Dear Diary…knowledge is power…magic items are also power

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

We returned to the giants’ fortress after Mikael made an unnecessarily long speech to his people. Clatrial insisted on coming, since she says she’s Aliana’s bodyguard, and clearly Ezekiel has not done an adequate job of safeguarding her ladyship.

As Sirion and I had noticed before, when we stepped into the hall, the bodies were gone (except for the chimera-three-headed-monster-thing). Ezekiel tells me you don’t usually turn gnolls into zombies, but I like to be prepared for anything.

We did a little looking around in the great hall – pillars of obsidian and red stone support the roof, and the east end holds a throne atop marble steps inlaid with colored stone. It forms pictures of a giant king – we assume King Snuri, whom we killed – conquering things (I didn’t spend too much time looking at them). The wall behind the throne holds a picture of a flaming skull surrounded by fire giants with clubs. Ezekiel wracked his brain for religious symbology that involves a flaming skull, but nothing is for sure yet. It could just be Snuri’s self-image.

The two main corridors out of the hall – to the north and north-west – are blocked by sharpened wood barriers, so we’ll have to do some problem-solving to get over them. Meanwhile, though, Schakka and Ezekiel’s gem of seeing found a secret door behind the throne, and Raven opened it by finding the torch cresset that moves it.

Behind the wall, a secret tunnel wound around, very roughly carved out of the rock. It was plenty big for us, but for a giant it probably felt secret and private. We found a dead-end down one passage, and a treasure room down the other – guarded by a red-scaled lizard thing with ten heads! (Lydia calls it a “pyrohydra.”) It chewed up Ezekiel, and took bites out of Agnar and Aliana, too, but they hit it back…taking advantage of the arrow wounds I gave it to kill it.

After that excitement, we took a moment to take in our surroundings: bolts of fabric, piles of coins, eight iron trunks bigger than coffins, a row of smaller coffers, even tapestries on the walls. Raven found a chimney in the corner and climbed up it – it looks like an old volcanic vent, perhaps, since it just leads up to the mountainside, and wouldn’t be useful as an exit, even for us.

Even though we haven’t laid eyes on our enemies yet today, everyone settled down to explore and ransack the treasure. Raven went around checking for traps. So far the most exciting ones are the blade trap that chopped through the silk fabric in the chest, and the chest entirely full of invisible snakes (we chopped the heads off a couple before Raven and Mikael convinced the rest to eat a snack and leave peacefully). I guess that chest also contained some jewelry that didn’t show up until Raven touched it…definitely someone put a lot of thought and magic into that one.

… Poison gas, poisoned handles (had to rinse Raven’s hands with holy water – that’s what we had). We’ve found copper and electrum pieces, and a man-sized cloak and boots. They’re nothing special, unless you’re moody.

… Found a half-dozen strange statues, all blocky and rough-carved, with geometric patterns of decoration. They are also magical and Evil. Ezekiel will probably smash them eventually, but I think he wants to do some more research on them first (that flaming skull is still bugging him).

… Found a trunk of silver pieces, a dozen ivory tusks, and some fine batons of rare, inlaid wood. The portable hole is getting full.

… One of the coffers was entirely full of gold rings, some of them magical, most of them not. I think they’d be great for gift ideas – you never know when you might need to thank someone, or honor a shrine, or something. We’ve sorted out the magical rings for later investigation.

Mikael found a container of hot spices. He and Raven did way too much nefarious snickering over them.

**

The curtains hanging on the south wall of the throneroom cover a doorway to another corridor – about forty feet wide. The corridor basically leads to three doors…one west, one east, one around the corner to the north. They’re all huge, iron-bound, and made of stone, so it takes Aliana and Agnar tugging underneath, with Ezekiel and Mikael and their gauntlets tugging above (and sometimes Raven wall-walking above them to pull from the very top) to get the doors open. And that doesn’t always work, either.

Ezkiel had us try the eastern door first – it has the same flaming skull motif emblazoned on it. Inside we found what must be the king’s suite – giant-sized tables, benches, and chairs sat in the outer waiting room, with unfinished drinks on the tables. Eight human shields and swords hung on the walls – Aliana says the symbols are Keoish, and that makes sense.

