Against the Giants

A Bard walks into a bar
disappointing lack of a bar fight

It had been a day since the raid on Zander’s supply caravan and my enquiries into which particular Hill Giant clan had taken the survivors of the raid had so far involved every drinking establishment in Hochoch except this last one.

“The Troll and Lettuce”. Scummiest dive in the town, last place you’d ever go for any sort of useful help or professional adventurers. Still, the drinks were cheap. Only enough alcohol in them to get a gnome pissed, but cheap.

So far, the evidence pointed to a band of Hill Giants lead by a brute called Nosnra, but nobody was stupid brave enough to want to go up against him so far. I was hoping I’d find some more gullible adventurous types in the Troll, their “Buy 3 drinks, don’t get your head kicked in” promotion did attract a certain clientele.

Luck appeared to be on my side this evening. There were a good many adventurers in the main bar, mostly surrounding an odd pairing of a very drunk gnome, stood atop a roaring Minotaur, instantly recognisable as a member of one of the more ‘peaceful’ undermeadow clans from his delicately braided mane and silver bell on a ribbon around his neck.

The Gnome introduced himself and his friend as Wee Mad Malin, a giant slayer and Theseus (an undermeadow name, meaning “dick who uses string”) along with a new drinking buddy they had just met, “Fight Brain”. After further drinks, “Fight Brain” actually turned out to be the nickname Malin and Theseus had given one Jasper Trueforge, a Dwarven Battlemind volunteered into The Red Griffons in thanks for their breaking of the siege of the Trueforge homestead.

A young Eladrin over by the bar was obviously slumming it, but could be useful as it was also obvious that several of the men (and women) that had been sat around her in the hope of buying her a drink might be noticing their sudden shortness of coin or for that matter, purse. The simple promise of adventure was enough for her to join us, introducing herself as Vogue Sundance and promising not to ‘borrow’ any of our money or equipment without asking first.

“Ere mate, that armour of yours is a bit knackered in’it?”

“pardon?” I exclaimed at the young knight who had just approached me.

“well, it’s one of those old harper chainmail getups right? Some well heavy armorers in da harpers, but not well modern! Thames can borrow yous some fe real up to date plate mail hat da yorkie price.”

Fortunately I happened to understand the patiois of one of the local riversiders and while explaining to him that my armour had some rather useful properties that weren’t immediately obvious, we were bound on an adventure that might benefit from his combat skills.

“I iz gona dig to spitz on an adventure wiv yous an’ ya boys. nuff hof those troops who went hout to ruk da giants had some fe real sweet armour dat I might be able to recova.”

Now we were only short of magical powers, both holy and explosive to complete our party. A cleric by the name of Redgar had been listening in on our increasingly loud conversation and asked if he could help. It appears that news had reached him of an evil temple somewhere in one of the dungeons taken over by the giants and a chance to destroy it would be a great boon to his god.

“So, we just need a magic user of some sort” I exclaimed.

“What about this one?” asked Theseus. Depositing a worried looking Eladrin in a pointy hat down on the bench next to him.

“err, how do you do. My name is Erevan. Your friend does know I could have accidentally fireballed him into steak just then doesn’t he?”

“Oh I’m sure he meant no harm. Have another drink. Feel up to an adventure?”

“Absolutely. Boring as hell in this place. Haven’t blown up anything in weeks!”. Ah that Erevan. I heard the Thieves Guild were still repairing their headquarters after somebody picked his pockets last month.

The night was eventually brought to an end by the landlord apparently mislaying the keys to the wine cellar, so we made for our rooms he had kindly provided and in the morning we set off for the town gate in the direction of the Hill Giant steading.

We were met in the morning by an honour guard of Red Griffin troops. I suspect more to make sure we actually left the town, but they offered to march with us for the first two days of our trek, which would at least keep any minor bandits and raiders from bothering us.

Just as we were leaving the gate, we happened upon the final member of our party. He was an odd looking figure. Obviously a ranger, the moss coloured cloth over his armour and the bow gave him away, but oddly he had an entirely empty quiver. Maybe he had fallen upon hard times?

“Excuse me sirs, but you look like you might need someone who has experience with these woods.”

The ranger had spotted an obvious gap in our party. None of us had particularly useful local knowledge outside the town and empty quiver or no, he looked like he’d be useful in a fight. So Barrett the Ranger became our final companion in our adventure.

“So what do we call you Bard?” Barrett asked me.

“Oh, I’m just a storyteller. My name isn’t yet important enough to be known”…

A Bard

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Chapter 2 - Knock Knock
Who's there? jingle jingle Eeuurrk!

Marching with our escort for two days, we made our way into the forest undisturbed. As the soldiers set off towards their own patrol, Barrett took the lead and a day later we were overlooking a valley dominated by a huge wooden fort.

The hill giants hadn’t been subtle when designing and building their steading. Whole trees were simply uprooted and punched into the ground to make a fifteen foot high palisade at least thirty paces along each side. The main building reached at least fifty foot into the sky, and the smoking chimneys indicated a lot of activity. Another smaller outbuilding lay within the palisade across a small courtyard. To the north, we spied a watchtower set against the inside of the wall within some sort of smaller yard area.

Barrett led us to a small cave nearby where we could argue plan and having discarded my plan of getting Theseus to throw Wee Mad Malin onto the roof with a rope, Theses’ plan to simply shout at the door and charge in axes swinging or Wee Mad Malin’s potentially simple plan of setting fire to the place and hacking any survivors to death, we decided instead to make a stealthy attack on the watchtower so that we would at least have the advantage of height.

