Giant Slayer

From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, strong of belly
A stew most foul...

Another troubling development in our voyage. The very night we departed from Castle Evertsand, we were presented with a finely cooked meal from the ship’s chef, Gashnakh. Soon after consuming it, however, myself and the entire crew began swooning with the effects of a strong sedative, many of us falling unconscious. Myself, Leetsa, and Torsten managing to stay upright, we brought our Elynnar back to consciousness as we questioned Gashnakh, who had a guilty look about him.

It was then, however, that we heard a clamor below decks, rushing there to find a great, ape-like beast on the loose, battering the ship from within. Together, we managed to drop the beast (destined for the gladiatorial pits, if Krothu, the only crewmember not to fall unconscious, is to be believed), only to become convinced through questioning Gashnakh that he had not worked alone.

Heading down to the bilges, we happened upon the woman of whom he’d spoken, the one who’d contracted him to sedate the rest of us on her behalf. She was a brutal warrior, and, though we tried to take her alive, she was killed in the ensuing battle…as nearly was I, if not for the courage and quick action of my companions. My skin is still tender from the woman’s, Melira’s, arrows. I went to bed last night feeling much like I’d tussled with an oversized porcupine. Still, with meditation and time, my wounds will heal. I only hope that, in our weakened state, we are ready for whatever else awaits us on this dark voyage.

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Leetsa's writings

I am beginning to feel the effects of the Gnome curse, the bleaching when I am not in pursuit of the retched giants I so long to slay. Without the hunt I am not sufficiently stimulated, my soul craving the vengeance of my slaughtered parents, my mental faculties starts to fade into nothing. I fear the loss of my beautiful hair, my bright skin & my mind fading into nothingness. I find this to be extremely unsettling, the undesirable fate that awaits me.
If I focus on the willpower to slay all those who were responsible for my being orphaned, perhaps I can stave off the curse. Keep focused I tell myself, stay the course. I have heard of some gnomes to ward off the bleaching wasting effects, perhaps I shall seek them out & get some answers.
Perhaps this new god , the god of my mother, has some answers for me. Any new experience, any new adventure, any stimuli will keep me beautiful & sharp-minded.
Perhaps I can start crafting potions or poisons in my down time, keep my mind focused on adventure, maybe become a wonder seeker. But for now the satisfaction of hunting & slaying the awful giants of this world will keep me from entering the next world. I will not think about it for now until we return to the city, then I shall begin some of these things to ward off the gnome cures.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, leaper
It seems one aspect of my training, at least, has paid off.

Having recovered Omast’s body from the tower in the swamp, my companions and I made haste back to Raag’s boat, ever assailed by faint sounds of winged beasts far overhead. Just as we arrived at the river, the drakes attacked, one of them picking off a crewman and throwing him down into the shallows by the boat. Hopping atop Numbskull, I raced to the man’s side, leaping along the bank off of the pony and freeing the orc crewman’s lungs of water.

I then drew in every bit of power from my lineage I could muster, leaping a great distance from the shore to the boat to join the fight against the alpha drake on the boat, arriving just in time to see it felled by a bloodied Torsten. Still, the extend of the jump was surprising, both to myself, and those who witnessed it.

Only then did I realize that the other large drake had made off with poor Numbskull.

Angered and crestfallen through the night, I made off with my companions the next morning as the repairs to the ship were finished, assaulting the remaining drake back at its lair and rescuing poor Numbskull before the drake could make a hearty breakfast of him. Reunited with my pet, I spent the trip back to the boat shoving every apple in sight into his mouth until his belly bulged with the meal. All the while, I whispered promises never to abandon him again.

The rest of the short voyage to our first stop, Castle Everstand, passed without incident, the crew and our band bonding with each other now that we’d earned their respect. Not a single one of them had fallen in the two attacks, thanks to our help. I’ve learned more about my new friends, growing in my understanding of what has brought us all together. Between Leetsa’s loss of her parents, Torsten’s estranged status with his people, poor Elynnar rendering himself an outcast, and…my own painful memories, it’s no wonder that people so bereft of community should find each other and draw together so quickly.

