Giantslayers

Episode 44: Hitting the Frost Giants Where It Hurts
It’s Snow Joke!

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PART I

Once again our heroes climbed the cold, steep high peaks of the southern Mindspin Mountains, where they established a new campsite on the outskirts of Skirgaard. (They wanted to keep the frost giants guessing as to their exact whereabouts). Later that same evening, the Druid Gydion, in Air Elemental form, dropped the hag’s head (see Episode 43!) into the middle of the frost giant village! The hag’s head was etched with the holy symbol of Thremyr (the frost giant god, to give the impression that Thremyr was upset with the frost giants. Gydion’s presence was detected by a patrol of two frost drakes, but he easily evaded them by flying into the cloud layer above.

The next day, Gydion once again took to the sky—this time, in hawk form—to spy on the frost giants’ tavern and nearby guard tower. Listening in, he was pleased to overhear the giants talking about how Thremyr must be very upset with the frost giants’ chief, Skirkatla, to have so viciously decapitated her loyal hag servant! (The Giantslayers’ plan was working!). The Druid also took note on how the village’s wooly mammoth pen was manned. Then, he flew over the armory/forge area in the middle of the village. He was surprised to see what appeared to be two remorhaz’s buried beneath a frozen pond—its burning body acting as the heat source for the frost giants’ forge. The entire forging operation was overseen by one frost giant, and one fire giant. Finally, he flew over a part of the village he hadn’t spied on before, and discovered a pen where scores of additional human prisoners were locked away—these were clearly the friends and relatives that some of the prisoners they’d liberated along the River Usk [episode 43!] had told them about.

Meanwhile, Silaqui and Asa were intent on doing mischief to the statue of Thremyr on the other side of Skirgaard. Specifically, they were aiming to damage the statue in hopes that the giants would see it as a retributory act by Urgathoa, the goddess of gluttony and disease (and the undead!) who had replaced Thremyr in much of the village (and in the heart of their chief). Asa waited on the cliffs above while Silaqui, using her magic Slippers of Spider Climb , scurried down to the shimmering, icy statue. The elf ranger let loose with a sorcerous Firey Blast, and then a flaming arrow, but the ice statue remained intact. Finally, she shot an Elemental Arrow of fire at it, which melted its arm so badly that it fell off, together with the icy axe it was holding! Luckily, she’d been careful to place the statue directly between her and the statue’s guards, so she downed a potion of Invisibility and escaped up the cliff before they could see her.

At the stroke of midnight that night, the party (buffed by wands and potions) sent Turin and Gydion to Fireball a guard tower on the opposite side of the village from the tavern, as a distraction. The pair then Teleported to rejoin the others on a cliff-face below the tavern. Their next order of business was to take out the guard tower next to the tavern. Backed up by Asa, Silaqui silently assassinated the frost giant sleeping in the tent at the base of the tower, while Draken and the others climbed to the top of the tower and took out the frost giant stationed there. The frost giant tavern was now unguarded and ripe for plunder!

Before the Giantslayers could make their move, however, a hill giant waitress exited the building to empty a waste bucket. Her back turned, Draken cast a Silence spell, which provided Turin an opportunity to launch a Fireball into the bar without her noticing.

Silaqui boldly entered the bar and attracted the attention of the 18-foot tall four-armed bartender, who threw a keg of beer at her! Asa, close on her heels, entered and shouted “This house of ill repute is finished!” Hearing that, the three remaining patrons (already steamed from Turin’s Fireball) immediately set upon the little halfling.

Before the barfight was over, Asa killed one of his giant opponents, while Draken and Kingsley finished off the two other customers. Silaqui, thanks to some well-placed arrows, slew the gargantuan bartender. Gydion played a mostly supportive role, avoiding personal injury at all cost.

The next day (= day 8 since the their arrival in Skirgaard) the Giantslayers practiced the three R’s: Resting, Recuperating and Reconnaissance. With regards to the latter, Gydion (in bird-form) watched as a frost giant jarl addressed his troops angrily (unfortunately he couldn’t understand what was being said because the giants had switched to communicating solely in the Giant tongue for security purposes). The Druid also flew into the wooly mammoth pen, where he cast Speak With Animals and struck up a conversation. He learned that although the mammoths distrusted the frost giants, they liked the giant-centaur creatures, and felt generally well-cared-for. Gydion returned to camp and, after relaying this information, the party decided to liberate the wooly mammoths that very night, and take out the nearby grainery at the same time.

At around 10PM that night, our heroes (again buffed by Turin’s wands and potions) rounded the top of the cliff adjacent to the guard tower overlooking the grainery. All of a sudden, a cry of warning rang out, and a flare lit up the patch of snow around the tower. Turin immediately Fireballed the guard tower but it was too late—the guards had spotted them, and alerted the rest of the village!

Asa checked out the tent at the base of the tower, but it was empty; he set it afire with his Flaming Burst sword. Then, using a Fly potion, Draken alighted on top of the tower, where he met two frost giant guards. He swung Agrimmosh, scoring a critical hit; after a few more rounds, the dwarf was victorious. Meanwhile, Silaqui had climbed the tower and took out the second guard.

But their troubles were just beginning! To the north, Gydion (in owl form) was alarmed to see the constantly burning wicker statue in front of Skirkatla’s tomb had left its station and was actually running towards them! In addition, to the east, Silaqui (from her new perch atop the grainery) spotted four ice trolls rushing to investigate.

Turin (now airborn care of an Overland Flight spell) swiftly Fireballed the trolls, doing serious damage. Silaqui, Draken and Kingsley readied themselves for battle against the trolls. Next, Turin buffed the party with a Haste spell. Asa, thinking better of the situation, shouted “We’ve been spotted! Retreat!” and ran towards the edge of the cliff, trying to get the others to follow.

Gydion—now on the other side of the grainery—tried to warn the others of the burning wickerman’s rapid approach, but it was too late. The statue was nearly upon him! The Druid-Owl flew circles around the evil golem, using his Natural Spell feat to sing an incantation of Quench to douse its supernatural incandescence. The golem, however, just shrugged it off. Next, Gydion conjured a Sleet Storm around the statue, freezing the ground and obscuring its vision in a bid to slow it down. It ignored this as well, however, and lurched forward past him, right into Asa’s path! It snatched up the little paladin with one hand and shoved him into a cage built into its chest. Inside the cage, Asa screamed as razor-sharp, burning gears and blades emerged and sliced into him.

Meanwhile, Turin attempted to halt the advance of the ice trolls by evoking Black Tentacles, but each troll made its saving throw. So, Gydion and Kingsley kept the trolls busy while Draken and Silaqui attacked the statue. Turin swooped in and fired a Lightning Bolt at the statue; it had no effect on it, but Asa was fried in the process!

Although Asa was healing himself with his Lay on Hands ability every chance he could, his hit points were dangerous low. Turin, seeing his friend’s mortal peril, knew he had to act fast. The wizard becamse Invisible and bravely stuck his hand into the cage. Although his arm was wounded in the process, Turin was able to pull Asa from the statue’s body, freeing him! The two then Dimension Door‘d to the top of the now-vacated guard tower, where Asa healed them both.

After a few more rounds, Draken and Silaqui finally brought down the wickerman, with Silaqui delivering the final, killing blow (arrow). They were then free to help Gydion and Kingsley against the trolls. With deadly aim, Silaqui killed one who was wielding a bow from the far side of the Tentacles. Draken killed one. Even Asa ran down the stairs and killed one.

The Giantslayers didn’t have much time to catch their breath, however, three frost giants appeared and attacked. Gydion cast Flame Strike on them. Then, Kingsley and Asa rushed to the front, with help from Draken and Silaqui. After several rounds, the elf ranger/sorceress killed the first of the three giants. The second of the three was killed by Kingsley and Gydion, who invoked Call Lightning. Turin dealt with the last one by Charming him. The clever wizard whispered in the enchanted giant’s ear: “The stores in the grainery are poisoned! You should destroy them!” The giant immediately went and tore open the (locked) grainery doors. With the party’s help, the charmed giant neutralized the occupants (another ice troll, and a dire bear) and started to smash the grain stores. Silaqui set fire to the silo with a Flame Blast, and everyone ran out. Unfortunately, the Charmed giant escaped into the night—and Turin worried that he might give up valuable information about them to Skirkatla.

