Part I: Prelude
Part II: Hitting the Beach
Part III: Giants and Ogres
Part IV: More Chaos Monsters!
Part V: More Blue Beasties!
Part VI: Penetrating the Stronghold
Another month passed in the city/state of Darakhshan. Spies on the continent continued to send word of events spurred by the defeat of the clerics of Tharizdun in the frost giant temple and the subsequent destruction of the Chaos Gargoyle. Within a month of that defeat the coalition that Tharizdun's clerics had formed amongst the goblinoids fractured. The lawful beings pulled completely out and the clerics of their traditional gods had come out of hiding to destroy the clerics of Tharizdun and any of the few remaining faithful. The neutral beings had followed suit, and shortly thereafter even the chaotic beings broke from Tharizdun. It was believed that no faithful of that evil god remained alive in the southern half of the continent.
Reports arrived that the same had occurred in the north. Following on the heels of their southern brethren the former followers of Tharizdun destroyed the remaining faithful. The losses on both sides had been horrendous, which was good news to the humans, elves, and dwarves. The rejoicing in Darakhshan rose to even greater heights.
Servants of the ruling council sought out Jake, David, Bisonbit, and Gilden summoning them to an urgent council.
Dilawar, king of Darakhshan, spoke: "You have heard the joyous news the evil one's forces are divided and have mostly destroyed each other." He paused, looking each in the eyes, one by one. "What has not been spoken of is that there remains one bastion of the evil one's forces, a frost giant stronghold outside the city of Bahman. If you recall, the city Bahman is where the empire of Bahman spawned. Bahman was the name the evil one used for centuries to disguise his true nature as his clerics built the empire."
"As much as we want to believe they are defeated, our spies report that there is some activity in the fortress. The few remaining human and frost giant clerics have all assembled there, the worst of that evil bunch. We do not know details, but our spies report they have a plan to reverse their losses, or to destroy all their enemies."
"Which now means every thinking being not in Bahman." Dilawar gulped some wine. "One spy who penetrated their fortress reported seeing an object that glowed a sickly green light. There is the strong possibility that they have the Carnith Stone." A chill swept the room at the mention of that dreaded artifact.
"You've all done so much to change what was certainly an eventual defeat into victory. As much as I hate to ask more of you, we need you to do it again. If you will, travel to the frost giant fortress, kill all the clerics, and if they have the Carnith Stone, deal with it."
A fast ship left port at dawn, carrying the party to the coast. The plan was to travel up the west coast and deposit the party on the beach at the closest point to the city of Bahman. They will be met by a guide who will lead them through hostile territory to the city.
As long as they avoid populated areas the likelihood of encountering hostile forces are slim. The abrupt and violent fracture of the coalition formed by the clerics of Tharizdun reduced all goblinoid forces, and with the followers of the chaotic god destroyed, long suppressed traditional differences have come to the fore. Evil was doing what evil does best destroying itself. As the longboat pulled up on shore a diverse group revealed itself, a mixed band of humans, elves, and dwarves under the command of an elven soldier. During the past few years both the eastern elves and dwarves had discovered that the most effective groups were mixed, as each race brought different skills and benefits.
The commander introduced himself and stated tersely that the party would head almost due north where they would be met by Hisoka, a human fighter/magic user who would guide them to the fortress. She was not supposed to go inside with them but if she chose to that was, well, her choice.
"While you are all traveling north my band of merry men," indicating the mixed group of forty or so stone-faced elves, dwarves, and humans, "will travel west and garner some attention." Neither his words nor his expression held mirth. "We will parallel your track, maybe ten to twenty miles west of you, and will get the gobbies attention to distract them from you."
Faraz, a lifelong inhabitant of Darakhshan, was shocked at the elf's words. Specifically one word "gobbies", human slang for the goblinoid forces. Elves never used any sort of slang nor did the dwarves it seemed out of character for those races to use human slang. Maybe the close contact with humans during the past couple of years rubbed off on them.
Jake realized that mission was likely to be a suicide mission. The mixed group would intentionally sting more than a dozen goblinoid forces enough to get them to chase. As much as they hated each other, the goblinoids, from kobolds to giants, would put that aside to track down and destroy the good forces.
The march to the fortress was expected to take twenty-five to thirty days, so the elf-led force needed to keep the goblinoids distracted for at least 3 weeks, preferably 4. If they got lucky maybe they would get some of the evil forces to fight each other.
"Could be worse for them," Jake thought. "They could be attacking the last bastion of the forces of the ultimate evil god." With that the party tramped north to find their guide.
