Giantslayers

Episode 33: The Trail of Tears
Shinnerman's misfortune

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The party set up their tents but Silaqui was restless. After the sun set, she decided to follow the giant and human tracks eastwards under cover of darkness. She drank a potion of Mage Armor , then cast Pass Without Trace on herself, and headed out, following the footsteps along a winding tributary, while Dravis began first watch. (With only three party members left at camp, their watches were slightly longer—two hours and forty minutes, as opposed to only two hours).

After two hours of hiking, the elven ranger reached the eastern edge of the bottomland. The tracks continued to follow the tributary eastward into one of the narrow canyons that Gydion had spotted on his last reconnaissance. She drank a potion of Darkvision before entering the canyon, creeping stealthily along, close to the rocky ledge on her right.

Another hour passed. As she crept along, she heard pebbles falling around her. She looked up to see nocturnal kangaroo rats scavenging along the cliffs. The dry canyon was alive at night with animals unnoticed during the day. Just then, a great roar broke the silence—sending the rats scurrying—and a fiery explosion high above her lit up the night. Silaqui drank a potion of Spider Climb and clambered up the rocks to investigate. She clambered up, and then sideways, and then up again, trying to track the source of the commotion. After a few minutes of this, she finally rounded a corner and saw a reptilian-like shape launch itself from the lip of the canyon above, and fly eastwards. Frightened and alone, she climbed down and headed back to camp to report what she’d seen.

Meanwhile, Dravis had gone to sleep and Draken was keeping watch. Suddenly, a pair of barghests lept out of nowhere, biting him through his armor. Flat-footed and off-center, the dwarf raised the alarm, yelling out and waking his friends. Regaining his balance, Draken cleaved through them, seriously wounding one. The barghests attacked again, but missed. Draken cleaved a second time, dropping one of the creatures; the other one disappeared into thin air.

The rest of the party grabbed their weapons and rushed out of their tents and saw Draken standing over the dead barghest. “There were two of them!” he told them, “One of them became invisible, or teleported”. Looking around, Gydion spotted the second creature above them, on top of one of the large boulders that sheltered their campsite. The barghest stood very still and focused its Crushing Despair spell-like ability on Draken, sapping his faith and causing him to lose 2 points on all his rolls. The rest of the party attacked with missile weapons, doing little damage, easily absorbed by the creature’s damage resistance (5 DR/magic).

The next round, the creature growled and sprang ferociously at Draken, intent on avenging its mate death. Unfortunately for the barghest, Gydion’s lion companion, Kingsley had held his action, and as soon as the beast landed, the lion mauled it, killing it with one bite. The party disposed of the bloodied barghest bodies in the river, and Draken continued his watch. Gydion took the final watch, which was uninterrupted save for Silaqui’s return. Although the group had decided against lighting a fire, thinking it would compromise their safety, the ranger didn’t need smoke to find her way back; she easily followed the tributary, and her own footprints, back to camp. She was able to catch a few hours of sleep before dawn. When the sun rose, she told everyone what she’d found over breakfast. “It was much bigger than a rift drake!” she insisted, when the others expressed doubt over her assertion she’d seen a bona fide fire-breathing dragon. Gydion then meditated to regain his spells while the rest of the group broke camp.

The group retraced Silaqui’s steps, and after two and a half hours, found a smouldering campfire. The giant footprints continued east, but the human footprints ended abruptly at the site. Closer inspection of the ashes turned up human bones. “Well, maybe they ate one of them, but perhaps the dragon you saw flew off with the other prisoners?” said Dravis to Silaqui, hopefully. The elf, who was tired from her all-night adventure and was relying on her Endurance feat to stay awake, looked grim. Alas, whatever their fate, things didn’t look good for Tarram Shinnerman and the other missing humans from Shinnerman’s Fortune.

Two hours and 4.5 miles later, the Giantslayers were rounding an oxbow in the tributary when they heard low, guttural voices ahead. The voices emanated from some large boulders across the brook. The rogue/fighter Dravis, who knows the Giant language, interpreted: it was a female giant, yelling at a bunch of others to “pick up the pace”; the others were grumbling their responses and protests. Dravis and Silaqui swam across the brook with a rope and fastened it on the other side so that Dravis could ford the river. Gydion turned into a bird and flew across, followed by Kingsley, who padded silently across. Silaqui then climbed one of the boulders, but when she reached the top, a loud siren was heard. The ranger had set off a magical Alarm spell! Dravis heard someone shout “Gristlecrack, we have company!” as an obese, blue, female giant with red hair—who had been sitting down—rose to her full height. They had finally found the giants who’d kidnapped Tarram Shinnerman!
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A full nineteen feet tall, Gristlecrack was now eye-level with Silaqui, atop the boulder; the giant raised her giant club and smashed the elf for over 40 points of damage. The other party members rushed between the boulders and found five huge trolls, growling loudly and baring their fangs. Dravis attacked one with his two short swords, followed by Draken, who cleaved through two of the beasts with his magic hammer, Agrimmosh. Gydion and Kingsley went on the offensive as well. On their turn, four the trolls bit and tore mightily—though two of them suffered poor aim from the Fear effect generated by Draken’s Fingernail Armor. The fifth troll, on the other hand, emitted a maniacal laugh, and disappeared into the air. It sounded like the mysterious wizard who’d been tormenting them ever since they first left Trunau, two months ago!

Silaqui fired an elemental Fire arrow into the giant’s face, followed by two more arrows, severely wounding it. Draken, Dravis and Kingsley continued their melee assault while Gydion invoked a Flame Strike between the trolls, causing some serious fire damange they could not repair with their trollish Regeneration ability. Just then, they heard maniacal laughter as a Fire Ball exploded in the middle of the battle, damaging both heroes and trolls alike. The party looked around, but the spellcaster was nowhere to be seen. Had it been cast by the troll who’d mysteriously disappeared? If so, he or she must be using the Greater Invisibility spell, Dravis thought.

The fight continued for several more rounds, reaching fever pitch as Silaqui dropped Gristlecrack, her blue hide riddled with arrows. The trolls looked worried, but there was no escape as Draken, Dravis and Kingsley made quick work of them. As the battle came to a close, the invisible spellcaster trapped Gydion in a Resilient Sphere, but the Druid freed himself by invoking his last Limited Wish.

While the party healed their wounds (Draken used his Channel Energy, which was supplemented by potions and scrolls from the others), they scanned around for the invisible, laughing wizard, but it was no use. He was gone. They also searched the boulders for any prisoners, but found none. What happened to the humans?—Silaqui grew despondent, desperate to know. The party decided to press eastward (since they were heading that way anyway), following some other giant tracks which, Silaqui determined, were roughly four days old.

Two hours of hiking later, the canyon widened, its slopes relaxing once again into more of a valley. At about this point, a smaller, narrow gorge headed south, while another headed north. It was now late afternoon, so the party sent Gydion, in eagle-form, to do reconnaissance. An hour later, he returned and reported the valley continued eastward as far as he could see, following the tributary. The southern gorge seemed desolate, save a small stream, and ended abruptly after growing more and more narrow over four miles. The northern gorge, however, contained a fast-flowing brook, and widened after about 3.5 miles. A forest of aspen and birch dominated this part of the gorge, in the center of which was an old, ruined church-like structure in the middle of a clearing. Though the sun was very low in the sky, the party decided to head there. Two hours later, as the light finally faded to darkness, they spotted the temple in the gloaming.

