Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Against the Giants”
Raven and I went to scout as soon as it was light. As the sun’s light trickled over the peaks, it started to dispel the mist – but it was still pretty damp and hazy at the foot of the valley when we finally reached the fortress.
The fort is constructed of logs, each at least three feet across. I can’t imagine hill giants going to so much trouble on their own initiative, which makes me wonder who built this place and for whom. Raven took me onto the roof with the rope of climbing, and it’s a good thing we both had a firm grip on it, since the tiles were soaked. There were chimneys so much as gaps along the roof-line, where greasy smoke leaked out – mingled with booming laughter and harsh voices. So someone was up and about.
In the corner of the roof, a tower rose up to a sheltered platform. Raven slipped up the wall to check it out, and says there’s a guard with an alarm cymbal…but he happens to be asleep, so hopefully we can take him out without raising the alarm.
There’s a courtyard area at one end, but it’s hard to see anything because of the slope of the roof. Maybe Raven would have been more daring to climb over there if he wasn’t keeping me from falling off the roof. Anyway, there’s one main double-door entrance, and we rejoined the others on the ground near it.
Raven thinks the entrance is held by a bar or something like that, so he can’t just unlock it. Mikael has prepared to summon an earth elemental – plus the one he can summon with his magic stone – and Ezekiel suggested they go in through the main doors while a separate strike force take out the sentry in the tower and come down from there (Raven spotted the top of a staircase). I said that between Tressarian, Lydia’s staff, and Heiron’s new boots, the three of us could reach the roof easily, and Raven could tug us along with a rope so the only one in danger of slipping is the one with uncanny gecko feet. And, believe it or not, they went for my idea – so the four of us will be attacking from the rear while Aliana and the heavy-hitters break down the door and charge in.
And as far as we know, there are no prisoners, so maybe we can just kill everything without confusion.
For one of the few times we’ve busted down the front door, it’s gone pretty well. The four-person strike team snuck up to the watchtower without the sentry waking up…so now he is resting with whatever deity bothers to take the souls of hill giants. Heiron disabled the alarm cymbal, and Raven is so fast he made a pass for loot while the rest of us arranged ourselves and headed downstairs.
Somewhere about that time, the building vibrated as the front door crashed open, and when we reached the bottom of the stairs, the rest of the party had killed the guards napping by the entrance, and picked the biggest doorway leading deeper into the fortress to go through next. The two earth elementals removed the doors, and we stared down a long, wide corridor into a huge hall, swarming with giants.
Aliana charged, with the elementals stomping after her. Ezekiel dashed out to keep up with his wife, and Lydia snapped her fingers – sending a streak of white light stabbing through the enemies. I started spraying the group with arrows. Giants and ogres are big and tough, but that means their vital areas are also bigger.
How to describe it…I don’t think I’ve ever been in a battle before where chairs and oversized tankards flew around. Aliana fought a Cloud Giant, while standing on a table. There were also a couple Stone Giants in the crowd, so it seems not all of them refused to join forces like the ones we met on the road. We even killed a Hill Giant chief and chieftainess (judging from later study), but this set-up seems a little too elaborate to be all their doing. Someone is pulling the strings, as we confirmed later – but at the moment, of course, we were focused on killing giants.
The action finally moved so that I had to work my way down the entry corridor. Raven was taking a nap on the floor, and Lydia had a mug-shaped bruise on her face that Heiron was all worried about. When the excitement was over, Aliana spun around on the table (apparently part of being a cavalier is always making a production out of things…Theobaldus explained to Dree, and Dree tried to explain it to me) and jumped down to Ezekiel. The far walls of the dining hall (which is where we found ourselves) held plenty of doors, so I went to cover sone of the exits while others checked the bodies. (Mikael found a jewel-studded collar on the chief’s cave bear, which he says should fit Bearington. I wonder what Bearington thinks of that.)
Raven woke up, and found a ballista the chief was using like a crossbow. He was just explaining how it worked to Ezekiel when an orc poked his head in a side door. He poked it back out again immediately, but I whistled for Heiron to come join me (and Agnar came over, too) and we opened the door.
What should greet us but eleven ogres!
Heiron got the last one to surrender, so we left him to tie it up while Raven (who was feeling better now) helped me search the kitchen across the hall.
A pack of orcs cowered there, shielding themselves with serving platters and the like. Ezekiel and Aliana talked with them for a bit, and them we moved them over to the great hall for Heiron, Lydia, and Agnar to keep an eye on. Apparently they say the chief of this place was in the hall we just cleared, and there are more slaves who “escaped” to the basement level below. Ezekiel is doing his “God of all gods” thing and wants to send them on their way, but we all agreed we should clear this floor before we get more adventurous. There’s a stairway down in the pantry, and Raven blocked it so hopefully nothing can come up at our backs.
First, we found a bunkroom of some kind – with a magic sword concealed in a wall sconce that Aliana says claims to be for killing giants. Hope we can get it a good friend.
Next we found an armory full of giant-sized weapons. Two of the war-hammers are magical – and you’d think hammers would use the same muscle groups as axes, but I haven’t had the chance to experiment, and Tressarian points out I’m not exactly hurting for weapons anyway.
Schakka found us a secret door that led to some bedrooms. I tried to deal with the few sleeping giants before they woke up, but Aliana doesn’t agree with me (she says you should look your enemy in the eye and charge it head-on). We haven’t messed with treasure too much yet, since we want to clear out the hostiles, but there are plenty of furs and chests and jewelry for when we make another pass.