The crew having welcomed us as their own, we reached Castle Everstand in good spirits, welcomed in by Captain Gauntwood, leader of the keep, who saw to poor Omast’s funeral preparations and Kurst’s many injuries. For my part, I spent the day attempting to track down a weapon that would assist me against the long reach of the giants we are bound to continue fighting, but to no avail. Uskara, the gifted craftswoman of the keep, refused to assist me, going so far as to shout at my awful sense of entitlement, despite my efforts to display my humility and respect. I got her a bottle of fine wine by way of apology…

My further efforts also stymied, I attended the dinner hosted by Commander Gauntwood with the others, taking in the palpable tension between the different religious factions present here before retiring for the evening in a fine bed. In the morning, we set out once more, still destined for the Ghostlight Marsh. I only hope whatever we find there will be worth the danger.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, New Recruit (Flashback)
I've sought out my fortune...I hope it doesn't kill me

I’ve been at the Brimwill Monastery for a week now, taking Master Hineda up on the offer she extended when she passed through my village. As promised, the training has been far from easy, but already I feel as though the part of me inside that has always stirred at the call of adventure and justice is being molded into something…something more than I could have ever hoped.

The training is long and difficult, filling my days with long bouts of training and meditation, during which I struggle to quiet my thoughts and focus on my future in the service of Apsu; my nights, meanwhile, continue to be drenched in nightmares. Master Hineda assures me that the ghosts of my past will soon be brought to heel, but I feel only guilt at the thought. To forget someone who meant so much to me…that awful night…the promise of life snuffed out so callously…it seems dishonest—almost cruel. If I shut that part of me away, what will remain? And will it be enough to see me through these trials?

The monastery is situated at the very edge of Kaer Maga, overlooking the sudden bluff that sweeps into the plains far below. Here, we are set apart from the dark dealings that shroud the city, and here we are free to focus on our desire for oneness with ourselves. Only then do Hineda and the other masters encourage venturing into the world beyond to embrace that darkness into ourselves as well. As Master Hineda puts it, “Darkness and light must coexist in the world, and so, for us to find true understanding of the universe, we must accept them in our own hearts, as well. Our hearts are the seed, which, above all else, must be cultivated and purified; the world beyond these walls the torrential rains that would batter a small seedling, but which only strengthen a plant whose roots have gone deep. Here, in this fertile soil, that is our goal for each of you.”

I always nod at her words of comfort, but, having always felt like a failure of a dwarf, I’ve never been sure that my ties to the earth have run that deep. Still, I will commit myself to my studies, and hope that, when the time comes, whatever roots I may have will sustain me through the storm.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, fisherman
A peaceful voyage...for a day

A bit of a strange development in our journey to the marsh. Before we departed on Raag’s barge down the river, he transported Kurst and Omast to the far side of the river, along with a few knights. They appeared to be on a mission, but we decided that if they wished us to know what they were about, they would have told us.

So Elynnar, Leetsa, Torsten, and myself set about making ourselves useful on the boat, with Leetsa manning the crow’s nest with her keen sight and the other two mucking stalls for the first bit before Torsten was instructed to take soundings and Elynnar attempted, rather disastrously, to improve the crew’s cuisine. I, meanwhile, was set to work with the fishing, taking instruction from the ship’s catcher, Urel, who came to respect my hard work and quick learning by the end of the day.

The next day, however, I was fishing alongside him hauling up our latest catch, when the railing broke, and the poor fellow was dragged into the river to be set upon by alligators. I dived in after, fighting off the beats with Leetsa’s deadly help of Leetsa’s arrows as they tried to tear him apart, finally hauling him back on board with the help of the crew, also having to swim for the well-meaning Torsten who’d leapt overboard to help as well.

Just as we managed to resuscitate Urel, however, Leetsa spotted a near-death Kurst atop his horse on the north bank, and the ship was quickly directed that way. The rest of us managed to stabilize the poor soul while Leetsa communicated with the horse, leaning of the man’s mission to find a sunken siege tower in the mud northward where evil thing had apparently taken up residence.