Treasure:

The barghests and trolls carried nothing of value, but Gristlecrack’s backpack contained the following items:

a +1 short sword,
1 potion of gaseous form
1 scroll of mirror image
1 gold bowl engraved with images of dwarves fighting giants (worth 400 gp)
1 gold flute (worth 1,000 gp)
1 small diamond (worth 900 gp)
2 opals (worth 500 gp each)
679 gp, 180 sp, & 900 cp
…and a collection of 14 grisly feet (dwarven, halfling, and human)

Next: Thieves, and Leaves, in the Temple

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Episode 32: Enter Minderhal's Valley
Valley of a hundred perils

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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.

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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

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Episode 31: Three Trolls & A Baby
It ain't ogre til it's ogre

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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.

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Episode 30: The Dark Chamber Beckons

The party spent the night in Warped Wood Manor without incident, though the air became increasingly thick with palpable evil as the night wore on. A quick review of the areas they’d explored the day before revealed that they were exactly as they’d left them, except that the door from which they’d entered had been sealed shut. They heard the faint echo of rough, dwarven voices beyond—King Knut and his men had obviously arrived, and were trying to figure out how to open the door. “I told you we should have propped it open!” sighed Draken.

Then—rested and ready—the Giantslayers split into two groups, each heading to one of the two entrances to the sole unexplored portion of the tomb: the oppressively dark, rune-warded, inner chamber.

Draken, Dravis and Silaqui took the southern entrance and immediately saw the light from Dravis’ torch reduced 4-fold. Luckily, Draken’s darkvision still worked: they were in a 10-foot wide, 20-foot tall corridor. After a few moments, he saw Asa, Gydion and Kingsley slowly groping their way from the west entrance; the glows from both Asa’s Divine Bond sword, and Gydion’s Light-empowered quarterstaff, were similarly reduced. Clearly, the darkness of the chamber was magically amplified. The adventurers regrouped and headed east, Draken and Dravis in the lead. They passed a doorway leading into what looked like a burial room, with a large, stone sepulcher in the middle. After some discussion, they decided to forego the room for the time being, and continue down the corridor.

Rounding a corner, the dwarven fighter-cleric and human fighter-rogue were surprised by two giant-sized mummies! The monsters slammed them with crushing blows. Silaqui, as usual, was the first to react, firing two arrows down the corridor towards the sounds of her embattled companions. One of them hit, despite the 50% miss chance imposed by the magical darkness.

Asa grasped the Iomedean Glory Medallion and, expending five of his Lay On Hands charges, dispelled the magical darkness in a thirty-foot radius around them, allowing their light sources to work normally. Draken attempted a cleave through both of their opponents with Agrimmosh, but only hit one. Gydion fired a Flaming Sphere while Silaqui downed one of her potions of Spider Climb, climbed a wall, and (on her next round) fired more arrows.

After numerous rounds of violence, the two undead giants fell to well-placed sneak attacks from Dravis, who had tumbled behind them early on thanks to his his roguishly high acrobatics skills. Healing up, the party pressed on further and discovered a giant-sized crank-wheel inserted into the western wall of the hallway. With all of them on the wheel (and with Draken’s strength magically enhanced with a Bull’s Strength spell from Gydion), the group was eventually able to turn it. They heard the wooosh of rushing air, and Asa and Gydion backtracked to the burial room to see if anything there had changed. They found the sepulcher closed, but felt a breeze from the other side of the room [which was obscured by the magical darkness which, aside from the 30-foot space cleared by Asa earlier, permeated this entire part of the tomb]. Asa, impatient, moved up to the closed sepulcher and pounded on it with his fist. This action set off a Fireball, burning both him and Gydion, and setting alight the room’s contents: books and papers set on shelves along the perimeter! Gydion cast Quench and put out the flames, and then salvaged what he could: three magical tomes. Upon further inspection, the Druid learned that the books were meant for improving rogue skills; clerical aptitude; and sorcererous power, respectively.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party had found that turning the crank-wheel all the way opened a stone door further down the corridor, across from a second entry into the burial room that Asa and Gydion were in. Draken stood in front of the open door and described what his darkvision revealed to him: a staircase down into a chamber lined with four-foot high coffins, with another door at the far end. The party entered the room, and found that the magical darkness was lifted (ie it was only normal darkness within; their light sources worked just fine). Draken began opening the coffins. Each one contained one gem; his dwarven stonecutting knowledge told him that each was cut from a different stone, and each was of different monetary value. Curious but wary, and upon the advice of his friends, he left the gemstones in place. He tried the door at the end of the room (marked with the Giant word for “treasure”), but it was locked tight.

Upon opening the final coffin, a four-foot-high zombie suddenly appeared on top of each of the coffins! They jumped down and attacked. After 10 bloody rounds, the Giantslayers prevailed, but not without a price. The final zombie, having subsumed the energies and mass of all the other (now-defeated) zombies, exploded in flames, turning the room into a blazing inferno! Reeling from the blast but still conscious, Gydion did his best to put out the residual fires with his Quench orison. As he did so, he noticed that the door to the“Treasure” room was now wide open.

Inside, the party discovered numerous potions; a few other magical items; and a giant-sized key. “This is our way out!” exclaimed Draken, happily. “We’re free!” On their way out, the party shoved the lid off the sepulcher, revealing a giant-sized body, laid to rest in regal attire; it was clearly the remains of the famous Stone King Myanimar. A metal rod that radiated magic was buried with him; using his spellcraft skill, Gydion identified it as a Rod of Metal and Mineral Detection. Ripping it out of the King’s bony hands, the Giantslayers exited the tomb.

Treasure (from both episode 29 and 30, combined:

Multiple giant-sized master​work weapons

A huge-sized, gem-encrusted chariot

Heaps of treasure worth 8,000 gold pieces

Elixir of Swimming
Elixir of Tumbling
Elixir of Vision
Ointment of Flying

One Rogue Tome (bestows +1 rogue level when read)
One Cleric Tome (bestows +1 cleric level)
One Sorcerer Tome (bestows +1 sorcerer level)

One Rod of Metal and Mineral Detection
4 scrolls (two druid, one wizard, one cleric- spells to be determined
6 potions (Darkvision, Spider Climb, False Life, Enlarge Person, Mage Armor, and Bull’s Strength)
Handy Haversack (acts as a backpack with three Bags of Holding built into it)

Next: Trouble in Shimmerman’s Fortune

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Happy 30th episode, Giantslayers!
Our 30th game!

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Last week Catherine bought a cake for us to celebrate our 30th exciting adventure!

I know last week’s post was entitled “Episode 29” BUT I mis-numbered somewhere along the way. It was really our 30th!

30 episodes in just about one year’s time.
That’s nearly 3 episodes per month!

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Episode 29: Into The Stone Giant King's Tomb
another day, another tomb...

Upon exiting Nargrym’s Tomb our heroes heard the harsh, guttural voices of dwarves arguing. Since it was dark, and since he was the only one who spoke Dwarven, Draken led the party through the aspen woods, towards the voices. Cheerful greetings were exchanged when they found none other than King Knut himself, together with a troop of his dwarven fighters. The party showed King Knut what they’d recovered from Nargym’s Tomb, and the King offered to buy whatever they didn’t want: Heartspit, the statues, the abacus, etc. After some negotiation, the King paid them 8,000 gp.