The Giantslayers, via various magicks, took to the air to escape. Soon after lift-off, however, they found themselves accosted by the accursed frost drakes that guarded Skirgaard’s perimeter! Turin reacted first with a Lightning Bolt spell, wounding one of them. It was the drakes’ turn next. Two of them shot explosions of freezing mist, which caught most of our heroes in their icy grip. The other two attempted fly-by bites, but missed.

Draken pulled out the Drakesbane Horn and sounded it confidently, hoping to drive off the winged, dragon-like beasts. But instead, the three that didn’t make their saving throw started flying at him, attempting to grab the magic horn out of his hand! They weren’t afraid of it—rather, they seemed preternaturally fascinated with it. One of them actually succeeded, and flew off with the horn, with the two others in hot pursuit. The fourth drake fired another freezing burst at the party defiantly.

Draken flew at the group of three drakes and swooped in, grabbing the Horn back while the others trained missile fire upon it. Gydion attempted to Call Lightning upon the drakes, but to no avail—apparently, they were immune to electricity. In the end, Gydion’s Air Walking lion companion, Kingsley (with Asa upon his back) killed two of the frost drakes; Turin killed another with a well-placed Lightning Bolt; and Silaqui disposed of the fourth with her arrows.

After their harrowing battle in the sky, the party quickly retreated to their hidden campsite, a mile from the village. Over the next week, the Giantslayers continued to spy on the frost giants, and were pleased to see that their guerrilla tactics had paid off: the giants were beginning to disband! Specifically, all of the non-frost giants (including trolls) began to leave Skirgaard.

END OF PART I

PART II

Over the next six days, as the citizenry of the village began to diminish, Gydion made contact with the giants’ remaining human prisoners, relaying a much-needed message of hope: a rescue attempt was being organized. Turin began Teleporting dwarves and supplies (in Giant Bags of Holding) from Minderhal’s Valley into the party’s campsite. By the end of one week [= day 14 since their first arrival in Skirgaard; approximately February 19], the population of the village was reduced 80%, with only frost giants remaining. That night, the party decided to launch another attack, distracting the frost giants so that the dwarves could rescue the prisoners.

First, the party took out the two guards in front of the icy statue of Thremyr, and the watchtower nearby. Then, Gydion once again infiltrated the prisoner’s pen and told them that their liberation would take place that very night, and that they should be ready!

Next, the Giantslayers took the Longhouse—the grandest building in Skirgaard and, apparently, the seat of government. They gained access thanks to a Knock spell from the wizard, Turin. After defeating two heavily armed guards, they cornered Skirkatla’s most decorated general in his private quarters. After a prolonged battle, Silaqui dealt the great, blue-skinned, Viking-like general the final, killing blow with three deadly arrows. A search of his quarters turned up a secret compartment underneath his throne—guarded by a pit-trap that Silaqui triggered, causing her to fall 50 feet onto sharp spikes! The compartment contained 6,000 gp, and various magic items (see below).

The party locked themselves in, and spent the night in the Longhouse. During the night, the dwarves led the human prisoners to the lower peaks of the Mindspins, and along the River Usk to relative safety.

The next evening, the party decided to hit the temple of Urgathoa, located near Skirkatla’s tomb. It was a bold move on the Giantslayers’ part, but it was time! There were two doors into the temple, which appeared to be built from the living rock around it. Draken determined the structure to actually be an ancient temple of Thremyr which had been converted to a temple of Urgathoa. The doors were unlocked, so the party walked in, noting an elaborate tile floor forming a shocking mosaic of an immense black fly with the symbol of a skull on its back. Asa told them that this was the holy symbol of Urgathoa. The walls here were draped in dark red velvet—another sign that sinister religious rituals took place here—and a portrait of a beautiful woman bearing a scythe hung on the far wall.

And underneath the painting stood the temple’s high priestess, an eerily beautiful woman whose right arm had been tranformed into a flesh-covered scythe, and whose left arm brandished a powerful-looking sceptre! The Giantslayers instantly went on the offensive, only to find their path blocked by a magical Wall of Force. It was then that they noticed another figure—a man in robes, who began chanting an incantation! Asa, Kingsley and Draken felt their way around the Wall. The paladin and the lion engaged the cleric, while Draken barreled past her and attacked the magic-using man in robes. Gydion felt his way around the Wall last, Calling Lightning as he approached.

Two giant mummies appeared through a door and starting coming towards them, but Turin cast his own Wall of Force—followed by a Wall of Ice—and stopped them in their tracks. His sister Silaqui, meanwhile, provided cover for them as they brought up the rear, into the dark corner where the Urgathoan cleric and magic-user were entrenched.

Just as the two elves approached, Asa swung Scorch, landing a killing blow against the dark, otherworldly priestess. Suddently, there was an explosion of blinding light, followed by absolute darkness, black as pitch. Then, the area occupied by the priestess became a swirling, greenish-grey vortex—an alien portal—into which Asa, Kingsley, Draken, and the evil magic-user were inexorably drawn. And the next round, to their great dismay, Gydion, Silaqui and Turin were sucked in as well!!

Treasure:
100 gp (recovered from the bodies of the Longhouse frost giants in Pt II)

And from the general’s private quarters:

6,000 gp
1 magic, giant-sized +1 breastplate made of mithral
1 +6 belt of Giant Strength
1 giant-sized Everburning Torch
2 potions of Cure Moderate Wounds
1 potion of Neutralize Poison
1 divine scroll containing the following spell: Protection from Energy
1 arcane scroll containing: Detect Magic, Shocking Grasp, Blindness/Deafness, Heroism, and Minor Missile Storm.
1 wand of Slow (10th level), 18 charges

Next: Doomed in a Demiplane of Urgathoa

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Episode 43: Foiling the Frost Giants' Foragers
20 Slaves Freed!

Asa had a rough time on his journey from Trunau. He suffered a terrific nightmare just before he embarked. He was also set upon by winter wolves, and during the fray, his riding dog (borrowed from a friend back home) was killed. Cold, tired, and irritated, he wasn’t at all happy to see an adult red dragon in the middle of his friends’ camp! It was now dawn, and the halfling couldn’t believe his eyes.

The dragon was munching an ice troll. It greeted him and the two exchanged cautious words. “Oh, they’ve made an alliance with you, have they?” he concluded, and the dragon nodded. Just then, the other Giantslayers appeared, and introductions were made. " Naximarra " muttered the paladin, uneasy with this indirect alliance he had entered into. “So begins my fall from grace!” he added, under his breath.

The dragon told the others that she had eaten the ice troll that they’d carelessly let “get away”. Silaqui and her brother Turin quickly filled Asa in on the political (and religious) situation in Skirgaard, and the trouble they’d caused the night before. The dragon said a quick goodbye, and then the party discussed what to do next. Silaqui and Asa, two of the more stealthy of the group, went to do reconnaissance of the wooly mammoth pen and the grainery, while Gydion (in hawk form) surveyed the tent-village nearby. For her part, Silaqui noted that the pen was run by giant-centaurs of the kind they’d seen the day before, while Gydion saw that the giants seemed segregated: the frost giants kept to themselves within the village. All of them (Asa, Gydion and Silaqui) overheard the giants talking about vandalism and destruction wreaked on the village the night before—but the perpetrators remained a mystery.

In addition, Gydion also learned that the frost giants were sending out a foraging party sometime soon. The others were very interested to learn this. After some discussion, the group decided to follow the foraging party and, once out of range of Skirgaard, assault them.

