DM When last we left our heroes, they had defeated an otherworldly entity, banishing it back to the strange realms it had poured forth from. Now, they have spent the past week preparing for their exodus from the ruins of Rukhaus, treating their sick, their cursed and their mad. Troglodytes lay dead, their souls forever beyond the reach of their demon master, as Hengist’s blade hungers for more life. Orcs lay drunk, their minds whirling from cups of dwarven liquor intended to be taken in small shots. And our heroes lay their treasure upon their steeds, freshly recovered from their stint at freedom. What lies ahead on the journey home? Read on!
DM Kryss’s strong hand and forceful personality keeps the group in check, and the party makes slow but largely uneventful progress through the mountains back to civilization.
DM Back in civilization, the party is hailed as heroes, as the giant attacks have dwindled to their pre-crisis levels. Yet the lords of Dragonfyre know, having seen the maps, and the plans and the orders…their work is not yet done. More giants lie in wait, executing some dark plan that spells doom for the smaller peoples of the world.
DM Still, for now, there is cause to breathe easy, even if it is but a few moments.
Kryss Once Kryss has Goldemar settled in Ossington he spends a few days with Emily before he starts asking his friends when they will be ready to leave again.
DM The three lords meet to discuss their approach to the rest of the giants. Things will only get more dangerous from here on out.
Julian “I’ve been going back over the things we found.” Julian begins. “Not only some of the items of use, but also the maps and the like. Looking for clues.”
Kryss “I’m happy to take a look.”
Julian “I think this map and chain can lead us onward.”
Julian Julian explains.
Kryss “Could you be more specific?” Kryss asks, confused.
Julian “So the instructions indicate that the chain is a magical device meant to be placed on a flat surface and looped into a figure-8 shape. Thus configured, it can transport up to one giant or six human-sized persons standing in each loop of the figure-8 to the glacial rift.” Julian explains. “Those so transported need to be holding the map.”
Julian “The map isn’t any more specific, but what do you want to bet that the glacial rift has to do with frost giants?”
Julian “Assuming it is, we should discuss our approach to them. They are likely to be mightier than the hill giants, and those were not gentle foes.”
Julian “The frost giants are also – so I am told – the most likely of all giants to be able to treat and negotiate surrender with. They have a strong tradition of servitude in repayment of debt. And Shael, if you can teach me a few giantish phrases by rote, I might be able to use some tricks that I could not before.”
Julian “We should also be wary and on the lookout for defensive runes now that we know of them.”
Julian “But the biggest decision now, I think, is who to bring. A little fewer than before, I think you would like, Shael?”
Kryss “I agree with him,” Kryss replies.
Shael He nods, already working on the phrasebook for Kryss and Julian.
Julian “For my part now that politics are out of it I mean to bring only Hengist and Horsa and perhaps one knight, not to attack with us but to guard our horses in a safe place.”
Julian “That would make a party of six, and three horses for the other half of the chain. Does it seem good?”
Julian “Shael? Any wisdom you would add is welcome, or if you would bring one of your folk to watch our camp instead of one of my knights, it is the same to me.”
Shael He looks up, “Goldemar and Captain Ju’hal would be welcome additions.” he responds quietly.
Julian “So be it.”
Julian He summons the pair and includes them in their council.
DM Ju’hal is quiet, listening intently to the plan.
Julian “Once we arrive, we will scout out the rift and wait for a good time to make our assault. Like at the Steading.”
Julian “Winter is coming on. We may need to wait for clear weather too.”
Julian “You should arm yourselves from our armories if there is anything you lack for.” he suggests, “and I suggest that one of you bear the flametongue we just now found.”
DM Goldemar frowns. “Lord Kryss mentioned wrack dragons, which he mistook a lindworm for at Rukhaus. Is it possible that the frost giants, more intelligent by far than those of the hills, have frostwrack dragons at their command?”
Julian “Shael, it may be you can learn something about the types of foes we shall face?”
