After a week in the Stone Giant King’s Tomb studying their magic tomes, it was finally time for the party to head to Minderhal’s Valley. Reconnaissance of the Valley was crucial to figuring out their next move. After an uneventful night in the forest, the Giantslayers discovered a well-worn footpath alongside a quick-flowing mountain brook. According to their map, it led to a small mining village named Shinnerman’s Fortune. After a few hours, they came upon a small cottage with a large hole in its roof, and the front door broken off its hinges. Grunts and crashing sounds could be heard inside. More disturbingly, the unmistakeable cry of a human baby could be heard above the din.
Gydion Wildshaped into a hawk and floated up to the roof of the cottage, with Silaqui not far behind. New party member Dravis silently stole to the front door and listened: there were three trolls inside, and one was complaining bitterly about how much it loved the taste of human infants! Unfortunately for the troll, the baby was on the second floor of the cottage and the troll couldn’t fit up the stairs! The troll was thrashing around (the baby’s smell was driving it crazy), apparently trying to bring down the cottage with its bare hands, carelessly raging around the small, fragile human dwelling.
With the trolls distracted as they were, the heroes easily gained surprise. Draken rushed in and attacked one, with Asa, Kingsley and Dravis as backup. Turin kept his distance, acting as lookout. Meanwhile, above, Gydion flew through the hole in the roof and, switching back to human form, discovered the infant in crib, just inches away from the boulder that had pierced the roof. He quickly handed the baby to Silaqui, who had climbed up with no problem using her Ring of Climbing. Next, he cast Air Walk on the elf ranger, who took to the sky with the baby safely in her arms.
The rest of the party had now engaged the trolls—and found that they were more resilient than they expected. Draken and Kingsley managed to bring down the one nearest the door, assisted by Silaqui, who nimbly shot a Fire Ray (one of her new fire-touched sorceress abilities) at it without dropping the baby. Dravis landed a critical blow on the second troll, doing a whopping 46 points of damage—killing it instantly. Gydion engaged the third troll with Call Lightning, shouting “Choke on this you miserable, murdering bastard!” Shortly afterwards, the entire second floor collapsed, plummeting the Druid to the ground; Draken finished off the third troll with a crushing blow from Agrimmosh.
The party regrouped and—mewling infant in tow—continued down the path alongside the stream. They passed two other, similarly damaged cottages, but found no survivors. A few minutes later, they arrived in Shinnerman’s Fortune. The scene was anything but fortunate; all of the buildings were damaged by boulders, and the residents were wandering the roads, panic-stricken. A group of miners approached the party, led by a middle-aged woman with long, graying hair and a burly man with a salt-and-pepper beard. The pair introduced themselves as Alderwoman Jayek and Alderman Rey, and beseeched the party for help. They described the horror of the recent giant raid on their village, in which the colossal humanoids rained boulders on their houses, driving the villagers out so that they could be captured. Then, the captives—along with cattle and other livestock—were chained up and taken down the road leading south. (“Towards Minderhal’s Valley”, thought Gydion). There were at least a dozen missing, by all accounts, including the village’s leader, Amurchan Shinnerman, a distinguished descendent of the village’s founder.
The woman paused when she saw the infant swaddled in Silaqui’s arms. “That child is my granddaughter!” she said, and burst into tears. Then, after disappearing into a nearby hut, she presented the party with a leaf-shaped clasp. “This has been in my family for generations”, she said, “and it is now yours. Thank you for saving this precious girl!” She then took the baby and went back to the hut. Then, Alderman Rey spoke up, with a stern look in his eye: “There has never been an attack like this before on Shinnerman’s Fortune. The giants of the Mindspin Mountains are growing bolder and more reckless. Please, you must rescue the villagers they have kidnapped. You must defeat this giant menace!” The party reassured the Alderman that they would help as best they could, and immediately headed south, on the road to Minderhal’s Valley. [Asa and Turin stayed behind in Shinnerman’s Fortune, however, to heal the injured, and help rebuild the village].
The party easily followed two sets of tracks—giant and human—down the road, for several miles. Then, suddenly, the human tracks veered into the woods, followed by the giant tracks. Dravis and Silaqui followed the tracks, stealthily, until they saw two frightened humans hiding in the underbrush. They waved to them, and the humans ran forward, but were vaporized by a massive beam of force from the canopy. Looking up, the ranger and the rogue saw two massive, 18-foot-tall cyclopses! The one-eyed fiends were shooting beams from their eyes, obliterating everything in their path. “Foolish humans!” one of them laughed, “Who will save you now?!”
Dravis and Silaqui scattered! Dravis successfully hid, but Silaqui failed her stealth roll, making her the new object of their offense. She was hit twice with force-beams, reducing her hit points substantially. Luckily for her, the rest of the Giantslayers heard the commotion, and were rushing to her aid. After a few rounds, one of the cyclopses was brought down with a loud thud. Meanwhile, Dravis was sneaking his way through the forest towards the other cyclops, intent on sneak-attacking it. Unfortunately for him, cyclopses have preternaturally high Perception scores, and the wily rogue was soon spotted. Two force-beams and a great-axe-blow later, Dravis dropped to the forest floor, knocked senseless and bleeding out. Silaqui bravely rushed through the underbrush and fed him a potion of Cure Moderate Wounds, but ate an Attack of Opportunity for her troubles. She was seriously wounded, but did not falter, and Dravis awakened on account of her ministrations. The rest of the party closed in, and within a few rounds, took down the second cyclops.
The party regrouped, and continued south for a few hours. Just as night fell, they saw smoke from a campfire up ahead, in the woods to the east of the path. Gydion Wildshaped into an owl and took to the air. His enhanced vision revealed four ogres, seated around a campfire, with a pack of chained human captives with sacks over their heads. The captives looked bruised and battered. The ogres were talking amongst themselves. Upon hearing Gydion’s report, Dravis went to investigate: the ogres were arguing about whether to eat the captives. Three of them, apparently, were hungry, while the fourth insisted that they needed to preserve the humans as “capital” for bargaining with another giant he referred to as “Gristlecrack”.
The party took advantage of the argument to catch the ogres flat-footed, and vanquished them with little trouble. They rescued their captives and, removing their chains and hoods, noted that there were less than 12. Questioning the villagers, the heroes learned that another group of giants had gone ahead, with other captives in tow. One of the rescued villagers knew the Giant language, and told the party that the giants who’d gone ahead were definitely headed towards Minderhal’s Valley. Unfortunately, because of the sacks on their heads, they couldn’t say for certain whether Amurchan Shinnerman was among them.
The party healed the rescued villagers, and spent a restless night around the ogre’s campfire. “What foul trouble lies ahead?” wondered Gydion, as he drifted off to sleep, huddled up close to his loyal companion, Kingsley.