Making our way quietly around the walls, we reached the base of the tower and Vogue and Barrett climbed the wall to spy over the top. Barrett had already noted two hill giants in the hut at the top of the tower and peeking over the wall, they saw a scene of tranquil slumber. If you can call the din made by two hill giants and four ogres snoring their lungs out tranquil.

The tankards and barrels of ale around them indicated that they might be very solidly asleep, but just in case this was stock taken from the Troll and Lettuce recently, we took a care to work silently as Vogue and Barrett continued their climb up the supports of the tower and the rest of the party scaled the walls and crept up the stairs, Regdar the cleric preparing his blade wall just in case the slumbers awoke and we needed to make a desperate defence.

Reaching the top of the stairs, we could see that the two guards were alert, but hadn’t noticed us. A huge brass gong sat in the middle of the platform so we would have to be fast!

I called upon my Victim of the Feywild power to instantly teleport Malin and Jasper Trueforge next to the larger of the pair who started with pain from the arcane shockwave and was immediately attacked by them and knocked to the wall where Vogue was waiting to stab him in the throat. Jingle Jingle Eeeuurrrk!

Meanwhile Theseus charged at the other giant smashing with his maul and scoffing at the giant’s poor armour, Thames charged him, the force of the blow immobilising the foe, despite his size.

Pummelled by blows from the rest of the party, the hill giant didn’t even get a chance to see who was attacking him before another jingly slash dispatched him.

The tower taken, we crept back down the stairs to take care of the the sleeping uglies. Another musical gurgling sound indicated that Vogue had dealt with one of the giants at the door and Barrett had cut the throat of the other.

My heart stopped for a moment as two of the ogres woke from their slumber but they went down under a hail of blows before they could make a sound.

We had entered the Hill Giant’s Steading…

14

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Chapter 3 - We don't kill any kids
yet.

Our first battle as an adventuring party had apparently gone well. Now we were in a fortified courtyard outside the main building of the steading, with a huge pair of central doors flanked by two smaller side doors. The ranger propped up the two dead giants in the watch tower to look like they were still there, (if possibly asleep) and scanned the area around the compound for incoming patrols. He saw none, but we knew this would only be a short respite so resolved to get inside as soon as possible.

Peeking through cracks in the central doors, we could see a massive hall with several giants celebrating, including a massive, fat, hill giant who could only be Nosnra. A giant bear lay in front of him gnawing at chunks of meat thrown down from the table.

This would be too big a fight for us. After a quiet discussion, the party decided it might be worth waiting for the giants to get a bit more drunk. That way we might be able to pick some of them off as they left the hall later. Instead, one of the two side doors would be our way into the building.

Charging at the right door, our Minotaur friend Theseus lowered his head for maximum impact and bounced off!

While we looked on almost as stunned as Theseus was, Malin calmly walked over to the left side of the door and with a swift kick from his tiny legs, the door opened.

“Och, will ya ken that! Those stupid hill giants have only put the door on the wrong way around. Ye must ha belted into the hinges ye great ox!”

Pulling the remaining dead hill giants and ogres inside, we closed the door and carefully walked down a wide corridor.. Following Malin who simply strode down the length of it unworried by the prospect of traps or even possibly being heard by the building’s occupants. To be fair, with the noise we could hear from the hall to our left and slightly quieter screaming and shouting from a room to our right, I suspect he was right.

At the end of the corridor was a single door to the right. Listening at it, I now understood the screaming and shouting. Shouts of “You’re it!”, screams of “Miiiisssss! he pulled my nose!” and “That’s my dwarf leg you meanie!” made it obvious that we had found the giants’ children and possibly at least one adult guarding them.

“We could just kill them all.” speculated Malin. This was considered, but none of us really had the heart to kill children, even giant ones. Besides, as was pointed out by Vogue, they might make too much noise and call down the rest of the steading. Plus, once we’ve dealt with the adults we can always come back and kill them off or capture them for sale or hostages later.

Our consciences clear, we piled the giant and ogre bodies up against the playroom door to block it, just in case any of them wandered out and we made our way back out to the courtyard to try the other side door.

The other door responded easily to a shove and we entered a similar corridor, the mirror image of the first. The door at the end of the corridor showed no signs of noise or movement behind it and checking which side of the door had the hinges this time, Theseus slammed it open. More corridors lay behind, which with some careful examination we determined ran along three sides of a room, from which quiet conversation could be heard. Another door was noted for later investigation.

“I hears ogres” exclaimed Thames.

“Ay lad. This should be an easy fight” Malin whispered, “I could hear the same voices from the door on the other side.”

“Attack from both sides?”

“Ay, we’ll take the north door, you take the south”

The party split. Malin, Theseus, Vogue and Barrett to the north and myself, Thames, Jasper, Erevan and the strangely quiet Regdar to the south door. The noise of a small stone thrown into the corridor signaled the attack as we Theseus and Thames simultaneously kicked in the doors.

Stone Giants! I had only seem one of these quiet goliaths from a distance during the battles for the city, but this pair were proof that they were somehow working with the hill giants. We had charged into a barracks room full of huge beds, large ogres and well, giant, Stone Giants. Worse, they weren’t asleep and appeared to have just been preparing themselves to go out on patrol. On the north side, Malin and his squad faced both Stone Giants and three ogres, with another three ogres on our side.