Taking Numbskull, Kurst’s horse, and a pair of others, we raced for the sight of the attack in hopes of saving Omast and the others. We found the tower a few hours later, and I sneaked up to it while invisible, hoping to sabotage it from within, or take it for ourselves, only to slip up at a critical moment and experience the wrath of a two-headed Ettin, who nearly succeeded in flaying me alive before my comrades tore through the beast’s pet dogs and arrived to help me drop it.

After the battle, we discovered poor Omast’s body, and I set about cleaning it, preparing for the journey back to boat before nightfall. Whatever Kurst and his uncle were hoping to accomplish here, I cannot see it being worth the awful cost.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, Devoted
With revival comes...clarity

I awoke the day after our confrontation with Skreed to find that Leetsa had dealt the killing blow to our enemy, and I had been taken back to the impromptu house of healing in Trunau. Upon waking, I thanked my companions profusely, setting out to find what had happened to little Sydney. It turns out, the girl’s aunt had taken her in, and so the entire town began to set about mending its wounds.

A brutish giant queen, it turned out, was the source of our woes, having hired Skreed to assault the city and acquire an ancient suit of armor and some gem artifact from within the tunnels. I should very much like to meet this giant queen and bring her to justice for all of the pain she’s caused.

And I may get my chance, for, after a rather uncomfortable ceremony well after the attack, in which all of our band was honored and gifted wondrous things, we were tasked by the city council to learn more of this dark turn of events. Currently, we are on a ship bound up the river toward a marsh that apparently holds weapons that may be used against the giants.

So we must leave behind this city that has adopted us, and I the Moreena Women’s Clinic, which I had opened in the house given to my by Chief Defender Halgra and the new leader of the church of Iomede, Leslie Krumpkin (the former head priest now fallen in disgrace after his involvement in rabble-rousing during the attack.) Torsten especially has been much elevated in the eyes of the people, though he is still eager to prove himself, and all of us seem to have found a place here. Yet, I know that Leetsa wishes to further avenge her fallen family, and Elynnar ever seeks the thrill of the unknown. Only Fijit, of all of my new companions, seems content to remain in Trunau, having now fully taken on her apprenticeship under the wise Silvermane, who did survive his wounds. Fijit, however, will meet up with us in the marsh, as she believes she will be of some use in the natural darkness of those lands.

For my part, I’ve built a small shrine to Apsu, spending much time at its base in a search for inner peace. I believe it may be a search that lasts a lifetime, but I am well on my way. Death is now a familiar flavor on my palette, and I won’t fear it again. I have sent a letter back home to my family, informing them of my continued welfare, but also of the fact that the life I’ve chosen is one of service, even to the point of death. I will not seek it out, but neither will I run from it. My current path may very well claim my life, but it is a path I will walk wholeheartedly, for the innocent, the weak, and those who may never know my name, I will stand, fight, and die.

So says Ud Nibbleaxe, Apsu’s true Devoted.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, fallen
I sought only to protect and serve. May Apsu now decide my fate.

Upon our retreat, we quickly realized that we needed all the assistance we could get, so Torsten and I retreated to convince Fijit to join our efforts. It took some convincing, as Silvermane was still not conscious, but we were able to persuade her of the gravity of our mission.

Somewhat healed and ready for the next bout, we rejoined Elynnar and Leetsa, and I sneaked into the next room, getting off a shot at the flood troll in the dark before we squared off, the beast retreating after I landed a few more blows and my companions raced in to join me. The wolves were next to fall, constricted as they were in the doorway, and then I set about sprinting toward our main foe, trusting that my companions would make short work of the troll.

The troll, however, was quick to heal in the water that it had brought into the cavern, and it only fell after dealing a mighty blow to Fiji’s poor owl. Still, I raced on, attempting to leap the chasm between myself and what could only be the awful Skreed, architect of all Trunau’s woes.

