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.
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?