Shael He blinks slowly and nods, “Once we are a week from leaving, I will start searching for specifics – but, what do you have in mind specifically? I can ask Serra to look ahead for us —”
Julian “We’re a week from leaving, my lords.”
Julian “Less if I have my way.”
Julian “The winter will only get deeper.”
Shael Shael begins his morning prayer as always; “Hello, Serra. Are you well today?” he asks in communion.
DM “Hello Shael. My name is Radiant, I speak for the goddess today. She is well.”
Shael “I am glad. We move against frost giants who threaten our land within the week – is there any reason to hurry that we couldn’t know?”
DM “No, moving within a week is as fast as you could be expected.”
Shael He suddenly blushes vividly, his eyes widening from prayer – “Radiant, I’m so sorry, I’m nervous and I forgot to ask… are you well today?”
DM “You asked about Serra, who was well. I am as well as can be expected.”
Shael His eyes widen and he nods quickly, “Thank you…” he whispers as the spell ends. He then honors the earth and the forest, the fields and the furrows and communes with the natural world. “What foes can we expect to face in our campaign?” he divines.
DM “Wolves of winter, oozes lurking in the snow,
Ice bears, yeti, see me go
Giants striding through the rime,
Gigas thought once lost to time.
Dragons, wracks and worms of land
Guided by a dark and malicious hand.”
Shael The day passes as he blesses the Dyrr Manor. The next morning he communes in prayer once more, he is less nervous today and has spent the previous day in meditation while sanctifying the Manor in Serra’s name — instead of beginning with his commune, he speaks simple prayers. He talks about his worries and fears, his hopes and dreams, and generally what’s on his mind – no matter how mundane or esoteric. Once he is entirely calm he calls out, “Is Serra well today?”
DM Reya Dawnbringer’s sweet tones greet him. “Serra is well every day, Brother Shael.”
Shael He smiles, comforted as he will always be with that answer, “Are you well today, Sister?”
DM “Indeed. How might I guide you?”
Shael “Have the frost giants prepared an ambush on the other side of the portal?”
DM “No, though the area is not completely unguarded.”
Shael He bows his head and says gratefully, “Thank you.” before again continuing his daily rituals. “What allies might we find while we prosecute our campaign?”
DM “Indignity vile. Chained, beaten, tormented. The Lady Orage”
Shael And through the day he is sure to speak with the people as he ministers to their wounds, ills, and all that sort of thing.
DM The people of Ossington mostly go about their business, readying for the winter ritual. Crops are brought in, buildings are prepared for the coming ordeal and clothing is mended and reinforced.
DM “In the southern caverns cold, eastern giants guard it bold.
Upon their arms there will truly be, a token for passage that is free.
Dragons, wolves and yetis do not care,
but giants will view and treat you fair.”
DM “Long before a lord you were
A being most foul you did ire
Escaped it did in hatred black
And now your honor it does attack
Even as your fame comes to a head,
Your deepest secrets it will spread.”
Julian “Can you be ready to leave in three days’ time?”
Julian “If not… step up your preparations. I mean to leave then.”
Julian “Tom Bing will show you our armory, Captain Ju’hal, Goldemar.”
Shael Shael smirks, “I just got back to the Dyrr, but I suppose I can hurry along and visit with everyone before then.”
Kryss Kryss offers to sharpen or repair any arms I mean weapons no offense, for the party.
DM Ju’hal does take the flametongue to Kryss to be worked. “The edge is not as keen as I would prefer,” he directs Kryss’s attention.
Kryss “Pleasure. Give me ten minutes.”
Julian “Do. And I know.” Julian looks back towards his wing where his wife awaits. “It would be welcome to rest for longer.”
Kryss Kryss turns to his workbench and lays the sword down. He stands and appears to stare at it for close to 10 minutes without moving. A keen eye would notice his eyes working furiously as he studies the magic weapon. Any mistake even sharpening could disrupt the energies within and Kryss had to memorize all of them before he could put a stone to it.
