Returning to the ground floor of the steading and the side door to the great hall we’d passed earlier, Barrett carefully peered through a crack in its roughly built planking.
What he saw was worrying. Apparently, in the short time we’d been downstairs, a patrol had returned and its leader (a shaggy looking hill giant, surrounded by a small pack of immense dire wolves) was loudly arguing with Nosnra while various hill giants watched from around the room, except for one which was trying to restrain Nosnra’s bear by a lead in the corner of the hall and a large stone giant looked on from the end of the table, obviously annoyed.
We’d quietly discussed our plan of attack on the climb upstairs, so with our knowledge of the giant’s tongue, Malin and I prepared a suitably nasty insult, with Malin providing some spectacular swearwords in giant.
“How come you know so much giant profanity Malin?” I asked.
at this, Malin produced a small booklet titled “Gnomish – Giant Dictionary” and I nodded with complete understanding.
Then, using his Ghost Voice, Malin made the words sound as if they were coming from one of the hill giants across the room.
ah. This is where my task as storyteller is complicated by the very power of gnomish profanity. Apparently, when trying to write the actual phrases used by Malin, even my strongest quills simply dissolve as the ink boils while writing them.
As such, I’ll paraphrase what was said, which was something of the order of mentioning that he’d heard that an orcess called Staycee, girlfriend of one hill giant Varg, was particularly talented in the bedroom department, although any hill giant who was dating an orc was obviously somewhat under endowed.
Upon the words apparently coming from the hill giant’s mouth, the shaggy giant let out a massive roar and transformed into a giant wolf! Simultaneously Thames kicked the door in and charged into the pack of dire wolves, hacking one with a spectacular hit, which seemed to bite deep but only made it quite angry. That would be Varg then!
Our cunning plan activated, we followed Thames in the charge into the room, except of course for Barrett, who immediately ducked into the shadows and prepared his bow and Erevan who hung back and prepared spells.
Theseus and Malin ran straight for Nosnra, who jumped up and attempted to swing his huge crossbow but was knocked backwards off his chair by Theseus and set upon by Malin. He then staggered back to his feet but flailed uselessly at the pair.
I felt a brief blast of cold as Kurrek-Drong changed his form and dived into the ground. He appeared shortly afterwards in the midst of the dire wolves, looking almost like a snowman and swinging his warhammer around his head and causing some sort of magical field that seemed to slow time. Most of the wolves recoiled as they were hit by the field and fell to the floor in slow motion.
Charging through his pack of wolves, Varg bit into Thames’ shoulder, he then leapt apparently through the table to attack Theseus from behind, but the seeing the movement out of the corner of his eye, the Minotaur avoided the blow. A wild howl errupted from Varg’s mouth.
Recovering quickly from the confusion, one of the hill giants bowled a huge rock at Drong, knocking him across the floor.
Back in the shadows, Barrett let loose a volley of arrows, hitting the werewolf while Erevan summoned a horrible beast apparently made entirely of molten lava and commanded it to attack the dire wolves, while firing his magic missile into the fray. Undeterred, the wolves fight back, two of them slashing at Thames. Staggering from their onslaught, Thames fell prone, his helmet flying across the floor and with a nasty gash across his cheek.
The remaining wolves that Drong had knocked prone managed to regain their feet, but were now moving incredibly slowly.
Now in the midst of the battle, I started chanting the words that activated my aura and fired an arrow at a dire wolf, while noticing Regdar swear as the chant he was phrasing went wrong somewhere and spluttered.
Nosnra’s pet bear pulled itself free of its handler and charged across to protect its master. Malin was smashed across the chest by a huge blow from its paws. Turning invisible to try and avoid further attacks doesn’t help Malin as a second strike from the bear grabs him!
Hoping to help the attack on Nosnra, Jasper rushed in and attempted to jump up onto the huge table, but just missed and fell flat on his face amongst the plates of food! Looking up, he sees the stone giant stand up at the far end of the table and point a staff at him, blasting him with a beam of magic that makes his bones ache and slows him down.
Various rocks are now flying around the room as the hill giants rally, Drong and I are both hit, although I only take a glancing blow as Thames leaps to his feet and swings his longsword around in a cleaving blow that slashes across one dire wolf’s eye. I feel the change in my aura as he takes advantage of its healing magic to recover and see the cut across his face fade.