Gydion (again, in hawk-form) watched the main road until he spotted what looked like a likely foraging party: a hag-like woman; a bunch of trolls riding wooly rhinoceri; some ice trolls; some winter wolves; and a host of human slaves. “No giants?” thought the Druid as he returned to fetch his friends. They followed the odd assortment of monsters down, down, down, until finally, at the end of the day, they reached the shore of the Usk River. They had traveled 16 miles! Although the bottomlands around the river were very icy, it wasn’t nearly as cold as it had been in the high peaks above. There were a number of wooden buildings—clearly this was a camp frequently used by the giants and their minions.

Night was falling quickly. The party formulated a plan: Turin would distract the guards (mainly wolves and ice trolls) with a Fireball on one side of the camp, while the others gathered around the hag’s building (she was clearly the leader of the group). As soon as the elven wizard’s Fireball burst, the hag came out to see what was going on. She was immediately set upon by Asa, and battle commenced!

The hag immediately threw down a magic gem and POOF! a huge lightning elemental appeared. The mighty dwarf Draken ran up to it and smacked it with Agrimmosh. Meanwhile, the hag traded blows with Asa, all the while with wolves nipping at his back. Silaqui moved around the battlefield, picking off foes with her deadly arrows as they came within range.

Gydion, flying above in owl-form, noticed that Turin’s Fireball had ignited a wooden pen, inside which the human slaves were kept. He immediately flew over and doused the flames with a Quench spell which he had wisely prepared for just such an occasion. Meanwhile, his lion companion Kingsley had attracted the attention of multiple trolls and wolves—which is exactly as they party had planned. The lion had been ingeniously fortified by a Stoneskin spell and thus ignored most of the damage being done to him. Slowly, the lion, aided by Gydion (and sometimes Silaqui), overcame his attackers.

The tide really turned when Turin (after one failed attempt) successfully Charmed the hag’s lightning elemental. This freed Draken to redirect his attention to the hag herself, killing her with one well-timed bash of his hammer. Two wolves remained, and they scattered into the surrounding forest. Reluctant to leave any survivors, Turin sent the lightning elemental to dispatch one, while Gydion and Kingsley took down the second. Asa, meanwhile, cut off the hag’s head. The party’s intention was to drop the head in the middle of Skirgaard, with a message indicating that the giants had angered their traditional god by shifting their worship to Urgathoa, a god of gluttony, disease and the undead.

A search of the hag revealed just one piece of treasure: a Mask of Giants. Apparently, when worn by a Druid, the mask allowed him or her to Wildshape into the form of any giant! The party was elated but they weren’t sure how to get around the fact that Gydion didn’t know the Giant language. Leaving that dilemma aside for the moment, Asa and Gydion freed the slaves, calming them with a successful “Diplomacy” skill check. They fed the humans while listening to their tales of woe.

The party spent the night inside their Warped Wood Hut with the slaves while Turin disappeared with a Teleport spell. He had gone to fetch some dwarves from Minderhal’s Valley to accompany the humans northward along the River Usk. After two more days, Turin had been able to Teleport six dwarven fighters (along with numerous rations, equipment and weapons), and the party felt confident that the humans would have safe passage along the river, north towards the Bloodsworn Vale.

Next: I Don’t Know! I’m Not DM’ing Anymore!

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Episode 42: Book Four: the Frost Giant Village of Skirgaard
Permafrost Peril!

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{This episode meticulously recorded by the party’s Grand Druid, the human known as Gydion, aka Darrell}

The Giantslayers decided to wait five full months for the elven wizard Turin to finish his preparations. In that time, Gydion got his headband of Owl’s Wisdom, as well as a Necklace of Fireball that Paul as DM … er, the Dwarves sold him. He also was able to upgrade his Ironwood Breastplate so that it’s now a magic item with the benefit of Wild, which means he retains his armor protection in Wildshape form. Gydion also procured some armor for his lion animal companion, Kingsley. It depleted the druid’s money pretty good, but at least they both have a little extra armor class protection. He also got the two potions of Darkvision that Turin made for him.

The halfling paladin of Ioemedae, Asa, purchased a +4 Belt of Giant Strength from Turin, as well as a number of potions. Further, he commissioned the Dwarves to use the powerful artifact, Minderhal’s Forge, to imbue his short bastard +2 magic sword, Scorch, with the Fire Burst ability.

{The other party members also got stuff, but I didn’t pay attention to that as much, obviously :D –Gydion}

In addition, with three months of down time and all sorts of giant writings from Minderhal’s Cathedral to pore over, Turin and his sister—the ranger/sorceress Silaqui—became fluent in the Giant language.

At the six-week point of their three-month waiting period, Asa decided to accompany the party’s human shadowdancer, Dravis Montbreeze, back to Trunau. Both were natives of Trunau, and missed their hometown terribly. Dravis intended to remain there with his wife and two children. Asa, on the other hand, went to keep Dravis company on his journey, and to bequeath a gift of 5,000 gp to his church, the Iomedaean Sanctuary of Trunau. He also delivered Silaqui’s redwinged blackbird animal companion, Bracken, to the Iomedaean priestess Tyari Varvatos for safe-keeping, because Silaqui had deemed him too fragile to accompany her on the next leg of their adventure into the ice-cold high peaks of the southern Mindspins. After a brief three-day stay in Trunau, Asa left to rejoin his fellow Giantslayers, who were now in the city of Skelt, along the Shining River in the adjacent country of Nirmathas. (Skelt was much closer to the southern Mindspin Mountains than Trunau).

With provision stocked, the party (sans Asa and Dravis) set forth from Skelt for the village of Skirgaard, where a frost giant general was training soldiers of the Storm Tyrant’s Giant Army. Their goal was to survey the situation and, if possible, take out the frost giants’ general and cause as much mayhem as possible to break up the army. Silaqui prowled ahead using her elven ranger stealth to take point and suss out any dangers. In air elemental Wildshape form, Gydion flew above, staying close to the clouds for camouflage. Trudging through the wintry mountains proved no easy task, except for perhaps Draken who wore the Boots of the Winterlands, but eventually they made their way within a few miles of the frost giant encampment.

From his vantage point in the sky, Gydion noted that the giants at the camp largely ignored the smaller wildlife, including birds, so he that first night he used his Wildshape ability to become an owl and survey the camp. He was able to get a general idea of the layout of the camp. It was an open design, with no walls to surmount, but there were ten watchtowers arranged in a circle around the camp. There were several buildings, including what was presumed to be a feasting hall and perhaps a barracks, as well as training fields and tents for the grunts, farmland that lay unused in the harsh winter conditions, a pen full of wooley mammoths—food for the giants?—and a couple of strange things that Gydion couldn’t quite puzzle out.

He noted there were at least a couple hundred giants, and at least two ice drakes that he was able to steer clear of. With dawn approaching, he returned to camp with his report. While he slept to recover his strength, Silaqui was dispatched to flesh out the details of the camp. Again, her stealth was tested but she persevered, and she was able to come back with more details, such as the existence of a grainery for food storage and a brewery, and reports of trolls and winter wolves in the mix of the giant troops. She also was able to draw close enough to a watchtower to note a strange kind of cord lying in the snow at the tower’s base … was it a means of signalling other towers? She could not tell.

While skulking throughout the camp, the she-elf’s keen senses furthermore picked up what could only be described as a disturbing odor permeating the place. What was the smell? She could not place it. Where did it originate from? Again, it was too pervasive to pinpoint. She filed that away in her brain as a mystery to investigate further.

With details of the camp in place, the party decided that their best bet was to try to gain access to it by navigating over a ridge and into the unused farmlands, where there was adequate forest cover to hide. From there, a plan was formulated to try to dishearten the army by taking out key locales, like the food storage and the brewery.

They were deep in the throes of their discussion when, all of a sudden, a great gust of wind erupted out of nowhere, and an enormous adult red dragon materialized out of the aether in front of them! Before they could react, the dragon uttered words the party could not believe they were hearing: “I mean you no harm.”

