Boon - human barbarian 8th;
Rickson - human paladin 8th;
Rock Hammerhand Boulderbeard - goliath fighter 8th;
Blump Butter - gnome cleric 8th;
Maximus Albusson - half-elf magus 8th.
The doughty adventurers had trekked across many miles in pursuit of their latest prey, had lost dear friends in battle, and met others - some of whom remained to continue the adventure with them. Their dwarven companion and ally, Tumak Copperbeard, had departed, heading far south and west to his home in the Jotens. His father had called him home, he believed, to accolades and an assigned quest for the lost family heirloom - the Engelhammer. He left with an enthusiastic invitation for all his friends to come visit him at his father's stronghold near the village of Datmil.
After reveling in the wealth that victory in the mountain had brought them, several members of the group decided that another cross-country trek would be just the thing to get their blood flowing again. Boon, especially, was hoping to encounter some giants in the Jotens, as he had spent his life training against them in battle. Heading west from the Gem of the Flanaess with carts and mules laden with supplies and extra weapons and equipment, they passed, again, the curious ruins of the castle of the Mad Archmage without giving in to the lure of the possible treasures waiting within. They were able to scare off ambushing bandits and worse on several occasions, almost without breaking a sweat.
The warriors were quite happy to have healers again and even an arcane spellcaster in their group for a change. It seemed that the possibilities for success were increasing with every day they traveled. Dyvers proved rather annoying as the pickpockets seemed thicker there than they had been in the City of Thieves! Thunks to the heads of a few such rogues brought the law down on them for assault and they decided to make a hasty retreat without spending a single night within its walls. Making their way westward, they paused for refreshment in Verbobonc, then continued south to the gnome lands of the Free Assembly. Blump introduced his friends to the delights of the gnomish stronghold before they climbed the road past Luskan into the Lortmils. They could not convince the elven ambassador to grant them passage into Celene, so they were unable to make use of the more favorable Trail of Tears to Enstad and thus, to the Duchy of Ulek via the Ulek Pass. Instead, they made their way up past Castle Sarkiri, battling or avoiding innumerable monstrous creatures, until arriving at the secret passage made known to Blump by his ecclesiastical superiors in Tulvar. This passage was guarded well by gnomish and dwarven veterans and led them safely to the Ulek side of the mountain.
Moving downhill along the Silver Path now, they entered the warmer valley of Silverlode as the trees began shedding their brightly-colored plumage. The brisk air of fall refreshed the adventurers as they rode across the fertile valley of the Sheldomar, fording rivers when bridges weren't available and assisting the locals with minor chores (like chopping wood, exterminating a nest of ankhegs in a farmer's field, or putting a pack of trolls to the torch when they interrupted a family meal at a steading that had welcomed them in for the night). In this manner, our heroes arrived at the far edge of the Kingdom of Keoland, crossed the Javan River at Kilm and followed the road westward toward Sterich, asking as they went, where they might find Datmil.
Curiously, several leagues west of Kilm on the south side of the Javan, they were met upon the road by a rather large group of mounted soldiers led by a knight who's banner they did not recognize. He politely introduced himself as Sir Jagermeister, claimed to have heard of the group's exploits across the Sheldomar basin, and requested that they accompany him to his keep a few leagues up the road. Rickson gave the signal that he detected no evil in the knight's intentions, so the group relaxed and eased their hands away from their swordbelts, despite having become surrounded by over two dozen fully armed horsemen. Outwardly nonplussed, but inwardly miffed about being given no choice in the matter, the veteran adventurers graciously agreed to be Sir Jagermeister's guests.
They were made comfortable upon arriving at the knight's keep, but informed that they would be heading out again early in the morning. Sir Jagermeister explained over dinner that His Magnitude, Querchard, Earl of Sterich was in desperate need of volunteers possessed of competent sword and spell arms. He welcomed the warriors to the Earldom, assured them that they would be given an opportunity to meet their dwarven friends soon, and bid them take an early bed as he would be escorting them to Istivin at dawn.
At the Earl's castle in Istivin, the party was put to the test by Querchard's Captain of the guard and, though each was bested by him in turn, he gave his approval to his master of the quality of their skills. Earl Querchard then thanked them for their service to the nation, its sovereign, and its people and left the audience with his court in tow. Fortunately for the 'volunteers', several of Querchard's advisors remained behind to enlighten them.
