it, and it bounced off with a clatter). It doesn’t twitch or move – it just sits there (though they tell us from measurements that it is growing).
Ezekiel took Aliana gaseous with him to examine it from the air. About that time, a patrol came by to tell us to move along – that too many people were lost inside the sphere already. So we headed south…and Ezekiel tells us he couldn’t penetrate the surface even as a gas (I think Aliana thinks that’s just as well).
South of the Davish River, it looks like a war is here. We didn’t even see a patrol – though that doesn’t mean they never come by. Leaving Istivin, even the fields and cottages outside it are abandoned.
The first people we saw were a patrol on the southern road, several hours after we left the city. Their commander sounded tired – in his manner more than his tone – and said there were raids and attacks all along the mountain range. He also said the commander for the counter-offensive is the king’s agent back outside Istivin…which is ridiculous. You can’t handle a major offensive like this from a command post a day’s ride behind the lines. At the very least, there should be lieutenants coordinating the response on the front lines…but it sounds like every company’s commander is more-or-less on his own. No wonder he sounded stressed.
We noticed the riderless horses at the back, and the captain recommended we burn any fallen…he says there are more than giants in these hills. That would be right up Ezekiel’s alley – but first things first.