Recognizing that the dragon was indeed not the one that had caused them trouble at the cathedral, they cautiously decided to hear it out. The dragon, whose name was Naxamora, told them a tale of how she was seeking allies against the Storm Tyrant, who had in his possession an Orb of Dragonkind that could take control of any red dragon that the evil giant knew of. She wanted that orb destroyed. She could not act against the Storm Tyrant openly for fear of being ensorcelled, but if she had agents that could act for her … That’s when she noticed the little band of warriors, she said, and noted that since they, too, were enemies of the giants that perhaps they could be of use to one another.

As a sign of good faith, Naxamora told them what she knew of the giant camp. She told them a chilling tale of their general, Skirkatla, who was once a frost giant but had given herself over to an evil god of disease and decay. In the end she became something more, a Grave Knight, and it was this smell of disease and rot that had pervaded the entire camp. What was worse, she was in the process of turning other giants into beings like her, luring them away from their rightful god to serve her new foul god.

Naxamora showed them on their map where a statue of the frost giants’ god stood in the camp, and also pointed out where Skirkatla dwelled in crypt. She noted that the general does not oversee the camp the way she should, leaving it to her underlings while she stayed wrapped up in her dark tomb. “This might work in our favor,” Gydion noted. “If we can convince the remaining frost giants that their god is displeased with them for forsaking him and allowing this new god to gain a foothold in their midst, perhaps they will turn on Skirkatla and her acolytes themselves.”

Draken noted that he could use his rudimentary knowledge of the Giant language to carve the god’s symbol on targets, and Turin determined that the easiest targets would be the closest watchtower and the brewery to start their campaign of sabotage and deception.
With promises exchanged that they would help each other’s causes in whatever fashion they could, Naxamora withdrew and the party waited for darkness to fall to begin their work.

The first watchtower was almost amusingly easy. One guard was on duty, walking around the observation deck while another slumbered in a tent below. Gydion, Draken and Kingsley were to get the guard in the tower, while Turin and Silaqui’s job was to dispatch the guard in the tent. Gydion Wildshaped into an owl and flew up to the roof of the watchtower, either unobserved or mostly likely just not concerning the watchful guard. Silaqui and Turin crept forward stealthily and cut a hole in the tent. Simultaneously, Kingsley, empowered by Greater Magic Fang, and Draken tried to stealthily approach the tower but were less successful—the guard spotted them! Before he could raise the alarm however, the giant was the victim of Gydion’s Baleful Polymorph spell, and became a helpless rabbit easily killed by the Druid’s owl form.

Turin attempted to use a Charm spell on the sleeping giant, but was unable to make the spell connect. Instead, the giant woke up and Silaqui quickly struck him with three lightning-fast arrows. The giant sprang from his tent and, putting his duty before his life, ran over and lit a cord that was revealed to be a fuse. He was trying to alert his brethren of the attack! Kingsley and Draken rushed the giant, and a combination of fang, claw and dwarven might, as well as more arrows from the skillful archer and Turin’s Magic Missiles, cut him down. Gydion flew down and used his beak to clip the fuse above the lit portion, preventing the signal from going off. He was then easily able to remove the fuse. Their presence in the camp was still a secret!

Emboldened by their success, the party made their way to the brewery. Turin used a Clairvoyance spell to see inside the brewery, and he explained that what he could see was a large room filled with four enormous tanks for the ale, suspended above which was a wooden catwalk. There were no giants inside that he could see, but did note that there was an L-shaped room with a door at each end that his spell, due to its fixed point nature, could not see into.

Silaqui crept forward, and Gydion, still in owl form, flew to the brewery, easily gaining access through a ventilation system. The door was unlocked so Silaqui quickly joined him inside. Gydion landed on the roof of the room that was in question and Wildshaped back into human form, and then again to a mouse so he could find a hole to survey the room. Sure enough, one giantess lay sleeping on a cot in the little room. There were also two tables, on which were a variety of plants, mushrooms and alchemical accoutrements as well as a cauldron. An alchemist! The Druid scurried out of the room and Wildshaped back into his natural form to let his companions know what he had discovered. Draken and Turin, with Kingsley, had joined Silaqui by them, and so taking up positions at the room’s two doors, the party tried to stealthily gain access to the room. Unfortunately, the clicking of the door awoke the sleeping giantess, and battle ensued. Silaqui’s arrows, Kingsley’s fangs and claws, and Draken’s magic hammer, Agrimmosh, again saved the day, and the giantess was soon felled.

Turin discovered that the cauldron was a magical item, and claimed it for his own, as well as gathered up all of the herbs and alchemical items. He recognized that the cauldron was a Cauldron of Brewing, but its mysteries would have to be revealed another day.They dragged the body of the giantess out of the brewery, and doused the structure’s walls with alcohol as an accelerant for the fire they wanted to set. But that would have to wait for just a moment, for there was a third target to be taken that night!

Nearby the brewery was a structure that looked like a barn. Gydion Wildshaped to owl form once again, and got inside as there were openings at the top of the wall. Apparently, winterizing structures was not a priority for frost giants … Although the room was pitch dark, he could make out work benches of some sort and sense the sweet smell of hay. But the snoring he could hear was definitely not the gentle nickering of horses—giants were asleep here!

Gydion rejoined his fellows and told them what he discovered. Turin made a plan that Gydion would go through one entrance, ostensibly to lock the door, and the others would enter from the opposite end. Unfortunately, they weren’t as stealthy as they hoped, and a gruff voice spoke out in Giant. Turin recognized it as “Who’s there?” and answered “Changing of the Guard!” in as gruff a voice as he could muster. Unfortunately, his bluff was weak, and the Giant roared out “Get up!” Battle ensued.

Draken rushed forward and cast Light, revealing a rather strange sight. Rather than finding true frost giants, the party was met with two frost giant centaurs, half giant and half horses, only with eight legs rather than four. It would have almost been a laughable sight had their weapons not been so powerful and deadly looking. The party came to blows, with Turin casting a Lighting Bolt at one of the centaurs and then Flying into the air. Draken rushed forward to start swinging away with his hammer. Silaqui relied on her bow to deliver a flurry of arrows. Gydion attempted to cast Soften Earth and Stone on the earthen floor, but the dry earth merely turned to loose sand, and proved no detriment to the centaurs who had both made their saves. Kingsley rushed forward and also tried to savage the creatures. Both Kingsley and Draken were hit by massive blows from the giants, but held their ground as they met force with force. Gydion called Lightning down in retaliation for Kingsley’s pain, to minimal effect. But the party’s onslaught was again too great, and even the powerful centaurs fell to the party’s might.

While Draken and Gydion cast healing spells to recuperate the dwarf and the lion, the rest of the party decided it was time to beat a retreat from the camp and attempted to leave the stable. Before they could, however, they were caught in a pincer trap of their own – ice trolls and a winter wolf were at one door, and across the room a giant had entered the door that Gydion had failed to lock. Their actions had been found out at last! Silaqui ran back into the door to warn her friends of the danger posed by the trolls and the wolf she had encountered, her slippers of Spider Climb taking her five feet up the wall as she nocked an arrow into her bow. Thinking quickly, Turin cast Black Tentacles, a dweomer which produced magical tentacles writhing up out of thin air. He trapped two of the trolls in inky darkness; two of the trolls and the wolf were not ensnared, however, and entered the stable.

Across the room, the giant who had entered rounded on Turin, but mostly missed the flying spellcaster who managed to dodge out of the way. Kingsley, who had bonded somewhat with Turin during their time together, ran to the wizard’s defense, using a massive bit to dissuade the giant from attacking his friend. Gydion used the Call Lightning spell that was still in effect to bring down lighting on one troll, and Silaqui and Draken used their weapons against the other troll and wolf, as well. The combat was heated, and reached fever pitch when Turin used a Lighting Bolt on his giant attacker, and in the process set the room on fire. But ultimately, the party prevailed again, with trolls and wolf falling to hammer blows and arrows and lightning. The giant was made vulnerable by another powerful spell from Turin, which froze him in place for few moments. This gave Kingsley’s claws and Gydion’s Lightning the chance to do some pretty decent damage. Although the giant broke free of the spell, and slammed both the wizard Turin and the lion for some serious damage, he too eventually fell.