A scrawny, sagely fellow wearing a bedcap addressed them first. The ball of yarn attached to the limp, pointed top dangled about at his jawline, bouncing as he spoke. He explained that bands of giants had been making raids into the lowlands in alarming numbers this past summer and that they were leading bands of smaller humanoids in these raids. A priestly matron, prominently displaying a holy symbol of Atroa, the benevolent goddess of Spring, interjected that this was not at all normal behavior for such crude beasts. Certainly, she insisted, a powerful, intelligent master was behind their well-coordinated assaults upon the lowland populations. The two described how an army sent to confront the giants in their home had been ambushed on the approach up the mountain and the survivors were the ones that had fled rather than be buried beneath a rain of rocks, tree trunks, and other very hard debris hurled from the heights.
Instead of repeating that disaster, the Earl had decided that a small, more stealthy group of very capable individuals were to be sent on a mission to destroy the giants who were involved in these raids. His expectation was that these proven warriors assault the steading of the hill giant chief, Nosnra, and teach a lesson to all others that might think the people of Sterich easy pickings. The matter was not up for discussion, they insisted, as the group began to voice objections at being forced into this mission. They were informed that this was the price expected of them by the rightful lord of the land in consideration of the peace, entertainments, and other delights they had already, and hoped in the future to, enjoy within his demesne. Those refusing would be free to place their own heads upon the block or have it so placed, regardless of objection. The warriors followed the sage's eyes to the Captain of the Guard who stood at attention near the door and his dozen soldiers positioned around the hall and got the point. They did get the two advisors to agree not to tax any treasure they obtained from the giants during their mission, so their ire was mollified somewhat.
They spent the next day in preparation, then rose before dawn. They were met by one of the Earl's heralds who introduced them to a pair of dwarven guides. These scouts would lead them to the steading of the hill giant chief, the herald explained. The dwarves had been sent by their liege to discuss the trouble being caused by the giant raids with the Earl and had agreed to assist the party in this small matter before they returned home. That home, they claimed, was the stronghold of Koran Badaxe, Tumak Copperbeard's father. The dwarves promised to take word back to Tumak of his friends' current predicament.
Boon - human barbarian 8th;
Rickson - human paladin 8th;
Rock Hammerhand Boulderbeard - goliath fighter 8th;
Blump Butter - gnome cleric 8th;
Maximus Albusson - half-elf magus 8th.
The dwarven guides led the party up the mountain in a round-about journey to the giants' lair. They showed them a hidden cave large enough to house them and their pack animals comfortably, but having an entrance too small for giants to enter without crawling on their bellies. The guides pointed the heroes further up the mountain, promising they'd find the fortified steading of Chief Nosnra about a mile away atop a bald knob lower than the surrounding peaks. They then wished the party well and departed for home.
The group unpacked some fodder, hobbled the horses and mules, and made their way, carefully, further up into the heights of the Jotens. Boon and Maximus were the most stealthy of the group, being the only two not wearing metal armor, so they acted as the group's scouts. Upon reaching the edge of the forest at the foothill's summit, they spied the steading and heard, distantly, the noise of battle or celebration, coming from within. Waiting for the sun to recede until only a sliver was visible on the horizon at their backs, they planned their assault. It began with Maximus and Boon advancing stealthily to the edge of the steading while the others readied their weapons to cover their retreat.
The steading itself proved even more impressive than they had imagined. It was not some slip-shod shack, but a sturdily built fortress with few apparent points of access. The walls were built of trimmed tree trunks averaging three feet in diameter. The front doors were made of logs at least a foot thick and bound in well-crafted iron. The entry hall boasted a tower standing tall enough to offer a view in all directions - perhaps 50 feet in height! The entire expanse was roofed over and chimney stacks rose in at least a half-dozen places. The noise from within seemed more a combination of celebration and battle at this point, but careful listening provided no further hints at what might be on the other side of those enormous doors. So, while Boon headed around the steading to the right, Maximus circled left.
Boon passed a gate on the westward side of the steading that led to a courtyard and met the elven magus on the southern side where another gate apparently led to the same courtyard. Peeking through the ill-fitting logs of the gate revealed a courtyard holding over a dozen horse-sized wolves. Catching the adventurers' scent, those wolves gave a howl and jumped against the gate. Blump, upon his wardog, Rickson, and Rock began circling through the forest crowning the mount's summit to come close to the sound of the barking. Maximus and Boon, however, began stabbing the dire wolves through the timbers making up the gate. The wolves soon backed away from the sharp blades poking them and intensified their howling. Boon found a giant-sized rock embedded in the earth nearby and pulled it up with his great strength. Heaving it two-handed over the gate, it fell upon the head of one of the dire wolves, crushing its skull against the hard-packed earth.
