Dear Diary…fighting fire with friends

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

Sirion says I shouldn’t stress my arm too much until the clerics have a chance to fix it. It already feels much better, and I can more or less move it, but he’s right if it somehow counts as “disattached” their ordinary healing spells won’t fix that. Like when Mikael lost his arm. I think it’s just the ligaments, but I can take it easy for tonight. It’s not my writing arm, anyway.

Ugh it feels like it can’t have been only this morning that we were sitting in a cave, planning our assault on the Fire Giant fortress. And yet that’s how much stuff can be packed into a short amount of time, when you’re in this line of work.

We started with some standard protection procedures…passing around fire protection, summoning the earth elementals, that kind of thing. Ezekiel did some kind of ritual over Heiron and Raven. I made sure the cloth cover over my shield was in place, to give my invisibility all the help I could. The others say they notice when I hit something – the light distorts and I come into focus, or some scientific confusion that – but at least it still gives me an edge. I think. I’m feeling confused right now.

Then – onwards to the assault: through the iron door in the hillside, which whether it was a back door or not was the only entrance we knew of. It could have been an emergency escape hatch for all I know – I think they knew where we were coming from.

We had barely got in the door when Frost Giants opened up on us with a ballista. Fortunately those things take a moment to reload, and the two Rockys headed down to deal with them.

Meanwhile, Aliana and I heard some Fire Giants waiting in reserve in an alcove hidden behind a curtain, so we went to deal with them. Tressarian appreciated that.

By the time I came out, the others had advanced – and Madam Olgani hurled a lightening bolt down the corridor into a knot of Frost Giants. I knew that was something Storm Giants do, but I guess nothing substitutes for real world experience.

Agnar charged down the hall. Madam Olgani started in on what I can only assume was Storm Giant swearing – and bounded over our heads with a few strides to swing at one of the Frost Giants (I think it was their leader). Ezekiel made some remarks that sounded even worse, though I couldn’t understand him, and the Jarl dropped dead. And things were only just getting started.

By this time, we had advanced down the entry corridor and reached a wider hall, with branching corridors leading off at angles in different directions. One led back behind us (toward the north west) while another led ahead, to the north east. The “main” hall led straight east, toward a throne that looked pretty imposing, but honestly I never got a chance to really look at it long enough to process more than that.

I think giants were coming down the passages from every direction (plus from some passages concealed by curtains that we only found later), but they were staggering themselves so we could never be sure who was coming from where. Ezekiel threw up his spinning blades in one direction, and the instant fortress in another, while Lydia threw lightening and the giants threw boulders.

Mikael summoned his elephant from the statue, and it started charging around in the chaos. Madam Olgani traded blows with a two-headed etin, while Agnar competed with Aliana to define what the “front line” was. In many respects, it was a lot like any other battle we’ve had…except it went on and on, and we’d still only seen the Frost Giants and the etin.

Tressarian and I did all right for ourselves…I mean, we kept killing things…but it just wasn’t enough. Tressarian only moves so fast…maybe we need to train ourselves some more, but he just doesn’t hit enough times. When you’re surrounded by giants, you need to throw out everything you’ve got. Which meant my bow.

About the time I switched, Tres told me some giants were shouting about oil. So I warned Ezekiel right before someone broke a barrel of oil all over us and sicced the hellhounds on us.

(Ragni said that’s a really boring way to tell the story, but Agni said he’s invested and wants to hear how it ends. Ragni said, obviously it worked out since we all came home, but Agni said, well the blood all down my sleeve came from somewhere, and the tension is killing him. Then Ragni said, it almost killed me, and I was actually there, so if the tension alone is killing Agni, it’s a good thing he wasn’t actually there. I can’t remember exactly how he said it, but it was really funny.)

Anyway a hellhound blew fire down on us and fried one of the Frost Giants, but the rest of us were either too far away or more fire-resistant than they anticipated. Master Oaklock used his frostbrand sword to douse random fires, and the rest of us just kept charging. Madam Olgani barely stood still long enough for Aliana to chant a protection spell over her (I think she had a bit of berserker frenzy on, though hard to tell if that was cultural, or a product of her long captivity).

Ezekiel threw the instant fortress again, crunching hellhounds as it drove its foundations into the ground. It also blocked the passage, though, so I dashed inside to do some more shooting through the arrow slits.

Meanwhile, Heiron, Lydia, and Mikael were having their own adventure guarding one of the passages to our rear. I didn’t even know what was happening, that’s how spread out we were. Sounds like it was pretty fierce, with some of them basically dying – but Mikael was there to heal them, and they finally drove the giants back so they could retreat under Ezekiel’s spinning blades and rejoin us.

Lydia even ran up into the fortress and shot at the front line with a wand, because she has a bit of Aliana’s stubbornness once she gets going, and there’s no convincing her to back down when she has people she wants to kill.

Heiron took longer to join us, having no magic boots, but that gave Ezekiel time to order us all out of the fortress so he could shrink it so Aliana could do a proper charge (though leaping off the fortress roof onto a giant’s neck would also have been dramatic).

When the fortress shrank out of the way, a battalion of gnolls greeted us with wild yips…but they were only there to buy their leaders time. Heiron and I killed a row of them while Madam Olgani punched another giant (none of our ladies had an interest in slowing down).

Mikael’s earth elemental (only one was still constituted by now) melded through a wall to advance and bludgeon the enemy, while his elephant stomped on a hellhound. Seriously, he might have a bigger kill count than we do, we who use conventional weapons.

Mikael himself melted some of the stone into mud to slow down some of the giants (and drown some of the gnolls), while Raven did his best to stab them. Master Oaklock started shooting bolts of colored light down the corridor, and finally – finally – we could see Fire Giants at the back of the crowd, clutching weapons or hefting boulders, ready to join the melee.

