The party traveled one full day through the high peaks of the northern Mindspin Mountains before reaching Minderhal’s Valley. In recent centuries, the area had been a quiet wasteland, but in recent months, the valley—named for the evil giant god of the forge, Minderhal—was reportedly filling with giantkin of all sorts, rallying to the war-cry of the great storm giant Volstus, also known as the Storm Tyrant. According to what the party had learned at Redlake Fort, the Tyrant was gearing up to invade the surrounding lands and subjugate their “little folk” (as he called them). The Giantslayers were determined to stop him.
At about midday, the party rogue, Dravis—who was scouting a few hundred feet ahead of the rest of the party—found himself under attack by two small, bouncing, bearded creatures. They wore blood-red caps and laughed maniacally while slashing him with their scythes, and kicking him with their pointed, metal boots. The rogue shouted the alarm, and the rest of the party ran to join him. Gydion the Druid identified them as Redcaps—sinister, fey creatures who preyed upon travelers in mountainous region. While the party pressed the attack, Gydion told explained how they enjoyed killing things by kicking them to death, and then dyed their caps in the victim’s blood. He also recalled they could be warded off by religious symbols. Dravis became the target of another round of attacks as three more Redcaps sprang out of the forest shadows. Draken, who was the last to arrive on the scene, spotted a Green Hag hiding behind a tree. The dwarf ran up to bludgeon her with Agrimmosh, but the magic hammer passed ineffectively through the crone, who disappeared with a cackle!
Meanwhile, Silaqui set down her bow and presented the blessed Iomedean symbol on her necklace, holding it boldly for all the Redcaps to see. One of the beasts screamed and ran back into the forest, while the others (while visibly shaken) held their ground. The rest of the party continued the battle, with Dravis, unfortunately, suffering the most. Frustrated by the faeries’ annoying Spring Attacks, Gydion resourcefully erected a Wind Wall in front of himself. This halted the Redcaps in their tracks, preventing them from springing and allowing the party to score some melee attacks. Once again, Silaqui presented her holy symbol, which caused another one to flee. Although they slowly gained the upper hand, victory was hampered by the beasts’ high Damage Resistance (10 DR/cold iron). Dravis finally killed one of them!—it screamed loudly as it disappeared in a cloud of red mist. As the remaining two Redcaps ran off, demoralized and frightened, the rogue worried out loud about whether the giants had allied themselves with faeries from the Unseely Court.
A few miles beyond this unexpected fey encounter, the path met up with a river, which flowed quickly southward in the direction they were headed. The path ran parallel to the river, and for the remainder of the day, the cold mountain waters and mixed-boreal forest accompanied the party on their journey. At sunset, the forest ended, and the river began to flow steeply downhill through a dry, scrubby, boulder-filled bottomland. According to their map, they’d reached Minderhal’s Valley—though by everyone’s estimation, it was more like a canyon than a valley. They descended and set up camp next to a giant boulder, where they spent an uneventful night.
Just after breakfast the next day, Gydion Wildshaped into a sharp-eyed eagle and flew into the clear, sunny, mid-August morning sky. While the Druid did reconnaissance up ahead, the others broke camp and followed the path southwards through the canyon. After about an hour, Gydion returned with news: an ettin [a two-headed giant] and two dire bears were approaching, about two miles south along the path. In addition, he’d spotted two drakes perched on either side of the canyon, a few miles further south. He quickly described the area beyond that: the canyon opened up into a boulder-strewn valley, with three canyons branching off from it: one, which headed south, contained the river, while the other two headed eastward, each containing a smaller tributary.
The Giantslayers split up and hid on either side of the path in an attempt to surprise the ettin and its pets. Unfortunately, they hadn’t counted on the bears’ keen sense of smell. The bears growled a warning which silenced the ettin, which had been arguing with itself about the reasons it had been denied admission into the the Storm Tyrant’s armies. “Now I’ll show you how to pound flesh,” sneered one head to the other, and then yelled up the path: “Whoever’s hiding up ahead, show yourself and die!” At Dravis’ suggestion, Draken answered by shouting (in Dwarvish) “You losers! Rejected by the Storm Tyrant! Stupid giant!”
“A dwarf!!” one of the heads said, as it rushed up the path towards the sound.“A rotten, stinking dwarf, in Minderhal’s Valley no less. Let’s get him!” The dire bears, meanwhile, had sniffed out Dravis (who was hiding, near Draken, on the west side of the path) and Gydion (near Silaqui, on the other side), and were closing in. Dravis climbed on top of a boulder to escape, but the huge bear followed and bit him savagely. Silaqui fired a volley of arrows (including a magical arrow of elemental Fire) at the ettin, wounding him, which was followed by a Call Lightning strike by Gydion.
A few rounds later, the ettin lay dead on the ground, killed by one of Silaqui’s arrows (after an assist from Draken’s hammer). Surprisingly, the dire bears continued to fight the party. On the west side of the path, the first bear had Dravis cornered on top of the boulder, jaws dripping with the rogue’s blood. On the east side of the path, the second bear attacked Gydion’s lion companion, Kingsley, who’d wedged himself between two boulders, positioned between his master and the bear. Kingsley—who was the same size as his opponent thanks to recently ‘leveling up’—responded with fang and claw, seriously wounding the beast with two critical hits.
The next round, Dravis (now in a flanking position) let loose a flurry of sneak attacks with his two swords. The bear dropped lifeless, so Draken took the opportunity to clamber down from the boulder, cross the path, and smash the other bear (flanking him), ending its savage life forever.
The party regrouped and healed their wounds, but before they could set forth, fire rained down from the sky! The two fire drakes that Gydion had spotted further south were doing fly-by attacks with their Fireball Breath! The party quickly hid among the boulders and discussed the situation as the flying reptiles did hairpin turns in the sky. As soon as the drakes reappeared, Gydion hit one with a Lightning strike [the spell he cast upon the ettin still being in effect] while Silaqui launched three arrows at the other. But after being hit by two more Fireballs, the party realized they were outgunned because Draken, Dravis and Kingsley had no effective missile capabilities. Dravis suggested that the drakes may not be attacking them per se—rather, perhaps the scavengers were only trying to drive them off, so they could feast upon the remains of the ettin and its dire bears. So the party elected for “double move” actions for their next round, heading southwards away from the carcasses. It paid off: the drakes didn’t follow them, and left them alone for the rest of the day.
As evening approached,, the party reached the part of Minderhal’s Valley that Gydion had spotted earlier: a wide, valley-like bottomland which branched into three other canyons: one main canyon continuing southwards (containing the river), and two smaller canyons heading eastwards. Gydion once more took to the skies to fly reconnaissance. Further back the way they’d come, the Druid saw the drakes feasting on the ettin and bera carcasses they’d left behind—"Dravis was right", he thought. He saw nothing down the eastern canyons, but spotted a party of six colorfully-garbed humanoids a few miles south, heading towards them along the river. Meanwhile, Silaqui picked up the trail of the band of giants and humans they’d been tracking (from Shinnerman’s Fortune). Their tracks led along one of the tributaries, down into one of the smaller, eastern canyons.
Next: the Trail of Tears