Giant Slayer

From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, siege artist
The battle drags through the night, and even greater foes loom in our future...

The beast with the flaming ball in his hand charged in among the others, while my companions and I sought to slow them with falling logs and large swaths of acid and grease. Even so, wave after wave of the brutes stormed the palisades, bringing the battle into close combat, until, at last, with the aid of the ferocious Omast, we stood victorious before the gate just as reinforcements arrived.

The gate secured, our tired, bloodied band retreated to the inner quarter at the summons of a fellow dwarven warrior. There we found Fijit caring for a wounded Silvermane, as well as Halgra, who had pulled some of her troops back to rest. We were instructed to do the same, and, after attempting to cleanse myself with the sparse water provided, I spent a fitful night in mingled slumber and dark meditation. It had been a day of profound loss. Zekant, Durmok, poor Sydney’s mother and father, as well as countless citizens of Trunau. It was all I could do to keep my thoughts from turning to revenge and anger.

Upon recalling the crying, innocent face of Sydney, however, I was able to steel myself and recall the reason for which I fight; never for hatred or the return of cruelty, but for justice, and to protect those who cannot stand against the darkness. Though Gervan, Ki Master of the Brimwill Monastery, berated me many a time for losing focus in my studies, I think even he would have been proud of me as I found inner peace that night.

Come the morning, Torsten, Elynnar, Leetsa, and myself were dispatched to the front gate, driving through a swarm of monsters alongside the city guard on a mission to disable an orcish trebuchet at the Standing Stones outside of town. Upon our arrival, we found only three of the beasts guarding the siege weapon, felling them before they were able to load poor Leetsa into the weapon and launch her to her death!

We quickly set about using the siege weapon against the orcs and other foul creatures still pouring into the city, eliminating many of them with great, flying boulders until our supply of projectiles was depleted. Our mission accomplished, we set fire to the trebuchet, making back for the city gate. As we approached, however, we heard cries of a giant near the Hope Springs.

In that moment, dreadful acceptance settled in my chest. We may not be ready for such a powerful foe, but we will face it, nonetheless.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, the heavy-hearted
On a night steeped in darkness, things only look to grow worse...

Upon leaving Rishka bound in Rabus’ tavern, our band attempted to return to the western inner gate, where the fighting looked to be thickest. On the way, however, we heard sounds of distress, diverting our course to come across a poor citizen who was promptly struck down by an orc when we moved to intervene. A swift, but deadly battle ensued, during which I was rendered unconscious at my unwillingness to retreat and leave the dying man defenseless, and, upon my waking at the hands of Fijit, we found the Trunau man dead and heard the rapidly approaching feet of what we could only assume were even more foes.

However, instead of orc reinforcements arriving to eradicate us, we were greeted by Omast and a troop of city guardsmen. Though he was obviously inebriated, I was glad to see the man, and myself and Fijit were quickly dispatched to find Omast’s remaining nephew, Kurst, who had not been seen in far too long. We soon found the lad as his battered body was hauled up the city cliff upon which we’d stumbled, and the kind-hearted Fijit immediately set about tending to his wounds while I raced off to report to Omast and assist in the defense of the western inner gate.

The moment I arrived, Omast dispatched Leetsa and myself to rally his nearby troops, so we were off to the closest tower, arriving in time to see it crushed beneath a massive boulder. The weight of it all growing too much to bear, I was about to collapse to the ground in hopelessness. But that was the moment I spotted a still form on the street nearby. I rushed over, assessing the man’s wounds and discovering that it was, in fact, Silvermane, the master druid who had spoken to Fijit about her studies our first night in the city. Knowing that he could be a powerful ally, as well as simply wishing to help someone in need, I hastily carried the barely breathing man back to the healers at the east inner gate, sprinting back westward as soon as he was delivered.

The gate was under attack almost as soon as I returned, and myself, Omast, Leetsa, Thorsten, and Elynnar were pressed back behind the palisades, fighting for our lives in the close quarters against numerous orcs. Just as we were able to thin their numbers, however, a fresh group appeared beyond the gate, rushing in to turn the tide once more. And, before the fight fell in on me again, I spotted a sparking fuse in the putrid green hand of one orc, shrinking rapidly towards an ominous, metal casing…

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, Barroom Brawler
What could drive a person to this?

The orc warlord in the tower felled, and the deaths of Zekant and Durmok fresh in our minds, FIjit, Leetsa, Thorsten, and myself rejoined with Elynnar, ready for our next task in this darkest of nights. No sooner were we informed of a furious battle at the city gates, however, than a cry from the nearby bar, the Killing Ground, invited us to investigate.

Upon arriving, we discovered that Rishka, a half-orc guard of Trunau, had emptied the establishment of all but Rabus, the bar’s owner. Rabus was on the floor, obviously beaten by Rishka and his cohorts, so I challenged the brute. Not only did Rishka show no remorse, but the fiend admitted to allowing the attacking orc hordes inside the city!