Kryss “If I’m not mistaken, as I glide the stone over the edge, we should see a bright orange light for a moment. Look closely.” Kryss pushes the blade to the large flat rock he uses as his best stone.
DM Ju’hal watches intently. “You work metal well.”
Julian Julian, though, has taken his leave by now to tell Shella that he is riding away to war for the second time this season.
DM Shella is not particularly thrilled with him being gone. “When you leave, rumors spring up in the city, horrific tales about you, intersecting with the truth and then twisting it around to something foul.”
Kryss First, Kryss focuses on straightening the sword, pushing the edge back into line. Then he angles deeper on both sides, dramatically changing the cutting edge from a soldier’s cut to a custom edge Kryss had recently thought of. He turns and passes it back to the elf. “Friendly reminder, that sword was made for hacking and slashing trolls so it should be strong, but now its sharp. Sharper than it was made to be. The balance might be a little heavy on the handle end. If you like I can replace the handle completely, but there are some key runes woven in the leather that I’d be nervous to break.”
DM “It will suffice. My own arms…heh, literally in one case, were lost to the giants.”
Julian “Rumors that I’m plotting treachery and overthrow of the rightful lords of the land?” Julian wonders.
Kryss “This may be rude and presumptuous, but I’m a Lord so that sort of thing probably doesn’t apply so I’ll just ask. Have you had the opportunity to see a healer for your arm?” Kryss asks.
Kryss “Like, a really good healer?”
DM “Those, rumors that you get your power not from Tal but from dark pacts, rumors that you intend to kill the Patriarch…it is like someone is out there filling people’s hearts and heads with this bullshit!” Shella snaps.
DM Ju’hal laughs without mirth. “You walk with two of the most powerful healers I have laid eyes upon. Regrowing my arm is not possible.”
Kryss “I’m sorry, I was just curious.”
DM Ju’hal shrugs. “Have you ever seen someone regrow an arm or even a hand?”
Julian Julian gives his wife a troubled look. “They speak of me that way? Even here where my purse has put food on half the tables in Dragonfire one winter or another?”
Kryss “No, but I’ve seen people make armor, and I know something about that.” Kryss rolls up his sleeve to expose his armor. “We could commission an arm. I’m just concerned about functionality.”
Julian “Even in Brindinford where they ought to remember I turned back dark pacts from their very city and shed not a little blood to do it?”
DM “Never here, my love! As though they would dare, I would take my satisfaction from them long before you made it home. No, but in Brindinford, and in Almaaz, and in Alsoor. Even in Brindinford where they have not forgotten your deeds. Some whisper you were the origin of the dark pacts to begin with.”
DM “I have an arm,” Ju’hal flexes, “And it will serve.”
Kryss “Just a friendly offer,” Kryss holds his giant hands up, “Really, no offense.”
DM “I am not offended,” Ju’hal responds. “I am an elf.”
Kryss “Well, I’ve met a few elves, and sometimes your people can hold a grudge. I just want to be friends.”
Kryss “Don’t even get me started on the guy in Ossington…” Kryss rubs black soot across his forehead.
Kryss “He was… easily bothered.”
Julian “Almaaz… Lord Carroway and I parted only barely civilly at the council. Maybe these rumors start there.”
Julian Julian sighs as he sinks onto the long couch by the fire. “Or… truly, Shella, I do feel a shadow on me. I hoped it would lift when we finally laid the vampire low, but it has not.”
DM “Does an enemy of yours live, my love?”
DM “Someone who wishes you harm, who hates everything you stand for, everything you are doing for our land?”
DM Ju’hal looks at Kryss curiously. “Friend. What do you consider a friend?”
Julian “Ah, Shella, if I could see and name all my enemies I would be half done defeating them or more.”
Julian “At least these giant marauders will not skulk in the shadows and whisper behind my back.”
Kryss “You’re asking the wrong guy. I’m still figuring that stuff out myself.”
DM “Perhaps when we have known each other a few decades then, we can revisit the friendship issue.”
Kryss “Apparently it doesn’t take long. When we let Julian out of his cage he was apparently our friend right away Same with Shael.”