Barrettimmediately ducked into shadow to make the most of his shots, narrowly missing his target with his first. Charging past him Theseus slammed into an ogre with his hammer, crushing the side of its head and sending blood and brain matter across the room. Sat astride his Minotaur friend, Malin skewered another ogre with his spear, running it straight through. It was dead even before he jerked it back out again.

Chanting and gesturing from the other side of the room, Erevan conjured a glowing orb of force. All for naught though as it flew past the ogres and simply cratered the wall behind them. However, Thames’ swipe with a longsword that looked eerily like the twin of my own immediately decapitated two of them.

One of the Stone Giants leaped up and across the room to swing a massive club at Theseus and Malin, hitting both with a single strike. The pair staggered from the force and Malin leapt backwards off his mount to strike a defensive pose on one of the huge beds.

From behind the giant, Jasper Trueforge struck the other Stone Giant, but it simply shrugged off the blow, stepping sideways to miss another blow by Vogue.

Attacks from ogres narrowly miss both Jasper and Thames, and with an instant reaction, Trueforge braced his lance against the floor and impaled one of them.

Both Malin and Theseus were backed into a corner by the two stone giants and their obvious injuries told me that they could be in trouble if we didn’t do something about the stone giants soon. I called up my Victim of the Feywild talent again and teleported myself and Jasper in front of the giants, blocking their way to our injured allies.

From his hidden spot, Barrett fired his bow again, unleashing a half dozen arrows in rapid succession, scoring at least two hits on the giants, arrows sticking out of their grey skin and the blood dripping from them showing that Stone Giants were named for their love of stone and colour rather than actually being made from rock.

Standing together, Malin and Theseus struck back at their attacker. Theseus’ hammer doing some impromptu dentistry and Malin causing a sizeable wound in the giant’s side.

At this point the giant seemed to burst into flame! A searing column of fire emanated from the ground under the giant and it practically vapourised in front of our eyes. Erevan finished his casting gesture with the traditional blowing of smoke from his fingers.

This swung the balance of the fight our way. Jasper vanished from his position and appeared directly behind the other giant, mentally blasting it forwards, knocking it face down into the fire, directly into Vogue’s sneak attack, slashes from my longsword and the arc of Theseus’ hammer. Another stab from Malin’s oversized spear nearly removed the giant’s foot before another flash of fire from the mage put it out of its misery.

This left one desperate looking ogre. It fought valiantly to keep both Thames and Jasper at bay, but a spectacular riposte by Vogue opened its stomach and it dropped dying to its knees trying to hold its guts in.

Other than some very unkempt beds, bits of badly maintained armour that even Thames declared were “wak” there was nothing of value in the room. A set of stairs in the corner, were very out of place and led downwards to what was obviously an old dungeon entrance that the steading had been built over. Theseus and Malin looked longingly at the stone steps, but the idea of an unopened door, behind which might be treasure or even possibly the prisoners we were here to help, called to us. So we proceeded across the corridor to the other door we had noticed before entering, without noticing the gnome and his minotaur friend wander down the stairs, followed by Thames.

Our door opened into a luxurious, giant sized (of course) bedroom. Three very comfortable looking beds and a cabinet furnished the area, but our eyes were drawn to a large and very locked chest between two of the beds. A rope hanging down the wall from the ceiling was soon cut by Barrett (could have been an alarm, now it’s a useful bit of rope) and while Erevan attempted to detect it, there were no signs of any magic in the room.

As none of us had any specialist lockpicking skills, Jasper simply smashed the chest open, revealing a decent cache of gold coins, half a score of gems and an odd stone tablet covered in dwarven runes, carved roughly into its surface.

Laerthar my love,

Go to the hill giants. Help Nonsra plan his raids. Make sure he does not lose sight of our greater goal.

Do this for your thane. Do this for me.

Belastraya

I had heard of Belastraya. The sister ofThane Arnak, leader of one of the larger groups of Stone Giants. But why would she be sending an envoy to influence the hill giants?

20 feb

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Chapter 4 - Malin gets it on
Doesn't bang a gong..

While we were searching Loethar’s room, Malin, Theseus and Thames had decided to explore the stairs leading down to what we assumed were an old dungeon. From what Thames told me later “Malin wuz freaky quiet, despite walkin along not carin where iz feet wuz steppin.”, and apparently, Theseus was also almost silent, “probs coz he’s from a underground maze posse.”.

At the bottom of the stairs, they found themselves in a large, well lit, square hall. Its vaulted ceiling held up by tall pillars. Directly in front of them in the centre of the room lay piles of boxes, supplies, bolts of cloth and other items obviously stolen from the various raided trading convoys. Across the hall, a massive pair of ornate double doors dominated the far wall, flanked by two smaller doors and again the walls at either side stood two large bugbears, in front of giant gongs. Obviously ready to sound an alarm if say, a large Minotaur and a belligerent gnome happened to enter.

Of course, this would have been a brilliant idea if said Minotaur and angry lawn ornament didn’t immediately charge the bugbears on seeing them. Malin rushed at the nearest enemy, slashing with his ridiculously oversized spear, severing the poor monster’s jugular, while Theseus dashed across the room, head held low and skewered the other one on his horns.

Moments later, the rest of the party joined them and I could hear sounds of distant hammering, like that of a smithy and the ranger could hear some sort of discussion going on behind the door to the left of the double doors. Looking around there was another door near the stairs and two corridors ran off from near each of the gongs. Down these corridors appeared to be cell doors. This could be where Zander was being held!