One ice troll broke free from the black tentacles and wasted no time in fleeing—would their cover, and their ruse, be blown wide open? The other remained trapped and was easily dispatched by Draken’s mighty hammer, with some assistance from Gydion’s Lightning.

With their attackers felled, the Giantslayers—who were really starting to live up to their moniker now—quickly vacated the stable, now fully engulfed in flames. Gydion, in owl form, flew over to the brewery and cast Flame Strike to light the alcohol-soaked walls on fire, and then all beat a hasty retreat into the night.

It was a long night full of good work, but would it be for naught? Would that troll that escaped spoil their plan of blaming the destruction on an angry god? There were certainly questions to ponder, but one thing was for certain—this attack would force the giants to step up their security, and their next attack would likely not go as easily.

Treasure: ? (Watch this space)

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Episode 41: Fight or Flight
Fallout

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A loud CLANG echoed through the nave as Draken slammed Agrimmosh upon the anvil of Minderhal’s Forge. Although he felt great satisfaction, and an obvious magical connection between the two artifacts, nothing dramatic happened. Gydion then healed Kingsley, who had suffered serious wounds against the slag giants.

Meanwhile, Dravis (who’d been teleported back by Turin) and Silaqui were hot on the heels of Urgash (the stone giant inquisitor of Minderhal, and master of the Cathedral), who’d barely escaped the Cathedral’s nave with his life. Easily following the trail of blood around a corner and up some stairs, they chased him round and round, up three stories of the cathedral’s largest spire. Finally, on the third floor, they encountered the inquisitor’s two stone giant bodyguards, who attempted to block the ranger and shadowdancer from pursuing him any further. Luckily, Dravis was Invisible and thus easily moved past them, and Silaqui had imbibed a Fly potion and flew around them. She shot an arrow into Urgash, who was drinking down potions of healing as he ran up the next set of stairs. (She also spent a few rounds wounding one of the bodyguards). Drawing closer to Urgash, Dravis noticed that he seemed to be carrying something small and fuzzy—the dragon-turned-bunny was in his hands!

The next—and final—staircase led to a shattered chamber, its floor and outer wall partly crumbled away. Cold mountain winds howled wickedly through the broken stonework as Urgash ran to the brink, threw the rabbit into the air, and cast Dispel Magic. The bunny was magically transformed back into Flametongue, who spread his scaly wings and took to the air! Turning and laughing, the stone giant found himself riddled with magical arrows, as Silaqui fired with unerring accuracy. The next round, Dravis (who had been waiting invisibly at the top of the stairs, with a sinking feeling that Urgash could see him) attacked the inquisitor’s stone giant bodyguards, who had just finished their ascent to the rooftop chamber. With a Hasty assist from his magic sword, Dragonfang, the invisible shadowdancer unleased five sneak attacks on the already-wounded bodyguard, killing him instantly! The second bodyguard was then dispatched by Draken, Kingsley and Gydion, who had finally caught up with the rest of the party.

Her nerve bolstered by the arrival of her fellow Giantslayers, Silaqui aimed another round of arrows at Urgash, to deadly effect. Shouting “Curse you, she-elf!!”, the inquisitor toppled over and fell, landing with a loud thud 600 feet below on the cathedral’s roof. Silaqui flew out and peered over the ledge to make sure he was dead. As she did, she saw that two giants outside the cathedral’s palisade had also witnessed Urgash’s death, and were moving through a gate towards the cathedral. The vertiginous height and battering winds, however, made her dizzy, so she flew back and alighted on the broken stone. As she did, she finally noticed the immense dragon treasure horde at her feet!

Distracted as she was, she didn’t notice Flametongue flying at her with breakneck speed. The red dragon opened its jaws and breathed fire at her, scorching her and knocking her back! She returned fire, with magical arrows, wounding the wyrm. But it was for naught—the dragon wasn’t interested in a fight. It turned tail and flew off into the distance, over the mountains, finally disappearing from view.

The party regrouped and sifted through the pile of treasure. They turned up items, coins and gems worth c. 5,000 gp for each Giantslayer. They also uncovered several magic items, which they added to the small trove of magic items that Draken and Gydion had discovered on the floors below during their ascent.

A search of the three lower floors of the cathedral’s spire revealed two human prisoners from Shinnerman’s Fortune, who were in shock from starvation and torture. The party gave them food and water. Crying into their food, the released prisoners told them their leader, Tarram Shinnerman [whom the Giantslayers were searching for when they first entered Minderhal’s Valley] had been tortured to death by Urgash.

The party’s search of the lower three floors also revealed multiple documents and maps in what looked like a trophy room. Among the maps was a map of the Mindspin Mountains, upon which were marked multiple giant strongholds [thanks to a translation by Dravis, who speaks Giant]. Another diagrams depicted a huge castle floating on a cloud, which Dravis interpreted as the the Storm Tyrant’s base of operations. “He has a castle floating on a cloud?” exclaimed Gydion, incredulous. His friends nodded in agreement—they, too, had never heard of anything so fantastic.

Dravis snuck downstairs and found multiple giants searching the cathedral, but none were venturing upstairs—clearly, they’d been warned away from Urgash’s inner sanctum. But he suspected that the giants would eventually overcome their fear and venture upstairs. After some discussion, the party decided to sneak back out of the cathedral the same way they’d come in. So they packed up the dragon’s horde (and other valuables, including the maps and documents from the Trophy Room) in their Bags of Holding and prepared to become Invisible. Just before vacating the spire, however, they snapped Nickelbee in two and left him on the top floor, broken and alone.

After escaping through the watery passage in the larder, they found their way to the halfling village on the shore of Lake Minderhal. To their surprise, they found that King Knut’s dwarven army had set up camp there! The king greeted them and had a banquet prepared in their honor. Over an exquisite dwarven dinner, the party explained that they’d relit the forge and killed Urgash, the Storm Tyrant’s inquisitor-in-chief. King Knut was very happy with the news and predicted that the giants remaining in the valley would almost certainly turn on each other—but it might take about a month.

After spending a few days regaining their strength and selling some items to the dwarves, Turin Teleported them back to Trunau, where Asa was very happy to see them. He invited them to stay at the Sanctuary, where their friend, the priestess Tyari Varvatos, welcome them with open arms.

From the safety and comfort of the Iomedaen Sanctuary, the adventurers pored over the documents and maps they obtained from the cathedral, and learned important information about the Storm Tyrant’s plans. First and foremost, they learned that Minderhal’s Valley was just a recruiting station for Volstus’s armies. Urgash had been evaluating the new conscripts there and sending the most promising recruits to a frost giant village called Skirgaard for additional training! One of the maps pinpointed the location of this training camp, which lay in the Mindspin Mountains nearly 150 miles south-southwest of the Cathedral of Minderhal.

(Unfortunately, there are no clues as to the whereabouts of the Storm Tyrant’s flying fortress; from what Dravis read in the documents, its location changes frequently)

In a rented workshop, Turin crafted them numerous magic items to aid them against the frost giants. As he did so, summer became the fall in the Hold of Belkzen as the calendar advanced into early October. And in the distant Mindpin Mountains, winter settled upon the high peaks.

Treasure: Coins and items worth a total of 5000 gp each player, + tons of magic items (for a list, watch this space!)

Fallout:

1. The documents and maps uncovered in Urgash’s quarters indicate that Minderhal’s Valley was simply a recruiting station for the Storm Tyrant’s elite forces, who are being trained in a remote frost giant village located deep in the Mindspin Mountains called Skirgaard. What evil forces await our heroes in those bleak, frozen, alpine wastes?

2. With the relighting of Minderhal’s Forge and Urgash’s dramatic death, chaos has ensued in Minderhal’s Valley. Have the Giantslayers attracted the attention of the notorious Storm Tyrant?