The King also requested a special favor: laying out a map of the Mindspins, the mighty king pointed to a place where an ancient mausoleum, dedicated to the renowned Stone Giant King, Myanimar. King Knut told them he wanted them to clear the tomb of all monsters, so that he could establish a dwarven base camp there. He promised them a portion of whatever treasure they found there. Since the mausoleum was located along the route to Minderhal’s Valley, the group happily agreed.

That night, Draken’s sleep was interrupted by a vivid dream, in which he was wandering in the mountains. He was dreaming in darkvision: everything around him in stark black-and-white. Suddenly, Nargrym Steelhand appeared to him, surrounded by a golden halo. The figure told Draken that he was destined to be his giant-slaying heir. He offered the fighter-cleric a silver-colored glove. Draken considered it briefly before finally accepting it. He tried on the glove and, upon waking, found that the Steel Hand they’d recovered from Nargrym’s Tomb was attached to his arm, and his own natural (flesh) hand was lying next to his bed! He rose and, realizing he had no pain, wrapped up the severed member. He gripped Agrimmosh tightly in his new hand, and was pleased to find that his grip was stronger. Draken decided then and there that he would complete his transformation into Nargrym’s heir by donning his finger-nail-scale-mail as well. [King Knut later paid the party 1,000 gp for Draken’s existing suit of +1 Chain Mail.] The great dwarven god Torag smiled upon him.

The next morning, the Giantslayers headed southeast and located the path to the ancient Stone Giant mausoleum. [King Knut and his troops were planning on joining them one day later]. Dravis, Silaqui and Asa took the lead, stealthily. At the end of the path they found a double-door in the rough-hewn surface of a cliff. The door was not trapped, but it radiated magic, so the party was wary. Draken tried to push it open, but it would not budge. Gydion then cast Bull’s Strength on the dwarf, and that (together with the combined strength of Asa, Dravis and Silaqui) did the trick. The door opened, revealing a dark, downward-sloping passage, about 10 feet wide. Two suits of armor stood on either side of the passage, about 50 feet away.

Sure enough, the suits of armor sprang to life as soon as the group approached! They appeared to be giant, skeletal warriors—probably undead, according to Silaqui’s magic sword and Asa’s Detect Evil paladin ability. Silaqui shot an arrow into one of them before they could attack, and battle commenced! After the two skeletal guards were dealt with, more began to file into the hallway from a large chamber just beyond their field of view.

Gydion suddenly_Wildshaped_ into an elephant and bullrushed the giant skeletons in front of him, forcing them into the chamber beyond. He then set upon them, eventually trampling two of them to death. Meanwhile, his companions were each met by a skeletal warrior—some were bigger (15 feet high) while others were smaller (12 feet high; about the size of the first two undead guards). While the giant skeletons defended the tomb fiercely with their spears and clubs, our heroes ultimately prevailed (though not without suffering grievous wounds). The skeletons only took half damage from piercing weapons, which prolonged the battle (Agrimmosh caused full damage, however, being a blunt, crushing weapon). Besides Gydion’s shapeshifting into an elephant, these were the highlights of the fight:

  • Silaqui downing a Spider Climb potion and shooting arrows from a vantage place on the 20-foot ceiling
  • Dravis dealing out substantial damage with his many short-sword attacks
  • Kingsley landing critical hits with one claw, dropping a skeleton in one fell swoop
  • Asa using his Smite Evil (enhanced with Eagle’s Splendor) to vanquish one of the biggest of the bunch.

Upon vanquishing the final skeleton guard, our heroes explored the rest of the mausoleum. They found a room with four potions (including a potion of Vision, and a magic ointment), and another room with valuable, giant-sized treasures (including a gem-encrusted chariot).

They also found a magically darkened room, which they dare not enter because of the glowing runes (in Giant) they saw in the passage leading to it: Asa interpreted them as saying “Be afraid of the dark. Be very afraid!” The group discussed the matter and decided to camp in the large, 20-foot chamber, where they would heal themselves, before entering the ominously dark chamber.

Next: the Dark Chamber Beckons!

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Episode 28: The Tomb of Nargrym Steelhand, Part 3
Introducing Dravis Montbreeze

The Giantslayers left Nargrym’s Tomb and went outside, where they met Dravis, a young male human fighter/rogue who’d followed them from Trunau. Dravis—an acquaintance of Asa’s—had been following their exploits closely, and wanted to join the party! Just as unexpectedly,Janekfan was suddenly called away to Trunau for a top-secret Druidic meeting with Silvermane (ie, her player, Chantel, returned to Seattle).

Next, Silaqui, Dravis and Gydion searched the stairwell of the tomb for secret doors, but found none. So the party healed up; magically restored their lost ability points; rested; and memorized new spells. Returning to the tomb a few hours after midnight, they discovered “The Chamber of Memory”, lined with panels narrating the life and deeds of Nargrym Steelhand. This room led into a statue-lined Prayer Room, which appeared to connect to the Reliquary they’d explored the day before! The tomb, in other words, was circular in its lay-out.

Further inspection (by their new friend, Dravis) revealed that Lokmorr the Betrayer was hiding exactly where they’d left him: in the hall connecting the Reliquary and the Prayer Room! The group then split up, with some of them approaching Lokmorr from the Reliquary (where they’d battled him before), and the others from the Prayer Room. The evil Betrayer was surrounded!

The battle that followed was long and harrowing, but in the end, the Giantslayers prevailed once again. Lokmorr attempted an Agonized Wail, his Tortuous Touch (multiple times), and finally, his Baleful Gaze. Unfortunately, the saving throw DC’s were too low—everyone saved, every time. The tide really turned when Kingsley bull-rushed him and forced him out out of hiding, into the Prayer Room. Other highlights of the fight included:

  • Turin firing a metamagic rod enhanced-Lightning Bolt at Lokmorr, and then Haste on most of the party, giving them all extra attacks

*Silaqui firing an Elemental arrow (fire) to massive effect

  • Dravis landing three sneak attacks while Lokmorr was flanked
  • Asa smiting him with Smite Evil, then ducking past him, avoiding an A. of O. with his high acrobatics skill
  • Draken finally landing a solid hit with Agrimmosh after many spectacular misses!
  • Gydion delivering the coup de grace with his magic Flaming +2 scimitar, preventing Lokmorr from regenerating further. The broken-souled dwarf immediately crumbled into dust, 700 years of immortality finally catching up with him! The party salvaged Nargrym’s magic, Steel Hand from the pile of dust, along with his +2 giant-sized spear, called Heartspit

A search of the Prayer Room revealed stairs down into a hidden, lower level of the Tomb containing a sepulcher holding Nargrym’s remains. They also found the cage where Lokmorr was imprisoned (bars broken), and some braziers filled with treasure. Even more disturbing, Gydion was appalled to find that Nargrym’s remains had been gnawed on postmortem, presumably, by Lokmorr.

The corpse was wearing a magic +2 suit of scale mail comprised entirely of hill giant fingernails, as foretold in the narrated, dwarven tales they encountered in the levels above. A thorough search of the room revealed more treasure, including multiple statuettes, gems, coins, and these magic items:

  • One +2 ring of Magic Shield
  • one potion of Lesser Restoration
  • Boots of the Winterlands
    … and a strange, broken, porcelain magic kewpie doll. (Not even Turin’s skills could penetrate its mysterious powers).