Also regaining his feet, Drong hits another dire wolf and several of them flinch in pain, flying backwards from him. Two of them fly backwards into the fire pit in the centre of the room and the smell of singed fur is added to the other foul smells in the hall.
The werewolf is slowed as Theseus performs a disrupting attack and then swings around to hit Nosnra with a violent raging attack. Malin is still being grabbed by Nosnra’s bear, but as they roll around together, he manages to stab it with his spear and the bear is left prone on the floor as he struggles free.
Arrows striking him from the shadows, Nosnra gets up again after Theseus’ attack and strikes back, knocking him backwards across the floor, yelling “GET THEM!”
Varg has now changed from his werewolf form to something halfway between a full wolf and a hill giant and leaps across the melee hitting Theseus and biting Malin. Somehow he then moves through them and bites Regdar before I see him rush towards me and slash me across the chest!
Wiping off the pieces of food, Jasper stands up on the table and summons horrifying nightmares in the mind of a wolf, which cause it to reel in pain and fall to the floor, he then runs across to aid Theseus and Malin in the fight against Nosnra.
While Drong and Thames fend off blows from other hill giants and what seems to be a couple of their children, Erevan blasted Nosnra with a force orb. One of the dire wolves then leapt out of the fire to bite Thames while two more jumped up on the table to strike at Jasper.
Slashing out, I skewer one of the huge dire wolves and firing my feywild power at it, teleport Thames and Drong next to it as Regdar smashes Varg. Drong ducks as a pair of rocks narrowly miss him and Thames is charged by a roaring hill giant and is temporarily knocked to the floor. Standing again, he rushes off in one direction, before twisting his helmet around so he can see where he is going and valiently charges at the injured wolf in front of us, dispatching it with a final stab!
Drong creates a blast of energy around him, scattering giants, wolves and the two giant children, who are both killed.
Back behind the table, the bear attempts to slash at Malin again, but is distracted as Barrett skewers one of its ears with an arrow and Theseus is trying to stand up but is forced back to the floor again by one of the wolves on the table. Malin climbs over Nosnra onto the table and stabbing his spear downwards, dances around it seductively. Initially wide of its mark, the attack clips one of the wolves on the table and then viciously stabs into Nosnra, opening a huge wound in his side.
Jasper is hit by another ray of light from the strangely quiet stone giant’s staff and feels his muscles tighten up and lock in place. Now with his legs completely immobilised, he can hear something large running up stairs in the distance!
Three more giants enter through a door on the opposite side of the hall and a female giant in shamanic clothing in through another. She waves her arms and some magic words in an ancient giant dialect summon huge chains to fly up from the ground and fly past Malin.
Nosnra yells out to his troops then attacks Malin. Jasper bravely forces his muscles to respond and steps into the blow but is thrown from the table, rapidly followed by Malin as he is hit by a second blow from the hill giant chief. As he hits the floor, Jasper rolls and stabs one of the wolves, but is hit by the beam of light again and is turned to stone!
Still leaping around the melee, Varg misses drong but jumps across and bites Regdar but is then engulfed in a blast of magical fire summoned by Erevan.
Knocked against the table by a flying boulder, Thames clips the wolf attacking Theseus as he passes and is blocks an attack by another taking a terrible bite to his arm, which leaves his left arm dangling uselessly.
I run across and utter some beneficial phrases that help Jasper shake off the petrification, then pointing my longword at him, I use some more nasty ones, (helpfully improved by choice words in hill giant from Malin’s pamphlet) to send a bolt of cutting words at Nosnra, which knock him to the floor and pull him under the table.
As I do this, the stone giant points his staff again and says a single word of command. Huge pointy shafts of stone burst out of the ground between us, knocking me prone and Thames unconscious but fortunately he clings to my chanting and drawing on the remaining power in my aura heals himself and charges at the werewolf with a spectacular strike that causes it to howl in pain.
Behind us, Erevan is in trouble as we have been flanked by a hill giant, which rushes up and clobbers him! Knocking a dire wolf to the floor, Drong takes a breath and starts to dash away from it to try and protect Erevan and Barrett but the wolf snaps at him and bites his ankle, pulling him to the ground. The hill giant is killed by a swarm of arrows from Barrett, who then strikes the wolf with another.