To my shame, I failed the jump, it being far wider than any I’d practiced at Brimwill, and I received a grenade dropped upon me for my troubles. Staggered, I attempted to climb up to Skreed, only to be set aflame as I climbed the rope and have the rope burned away. Feeling darkness sting at my eyes, I clung to the cliff, latching onto Skreed’s ankle and yanking him down with me into the water. As he came up, I channeled my last ounce of power into a stunning blow, landing a few more hits before he managed to rouse himself and drop me with another blast. But even as I fell, I knew that my mission was succeeded. Torsten was closing in, having dropped the troll, and the deadly Leetsa was lining up a fatal shot. Skreed would die, and my fate…my fate was in the hands of Apsu.

As I fell back into the water, feeling its cool embrace enclose my battered form, it was as though the central chamber of Brimwill Monastery opened up before me, and I saw the face of Master Hineda as though she were standing right before me. “Young one,” she said, serene as ever, “why do you cry?”

I reached up to my cheek, finding that my face was, indeed, laden with tears. “Because I am afraid,” said I.

“Of death?” she asked, brushing a strand of long white hair from her face.

“Of what other dangers may await my friends,” I replied. “I’ve known them only a few short days, and yet…they have all become dear to me: Elynnar, with his strange ways and stout heart; Leetsa, who attempts to disguise her courage and compassion with her brashness; Torsten, who confronts his fears even just to step beyond the walls of his home, and yet stands tall in the face of overwhelming odds; Fijit, whose quiet love for life and nature are humbling to behold… I fear that they may all meet the same fate as the boy, Zekant, the brave Durmok, and so many others in this awful battle. I fear for all of Trunau, and the darkness that has been awakened here. I fear that I will not be there to stop it.”

Master Hineda nodded, tugging her dark robe more tightly around herself in the chill mountain air as she motioned for me to join her in her walking meditation around the Great Circle of the chamber and the Garden of Life around it. “You don’t think you’ve done enough for them?” she asked calmly as I fell in beside her.

“It’s not a matter of how much I’ve given,” I said, paraphrasing one of the tenants taught at Brimwill. “It’s a matter of giving my all.”

Master Hineda smiled, resting a hand on my shoulder as she looked down at me from her human stature. “And you have, dear one. All that is left to you is to find peace in that knowledge.”

My heart heavy, I bowed my head. “So I am dead, then?”

“And what is that to you, if you truly have given all of yourself?” said Master Hineda. “For now, is not enough simply to walk with me in the garden?”

I smiled sadly, falling in step with her once more. And, as my meditations turned to thoughts of home—Mother, Father, all my siblings…my dear, lost sister, Urthea—and the path I’d walked thus far, I let my body rest in the knowing that I had given my all, and that I had, at least brought one new life into the world amidst all the horror.

Focused on little Sydney Uthra Lampwright’s crying, infant face, I closed my eyes, and let the darkness enfold me.

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A letter to Second UnderMage of Nethys, Grand Temple In Sothis
4715, 4Th week, Calistril, Starday

Dearest Aunt Aysphyra,
I hope this missive finds you well and in the gaze of the All Seeing Eye of White Faced Nethys. Since I last wrote you, I have continued north into the Hold of Belkzen. Your advice to explore the world and learn what might exist outside of my fathers magic shop and the city of Absalom is proving to be sage and beneficial. I shall never again resist your counsel. When you invited me to the Grand Temple to recover, after my grand folly so many years ago. I remained obdurate in declining and when i finally relented and journeyed to your side my spirit and conscience were healed.

I arrived in the Town of Trunau, a bastion against the orcs, of the Hold of Belkzen. Not long after my arrival, I went to the town Commons to witness a local ritual in which a dagger is given to a child who is now become a full citizen of the town. The newly made adult promises to use their Hope Knife to defend the town and its citizens against the Orcs. Apparently it is also the custom for the new made adult to pick people from the crowd to engage in games on behalf of the Child. Oddly enough I was chosen to participate and thus the first steps into what has so far been the most amazing adventure. I can hardly credit what happened next. I met some of the towns primary citizens my new friends and I were invited to stay at an inn to celebrate the glorious day. The very next morning we awoke to learn that the Captain of the town guard had been found dead in the very same inn, and thought to have committed suicide His brother enlisted me and my new friends aid to investigate the situation. He believed that there was no way his brother would have committed suicide. In fact, our investigation caused us to determine that he had been murdered. During our investigation we learned about a plan for the invasion of Trunau, by the Orcs.

