Dear Diary…Ezekiel recruits the rest of the fortress

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Against the Giants”

Everything started happening at once again. We started this morning with Ezekiel having a private talk with Aliana and Raven (something religious) while Mikael prepared to melt the boulder blocking the door, and I put on the sword of Lyons.

That tunnel system definitely felt like a main fortress. Outside the dragon room, the hallway opened up to either side, with bas-relief carvings on the walls of giants in battle or hunting. Baskets hung at intervals holding some kind of glowing beetles that gave distinction to the surroundings. I didn’t get to study them at length, though. Passages trailed away to our left and right, but we decided the boulder directly ahead looked like it was blocking something, so we started there. I think Ezekiel was worried that we’d taken too long clearing the guard posts up above, and that Jarl Grugnir might have prepared something especially nasty for us, or fled like Marquessa (I hear Heironians talk battle strategy over breakfast).

Mikael melted the boulder into mud, and sure enough, we found ourselves face-to-face with what must have been the main force. The first rank was ogres, backed by frost giants. Behind them, some different ogres – with headbands and robes – made rude gestures at us, while in the very back we could just see a cloud giant, apparently giving orders.

I loosed my ready arrows, and a couple boulders came flying in response – clocking Raven and Aliana. Ezekiel raised his mace and smashed it into the floor, sending the ogres staggering backward to the ground with the invisible shock-wave. A couple of the giants blinked and shook their heads, hesitating long enough for Lydia to run forward and say some truly horrible-sounding words. And the three ogre mages dropped dead.

Aliana guarded Lydia for a moment while Mikael healed her, then charged the cloud giant like a tiny streak of lightening. Heiron and I worked hard clearing the rest of the room, but Lydia certainly kills with more pizzazz when she throws white fire across the room.

We finally dropped the cloud giant. While the cleric types passed around healing, I kept watch on the exit. The far side of the battle room let out into another group of tunnels. The others found some gems on the magi, but the cloud giant must not have been a top officer – all he had to designate a rank was a silver belt inlaid with ivory (not the same bear symbol, I don’t believe).

We took a moment to decide which tunnel to follow first. Down the first passage, we found ogre bedrolls and some of their treasure. Another passage seems to have been a back crevice, as it was too small for one of the giants to fit through…but it led to a commander’s room, with a lit brazier, some nicer furniture, and a tapestry decorating one wall (it had a picture of a mountain, but Ezekiel wasn’t convinced it was any particular mountain). Ezekiel also found some keys, but they were too big for anything in the room.

Finally, one of the passages – that was also blocked by a boulder – held an irregular clanking noise…like chains, more than machinery. We decided to investigate it before straying too far afield down tunnels, so Mikael summoned his earth elementals and asked them to shift the boulder out of the way.

We probably should have been prepared for what we found, but I at least wasn’t. A blue storm giant lady stood chained to the wall – just out of reach of a table heaped with food on expensive dishes. I told Ezekiel to speak nicely to her (he’s the best speaker), and when we found out she was a prisoner of Jarl Grugnir, Raven unlocked her (storm giants tend to be more considerate of others than, say, fire or frost giants are…at least from what I’ve been taught).

She says her name is Olgani, and she’s spitting mad at the frost giants – the Jarl in particular. He was trying to convince her to “marry” him, apparently, and once brought the leader of the ogre mages to try and impress her. The cloud giant was indeed the Jarl’s deputy (his room was the one with the mountain tapestry)…and had dreams of supplanting his boss. So much for all that, though.

When Olgani was done eating the food (and spitting it out because it belonged to the frost giants, and she hates them), Ezekiel collected the valuable dishes and we brought her out and showed her the pile of dead bodies in the other room. She said the Jarl was not there, but we didn’t get much farther than that because a voice called to us from one of the passages we hadn’t checked yet.

The voice said he had heard that the master’s warriors were dead, and did Olgani want to parlay? Ezekiel told him, we who actually killed everyone would parlay.

So an ogre (the different kind, wearing a robe) appeared – just stepping out of the air in front of a boulder – and said our force was obviously stronger than the Jarl.

Ezekiel showed him the room full of corpses, and said, we’re here to end the war on the human lands.

When the ogre saw what we did with only eight people (and he couldn’t even see me at that moment, since I was invisible) he bowed down and called for his boss – the Lord of the Ogre-Magi – to come parlay with us.

It went…interestingly. The lord said that Jarl Grugnir offered him gems to help fight the humans, but he wasn’t interested in that contract anymore. He also said we owed him a weregild for his three mages who died with the other giants…which I suppose is what we’re collecting on behalf of the villages laid waste along the Davish River. But Aliana was not pleased with that idea. Ezekiel convinced her that maybe we could offer this ogre clan an alliance (which makes my skin go cold), but so far all they’ve agreed upon is that the lord of the ogre-magi will meet Ezekiel and Aliana at Haven at the end of Needfest and discuss this further (at the very least, we’re more likely to have the payment they want on hand when we’re at home).

So Ezekiel gave them directions, and the ogre-mages wafted themselves away (just to show off, I think). Hard to say what Raven thinks of all this.