Next: BOOK FOUR: PERMAFROST PERIL!

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Episode 40: The Forgeheart!
The Grand Relighting of Minderhal's Forge

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For some unexplained reason, Dravis excused himself—he jumped Turin’s final Teleport! The Giantslayers then found themselves in the basement Forgeheart without their fighter-thief friend. Then, the slag giant priestess, Natalia, took a book off a shelf and instructed the party on lining the furnace with clay, then helped them by placing a fire geode inside. She then went upstairs and climbed out the secret door into the worship space. The others heard her ordering other giants out of the room; then, when the coast was clear, they and Ferin followed her out across a stone bridge up onto a 15-foot-high stone dais.

Upon the dais sat a giant stone blacksmithing forge and huge iron anvil set atop a basalt platform rising from a pit of slag. In order to attract a dragon, Draken blew the magic horn Drakesbane. The party waited expectantly. Unfortunately, nothing happened, so he blew it again. The party waited again, and after a few rounds, they heard something alight on the ground in front of the building. Suddenly, the front doors burst open, and a young adult red dragon was climbing over the pews towards them!

“Who summoned me?” shouted the dragon. Draken took responsibility, and the dragon glared. “I am ”/characters/flametongue" class=“wiki-content-link”>Flametongue," it growled, “And I want that horn!” “Relight the forge with your fire breath, and the horn is yours!” the dwarf replied. A loud conversation ensued, during which the players used some Truth magic to get the dragon to admit that he wasn’t going to uphold his end of the bargain. After a few rounds, his patience exhausted, Flametongue attacked the party with his fiery breath weapon—seriously injuring Draken, Ferin and Natalia.

Suddenly, a blast of fire catapulted from the center of the sacred forge, sending a bright shower of sparks throughout Minderhal’s Cathedral. At the same time, the slag pit around the dais turned bright yellow and began churning with roiling, molten slag. And, unbeknownst to the party, black smoke began pouring from the chimneys in the cathedral’s spires. “My forge is relit!” screamed Natalia, making a grab for Agrimmosh, but missing. At precisely that moment, a large, important-looking stone giant burst into the room, and attacked Silaqui!

Things moved very quickly from that point onwards. The Druid Gydion sprang into action and cast Baleful Polymorph on the dragon. The evil creature didn’t make its saving throw, so it was transmuted into a bunny rabbit! Meanwhile, upon the dais, Draken and Kingsley fought for their lives against Natalia and Ferin, who were determined to seize the Hammer of Unmaking for themselves. Eventually, Kingsley knocked Ferin into the slag pit, while Natalia disarmed Draken and claimed the hammer for herself. A few rounds later, however, Draken and Silaqui toppled Natalia into the slag pit, along with Agrimmosh!

Gydion Wildshaped into a Fire Elemental and dove into the slag to retrieve Agrimmosh. To his surprise, however, he found that he wasn’t alone: a slag-like ooze was also there, fighting for possession of the magic hammer. Eventually, Gydion prevailed with a powerful Call Lightning Storm spell and the slag-ooze was defeated.

A second slag-like ooze formed on the other side of the pit and attacked Draken and Kingsley! Gydion emerged and gave Agrimmosh back to Draken. The Druid then joined the fight against the ooze, ordering Kingsley to go look for the dragon-turned-rabbit, which had apparently disappeared in the heat of battle. Silaqui downed a potion of Fly and took to the air to scan for the rabbit from overhead. Neither the lion nor the ranger, however, could find hide nor hare of it.

Draken and Gydion defeated the second ooze while Silaqui flew back to defend them against the huge stone giant, who was upon them. Her arrows seemed to do less damage than usual, but she kept firing ,until the stone giant finally gave up and ran out the doors leading into the cathedral’s mess hall.

Finding themselves alone for the first time, with Minderhal’s Forge re-lit, Draken decided to obey Agrimmosh’s call. He struck the magic hammer upon the forge!

Next: The Secrets of Minderhal’s Cathedral

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Episodes 38-39: The Secrets of Minderhal's Forge

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The Giantslayers followed an underwater passage for 10 miles before finally emerging in a larder, somewhere inside Minderhal’s Cathedral. After a few hours of waiting for darkness to fall, they were interrupted by a giant looking for jerky. Battle commenced, spilling out into the adjacent giant-sized dining hall. Eventually, our heroes prevailed, defeating one frost giant, two stone giants and three hill giants. Unfortunately, a hill giant escaped and ran outside to sound the alarm.

As the battle was ending, the adventurers noticed someone watching them through a cracked doorway. They pushed their way into the room and confronted the spy: a young female slag giant named Ferin. Having never seen such small creatures, the giantess was at first wary and not talkative. But her eyes grew wide when she noticed Agrimmosh. She exclaimed that her mistress’ prophecy had come true, and she excitedly urged them to come with her to meet her. After a brief interruption by some armed guards (during which the party hid), she led the group (hidden from sight by virtue of Invisibility potions) to middle of a huge amphitheater, in which was housed an elaborately decorated, ancient, giant-sized forge. The attraction of the magic hammer to the forge was immediate and obvious, but the players were forced to ignore that as Ferin opened a secret door in a statue of Minderhal and led them down a dark staircase.

At the bottom was an oval-shaped room. In the center, a pillar-like furnace of cemented, soot-blackened stones was illuminated by the waxy lumps of crude candles, and surrounded by a ring of mystic symbols fashioned out of metallic dust sprinkled on the floor. In the shadows they could see an elderly female slag giant watching them intently. Ferin introduced the giantess, Natalia, to them as her mentor and mistress. The old giantess introduced herself as the Keeper of Minderhal’s Forge, and demanded to see Agrimmosh (which she called The Hammer of Unmaking). When the players said no, she backed off, asking them if they knew what they were in possession of. She went on to explain that, with the hammer, they could achieve great things. She pulled some dusty books off of a nearby table and, opening one, explained that the hammer (used with the forge above) could be used to create incredibly powerful magic items; it could also be used to resize giant-sized weapons. This grabbed the heroes’ attention!

Seeing that she’d piqued their curiosity, Natalia continued. All these things are possible, she said, but first, Minderhal’s Forge must be lit! After asking her how to accomplish this, she opened another book and explained that there are four pieces of the puzzle. One was sacred clay, which must be gathered to line the forge. Second, magical fire geodes must be placed inside the forge. Third, a dragon must be lured with a magic horn called Drakesbane. Fourth, the players must compel the dragon to ignite the fire geodes with its fiery breath.

After going off in a corner and discussing this amongst themselves, the players returned and told Natalia that they had everything she needed to relight the forge, save one thing: the sacred clay. Where might we find it? They asked. Natalia opened yet another book and read: the clay can be found in the burial coffin of the great vampire, Lord Kraven. The players exclaimed that they’d been there—in fact, they’d beaten the vampire in battle—and they knew exactly where it was! Natalia was delighted at this news, and demanded they go and bring the clay back at once. They agreed, and within a few hours, the party wizard, Turin began Teleporting them to the old giant chapel (where they’d fought a pack of plant-like guardians). Teleporting the entire party took two days.

The players hiked up to the ancient tomb where they knew Lord Kraven’s coffin was located. After defeating two scarecrows, they delved deeper and encountered the two Vrock demons they’d left behind during their previous visit. The demons, joined by a third, attacked. After a few rounds, Lord Kraven finally appeared, flanked by three female vampire-spawn. Eventually—after a harrowing battle during which Draken was knocked unconscious—all the monsters were defeated. Kingsley ended up slaying the demon that had knocked the dwarf unconscious, and Silaqui killed the other two. Dravis, meanwhile, took out the vampires. After the smoke cleared, Gydion doled out healing, and then the party went to collect their hard-earned treasure: the clay soil inside Lord Kraven’s coffin (which they loaded inside one of their Bags of Holding). After trekking back down to the giant chapel, the party wizard was summoned and began ferrying them all back to Minderhal’s Cathedral.