We also found a room full of giants whacking each other with sticks. From their proportions, I think they’re juveniles. We herded the prisoners into that room, so Heiron had only one door to watch (and we took away their sticks). Agnar grumbled a bit about being stuck on guard duty, but we assured him our sweep had been boring so far. The next bedroom got a bit more complicated. We startled a handful of giantesses, but once we killed the matron, Aliana said the surviving two had no heart to fight back. They must have been impressed by her (and Ezekiel) because one of them volunteered directions to the chief’s quarters and showed us where the giant matron had kept a couple potions in a chest (we let her keep the bangles in exchange).
The next room seems like some kind of sitting room or trophy room. All kinds of heads are mounted on the wall…including dwarf and human. Aliana thinks the shields have Keoish emblems, and that makes sense. It’s encouraging in as much as we’ve killed *some* of those responsible for attacking the people of Keoland. We inspected a skull on the mantle with the magic swords, but I think it’s just an ordinary skull (you can’t be too careful).
The chieftainess also had a cave bear, who was staying in her room, apparently. It did not want to listen to Mikael (which might be just as well, so Bearington doesn’t get jealous).
Finally, we found a door in the outer wall of the fortress that let us into that awkward place we couldn’t see very well from the roof. Turns out it’s a courtyard, and it used to be full of dire wolves…but Mikael threw around some Druid know-how and froze some of them, and the rest of us mopped them up (though not before one of them lunged and threw me off my feet. Tressarian isn’t going to let that go soon).
The chief’s council room is tucked around behind the dining hall…and sure enough, there’s a door hidden behind the manticor hide on the wall. We found some magical javelins in a closet, just Raven’s size – but he says he can’t have any more magical items right now (or it’ll be unfair to his enemies or something…monks have their own ideas). We found some scroll tubes hidden in a pile of firewood, and one of them contained a parchment with a symbol like from the Temple of Elemental Evil – that triangle with the three legs to make it look like the top of a pyramid or something. That feels like a lifetime ago, but Ezekiel says you’ll never truly rid the world of Evil because some people are just selfish, and they’ll always want power to just do whatever they want. We also found a map of this area, but it waits to be seen how accurate it is (drawn by giants, after all – or so we assume).
Another couple bunkrooms on the kitchen side…and a room with a bunch of female giants, with one male flexing for them. He made the mistake of flexing at Aliana, and she killed him… She insists she did it because she thought he was issuing challenge, not because she didn’t want Ezekiel to feel bad. We had a little awkwardness with the females, but Mikael talked to them in Hill Giant, and took them off to the other prisoners.
The courtyard contains two bunkhouses as well, which we checked out while Mikael made sure Heiron and the others were doing all right with the prisoners. I think one of his Earth Elementals had returned home by now, but the second had a longer connection to him, so it could follow along to back him up.
When we finally finished clearing this floor and opening all the doors, we reconvened to debate what to do with the prisoners. Raven wanted to hand them over to the Keoish authorities…but if you think about the state of that patrol we met, that’s laughable – well, maybe not laughable. But they definitely don’t have the facilities or the manpower to hold all these giants, juvenile or no. With the black sphere still encroaching on the city, they have enough to do with keeping the peace and keeping things running after so much evacuation, to say nothing of the continuing giant raids (which we hope to disrupt with our work here).
Ezekiel wanted to send the prisoners off into the mountains, and burn this fortress down so they can’t return. Raven pointed out that, just because the giants used it, we also could use it…specifically, Keoish forces could use it as a forward base in the mountains to support the counter-invasion. That also offers problems… Side note: while giants of some kind may have built this ground floor (especially given the size of the beams used and the rooms), there is evidence of some older work…especially the stairs to the basement. Be interesting to know the history of this place.
Aliana pointed out that reinforcements of any kind – either human, from Sterich, or giant, from the mountains – would take a while to get here…so we shouldn’t make that our chief worry. Mikael was concerned about the “freedom fighters” we heard were hiding in the basement, and wants to get them out and to safety. In the end, we decided the damage our prisoners could do (at least in the short term) is minimal…so we gave them a little “be good or we’ll have to come kill you” speech and escorted them to the door. (Agnar gave a much longer speech which Aliana declined to translate. I think he’s really hoping they come back for revenge so Ezekiel will tell him to go all out again.)
Six orcs and an ogre said the ones downstairs were part of their tribe, so they would stay and cook for us until the others are rescued from the basement. (Well, I think the ogre was just afraid to be off on his own…or maybe the orcs told him to work for them or they’d eat him.) So I guess there’s no getting around that. Ezekiel put a glyph on one of the basement doors, so no one could sneak up behind us, and Mikael and I fetched Donna and the horses from the cave. They’re not much interested in the “fodder” they had for the worgs, but we turned the kitchen upside down to find them something, and even a couple of the orcs helped out.
Meanwhile, the others made another sweep of the place, looking for treasure this time. We found piles and piles of jewelry, platinum pieces, and assorted things like a magic shield and a giant cape of otter skin. We also found…a whole barrel full of ears. Mostly dwarven and elven. I think Ezekiel plans to hold a little service over it later.
Lydia also found a note in Hill Giant that contains instructions for a raid in Sterich…a town that, according to our maps (and Aliana) is north of the Davish River. The note is signed by “Eclavdra.” At this point, I basically think all these “E” people are the same, just using different names to confuse pursuers or get plausible deniability or something. Or perhaps every Drow alive has a name starting with “E”. It does seem too much of a coincidence that all these evil masterminds are named similar things…and if they are the same person…what a reach she must have.
Lydia jumped back to Haven to send over the mirror-portal so we could send the loot through. (After all, the agent’s secretary said we could keep any treasure we found…and besides, we can niggle about money once it’s out of the mountains. This also gives us the chance to empty the portable hole, which we had full of money from a previous encounter.
In the morning, we head downstairs. Let’s hope this isn’t another maze of winding passages, all similar yet different, full of giant bugs and themed monsters.
Find the previous entry here.