Just then a rough, angry voice, speaking giantish, shouted from within the courtyard for the wolves to hush and asking what the fuss was about. Suddenly it broke off in silence, then emerged again as a gate-rattling cry of anger. Realizing they were soon to be set upon, the magus and barbarian high-tailed it away from the gate to the forest's protective cover. Unfortunately, they were not quick enough. As they ran across the 200 yards of open ground, the gates were thrown open and a pack of dire wolves followed by two hill giants raced after them. They had no chance to try to throw the wolves off their scent, so the two heroes called for their friends and turned to fight. Boon was the quicker of the two and had out-distanced the elf in their haste to be away from the wolves, so the wolves caught Maximus first, just at the forest's edge. Most of them, however, ran past him to attack the barbarian, while the two giants, having fallen behind the wolves, raced to catch up.
Boon and Maximus found themselves surrounded and battling for their lives. They desperately wanted to defeat the wolves before the giants entered battle for they desired to be able to put their focus completely on those adversaries when first encountering them. The wolves tore at their bodies from their flanking positions, but Boon returned the wounds with a viciousness matching their own and the magus gave them pause with the electricity that burned their flesh with the slash of his sword.
The giants arrived to the battle first, but the paladin, cleric, and fighter arrived shortly after to save the day. The dire wolves were dispatched and the giants were ganged up on and brought down. Boon and Maximus had suffered nearly lethal injuries from the clubbing given them, but Blump was able to bring them back to fighting strength through the healing power of Garl Glittergold. Taking stock of the situation, they realized that no others had emerged from the open gate, so decided now was the time to make their assault - before the giant community realized it was under attack.
Boon - 8th level human barbarian;
Rickson - 8th level human paladin;
Rock Hammerhand Boulderbeard - 8th level goliath fighter;
Blump Butter - 8th level gnome cleric;
Maximus Albusson - 8th level elven magus.
Once healed, the party advanced to the now-open gate. Peering within, they spied a set of giant-sized double doors across the courtyard leading into the steading proper and another set that led into a set of outbuildings. Immediately to their right, however, was a giant-sized single door that invited access to the steading without having to cross the open courtyard. Listening at this less-enormous portal revealed the flirtatious sounds of giggling and a more masculine voice boasting, in giantish, about the size of its club. They planned to lure the speaker out through the door and into an ambush, so Boon climbed the log wall and, hanging on with his right hand, hefted his greataxe with his left over the doorway to drop it on the head of any giant emerging beneath. The others stationed themselves in a semi-circle around the doorway to draw the expected giant out into the courtyard a few steps toward them. Blump then rapped upon the door and jumped back into his place in the line.
After only a few moments, the door opened and a giant with a confused, then surprised look upon his ugly face presented himself. Maximus immediately let loose with a lightning bolt that pierced the stunned giant's chest. It sent sparkles of electricity running along his arms and stood his hair on end. Rickson followed by throwing his holy blade at the beast and magically recalling it to his hand after it pierced the brute's shoulder. The warriors then braced themselves for the expected assault. Instead, the giant slammed the door shut in their faces.
This was an unexpected, and rather unfortunate, result from our heroes' point of view. Fortunately for them, the amorous giant turned to see his five female admirers staring at him expectantly and decided that turning and running in front of them was not an acceptable option. Instead, he grabbed the whip he normally used on the dire wolves from the wall and again faced the door.
Boon was about to climb down again when the door reopened. None of the adventurers were prepared to launch another surprise attack this time though as the giant struck with the whip. It wrapped around the gnome's leg and Blump was jerked off his feet. With a giant heave, the brute pulled Blump toward him and through the doorway. He then grabbed his club from where he had leaned it against the wall and raised it high to bring down upon the hapless demi-human. This brought the gnome's friends charging in after him.
Rock H. Boulderbeard was the first through the doorway. He charged in and slammed Whelm against the hill giant's left hip, throwing it off-balance. Rickson followed, slicing Auguste (his holy sword) across the beast's right thigh. Boon dropped from his perch and swung his greataxe into the brute's gut with a broad overhand chop. This assault was more than the giant was expecting and it lurched backward, dropping its grip on the whip and swinging its great club two-handed, defensively, before it.