Floored by this news, I was left to quiver in fear and anger for a moment as my compatriots surged into the room upon Rishka moving to attack. The fight was a delicate one, as the Rishka’s drunken underlings had wickedly long spears, but we eventually dropped them all, surrounding a beaten Rishka to interrogate him. He spoke of injustice and prejudice against his kind, but I could not justify the evil of his actions. Still, we patched him up, despite Leetsa’s obvious feelings on the matter, and bound him, dragging his unconscious body from the bar after seeing to Rabus.

The barkeep was so grateful for the rescue that he awarded us free drinks for life…I had not the heart to tell him, nor the exuberant Thorsten, how little this meant to me.

And so the night and the battle drag on. What other dark secrets will we uncover?

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, orc-dropper
How many more will fall?

As I held Moreena’s child in my arms, I knew that my first priority was to see the babe to safety. Once Leetsa had respectfully closed the dead woman’s eyes, we sneaked from the building and back to our group.

“Take this child,” I said to Elynnar. “Get her somewhere safe. And…in case we don’t make it…her name is Sydney.”

Elynnar nodded his understanding and departed, while the rest of us turned our attentions to the nearby tower and the orc drums sounding from atop it. While the others moved to the entrance, I maneuvered around the back, severing the ropes that Durmok’s men had been unable to cut before falling to orc blades. Dodging arrows from above, I dropped over a dozen orcs that were climbing the ropes, then quickly sprinted to rejoin my group, hope blossoming in my chest at my success.

When I reached the front of the tower, however, I was to find my companions retreating. At my query as to what was happening, I was informed that Durmok had fallen inside, and that Fijit had a plan to even the odds.

My heart breaking for the fourth time tonight, I steeled myself to charge inside. Perhaps I could still steal the mighty Durmok from Death’s grasp. As the flurry of bats Fijit released inside swarmed our enemies, the sound of drums stopped, and we all rushed in to finish the job. Fijit dutifully checked Durmok’s broken body for signs of life, only to inform me that our friend was lost.

Enraged, I charged after Thorsten up the steps, ending an orc on the floor, while Leetsa and Thorsten felled another. Then, to my surprise, Fijit sprinted past me and dropped the last orc in the room with nothing but her tiny fist.

I had no time to marvel, however, because then we were emerging to the top of the tower, interrupting the drumming of the large orc awaiting us there. In my fury, I charged the orc, but, at a wave of his hand, I fell into a fit of magic-induced laughter. By the time I had recovered from both the spell and my resulting shame, Thorsten had been put into a magical slumber, and the gnomes were beset by the foul drummer. As I raced in to help, however, the ever-resourceful Fijit threw her dagger at the beast’s head, causing him to drop his weapons and fall from the tower.

With a cheer, I slapped Thorsten awake, running back down the tower steps to help Fijit’s mighty owl, Whisper finish the brute off. The bird had bolted in fear by the time I engaged the orc once more, and I was left alone to hound the thing’s every step. More spells assailed me, but I was able to clear my mind of doubt and press through them, hacking away at the orc’s defenses until Leetsa, Whisper, and Fijit were able to help me end the beast for good.

As Fijit’s dagger drove upward into the orc’s gut, and I saw the light finally flee from his eyes, my heart could find some solace in the fact that Durmok had been avenged. Still, with the battle raging on, there was no certainty that any of us would survive the night to mourn.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, midwife
In the darkest moment of my life, a glimmer of hope...

As I watched Moreena’s husband slump to the bloody street, all teachings of calm and contemplation which I learned at Brimwill Monastery fled from my thoughts, replaced with a searing, blinding rage. Without any thought for tactics or strategy, I charged forward, ready to slice every single invading orc in two, with my bare hands, if necessary. Before I could reach the vile one over the man’s body, however, another of the beasts attacked me from the side, and I was soon in the heat of combat, aware of my comrades battling for their lives around me.

The instant Durmok assisted me in felling my most immediate foe, I sprinted forward once more, pouring a potion of health down the throat of Moreena’s husband. To my dismay, I was already too late, and Moreena’s child was destined to grow up fatherless.

It was in this moment of distraction and self-doubt that I was dealt a severe blow by another orc, and I lost consciousness for…I known not how long. When I was revived, once again, by the wondrous gnome, Fijit, on whom I turned a look of deepest affection and gratitude, I surveyed the field of battle in time to watch Durmok and Torsten disembowel the last immediate orc. Then, from high above, in the nearby tower, more orcs fired ballistae down at us, forcing a retreat. Elynnar had made an excellent account of himself, dropping for orcs on his own, and no more of us had fallen to join the nearby body of Zekant.

