Giantslayers

Episode 42: Book Four: the Frost Giant Village of Skirgaard

Permafrost Peril!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treasure: ? (Watch this space)

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