Next: Onwards To Minderhal’s Valley

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Episode 27: The Tomb of Nargrym Steelhand, Part 2

Just to be safe, the party decided to burn away the webs surrounding the huge, rune-covered obelisk, before entering. They remembered that webs are easily set alight by a flaming arrow, so Silaqui fired one into the “tent”. After a few minutes, the webs burned away, leaving smouldering logs. The group cautiously moved through the darkened archway, Draken in the lead.

A narrow, five-foot wide archway climbed downwards, at a very steep angle, into musty darkness. Gydion and Turin lit up their weapons with Light, while Jane lit Toboe’s feathered collar alight with the same orison. Silaqui drank a potion of Mage Armor. There were no rails, so the group had to move cautiously. As they descended, Draken read aloud the dwarven runes that covered the walls, which narrated the life and exploits of Nargrym Steelhand in great detail. After descending forty feet, the party reached a small landing. They noticed that the stairwell was becoming filled with spiderwebs, and that the webs were crawling with small, brown spiders. Gydion, Jane and Turin reassured the others that the brown spiders were a harmless species, but this did little to calm Silaqui, whose arachnophobia had already been sorely tested during their battle with ettercaps just a few minutes before.

Just as she finished identifying the small brown spiders, Jane spotted movement in the webs below the landing: an ettercap and a giant spider were crawling stealthily towards them! Battle commenced, with Silaqui firing the first shot, wounding the ettercap. Because of the narrowness of the landing, most of the heroes couldn’t act, and instead elected to hold their actions until the vermin approached close enough to attack. During the short but unnerving encounter, Gydion cast Produce Flame at the giant spider, setting the webs below them on fire! Turin’s now-improved familiar, Blaez, however, extinguished them with his Gust of Wind breath-weapon (in an unsuccessful attempt to blow the vermin to their deaths). In the end, Silaqui finished off her ettercap with another well-placed arrow, and her brother Turin vanquished its giant spider companion with a Force Missile.

The party descended further and noticed (with much dismay on Silaqui’s part) that the webs were becoming more and more active. As they climbed the stairs, Draken (still in the lead) observed that Nargrym’s story continued, and read it aloud to his friends: apparently, Nargrym had acquired a magical, steel hand which allowed him to wield giant-sized weapons. In addition, the dwarf had a shirt of scale-mail crafted for himself, made entirely from the fingernails of giants he’d slain during his illustrious giantslaying career. Asa was remarking on the peculiar choice of materials for armor when they heard a blood-curdling shriek coming from below them: “Interlopers! Get out of my uncle’s tomb at once! Begone!” the dwarf fighter-cleric spotted a terrifying monster on a second landing, about 10 feet below them, which Draken described as a strange, female, half-dwarf/half-spider. Suddenly, with a wave of one of its appendanges, a curtain of webs flew at Draken, just missing him.

Meanwhile, another ettercap—hidden beneath the stairs—sprung up and attacked Silaqui, thankfully missing her with its poisonous fangs. Draken closed the distance between him and the strange, half-dwarf, and struck at her with his magic hammer, the dwarven artifact Agrimmosh. The creature ducked, and he missed! Given the narrowness of the stairs and the landing, much of the rest of the party (eg Asa, Kingsley, and Toboe) were unable to attack, and had to either hold their actions, or had to spend a round switching out their melee weapons for missile weapons. The next round, the creature bit Draken in the shoulder, but he made his Fortitude saving throw, and shrugged off her poison. The two traded blows for several rounds—Draken hit the creature three times, but got badly scratched by the creature’s claws in the process. Silaqui backed him up by firing a series of arrows at her from the stairs.

Jane, meanwhile, filled her ettercap consort with arrows, killing it. Putting down her bow momentarily, the elven Druid asked the half-spider dwarven creature, “Why are you attacking us?” But before she could answer, Gydion put the hateful, hybrid aberration out of its misery with a Scorching Ray, igniting the webs around it. Earlier in the battle, the Druid had also lobbed some fiery missiles with the Produce Flame spell he’d cast earlier. They’d missed, and ignited other webs deep, down below—so the entire stairwell was rapidly filling with thick smoke, forcing the heroes to scurry upwards for air.

After a few minutes, the smoke cleared, and they returned to loot the hybrid’s body. They turned up a magic amulet, which Turin identified as an Amulet of Mighty Fists +1 (which bequeaths its bonus to unarmed attacks). Curiously, they also discovered a spell component pouch filled with Druidic material components—for example, mistletoe and holly. Jane and Gydion looked at each other—might this wretched creature have been a Druid? The two said a quick, Druidic prayer over its hybrid body and steeled themselves for what lay ahead.

Draken led the group down 40 more feet, where they found the bottom of the smoky shaft. As they descended down the final staircase, Draken read the tragic, final chapter of Nargrym’s biography, engraved in runes upon the staircase walls:

Nargrym’s final and most well-known victory was over the infamous fire giant Gunderoth, called “Dwarfskinner”, who scorched the living flesh from nearly 30 dwarven miners. Nargrym’s win was short-lived, however. After Gunderoth’s defeat, Nargrym’s own squire and kinsman, Lokmorr Edergun, cravenly stabbed Nargrym in the back out of spite and jealousy. Lokmorr took credit for slaying the giant himself, claiming it had killed Nargrym, and was heralded as a hero. But a priest of the dwarven god of the forge, Torag, named Byrim Forgepride, discovered Lokmorr’s crime and confronted the kinslayer about his betrayal and deception. Believing he might still pull off his ruse, Lokmorr turned upon the priest and slew him as well. Although Lokmorr tried again to cover up his dark deeds, he was unsuccessful, and the ruling council of the dwarven Sky Citadel Janderhoff (Nargrym and Lokmorr’s home) branded his forehead with the mark of the betrayer, struck his family name from the dwarven histories, and sentenced Lokmorr to be trapped alive in the tomb of the hero he had murdered.

The half-spider, half-dwarf creature had mentioned her “uncle”, and they’d assumed she’d meant Nargrym. But had she actually been referring to Lokmorr? “I guess we’ll never know,” pondered Jane, and Toboe whined in commiseration.
Draken and the others, meanwhile, were busy exploring the small chamber at the bottom of the stairs. A disk-shaped door, flush with the stone around it—and without hinges—was set in the center of the eastern wall. Above the door a Dwarven sentence was engraved. Draken translated: “Touch upon thy son’s blessings, and enter.” Upon the door itself were engraved three ancient Dwarven runes, which Draken translated as Loyalty, Duty, and Strength.

While Turin (the scholar among the group), Draken, and Silaqui struggled to make sense of the writing, Jane explored the western end of the chamber. She discovered two badly burned corpses, wrapped in the scorched remains of gossamer webbing. No clues to their identities had survived the fire, although given their stature, she concluded they were probably dwarves. Toboe confirmed this with his Scent ability.