Theseus and I walked down the shorter corridor to attempt to open the cell doors there while Malin scouted the other corridor, which appeared to be longer. The rest of the party searched the raided stores and supplies for anything potentially useful.

Liking the look of the first cell door he came across, Malin took a swing at it and on the second attempt, smashed it open. Inside the tiny, dark, damp cell, a young man hung in chains from the wall, near death.

Before Malin could even say hello and ask if the man was enjoying himself, there was an enormous roar and the door near the stairs slammed open. An enormous hulk of what I could only assume was a hill giant stomped out, swinging a huge battle axe. His size was matched by his extreme ugliness. Apart from having one eye larger and higher than the other on his misshapen face, his back was hunched awkwardly to one side and scars showed through the gaps in his almost rotten armour.

The giant wasn’t our only problem though. Bounding out alongside him were two huge apes, while on the other side of the room all the doors burst open and we were being charged by two squads of bugbears lead by what was obviously their captain, a much larger beast wearing almost professional looking armour and swinging a very nasty looking morning star.

This was a very nasty situation. Not only were Theseus and I on the other side of the room facing the bugbear captain, but the rest of the party were spread out on the other side of the hall facing multiple attackers from all directions and the alarm had been raised.

The two apes bounded across the room flanking the deformed giant, one bouncing off the wall past the mage, attempting to bite him in passing but bouncing off some sort of magical shield. The giant and the other ape charged into the centre of the party, swinging wildly but being slammed to the floor by Jasper. Un-phased, the brute simply stood up again and slashed him with his axe but not before Ash managed to stick an arrow in his hide.

On our side of the room, Theseus took things in hand and whirled his hammer around braining the bugbear captain, knocking him flat. Stabbing down with my longsword, I heard air escape as I punctured a lung.

“He’s mine!” roared Theseus and it was obvious that the minotaur was going to be able to handle this group, so I called up my Skald’s aura and rushed across to try and aid the rest of the party against the hill giant. A bugbear stabbed at me as I passed, but fortune sometimes does favour the storyteller and the wound was only minor.

As I was rushing across the room, five more bugbears charged screaming out from the central doors to attack Theseus and another three from the right door rushed Jasper overwhelming him.

While Vogue slashed at one of the apes, striking it with a glancing blow, Malin left the prisoner and rushed out from the cell immediately killing a bugbear.

Reeling under a hail of blows from the remaining two bugbears, I could almost see the wave of thought energy coming from Jasper as he blasted them, the hill giant and an ape surrounding him. Both bugbears practically vapourised.

At this point, Erevan thought it useful to bring in reinforcements and summoned a flaming hell hound to his aid. With a shout to his allies and a sweep of his arm, a scything blast of fire struck the giant and ape, while Thames and Vogue dived for the floor and the room was filled with a smell of signed fur and greasy back hair.

Theseus and the captain were locked in a mighty battle, the minotaur going into a berserker rage.

Having bounced off the mage’s shield, the other ape jumped off the wall it was clinging to and across the prone Thames and Vogue, over Malin’s head and onto Jasper, biting all of them along the way. Ash managed to loose a volley of arrows at the ape as it past, leaving them stuck in its pelt and spraying blood from the wounds.

I chanted a few words in an ancient bardic language that my master had taught me. While supposedly being a short satirical comment on an enemy’s bravery, the real effect was that three of the bugbears around me fell to the floor dying and their captain winced in pain. I took another minor blow from the remaining pair of bugbears, but stood my ground.

Thames and Vogue both jumped up from the floor, striking out. Thames with a massive cleaving blow on the hill giant, nicking the ape next to him as he followed through, while vogue stabbed the ape with her rapier, slashing it across the chest.

Jasper sent another mental blast at both hill giant and ape together, slapping the ape with a powerful force, just as the mage commanded the hell hound to blast the giant with fire, stepping into a conjured portal of fire and teleporting away to a more suitable fighting range for a mage (very, very far away being ideal).

The giant wasn’t done yet though, lashing out with a huge swing of his battle axe hitting both Thames and Jasper and throwing Jasper across the room.

“This must be the jailer!” Ash shouted from across the room, “look at the belt of keys!”, pointing them out by sticking another two arrows in the giant’s backside through the keyring.

Theseus was definitely winning in his battle with the bugbear captain, although taking some heavy blows from its morning star, he obviously had the upper hand, landing much stronger strikes with his hammer.

My two bugbear friends suddenly became one thanks to a simple thrust of my longsword and with a mighty swipe of a very similar longsword, Thames staggered the jailer and clipped the ape across its side, just before Vogue sliced the ape in two with her rapier.

Screaming something probably profane in Gnomish*, Malin lowered his spear like a lance and charged at the jailer. Unfortunately, his aim wasn’t as good as his battle cry and he ran straight under the giant’s legs, tripping and falling on his face on the other side.

As the giant looked through his legs puzzled at what had just happened, Jasper shouted a challenge at him

“Down here you monkey humping gimp! You’re mine!” and with the immediate attention of the giant and his remaining ape, he blasted giant with a mental attack that started it toppling slowly backwards. Seeing the increasing shadow of the falling giant growing around him, Malin just managed to scramble out of the way and avoid being flattened.

The ape then staggered back as a blast of flame shot from Erevan’s hands hit it full in the face. Recovering, it bounced off the hellhound but was decapitated in mid-air as it tried to leap at Jasper.