At the end of the room, a step leads to another throne, this time made of ebony, next to a giant bed. With pelts on the floor and weapons on the walls, it’s clear this was a place of ostentation (Lydia says that’s not how that word works).

Raven found some trophies – skulls and “small” armor – on a shelf partway up the wall. He also “discovered” a nozzle that shoots a jet of flaming gas from the wall. He thinks it’s to protect a secret entrance to the passage for the treasure room, but even with Ezekiel’s gem of seeing, we couldn’t find the opening. It all but confirms this was the king’s room, though, which makes me think the flaming skull must just be something he chose for his insignia, since there’s nothing really religious in here.

Mikael did find some bone augury tools on the table (he’s about the only one who could reach), but Ezekiel says they’re nothing to write home about. Maybe King Snuri had delusions of grandeur, but I guess he was playing with things above his head.

We tried the door just to the north of the suite door, the one around the corner, but we couldn’t get it open. That left the western door – and we did manage to budge it. Beyond lay a darkened dormitory, with hide rugs, tapestries, and cressets for torches.

Master Oaklock found a private suite behind a curtain, with richer decorations, an exotic wardrobe, a chair and writing desk, and some coffers to ransack. It seems an important female giant lived (or lives) here (we haven’t seen any more enemies yet, but someone removed the bodies from the hall…). Raven and Ezekiel investigated all the furniture for traps…which I thought meant noticing the trap before it went off, but Ezekiel prefers to set off fireballs in his face – I guess it’s more direct?

Meanwhile, Lydia and Clatriel examined what might be the most interesting thing so far. The mirror at the vanity is actually magical, and when I walked past it, even though I was wearing the invisibility sword, I could see my reflection. Lydia hasn’t discovered any other properties of it, but it’s still fascinating. If they could get this technology in something hand-mirror sized, that would be even more useful, but I didn’t want to bother Lydia with the suggestion at the moment.

The mirror also reflected snake-Mikael as actual-Mikael, and the reason he was in snake form is he could crawl through the crack of that northern door and make sure it wasn’t anything crucial we had to get at right now. Sounds like it’s just another bunkhouse, with cots and coffers for lower-ranking giants.

When Mikael and Raven rejoined us in the lady suites, Ezekiel was trying on a magical pendant of dark stone that flashes different colors at intervals. It’s not Evil, but he hasn’t found any other use for it yet. He did find a scroll of clerical spells that got him pretty excited. Anyway, the portable hole and bag of holding were getting pretty full by this time, so if we want to pillage the magic mirror, we’ll probably have to wait for next time (unless Lydia thinks Keom and Ronhass can carry it through her portal-mirror. I keep forgetting that Keom and Ronhass have other duties besides babysitting the dragons, now…we’re so used to just having them available to carry stuff around…).

**

That was everything in that wing of the fortress, so we returned to the main entrance hall where we had the huge battle, and started on the two wide northern passages. First off, they’ve constructed huge barriers of sharpened wood, at least as tall as me, in some places taller than Mikael. Beyond the spiky barricade sat magical darkness that couldn’t be dispelled by the light on our shields.

Ezekiel tried lighting his mace into the darkness, but it only let us see the mace. Lydia had a light spell she could cast, though, and that cleared away the darkness in that one passage (and made the stones in that place noon-day bright). Fortunately, the ceiling of the passage is even taller than the barricade, so after some discussion we used Lydia’s ebony fly to ferry us all over the top (it took a minute, there are so many of us now – and it could only carry a “driver” and a passenger. Still, you never know when these random things we pick up will come in handy).

(Note: making light wherever you need it is super helpful…check Tain’s diary for possible ideas.)

The first door we came to was built of stone and steel, and once our strong-arm team got it open, we found a barracks for – I assume from the smell – gnolls. We did kill a bunch in our big battle. Raven and the other searchers found a decent amount of gold pieces in amongst the bedrolls and other gear, while some of the rest of us investigated a couple human-sized doors on the north wall.

