Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Against the Giants”
As we continued following the line of the mountains south, we spotted some figures in the distance coming toward us – just fewer than a score, and much too big to be human. I also noticed they were grey-skinned, though, and Stone Giants are…shall we say, a big more “live and let live” than other giants. So I took Heiron and Lydia into a copse along the road, just in case, while encouraging Ezekiel to try parlaying with them.
When the group got closer to us, the leader – out in front – pulled a white sheet from the baggage and held it out. I didn’t catch all that he and Ezekiel said to each other, but they worked out that neither side was looking for a needless fight. Apparently, their tribe even heard of us specifically “through the stones” – which I hope is a good thing, but I’m not sure. Their leader (Ez called him “Thane Ogier”) said the lesser giants had been attacking the “little folk,” and there is a dark energy behind their actions. He couldn’t say if it was tied to the bubble in Istivin or not, but it seems we might not be on a side-quest after all.
I saw female and young Stone Giants in the group, and most of them were carrying bundles of some kind. They said they don’t want a part of the coming trouble. With how jumpy the patrols are these days, all we can do is wish them luck.
They even gave Raven a parting gift – a wheel of cheese big enough to roll a wagon. He says it’s the elusive flavor he’s been searching for since Hochoch, and seems excited. Nobody asked what kind of milk goes into it.
After that, the countryside continued empty and barren. Occasionally, we’d pass a dead ox or horse just lying in the field. The fields should surely be more tended at this time of the year…but the ones that are planted are full of weeds, kr trampled by large feet…and a few in the distance even looked burned (though Agnar said that was just my imagination…but he’s lower down, so he couldn’t see so well). The people who aren’t killed by giants will be hungrier this winter.
Some people find trouble, and some people make trouble for themselves. As evening was settling in, we came on a village that seemed strangely untouched by the giants. The people shot us looks as we headed toward the inn, but no one seemed to be in armor or uniform – and Ezekiel noticed the same thing. At the inn, the locals made room for us…but almost made a point of ignoring us.
The serving lady was friendly enough, telling Raven all about their specials, and telling Lydia about the wine selection. I wasn’t feeling so well, maybe because of the obnoxious group at the next table, where a big man had drunk too much.
What gives people the idea barmaids want to be fiancé to everyone in town? I’ve seen it in other places besides here – but I don’t usually feel like fighting an entire room of half-drunk men. (Oddly enough at the Welcome Wench, Master Osler kept a firm lid on inappropriate behavior.)
Neither here nor there, I guess… The big man grabbed the waitress one time when she was going by, and wouldn’t let her go. The two (former) Heironeans had just sprung from their chairs when Raven seemed to materialize on top of the man and escorted him politely to the door.
The server brought a wine bottle “on her,” though she looked scared or worried. She said the man was part of a gang under “Big Johann” and he’ll want revenge. One of the locals near us muttered something about, if Johann couldn’t find us, he’d find the rest of them. Then Aliana (standing up to her full height, and at times like that, it’s hard to remember she’s barely above four feet) announced he could find us in the center of town. And I decided that the prospect of trouncing bullies had done wonders for my appetite.
(The waitress couldn’t tell us much more about the town’s situation. She said they didn’t have much for the giants to steal, and most of the townsfolk had nowhere convenient to flee to. Maybe that’s part of the story.)
Anyway, we set up the fortress on the village green, and Ezekiel cast light up there (he doesn’t understand how shadows and glare work for archers…but the main point if it is so Johann Boy can find us) and Aliana got her horse and lance ready.
If they keep us waiting, at least the moons are pretty tonight.
Things got exciting when the ground started to vibrate, and from the other side of the green, huge shapes came out of the darkness. A voice yelled something about leveling the place – with a Frost Giant accent, if I’m not mistaken – and Heiron and I started launching arrows.
The ground shook, and a huge, hairy elephant (Mikael tells me it’s a mastadon) charged toward us with a giant on its back – only to slam into a stone wall that appeared out of nowhere. As the mastadon broke through the wall, ogres swarmed around it to attack Mikael and Agnar on the ground. Aliana charged the mastadon with her lance, while Ezekiel started flying somehow.
Lydia pitched an egg into the crowd – which took me back to our earlier days in the Temple of Elemental Evil – but naturally I mostly paid attention to my marksmanship. After Aliana and I took down the frost giant, most of the ogres were easy pickings. The last one fled, but Aliana, Raven, and Ezekiel chased him down to ask questions. I gather it went about as well as our questioning usually goes (Ezekiel said he used a potion to read the ogre’s mind, and now he wants to throw up), but Raven was able to talk to the mastadon (that Mikael charmed after it stomped on him a bit).
Agnar and I went through the bodies. The ogres had nothing but copper (call us privileged if you must, but we left that for the innkeeper)…but we did discover that guy from the tavern earlier was also with them. He had magic chainmail and a glowing sword, so I guess he wasn’t a push-over (I mean, depending on what you compare it to). The giant himself had a huge ax that Agnar tried to lift, but there’s no way any of us is wielding it.
Finally, we found an oxskin made up like a parchment, with big, rough runes and an “X” at the bottom. Lydia says it’s some kind of contract, or agreement, that says the undersigned promises to fight for “Jarl Grugnir.”
Ezekiel moved the fortress to outside town (we haven’t seen any people, but we feel we’ve made enough of an impression) and in the morning Raven says the mastadon (Mikael named her “Donna”) can take us to the “sleep place.” It seems reasonable this gang took their loot somewhere, since it wasn’t on their persons.
Was “Big Johann” milking this village in exchange for protection? Who knows. We can’t hold everyone’s hand all the time, and I think they have their own issues, apart from giants. But giants I can deal with. And now I really need to be sleeping.
By evening, we reached a cave at the foot of the mountains, easily reached from the plain south of the Davish. Smells like ogre, looks like ogre. No loot, though…so Raven questioned Donna further. Oh, one of the ogres took the treasure “away”… Mastadons don’t care about gold, apparently, and care even less about details (but she loves when Mikael magics up some goodberries and feeds her snacks).
I did find some traces of a lone ogre heading off into the mountains, but we’ll have to wait for morning light. Who is the boss of the bullies?
As we followed the trail of the ogre, we came across some strange boulders – that looked almost like they had been shaped with tools. Mikael asked me if they were magic, and when I asked Tressarian to check out the closest one, the boulders flung back like trapdoors, and hill giants leapt out.
Hill giants. It was not their day.
Once they were dead, we investigated the holes where they hid with ropes and levitation. Contrary to what I feared, we found several hundred pounds of silver and electrim coins, plus some magic crossbow quarrels (Raven was excited to get those), and a magic sword (Agnar said it was a blow-hard that told him it could detect invisibility so that it could kill things with him…but he didn’t see anything invisible. Maybe we should rethink having him carry all the extra swords…but how to put it to him?).
We also restocked our supply of rope, and found a cooking pot big enough for Bearington (not big enough for him to use, that is…). I assume the hill giants must have had that for their own use, rather than as loot from someone else…but clearly they’ve been robbing a lot of people. Patrols? Other independent contractors? Did they also have a secret base, or a boss, that they took their loot to? Their tracks don’t join with the ogre we’re following…so if they did work for the same people, they didn’t travel the same way. Maybe these hill giants were pirating off the other giant raiders, and that’s why they have so much money. Had so much money.
We talked Mikael out of putting wheels on the cookpot so Bearington could have his own coach, and continued on.
Find the previous entry here.