As the wolf attacking him is distracted, Theseus jumps back to his feet and slams into Nosnra with all his strength. While the hill giant is nearly twice the Minotaur’s size, the sheer momentum and violence of the attack bowls him across the room, injuring his bear in the process and finds himself directly under Malin’s spear as he has used it to pole vault onto the table and stabbed down at the prone chieftain.
Malin doesn’t have time to cheer though as he is suddenly wrapped in more shamanic chains and while he is stunned, is smacked from the table by Nosnra’s huge fist, landing in a crumpled heap on the floor.
Varg lashes out at Thames but misses as Vogue runs into the room.
“sorry, got distracted by some shiny stuff outside!” she apologised, while suddenly appearing behind the werewolf, striking him with her blade and with a jingle of bells, killing him with a second stab! Apology accepted!
There are still more hill giants attacking us around the room. One charges in at drong, missing with a swing of its club, but jumping over him and stepping on his face in the process. Another rushes at Jasper, but the dwarf swings his glaive and knocks it temporarily to the floor. Shaking its head, it gets up again as a swarm of hill giant children rush into the room. Apparently they must have managed to move the piled up bodies of their parents that we’d blocked the door with.
Running towards the outlying hill giants, Erevan prepared a spell which blasted two of them and two wolves, killing one of each. He is then covered in a shielding wall of fire which the surviving wolf burns itself on as it tries to bite him. The hill giant fares worse as it attacks and is killed by the fire.
I curse Nosnra with unluck and chant some bolstering words as Thames leaps up onto the table and swipes both dire wolves off it. Regdar also moves up and calls upon his diety to heal Jasper, who is again slowed by magic from the stone giant’s staff.
The bear manages to hit Theseus with both its forepaws, grabbing him and squeezing him in a deadly bear hug, cracking ribs! Breaking free, he takes a painful gulp of air and wails in on the bear with his hammer, immobilising it and knocking it prone but he is floored also as Nosnra fires a massive bolt from his crossbow, which slams into him and knocks the minotaur from his feet.
From the floor, we hear Malin shout
I look up just in time to see a blue iron dragon stomp into the hall and vanish, just as Malin is grabbed by a huge stone fist appearing from the floor and is crushed into unconsciousness!
Drong is battling a hill giant, crippling its knees while Barrett peppers it with arrows. The dragon suddenly appears in front of Barrett and chomps twice. It misses, but disappears and reappears at his side, blasting him with lightning before vanishing again.
Remembering his previous attempt at jumping the table, Jasper climbs under it this time, swinging at Nosnra with his glaive and then teleporting behind him to swing at the shaman.
Vogue runs in behind Drong’s giant and nearly killing it with another jingly stab. However it stomps on both of them.
Erevan suddenly finds himself swarmed by hill giant children who hurl themselves at him, oblivious to his fiery shield. While he takes some injuries, six of the children die horribly from burns and the rest run screaming from the room!
Patting himself down, the wizard then steps towards the giant that Drong and Vogue are battling. A dire wolf nearby lashes out at him and burns itself, while Erevan blasts fire at the giant, vapourising it!
Thames is bitten by a wolf, which I whack with my sword as it is bitten by Erevan’s magma beast and Theseus is slightly revived. Ragnar calls upon a healing boon and all of us nearby feel better.
Theseus and the bear are still in a dramatic struggle for life. The bear nearly kills Theseus with a nasty slash but he gets to his feet and strikes it across its head.
Just as I’m reeling from a blow by a hill giant’s club, I spot the stone giant sigh, turn and head out of the door and Vogue is bitten badly by the dragon appearing behind her, zapping her with lightning again. Drong decapitates a dire wolf and rushes over to face the dragon. A vollley of arrows from Barrett miss the dragon as he tries to hide outside the hall and closes the doors for cover.
The dragon is now in a frenzy and Drong, Vogue and Ragnar are all taking blows. Before vanishing again, the dragon breathes out a mist of electrified vapour, the dragon covers Drong, Vogue and Erevan, who conjures a new shield to protect himself while Vogue ducks under the mist and dashes across to eviscerate a dire wolf. Erevan blasts fire at the remaining wolf and misses, but his magma beast finishes it off.