Two miles off the beach the party encountered their guide, a tall blonde woman dressed in forest green, armed with a long sword and long bow. She might have been attractive but her face held a permanent frown. Getting words longer than one syllable out of her proved difficult.
If her speech was sparse, her nature skills were not. The party traveled for more than 2 weeks, following old trails not recently used, encountering nothing more dangerous than normal animals. The most dangerous animal was a brown bear which retreated rapidly when sighting the party.
On the 18th day, after stopping for a brief mid-day meal, the party resumed their trek with Jake and David first on the trail. Hisoka followed about twenty feet behind them, ill concealing her irritation that as guide for the party Jake and David felt it best to lead the way on the trail.
Trilla and Faraz were another thirty feet behind her, while Bisonbit and Gilden brought up the rear.
David and Jake came to an abrupt halt when Hisoka hissed. She listened intently as the others halted. All members of the party scanned the light woods around them. The land here was gently rolling hills, mostly flat but with knolls that offered concealment.
A slight whistling was the only warning the party got as giant snowballs flew through the air. David started to duck but one clipped his shoulder, exploding into a burst of snow, sleet, and ice. The force of the explosion blasted away from the knoll, rolling as he went. Jake was caught by the blast and knocked onto his face. Fortunately the others were all missed, although the snowballs exploded on anything they hit, so most had been caught in the radius of one blast or another. Heavy spears whistled their way through the air in the snowballs' wake, hitting no one but forcing all to duck for cover.
Another salvo of snowballs blasted everyone with ice and sleet before Hisoka spotted the attackers at the top of the knoll about seventy feet away. "Frost giants and ogres!" she yelled before pointing out one group with a Fireball. David hit a second giant with a Fireball. While the giant didn't drop the ogres around it fell as burning husks. Sighting David's partially roasted frost giant Jake yelled, "CIELDREN!" and threw the sword.
As the sword transformed into a hammer Jake felt his self travel it the weapon, guiding it as surely as if his material hand grasped the hilt. The hammer slammed full power into the giant's upper lip, flipping him head-over- heels twice before an intervening tree abruptly stopped the flight. Leaves and acorns rained down on the corpse.
Jake lacked the presence of Cieldren that had accompanied the previous throws in the evil temple. The power of the blows was the same, but the distance he could throw was halved. He also did not feel that intense feeling of dwarven community that made him want to be a dwarf. "Less range in exchange for less peer pressure. A fair trade," Jake thought.
Hisoka used Magic Missiles on her burn victim and Jake polished him off with the Sword of Cieldren.
Meanwhile Bisonbit, Gilden, Trilla, and Faraz peppered another giant and his henchmen with missile fire. Another giant snowball blasted them with ice and sleet and a number of ogre spears made things uncomfortable, but no one was seriously injured.
A Fireball hit the frost giant, spinning him into his people's version of hell, a fiery wasteland. Most of the ogres dropped as well but one sprinted back over the knoll.
The last giant and his henchmen were still firing but had started backing up the hill. A well placed Web froze most of them in place although a single ogre, free of the webbing, ran like the wind!
Trilla charged after him, her fleet form quickly catching him. Wearing magical boots and gloves made for her type of fighting, she leaped into air and executed jump side kick, her rock hard foot hitting him low on the back of his neck. Hands flailing wildly he slammed face first into the ground.
The young monk kicked him again as he rose to his feet. She slid aside from his frantic lunge and drove a fist into his floating ribs. Grunting in pain he turned in time to catch a jump front kick in the pit of his stomach, doubling him over. Jake watched as his henchwoman planted an axe kick on the back of the ogre's neck, breaking it.
Not as fleet as the young monk, David still out ran the other ogre. Showing neither finesse nor mercy he speared it through the kidney with his long sword.
The others were still trying to question the trapped giant and two ogres. Fanatic followers of Tharizdun, they answered all questions with curses and threats. Realizing no information was forthcoming a few well placed arrows ended the curses.
Searching the bodies the party found a large number of missiles, including arrows, crossbow bolts, and sling bullets. Detect Magic showed that some of each were magical.
Another week of travel passed with no significant encounters. During rest periods the group wondered how the distraction team fared. Concern for that brave group of men and women helped keep the party moving at a steady pace, eating the miles to the frost giant fortress.
Shortly after their mid-day break on the 25th day of travel, the party moved along an old trail in their usual lineup. Without warning bodies dropped from the branches far above their heads, furry blue bodies.
