Ahnold chatted with the giant while the others talked.
“Yah, hear me now and believe me later, because these are dwarves, and they will hate you until you die of their hatred,” Ahnold said. “You had better tell them what they want to know.”
The giant struggled against his bonds and Ahnold struck him lightly in the nose with his club.
“No,” he said. “Bad! You are bad! You’re being bad!”
The giant stopped struggling.
“They are dwarves,” Ahnold went on. “They hate giants and they will probably just chop your little head off. Or that one that punched you in the head? He could punch you on the other side. What happened? You looked very unhappy when he did that.”
“It hurt,” the giant said.
“We are both giants, brothers of the same kind.”
“Yes, but Ahnold – Ahnold like flowers … and puppies. Do you like flowers and puppies?”
“Yeah, tell me the name of your puppy.”
“My puppy is named Hellfire.”
“Was that the one that fell in the hole?”
“That was … my hydra.”
“Oh, where is your puppy? I want to see your puppy.”
“He’s in the fortress. If you untie me, I’ll take you there.”
“But-but yes. I don’t want to see you killed. I have no grievance with you, unless you do something to hurt me or these little men.”
The giant struggled and broke the ropes and Ahnold swung his club, slamming the giant’s face to one side. There was a cracking noise from his jaw and teeth went flying as the rope snapped around his wrist and ankles. As the rose to run, Ahnold struck again, slamming the giant in the head again and breaking his jaw. The great creature dropped to the ground and Ahnold jumped onto him.
“Ahnold says just walk it off!” Ahnold said, trying to wake the giant. “Walk it off!”
Groth ran over and cast a cure minor wounds spell on the giant, stabilizing the giant.
“Oh, he broke the ropes, trying to escape!” Ahnold said. “Had to disable him.”
“Good work,” Groth said. “Good work Arnold.”
Turk went over to the flaming mace.
“Arnold, can you use this mace?” he said.
“Ahnold is too small … because … maces … puny …” Ahnold struggled to say.
He could not figure out a way to say he couldn’t use it without saying he wasn’t strong enough to use it. Turk picked up the mace and the head burst into flames as he thought of it flaming. Ahnold gave Groth the tiniest of nudges, almost sending the dwarf stumbling.
“Who is that?” he said.
He pointed at Alexiah who walked over to Himo.
“Is that your sister?” he said.
“No, these are other members of our party,” Groth said.
“They’re here on the same quest we are.”
“We got split up from them. We haven’t seen the man in quite some time. I don’t know where he’s been, but I’m glad he’s here now.”
“Who is he? Why is he wearing … bathrobe?”
“He is. His name is Himo and he fights with … his fists. And as you can see, he’s very good at it.”
“He punch giant in brain. Was good punch. Who is … duh … who is dat other one?”
“That’s Alexiah. She is why we are here. She’s looking for an artifact, as well as we need to free these dwarves that are in this fortress.”
“Oh yes! Yes! Do good things!”
“She is also very, very strong.”
“Oh good! Oh! Oh! Maybe I arm wrestle her later. And get that lady. That lady! We got to save lady in fortress too!”
“Oh, right, yeah. That winged one or something Fred talked about?”
Groth cast detect magic and looked at the giant’s gear; only the morning star was magical. Ahnold tied the giant back up as best he could. Turk tied the morning star onto Glorack’s saddle. After he tied up the giant, Ahnold went to the edge where Himo sat.
“Little man,” he said to him. “You have good punch.”
“You good puncher,” Ahnold said. He held out his massive hand. “Ahnold.”
“Thank you,” Himo said. “Can you explain what’s going on?”
“Oh yes!” Ahnold said. “I can explain everything! You see, I was walking with my friends Little, Littler, and Littlest, and then I was suddenly here and then I ran into these people, and,” he pointed to Fred, “he gave me some meat and it was bad but then he gave me some good meat and then we saw a demon and then that one,” he pointed to Turk, “told him why we were here and he disappeared and then we came here and then there was giants and there’s a lady that tower and we have to save her and there’s a man with chains that’s holding her.”
He nodded enthusiastically.
“Thank you,” Himo said.
“Hear me now and hear me later,” Ahnold said.
“Himo, I’m not sure exactly how you arrived where we are,” Alexiah said.
She explained to him how he disappeared for a time and then how he arrived in the middle of this battle in an egg carried by two duergar.
“That’s all I know about your journey,” she said.
She told him they needed to go to the plane of fire.
“Man come out of egg?” Ahnold said. “You come out of egg?”
“Are … are you talking about the horn?” Himo said to Alexiah.
“No!” Ahnold said. “Egg. Eggs are round.”
“Horn?” Alexiah said. “Arnold, didn’t you see this?”
“No, I saw man running,” Ahnold said. “That’s all I saw. I was watching …”
He pointed at the giant.
“The-the … the last thing I remember was some creature with tentacles on its face … torturing me,” Himo said. “I ran … I went through a door … and I was here.”
Maxerian and Groth had wandered over and listened.
“The last we saw you was after we fought … a slaad at that fortress,” Groth said. “The next morning you had left a note saying you were doing something for Heironeous. That same night, we noticed … some more … eggs or something coming out of the sky, like Max’s kind. We thought you were just going for things for your god. We never made the connection that you got mixed up with them. We got this ranger, this young lad with this wolf, he told us of seeing these things moving about these caves. So, I guess maybe you crossed paths with them. It’s been … maybe one or two months since we last saw you. In the meantime, long story short, we’re on a quest for Alexiah. She is of some importance to quite a few dwarves and … um … it’s important for her to get this Horn of Hellfire that will light all of our weapons on fire, but we have to go to the plane of fire to do that, and …”
“I remember legends of the horn from previously,” Himo said.
“I remember us mentioning it when she found the axe. It was attached to some type of horn.”
“Okay. Well, apparently, Alexiah doesn’t remember much of her past and Alexiah you can explain more on that, but … I don’t want to speak for you, it has a lot to do with her.”
“Who-who-who Alexiah?” Ahnold said.
“Alexiah’s the redhead,” Himo said.
“Oh!” Ahnold said.
Alexiah raised her hand.
“It’s only been a few months?” Himo said.
“Yeah,” Groth said.
“Yeah,” Alexiah said.
“How much did you think it was?” Groth said.
“How long has it been for you?” Fred said.
“I … I don’t know,” Himo said. “I honestly … I remember being tortured. I remember …”
He seemed to remember leaving a note. But he could only remember doing that, leaving to quest for Heironeous, and then being snatched.
“I … it just …” Himo said.
He thought the abduction might have been part of his quest.
“I … I remember leaving and leaving a note for you all, but I don’t remember exactly how … I ended up where I was at,” Himo said.
“Do you remember how you got into the pod?” Maxerian said.
“I … ran down a hallway, went through what I thought was a door … there were, for lack of a better word, buttons, and I pressed them.”
“And the creature with the tentacle face: what was it wearing?”
“Uh … it was so quick, I don’t know. They were in black. I remember black. A lot of black.”
He looked at Maxerian’s uniform. It was black and he realized it looked very familiar.
“What did they torture you for?” Maxerian said.
“I … I hope whatever it was, they didn’t get it out of me …” Himo said.
“I hope so too.”
“I don’t know why they were torturing me. I don’t know how long they were torturing me.”
“Well, I think I know who abducted you. I can only guess why.”
They looked at each other.
“Why?” Ahnold said.
“Probably looking for information on this world,” Maxerian said. “Well, not this world, but … your world.”
“Why?” Ahnold said again.
“I … I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” Himo said.
“Perhaps they were trying to tap into your divine nature,” Maxerian said.
“If he cannot remember … perhaps blow to head will help,” Ahnold said.
“Uh …” Himo said. “I don’t … please, no, Arnold.”
“Ahnold,” Ahnold said.
“Is okay. Everybody gets it wrong.”
Himo extended a hand.
“I am Himo Nailo,” he said.
“Ahnold!” Ahnold said.
The two shook hands. Ahnold had a very strong shake, though it seemed very friendly.
“So, anyway, we know that in this fortress, Himo, a lot of dwarven smiths have been going missing before we came here,” Groth said. “It’s our knowledge that they were taken to construct some great weapon. Evidently this giant said Imperagon is making this Blade of Fiery Might and it sounds like he’s going to try to take over the rest of our world? I don’t know.”
“Some more information on the Blade of Fiery Might,” Alexiah said.
“You have some?”
“During the time that I was away and Falstaff helped me find my way back here, he … he left as soon as the giant surrendered. So, the Blade of Fiery Might was wielded by a grand sultan and believed to be a keen scimitar with flaming burst attack. When the weapon is held, it surrounds the wielder with heat and damages the holder while they hold it. There was a war between the efreet and the djin. The djin stole the blade and shattered it, scattering the pieces throughout the multiverse. Other people are looking for the pieces. Some are trying, like the efreet, to find the pieces and put it back together. Others are trying to find it to keep it apart so it cannot be wielded or used. It’s believed, by the other people that Falstaff had come in contact with, that the dwarves – the blacksmith dwarves that are missing – have been kidnapped in an attempt to bring the shards together and reform the blade.”
Ahnold pointed at the shard floating around Groth’s head.
“That?” he said.
“No, those are different,” Alexiah said.
“Oh,” Ahnold said.
“Did it say anything about duergar being specifically responsible for trying to forge this weapon?” Groth said.
“That was not provided to me,” Alexiah said. “There was a drow woman who was looking for the pieces. She was hoping to‒”
“A drow woman? Is that what you said?”
“Oh. We were with a drow woman for a short period.”
“What was her name?”
“That’s the same woman that Falstaff had come in contact with that provided this information and was looking for those shards, so it’s the same person.”
“I see. Okay.”
“She had silver hair.”
“Yeah. So, what do we do next? I stabilized this giant. We could heal him up and try to get more information from him. I’ll need a day’s rest and prayer and I can get some new spells. If we don’t think we’ll get any information … I can cast a scrying spell, but I need an item for that so I don’t know if that’ll be feasible or not. I’m just throwing that out there.”
“As resistant as he’s already been providing information or answering basic questions that we ask, I don’t believe that he’s going to be any use to us. He’s pretty loyal to his boss.”
“I don’t think we’re going to get anything out of him,” Fred said. “Not without torture, anyway.”
“Max, last I knew, you do mind things, right?” Groth said. “Is there any way you could find out any information from him?”
“I was just thinking that,” Maxerian said.
“Torture?” Ahnold said. “Torture is bad! Torture bad!”
“It has its uses,” Fred said.
“No!” Ahnold said. “Torture’s evil. Torture evil!”
“We’re not talking about torture,” Groth said.
“Good!” Ahnold said. “That’s good!”
“I could try reading his thoughts but, if he doesn’t accept the power than he’ll just resist,” Maxerian said. “I mean, I could probably break through his defense. I could just try.”
“Worth a try,” Alexiah said.
“You read people’s minds?” Ahnold said.
Alexiah went back to the prisoner, Turk, and Glorack.
“Would it be easier if he still unconscious?” Ahnold said.
“Actually it’s a good thought,” Maxerian said.
“I could hit him again,” Ahnold said. “Well, do it. Read his mind. Wait! Read my mind! What number am I thinking of?”
“That’s so close! It was four!”
Turk walked over to Ahnold. He’d noticed the ogre was bruised and bloody.
“Hello,” Ahnold said to him.
“Do you want me to mindlink with him?” Maxerian said to Groth. “See if it’s possibly to learn something?”
“I would say ‘yeah,’” Groth said. “I would say it’s our best shot to get information before … I don’t know what our tactics are for storming this place and I would rather not just do an all-out attack, so …”
Turk, meanwhile, laid his hands on Ahnold and healed his terrible injuries.
“Oh, I feel so much better!” Ahnold said. “Do you do massages? You know, you got to massage your muscles before you pump up!”
“No, I just noticed you were injured,” Turk said.
“Oh, okay,” Ahnold said.
He noticed Fred floating in the air.
“Why is littlest man floaty?” he said.
Maxerian thought on what he might be able to do with his psionic powers to interrogate the giant.
“Those ropes are probably not going to be able to hold him if he wakes up again,” Ahnold said. “He might even be stronger than Ahnold! And that’s very strong. Because Ahnold is very strong. Ahnold works out.”
“Well, I can cast minimal healing spells on him to wake him up and then if he tries to get away, it won’t take much to drop him again,” Groth said.
“I can just lay on hands, if that’s the case, and bring him back up,” Turk said.
“Does that not seem too cruel to keep beating giant down?” Ahnold said. “And he could die next time.”
Ahnold thought hard.
“No no no,” he said. “Butter would not work.”
Maxerian noted the giant would have to be awake for his mind powers to work on him. He said there might be something interesting they could do with that.
“I could mind link with all of you and then … we can all ask questions as we go,” he said. “It may not be wise if we let him know that we know what he’s thinking, but it’s worth a shot.”
“That may get pretty obvious, though,” Turk said. “If we start asking him questions.”
“If we don’t want to go that route, of looking into his mind, we could just use another one of Fred’s trick with that eye that he used?” Groth said. “Or if I could get a bowl, I could try scrying. I could do that on Orrin Thundercleaver, ‘cause I know him, and we don’t have to waste any more time on this giant.”
“A bull?” Ahnold said.
“Like a man cow?”
“No, like … something you eat out of.”
“Like a man cow! You eat out of it.”
“I’ve got an arcane eye ready to go,” Fred said.
“Bowl,” Groth said. “B. O. W. L.”
“Bee oh … what?” Ahnold said.
“I would need a … holy water font is what it’s really called,” Groth said. “But I don’t think we have any means of getting it.”
“I can send the eye in through the fortress and scout it out,” Fred said.
“I mean the other thing we need to be mindful of … Fred, how many more of those cubehop scrolls do you have left?” Groth said.
Fred scrounged through his stuff. Groth noted he had a spell that might be able to send the dwarf smiths back home, but there was a chance they’d go to another plane of existence. He noted if they only had a single cubehop scroll left, they might need more for when they found the dwarves in case they needed to exit in a hurry. He wondered if they should attack and figure out escape later, or if they should wait.
“The girl!” Ahnold said. “The girl! We must free the girl! In chains!”
He pointed at Fred.
“He say girl in chains: floaty littlest say girl in chains,” he said. “Princess. Mm-hm. Is definitely princess. Princesses are always held in towers.”
“Himo, keep watching, I’ll be back,” Groth said.
He went over to Alexiah.
“There is something else I could do, too,” Maxerian said.
“Do it!”Ahnold, itching for any kind of action, said.
“I could try to dominate his mind,” Maxerian said.
“That’s still something he’d have to be conscious for?” Turk said.
“Right,” Maxerian said.
“Is that evil?” Ahnold said. “Is that evil thing?”
“No,” Maxerian said. “It wouldn’t be evil to dominate him as long as we‒”
“It’s enslaving him,” Ahnold said. “Is like making slave of him.”
“It could be a way a way to get him to reveal information without torturing him,” Turk said.
“Right,” Maxerian said. “It’d be a little bit more powerful, but I could affect the giant in this way.”
“He said he had puppy,” Ahnold said.
Groth filled Alexiah in on all that they had talked about. She noted she didn’t think it a good idea for Glorack to be the only one guarding the giant so they dragged his unconscious form back to the rest so they could all talk together. Ahnold sat on the giant and watched him.
Groth asked Fred if he had any spells that made people more susceptible to other spells. He noted he had some he could cast but they were not prepared. Fred said he didn’t have any. Groth also asked Turk, who didn’t either.
“Himo,” Ahnold said. “Did you punch him in brain?”
He pointed at the giant.
“It … would … appear so,” Himo said.
“What did it feel like?” Ahnold said.
“Hard, then squishy,” Himo said.
Alexiah discreetly got Fred’s attention and took him aside. She took out two scrolls from her pack.
“While I was away, Falstaff and I procured these,” she said.
She handed him two scrolls. He looked at them and saw each had a cubehop scroll.
“He requested that I give them directly to you,” she said.
“Okay,” Fred said.
He tucked them away and they rejoined the others.
Turk looked at Himo.
“Hey,” Ahnold said. “You look hurt.”
He poked the man.
“Does this hurt?” he said. “Does this hurt?”
“Do you want another spell like I cast on you previously?” Groth said.
“Does this hurt,” Ahnold said.
“That would help, yes,” Himo said.
“Does this hurt?” Ahnold said, poking. “Does this hurt?”
“Ar – Ahnold,” Himo said. “I would appreciate that you stop that.”
“Oh,” Ahnold said. “Sorry.”
Groth noticed Alexiah was also still injured. He cast another healing spell on her.
“It’s good to see you all again,” Himo said.
“Yes, it sounds like you had a pretty awful experience away from us and I’m sorry to learn this,” Alexiah said.
“Wait, little man in black say he could read minds,” Ahnold said. “Could he read your mind that you don’t remember? And then you’ll remember! He remember for you!”
He pointed at Maxerian.
“I would prefer people stay out of my mind,” Himo said.
“Someone else lost mind too,” Ahnold said.
“Thank you, Ahnold.”
“Oh, was it you?” Ahnold said. “Maybe he get in your mind and fix it.”
“And you can remember. Remember your first puppy.”
“So, let me get this straight,” Himo said. “You all are here to try to free some dwarves who are smithing a weapon by force for evil an evil creature that … this is somehow attached to the horn?”
“No,” Alexiah said. “The horn is different. The shards,” she pointed at the shards floating around Turk’s head, “that we’ve collected have different powers and that has to do with the horn. These shards are different. The shards that are attached to the horn are more elemental, like earth, but the other one is a steel, magical sword.”
“All right, so we’re trying to stop them from smithing a sword for an evil creature.”
“For … whoever his name is.”
“They have slaves?” Ahnold said.
“Yes, there’s bunch of dwarf smiths they have taken,” Groth said. “We don’t know them personally‒”
“Let’s go get them free! We free them. And the girl!”
“That’s what we’re going to do, but it’s a matter of how we do it. If we know‒”
“What’s with the girl in the tower,” Alexiah said. “I don’t think I was around for that.”
Ahnold pointed at Fred.
“He saw girl in tower!” he said.
“That’s enough, Ahnold,” Alexiah said. “Thank you.”
“Oh,” Ahnold said.
“Fred cast a magic eye he could move around and see,” Groth said. “In addition to these two monsters that we …”
Groth thought on it a moment.
“Oh, he busy so I tell you!” Ahnold said. “So, he sent his eyeball into tower and then he see these things. He see the giant and the dragon. And he see a girl in a room with chains holding her and a chainy-man holding her and hurting her. And he also see … uh … he see a blue ogre. Those are ogre mages and oh, they are bad. And two tentacle faces. They’re bad. They’re bad. In another room. Who ate the eye!”
“I’m-I’m just happy to be back with you all,” Himo said again. “If you tell me there is something to take care of, I am here.”
“Was that right?” Ahnold said to Fred. “I was right? Was that right?”
“Well, the eye’s invisible but yes, I can send an eye in,” Fred said.
“But he ate it.”
“Oh, and there was another guy, a blue guy, with the ogre mage.”
“Yeah, he could see through invisibility, that’s why he could eat it.”
“And then he told us everything he was seeing as he was seeing it, but he did lose an eye.”
“Do you need any clarification, Alexiah?” Groth said.
She shook her head. Himo looked at Ahnold.
“Ten-ten-tentacle face?” he said.
“Yah, he said they have tentacle faces,” Ahnold said, pointing to Fred.
He put his hand in front of his face and moved his fingers like tentacles sticking out.
“Like a … squid,” he said. “I had that. Ate that once. It was pretty good.”
“I saw one of those,” Himo said.
“A squid? Did you eat it?”
“Eat it. It’s good.”
“Turk, what’s your thoughts,” Groth said. “How should we progress here?”
“Ah … that’s why I’m trying to figure out,” Turk said. “So, are we going to question this giant or not?”
“We need it to be awake so that Max can try to read its mind,” Alexiah said.
“It’ll probably just try to escape again if we wake him up, right?” Turk said.
“Ropes …” Ahnold said.
“We can have Ahnold right by him with a knife or sword or whatever,” Alexiah said. “We don’t need him to be fully healed. We just need him alert. He’s tied up.”
“We’re all around him,” Groth said. “If he tries to run, he won’t get away.”
“My club is called Smasherbeater,” Ahnold said.
Turk said he could lay hands on the giant and wake him. Ahnold sat on the giant’s pelvis and put his hand the giant’s chest.
“Do want me to read his thoughts or do you want me to dominate him?” Maxerian said. “If I dominate him, he’ll do whatever we want.”
“Start with the dominate,” Groth said.
“Dominate is the better option,” Turk said.
“If we dominate, we won’t have to read thoughts,” Maxerian said. “He’ll tell us whatever we want him to tell us.”
“We’ll do the dominate first,” Turk said. “If that doesn’t work, we’ll try to read his mind.”
“Will you know if you have dominated him?” Ahnold said.
“I hope so,” Maxerian said.
“I can test it.”
“Just ask him to do something and if he doesn’t do it, I know it doesn’t work.”
“But he’s all tied up.”
“He can make him say whatever,” Groth said.
“He’ll probably be more forthcoming with his information if he’s dominated,” Turk said.
“Oh,” Ahnold said. “All right.”
Groth took out his axe.
“Himo, can you please keep watching out?” he said.
Ahnold readied his club.
“I can watch,” Himo said.
“I should be able to know if a link is established for dominate,” Maxerian said.
“Just ask him a question,” Fred said. “If he refuses to answer, we know he’s not dominated.”
Ahnold changed his position, sitting on the giant’s chest and straddling his head.
“He not going anywhere with Ahnold sitting here,” Ahnold said.
Turk lay hands on the giant until he barely awoke. Maxerian stared at the creature and used his psionic power to dominate the giant.
“Hello, girly giant,” Ahnold said.
He looked at Maxerian and then looked at the giant again. Maxerian telepathically urged the giant to answer their questions and give them any information they wanted to know.
“What do you want to know?” the giant said.
“Okay,” Maxerian said. “So, anybody can ask.”
“How many are in the fortress?” Groth said.
“More than 40,” the giant said.
“How many of those are prisoners?” Turk said.
“At least 20,” the giant said.
“What is Imperagon’s plan?” Groth said.
“He plans to reforge the Blade of Fiery Might and then return to Oerth and take control of a large swath of land and build himself his own kingdom,” the giant said.
“Do you really have a puppy?” Ahnold said.
“No,” the giant said.