Staggering to its feet, the giant jailer stomped on the gnome and I heard a crack as he went down badly injured.

His friend the minotaur was doing better. Swinging downwards with a devastating strike, Theseus practically pulverised the bugbear captain just as I eviscerated the remaining bugbear.

Another arrow from Ash brought the jailer to his knees and stabbing it through the heart, Thames finished him off.

Binding our wounds, we searched the jailers room. A large chest opened with a small key and then was smashed to splinters by a very annoyed Malin, who just needed something to hit.

Before it was disintegrated, the chest revealed an intricate elven amulet. Identified as a powerful protective ward, the party decided it would be best warn by Jasper as he was typically taking the brunt of any enemy attacks.

“Aarrrrrrrggh. Stop, Please for the love of Crurk!”

The sounds of torture came from a door at the end of the cell block. We prepared ourselves for another fight and opened the door..

*this isn’t difficult, almost every word of Gnomish is profane. Even some of the punctuation should only be used after the nine bells watershed.

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Seekrit Diary of Kevin McBugbear
Diary of a Minion

[The following excerpt was taken from the final page of a crude notebook found on the body of a lowly bugbear minion. The preceeding pages were unreadable due to extensive bloodstaining.]

Dear Diary,

A nuvver boring day on gaurd duty. I dunno wot the point is but atlest the pays gud. The Keeper keeps all da prisners lockt up all the time, scepting wen he sends em ta bee torchured fer fun. is pet monkeys are evil, to!

Captin Jack sez we shood bee glad ov all dem giants livin upstairs an that no damned venturers are gonna get down ’ere. He tole us that as a kid a group of venturers broke in his dungeon and wiped out his hole family – mum an kid brothers an sisters, all, an that he survived by hidin in the privy!

I’m gonna complane a bowt Nigel gettin the cushy guard job standing by the gong all day again, wile I hafta fetch water from the stream and muck out the apes.

Gotta go, Captin Jack sez somefin’s not ri…

[the handwriting stops abruptly here as if the diary were ripped from the author’s hands]

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Chapter 5 - Torture!
at least 30 more chapters!

Through the door we enter a very professional looking torture chamber. In the centre of the room, a bound and gagged dwarf squirms while starting to roast on a spit over a huge bed of coals and two black hooded hill giants are using a rack to playfully stretch a half-orc.

Ducking into the shadows, Ash lets loose a volley of shots, staggering the nearest giant with two arrows suddenly appearing from its arm and a blows from both Theseus and Malin badly hurting it.

Picking it up with a blast of force, Jasper flung the giant down the corridor where a blast of Erevan’s fire whooshes over it and I nearly kill it with my longsword. Attempting to regain its feet and strike back, it’s immediately killed by another arrow from Ash.

“Great shot Ash!” I exclaimed.

“Ash?" asked the Ranger, looking genuinely confused

“Ash. It’s a name I made up from nowhere and decided to call you. I just made it up on the spot because I thought it suited you. Oh well, my bad. Lolz."

Meanwhile the other torturer raised a huge bullwhip and struck out at Jasper, who saw the tip crack just in front of his face as he quickly leaned back.

Barrett loosed another pair of arrows past the giant’s hood and momentarily distracted by them it is then knocked to the floor by a spectacular jumping and swinging attack from a berserk Theseus and then slashed across the face by Malin.

Jasper and Erevan then simultaneously blast the torturer across the floor into the corner with mental and magical blasts and using my victim of the feywild power I teleported the bound dwarf off the spit and Vogue to a suitable attacking spot next to the giant, where she somehow manages to completely miss him with an attack.

In a final futile fight for its life, the giant attempted to clamber to its feet and attack Jasper, but retaliating blows from Jasper and a final strike from Thames leave it bleeding on the floor in its final death spasms.

Wasting no time, we open the iron maiden we noticed on the far side of the room (fortunately empty) and untie the dwarf and half-orc, who Jasper notices is a fellow Red Griffin from the tattered remains of his uniform.
“Thank you friends, you are truly chosen by Crurk!”

The half orc introduced himself as Javok, a Red Griffon scout who had been captured on a reconnaissance mission a couple of days south of Hochhoch. I walked back with Javok to the Jailer’s room where we had told the released prisoners to wait while we cleared a safe passage out of the steading and the still silent Regdar tended to their wounds.

I was overjoyed to find my friend Zander alive and mostly well amongst the freed prisoners.

“Zander you old fool! you owe me a drink!”

“Just let the barman know the name of the bard the drink should be given to and it’s yours” he laughed. “I’m glad to see you too!”

“When I heard the lock opening on my cell, I thought it was the end, but instead your quiet priestly friend here was undoing my chains and gathering us all safely here”

“Aye Zander, and you’d best all stay here while we make sure it’s safe to leave. This place is crawling with giants. Not just Hill Giants either..”

“The raiders that hit my caravan had stone giants amongst their numbers”

“Yes, we’ve killed a couple of those and there are more about.. wait!”

The persistent hammering had stopped…

I could hear roaring and what could only be the paint stripping vocabulary of a charging gnome and rushed back towards the obvious battle that was going on.

Running hard, I dashed through the torture chamber into a large smithy where a entered a tableux of extreme violence. Various decapitated orcs lay around the floor, along with the burned body of a dwarf and huge fire giant, lying prone and bleeding from multiple wounds on the floor next to the furnace surrounded by Jasper, Thames and a berserk Theseus.

As I enter I see Thames plunge his sword into the giant’s side and Erevan’s force orb slam into its arm.