One time in the port City of Sathea, Gilden had seen a type of monkey called a chimpanzee. The creature that dropped right in front of the dwarf reminded him strongly of that sight, excepting that this creature was about four feet tall, had two legs and four arms, and its short fur was bright blue plus a long, thick shock of hair on the top of its head. Later Gilden would note the long hair ran down the full length of its spine.
This one was also made exclusively of teeth and claws! Gilden's armor and shield held, keeping the seemingly infinite number of claws out of his flesh.
David wasnt as lucky. Attacked by two ape-things he fended the first off but the second latched on with three claws and delivered a vicious bite to his left shoulder. He punched it in the face with the hilt of his sword knocking it off him. He feinted a blow at the first one then skewered the one that bit him.
Hisoka reacted faster than anyone else, killing one before it reach the ground. Her second, warned by its friend's untimely death, put up a better defense. Bisonbit's attacker landed behind him and hit with two claws. While neither penetrated his armor it got a firm enough grasp and delivered an electric shock that nearly shook the cleric's spear out of his hand!
The tall cleric spun violently and broke his attacker's hold, bashing it with his shield. As it rushed back in the tall human jabbed it with his spear. The beast roared in rage and foolishly tried again to close, receiving a deep puncture in the chest in reward for its effort. Its eyes rolled back in its head and it collapsed, sliding off the spear. "Hmmmm ... looks like its heart is high on the right side of its chest," Bisonbit mused.
Two beasts landed in front of Trilla, nearly landing on her. Dropping her staff she side-stepped an attack, rolling around her attacker and placing it between her and the other one. At the end of the spin she delivered a knife hand strike to the back of its head, a sharp blow that tumbled it into the claws of its compatriot. As the second tried to free itself of the first the monk continued the spin, driving a back kick into the first one's lower back. A sharp crack rewarded her effort. Both tumbled to the ground.
The second beast struggled to free itself from the dead weight atop it, but never regained its feet. Instead it curled into a ball as Trilla's feet slammed again and again into its head and neck.
Looking around Trilla realized Faraz was going to lose against his two opponents. He was fending them off and inflicting minor damage, but needed help. Stepping in she drove a side kick into one's side, pushing it into its friend. Faraz shield bashed the duo and them hacked one at the base of its neck. It fell in a spray of blood, the bright red an unexpected contrast to its blue fur. As the survivor struggled to free itself of its former compatriot, the humans both struck it down. Trilla looked around for more foes and found her employer finishing off the last one. The short man was drenched in blood, none of it apparently his own. Jake was unfailingly polite and kind to everyone around him. "FAR kinder than my instructors at the temple," she thought. But when battle started he shifted instantly into a killing machine. The two clerics were above her level in combat, the wizard even more so - but her employer was honestly terrifying.
An even dozen of the blue things were scattered across the ground, none had survived. They showed as little sense of self preservation as the chaos gargoyles had.
"Any ideas?" David asked. Everyone shook their heads no.
"Elemental chaos?" Jake ventured.
Bisonbit frowned, "Hasty conclusion?"
"Maybe not," concluded Gilden.
The druid had been trained in record keeping by his sect. As a druid it was his duty to teach the people so knowledge of many areas was important to fulfill this role. He was taught business shorthand, a list of abbreviated terms that made it quicker to make business records. "It must be something about the Kerreans, speaking in short hand," he thought. It wasn't unusual for the Jake, David, Bisonbit, and even Gilden to speak mostly in nouns, with most verbs implied. They practiced hard using Shahrivaran and rarely spoke their own language, so the druid wondered what the grammar was like. "Or have these people been together so long they don't need more than that to converse?" he wondered silently.
The group checked each other for unfelt injuries and moved on, cleaning up at the first stream they came to.
Three days later found the party camped a few miles west of the city Hisoka identified as Bahman. The soft glow of many small lights marked the city, one of fairly good size.
"The fortress is about three miles in that direction," pointing to the NNE. "We'll move an hour before dawn. Do you want to scout the fortress before attempting entry?" The four principals all nodded, making a quick group decision as was typical for them. They broke up the watches and everyone bedded down.
About midnight Bisonbit and Faraz were on duty. The cleric shifted uncomfortably. "Wake the others," he quietly commanded the druid.
"Do you hear it?"
Listening intently the druid said, "I don't hear anything."
"Exactly, it's too quiet. Something is wrong!"