Gasps and shrieks erupted from the giantesses over by the beds in this room, which apparently served as living quarters. Suddenly, the air was filled with flying pillows, candlesticks, chamber pots, mattresses, and broken pieces of furniture as the giantesses sought to assist their own hero. The flying debris proved mostly distracting, but somewhat painful, to our heroes as they pressed the attack against the male hill giant. Blump regained his feet and healed Rock, who had suffered a few powerful blows from his opponent while Maximus cast another lightning bolt over the heads of his fellows to blacken the eyebrows and ear-hair of the giant wolf-tamer.
As the giant took the worst of the battle, all of the females turned to flee northward where a set of double-doors exited the room. Maximus let loose with a fireball in their midst and three of the five fell to the floor in smoldering heaps. One was brought up short and held in place as she failed to overcome the magical compulsion placed upon her by the gnome cleric. The last, however, was able to barrel her way past the goliath and open the doors to make good her escape. She was not quite quick enough, however, as the magus made timely use of his magical wand and stole her breath with a cone of cold, skillfully catching the magically held giantess in the wand's blast as well. Running over to shut the door, Rock peered out into a long, wide hallway. He noticed what appeared to be several orcs traveling across it from one room to another, but shut the doors quickly, hoping to avoid being noticed by them.
The party debated allowing the steading to burn to the ground, but realized that it would be difficult to accomplish. The bedding was nearly ashes by now, but even the heat of the fireball had failed to ignite the damp wood of the giant furniture. Additionally, it would certainly not burn quickly enough to catch the giants inside and they really didn't want to destroy any possible treasure that might be there for the taking. So, they decided to let the fire burn itself out. They thought about piling the dead giant bodies against one of the doors, but didn't want to block their own possible escape route, so that plan was abandoned as well. Finally, they simply decided to advance down the hallway north and see what was to be discovered in that direction. The din of battle/celebration that had permeated the air so far seemed louder that way, so they thought to be very stealthy lest they bring the entire house down upon themselves.
At that point, their dwarven friend, Tumak, burst through the door, scizore and shield in hand, huffing and puffing for breath, but ready for battle. His gruff scowl relaxed into a look of mild annoyance when he saw his friends alive and improved further to one of apparent indifference upon taking in the smoking bodies of the giants in the room. He greeted his friends with a nod and explained that he had arrived at the castle of Earl Querchard later in the very day that they had departed. He'd ridden as fast as he could to catch up and was glad he hadn't arrived too late for the party.
Maximus volunteered to stand guard in that room to keep the party's retreat open. The others waited for the coast to be clear, then moved quickly down the hallway. The noise became much louder as they advanced until they came to a short jog in the 20' wide passage. A small door opened into a giant-sized pantry with a half-dozen unarmed orcs and a couple ogres hustling within. Another door of equal proportions stood across from it in the hallway. Further down, a pair of enormous double doors opened in that same wall and the torchlit hallway narrowed to 10' across, continuing some distance to another door. The group believed that walking into the room with all the noise would be disadvantageous, so Rock volunteered to bash a hole in the wall to gain surprise. The rest of them either thought that was a good idea or kept their opinion to themselves.
Rock had to try a second time as the two foot thick logs used to make the walls proved stronger than he had expected. Thus, the moment of surprise was lost as they tore through the hole he'd made and jumped in to attack whatever was on the other side. Fortunately for the heroes, all they'd broken into was an ogre barracks and the five ogres relaxing within were sitting on the floor playing knucklebones. As they tried to raise their bulk from the floor and heft their clubs, the party charged in and cut them down in short order. As they gathered what small treasure they discovered within the ogre's barracks, Blump commented that it would have been simpler to have just used the door not 20 feet from the hole they'd made. At that moment, Tumak noticed a startled orc standing slack-jawed in the hallway outside that hole in the wall, staring at them. The orc then dropped the platter of food in its hands and ran back through the door to the pantry. Tumak shouted a warning and gave chase.
The rest of the party followed on his heels and they burst into the pantry after the fleeing orc. Tumak ran down the fleeing orc as he skidded, screaming for help around another corner. The others cut down stunned orcs and ogres in the pantry, then continued around the corner after Tumak into the kitchen. There, they found the doughty dwarf surrounded by overly-large female hill giants screaming and swatting at him with enormous skillets, rolling pins, and soup ladles. Occasionally disappearing within, or beneath, the dresses of his attackers, Tumak dodged, dipped, ducked, dove, and dodged as only a dwarf (or gnome) can against the giantess' attacks. Staying alive seemed to require all his focus, until his companions were able to distract some of his opponents. The heroes then proceeded to beat the giantesses at their own game and dropped them one buy one, all while taking an occasional backswing against an orc or ogre trying to flank them.