“kneeeeedeeeeeepdoooogjobbieeees!!!” I hear as I see Malin make a flying leap (with a triple backflip!) onto the fire giant’s belly, spear first. Using all his surprising weight, Malin forced the spear down through the giant’s armour into its guts.

With a roar, the giant ignored another arrow appearing in its shoulder and stood up throwing off Malin and swinging a flaming hammer at Jasper. Thames throws his shield in front of the hammer, partially deflecting it but in the other hand, the giant holds a pair of glowing tongs, which he grabs and holds Jasper with.

This is but a momentary respite for the poor giant though as Theseus then kills it with a devastating blow of his hammer.

27 feb

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Th' adventures ay Wee Mad Malin an' some other Scunners.
Th' case ay th' enormoos fire giant which malin deals wi' aw by himself.

Sae we strolled casually intae thes huge torture chamber. Ah led frae th’ front, takin’ mah pit minotaur wi’ me. he’s bin quite a guid loon recently. Sae anyway, thaur waur orcs an’ dwarfs haverin’ aroond lazilly, Ah reckon th’ dwarfs micht hae bin slaves, but ah dornt caur coz yoo’re nae supposed tae beat them up. Th’ massife fire giant an’ th’ orcs though waur fair game, sae ah thooght eh’d gie warmed-up by runnin’ tois ay th’ orcs ben wi’ mah spear. och aye, ye heard me – Ah killed tois orcs oan a body charge ay mah spear. hoo is ’at fur awesome.

It was at thes point ah hink Ash did somethin’ wi’ a few o’ his bampot arrows, as he tickled th’ fire giant a wee bit, an’ while he was distracted ah decided tae charge it… but Ash main hae dain somethin’ tae provoke th’ giant back in mah direction, coz th’ giant managed tae accidentally pick me up wi’ his white-hot tongs… accidentally. it did sting a wee bit, but ah managed tae gie heem th’ slip mair than easily efter ah chibbed it puckle times wi’ mah trusty spear.

Theseus, obvioosly havin’ seen th’ giant pick me up wi’ it’s flamin’ instrument ay torture, decided tae come tae mah aid, e’en thocht ah didne need it, but nevertheless charged th’ giant wi’ a cunnin’ swin’ ay th’ hammer, knockin’ it flat. Way tae go you lumberin’ ox!

Fightbrain did a body ay his a bampot fightbrain-y things, coz th’ giant an’ a body ay th’ orcs decided they hud a raither mingin’ headache aw ay a sudden, th’ giant ‘en decided tae flin’ itself intae th’ dyke. bapit dobber.

Vogue suddenly popped it ay nowhaur an’ decided tae hae a gang at a body ay th’ orcs, but missed, ach, she was reit pished. Lookin’ loch a dug lickin’ piss aff a nettle. Ah felt bad fur ‘er as she’d nae hud ‘er heed screwed oan reit aw efternuin it seemed. Mebbe luck will turn in ’er favoor in th’ next battle… Thames was equally inept as he rushed straecht pest th’ giant. Ah pure techt, fa charges a giant an’ misses? Nae me! That’s fur sure! As Ah was continuin’ tae be barry as aye.

Uir magic bodie decided ‘at noo woods be a guid time tae hurl some offensife spells at uir opponent, chuckin’ a magic missile frae halfway athwart th’ room at an unsuspectin’ orc while his stoatin flamin’ dug tried tae tak’ a bite roarin’ fu’, thocht his dug wasnae exactly oan f’rm.

Ash managed tae fire puckle arrows at it, which is aw weel an’ guid if yoo’re a poof ay a ranger. Th’ giant retaliated wi’ its fist, thocht fightbrain managed tae gonnae-no it… somehaw… usin’ his brain. Ah still dornt ken hoo he diz it, hoo can ye hurt a giant withit yer fists?

Vogue th’ wonderhorse managed tae tak’ a swin’ at th’ giant, but missed spectacularly, his fizzog gie a job hauntin’ hooses efter ‘at. Ater which, ah boarded mah trusty steed ay a minotaur, fa ’en gored th’ giant loch his life depended oan it, a stoat bit ay violence if ah ever saw it.

Meanwhile th’ puir flamin’ dug managed tae dae somethin’ reit fur a change by burnin’ an orc tae death simply by bein’ in its vicinity. Ah laughed at ‘at, puir hin’ didne e’en ken it was bein’ helpful. next time ah see it i’ll feed it some watter o’ life.

At ‘at point ah cannae pure min’ whit happened coz ‘at big daftie poet-bard cam back in. he pit me aff mah stride sae ah wasnae able tae perf’rm as well as ah otherwise woods hae. anythin’ he says is lies an’ fabrication. Th’ Scunner.

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Working With Giants - The Ramblings of Ser Harvey Whitley-Smythe, Orc Blacksmith
Diary of a Minion

Day 27

Spiffing news! The Hill Giant plebes will be bringing Lord Smolderheart and I some rather stout Dwarven fellows to operate the forges on the morrow, and I am absolutely certain that if we roast one of them over a spit, the others will work bloody hard. Good show!

Day 29

The dwarven fellows are simply smashing, what what! Efficiency has improved by over 200% from those weakling humans. I must say, though, that my esteemed colleague Baron “Gruumlash da Slayer, innit” still insists on using his damned fool primitive name.

