Dear Diary…the elves were pulling the strings

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Against the Giants”

Lydia spent some time studying the magic rings – and sure enough, they have the power to grant wishes! We took some time to discuss the possibilities, and finally we all agreed to save them except for two things:

  • That if Aliana ever died, Raise Dead would work on her (wouldn’t help if she’s incinerated, but Raven points out that’s the same for the rest of us), and –
  • If whoever is carrying the rings dies, that they be transported safely to the vault at Haven (much discussion about that one, but we’ll all be fine if it never comes up).

Raven spent quite some time training with his disciples (there’s quite a passle of them now) and he says the God of gods has increased his knowledge, and that his body is even more under his control than it was before (whatever Monk-ishness that means). Glad he’s in a good mood, and so are Keom and Ronhass.

Keom says Ragni and Agni have yet to nail him with any over-ripe fruit, but poor Brother Muloy got a persimmon in the face. Sirion offered him a paste to protect his bare head from the sun, but he had to wait to check with Master Raven that it wouldn’t be “taking the easy road” or something. Madam Whinney says the monks keep them in produce, and they in return catch deer and cougars in the mountains. Keiran seemed struck by the story of the dragon that was actually a gorgon…but then again I could be completely wrong…


Back in the giant fortress, we spent some time following footprints. Some slime creature has been cleaning up bodies, but fortunately we didn’t meet it.

The giants had a camp, and a pen for their hellhounds, in one of the loops of these twisty, turny passages. But I dont think they’ve been there today.

There’s a little staircase tucked in a corner, with light footprints…I can hardly tell anyone’s used it at all. If the map is right (and Raven hasn’t been messing up my drawings again (!)) it should lead behind the guardroom where we theorized there are wererats. None of us feel the need to bother them, so unless we run out of other options, we won’t go there.


This part is a little confusing. Everyone says we fought some ugly, bald guys with tentacle-faces, but I really don’t remember that. Ezekiel says they remind him of a creature he and Aliana killed on their honeymoon trip to the Astral Plain. Maybe I do remember him having a long conversation with some creatures like that, but then I sat down for some reason, so I must have passed out. Also Heiron was making me stay sitting, and he took away my bow, and the Sword of Lyons, and Aliana was borrowing Tressarian to check things for magic! I told Raven he shouldn’t have let them take such advantage of me, but he just told me to eat more cheese and be a good boy, which was not helpful at all.

Ezekiel finished whatever chant he was doing, and said now that I was healed, we could move on. I have never in my life passed out for that long, and I was going to tell Ezekiel about raising the feet above the level of the head so the brain can get proper blood flow, but Aliana and Clatrial were already charging for the cavern exit, so we had to hurry up and follow them.

Agnar says he must have blacked out, too, since he didn’t get any of the action, but he figures those slimy squid-face-men were pretty dangerous. Ezekiel gave me some notes on his conversation that he wants me to keep safe:

The squid leader called himself Inspector Slythe, and said they were there to “observe” the events, especially the drow, I think. They didn’t seem to be friends with the drow – called House Alserv’s quest to serve and summon the Elder Elemental Gods “foolish” – but they weren’t about to just hand us useful information. They suggested we could pay for information with slaves, and I can just imagine what towering rage that sent Ezekiel into. He has a tender spot about that.

They had something we’d never seen before. Raven says it was with the squid-man who seemed to be the leader; he says he was messing with it right as he died. It’s an amulet (which, we’ve seen an amulet before) but its form is a sphere, but with points and connections all over it. Tres says it’s magical, but not Evil, so we can investigate it later, perhaps. Lydia feels it has something to do with travel, but she can’t tell more without some in-depth study.


Continuing on, we followed the elf footprints past several off-branches (a quick scout showed most of these to be dead-ends) until the air got heavier, and hotter, and a dull light glowed up ahead.

A turn of the corridor, and the passage opened up to a larger cavern with a river of lava oozing down the center. On the near side, fire giant bodies lay in the contortions of death. On the far side, we caught glimpses of dark elves in black cloaks – they ducked into the cover of boulders as they saw us, brandishing one-handed crossbows. Some wooden posts on the banks showed where a bridge used to be, but now it was just debris dangling above the lava.

A couple salamanders ducked in and out of the lava, seeming to throw glances at us – but I don’t really think they cared that we were there (as opposed to Tressarian, who really wanted to fight the salamaders).

We ducked back around the corner for a moment to strategize. Then, Lydia blew black powder toward the drow, and Ezekiel ran out to a stretch of the cavern that was big enough and threw up the instant fortress.

Heiran and I climbed into the fortress and did our thing…while Master Oaklock and Raven helped. The others had a rough time of it until a vrock appeared on our bank out of nowhere (that vulture-looking demon like we fought in the Temple of Elemental Air) so they finally had something to fight. Ezekiel and Agnar went after it while Mikael summoned his earth elemental and sent it through the cavern rock to attack the surviving drow on the far shore.

Lydia raised up a bridge of stone over the lava, and we started across. But first, the drow had cast darkness all over the place on their bank, so Ezekiel and Mikael had to dispell or override it. Aliana took the lead, Fetafencer glowing, neck-and-neck with Clatriel and Agnar. I brought up the rear, bringing the fortress with me. By the time I got to the far shore, everything looked pretty dead.

The paladins took off to follow the only passage the survivors could have retreated down. Before we got far, though, something “whomped” from the ceiling, and Clatrial disappeared – into a stone-colored lump on the floor. Raven and Mikael were close enough to help Aliana bludgeon the thing until they could peel it off Clatrial, but she was still much flustered.

Aliana said, by the time we killed the ceiling-beast, the last trace of the drow had vanished down the passageway, so there was no urgency to keep us from searching the bodies.

Agnar said the drow commander-lady looked like an umberhulk, until she died. She wore a broach with a black mace symbol on it, so she must be part of yet amother house. She also held a strange staff carved of some leathery horn material. It was covered with runes and icons, with the face of a female drow on top (no one we recognized). It was both magical and Evil, so after trying to bash it a couple times, Ezekiel chucked it into the river.

Fairytales are always trowing artifacts into rivers or seas to dispose of them, and it never works – lava river notwithstanding. What he should have done was hold the end so he could make sure the fire actually consumed it before it was out of our reach, but no one asked me. Now when a High Priest salamander comes after us with a scorched staff, I’ll just know it’s what we get. (Speaking of, the salamanders kinda disappeared during the battle.)

The drow had a camp in a side cave away from the lava, and Ezekiel took a moment to scan it with his gem. One of the stalagmites was actually a chest, so Raven checked and opened it, revealing a whole pile of coins and precious stones. Surely if the drow who fled knew this was here, they would have tried to take it with them?

It also held two scrolls. One interested Lydia very much…the other looked like some kind of map, with “points of interest” marked and linked with lines. While Ezekiel was trying to figure it out, Lydia looked at some documents we found on a couple of the female fighters. They all used a paper we’re not familiar with (probably fungus-based), and the papers from the drow bodies appear to be contracts. After Lydia translated them, they describe mercenary bodyguards contracted from a female fighter society to protect Lady Nedalene of House Despona (we suppose that’s the commander we killed here.)

Ezekiel wants to question her spirit, but that means waiting until tomorrow. So we piled the bodies into the fortress to protect them from carrion-eaters and Lydia took herself, Ezekiel, and Raven back to Haven. They’re going to try to visit Master Algorthas separately from the king’s agent, and ask him about the drow. The rest of us will guard the passage so we have no unwelcome surprises.