Killing a giant in front of me I send another small magical boost of health to Theseus and Regdar’s prayers do even more to keep the Minotaur from falling. However he is then hit by a swinging paw and staggers. Now able to help him, Thames strikes at the bear with his longsword and recovering from the blow, Theseus smacks it with his hammer.
Jasper is struck with the butt of Nosnra’s huge crossbow then knocked backwards by a wall of force from the Shaman. Recovering, he stands up and teleports past the bear, striking it from behind and knocking it towards Malin. There’s a tinkling rush of air as Vogue flies past and runs it through with her blade, killing the creature.
By this point several of the hill giants have fled and seeing himself surrounded, his pet bear dead and a large part of his clan lying dead around him, Nosnra holds his crossbow up in the air and shouts
“STOP! stop, surely we can come to an arrangement”
Other than Nosnra and the iron dragon, which doesn’t appear to be around any more there’s not a lot left to fight, so I decide to see if we can end this battle without any more bloodshed. Given the situation and how much hill giants understand violence, I bluff a little and come across a tad more evil than I would normally think I am.
“Nosnra! You’ve seen just how powerful we are and how week your clan is against us. Surrender now or after we kill you, we will hunt down your surviving children and they will all die a fiery death!”
“ay an we as already whacked all ya patrols” pointed out Thames, who also understood the power of bluffing it seemed.
Malin has his own approach, probably aided by the splitting headache he must have as Theseus lifts him to his feet.
Nosnra steps back looking worried from the tiny gnome with the 8ft spear.
“You have fought well Nosnra, far better than any of the other giants we have come across. Truly you are a mighty chieftan and it would be a shame to kill you.”
At this, Nosnra throws down his crossbow and agrees to surrender. He yells and the iron dragon suddenly appears by his side and skuttles away. The door we came in through opens and Barrett staggers into the room, his hair someone frizzy. Drong follows him in. Apparently, while hidden outside the room giving cover fire, the dragon had teleported in behind him and been zapping him with electrical shocks between bites. Fortunately Drong had heard the attack and run through to help out.
Nosnra takes us through to his living quarters to negotiate in comfort. He refuses to be taken prisoner as he feels he would be better off dead than rotting in a Hochhochian cell, but he does offer to grant us three requests if we leave him and the remainder of his steading alive. This sounds like a reasonable request to us, so we have a bit of a chat amongst ourselves and make our three demands..
Firstly, we ask for the locations of all the giant strongholds. He gestures for us to follow and he takes us through a hidden door and down a short flight of steps to a cellar where the dragon is now curled up in a corner, watching over a huge chest. Rummaging around in it he pulls out a badly drawn map which shows the layout of the giants’ strongholds. We notice fire giant and ice giant names scrawled on the map along with the hill and stone giant ones.
Secondly we ask him to negotiate with the other hill giant clans to get them to stay out of the battle. He tells us he will try, but his orders come through “Obni” from King Snurr. He shows us his latest orders, which command him to bring troops to Howling Crag for an attack on Hochhoch. Hopefully though, we will have reduced the number of hill giants opposing us in future battles and weakened the force attacking Hochhoch.
Finally we quiz him about the structure of the groups of giants. He tells us that he is being ordered around by fire giants and we should talk to Loathar, the stone giant we saw leaving the battle earlier.
Negotiations done, we head back out into the hall to prepare to leave.
“Hey, where’s the werewolf?” asks Malin. “Did you kill it?”
“Yeah, we smacked his arse!” replied Thames.
But looking at the spot where Varg had fallen, there wasn’t a sign of his body, just a patch of drying blood.
as usual, Malin had summarised perfectly. Apparently we hadn’t killed the werewolf hill giant quite enough. We’d have to watch our backs!
We agree to leave the steading with our rescued prisoners. The giants give us a variety of carts that had been taken in their raids and loading them up with most of the stolen trade goods, we leave the hill giants to count their dead.
Our plan is to head east towards the dwarven lands as they are on the way to Howling Crag. Nosnra’s orders state that the attack will begin in about three weeks, so speed is of the essence. Chatting to Zander as we cut across country, he agrees to act as our agent in returning the stolen goods. Something which will earn him a nice percentage but more importantly should result in a decent increase in our funds when we’re next in Hochhoch.