Day 34

Everything is proceeding swimmingly. Baron Gruumlash has finally seen reason and will henceforth be known as Baron Gruumlash von Humansbane which I am sure you will agree is far more agreeable. We have invited the more civilised of the Giants including Loethar the Stone Giant and Nosnra’s wife Morzul for afternoon tea and cake tomorrow.

Day 35

High Tea with the Nosnra’s and their guests was a great success, despite the unfortunate incident where Nosnra accidentally ate one of the dwarf chaps who was serving the canapes. Ambassador Laerthar was the very model of a true gentleman, as usual and regaled us all with tales of Howling Crag. He has invited both Baron Gruumlash and I for reciprocal drinks and snacks next week for our inaugural book club meeting. We will be reading from Tenser’s treatise on extra-planar beings.

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Chapter 6 - Possession
is nine tenths of the lore.

“Well, for a fire giant, he was a bit of a wimp!” exclaimed Theseus, kicking the body. I could see his point too. Compared to the ones I’d seen attacking the city in the past, this one was a lot smaller than normal. He did have a nice bag of giant sized metalworking tools with his name on it though.

Smoulderheart

More usefully, a big sack of gold pieces and a potion, which the mage declared was a potion of vitality.

Forging onwards* we passed through another set of double doors and entered a long corridor which seemed to connect back through to the various doors in the big hall at the bottom of the stairs and vanished into darkness along its length.

“Can you hear that?” asked Jasper.

“Ye gettin them wee voices in yer fighty brain? nay to worry, I get them a the time ye ken”

“No, I can hear pick axes off in the distance. Running water too..”

“Is that the same as you heard from the cell off the entrance hall Jasper?” I asked.

“Yes, 10lb iron pick axes hitting stone. One of them has a slightly bent tip and at least one of them has a dwarven cadence to his swing”

The surviving dwarves we had rescued from the smithy had mentioned other dwarves being used in slave gangs for mining, so this could be them.

Ahead of us, Vogue was listening at doors and randomly opening them. We follow her through into what appears to have been slave quarters in the distant past. Palettes of ancient and mouldy straw lay around the room and the smell was suitably described by Thames as he entered.

“Man, dat is rank!”

Truly.

We decided fairly quickly that there could be nothing of value in the disgusting mess around the room, at least nothing worth catching a disease for. Besides, a huge hole in the back wall was a lot more interesting. Rough hewn, it looked like it might have been hacked through a while ago, but Jasper could hear his picks a little louder from the tunnel so we decided to investigate. Anything to get away from this stench.

The tunnel appeared to be quite large and part of some fairly old mine workings. A faint breath of fresh air told us there was at least one way out to the surface from these tunnels and the remains of old side tunnel collapses that were overgrown with typical dungeon gunk hinted at their age.

Two side tunnels got our attention though. The first had been more recently cleared and widened, the noise of picks and running water could be clearly heard from it, this would have been our obvious path except for Regdar noticing some religious mural on plastered walls at the end of the other.

Lots of horrible tentacled beings in a procession. Check.

Jasper’s fight brain having a strong sense of foreboding from that direction. Check

Malin automatically walking into the tunnel to see if there was anything worth fighting. Check.

The tunnel opened into a man (or tentacled being) made corridor of obvious religious design. Lots more tentacles and some other designs that generally hinted at this not being the sort of temple you’d want in a nice part of town.

“Elder Elemental Eye,” Regdar whispered to me, noticing my horror at a juicer part of the mural. “Nasty buggers. My order always thought they might have a nest around here.”

At least that meant it wasn’t a nameless evil we’d be going up against. Nameless evils are always the worst ones..

The corridor soon became a large temple hall, lined with purple veined green stone, alcoves along each side and four grand columns holding up the ceiling. There wasn’t a speck of dust to be seen either. An evil god with a neatness fetish.

Our eyes were drawn to the altar at the end of the room. Set in a larger rounded alcove, it was made of a solid block of translucent stone. It almost looked like a solid block of carved smoke. The wall behind was strangely painted, colours shifting and moving around in a creepy design.

Investigating the altar, Regdar wandered around it taking notes. As he walked behind the altar, the wall behind him became more like a pond and a terrible black tentacled form appeared in it. Regdar got a particularly funny expression as the form vanished back into the wall.

Ah, freaky supernatural portal to a far realm. That explains a lot.

Regdar was definitely looking a bit odd. Even more odd actually as a raised symbol burned onto his forehead. Staggering forwards a bit, he leaned on the altar and after a short while the symbol began to clear. However an amorphous blob was forming inside the alter and solidified itself into a purple gem, which rose up through the top of the altar until it sat upon its surface.

As Erevan started some subtle finger twiddling in an attempt to determine any magical effects, we hear an eerie sound from the corridor behind us and a ghostly voice says “The Fight Brain must cut off his beard in tribute”

“No bloody way!” shouted Jasper at the disembodied voice.
“We should take this gem with us” suggested Regdar, looking a bit less odd now.

“We should smash it!” Theseus slammed the gem with his hammer, but he only struck it a glancing blow. The gem flew off the side of the altar, bouncing off a wall and sustaining a small chip. The altar was unaffected by the blow.

Vogue picked up the chipped gem. It’s pretty badly damaged but she estimates it’s still worth a bit of gold. Not as much as an undamaged one though. She points out that ideally it should be undamaged and in the original box it came in for maximum value.

Trying to pull the cleric away from behind the altar, Theseus stepped up to the wall and symbols appeared on both his and Malin’s foreheads.