It is an amazing thing that as I pen this letter to you, I prepare with my new found comrades to join the brave citizens of Trunau to defend their city. In just a short time I have come to care about the people of the city, and my new comrades. For the first time in my life, I have sought the terrible Black Eyed Visage of Nethys to aid me in the destruction of the violent attackers. I promise to write again, as soon as I am able. I pray you bless me, my companions and the good people of Trunau in the name of Nethys.

Your loving and devoted nephew,

Elynnar
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A pause in the battle
Torsten licks his wounds

Torsten sheathed his sword and turned toward the black passage in back of them. With a few precise movements of his free hand and a familiar arcane chant several lantern like lights appeared to illuminate their way back over the bridge that spanned the chasm. Fortunately Elynnar Landrias‘s acidic grease spell seamed enough of a deterrent that their enemies didn’t pursue them. Torsten walked backwards watching the passageway for few seconds just in case he was wrong. Satisfied, Torsten Stein turned to follow his friends.

A few moments later their beat up group arrived in the chamber where they had defeated the too large spiders and the bizarre bird like creatures known as Gryphs. Torsten Stein wasn’t bleeding anymore thanks to the last of his healing magic but, welts ,bruises, and half healed lacerations covered his face, forearms, and torso. He eyed the others of the party; Elynnar Landrias was panting from the retreat but seemed ok despite his ripped robes, Leetsa seemed to be nearly untouched except a couple minor wounds, she was eyeing the bridge carefully with a drawn bow, Ud Nibbleaxe was looked as bad as Torsten felt. You could see the dire wolf had sunk it’s teeth into the stalky Dwarf more than once but Ud’s grim stoic face remained determined.

Torsten took a drink of brandy from his skin. With no healing at his disposal he was left with nothing but liquid courage. After a moment the magical lights he cast started to fade so he recast the spell. He could hear the breath of his companions and the water dripping of the cavern sides. No one had spoke since they fled. Torsten Stein, not knowing what else to do, took another swig of his grog, cleared his voice and said, “so what’s next?”

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, baby-killer
I'm feeling a bit conflicted, given my calling as a midwife...

Following the rats’ retreat, we received a brief respite in the form of a visit from a priest of a nearby township. She healed us as best she could, and we also received a messenger with healing aid from Fijit, but soon we had to resume the mission, bidding her farewell. Myself and the others advanced slowly, only to find ourselves set upon by vile creatures of both bird and spider qualities. One quickly injected its young into poor Leetsa, while the rest of us smashed the things to bits. Once the things were felled, I turned my attention to the unfortunate gnome, digging with Incisor into her belly, where the eggs were quickly maturing into more monstrosities.

Delicately, I extricated them, squishing one myself and throwing the other under Thorsten’s boot. Seemingly spared the agonizing death of hatching the monsters, we healed Leetsa and moved on. Foolishly, I went on ahead, not wishing any more harm on the gnome, and I was instantly surrounded by vile spiders. Nimbly, I leapt to one side, attacking as I retreated, while the others shot at the rest of the spiders from afar.

We were dealt a few savage blows, but ultimately squashed the creatures, cleaning our wounds and pressing on. The mysteries of the cavern still eluded us.

I peered into the next room, seeing nothing in the dark, and I called up the rest, only to find that my sight had failed me when Elynnar lit up the room and we were attacked by two enormous wolves and their half-orc handler, an ugly foe whose appearance matched the description of the vile Skreed, the one behind this whole nightmare.

We fought well, dealing many attacks against our enemies, but we were driven back with the arrival of a flood troll, retreating back down the hallway to catch our breath and strategize. I knew not how we would defeat these enemies, but I knew just as well that we could not turn back.

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