Agnar has been telling us stories he heard from his uncle, and they’re not very encouraging.


Here’s the summary of Raven’s report from their visit (Ezekiel’s version included a lot more speculation and theological details).

Eclavdra seems to be a high person in House Alserv, and she might have been orchestrating Edralv’s operations woth the Slave Lords (so it seems they are different people after all).

House Alserv is the one breaking from the drow’s traditional loyalty to the Spider Queen, and pursuing the Elder Elemental whatever (I guess the way Ezekiel pursued the God of gods at the beginning…what if the Elders actually answer?!).

House Despona are opposed to them, but that doesn’t mean they fight on sight. Master Algorthas says drow are very mercenary, and might work with people they disagreed with to further their own ends.

He also said there are Merchant Guilds, in addition to the noble houses, that hold political power and pursue various ends. And they all have symbols their followers use to show allegiance. They all seem to attack us on sight, though, so this might only be useful for the post-mortem.

Master Oaklock says drow are good for nothing, and ever since their pact with the Spider Queen they can’t even comprehend any other path. Like orcs, I guess. Maybe it’s something to do with not having souls…except that regular elves can choose to be kind or selfish.


Ezekiel gave his report on his conversation with the drow commander. He says she seemed to believe Eclavdra is dead, which would surely shake up House Alserv…and that she (Lady Nedalene) was in the giant fortress to keep an eye on the Alserv…to “hold their leash” maybe. Makes Despona complicit in whatever trouble Alserv stirred up.

And the sphere over Istivin is still growing…Master Algorthas says it will soon reach his house. We’ve taken the pressure of the giants off the forces of Sterich, but there are still more answers to unbury.

Don’t like where this is heading.

Find the previous entry here.

Read the next entry here.

Dear Diary…you meet such interesting people in dungeons

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

Ezekiel went with Aliana and Princess Shallaria to Gorna, since he wants a professional’s opinion on all our potions we’ve amassed over the years, and I suppose it’s true we’re rich enough to afford that. He hopes someone can recommend a professional in Gorna.

Miss Dree had some exciting news to share with us. She says she and Miss Lysa and the super-energetic guy whose name I forget have been casting Cure Minor Wounds this morning. She says she felt “a stirring in her spirit” yesterday, and after her prayer time this morning (where she always asks for spells, since Father Ezekiel says just because you don’t receive is no reason to not ask) she tried the chant on Miss Lysa’s scraped knuckles, and the power was granted. I have never seen Miss Lysa so excited and forget herself so much that she explained the whole story to us again herself.

(Ragni and Agni have set up a sort of little catapult in the tree house, and have been chucking over-ripe fruit at the druid grove. Madam Moonwhisper assured me they grew some protective boughs and no one could actually be hit, but Leomas said she’s been knocked unconcious multiple times and showed me a broken pumpkin to prove it. I said the pumpkin must be what she used to think with, since it was too big to fit in the catapult, and she was half transformed into a panther when Madam Moonwhisper said Leomas was the one who told her about the ring of truth, and she should have known she couldn’t pull my leg (makes sense that’s why I actually said that out loud…). I asked Ragni and Agni to take it easy on the druids, and besides it’s the pass that enters the valley that we need to defend, and Ragni got very red and said Sirion and Usin made strict rules about firing at the pass after some pilgrims came to be healed of a disease and also needed baths once they got to the fortress. I’m so glad I warned Sirion about the Frost Giants that will be moving in nearby…I can just picture the entire mountain sliding down into the valley, with a sound of soft explosions, strewing rotten apples in its wake… Ezekiel would probably tell me that’s beyond Ragni and Agni’s capabilites, but I’m really not sure.)

Anyway, when Ez and Aliana get back, we leave for the giant fortress. Might not exactly be an early start, but we’re making the effort.


We started big, by investgating the wall opposite the illusion that led to the temple. Ezekiel hadn’t seen anything specific while looking at it through the gem; it just made his skin crawl, he said.

We started off by just looking at it…it seemed made of brownish purpleish stone, which really gives the impression of fungus – but not any normal kind of fungus. I wanted to poke it with an arrow, to see if the surface was really solid, but I was invisible…so I asked Heiron to do it, so we could actually see the results.

The wall reacted by spitting out a purpley tentacle, grapping Heiron’s wrist, and trying to pull him toward a gross, clicking, beak-like mouth. No one touches our Heiron – we all sprang into action. But it was the weirdest, grossest thing we’ve seen in a long time. Even Aliana’s sword seemed to bounce off it, like the wall was a giant rubber sheet. I pelted it with arrows, but again, they seemed to not so much as tickle it.

Agnar managed to do something to it…and it lashed him with a couple more tentacles. I think there were ten or twelve flailing about, with unnerving movement patterns. A couple of them grabbed Oaklock and smashed him against the floor, but Ezekiel pulled him away.

Nothing seemed to bother it much (although Tressarian worked better than my bow – maybe it was something to do with magic weapons) until Lydia muttered something and threw out her hand…and the whole thing collapsed and faded. Agnar says in all his uncle’s stories of the underdark, he never heard of anything like this. Lydia thinks it was partly enchantment, since Dispell Magic is what killed it, but she admits it was a shot in the dark, since she’s never seen something like it before.

Once it was dead, we saw the wall was actually a “curtain” of sorts, concealing a suite behind. Maybe those Evil rings the drow had would have let them pass it, like the statues and the violet fungus in the Temple of Elemental Evil, but I for one am not interested in experimenting…even if we hadn’t already killed it.

The cleric types passed around healing, since those tentacles were deceptively strong, and I think they even had hooks or suckers on them that left little welts, so the front-line fighters were pretty hard-up. When we felt up to it, we moved in to the suite, checking for enemies and traps as we went (meaning, Raven checked for traps).

There’s a two-room suite, with a sitting room full of black candles (unlit), ebony couches inlaid with silver, jasper basins, black carpet and purple wall hangings – yes, when they pick a design theme, they commit.

Behind a tapestry is a bedroom…strangely, the candles there were lit – again burning with that eery purple fire – but everything else looked abandoned. We found some pouches still full of money and gems, and even a couple cleric scrolls (one of them locked in a trapped coffer). The bedroom also has a large silver mirror, a dressing screen, a cabinet, bed, and side table – all the furniture made out of ebony or black stone. Also some tapestries, but by the time I got to the bedroom Aliana had sliced and shredded them into fine strips.

Ezekiel is probably right that some of the drow are still alive, but if so then they haven’t ransacked this suite. They even left the priest-garments in the wardrobe (Ez pointed out that these were embroidered with gold and gems, while the drow we killed yesterday were dressed in silver-trimmed robes. All of them a bizarre mauve color, of course. It’s like shades of purple are the only colors Drow like). I wondered if these rooms were always here for guest quarters, or if the giants carved them out specifically to host the drow. Probably doesn’t matter too much.

Finally, there’s a secret door and spy-hole at the back of the bedroom. Ezekiel thinks there’s a fire giant on the other side. We’ve decided to go the long way around, and are returning to the corridor. This black-and-purple room has me on edge…


Rescuing prisoners has been a mixed bag today.

Just as we left the drow suite, a boom seemed to shake the whole fortress. We didn’t know what it was yet, of course, but we wanted to find anyone who needed rescuing before the fortress collasped or something.