“I’ve got it!” exclaimed Turin. “According to Dwarven legend, the great god Torag had three sons, who represented the qualities of Loyalty, Duty and Strength, respectively.” The group discussed the best way forward. They decided to try having different party members touch the runes. This produced no response, however, so Jane touched a rune and said “Nargrym Steelhand”. Suddenly, the rune flashed, and a jet of blue flame shot towards her forehead. When she turned around, there was a dwarven rune tattooed upon her brow! “THIEF” read Draken aloud. “The dwarves of Janderhoff clearly don’t abide tomb raiders!” He smiled. Try as they might, Draken couldn’t remove the mark from his sister’s head. “We’ll see if Tyari can get rid of it with Remove Curse,” Asa offered.

The others, meanwhile, were already back to figuring out the runes on the door. “Let’s try touching each rune, while at the same time speaking the name of the son who represents that quality,” Silaqui suggested. Draken, Gydion and Asa did the honors—and the door opened, sliding silently into the wall. Draken entered the dark, musty chamber within, the others following closely on his heels.

They found themselves within a 30 × 30 foot chamber lined with pillars that was seemlessly carved from the surrounding stone—dwarven architecture. Every surface was covered with dust; it appeared that noone had set foot here in many years. Curiously, the floor in the center of the room was comprised of opaque glass. Gydion put one foot on the panel, and, finding it held his weight, walked across it. Two doors, opposite each other, provided the only exits from the room. There were footprints in the dust; close inspection by the elven ranger, Silaqui, indicated that they were made by a dwarf, entering from the north door and exiting by the south door. After Silaqui inspected it for traps, Draken tried the south door and—finding it unlocked—followed the tracks out.

When the door was opened, a putrid smell—excrement—poured from the room. The room was littered with dung, and broken objects—jars, boxes, canisters—together with rocks torn from the walls. Then, an agonized wail abruptly broke the silence! The yell struck feaer in into the heroes’ hearts, inflicting Gydion and Toboe (who failed their Will saves) with a temporary -2 penalty to their attacks, saving throws and skill rolls. The cry ended as the door on the east wall slammed shut. The party quickly crossed the room to investigate. Throwing open the door, Draken was shocked to see a hunched-over, twisted dwarf with pustules covering his skin. The dwarf’s left hand was made of steel, as was his armor; and he wielded a giant-sized spear in his hands. The dwarven rune for MURDERER was emblazoned across his forehead.

The ghastly, tortured-looking figure stood down a dark, narrow hallway. It growled: “I have been shut inside this tomb for 700 years! You have set me free. But first, I am hungry!” It lurched forward and grabbed Draken’s hand—producing hideous, painful wounds on the fighter-cleric’s skin! Draken struck it with Agrimmosh, to no effect. The two fought head-to-head for some time, with no way for anyone else to engage the creature because of the cramped quarters presented by the narrow hallway. Silaqui was able to fire a few arrows over Draken’s head, when Toboe lit up the hallway for her; but the rest of the party were unable to attack.

Meanwhile, Jane noticed the darkness growing—and taking on life of its own! Three shadows emerged from the corners of the foul-smelling reliquary they were in, and attacked. One reached for Kingsley, but missed; the other two connected with touch attacks on Jane and Turin, respectively—draining Strength points. Asa identified the apparitions as undead, and released an explosion of positive energy (= Channel Energy), causing 10 points of damage to each. Two rounds later, Jane and Turin overcame the shadows by summoning electricity: Jane brought down Call Lightning upon one of them, while Turin decimated the others with a Lightning Bolt.

Gydion turned his attention to the heated, dwarf vs. dwarf battle down the dark, narrow hallway. Lokmorr stepped back and struck at Draken with his giant spear, but missed. Draken struck at Lokmorr with his hammer, and landed a crushing blow, causing him to reel backwards. Silaqui Summoned a stirge, which landed on Lokmorr’s neck, distracting him [and draining him of 1 pt of CON].Gydion seized the moment and Wildshaped into a mouse, scooted by Draken, and emerged on the other side of the Betrayer. He then cast Chill Metal (using his Natural Spell feat) on Lokmorr’s armor. Lokmorr, still unaware of the Druid or his magic, kept his attacks focused on Draken. He grabbed the dwarf’s arm again, inflicting large welts upon his flesh! Gydion, still in mouse-form, ran through Lokmorr’s legs, and cast Flaming Sphere, singeing the creature and causing him to retreat into a corner to the north, his back now against a wooden door.

The smoke from the Sphere cleared away, and the twisted, evil dwarf noticed the little mouse for the very first time. Bending down, he grabbed Gydion in his hand, causing welts to appear upon the mouse’s little, furry body. Gydion writhed in pain, helpless to act—the sensation was excruciating. Shape-shifting back into human form, he stumbled down the hallway, and noticed he’d lost some Dexterity. He was assisted by Turin, who’d entered the passage a moment before. The wizard considered the situation: the battle wasn’t proceeding well, so he needed to end it—quickly. As Silaqui helped Gydion and Draken out of the narrow hallway, Turin cast Wall of Ice, entombing Lokmorr inside a 7-inch-thick frosty sphere! The Betrayer roared and pounded at the ice with his fists, but it did not yield. Lokmorr’s rage echoed through Nargrym’s Tomb as the Giantslayers regrouped and considered their next move.

Next: The Third—and Final—Act

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Episode 26: The Tomb of Nargrym Steelhand, Part 1

When they reached the base of Weathertop Mountain, the adventurers were surprised to be greeted by Janekfan and Toboe. The pair had traveled from the Vault of Thorns (where Jane had taken up residence of late) to Trunau to visit Silvermane. The old Druid told them that they had gone east to rescue Turin’s familiar Blaez, and urged Jane to follow them. Since it was late in the day and they wanted to heal and rest before setting off for Nargrym’s Tomb, so they decided to recover their mounts and set up camp right there at the mountain’s base. Thankfully, the night was uneventful, as was the next day’s journey into the heart of the northern Mindspin Mountains. The peaks around them grew taller, the temperature dropped, and coniferous trees appeared in the forest around them.

That night (the second night of their journey since leaving Weathertop), the moon was blotted out by the shadow of a leathery winged creature flapping dangerously close above them. The human Druid Gydion was on watch, and Silaqui was already awake, so the pair quietly woke everyone. Silaqui readied an arrow, and when the creature landed about 30 feet from the campsite, she scored a solid hit. Roaring in rage, the creature breathed mightily and spit a Fireball into the middle of the campsite, injuring most of the heroes. In the flashing light, they readily identified the creature as a Fire Drake, a creature they’d become familiar with during their recent assault on Redlake Fort.

Five rounds of combat later, the Drake lay vanquished on the forest floor as Gydion and Jane struggled to douse the small forest fires ignited by the draconian beast’s fiery breath. Silaqui heard a noise to the east, so she and her brother Turin headed into the forest to investigate. As the two moved, they could hear voices, which Turin translated from Giant language: “Let’s get out of here!” and “Aye! Minderhal’s Valley is only a few days’ south of here”. They heard trees crashing in the forest, moving away from them, and increased their speed. At close range they saw two spooked Hill Giants, running southeast. “Stop and we will spare your lives!” shouted Silaqui, but the giants were unfazed, and continued running.