One orc, however, was apparently too afraid to enter the battle and turned to flee north around another corner when the last giantess fell into a bloody heap on the floor. Rock was the first to give chase. He followed the orc out an opening into the 20' wide hallway and through the double doors. Slamming the swinging doors open with his shoulder as they shut behind the orc, Rock rushed into an enormous festhall and ran, hammer first, into the orc, who had stopped and was screaming for help at the top of its lungs. The goliath's swing sent the orc's body flying through the air to crash, dead, upon the nearest giant table, splattering food all over a half-dozen hideously ugly hill giants. The party going on within the festhall suddenly became deathly silent as all heads (giant-sized) turned to fix their eyes upon the intruder.
As Boon, Rickson, Tumak, and Blump raced up behind their half-giant friend, the hall erupted into focused chaos. Hill giants jumped from every table, grabbed their clubs, and rushed the interlopers. Preceding this charge was a barrage of mugs, chairs, shield-platters, roasted deer carcasses, and burning timbers from the fire-pit. Batting away the poorly-aimed missiles, the heroes stood their ground before the onslaught. Giants ran right into the heroes' weapons as they swung their clubs down at the pint-sized heads of the flies invading their home. Blows too powerful for a man to survive were side-stepped or had their force deflected into the floor while those attacks were returned in the form of shattered kneecaps, severed Achilles tendons, slashed femoral arteries, or hands removed at the wrist.
The giants fell back after their initial assault met with such fierce resistance and attempted to throw entire tables at the party. From the back of the room a giantish voice rose above the din, exhorting the brutes to act bravely before their chief and Grolantor, who watches from the mountain peaks. Another rumbling voice roared a battle cry from behind the line of giants and a deafening roar answered it. The line then surged forward again as a giant standing head and shoulders above the others led the charge. Tumak met this brute hammer to club as the two were surrounded by a swirling melee.
Into this chaos waded another giant dressed in flowing robes that did nothing to hinder his movement. Electricity danced from his left hand to the over-sized flail swinging loosely from his right. Aldr, as this cloud giant was known, was here with a message for Chief Nosnra. Aldr had already given Nosnra his orders, but intended to stay and keep a close eye on the dim-witted brute to be sure those orders were followed satisfactorily. He couldn't very well sit back and allow the canon fodder to be cut down by this group of puny do-gooders. He also needed to make sure all the hill giants learned to fear Aldr's wrath to guarantee that they obeyed him. His own masters would be very disappointed in him if he failed. And, the consequences of that failure would be worse than death. So, the cloud giant magus stepped forward into battle with a spell on his lips and the spiked ball at the end of his flail spinning in his hand.
As Blump fired bolts of searing light over his friends' heads and healed them of the most grievous of the wounds they suffered, those friends held their ground against the waves of hill giants that assaulted them. Tumak defeated the barbarian subchief that had challenged him and found the bigger Aldr stepping up to take his place. Realizing he was again surrounded, this time by much more powerful giants, the dwarf decided that discretion was the better part of valor and raced back through the legs of those giants battling his friends while calling for a fighting retreat. His companions, however, weren't ready to abandon a winning fight.
As he cut the legs from the giant before him, Rock found himself facing the cloud giant. Aldr and the goliath engaged enthusiastically, wounding each other viciously, neither giving ground. Rather than being impressed with his opponent's skill and perseverance, Aldr became more and more frustrated at his inability to win the fight quickly. He had also run out of spells. So, he gambled it all in one giant swing of his flail, winding up for a blow that would send the giant wannabe through the wall behind him. Unfortunately for him, Rock was canny enough to see the intent behind the preparation and dove to the ground as the swing sailed above him. It connected with a wooden pillar five feet in diameter supporting the festhall's ceiling rising as much as forty feet to the smokehole in its peak. The pillar shattered, showering nearby hill giants with arm-sized splinters, but remained hanging in place. Tumak used that opportunity to make a running charge, launching himself off the goliath's back and stabbing his scizore into the cloud giant's undefended gut. The dwarf didn't use his feet to pull his blade out, but allowed his weight to pull him downward, the blade opening the giant's belly from navel to groin as the dwarf dropped to the floor. Doubling over in pain, Aldr's jaw met Whelm as Rock swung an uppercut that crushed the bottom half of his head.
That is what comes to mind when i read the campaign journals of ragnar, wolfing, and SirXarius. Not them either... Me! I have very limited time to even read these journals but wow such detail and variety. The pictures ragnar uses is inconceivable.