Lydia threw another lightening bolt, but way in the back a couple dark-skinned elves made magical gestures and prepared to back up the giants. That confirmed at least some of Ezekiel’s theory about what’s going on here. There was also a hideous monster that Agnar and Heiron killed (I didn’t see it until after it was dead) with three heads that looked like a lion, a dragon, and something else. It also had wings, but never got the chance to fly. (I asked Lydia if it was born that way, or Markessaed into that, and she thought it was just one of the weird and disturbing creatures the world is naturally full of. Agni wants a picture.)

Raven threw a stinking cloud up the hallway, but the magic users on the other end threw back a cloud of darkness that even our lit shields couldn’t penetrate. I kept firing into the darkness at where the enemies had been, and Raven joined me with his crossbow – I think we heard some cries of discomfort and dying within the gloom. Still, things went better when Ezekiel cast light into the darkness and he, Aliana, and Agnar could charge the enemy and fight the dark elves head-on.

The drow lady had one of the weirdest, grossest things I’ve seen…and I’ve been around, by now. Her weapon had six tentacles attached to a rod…maybe I should say, six tentacles growing off of a handle. Even after she was dead, the tentacles still flapped around and made unsettling gestures until Ezekiel pounded it into the ground with his mace. Tressarian said it definitely smelled Evil.

Ezekiel said a couple fire giants ran off, which should be no surprise, but once we killed the drow, there was a moment of calm. Tressarian and I did a quick check for magic, but the drow actually didn’t have any magic gear! The lady had a ring that radiated Evil (and of course her tentacle mace was a thing all itself) but the rest of their armor and weapons just seemed well-made…not magically enhanced. She did have a medallion with the copper staff symbol, which suggests they’re part of that splinter group the drow spy told us about.

Several of the Frost Giants had ivory armbands with an amber bear, like we’d found before, so it must have been some kind of membership badge. Less meaningful now. The giants also had a scroll and a map in bone scroll cases (we haven’t had a chance to really examine them yet) and I think Ezekiel squeezed a ridiculously large two-handed sword into the portable hole (I guess he thinks it’ll look good on the wall of his cathedral or something).

Aliana and Raven stood guard over the passages at the far north end of the battle, which shows we were trying to keep our heads in the game, but it still wasn’t over quite yet. Madam Olgani decided to leave, since she got what she wanted when Jarl Grugnir died. So Ezekiel and I were walking her to the front door (both courtesy, and in case she needed back-up along the way) when a pack of hellhounds burst from behind a curtain in the throne hall and charged us across the field of dead bodies.

Yep. The climax was yet to come.

A full squad of fire giants came in after the hellhounds “broke the ice.” Heiron was close enough to fire off some arrows. Mikael’s elephant squashed a giant, and our friends were running up from the other hall…but it was almost too little too late.

Mikael, Ezekiel, Madam Olgani, and I were front and center this time. Mikael took a sword-strike that dropped him to the ground, bleeding profusely.

I tried to counter with Tressarian…but either he was too eager, or I was trying too hard to go faster – and I just about chucked him at the giant. I managed not to lose my grip, but it left me way exposed, and the giant (must have been a king or general, since he wore a crown) caught me in the gap of my chainmail right at my shoulder. It still hurts, and Sirion says I’m lucky he didn’t cleave it right off. I said, I guess there’s something to be said for armor.

Aliana, Agnar, and Raven ran up just about then. I’m not used to taking breaks during combat, but I figured I wouldn’t be much help if my arm did come off…so I stepped behind Ezekiel and quaffed a potion from my bag (note to self: buy more of those; they’re handy for when the clerics are busy).

Ezekiel ran back and forth between Mikael and Madam Olgani, who were both on the ground. Mikael’s elephant, however, stomped on yet another giant, and Master Oaklock kept busy cutting down hellhounds. Things seemed poised on the edge, where one shift could rock the battle one way or another. And at that moment, Sirion jumped out of the air, shouting commandingly in a language I don’t know.

Aliana and Raven pushed the giants back until the last pair fled through a curtained door. Tressarian got to kill some hellhounds, so he’s satisfied, and Mikael’s elephant didn’t step on me, even though I turned invisible again (briefly).

We kind of looked at each other and took a breath for a moment. Mikael shifted through a couple animal forms to heal himself, and cleric types passed around what healing they had left (including Sirion, because of course he can do everything).

Raven had started to chase after the two giants that ran, but he quickly came back to us, since even if we could keep up with him, we were all about at the end of our strength…and though he wasn’t as hurt as some of the rest of us, he couldn’t take them out alone.

Ezekiel organized a quick search of the bodies – chiefly for magic, gems, and papers. The one who tried to chop me in half had necklace of coral skulls, and a crown with rubies, so we think it’s safe to assume he was their king. What will this mean for their organization now? We can but wait and see…but not here.

We finally walked Madam Olgani safely to the door, and she flew off (did I know Storm Giants could do that? I don’t feel like I did) after telling Ezekiel she knows where to find him if she wants to.

Other than the king’s jewelry (and cloak), they didn’t have much wealth on them. Could be they have more stashed here in the fortress, but we’re in no condition for more exploring. The rest of the mysteries will have to wait.

Lydia brought us back through her mirror, and when we got through the passage into the library, it’s like Usin had the entire fortress there to welcome us back formally (how long have we been gone again?) but I think I have to write about that part tomorrow.

I have a campfire to enjoy, and it really is nice to just not move my arm, and process things for a moment.

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2 thoughts on “Dear Diary…fighting fire with friends

  1. Pingback: Dear Diary...a deep breath - Kimia Wood

  2. Pingback: Dear Diary...Ezekiel recruits the rest of the fortress - Kimia Wood

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