Since they’d ignored her command, the elf ranger shot at one with her trusty Elemental bow, while her wizard brother fired off some Magic Missiles. Both attacks hit, and battle commenced as their colleagues caught up with them. Gydion immediately cast Entangle, allowing the rest of the party to fire missile weapons at the trapped giants. Towards the end, Toboe alone braved the entanglements to attack one of the giants, dropping him with one bite. The other giant broke free just in time to be cut down by one of Silaqui’s deadly arrows. Inspection of the remains revealed that the giants were clearly refugees from Grenseldek’s Twisted Hearts tribe (whom the Giantslayers had defeated weeks before), migrating south to join the giant army being assembled in Minderhal’s Valley.

After this encounter, the group was tempted to head to Minderhal’s valley straightaway; but the group carried on with their mission to find Nargrym’s Tomb. Uncovering the tomb’s secrets, Gydion argued, would give them a strong advantage against the giants of Minderhal’s Valley. So they pressed east, spending the second day and third night amongst ever-higher peaks. The trail ended midday on the second day, and they found themselves in complete wilderness; luckily, the geode map was still useful. The third night was uneventful. The next day, their third since rescuing Blaez, was spent entirely within a cool mountain pass. They set up camp the next day, and the next morning’s journey brought them up and out of the pass, where they saw a series of plateaus, growing ever-higher against the backdrop of the northern Mindspins. They found a trailhead located along the shore of the Rantash River, and followed the trail upwards and east into the center of high peaks region of the northern Mindspins. From what Turin had learned in the Sanctuary’s library back in Trunau, the trail indicated by the geode led to mining fortresses established long ago by dwarves from the Sky Citadel Janderhoff, in the bordering country of Varisia. The party’s resident stalwart, dwarven fighter-cleric Draken’s eyes lit up as he considered all the gems and minerals in those deep, rich shafts!

But after a few hours, the geode’s crystal markers indicated they should take another, less traveled trail, which led away from the mines, and towards one of the low plateaus. This new trail was marked every 100 feet by weather-worn, dwarven runestones. After a few more hours, the adventurers found themselves atop a high plain, overlooking the very source of the Rantash River. In front of them was a forest of aspen trees, their golden leaves shimmering in the mid-afternoon sun. The wood looked peaceful enough, but after some discussion, they decided they should scout ahead. The two distaff members of the party—both of them keen-sighted elves—were selected for the job.

Silaqui, Jane, and their animal companions quietly followed the trail into the aspen forest while the rest of the party waited. After a few turns, the ranger sent Bracken, her blackbird, to send word to her companions that the coast was clear. But the next minute, the Druid stumbled into a tripwire, causing razor-sharp flints into the air, striking both of them. Jane found herself stumbling [2 Dex points temporarily lost], and paralyzed for one round—the stones had been poisoned, she reasoned, and examined the them as the rest of the party caught up with them. She identified the poison as “slow nectar”, made from a white-flowered plant growing on cliffs they’d passed recently along the trail. Silaqui gave Jane a vial of antitoxin, and examined the tripwire as the two waited for the rest of the group to catch up. She concluded it was made of gossamer webbing—and shivered when she thought about the size of the spiders responsible.

About a minute later, the group was reunited, only to be confronted by a horrid half-man, half-spider creature, accompanied by two giant spiders, rushing towards them along the trail! The arachnoid trio fired webs, and then attacked fiercely with their poisoned fangs; however, they were no match for the spells and skills of the heavily-armed party. Turin vanquished the half-spider-thing, and his sister finished off the two giant spiders.

After the party dealt with this horror, two more humanoid, spider-like creatures (called “ettercaps”, the Druids told the rest of the party), together with two more giant spiders, attacked from the treetrops adjacent to the trail. These, too, were quickly outgunned by the party, the only “casualty” being Kingsley’s temporary entanglement in an ettercap’s web. Gydion killed the ettercap that entangled his lion companion, while Draken killed the other ettercap; meanwhile, Asa and Turin dealt with two giant spiders, each landing critical hits (Asa with Scorch, and Turin with a Scorching Ray). After healing the minor wounds they’d incurred, the party pressed on.

About 300 feet further on, the aspen forest opened up into a clearing commanded by a giant, granite obelisk, about 100 feet tall, 25 feet wide and 25 feet deep. A dark, arched doorway, marked above by a carving of a clenched fist, led inside. An odd structure of logs and spiderwebs surrounded the obelisk, but the webs were parted like curtains in front of the archway. As the party drew closer, they could see that the obelisk with covered with dwarven runes. Draken approached and read them aloud: it was Torag’s Epicede, a traditional dwarven funerary poem. Clearly, he told them, this marked the final resting place of a dwarven giantslayer from Janderhoff, and ancestor of their friends Ingrahild and Umlo. They had found the entrance to the Tomb of Nargrym Steelhand!

Next: The Tomb of Nargrym Steelhand, Part 2

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Episode 25: Journey to Weathertop
The epic rescue of Blaez

On their way to meet Halgra of the Blackened Blades, Silaqui quietly slipped away and climbed one of the towers on the northeast part of the city wall. She didn’t trust the Chief Defender and didn’t want to be caught in a situation she couldn’t control.

The remaining Giantslayers entered the Ivory Hall and ushered into Halgra’s private chambers. She met them in a drawing room, where she congratulated them on a job well done. “You have saved our city twice over!” she exclaimed. She took their newly found half of the geode map to Nargrym’s Tomb, examined the complete map with the heroes. At Gydion’s request, she sent the map via messenger to Trunau’s chief artographer, to create a paper copy as a back-up. Halgra then invited them all to have dinner with her, where she eagerly listened to stories of their adventures over the past two weeks over glasses of “glow wine”, a delicious Trunauan local brew. She was very concerned to hear about the correspondence they’d uncovered in Grenseldek’s bedroom—between the giant chief and someone named “Volstus”, who was assembling some sort of giant army. Halgra told them they’d better make haste to Minderhall Valley as soon as possible, and the party unanimously agreed. The generous half-orc Chief promised them free rations and free horses. Halgra was also pleased to hear the news that King Knut of the Iron Dwarves was opening up a tunnel to Trunau, and establishing a fortress near her city. “The Iron Dwarves are strong. They will help us defend Trunau against future threats,” she said, excitedly.

Towards the end of dinner, Tyari Varvatos entered the room, smiling “It IS true! You have returned from Redlake Fort!” Halgra invited her to join them, and the cleric of Iomedae pulled up a chair while a server poured her some wine. She explained that the Sanctuary’s resident oracle, the half-orc Katrezra, had a vision they’d returned to the Ivory Hall. The priestess praised them for their victory against the Twisted Heart tribe, and told them they were all welcome to stay at the Sanctuary, which the adventurers gladly accepted.

Just after their arrival at the Sanctuary, Silaqui knocked on the door, and a paladin greeted her. She explained her lateness, and repeated her dislike of Halgra. The she-elf ranger then requested a meeting with Tyari, but was informed that she’d just retired to her private chamber. Her friends told her that she could have her old “monk’s cell” in the basement level, but she declined, telling them she’d rather sleep in the common room upstairs.

Draken, Gydion, Kingsley and Turin descended to the basement for some much –needed rest. They noticed a number of items that weren’t there before—things rescued from the Plague House. For example, the gem-encrusted tabernacle (now empty) decorated the basement stairwell. The most impressive item, however was the large, wax figure of Iomedae’s angelic herald, Jingh. Just one month ago, it had magically bequeathed an extra ability point (and a “good” alignment) to all of them (except Turin, who wasn’t there) during the Giantslayers’ exploration of the Plague House. Now, it stood dull and lifeless at the end of the basement hallway.