Next: The Forgeheart !

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Episode 37: TBA
This blog spot reserved for Darrell

Two- sentence summary:

Seeing no easy way into Minderhal’s Cathedral, the Giantslayers decided to follow Dragonfang’s advice and enter through Minderhal Lake. After backtracking around Minderhal’s Valley and weathering a number of dangerous encounters, they eventually found the secret entrance inside a sunken temple beneath the waters of Minderhal Lake.

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Episode 36: The Inner Valley

After defeating the vampire, the party climbed back down and spent the night in the Fire Giant Chapel. The next morning, Gydion’s player rolled an exceptional Spellcraft roll, determining that the broken, porcelain doll they’d recovered in the tomb of Nargrym Steelhand was a soul-bound doll. Draken Mended the doll and it sprang to life! The kewpie-doll told them his name was Nickelbee, and that he used to serve Nargrym himself. Expressing wonder at Draken’s steelhand and magic hammer, the doll declared Draken as Nargrym’s rightful heir.

Soon after this happened, Turin Teleported in, and took the dragonbone cage, together with some of the party’s extraneous treasure, and two party members, to the GiantKing’s Tomb just north of Shinnerman’s Fortune—where the dwarves had set up their encampment. The rest of the party camped overnight in the Chapel; the next morning, Turin re-appeared and Teleported them to the Tomb. (All save Gydion, who flew back since he couldn’t be included in either of Turin’s Teleports).

The party spent a week in the GiantKing’s Tomb, where they rested and paid Turin to produce various magic items for them in the dwarven encampment. Turin’s ranger sister Silaqui questioned King Knut about the dwarves’ plans, and asked him for help. He told her that she and her friends needed to act as spies for the dwarves; because, although they had some “eyes” in the outer reaches of Minderhal’s Valley, he didn’t know what lay in the heart of the valley, where the giants were assembling. He also mentioned that there were rumors of an “Anvil of Minderhal” somewhere in the valley, which could forge magic items; transmute one metal into another; and even magically resize giant-sized weapons into normal-sized weapons! The party was dubious but agreed to return to to investigate.

Upon returning to Minderhal’s Valley, Gydion took to the sky as an Air Elemental and flew reconnaissance while the others walked below. Following the foot-traffic led the adventurers to the southeast. After an uneventful night where the canyon walls opened up into a more shallow valley, the party continued on. After a few hours, the Druid returned to inform them that up ahead, the canyon housed a giant-sized cathedral built into the wall of a steep mountain, surrounded by hordes of giants of many species. A massive, poorly built gate lay between them and the cathedral. Seeing that they couldn’t hope to overcome all of those assembled giants, the party camped overnight in the storm. It started to rain. Under the cover of rain and wind and darkness, the Druid Wildshaped into an Air Elemental and made multiple trips to the Cathedral (which they now knew was called “Minderhal’s Cathedral” thanks to runes on its outer walls), searching for an entrance. He noticed that while some groups of giants entered freely, there wasn’t that much traffic into and out of the place. He also flew high above the Cathedral and (in a canyon behind the mountain) witnessed a dead giant, face-down in a mountain brook, being eaten by a herd of winged deer.

After much discussion which lasted late into the evening, the Giantslayers asked Dravis inquire with his magic sword (Dragonfang) how to get into the Cathedral. It instructed him thusly: “The entrance to the Cathedral lies under Lake Minderhal”. Having seen no lake in their travels—and curious to investigate the dead giant and the creatures feeding on it—the party decided to backtrack and travel to the canyon behind the Cathedral.

Next: Under Lake Minderhal

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Episode 35: Varvatos, Villains, Vrocks and Vampires
…this episode has been brought to you by the letter “V”

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When the party woke the next morning the rain ended and the fog parted. Dravis thought he heard a distant call from atop the canyon. The mysterious Druid Gydion felt a lure as well. Curious, the two investigated, and found an overgrown path winding up the western canyon wall. Meanwhile, as Draken and Silaqui broke camp, Turin and Asa appeared in the Chapel—they’d teleported in! Happy greetings were exchanged, but afterwards, Turin turned serious. The elf wizard explained that he had been researching an ancient artifact on behalf of Tyari Varvatos. He pointed to the direction it was located in: strangely enough, he pointed to te top of the western wall of the canyon. He told the group that they’d need Asa’s help, and some potions he’d brewed for them. Dravis asked if he could take some things with him, for example, the geodes they’d claimed from the Chapel’s hidden chamber (and other cumbersome things). Turin nodded. Then, grabbing the giant Bag of Holding and other treasures—and placing his gift of potions on the ground—the wizard wished them all good luck, and teleported away!

The group climbed the western wall for hours before finally reaching the top. There, a rough-hewn, ancient path was cut into the lichen-encrusted stone. The Giantslayers followed it as it widened, ending in a dark, dusty passage that headed west. It was blocked by large, iron bars set into the stone. Gydion sent a prayer skyward, breathed a Soften Earth & Stone spell into the stone, allowing Draken to easily remove a few bars with his great strength.

After a brief discussion, the group decided to let the fighter-rogue Dravis stealthily take the lead (buffed by a potion of Darkvision that Turin had brewed), followed by Draken and Asa, and then the others. Dravis soon found himself in a large room with two exits, one to the south and one to the west. He heard movement coming from the southern exit, and heard a whoosh of air from the western exit. But his attention was immediately drawn to the north side of the room, where he heard the call from earlier, but louder: “Come here! Set me free!” Upon further investigation, he found a dragon-bone cage upon the floor, with three pieces of smoldering coal inside. Wedged into one of the bones was a short sword, and the voice seemed to be emanating from it—but only in Dravis’ mind; his ears registered nothing. Drawn to the magic weapon, Dravis picked it up. It then telepathized to Dravis: “I am Dragonfang. You belong to me now. I can teach you a magic ritual which will allow you to shrink this cage to fit into your knapsack. Beware the lumps of coal—they are nascent demons!”

He wrested control from the sword and, snapping out of his telepathic trance, woke to see Draken and Silaqui heading into the south exit, and Gydion, Kingsley and Asa standing next to him (and the cage). Dravis relayed what the sword had told him, which spurred Asa into action: “Paladins and demons are a thing. Let me handle these lumps of coal!!” Dravis nodded and went to investigate the western exit. Gydion was loathe to leave Asa alone with the incubating demons, but he sent Kingsley away to assist Draken and Silaqui.

Draken, Silaqui and Kingsley soon found themselves in a large stone chamber, in the middle of which was a pitch-black sphere of Darkness. All of a sudden, Silaqui was nailed with a Lightning Bolt, followed by a Magic Missile assault on Kingsley. A Fireball exploded as well. The spells were emanating from the black sphere! A familiar laugh split the air, and the three adventurers knew they were facing their recurring wizard nemesis! Silaqui downed a Turin-brewed potion of Spider Climb and climbed the wall; she then loosed some Human-Bane arrows into the sphere. One of them hit, doing double damage! Then, Draken downed a Turin-brewed potion of Mirror Image as Kingsley warily circled the dark sphere.

Meanwhile, Asa buffed himself, opened the cage, and struck one of the lumps of coal with his magic short bastard sword, Scorch. The lump exploded in a concussive blast, and when the smoke cleared, a Vrock stood in its place. If the little halfling was afraid of the hulking demon, he only showed it for a brief moment before charging in to attack. He was a paladin of Iomedae, after all, and seeing a demon take form before his eyes awoke a fierce determination in him. “Back to the Abyss with you!” he cried, letting loose with a Smite Evil (enhanced by Eagles Spendor and Divine Bond flaming sword). Gydion backed him up with his +2 Flaming scimitar. After a few rounds, the evil creature was laid low by the paladin(despite the demon’s immunity to fire), who shouted “Get the Vrock outta here!” The Druid and the paladin then slammed the cage shut.