The first cell we came to that was locked gave no trouble to Raven’s lockpicking skills, but it did prove beyond us to pull it open. The inhabitant of the cell, however, kicked the door open and turned out to be two centaurs. They were somewhat discombobulated at seeing us, but Mikael spoke centaur to them and Raven offered them rations, and when we convinced them we were the good guys, they offered a prayer to Beori and ate the rations before we gave them directions to the stairs up and out (possibly also telling them about one of the armories on their way, but I’m not sure). They were anxious to not spend any more time in the fortress than necessary.

The next cell was more…disappointing. It was the cell behind the drow’s secret peephole, and as Ezekiel had supposed, it held a fire giant. But he didn’t let us kill it. The giant said he was a disgraced lieutenant of Snuri’s, and Ezekiel offered him a deal – open the doors for us in exchange for food.

Well the next cell held a maddened troll that jumped on Ezekiel as soon as the door was open…but Mikael told our giant he could eat it, so he bit its head off about that quickly. I think Mikael and I have some different understandings about the natural order of things.

In the next cell, we found a gnoll that had been taking liberties with his cell mates, also gnolls, both deceased. We kept the fire giant from eating the live one, though he snagged a leg of gnoll after the survivor ran off. I wanted to throw up in my mouth about that time, but then the hall shook with another booming crash, and that effectively distracted me and we hurried on to open all the doors.

Next door held some human corpses beyond even Ezekiel’s help. The door after that opened to reveal a human woman chained to the wall. I finally got a pay-off for lugging Markessa’s clothes around in my bag for all this time, and I let Ezekiel and Clatrial take care of them. The young lady (Gareth, from the Yeomanry) is not a demon, and seems pretty well-adjusted for being captured and imprisoned by giants and gnolls. Ezekiel talked to her for a bit, and we convinced Clatriel to stick by her side. Clatrial would make anyone feel more at ease, and besides…once bit, three times shy.

Finally, finally, we found the cell door that Raven thought the booming noises came from. Our “pet” fire giant seemed to think so, too. He asked Ezekiel if his obligation was fulfilled, and so as soon as he cracked the door open, he took off down the hall.

Inside was a figure like a man, chained to the wall…only what a man. He had to be 19 or 20 feet tall if he was an inch. I’ve heard of his kind…Titan. They’re a type of giant that lives on the Upper Plains, and much more magical than the standard kinds.

Once I told Ezekiel that’s what he was, he got very excited. The Titan didn’t seem to be feeling well, so Mikael cast Neutralize Poison…and the effect was almost instantaneous. The Titan introduced himself as Kendar, and chuckled a little when Ezekiel introduced himself as the “Arbiter” of the God of gods. Once he was unchained and came out into the hall, he could stand up straight and stretch a little. He asked if anyone needed healing, but even he couldn’t do anything for the desiccated human corpses in the one cell. He did agree to come with us to help open doors so we could rescue any more prisoners that might be here.

The guardroom was at the far end of the hallway. It held assorted furniture – large and small, so maybe the gnolls were sometimes guards as well as prisoners – plus some kegs and unlit torches. Ezekiel’s gem found a loose stone in the corner, which uncovered a chute of some kind…maybe more of a narrow tunnel – too narrow even for me – that wound back and forth into the darkness and stank of rats. Mikael crawled a little way along as a bat, and said something was squeaking in there – and sharpening a knife. We decided maybe some kind of humanoid rat could use tools, but we also decided they probably weren’t connected with the giants and the drow, and we needn’t waste any more time on them.

The giants had a torture chamber in a huge natural cavern to the south. The only vaguely interesting thing was a couple pieces of jewelry somebody dropped next to a knucklebones game. I guess when we came stomping downstairs and killing everything yesterday, the guards abandoned their game. Don’t have time to destroy all the yucky, pokey things in there.

The next room was…I guess a tomb. The walls were lined with huge (giant-sized) sarcophagi, all carved with images of kings or queens. They were all different materials, too – stone, bronze, iron… On the floor lay four stone sarcophagi, two of them still blank. It could be those were for the current king and queen, but we didn’t disturb them to see if we recognized King Snuri. Fire Giants are Evil, and a menace, but I’ve nothing against them being properly buried.

A smithy, in the room with the open lava, and a barracks equipped with straw and hides, rounded out the rest of the floor. We weren’t ready to call it quits for the day, so we headed down the stairs across from the morgue – with Gareth toward the back, to keep her more safe. I don’t like dragging rescued prisoners around the dungeon with us, but sometimes there’s no better option.

As we descended, the workmanship of the passage changed. Above, it is smooth and clearly worked…below, the walls are rough and irregular, like natural cave formations. At the bottom of the stairs, Master Kendar helped us open a pair of enormous iron doors, and then we were confronted with three branching passages…again, all looking more like natural cave tunnels rather than something built by people.

We picked the right passage on principle, and followed it along, past stalactites (not alive this time), and water dripping quietly into pools, until we reached a cavern so tall our lights just barely reached the ceiling. A thick pillar supported the roof in the center, while between it and us – we saw a huge pile of coins, with a red dragon coiled on top, apparently asleep.

We held a quick whispered counsel, and arranged ourselves so that those least resistant to fire would be behind it, and those more resistant would hold its attention. Tressarian let me loan him to Clatriel, so he could protect her while she charged with the front line. I suppose we should have known something was up, when the dragon didn’t seem to notice all our loud whispering, and our attempts to tip-toe in full armor (Aliana is a remarkable person, but she doesn’t tip-toe).

Well, Mikael gave the signal by starting to cast his spell (he had a spell he thought could kill the dragon that he wanted to try), so as he waved his mistletoe and chanted, the rest of us sprang into action. Lydia waved a wand and shot a flurry of ice shards at it, while Oaklock swung his sword at its tail (I think it bounced off the scales, but I couldn’t see very well).

The dragon swung its head around (precisely what we didn’t want it to do) and blew at Oaklock…only it didn’t blow fire. I don’t know what it blew, but it looked like sparkles or grey dust or something, and Oaklock threw up his arm to shield his eyes. Ezekiel shouted something about that not being fair – but before he could do more, Aliana stabbed it so that it died.

We circled the pile a few times, trying to figure out what felt off about all this…until Ezekiel used his very most favorite magic item, and told us it was actually a gorgon (not deceased) hiding under an illusion of a red dragon (complete with hoard). Lydia and Aliana say a gorgon is a creature of fae that can turn people to stone with their breath, so we’re all really lucky that it didn’t take on Master Oaklock. (I think it’s redundant…we already have medusai, and basalisks, we don’t need yet another thing that turns flesh to stone! But they didn’t ask me.)

Master Kendar said it was about time for him to leave – the passages were getting cramped for him, and we hadn’t found any fire giants for him to fight, so he would take his leave. But first he pointed out the ring Ezekiel was wearing – the ring with a fish, a star, and a whirlwind carved on it – and said it reminded him of the fisherman who fished up the Prince of Fishes, and the child who wished on the first star of the evening, and king who met a jinn in the desert. And he said that another gold ring we had found was magical had a “similar power” in it, though he couldn’t tell more just by looking at it.

We agreed that information was a princely reward for letting him out of the cell, and after he vanished we set those rings aside in a separate pocket to take a closer look at them later. But the day was not quite done yet.

The floor of the cavern had enough sand and dirt that I could pick out footprints – mostly giant, though a few of them were elf-sized. Most of the footprints through this cave led on through an open doorway, but a handful led up to a huge boulder sitting against the wall…almost as though it were blocking something in the wall.