I would love the opportunity to play in one of your campaigns instead of fumbling around on my own version of the game. Alas it is not to be. I hope your players appreciate you guys.
But, it comes with experience. If you ask my friends that suffered through my early days of DMing, they'd tell you that I made all the classic mistakes that most every DM makes. I'm just aware of them now and work hard to minimize such faults when I run a game now.
Keep running your own games and you and your players will improve your story-telling skills in-game.
As Aldr's giant form crashed to the floor, an open space, void of any other giant appeared before Rock and Tumak. Though giant-sized tables and chairs interposed themselves, standing upon a higher table against the left-hand wall towered a hill giant that almost made the cloud giant look small. Eyeing the victorious duo down the length of a ballista-sized crossbow, the obvious chief of the hill giants took careful aim, hoched a lugey that slowly slid down the sizzling side of the spitted ox now beginning to burn over the fire pit, and pulled the trigger.
The dwarf dropped to the floor as the goliath dove against the wall and the huge bolt split the air between them. Blump was nearly startled enough to lose the small bit of concentration he'd necessarily devoted to maintaining the invisibility spell he'd recently cast upon himself as the bolt embedded itself in the doorjamb above his head. Chief Nosnra, kicked a chain loose from its mooring spike in the table, releasing a ferocious dire bear. Roaring a second time, it bounded over an intervening table and barreled into Tumak. Teeth and claws the size of daggers tore against the dwarf's armor and shield as he fought back with the magically-sharp blade at the end of his gauntleted arm. Dropping the ballista, Nosnra leapt from his table to the next one, then to the ground, barreling over the goliath as he moved to intercept. Nosnra continued his charge until he was in the middle of the band of heroes. Once there, he swung his huge club in a low circle slamming Boon and Rickson in the ribs as they turned to face the threat at their backs and smacking Tumak and Rock with his backswing.
Rock was just rising to his feet when he was sent stumbling forward by a slam to the back. He was brought up short when he ran into a plump, but hard, leathery body that grabbed him then swatted him aside. The chief's wife then attempted to savage the poor half-giant with her club. Boon and Rickson found themselves surrounded and decided that the largest threat was the chief. He was also the only giant that had penetrated their defensive line, so they focused their attacks on him. He was not an easy nut to crack, however, and the giants at their backs were causing them much worry. Blump decided that it was necessary to take more offensive action in order to defeat Nosnra so, invisibly, he moved to attack the chief from behind. Waiting for the perfect opportunity, he slashed his axe across the back of Nosnra's knee. Bellowing in pain and surprise, the chief of the hill giants fell backward against the wall on the other side of the hallway. Boon and Rickson immediately fell upon him with a gusto and put an end to his depredations against the people of the lowlands. The other hill giants weren't finished with them, however. A group of about six had made their way around through another part of the steading and now emerged into the kitchen from a back way. They charged the barbarian, paladin, and cleric who now found themselves again surrounded by a large force of giants.
As Rock battled the enraged giantess, Tumak defeated the chief's pet and got a first look at the giant who's voice was still encouraging the hill giants to feats of glory in the name of Grolantor, their god. He wove visions of the ascension of Kostchtchie into his oration, causing his audience to envision its own glorious rise to divinity. This rumbling voice then stopped and the giant's gaze fixed upon the dwarf. Raising a shining spear above his head, the giant (who appeared to be made of stone) hurled the spear at Tumak. The dwarf reacted just quickly enough to avoid receiving it in his chest. Instead, the long blade of the spear drew a deep gash across his armor, knocking him back into the chief's wife, who stumbled and fell on top of Rock. The spear magically returned to the bardic giant's hand and he threw it twice more in rapid succession at the prone dwarf.
The barbarian, paladin, and cleric braced themselves for the onslaught and, back to back, they cut down their assailants. Rock had managed to extract himself from beneath the blubbery behemoth who found her legs entangled in the dwarf's backpack and shield. He dashed her head with several overhead, two-handed strikes of Whelm and moved to help his embattled comrades. Tumak rose and charged the spear-chucking giant, but two more impressively-armored specimens of the same type interposed themselves between him and his target. Undaunted, Tumak ignored the apparent female of the pair and launched himself at the male. He took a tooth-rattling, two-handed blow from the giant's dire flail upon his shield and aimed the blade of his scizor at the giant's gut, where its armored kilt met the bottom of its breastplate. Shock and surprise registered upon the dwarf's face, however, as his weapon clanged hard against the giant's protective covering. Fortunately for Tumak, the giant bard spoke and his guards backed slowly away from the dwarf toward an exit down an unexplored section of the festhall.