Both their faces changed as Regdar’s had, taking on a mean countenance. Well, ok, a more mean countenance in Malin’s case. He pretty much always looked angry and about to bite you, but instead of his normal happy go lucky pissed off look, Malin now had a concentrated look of nastiness on his face.

Theseus looked up angrily at the gnome mounted on his shoulders, but Malin stood up, grabbed his spear and rammed it downwards, skewering the minotaur down through his shoulder.

Attempting to get him to touch the altar, thinking it may have the same clearing effect that it had on Regdar, Thames yelled at Theseus, challenging him. The effect of this pulled Theseus forwards but he didn’t land on the altar. Thames was already charging though and grappled Theseus, struggling to immobilise him and drag him to to the slab.

Raging at Thames, Theseus goes beserk and hits him with his hammer. As he does this, the look on his face changes to a more puzzled one, just as an arrow from Barrett’s bow thuds into his foot and he falls to the floor unconscious with the loss of blood from this and his shoulder wound.

“yweahmginnasmashyerfightynogin!!!” screamed Malin as rushed at Jasper. Another shot from Barrett attempts to distract him, but he still gets a glancing blow in on the dwarf. As soon as he does this though, he looks puzzled too and looks around at the carnage.

“Whit th’ feck jist happened?”

Malin and Theseus had obviously both been under some sort of malign influence, but seemed to have shaken it off now. Theseus was a bit of a mess, but appologising profusely, or to be more accurate profanely, Malin helped him to his feet and they patch themselves up to the point where it’s almost impossible to tell that Theseus had nearly bled to death a moment ago.

“Hey, Regdar got a gem when he touched the altar didn’t he?” Theseus pointed out, with that dungeoneering glint in his eye.

“Yes, the altar appears to reward those who allow Therisden to mark and play with them” explained Erevan after consulting with Regdar. “Try and stay on this side of the altar though, the area behind it is showing all the signs of being some sort of magical trap”.

Touching the altar from the front, Theseus watches as another purple gem forms in the smoky rock and lifts to the surface. Simultaneously the mark on his forehead fades. Jumping onto the altar, Malin also exchanges his mark for another gem, both of which Vogue assesses as valuable, possibly around a thousand pieces of gold each.

“If it’s alright with the rest of you, I can use this broken gem to prove the existence of this temple to my order” Regdar asked, and with nods from the rest of us, he put the first gem in his pack.

“We don’t want anything coming through that portal and sneaking up behind us,” Barrett pointed out. So as we left the temple, he and Theseus smashed the columns and collapsed the tunnel behind us, heading for the other one that led to the sounds of mining.

*I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it)

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My Journal, by Staycee Orcington, age 15
Diary of a Minion

[The following are extracts from a hand-written book taken from the dead body of a slightly smaller-than-average looking orc guard. It had been carefully covered in pink paper and decorated with feathers and other girly accroutments, and the writing was obviously girlish]

4th Coldeven, 612 CY

ITS SO UNFAIR! Just because I’m a girl, I have to work in the kitchens! I told dad I wanted to be a mine guard like Uncle Harvey before he got promoted to the smithy and went all posh, but no, I have to wait tables and prepare food in the kitchens.

It’s not like I’m any good at preparing food, anyway. I mean, who fries dwarf leg – everyone knows it’s tough and has to be boiled in a stew!

7th Planting, 612 CY

It’s been over a month since I was old enough to work and I’ve been stuck in the stinky kitchens all that time but today, I managed to speak to Nosnra’s wife, Morzul and she promised to speak to The Keeper to see if there were any vacancies downstairs with the guards.

12th Planting, 612 CY

EWWWW! The worlds hairiest hill giant showed up today and made a pass at me. His name is Varrg and he stunk like his hunting dogs.

17th Planting 612 CY

Varrg came by again today. I think he likes me because he’s come by every day this week – sometimes more than once. When you get past all the hair and the dog smell, he’s not so bad really. He’s funny and strong and smart and he makes me laugh.

19th Planting 612 CY

Varrg has invited me out of the Steading for a picnic in the hills. I don’t know whether I should accept – can it ever work between us? He’s old enough to be my father and big enough to eat him whole!

21st Planting 612 CY

I accepted Varrg’s invitation and we went for a beautiful romantic picnic this afternoon. Varrg is soooooo dreamy. He smells lovely – like a beautiful beast!

22nd Planting 612 CY

PROMOTED! Morzul really came through – or was it Varrg? I got that job with the guard downstairs. My first guarding job will be to help the stone giants guard a bunch of dwarf slaves in the mines! The Keeper said it’d be easy work but I can do it! Varrg has to leave today on another raid, but I told him I’d be thinking of him, and I gave him a goodbye kiss, and he never even tried to use his tongue! He’s such a gent! He asked me to elope with him on his return!

27th Planting 612 CY

Guard work is easier than kitchen work! The dwarves seem to enjoy digging – except that one with the funny name – Kurrek-Drong – he’s gonna be trouble, I can tell. The other orc guards still treat me like a fragile thing so they are keeping that dwarf far away from me.

29th Planting 612 CY

I can’t wait! Varrg is back tonight or tomorrow! I have decided to accept his invitation. We’re going to leave this place behind and elope! Nobody will understand how an orcess and a hill giant can love each other so, but we’ll show them! Father will be furious but Varrg will threaten to eat him if he doesn’t let me leave!

The margins of the diary are filled with scribbled hearts and phrases like “I (heart) Varrg”, “Varrg 4 eva!”

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