Ezekiel and Mikael with their gauntlets of strength, along with Agnar and Aliana, managed to scoot the boulder out into the room a few feet…and immediately a blast of flame exploded in our faces. I’m glad Clatrial was still holding Tressarian…and so is he, because it means they were able to stab the actual, real, legit red dragon as it shoved its head out through the hole in the wall. Agnar and Ezekiel hit it, too. It seems anti-climactic to say we killed a dragon in under a minute…but when you consider it could kill us in under a minute, too, if the tables were just slightly turned, I think it’s perfectly fair.

After Ezekiel and Mikael healed everyone’s burns, we poked our noses past the dragon’s body into his chamber. It was barely big enough for him, and the floor was strewn with coins, gems, and various other expensive things. With that, we agreed it was time to go home for the day – so Lydia opened the portal, and summoned some disciples to help ferry the treasure to Haven.

Gareth says she came here for Snuri’s treasure, but didn’t get that far…but surely we must have a vault in our fortress, right? I was gratified Ezekiel didn’t offer to show it to her, but he did assure her we could get her safely on her way home, and provision her appropriately. She mentioned some pirate king who’s supposed to have an enormous hoard of treasure…I really don’t know about that girl. Not sure her sense of self-preservation is functioning properly.

The most interesting thing from the hoard so far is probably an ancient longsword, etched with runes. I don’t recognize the make, but the scabbard seems to be from a red dragon hide, and adorned with gems. Ezekiel says that when he held it, he got a distinct feeling of satisfaction about the nearby dragon corpse. It doesn’t seem magical, but there’s more to quality than magic, I guess. Tressarian would be anxious if he heard me talking like that.

Found a note to myself – collect the magic silver mirror from the quarters upstairs. Lydia says she can adjust the portal once we finish clearing out this collection.

Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary…ruining the moment, it’s what we do

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

We found the kennel room where they kept the hellhounds, and a couple barracks – one of them equipped for juvenile giants. I don’t remember seeing any of those here yet.

Also found a kitchen with a fire pit that seems naturally heated…as in, maybe a volcanic vent. Ezekiel would have a better idea. The fortress definitely sits on lava in some places – they used a natural vent as a garbage chute. Someone very unhelpfully cast darkness at the mouth of the opening, so if we were not so careful and thoughtful, we might have slid in the grease to a sudden and crispy-fried death in the lava below. Even Raven needed a rope while checking that the chute didn’t lead anywhere interesting.

According to our map, there’s nothing else on this level to explore, so it’s time to take the stairs down…


How to begin? For starters, splitting the party always makes things confusing.

When we reached the bottom of the stairs, we heard chanting…it could have been giant voices, but it was too far away to be sure. Almost at once, though, we heard hellhounds barking, much nearer – perhaps they scented us.

Ezekiel told me to take my invisible self and run the other direction to check for prisoners that might need rescuing, while the others dealt with the threat at hand. After taking a moment to swap for my ring of infravision, I headed up the north passage.

I passed a room lit with lava (probably the same lava we saw from the kitchen chute), and a couple trolls – but they had no prisoners, and seemed to be minding their business, so I kept on. Not too much farther along, I turned a corner of the passage and found a giant guarding a door. The sound of chanting came much louder from the other side of the wall – right by me – but I didn’t think I could take out the guard and still be sneaky…and I didn’t want to take on the whole group by myself.

So I returned back down the passage – toward the crackle of lightning and the crash of boulders hitting stone, and various other shouts of battle. When I came up to the others, giants and gnolls glowed with faery fire, mostly on the far side of a blade barrier that sliced across the corridor just above our heads. Raven and Agnar were on the front line, while Ezekiel stood to the back with Lydia.

I was trying to explain the situation to Ezekiel, in between shots with my bow, when a scream ripped down the corridor…from behind us. Let’s just say it didn’t sound like a giant scream.

Aliana and Oaklock looked at each other, then she pivoted, told Clatrial to guard Ezekiel, and charged. Ezekiel and Mikael were already heading toward the scream, and Raven was trying to bring Agnar…but Agnar was having too much fun fighting fire giants beyond the blade barrier. So Heiron and I let the paladins do their thing, and waited to back him up until Raven got through to him.

It didn’t take too long…Lydia zapped the remaining giants, and that pursuaded Agnar the good fighting was behind us. When we caught up with the others, they had killed the giant on the door, and Ezekiel was healing an elf in ripped clothes.

Moments later, Ezekiel announced that the wall at the turn of the passage (the wall that the chanting came from) was fake, and he and Clatrial charged through the apparently stone surface. Aliana left Master Oaklock talking to the rescued elf, and followed them while Mikael was still trying to figure out how it worked (staring at the wall and poking with his staff). Agnar arrived in time to see Aliana disappear, and charged after her, yelling something like, “Save some for me!”

Meanwhile, Master Oaklock and the other elf found the giant’s keys in his pocket, and started unlocking the doors right near us – there were actually a couple doors there that turned out to be cell doors. I stood guard with my bow, since Raven and Heiron still hadn’t returned from securing our rear down the south passage. It sounded like plenty of giants were beyond the wall, though, so when Raven and Lydia arrived (she can keep up because she’s wearing boots of speed), I left them to guard the elves and found my way through the illusory wall.

The first thing I saw was steps going down – and a blade barrier spinning and slicing through the air at the foot of them, about the height to take off someone’s head if he were coming down the stairs. From the way people were moving, though, I could tell there was another doorway over to the left, so I circled around and came down a staircase that only had dead giant weasels to trip on, no deadly blades.

Ezekiel and Aliana were on the far side of the room, battling more drow. Lightning crackled, arrows flew, fire giants died. (I found out later some of the lightning came from the pillars lining the room.) One of the fire giants was an ugly, hairy female wielding a scepter – and on examining her body afterwards, we think she was Snuri’s queen, “Frupy.” Which means the giants’ leadership is mostly destroyed, now, we hope…and we’ve killed another dark elf. Aliana killed a male with another of those gross tentacle-staves, and it seems the drow were heading up this ritual in this “temple.”

We took a moment to take in the creepy atmosphere and the gross murals, then went to check on the prisoners Master Oaklock had released. In the “temple,” strange light swirls through the air – blobs of mauve and violet, which you’d think would make you think of spring flowers, but it really doesn’t. The pillars supporting the roof are creepy, and not just because they zapped Aliana with lightning. The left-hand (western) wall shows giants bowing down to a black stone, and making sacrifices of humans and giants. The opposite (eastern) wall is painted with creatures of various kinds all crawling up to three tentacle-beings and being eaten. I don’t get what the food-creatures get out of the deal. I’m also not sure what the tentacle-abominations are supposed to be, but I really don’t need Ezekiel to explain…I know they’re bad, and I’ll hopefully never meet them.

The front of the “sanctuary” has that burning eye symbol that we’ve associated with King Snuri, along with a Y superimposed on a triangle, with I feel we’ve seen before, but I’ll have to consult my notes. [Margin note: the shrine underneath the Hill Giant fortress had a double-triangle made of copper in the floor, which Ez has connected to House Alservs, which are the Drow worshiping the Elder Elemental Gods. I think that was a different triangle, though.] Also some braziers burning a green flame that looks like someone threw up snot, and some fat black candles burning lavender flames (again, the color makes you feel like death and fungi, not like flourishing herb gardens. It’s a disturbing thing…).