By that time, Draken and Kingsley had bravely entered the sphere of Darkness and were confronted by the scarred face of the laughing wizard they’d faced so many times before! Between the evil wizard and the heroes, however, were six hideous, deliquescing zombies! Calling upon his cleric training, the dwarf let loose a Channel Energy, destroying five of them. Kingsley ripped apart the remaining one.

After regrouping, the party decided to explore the western exit. They found a long, stone passage with multiple sepulchers cut out, to the left and to the right. Suddenly, a vampire appeared behind them, cutting off their escape! Asa and Silaqui, being the closest to it, pressed the attack. The others, meanwhile, had troubles of their own: the vampire had summoned a Swarm of rats, which was closing in from the far end of the passage. Dravis ducked into a sepulcher, avoiding some of the damage; Draken sang an incantation of Sanctuary, causing the rats to go around him; and Gydion stepped into a sepulcher, downed a potion of Fire Breath, and waited.

The next round, the vampire clawed Asa, depleting two levels from him! The paladin staggered to his knees as Silaqui and Draken double-teamed the undead abomination. Finally, the vampire cried out and disappeared in a pink mist, dropped what turned out to be a Bag of Holding. At the same time, the rat swarm was turned to ash by Gydion, who deftly breathed fire upon them from his sepulcher.

Inspection of the Bag of Holding turned up various powerful magical items (see below). Dravis discovered a Secret Door which led to a chamber containing a handsome treasure, a box full of dirt, and a ladder leading up. Assuming the box was the vampire’s coffin, the fighter-rogue defiled and dispersed the dirt before ascending the ladder, his comrades close behind him.

Treasure_: Staff of Healing, Ring of Protection +2, Robe of the Druid, +4 Headband of Charisma

Next: The Forbidden Valley

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Episode 34: Thieves vs. Leaves in the Temple
A close call for Dravis Montbreeze!

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Draken, who could see just fine in the nearly-dark temple, entered first, with the others close behind. Rain began to fall through the collapsed ceiling, turning the air sticky, and making walking difficult; the wet vegetation that covered everything slowed their movement by half (Gydion and Silaqui, however, were unaffected, due to their Woodland Stride ability).

Piles of shingles littered the floor. They passed rows of moss-covered, giant-sized pews, and saw two sets of stairways along the western wall. One led up to an empty platform, and the other led to a weathered statue of a stern-looking fire giant. A closed door was set into the eastern wall at the bottom of a wide set of stairs leading to a dais with a large, round brazier and an altar. Dravis and Silaqui stealthily climbed the stairs to reconnoitter and found decaying bones poking up through the thick layer of moss surrounding the altar. Nothing else seemed amiss, however, so they called out to Gydion and Draken, who soon joined them.

Gydion cast Detect Magic and learned that the large (10-foot high) brazier was surronded by an aura of evocation magic. Draken walked to the door in the eastern wall and put his ear against it. Silaqui climbed back down the stairs and perched herself atop one of the pews, commanding a clear view of the entire temple. Dravis, meanwhile, snuck around the back of the altar, laying down shingles to walk on so as not to disturb the bones.

Just then, the vines behind the altar became animated, and giant-sized leaves sprang out of nowhere, closing around Dravis, who cried out in alarm. The others turned and saw him struggling within a Giant Flytrap, which had lifted him into the air. Before Gydion, Draken and Silaqui could react, however, each was attacked by a large, writhing heap of vegetation—Shambling Mounds! Against the verdant, lush background vegetation, the temple’s vegetable guardians had easily surprised them.

Gydion found himself grappled by his leafy opponent, and spent the next couple of rounds struggling to free himself, assisted by his fierce lion companion, Kingsley. Eventually freeing himself, he rained a Flame Strike upon the Shambling Mound that had attacked him. Next, the Druid pulled out his +2 Flaming magic scimitar, and sliced some of its branches off. Much to his frustration, however, he discovered that fire has little effect on Shambling Mounds, because of their DR 10 against fire. Kingsley had more success defending against it with tooth and claw, and eventually turning the monster into a lifeless haystack.

Trapped as he was in the corner by the eastern doorway, Draken was repeatedly grappled by his Shambling Mound, but escaped each time thanks to his Freedom of Movement cleric domain ability. The dwarf spent the next few rounds slamming his Shambling Mound adversary with Agrimmosh until it finally collapsed into a motionless heap.

Silaqui, atop one of the 10-foot giant, stone pews, was slammed by a tendril from a Shambling Mound on the floor; jumping out of the way, the elf narrowly escaped being grappled. Leaping off the pew, she cast Entangle at her opponent, but it was undeterred. Desperate to escape its reaach, she next imbibed a Gaseous Form, and spent the next few rounds moving away from it, and her Entangle spell. Gydion attempted to help her with a Call Lightning spell, but stopped after realizing the lightning was making the monster grow stronger.

Meanwhile, behind the altar, Dravis was struggling to stay conscious. Dravis’ player had already used a “zombie” token to escape one of the Flytrap’s leaves, only to be be engulfed by another, and was now unable to move or even breathe. And, on top of that, the plant was slowly digesting him! So Gydion’s player decided to spend one of his “zombie” tokens and then—moved to action by Druidic intuition—Gydion cast Cure Serious Wounds on the fighter-rogue through the trap, healing him and rousing him to consciousness. Then, Gydion’s player used a second “zombie” to allow Kingsley to dramatically grab the trap’s long petiole in his strong jaws and shake Dravis free. At the same time, Draken bludgeoned the Flytrap with his magic hammer while Silaqui fired arrows at it from the pews [unfortunately, because she was out of range, her arrows didn’t do as much damage as usual]. Not far away, the Shambling Mound that had attacked Silaqui was deliquescing into a puddle, for some unexplained reason.

The next round, the giant Flytrap exacted revenge upon the lion, using another of its many traps to tear into his flesh, followed by a grapple. Already severely wounded by his encounter with the Shambling Mounds, Kingsley fell unconsious. Luckily for him, however, he was too big to be engulfed in the trap, so he didn’t suffer the same damage that Dravis did. In the following rounds, the Flytrap attacked both Draken and Dravis with its snapping traps, but in the end, the heroes prevailed. Over and over, Agrimmosh smashed into the monster’s trunk, while Silaqui splintered it with arrows. Gydion finally finished off the Flytrap with a strike from Call Lightning, reducing it to pink dust.

Healing was doled out, and the Giantslayers finished exploring the temple. Gydion found a Sapling Rod mixed among the bones around the altar. Dravis discovered a secret door in the north wall. Meanwhile, the door on the eastern wall led into a dark, flooded, moldy chamber. Steering clear of the wet, mucky floor, Silaqui climbed the walls via a potion of Spider Climb and discovered a pile of six spherical, 2-foot wide/1000 lb stones in the corner. Draken then entered the room and found a giant-sized Bag of Holding locked inside a stone coffer that was sunken into the muck in the middle of the room. Buffed with a Bull’s Strength from Gydion, Draken (assisted by Dravis) rolled one of the stones out of the room and split it open. Hidden inside was a mass of small, radiant, orange crystals, which Silaqui ascertained were glowing with the magic of a Delayed Fireball spell! Dravis yelled for everyone to scatter, and after 5 rounds, the crystals ignited a 20-foot-radius fireball, flooding the temple with light and heat! Luckily, by that point, the party had hidden themselves safely behind the stone pews.

After multiple attempts, Dravis finally managed to open the secret door, revealing a narrow passage. At the far end of the passage lay three large (c. 2 feet in diameter and 750 lbs), spherical stones with a rough-textured black surface on the floor. The party scooped two of these into their giant-sized Bag of Holding, together with two of the Delayed Blast Fireball stones. It was decided that Draken, who possessed the highest Strength score, would carry the Bag.

It was getting late, and progressively wetter, so Gydion erected Warped Wood Manor upon the dais, where the party enjoyed a well-deserved, peaceful night’s rest.

Next: Into the Heart of Minderhal’s Valley

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