The other four heroes had managed to gain the upper hand against their foes and dropped them one by one. Never-the-less, Tumak decided that his friends needed his help, so he returned to that part of the fray. The three stone giants continued to withdraw as the warriors finished off the last of their hill giant opponents. As the double doors closed behind them, the bard's melodic rumble could be heard rousting what must have been sleeping members of the steading's clan. The heroes turned their attention in that direction and moved to follow. Before they reached the doors, however, they were thrown open and five more hill giants burst into the festhall and attempted to lay into the puny vermin infesting it. Unfortunately for the giants, five on five was not favorable odds for them. Quickly surrounding and out-fighting their five latest giant foes, the warriors carefully moved through the double doors into an entry hall where they saw the front doors standing ajar.
At Tumak's suggestion, the party decided not to pursue the well-armored stone giants and set to looting the steading's upper works instead.
Well, the band of warriors had a good old time looting the upper works of the hill giants' steading, finding some interesting treasures hidden in odd places - an intelligent, giant-hating sword, an ancient, magical shield, and a scroll filled with instructions to Nosnra on future raids. This latter item was inscribed with an enigmatic 'Y' within a circle and was signed by one 'Eclavdra'. They also discovered another set of stairs leading deep within the hill.
These, they followed until they arrived at a short tunnel that led them to a rather large room carved from the bedrock. At the limit of the demi-humans' darkvision, small coffers appeared to sit against the far wall, one of them having spilled its contents upon the floor. As the party advanced into the room, the light from their magical weapons reflected off the gemstones decorating the various coffers and those emerging from the inside of the open one. Also in view now was an iron portcullis covering a 20 foot wide opening in the wall to their left. Blump advanced to the treasure and, suspecting a trap, stirred the pile of gems with his axe. After a guarded moment, they heard a loud clank followed by a metallic slam. Turning to view the hall from which they had emerged, they discovered that a smaller version of the portcullis had dropped from the ceiling to block their escape. More metallic clanking heralded the raising of the larger portcullis. Raising weapons and shields, Blump cast a light orison behind the lifting portcullis.
The sudden brightness surprised the hungry manticores previously trapped within, preventing the warriors from suffering a surprise round of attacks. Instead, the warriors charged into a hail of tail spikes from the four(!) huge, magical beasts. The manticores met the warriors' blades with tooth and claw, but were unsuccessful at assuaging their immense hunger as the heroes recalled their previous experience against such creatures within the lair of the evil wizard, Keraptis. Beyond the manticores' lair, the heroes discovered the chief's treasure room, which treasures proved disappointingly low in value. But, what could they expect from such uncouth creatures as hill giants?
Retracing their steps to the staircase to the chief's war room required that they bash their way through the iron bars of the portcullis, but gave Tumak the chance to notice a secret door carved into the corner of the hallway that he had failed to note on the way in. A wave of cool air washed over the dwarf as the opened door revealed a small room. On its floor sat several large chests and a broken barrel. To the right, around a sight-blocking corner, a lumpy wall appeared to be covered with dirt.
Eager to get at any possible treasure, Tumak stepped into the room and promptly disappeared beneath the floor as a trap door opened beneath his feet, then shut above him. Blump snorted at the dwarf's foolishness, then waited to see if anyone else would move to assist the unfortunate adventurer. Rickson did, but wasn't sure how to open the trap door again without falling into the pit himself. Tumak's muffled cries of alarm rose to his companions at a more fevered pitch when he realized that the hard floor he'd landed on writhed with worms that were burrowing into his flesh! Rickson coaxed a grappled rope from the amused gnome and tied it around his waste. As the others held on tightly, Rickson stepped upon the trap door and was slowly lowered into the pit to within reach of the panicking dwarf.
Tumak had successfully scraped most of the worms off of his body, but he could feel one burrowing its way up his leg toward his groin. Stamping to prevent any more from attaching themselves to his feet, he grabbed frantically at Rickson's legs as soon as the paladin was within reach. When the two heavily-armored warriors were hauled back up, Tumak tore the armor off his chest and desperately stabbed his dagger into his own ribcage in an attempt to stop the worm's advance to his heart. Writhing in pain, Tumak had to be held down by his friends while Rickson tossed the dagger aside and shoved his hand into the hole. Feeling around, he caught the worm as it tried to slither past and pulled it, flailing in his fist, from the bloody, gaping wound below the dwarf's chest. Nodding happily, Blump stepped up to mend the broken ribs and close the bleeding hole, pleased at having the privilege of witnessing his friend suffer the consequences of his greed.