Aliana says the rescued prisoners said their companions were being sacrificed here, but there’s no sign of residue here now (not even a pile of ashes and bones). It’s tidy, but somehow that’s one of the worst parts of this. When we finally rejoined Master Oaklock, he had five other elves with him – including a lady that Aliana embraced and called “Princess Shallaria.” The princess says she and her retainers were traveling through the Jotens for fae reasons, when the giants captured them. She says several days ago something happened that shook up the giants, and the ceremony today was almost an act of desperation. I guess losing the Fire Giant king and most of his warriors would do that…

Ezekiel says there’s still one female drow at large, and we don’t know how many more giants. The elves didn’t know of any more prisoners, but we couldn’t very well wander around with most of our spells used up, and with trying to protect the rescued prisoners.

We moved everyone into the “temple” to finish looting the giants’ bodies. Ezekiel took the drows’ gear, presumably to safely dispose of anything Evil. The Fire Giant Queen had some jewelry (and of course her huge iron scepter), but nothing else seemed important…except the whole room felt vaguely magical (Tressarian said the altar was the strongest, but it definitely resonated through the whole room.) The longer we stood around, the more I noticed everyone (not just me) looking over our shoulders and twitching…so it’s just as well we got out of there.

Lydia brought us through the mirror back to the Haven fortress. Tomorrow, she will send the princess and her party to Gorna, which should make it easier and quicker for them to make their way back home. That will also give someone (probably Aliana, since she volunteered – and she has the manners training) to deliver a report to His Grace’s people, so they know everything we’ve found so far. I suppose we should send a report to King’s Agent Lashton, but strangely enough no one volunteered to handle that.

I need to copy out some of our maps, and some of the documents we’ve found, to send with her…and I also need to warn Sirion and Ragni and Agni and the centaurs (and Keiran, if he’s still hanging out) about all the giants Ezekiel has invited to come over. He would be mighty cross if they all got killed as soon as they arrive. Honestly, I don’t know what he’s going to do about those ogre-mages, but I guess one worry at a time.

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Dear Diary…”I am not a demon”

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

I guess we finally got smart. After a couple more giant stone doors that we couldn’t budge, even with the Power of Teamwork, I said, wasn’t it a shame we couldn’t just get bigger. And Lydia dug through her bag until she pulled out a wand and did just that – she made Heiron over twice as tall as Mikael. (Fortunately she made his clothes and muscles match, too.)

At that size, he could open doors all by himself, and he let us into an armory, and a closet-type room full of foul-smelling hay. The prevailing theory is that is where they kept the chimera…I guess even freaks of nature need to sleep and eat somewhere.

I’m pretty excited about the armory – Tressarian and I snooped around in the corner and found a bow that tingles magically. I need to remember to try it out…hopefully it will let me hit things that are resistant to normal weapons. Haven’t met any of those recently, but you can never be too prepared.

Worked our way around until we connected with the passage leading north from the other barricade (we assume, from the patch of darkness floating there that refuses to dispelled by our lights). Seems to be another passage leading west, on our side of the barricade, but the darkness makes it hard to be sure.


Well. So we found a room bolted from the outside, and opened it. Inside seemed to be a nicely furnished guest suite of some kind, along with two men and a woman. They looked normal enough, armed with swords at their belts.

Ezekiel questioned them a little, and they said they were mercenaries from the Iron League who came to work for the giants, but the king didn’t trust them and kept them locked in that room. That’s not an unreasonable explanation – I mean, working for (Evil) giants might just come from poor judgement – but given how events played out it shows you can’t trust anyone you just run into.

Ezekiel told them there were still some drow somewhere, and to watch out, but when they were ready to leave they didn’t seem to want to approach the door…and we all noticed that Aliana and Clatrial were standing in the doorway, and most normal people would kill to approach Aliana (and Clatriel has her own qualities, don’t misunderstand).

Anyway, that got our neckhairs up (trying to learn from past experience), so as I tried to sidle close enough for Tressarian to scan them for magic, Aliana slipped Fetafencer out of the sheath about an inch, and he was glowing bright red.

She and Clatriel stared at the strangers for a moment, but couldn’t sense anything, so Ezekiel looked through his gem of seeing (I think he loves it slightly less than Aliana). Don’t know what he saw, but it rattled him for sure and he asked the trio if they were human (like a demon would confess to being one…but Ezekiel is an optimist).

Raven whispered in my ear to switch to the ring of truth (don’t know how he found me, since I was invisible, but maybe it’s to do with his blind-fighting), and joined Ezekiel in asking the strangers if they were demons. He even led the way himself, saying, “I am not a demon,” so then everyone went around the room and said, “I am not a demon.” Maybe the strangers had some kind of resistance, because the ring told me they were telling the truth…but everyone could smell something fishy was up (except maybe Agnar, who was mostly bored, I think).

Well, we had to either attack them, or let them go… Ezekiel moved the rest of us away from the door, with just the paladins standing to each side, and told the strangers they could leave. They said they had to gather their luggage, and began busying themselves with all the chests and furniture in the room.

Ezekiel found me (maybe Raven helped him) and whispered to me to check the trio for magic, and then he would cast Protection from Evil on them, and I could check them again. He told them this spell would protect them from the Drow as they were leaving, so the stranger spokesman sounded agreeable…but he deliberately didn’t touch the holy water as Ez was sprinkling it around. Worst of all, they were already glowing with magic (to Tressarian’s “eyes”) so the only question was, what kind of unnatural thing were they.

Heiron had shrunk down to normal size by now, but he casually positioned himself by Lydia and prepared an arrow on the string. Aliana and Clatrial were both toying with their hilts, and I think even Agnar noticed something was weird.

The stranger trio kept dumping their packed bags onto the floor and picking through the contents, then goibg back to the dressers and chests to sift through more things. Someone had to make a move…so Ezekiel flicked holy water at the nearest stranger.

No one was surprised, so everyone flew into action. The woman, who happened to be the sprinkled one, whirled on Ezekiel…though her sword left strange clawing marks on his exposed skin. Raven rushed in with his daggers, and Mikael waved his hands with the familiar incantation for faery fire…yet nothing seemed to happen to the trio.

Lydia drew a shimmery bubble in the air around herself, and almost immediately one of the men threw a fireball with his bare hands. Tressarian snickered as he sucked up the energy, and then we cut at him. Then the same man threw out a murky cloud that smelled like Lydia’s stinking cloud, but I didn’t see him toss an egg. Fortunately, with my necklace of adaptation, it didn’t make a difference.

Heiron launched several arrows – but they seemed to bounce off the strangers’ bodies. Ezekiel didn’t have that trouble, though…he bashed one of the enemy with his mace, and purple lightening crackled up it as the ram’s eyes glowed briefly. It’s been so long since that happened, it almost threw me off my rhythm.

The last surviving stranger made a run for it, dodging between our blows as he went. He didn’t get far, though, as Agnar and Raven chased him down and tackled him, Ezekiel following behind shouting, “Let me finish him with the mace!”

Once they were dead, their forms changed and we could see they were actually humanoid tigers…very much like the two we passed in the Astral Plain. Ezekiel says they’re “rakshasa,” which are technically fiends, not demons, so that explains that, I guess. Aliana says she’s glad we didn’t let them get away. I guess we all knew there was no other good outcome…it just had to play itself out.

Searching their room, we found a carpet woven with a picture of one of those dark elves, and a footstool that was actually a disguised chest (disguised with magic; actually building a chest to look like a stool would be pretty cool, too). Tressarian and Schakka searched the room for magic and gems, and we found four potions and a cleric scroll, plus a sizable haul of gold and gems, and a scepter decorated with jewels that doesn’t seem to be magical. I wonder who it belonged to originally?