In the middle of the night, Turin woke up and was startled to see the wax statue of Jingh standing over him. It was glowing!

“I am Jingh, Iomedae’s Blessed One. The All-Seeing, All-Knowing. I am the Golden Lady. The Mistress of Mercy. And so forth. Come with me, my child. There is much to show you, and very little time,” it said. She reached for Turin’s hand, and he took it. The next moment, the elf wizard found himself on a mountainside, surrounding by swirling mists. Jingh led him by the hand up the mountain; they seemed to climb forever. While climbing, out of the corner of his eye, Turin noticed what looked like a hummingbird (and he heard the buzz of wings). His heart skipped a beat as he realized it was probably his former familiar, Blaez.

Jingh looked back and said, “It’s so difficult, losing a friend, isn’t it?” And then she turned back around, and continued to lead him upwards. They walked on.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, they reached the top of the mountain. Suddenly, the summit was bathed in a golden light, and Turin suddenly felt no fear, no worry, and no pain. Jingh then said: “I have seen the affliction of the people of Trunau. I have heard their cries and felt their sufferings. Now, I have come down to rescue them from the evil that threatens Trunau, and all the good folk of this world… including your own homeland of Kyonin.” Then she raised her sword and cut a wide swath through the mist, dispersing the clouds and revealing a scenic vista of tall, jagged, snow-capped mountains, both beautiful and terrible. “Your true enemy lies in the heart of those mountains, in Minderhall’s Valley. You will go there and defeat your true enemy, and deliver Trunau, and all the good folk of Golarion, from its evil.”

Turin looked at her with confusion, and she responded: “You can do this, Turin, with Iomedae’s help. Will you accept a gift from me?” Then, a small pouch materialized in her hand. She reached into the pouch with a spoon and then showered Turin in a swirl of golden sparkles. It was like being in a snowglobe! (NG, +1 ability point). “This will make you stronger” And the she smiled. “I repeat: you can defeat this evil with Iomedae’s help. You will also need the help of your friend and familiar, BLAEZ. You must find Blaez. He is at the top of a cold mountain where the Material Plane is said to meet the Plane of Elemental Air. He is in danger! When you find him, you must use this same magic on him; it will make him stronger as well.”

And then he woke up, the morning sun spilling onto the floor of his cell. His eyes were drawn to a small pouch, and a golden spoon, on his nightstand. He grabbed them, put them safely in his rucksack, and headed upstairs for breakfast.

In the dining hall upstairs, Silaqui met Tyari, who was eager to talk with her. “Your uncle and cousin passed through Trunau—with three other elves—about a week ago. They were into the Mindspin Mountains on a quest given to them by Kyonin’s Queen, Telandia Edasseril. They left a letter for you and your brother.” She gave Silaqui the letter, which read:

“Dear Silaqui and Turin, we are so proud to hear of your recent victory over the Twisted Hearts tribe. Jagrin Grath regaled us with tales of your bravery during our stay in Trunau. We stopped here on a royal quest given to us by Queen Edasseril; we had hoped you might still be here, but no such luck. Our quest is to locate the fabled city of Palydosa—which, according to legend, is home to a long-lost race of Mountain Elves. Go where you will, with our blessing. May the stars always shine upon your faces. All Our Love, Uncle Cathal (and Caspar).”

Silaqui read the letter, and then gave it to her brother, who also read it. She then asked Tyari if she could bless her Iomedaean necklace. The priestess led her upstairs into the nave, where there was a sacred font, and blessed the necklace in an Iomedaean ritual, and thanked Silaqui for her strong faith. Turin also went upstairs, but he went to the other end of the Sanctuary, to the library, to investigate the mystery posted by Jingh in his dream: what peak is connected to the Plane of Elemental Air?

Meanwhile, the others took advantage of their newfound wealth (and reputation) to purchase magic items at the local magic shop, the House of Wonders. Agrit Staginsdar was pleased to see them, and was especially interested to hear that King Knut was tunneling his way to Trunau—because he’s her great uncle! The party bought a few potions, including Gaseous Form and two Cure Moderate Wounds, among others. Silaqui procured a Ring of Climbing, and Draken bought a precious Gem of Air, which conjures a large Air Elemental when broken. The party also ran into their friend Inez Grenell, out magic-shopping before a day of binge-drinking.

Early the next day, Turin had deduced where Blaez was located. “It must be Weathertop, a barren, rocky mountain on the east edge of Mindspins,” he told the others, pointing to a map in an old book. Gydion looked at the map carefully, comparing it to the copy of the geode map that Halgra had made for them, the day before. “It’s about half-way to Nargrym’s Tomb,” he noted, “So we’ll stop there and look for your bird on the way.” The others nodded in agreement, and made ready to depart on the morrow.

The next morning, as the Giantslayers were leaving the Sanctuary after breakfast, a determined-looking Katrezra appeared from the stairwell and limped toward them. “I’ve been sick with fever the past few days, but I needed to see you with my eyes before you left again,” he spoke with labored breath. He then gave them a serious look, and drew a Harrow Deck out of his pocket—an ancient, respected tool for divining the future. “I got this from a Varisian fortune-teller,” he told them. “May I do a reading for you?” he asked. “Tell me, what burning question do you have for these cards…?”

Turin piped up: “Will we find Blaez?”
Katrezra shuffled the deck, and then began the Harrow divination ritual with The Choosing, in which each person is asked to draw a card. Next, he performed The Spread, laying out nine cards in a 3 × 3 arrangement, face down. As the old half-orc slowly turned the cards over, his eyes grew wide with wonder and concern. He interpreted The Spread for them:

“The past is dominated by the Theater card, drawn by Turin. He set the stage by breaking his familiar bond with Blaez.”

“The present is haunted by the Liar card, chosen by Turin’s sister, Silaqui. Her vision and commitment is colored by distrust which could prove your undoing.”

“The future is ruled by the Courtesan card, which Gydion picked. His wisdom and prowess will be critical to the success of your mission.”

Suddenly, Katrezra slumped in his chair, his jaw slack, and his eyes rolled back in his head. “Your friend is on Weathertop. He needs you! He’s in grave danger! You must go to him at once!” he said in a deep voice. He awoke, and the others looked at him in awe—and repeated what he had said. Katrezra had no memory of it! He returned to his cell downstairs, deeply troubled.

The first day of the Giantslayers’ journey west led them into the grassy, rolling foothills of the Mindspin Mountains. There, they encountered two bulettes, grazing peacefully on a hillside. Silaqui sent her blackbird, Bracken, to scout the area, to ensure there were no additional threats. The adventurers then tried to go around them unnoticed, but the bulettes detected the smell of their favorite food: Halfling! and charged. After six rounds, the mighty land sharks lay dead. One was felled by a “one-two” maneuver by Kingsley and his master Gydion, the other by a critical arrow strike by Silaqui, followed by one of her brother’s Force Missiles. Asa and Draken were both wounded, but healed themselves afterwards.