The group (Tumak, especially!), realized how close to death the dwarf had come, so they were very careful to circumvent the pit as they advanced into the room. Unfortunately, the coldness suddenly increased dramatically and caused noses and ears to suffer immediate frostbite. Quickly retreating, they deduced that the unnatural cold was emanating from the moldy growth covering the mostly unseen wall around the corner. Maximus volunteered to fireball it, reasoning that anything using cold as an attack mode would be susceptible to fire, but Tumak begged him not to risk destroying what was stored within the unopened chests. Instead, he moved quickly past the pit to stand bravely before the lumpy, moldy wall. Enduring the extreme coldness, his numb lips and fingers managed to summon forth the flame of a burning hands spell directly upon its surface. The unexpected result was a sudden expansion of the mold upon the ceiling, floor, and adjacent walls of the room. Simultaneously it seemed, all the warmth was sucked from his body and he collapsed upon the floor next to the advancing mold.
Rickson jumped the pit and dragged his friend back out of the room where the cleric was able to revive him with healing magics. Unsure of how to defeat such a foe, the group resorted to casting protective magics upon the barbarian and sending him in to grab as much treasure as possible - making several trips before being too cold to continue. Eventually, they recovered a surprising amount of monetary treasure, two magical blades, a magical spear, a magical bow, and a black chain with an accompanying scroll whose script described how to use it to magically transport a large group of individuals to the vicinity of a glacial rift, home of one Jarl Grugnir and his clan of frost giants. This possibility they decided to consider more carefully at a future time.
Now, they retraced their steps to the upper works of the steading and made their way through the rooms to the staircase they had previously discovered leading down from the kitchen/pantry.
The doughty band of warriors snuck down the stairs to the large, excavated chamber they had spied through the holes in the wall of the secret passage from the manticore lair. The giants had thrown up a lengthy barricade of tables, chairs, stools, benches, barrels, buckets, and other miscellaneous debris in an arc that blocked the adventurers' access to all exits from the room except via the one they were about to emerge from. The room was lit by a few torches giving off oily smoke around the chamber. To their right, they spied a large, 20-foot wide passage exiting to the north. (Note that in my campaign, the cardinal directions are reversed because of the positioning of the steading as indicated in an earlier post above.) To the south and west, two smaller passages disappeared into darkness and a giant-sized door stood shut between them. Directly across from the invaders, in the far northwest corner of the room, the only thing that could be made out above the top of the barricade was a group of about six hill giants sitting at a table betting on the outcome of an arm-wrestling contest.
Filling the rest of the area behind the barricade was a sea of orcs being bullied by a few dozen bugbears and ogres. Wading through these smaller humanoids were another dozen or so hill giants. All were armed to the teeth, though the orcs did not appear to be wearing any armor. It was obvious that the heroes were expected and were not welcome. Thus, they made their plans and charged the line.
Blump called upon the divine might of his gnomish patron and buffed himself and his companions with spells of strength and protection for the battle. Maximus led the way with a fireball centered on the arm-wrestling table. Rickson, Boon, and Tumak followed it into the fray, running through the debris of the section of barricade that had been blasted into ash and right over the bodies of the lesser humanoids that had been destroyed outright by it, to get to the hill giants that had survived and were rising from their seats to meet them.
While Blump turned himself invisible and maneuvered left, Maximus peppered the giants with lightning bolts, Melf's acid arrows, and other spells from near the base of the stairs. The three who had charged into the fray soon found themselves surrounded not only by hill giants, but also by ogres, bugbears, and orcs. These lesser humanoids wouldn't, normally have presented much of a threat, but they caused the three to split their defensive attention, which gave their giant opponents an advantage. Ignoring the smaller antagonists soon proved more dangerous than they first imagined, so they changed tactics. Maximus began making use of area effect spells, like burning hands and fireball to thin the ranks of the giant's support while the warriors beat a hasty retreat through the area cleared of opponents by such spells. Blump froze a hill giant in place before it could bring the hammer down on the retreating warriors and they all backed up to the base of the staircase to make a stand against the force arrayed before them.
As the giants and their lesser kin surged forward after them, the large door to the southwest opened and the ugliest hill giant they'd yet seen emerged. It was followed by two howling giant apes! This beast and his pets charged and the others made way for it to pass. As it, and its apes, ran straight for the adventurers, giant axe raised high, Tumak stepped into its path to meet it head-on.
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