The healers passed around healing, and we’re all happy it wasn’t worse. Shape-shifters can be very dangerous. So far all the ones we’ve met have been both magical and Evil…except the assassins, which as far as we know weren’t magical.

Hopefully just a few more rooms to search up here.

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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. Continue reading

Dear Diary…a deep breath

It’s amazing what a few days can do. Time, and the cleric types, have us all back to fighting fit, and we’ve had a chance to assess what’s happening with our fortress in our absence.

First off, an entire detachment of men has come to find out about the God of gods, all following some guy calling himself Verachenk Jaln (is he actually after something else? Not sure, but I’m glad Miss Dree knows how to take care of herself). He says he heard about this place, and just convinced more and more men to come with him as he made his way here, all to learn more, and “protect the Arbiter” (meaning Ezekiel).

Also, a couple druids have come to follow Mikael; they say they see some flaws in the whole circle system, and they’re looking for broader ways to serve Obed-Hai.

When Lydia grabbed Sirion to help us out, word must have spread, as Ragni and Agni were also gathered in the fortress library with Usin’s battalion. They brought a big, burly man with a huge beard with them (his name is Keiran). When they introduced me, I thought he was struggling with fierce disappointment over my appearance, but turns out he was just mad that King Snuri almost took off my arm. And he’s not even the one who fumbled the block…

Ragni and Agni took me out south of the lake, where they’ve set up a tree house in a position overseeing the entrance to the valley. The ladder lets down into a palisade, so Madam Whiney and Master Chestnut can be included. Master Chestnut says they’ve developed a routine for patrolling, and all the activity seems to be keeping most wild animals away. (Not all of them, though – they shared some sausage that Keom made from venison they caught.)

The druids have mostly finished their grove in the copse near the road, and now they’re helping Keom and Ronhass plan out some fields and gardens in the rest of the valley (since we keep getting more mouths to feed). Oh, yes, Keom and Ronhass have some more aspiring monks that found us and are eager to learn under Raven. (Ronhass said they tried to hand off some dragon responsibilities, but the dragons get attachment anxiety if he and Keom are gone too long.)

As for Keiran… He says he hates undead – that they get stuck under his nails – and he traveled from Ten, which is mainly Flannish. When he speaks in Flan, I can basically understand what he means…but it’s a bit like when Uncle Yurgen got theological and suddenly he wasn’t using normal words anymore.

He said almost nothing while I was telling the story of the giants, and while Ragni was telling his follow-up story of when Madam Moonwhisper and Master Guil of the Glen first showed up (that’s the two new druids). He doesn’t look discontented…but it’s kinda hard to tell. Sirion seems at ease with him, though, and Sirion’s come through for us enough times that should count for something.

Part of me just wonders what Ehlonna is preparing us for, bringing all these extra hands to us…


Ezekiel told us a long, involved story about how he and Aliana took Agnar to investigate a cave hidden behind a door in their bedroom. They found some kind of creature, but Ezekiel got bogged down trying to describe it. Aliana called it a “shadow creature.” Apparently it can change its appearance, but it always looks like a shadow of something else. Ezekiel is going to put a ward on the door, as we don’t know if it’s friendly or not (but Ezekiel, who is friendly, wants it to stick around or at least come visit again).

He also said there’s “holy water” dripping off one of the stalactites in that cave – it’s shimmery, milky white, and if you drink it, it heals you. I’m not sure I want to know how they found that out. He and Aliana investigated it more thoroughly after the “ceremony” – but they haven’t had time to tell us the whole story…Ezekiel is too giddy.

He did officially induct Master Jaln and Sister Lysa with a ceremony in the chapel (and with Raven and Aliana’s help). He told me I had to come and wear something nice. I’m always wearing something nice. Sirion said it felt very Heironian, which is only natural.


I tried to scry the giants’ fortress to keep an eye on what the survivors are up to. The first night, someone had started laying out the bodies, as though preparing them for funeral/burial. By the next morning, all the lights were put out along the walls. I asked Sirion if he knew how to use the crystal ball, and he said he would try. He didn’t see the fortress for very long, but he said he found it, and they’ve started to move the bodies out (starting with the king and his men). He thought one of the hallways had a barricade of spiked wood, also.

It’s probably just as well Dame Clatrial insists she’s coming when we go back. She lectured Ezekiel that he was not taking proper care of Lady Aliana, and she needs her bodyguard with her from now on. Clatrial is a paladin, so I don’t mind.


Ezekiel called me and Mikael in to have dinner with the others in Haven’s great hall, so he could tell us all his big story. Yesterday he and Aliana followed the trickle of healing water up through cracks in the mountain until they reached the peak, and discovered the source – a Gold Dragon (one of the Good ones) lying in a cleft of the mountaintop. Ezekiel says he is old beyond belief (just his mouth is bigger than Mikael’s pirate ship) and is sitting there, waiting to die…but he’s been waiting there for lifetimes on lifetimes.

So Ezekiel did some nerdy gushing, and the dragon was tolerant and said he chose this spot to die because “his king’s King” would be founding a fortress here some day. Naturally Ezekiel has been over the moon ever since, and even Aliana looks like this isn’t something she’s seen before. Sirion looked thoughtful.

Anyway, they stayed up on the mountain until this morning when Ezekiel had another windwalk spell (that explains why he wasn’t around when I wanted to tell him about the giants’ barricades. Lydia said he and Aliana were working on a “project” in their bedroom, so we left it at that).

I did get her to mirror me and Agni to Mitrik so I could buy more healing potions. They sure come in handy when the clerics are busy…more handy than gold and gems, at that moment. Agni said he’s never been to Mitrik before and wanted to sketch some of the cathedrals, but we had to get to the meeting place for Lydia to pick us up.

Ezekiel has some people wanting to be healed of diseases, and then he says we’re returning to the giant fortress tomorrow. About time…we’ve given the surviving giants plenty of time to heal up and organize their defenses, and Aliana says she thinks some drow got away, too. And they can be even more dangerous than giants in some ways.

Anyway, I can just about land an arrow in the pass at the entrance to the valley from the rampart of the tree house, but Leomas says I should really warn the druids if I’m going to be doing that kind of thing, but I’m really not sure the arrows had that much power anyway, especially when her limp and the way she was holding her side were so obviously fake (although she kinda took Agni in, for a minute).

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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. Continue reading

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). Continue reading

Dear Diary…Lydia’s revenge

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

We keep finding strange things. We found and defeated a squad of ice toads loving in a cave…that could well be just part of the environment, meaning they have nothing to do with the giants…which means they probably aren’t technically a “squad,” but that makes me feel better than calling them a “family.” Their floor was coated with gnawed on bones, and they had a lump of amethyst sitting on a broken-off stalagmite that looked vaguely like a toad. (The stalagmite did not try to eat us.) Doesn’t look like there was anything of real importance in that cave, although Ezekiel said that toads totally have a god that they worship, which is sending me into difficulties. Lydia said that doesn’t really have anything to do with anything right now, but Heiron said it’s important to think about what you’re dealing with (even if you can’t understand it).


The toad cave led out onto the ledge that’s been circling this central ravine, and we got another look at the snow dome or something that’s down in the bottom. I can’t see an entrance from this side. Lydia says it makes her uncomfortable.

Ezekiel put a booby-trap glyph on another pile of prepped boulders, and we found the last cave system on the upper level of the ravine. This must be where the rest of the giants lived, as we found more sleeping hides, barrels of food, and a little gold hidden in the snow (plus a clerical scroll that might come in handy).

Hard to say if they were waiting for us to be distracted by the goods, or if they were out looking for us, and just returned at that moment, but the last frost giant sentries sicced their winter wolves on us, and put up a good fight. Lydia got to use stinking cloud again, like the old days…but this time, I didn’t gag on it.

Two of them fled at the last moment, and Ezekiel and Mikael pursued them while the rest of us were busy. Their legs are shorter than giants’, though, (even Mikael) and they lost them. Then the walls started shaking, and little ice fragments fell down from the ceiling.

Ezekiel told us to quickly grab anything the giants had (though they didn’t have anything on them – I guess it was all in this cave) and follow him before they collapsed the cave down on us. By the time we caught up with him and Mikael, they were considering a pile of ice debris where the giants had blocked us in (yet again; if I didn’t have claustrophobia before, I probably will now). The good news is the giants gave up trying to collapse the roof, so all we have to deal with is clearing the entrance.

Ezekiel proposed using his magical spinning blades to dice the barrier into fragments that can compact onto the floor and walls (and maybe the friction melts them a little, too)…so we’re trying that. It is kinda cool watching his disembodied blades whip back and forth, but there’s a serious amount of snow and ice to get through. He’s been at it nearly a half hour. I guess it’s good he’s having fun.


Oof. Five days of boredom, five minutes of terror…that’s the adventurer’s life.

We finished digging ourselves out of the giants’ cave, and found them not waiting in an ambush for us. Maybe they’re off getting friends or something. At any rate, the only thing left to explore was the floor of the ravine and the snow-covered dome, so we lowered ourselves down on ropes.

At first, all was quiet. There’s a hole in the southern end, surrounded by cliffs, that drops into a cave system underneath (made of actual rocks, this time). Not too far from that, though, is the huge dome of snow.

The snow must accumulate here after whipping back and forth up above trying to waylay arrows, and it’s a little hard to walk in. We were heading to explore the dome, and the girls were talking about a smell in the air. Lydia had caught a whiff earlier – like baking, she said – while Aliana said there was something spicy or cinnamony in the air. But before anyone else had a chance to sniff around, the Thing came for us.

Basically, it’s like an ankheg, but white…but of course you don’t look at an ankheg that’s rushing you, and say, “You’re just a big earthworm with horns!” No, you duck out of its way and try to decide in a split-second which part looks most vulnerable to the weapon you happen to be holding (I chose the underbelly – frequently vulnerable to blades). Ezekiel tried to throw light in its face, and then Lydia hurled lightening down the length of its body, and it jack-knifed and flopped to the snowy ground, shriveling like an earthworm in the sun.

Afterwards, Lydia told us that it’s called a “polar worm,” and the carapace on its back will melt weapons (Tressarian said, but he puts out fires! but I explained it doesn’t melt like that). It also likes to eat people and digest them in minutes, and the Barbarian word “rimorez” is what people called Lydia’s mother. She cut off one of its horns, and she wasn’t explaining things with the gusto she usually has about sharing knowledge, so I told Heiron to give her back-up while I went with Ezekiel to search the dome.

I think the worm has been hunting here for some time. Apparently it doesn’t digest bones, since we found plenty of those…human, dwarf, and goblinoid. Also a magic ring (silver with some engraving) and a sword we saw glowing under the ice. Mikael had to cut it out with a flame-blade, but when we freed it, the hilt had Old Oeridian writing that Ezekiel says means “for the slaying of giants.” Agnar thought that could be useful, but when he tried to pick it up, he says it “bit” him, so we gave it to Master Oaklock. I hope they will be happy together. (Ezekiel told Agnar that some weapons need to have a “kinship” with their wielders to work best, but I’m not sure how much he got out of it.) Tressarian went so far as to admit it would be nice to have a sort of “kindred spirit” sword with us – once he was sure I wasn’t going to swap him out.

There wasn’t much else in the ravine…which meant all we could do was attach ropes and climb down into the cavern underneath our feet. (I suppose the frost giants had another route to get down there, but we didn’t know where it was…and possibly we wouldn’t be able to climb it.)

Aliana was to go first, and Agnar was ready to climb down once she was clear of the rope. But plans are for boring people, I guess.

She couldn’t have been more than halfway down when we heard a roar, and saw a flash of something white down there (the hole is twelve feet across, so big enough to see a little) – and then we heard her trumpet-like challenge, and the rope went slack. Dragon versus paladin. No holds barred.

Agnar waited for nothing and no one – he leapt feet-first, sword-drawn, into the opening, yelling the whole way (it’s a wonder he had any breath left by the time he landed). He’d barely left the ledge when Ezekiel pounced on the rope, skimming down with his gauntlets of ogre strength, and Mikael just dove into the hole (transforming into a falcon by the time he disappeared below the level of the ground).

Raven took the rope next, while Lydia hopped into the hole and used her staff to lower herself at a gentle rate. In all the commotion, I kind of lost track of myself…I saw flashes of light, and felt blasts of freezing air as I climbed down the rope – but by the time I reached the floor of the cavern, we had two dead white dragons, and Ezekiel was on his knees “having a moment,” as Aunt Elaine might have said. Mikael was chanting away Aliana’s frostburn, and Agnar was grudgingly admitting that maybe his ankles didn’t appreciate falling over a hundred feet onto stone (I just pictured Tomlin’s reaction to hearing that sentence! Ha!).

Everything seemed wrapped up… These dragons were clearly stronger than the ones we fought in the Node with Master Elmo, but they still were no match for our teamwork (and Ezekiel’s spell, apparently, that’s he’s been muttering to himself about and whimpering, “What have I done?” sorts of things periodically).

We only found one obvious exit (aside from the roof, of course) – blocked with a giant boulder, just like Flame’s bedroom was. So we set up the instant fortress in front of it for Heiron and Master Oaklock to guard, and for Agnar to take a little rest, while Ezekiel and I gathered the dragons’ treasure into the portable hole.

Silver, electrum, and platinum pieces…silver boxes filled with ivory…various little non-magical carvings out of marble and alabaster…a pile of white gems…yes, these dragons liked getting treasure that matched their hides. Even among the weapons and armor (no surprise that dragons had some of those, right?) we found a suit of black chainmail painted silver. It’s magical, but we haven’t experimented to see how good it is. Ezekiel checked the corners of the nest for any eggs, but found none. I think that’s just as well – poor Keom and Ronhass have their hands plenty full.

Lydia has gone to Haven to drop off the treasure, and Master Oaklock asked her to take the new frostbrand sword and get it a sheath made. (Tressarian took the opportunity to mention he likes his special sheath that lets him glow and talk from inside it, so I’m glad. We don’t know if the new sword talks, though.)

Aliana suggested one of the statues might be a good wedding present for Prince Thrommel and the Lady Jolene. It does seem to be of a married couple, though I’m not sure it would be the kind of thing my mother had in her house. On the other hand, part of being nobility is just having a lot of treasures to hand out at necessary times…it’s the thought that counts more than the actual gift. They don’t have to like the item for itself. I feel like I once heard Archie explaining that to Alpheus, and Alpheus felt a gift should have more thought put into it, even if he acknowledged that a lord couldn’t put that much thought into every single thing he had to do. Which I suppose is why he needs an “Archie” person.

Ezekiel in deep meditation, and looking broody, which is not like him.

Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary…still cold; also ogres are the worst

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

Lydia returned this morning and we ventured out of the fortress to find what the giants had been doing all night. The cavern has multiple connected rooms and multiple exit passages – but every time we tried to reach the outside, we found a pile of ice fragments, stacked above our heads and pressed together into a solid wall. The only exit we couldn’t confirm was blocked is the passage Mikael had filled with thorny brambles. We had a little discussion about removing the brambles, but Ezekiel and Lydia were both anxious not to start a massive fire inside an ice cavern.

The only passage not completely filled had a gap at the top of the barrier, just a few feet below the roof, where someone could crawl toward the outside on his knees. “Someone” being me, apparently, because I could be invisible with the sword. How do I get volunteered for these things?

Raven gave me a hand up, and I crawled across the top of the barrier. Sure enough, the ice is jammed into a solid piece, reaching across the entire entrance of the cavern. Outside, on the cliff above the ravine, five frost giants stood or lounged, waiting…for us.

I crawled back and gave the report. Ezekiel seemed to think I could take them all down by myself…I don’t think he understands about recovering your stance after a sword-thrust, and the time involved making a new swing. Sure, it’s only a couple seconds – but it does take time. I could get off more arrows in the same amount of time, but even if I could have drawn my bow crouching on that ice barrier, the wind is still whipping like a horse’s mane at full gallop, and I doubt I could land a single shot. Quite apart from the fact that frost giants are not orcs or hobgoblins…they have a lot of blood. Like, a lot of blood. Even striking their vital arteries only kills them so quickly, and I didn’t relish the idea of being the prime target of five of them all by myself (until Aliana, Agnar, and the others crawled out of the cave under the cover of my distraction). Well, anyway, I guess it’s nice to be considered competent, rather than “the little one” who needs help with everything and is a handy size to chuck places.

Back to the giants… I couldn’t really think of an alternate plan, so Raven gave me a hand again, and I concentrated on silencing my footfalls. Master Elmo and Lord Otis were right…if you practice enough, you can exert your will on the very physical world enough to mask even the condensation of your breathing. However, not enough to mask Tressarian’s glowing in freezing temperatures.

He was lowering me to the ground on the far side of the barrier – so I wouldn’t have a rope to give me away, and so I didn’t slip and fall face-first onto the cliff as might happen to certain unlucky individuals – but of course the giants had a guard watching the outlet for when we would come out, and they noticed Tressarian’s (undeniably cool) light aura. So the first one made a swipe at me, but fortunately whiffed it pretty badly.

Agnar heard the giant’s battle roar, and made it across the top of the barrier much faster than I had expected (is he shorter than I think of him?). Moments after he landed, Aliana launched straight from the top of the barrier into a giant, rebounding off him to land on her feet as he tumbled backward off the cliff. Tressarian hummed happily as we sliced into one of the others (not as good as evil fire things, but he still had fun).

Agnar was having a little too much fun, I think. He made such a vigorous attack that his sword flew out of his hand – and as he dove after it, they both slid off the cliff and into the mounds of snow below. So he missed out as Aliana, Heiron, and I mopped up the cliff-top, but he says he made sure the giant down there was dead. Also, the deep snow apparently cushioned his fall, so he seemed barely affected by having fallen off the cliff.

The giants had only weapons and clothes on them (makes sense – we were camped in their house) but we don’t know if they alerted the rest of the garrison yet. Agnar rejoined us via a path that winds down alongside the ridge, so we can safely explore the bottom of the ravine at some later time. But first we want to clear some of these other caves.


Oh, yes, there was something weird in one of the caves. First, we came upon some kind of symbol scratched on the ice of the floor. While Ezekiel and Lydia were wracking their brains for any rune or glyph it might resemble, Agnar said it looked like scribbling. Lydia finally cast a spell to read it, and said it just said, “Danger keep out.” It wasn’t even magical.

So for our next step, Ezekiel took Aliana with him into gaseous form and floated around the corner to scout. The walls and floor seemed covered with ivory and bones, seemingly just dropped at random. Ezekiel thought there were scratches like chewing on them, but Aliana thought that wasn’t quite the way she would describe it. Also, the passage got colder and colder as they went along, until Ezekiel says he almost felt frostbite through his heavy mountaineering gloves. There were no traps, and no concealed things, anywhere in the cave…except maybe a mysterious dark residue on the ground.

Finally, they returned to us, and after reporting their findings (while rubbing their hands together), Mikael said it reminded him of a breed of mold. The “brown mold” (I like names that get right to the point) doesn’t eat plant and animal flesh like a normal slime. Instead, it sucks energy from its surroundings – he said even bringing a torch into its room can make it grow. Lydia said, good thing then we didn’t walk in there with all our lit up shields. She did wonder if a cone of cold would hurt it, but not enough to feel like fighting it. Especially since it’s not working with the giants, we don’t really have a quarrel with it. Mikael didn’t have a sure-fire method for killing it, either, so we left it alone. And things got plenty exciting anyway.

First, we found an empty guard post with a couple sleep sacks and a pile of prepared boulders. Hard to tell if the guards were ones we fought, or if they left their post to warn some others. We didn’t have time to deal with the boulders, so we continued on.

Next, a squad of fire giants was camped near some kind of volcanic vent in a cave. Tressarian says it’s starting to make up for…whatever reason he’s feeling neglected this time.

They were a bit more civilized than the rest, with a brazier, table and chairs, and some coins and loot (including a silver statue of a bear with jewels; nothing magical, though). I was busy worrying that fire giants are working with frost giants…usually, they can’t stand each other. What kind of leader do they have, and what kind of tricks is he pulling to keep them all in line?

There must have been survivors of the earlier battle who prepared for us to escape the trap. Someone dug a pit and covered it with snow within the past day or so, and if it weren’t for Aliana’s sharp eyes, we’d be a lot wetter and colder than we already are (Raven made a rope bridge for us to cross by, but the pit wasn’t that deep when I fell into it. Just almost twisted my ankle and got snow in my boot).

Not far beyond that, we came to a fork in the path. Both choices were packed down ice, but I found more recent traces of giant footprints going more straight. We were hot on their tails, now, so we weren’t surprised when they tried to snipe us with boulders. It was a couple squads of frost giants, this time, but they were no match for our numbers.

These ones actually had bags of treasure with them, and gold armbands inset with an ivory and amber bear. I think it must be some kind of loyalty or membership badge. Aliana said she was not aware of the significance of a bear in frost giant culture.

Their cave led into a series of connected caves (thankfully out of the worst of the wind, now) where we discovered a company of ogres. I’m not sure why they didn’t rush to support the frost giants when they heard that battle…although they tried to get the jump on us by hiding under hides, our numbers and party composition is to our advantage. They might have had a better chance with the giants – but then again, maybe not. Mikael proved, once again, that druids are completely horrifying. While those of us with sharp metal weapons were doing our part, he conjured a wall of thorns over the top of a pack of ogres, and we heard their dying croaks through the tangle. Then, when we had checked the dead bodies in the open for gems or secret papers, and were ready to move through the next part of the cave, he pushed with his hand, and magically shoved the thicket against the wall. It embedded in the ice, dripping softly. As for the bodies of the ogres, they were diced in what Raven might call a “slushie” on the floor. I haven’t been hungry for three hours (although some of that might come from searching the ogres’ chests and barrels).

We found some jewelry and gems (plus two potions that look like they’re for inducing vomiting), but to find them we had to wade through a barrel of skulls and a couple chests of ears and teeth…all shapes and races. I know we sometimes hang dragon skins on our walls, but you gotta draw the line somewhere. Ogres and their kind are just the worst.

Find the previous entry here.