Anyway, Madam Lady Olgani led us in the other direction – either because of her giant scent and hearing, or because she’d been to the throne room before. Either way, we passed some abandoned piles of boulders, descended some stairs, and eventually came to the actual throne room – complete with pillars, throne, and a stairway to a balcony or something that commanded the room from above. I think I could a glimpse of some giants up there (later), but the first thing we focused on was the giant who came forward – with no weapons in his hands – and asked what we wanted.

He called himself Thorgrim, and said Jarl Grugnir fled with the giant nobles to his boss, the Fire Giant King, Snori Ironbelt. Thorgrim was deeply unimpressed with the behavior of Grugnir (called him a puppy on King Ironbelt’s leash) but he said there wasn’t much he could do about it. We were clearly stronger that the Jarl, but there weren’t any good options for him and the peasant giants and their children even if we didn’t kill them. He said they were expected to throw themselves at us (I guess to buy the leaders time or something? – perhaps because their god prefers people to die in battle) and it wouldn’t go well if they went to their leaders for asylum.

About that time, Ezekiel started laughing like a madman, and Aliana had to hold him up for a minute or two while he shook and wiped the tears from his eyes. Finally, he could stand up again, and told Thorgrim that we would protect his people and his children – all they had to do was head to our fortress, in the mountains near Deepholm (the dwarves have been there so long everybody knows about it).

I still feel funny when I think of it – like I was suddenly floating in another reality – but the giant drew a knife and cut his left palm and swore allegiance to Ezekiel Sentinel, High Priest of Haven. Madam Lady Olgani said some things I didn’t quite process…I think her basic point was that if Thorgrim didn’t keep his word, she would hear of it, and she might need something to keep her busy after she makes Jarl Grugnir wish he’d never been born (or something).

Anyway, Thorgrim went to go pack up the giant children and the rest of the low-class giants, and start leading them north through the mountains. He sent a frost giant with us to conduct us to the Jarl’s chambers, so we could find the “secret escape route” he and his nobles used to run for the Fire King’s fortress.

The Jarl’s suite was lined with furs and skins, and crowded with chests, dressers, and the like. Ezekiel and Raven found poison on one of the coffers (before they touched it!) and while we were ransacking the rest of the place, Ezekiel told Olgani she was welcome at Haven if she doesn’t have anywhere else she wants to go. It sounds like at the moment, though, she’s consumed with ways to murder and humiliate the Jarl (possibly not in that order?) so…we’ll see where this ends up.

Agnar found a secret drawer in one of the chests, and it looks like the Jarl grabbed some scroll tubes before he fled…but he left all these other chests of gems, gold, platinum, and other things. I guess he was really in a tizzy. We didn’t find any papers or maps, though, so we were at a loss until Ezekiel found a tunnel behind a tapestry.

The tunnel seemed to be formed naturally, and wound back and forth until it let out in a ravine at the base of a cliff. I was looking around for any trace of footprints – without success – when Agnar spotted an iron bar just randomly mounted on the wall at the exit of the passage. He jumped up, grabbed it, and disappeared.

Well…we remember what happened to Raven in the Air Temple. So there wasn’t much question about what we had to do (especially when Lydia is pretty much always prepped to use “magic portal rescue” on us). We lined up in order of attack, and Ezekiel gave Aliana a boost with his magic gauntlets. Mikael even brought his elementals.

When I grabbed the bar, my vision pulsed, and as I blinked my eyes clear, I was on a barren hillside, covered in ash and crumbly volcanic stones. Lava trickled along in a “stream” not far away, probably coming from the volcano in the distance. Much closer, an iron door stood set into the side of a black cone – which I suppose is some kind of volcanic formation (every once in a while it spits out fire), but I was afraid of getting Ezekiel on a science track just then. The air is smoky, but not nearly as gritty as the Earth Node – and best of all, there are dozens (if not more) of giant footprints, all convening at the iron door.

First things first – we wanted more intel. So we ducked into a nearby cave that could fit all of us (handy that mountains come supplied with those) and Ezekiel put a ward on the entrance of the cave, and then explained to all of us how to avoid triggering it. Then Lydia teleported home to empty the Jarl’s treasure out of the portable hole (and to take notes to Miss Dree and Sirion that some giants may or may not be showing up before we get back; what explaining we will have to do, later). Lydia came through the portal briefly, to tell Ezekiel that Dree needed him for something official, and I went with them just long enough to grab some extra quivers.

While everyone else was preparing their spells or healing up, I remembered I have a crystal ball in my bag, so I spent some time trying to see if I could get a view of the iron door and beyond it. It kinda gives me a headache…I’m not sure if that’s what magic does, or if it’s because I haven’t practiced very much. There’s a corridor beyond, lit dimly by torches. I think some giants were hanging out at the far end, but I couldn’t make the crystal reach that far. Probably practice.

A long, narrow corridor with lots and lots of enemies. That’s about what we could have expected. Ezekiel says he’s going to try something new tomorrow.

Madam Lady Olgani says she hopes she gets to be the one to take out Jarl Grugnir. I just hope she doesn’t step on me by accident while going after him. Tressarian said, now is his time to shine – and Heiron said, but he stopped shining ever since we left the snowy mountain.

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One thought on “Dear Diary…Ezekiel recruits the rest of the fortress

  1. Pingback: Dear Diary...fighting fire with friends - Kimia Wood

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