The first of these was bolted on the outside, and inside held a small bed (small even for an elf), a couple iron chests, and an armor rack. Some coins and dishes, but nothing that really told us about the personality of the occupant. The second door also had a bolt on the outside (curious configuration) and held a wood cot, a desk, a bookcase full of parchments, and a wood box with old clothes, all dwarf-sized. Hard to say how long they’ve been there, or how recently these rooms have been in use.

Among the parchments, Ezekiel found at least three maps of the nearby countries. (Well, I say “nearby,” but we’ve actually only reached this place by magic…so it’s hard to say how far away Sterich really is. Anyway, it seems clear they used these maps to plan some of their campaigns against Sterich, the Yeomanry, and even Keoland – there are notes scribbled in the margins or tacked to the pages.) Ezekiel couldn’t read either of the languages the notes were written in…one of them seemed to be dwarvish script, but Agnar couldn’t make much sense out of it, either. (It’s also not clear who “they” are…if they had a non-giant prisoner in here, why was he plotting out their campaigns? The furnishings seem much rougher than anything the drow were using.)

Last of all, another giant door opened in the south wall of the room…well, not at first, but after Mikael scouted it as a snake, we decided it sounded important enough that we should investigate it all together…so he shaped the stone around the hinges until the door opened permanently with a great crash.

Beyond a curtain, a huge room opened up – maybe as large as the hall where we first entered, except more square – with a giant-sized conference table down the middle. In one corner sat a smaller chair on a platform, such as could be scooted up to the table if the giants wanted to confer with someone that size (drow-sized, we assume).

Another door leads out of the east wall, while two alcoves are hidden behind curtains on the other two walls. The first alcove had a map that could well be of the area surrounding this fortress (if so, then we are in the mountains somewhere south of the Yeomanry right now) and a chest…a chest that Raven carefully disarmed, carefully unlocked, and carefully opened – only to find a pile of ordinary rocks. He and Ezekiel both took one (they’re not even magical), I guess as a souvenir.

The room also held a chest of coins, and six bone batons with strange runes etched on them. Not strange as “mystic” – the sticks aren’t magical – but strange as in they’re not any language any of us recognized. They did have a “fire giant” feeling to them, but I’d never learned about them in any of my studies. The most probable conclusion is that they’re “signets” of authorization for messengers.

The second alcove held the mother lode – a cabinet stacked top-to-bottom with scrolls and parchments. Since almost all of them seemed to be in a different language (or languages), Lydia pulled up a chair and cast a spell to let her understand them – then set to work reading as many as possible before the spell wore off, including the papers from the dwarf-room. (Those seem to be mainly notes about the Fire Giant forces here…their numbers, what tribute they receive, etc. By whom, for whom??) And the baton-runes read “Official business of King Snuri the Fiercesome,” so our hunch is basically confirmed.

… She’s still going. Mostly letters to and from other giant leaders (Ez is trying to take notes) but you never know when something really interesting is going to turn up.

**

At last, a scroll written in common – marked with a special seal in silvery wax. The symbol is either a staff, or simple line. The message orders King Snuri to gather all kinds of giants and creatures under his command and attack the human lands to the east and northeast (I guess the Yeomanry? Was the trouble in Sterich an overflow of that??), while in return the Drow promise “powerful help” (I guess the letter wasn’t more specific. It was written in Common, so it wasn’t a failing of our translation). All that, signed “Eclavdra.” My parents had eleven children, and they came up with personal, unique names for every single one. What’s the drow’s excuse?

Ezekiel is more concerned about what the Drow want in the human lands. Their involvement does seem to explain the huge black ball of yarn strangling Istivin…say what you like about giants, that’s not really their style. Add to that the freaky shrine underneath the Hill Giants’ fortress, and we have the makings of a serious threat to humanity.

Will the King’s Agent Lashton care enough to actually do something about it? Or is his head too far up – that’s not nice.


Find the previous entry here.

One thought on “Dear Diary…knowledge is power…magic items are also power

  1. Pingback: Dear Diary..."I am not a demon" - Kimia Wood

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *