Chapter Nineteen: the best laid plans of owl and humanoids…
In the Morning of Starday, 6th month of the Year of the Emberhound. It is an appropriate day to be writing of what has come to pass. So much has happened, and this is a day of reflection, reconnection with gods, nature, or ones inner-self; depending on personal beliefs. The wind is gentle, the camp sounds muted, the sun is warm, the stream’s babble is a gentle counterpoint to the wind.
We entered the stronghold through the smokehole on the roof, as I wrote earlier. We had a plan to raid the treasure room, as a further demonstration of our prowess, with an eye towards demoralizing the giants sufficiently for negotiations to be able to take place. Second in priority was to capture the head giant, if possible. Those ideal plans rapidly took a turn for the worse. It is truly said that, “an engagement with the opponent alters all pre-formed strategies”. We made it as far as the kitchen, and had dispatched the two guards by the stairs, when we were surprised by a roving guard of two more giants. After having dealt with them, we surprised two giants climbing up the stairs, and then another two at the bottom; who were busily piling boulders in front of the stairs. We had but entered the treasure room when we heard a large patrol approaching. I covered us with obscurement and we positioned ourselves for an attack, while hoping to escape sight unseen. A giantess used a wand which projected a disrupting magical influence. We would have succeed in our hopes for hiding, had not a cunning giant ordered her to use it again!
My obscurement was disrupted, and we were forced to attack. A fierce well-armored giant, a body guard perhaps, fell prey to Gramblin’s fierce attacks, the rest fled. We pulled the body into the room and closed the treasure room door. We gathered up the treasure and hid it in a pit trap, after Nadem burned off the poison on the stakes, and most of the stakes as well. We were hoping to fight a defensive battle, but the giants fled from us as soon as they saw us. It seemed that they were keeping tabs on our position. We decided to try to retreat through the other passage and find a better position, rather than try to retrace our steps.
But, of course, we scouted out the situation first. Gramblin was covered by a vision-obscuring exercise of power, and we awaited his return. And waited. And waited. Finally, we decided to seek him out and help him, as we had begun to fear the worst. Arielle was especially particular about this, as she was sworn to his service first, and the rest of us, second. Alas, we were found by a strong force of giants, including one towering cloud giant, and a dire bear. Sabriel formed a barrier of blades, and this split the giant’s forces into half. We moved to the attack, thinking that we could attack one group at a time. Nadem literally burst into flames, wreathed by a halo of flames, and frightened a fair number of the giants. Pik moved to attack a giant, who retreated to make room for some of the other giants to throw small boulders, and then the dire bear charged Pik and tackled him! The giantess used her wand again, disrupting the barrier. Now things were looking much for the worse. The separated giants waded into the combat, including the cloud giant.
I thrust my power into the bear, sapped it’s strength, which in turn enabled Pik to break free and get over to Sabriel. Arielle managed to kill the bear, and hurt another giant, but the giantess apparently figured out that Arielle had magic in her singing, and rushed into her, knocking her flat. Suddenly the cloud giant roared in pain, and a grinning Gramblin appeared near his feet. Unfortunately, in his rage, he lashed out at everything nearby. Which was me. There was a momentary glimpse of his club, huge, dirty, all manner of jagged objects stuck into it, and then everything went white, then black. I was later told that I flew across the room like a child’s rag doll, and knocked Sabriel over. At least she was able to promptly heal me. I think I would have been dead had it not been for that fortunate coincidence. Pik and Gramblin teamed up on the cloud giant, and despite some serious damage, they killed him quickly.
I regained consciousness in time to see Pik running along the wall, literally running on the wall, dancing and slicing with his blades the entire way. Amazing. Simply amazing. I have to wonder where he learned that trick. They don’t have a lot of walls out in the desert back home. Sabriel was slinging spells, and paralyzed a number of giants, Nadem was hacking at the giants pinning Arielle, Pik helping. The giants were soon thinking of retreating, but we prevailed and conquered. All told there are only three giants left who were capable of putting up a serious fight. None of the remaining females seem inclined to fight, and we would not willing harm the children. Arielle managed to enspell the males and they became most amenable to suggestion. We sent them off into the forest heading towards the wildlands, with the entire troop of females and children, and orders not to ever return. We also freed the remaining orcish slaves, and sent them off into the wilds as well, if in a different line of march, after warning them about the bugbears. With the stronghold now cleared, we searched the caverns beneath.
A band of formerly enslaved troglodytes were grateful to us for freeing them from their giantish overloards. After some discussion they offered us a single pick from a batch of unusual gems. In probing further, we discovered that these gems are sacred and considered holy artifacts. We treated the gem we have received with great respect, and decided to ask them to guard the gem that they have given us on our behalf, as they have up till now. This impressed them greatly and they tell us of some creatures which had been preying on them, which have stolen much of their non-sacred treasure. This would be ours if we can but rid them of those creatures. We also discovered that they owned these caverns, at least, before the giants did. The creatures were no trouble for us to dispatch, some giant reptiles of some sort, and some scavenging crawlers. They did, in fact, have some unusual treasures. We helped them reopen one of the original openings, and then blocked off the stairs with a stone seal. We impressed upon them that once we were gone that we could not be held accountable for the actions of others.
There was some news of ill report amidst all of the post-victory glory. We learned from the three giants we spared that a messenger was successfully dispatched to another fortress with descriptions of us, and that they were likely to be on the alert, watching and waiting for us. After some discussion we decided that it would be best to wait until some time has passed so as not to fall prey to a trap. Especially as the only means we have of getting to this stronghold was a mysterious artifact of unusual properties. It can apparently transport more than one person without harm to another location! Something which has not been heard of outside of the legends and tales of the ancient times. We were unsure of it and needed some time to study it, before assaying the venture.
Also, Pik and I discussed, and have found that we both felt alike in this thing. Surely a feeling which independently occurred to the both of us, nearly simultaneously, is a sign. We shall propose it to Nadem and Gramblin and Sabriel. If they agree, it would provide something to do before we attempt the artifact and the fortress beyond.