Kryss “But then again… it took awhile with Da… sometimes it takes awhile, but those friendships are the very best ones.”
Kryss “Anyway, I’m a weaponsmith, not a bartender. You don’t want to hear me give advice. No charge for the sharpening either. Bring it back and I’ll take good care of it.”
Julian After a moment of silence Julian forces a smile. “I’m sorry, my lovely bride. I don’t mean to be morose.”
Julian “The best way to put rumors to the lie is to show them false with deeds. My lords and I will make this land safe from giants just as we once did from sorcerers and assassins.”
DM “I know you will. And you should know that if I find out who is behind these rumors, you will not have to worry about them for much longer thereafter.”
Julian “The good name of our house could not be in better hands.”
DM “It’s not a name of the house in these hands that your slanderer ought to fear.”
Julian Julian laughs.
Julian “By God I have no delicate flower to wife.” he stands and catches her up in his arms.
Kryss “So I’m curious Master Bing, how are things with Emily?” Kryss asks.
DM “Of course. What is it that you are looking to learn? She is a bright child, talkative and willful.”
Kryss “Is she happy?”
DM “She is safe, she is taught, she is cared for. Her happiness is not a charge I can shoulder, nor a question I can answer. Are any of us truly happy?”
Kryss “I see. Are you satisfied with your position?”
DM “I am your butler, I serve your household to the utmost of my ability.”
Kryss “You are excellent at your job. Do you have any advice of problems you’d like to discuss?”
DM “None, Sir. It is my job to solve problems, not allow them to bother you.”
Julian Julian gathers the seven companions on the appointed day. The sinister chain and its map are ready.
DM Goldemar and Ju’hal look on curiously, waiting to see what the lords will do.
Julian Julian lays out the chain on the floor of the Dragonfire armory – for there they have met – and loops it into the shape of a figure eight.
Julian “Step within one loop or the other. I will step in last, with the map, and if we are right this will awaken its power and draw us all to the rift.”
DM The elf and dwarf do as he says.
Julian Once all are within Julian follows with the map.
DM Many leagues to the north and west of Rukhaus Steading, amid the tallest mountain peaks, is the stronghold of Grugnur, Lord of Frost Giants. As frost giants have been among those who have been in the reaving bands, the party is to deal with them as they did the hill giants: death and destruction are to be meted out to the frost giants in the same measure they gave these things to the peoples below. Your most important mission is to garner intelligence as to what or who is behind the unholy alliance of giants. Any such information gained is to be delivered by the fastest means to the rest of the nobles, while the party is to follow up clues in order to prosecute offenders. Any treasure taken is to be kept by the party; this is their reward for the perils they must face – and they are bound to face many in the weird ice caves and rocky caverns of the jarl. The evil root is deeply grown here, far worse than among the hill giants.
DM A few hours of searching the area after you arrive locates a hidden cave where you can safely hide yourselves, any mounts (if present), equipment and even treasure if you take minimum precautions with respect to keeping the hiding place secret. It also locates the rift.
Julian Julian claims the former and scouts out the latter, from a discreet distance at first.
DM A howling wind blows snow through the entire area and does not stop. Atop the rift, he can see but a hundred and half again in feet, but within the rift, the swirling snow and eddies quarter this distance or worse.
DM One thing is sure…if they are pursued, it will be easy to lose their trackers in the storm.
Julian Julian draws his yakhide cloak close against the wind and evaluates…
Julian After a day or so spent observing the rift while Shael fortifies their hideout, Julian concludes that while the weather might get worse, it isn’t going to get any better.
Julian He communicates this fact to his comrades.
Shael Shael reminds his friends to watch the snow closely for oozes that might blend in with it as they travel about before casting out his magic to learn the lay of the land.
Julian “On the plus side.”
Julian “It will be easy to sneak up and hard to raise the alarm in all this blizzard and howling wind.”
Shael Shael doesn’t seem as confident, “They are used to it, we are not.” he reminds his companion.