The next day, they found themselves in proper mountains, and a mature, broadleaf forest closed in around them. On the third day, they traveled through a deep mountain pass. From there, the trail led steadily upwards until nightfall. In the middle of the night, during Silaqui’s watch, the sounds of tramping feet were echoing from the north. The ranger woke her companions and they waited in silence. It sounded like some sort of troop moving through the woods to their west, and so Silaqui went to get a closer look. It was a troop of 10 orcs, heading south! The group discussed the matter quickly and quietly, and decided to go on the offensive, because (a) orcs are evil and (b) they were headed in the direction of Minderhall’s Valley, and they didn’t want them joining the ranks of the army that was assembling there. Sneaking up quickly and quietly, the heroes gained surprise, catching the orcs flat-footed and making quick work of them. There were no survivors.

The next day, the Giantslayers awoke to a sight that wasn’t visible as they set up camp the night before: clouds had parted to the west, revealing a jagged, steep peak. It was different from the mountains surrounding it—it was stark, rocky and treeless, whereas all the other mountains around it were covered in rich, evergreen-dominated forests broken by grassy meadows. Based on his research, Turin concluded it must be Weathertop. The group broke camp and headed there straightaway. Upon reaching the base, they had to leave their horses, because the trail became too steep and uneven. It took the better part of the day to reach the summit—as the hours passed, the trail became less well-marked, and the air temperature dropped steadily. Mists and clouds closed around the group; it was chilly and windy, causing Kingsley’s mane to stand on end.

Finally, the summit came into view: a barren, craggy, lonely plateau above them, with steep drop-offs on all sides except one, where the trail was. Gydion wildshaped into a hawk and flew up to investigate. He noticed that the weather was more severe at the top; he had a difficult time flying. But he managed to stay aloft long enough to see sunlight glinting off something metal in the middle of the plateau—it looked like a birdcage! Buffeted by strong gusts, Gydion turned away and reported what he had seen.

As soon as the party crested the summit, the clouds darkened, and a thunderstorm rolled in. Silaqui and Turin crossed the plateau first, heading for the cage through slashing rain. They saw that Blaez was inside, hopping around panicked. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning hit Turin from above, and familiar laughter followed. The group looked up and saw their magic-using nemesis in the center of the storm, 100 feet above them!

Then, the clouds above Gydion swirled and began to take shape. The shape descended and slammed him with fists made of wind. The fifteen-foot-tall cone of clouds knocked him for a loop, as he tried to figure out what it was. Was it an Air Elemental? He knew such beings existed, and this was the most logical conclusion, given the circumstances. Turin, meanwhile, grabbed Draken and, saying “Trust me,” cast Dimension Door. A second later, the two of them appeared in the air above their nemesis! The dwarf fell onto the magic-using fiend and tried to grapple him, but was unsuccessful. Turin, meanwhile, cast Feather Fall (using a swift action), slowing their descent. Silaqui fired arrows at the fiend (one of them a magic Elemental arrow, but the wind caught one. The second arrow bounced against his robes, but did not pierce him, doubtlessly due to the wizard’s magical wards.

Down below, Gydion and Kingsley battled the Air Elemental, with help from Asa. Transforming into a whirlwind, it tried to engulf the Druid, but failed. High above, their wizard enemy flew backward five feet and cast a spell, conjuring a second Air Elemental, which took the form of a small tornado. It set upon Draken, and the dwarf found himself in the unfortunate position of spinning uncontrollably in midair for multiple rounds, coupled automatic slam-attack damage from the creature’s windy fists! Turin cast a Force Missile and the conjurer as he slowly floated down to the plateau.

The next round, their magic-using, flying enemy continued laughing as he aimed another lightning bolt at Turin, reducing him to one hit point! Asa tried to reach the elf and Lay on Hands, but he was helpless against the gale-force winds (Small creatures must make a strength check to move in severe weather). So Gydion, afraid for Turin’s life, took out one of his two Limited Wish stones and wished him back to full health! Turin smiled and thanked him, and then launched Scorching Rays into the air, hitting their enemy with one of them. The laughter ceased, as Asa slashed at the Air Elemental on the ground with his sword. Silaqui turned to the bird cage, with Blaez hopping around inside, cold and wet. The metal cage was bolted solidly to the rock, but the bolts were slow to turn with her thieves tools. She shouted her findings with dismay to the rest of the party, above the thunder and howling winds.

Meanwhile, up above, Draken reached into his pocket and broke his newly-purchased magic Gem of Air. Yet another Air Elemental appeared—under Draken’s control. The dwarf pointed it towards their enemy wizard, still hovering nearby, and it slammed him with howling fists of air. In response, the wizard flew back five feet, spoke an incantation, and gestured—and summoned yet another large Air Elemental, which he directed against Draken’s Air Elemental!!

Down below, a rescue plan began to take shape in Gydion’s mind. He cast Soften Earth and Stone beneath the birdcage, and directed Kingsley to go retrieve it in his jaws. The lion padded through the soft clay and easily lifted the cage into the air. There was no bottom, however, so Blaez was suddenly unprotected, struggling to fly against the strong winds. Using Speak With Animals the Druid told the bird to grab ahold of the lion’s mane with his beak, after which he urged his lion companion to follow the trail back down the mountain as quick as possible.

And so Katrezra’s Harrow prediction came to pass… Blaez was saved by the savvy hand of the Druid Gydion.

Meanwhile, Asa had been engulfed by the Air Elemental that was spinning around the plateau. The halfling was rotating inside the creature at amazing speed, helpless against the current, taking automatic damage every round. Three Air Elementals remained above the plateau; two were fighting each other, while the other one continued to batter Draken, who was still trapped inside it. Turin looked up and took aim at the laughing wizard, who had just drawn a wand from his pocket. The elf hit him with a Lightning Bolt, doing serious damage. The wizard stopped laughing, stepped back, and following a short incantation and hand gestures, teleported away.

The next round, the Draken’s Air Elemental dropped him, hoping to dash him against the rocks below; but, luckily, the dwarf was still under the effects of Turin’s Feather Fall spell, and floated peacefully to the plateau. But the Air Elemental didn’t stop there: it flew down and engulfed Turin, who found himself reeling in midair. Silaqui rescued him with a well-timed arrow, killing the extraplanar monster; Turin dropped to the ground with a thud. Meanwhile, the summoning spell that had invoked the first Air Elemental expired, because it disappeared, causing Asa to plummet to the ground— oof!!

The storm seemed to subside a bit as the battered, drenched adventurers regrouped. Heading down the trail, they found Kingsley waiting for them. Turin held Blaez in his hand and re-activated his magic bond with his familiar. Blaez was overjoyed—Turin could feel it through the empathic bond they shared—and thanked Turin excitedly for his brave rescue! [Being a seventh-level familiar, Blaez now had the ability to speak to his master]. Next, the elf wizard took out the satchel of dust that Jingh had given to him, and sprinkled it on Blaez’s feathers. The hummingbird was surrounded by golden sparkles, and he was transformed. Formerly black with red eyes and red-tipped wings, the bird was now silver-gray with white eyes and white-tipped wings! Blaez was no longer just a hummingibird! He was a bird infused with the magic of Elemental Air—a magic of the blessed, Iomedaean dust coupled with the extraplanar, Elemental influence of Weathertop’s summit […and Turin’s Improved Familiar feat]. Turin smiled and wondered aloud about what strange, new spell-like abilities his transformed familiar might wield!

Next: The Tomb of Nargrym Steelhand, Part 1

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