Faraz woke his employer first, then was moving to Jake when Bisonbit yelled a warning, punctuated by an inhuman scream of agony. Several of the blue apes swarmed the campsite and Bisonbit speared the first one.
Jake rolled to his feet, his blade as naked as his body. With two swift, savage strikes he killed the first blue ape that came near him. Then he blinked the sleep from his eyes. As Faraz turned to deal with his own attacker he realized the swordsman had killed a deadly attacker before even fully waking!
This group was tougher, better on defense than the previous one. With the exception of the first one that risked Jakes displeasure, each proved far harder to kill, but all went down. Note 1
The battle was savage and everyone was injured before the last two apes developed a sense of self preservation and tried to flee. Jake threw his sword and broke one's back while the other sprouted arrows, bolts, and sling bullet dents in his back. The clerics quickly prayed for healing. Jake and Trilla stood guard so the spell casters could rest well enough to replenish spells at dawn.
I screwed up when rolling hp for the first group. I rolled 3d8 instead of 6d8 for each. Once I realized my error I rationalized it by deciding that the first group was less experienced than the second and lacked good defensive ability. LOL!
Once all spells were regained the party set out, well after dawn. An hour's walk brought them in sight of a rocky bluff about seventy-five feet taller than the surrounding area. Visible on top was large rectangular structure.
"Looks like fire giant construction," Gilden commented.
"Humans vary their construction a lot. Most sentient creatures are more stable, they learn what works for them and keep doing it. The more intelligent giants are the same way look at fire giant construction back home in Trivana and it will look like that." Gilden was polite but there was a undertone of exasperation in his voice. Kind of like when speaking to a small child who isn't learning a lesson. Humans tend to treat demi-humans as humans who are slightly different. Situations like this made it clear that demi-humans are NOT slightly different humans, they have their own outlook and prejudices. The humans wisely let the matter drop. A wide road cut into the stone of the bluff zigzagged up the southern face, the side that faced Bahman. There was light but steady traffic up and down the road, enough that sneaking up that way would not work.
Circling the bluff completely showed there were no other roads up to the top, But the sides of the bluff were not sheer numerous places climbable even by men in armor were found. It was decided to camp on the north side of the bluff and use Commune spells to get information about the place.
The question-and-answer sessions proved less enlightening than hoped. This fortress did have an underground entrance but there was no local way to get into it. A frontal assault seemed the only possibility. A short discussion resulted in a simple plan: Use Invisibility spells and a Silenced coin to go in the front door before dawn, kill everything that was killable, and flee when forced to do so. Repeat as needed. "It's not an elegant plan but it's charm is its simplicity," laughed Gilden.
Hisoka and David cast Invisibility on everyone and the spell casters all took early watches and the fighters took the later ones. About two hours before dawn the party roped themselves together and climbed the bluff along a steep animal trail that had been found the day before. Reaching the top of the bluff, dominated by the gargantuan building of black stone, they circled it to the entrance on the south face.
Two frost giants, obviously a bit sleepy before the dawn, guarded the entrance, paired steel-banded wooden doors each 8' wide and 22' tall. The party backed around the corner so Bisonbit and Gilden could each quietly cast Silence 15' Radius on copper pieces. Jake and David each took a coin, and holding hands walked up behind the giants who stood away from the door.
Waiting for a lull in the sporadic conversation so the magical silence would not be immediately noticed, they each struck from behind, attaining total surprise on the giants. This couldn't be called battle, it was slaughter. The surprised giants fell rapidly, screaming out silently, uselessly for help.
The bodies were laboriously dragged around the corner of the building and the stains of battle were covered with fresh dirt. The cover up was far from perfect but good enough to avoid casual discovery.
Gilden used his innate ability to cast Invisibility to make Jake and David invisible again, the ability he had gained from the magic fountain in the giant temple of Tharizdun. It was agreed that David would carefully explore the entrance using a silenced coin.
Cracking one of the huge doors David peered inside. A long hallway stretched to the north east, marked only but lit torches in brackets and some garish tapestries showing a frost giant destroying various enemies. David peered behind the first tapestry to the north and was surprised to find a small room containing a frost giant. The giant did not see the tapestry move so David took the opportunity to strike!
His first two sword thrusts badly hurt the giant, who reacted by picking up a horn and blowing loudly to alert the fortress of the intrusion! Sadly for the giant he was within the range of David's silenced coin so no alert was sounded. Looking puzzled the giant frantically blew the horn again and then collapsed with David's long sword in his heart.
Copyright 2013 Bryan Fazekas