Julian Julian begins cautiously advancing down the path. The knight has studded his boots with hobnails for better grip, having anticipated that the “glacial rift” might be icy.
DM The passage from the northeast at the top of the map indicates the beaten path that the giants follow to enter the glacial rift. The path forks inside the entrance, each side leading to one of the icy ledges along either face of the rift. The caves and caverns herein are basically formed from ice, with a few areas of rock outcropping here and there. Both ledges slope gradually downward, as indicated by the elevation markers on the map, from a height of 250 feet above the bottom of the rift at their northern beginnings to about 150 feet above the rift at the ledges’ far ends to the south. The central area is the rift itself, and the openings along it are the entrances to the caves and tunnels in its face.
Julian Julian picks the eastern tunnel.
Julian The lords’ party turns off the ledge as they reach an opening.
Julian The party separates into two groups, an advance and a rear guard, with the lords in the advance guard moving forward.
DM Within the ice tunnels, the ceiling is only twenty feet high, and the wind still howls through the area.
DM The tunnel splits into three paths shortly inside.
DM The fierce blowing snow prevents any of the forks from being an obviously superior choice.
Julian North seems a lucky direction.
Julian Julian picks that.
Julian He signals the trollkin brothers and the elf and dwarf warriors to keep watch on the other two that nothing creeps up on them while they investigate the first.
DM The cavern is large, and this deep into the tunnels, the wind finally stops blowing so blessedly loud. They can hear and finally see. Piles of hides are stacked up here. Hides, furs, rocks…rocks for the giant that stands against the wall. He squints at them and reaches for one of the rocks.
Julian Kryss drops smoothly into a battle rhythm, springing forward and whirling around to give Shatterspike momentum.
DM The axe drives deep into the giant’s sternum, shearing through chain shirt links. The giant lets out a mighty bellow. “Intruders! Intruders to the east rift!”
Julian Julian draws his blade of sunlight and dashes! forward, stopping himself on the icy floor half by footwork and half by colliding with his foe blade first.
DM The giant howls, surprised by the pain from these tiny beings.
DM Icicles fall from the ceiling as its yells reverberate through the cavern.
Shael Shael slips into the fight, quiet words of magic echoing through the ether to speed his slippery and entirely ungraceful way to the frost giant as he swings his blades.
DM The giant howls, but its axe sweeps over the heads of the humans it faces. Blue blood drips onto the ice.
DM The trollkin are guarding their tunnel when suddenly a giant looms out of the dark and chops its axe down onto them.
DM It does not fare well, despite the element of surprise.
Julian Kryss catches Shatterspike coming back one way, lets it carry him round in a circle and releases it back the way it came in a renewed assault.
Julian Julian meanwhile works his way around the giant and leaps up on a pile of furs so as to reach its throat.
DM The giant guard tumbles to the ground, slain by Kryss and ravaged by Julian.
Julian Hengist and Horsa join battle with this new foe.
Shael Hearing battle from the corridor, he hurries down the hallway towards their other companions.
DM Their weapons spill the giant’s blood.
DM The giant retaliates, pushing forward, stomping over them and chopping Hengist in his back.
Shael Shael forms a sigil with the edge of his blade, slicing through the air, and a whoomp of force slams into the giant.
DM It begins to stagger, having rushed into battle with too many little buzzing foes. It tries to head towards the rift.
Julian A pair of javelins announce that Julian is drawing near.
Shael Before his first blade has finished its sign, the second follows and another wave of force slices through the cavern.
Shael (And by wave of force, he of course means the holy light of Serra.)
DM It swings, it misses, it cries out as the light blinds it, but his fellow guard has already been slain. He falls to his knees, bleeding from a hundred cuts, and gasps his last.
DM Its lifeforce is drained away by the Runesword and swells Hengist with power.
DM Two giants, too easy, Loyal Readers! Our lords have infiltrated the rift, and now they have but to kill all the giants including their king, loot their palace and return to the human lands many times richer. Piece of cake. Join us next week while they munch on it!