Suddenly reminded of the body of the man by the tower, I immediately began to ask the group if they had seen Moreena since the fighting started. My fear and apprehension mounting, I moved with Leetsa around the corner of the building to which we had retreated, making out the stirring form of Moreena behind a nearby woodpile.

With nothing but a shared glance between us, both Leetsa and myself sneaked over to her, careful to remain out of sight of the tower, and I attempted to comfort the barely conscious Moreena. My heart fell within me at a dark realization, however. In Moreena’s condition, mother and child could not both survive the night.

I hesitated only for an instant, looking Moreena directly in the eye. “Moreena Lydia Lampwright,” I said firmly, my innermost self brimming with resolve, “I need you to stay awake. We are having this child!”

Again, my eyes bet Leetsa’s, and she gave a small nod, saying, “I will assist however I can.” It is only in looking back that I can marvel at how much respect we gained for each other since our first meeting. No longer did she see me as a useless child.

Together, we moved Moreena’s bloody form into the nearby hut and onto a rickety cot. Time seemed to prick at the back of my thoughts as I coaxed the fading Moreena through the process. The battle still raged outside. We had other commitments.

But none more important, or more integral to life, than to see this child safely into the world. And, as though Moreena were expending her last dregs of life to see the effort through, I soon held her child in my arms; a small, blood-smeared, helpless little girl.

The most beautiful sight I think I’ve ever seen.

Bringing the child to her mother, I watched as the two shared their first and only embrace. Then Moreena met my gaze. “What…what is your mother’s name?” she asked.

Instantly, I was transported to my childhood and thoughts of my loving mother, Uthra…then to her disapproval as I left to find myself at Brimwill Monastery, her continued letters imploring me to come home upon my arrival, and the absence of those letters at mail call some months later.

“We…um, we didn’t part on the best of terms…” I said with trepidation, my thoughts now back in the present; in that small hut that smelled of smoke, blood, and spent placenta.

Then, with her final breath, Moreena looked at her child and whispered, “Sydney…” And, as Moreena smiled weakly and fell still, the one spark of hope I possessed in all of this darkness had a name.

I reached out for the crying babe, lifting her up in my filthy arms. “Sydney,” I breathed, marveling at the child’s perfection. “Sydney Uthra Lampwright.”

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, failure
If I'd only been faster...

It is with a great weight on my heart that I record recent events. Upon being gifted the noble Rodrick’s Hope Knife, which I have dubbed Incisor, I’d begun to think once again that, perhaps, some great destiny awaited me. If the fair lady Brynya saw something inside of me worthy of such a weapon, I must certainly have something bright on my horizon. Now, however…

As soon as the first boulders struck the city, my companions and I were on our feet, asking Kurst where we were needed. With his father gone out to recall patrols, we knew that our place was in rising to the occasion to defend the city. Thus it was that we were dispatched to ignite the city beacons that would recall reinforcements into the city.

Upon reaching the first beacon, however, we found it surrounded by townsfolk fanned to the brink of violence. Worse, they had seized Rodrick’s betrothed, Brynya. I know not what Bazel, the rabblerouser of the group, intended for the woman, but I felt great pride as those beside me stepped up to protest this injustice. Zekant, Torsten, Fijit, and myself began to implore Bazel and the crowd disperse, as the wily and elusive Leetsa began to sneak around to assist Brynya directly. After much tension and shouting, we were able to appeal to the crowd’s sense of pragmatism, pointing out that fighting amongst ourselves would only weaken us to our attackers.

The crowd dispersed (I know not what became of Bazel), we lit the beacon and flanked Brynya on all sides. It was then that Halgra, the city’s protector, arrived, commending us for our efforts and informing us of the existence of a traitor, one who had allowed our enemies into the city. Before departing, she ushered us off to the next beacon, sending Brynya off to protect the children in her home.

As we arrived at the next beacon, we found it broken by a falling boulder behind a barricade and a cluster of clerics. Before we could begin to assess the situation, another boulder crashed into a nearby building. Screams sounded from within the home.

My heart gripped with terror, I raced with my companions toward the building, ducking through the broken, burning doorway alongside the brave Torsten. Among the conflagration, we found Sara, the blacksmith, and Agrit, attempting to lift a beam from the other woman’s body. Feeling as though my arms would break, I managed to help Torsten heave the beam aside, attempting to cover the two women out the door.

It was then that the foul orcs fell upon us. One fell to Incisor’s touch, but Torsten was dropped within seconds. I fought as long as I could remain on my feet after a grave injury, dropping another of the beasts with Zekant’s help, but soon I, too, was unconscious. If not for the heroics of Fijit, Leetsa and Zekant, I’ve not doubt that Torsten and myself would have died on that very spot, a broken house for our funeral pyre. However, Fijit was able to revive me, and I the fallen Torsten, who dealt a death blow to the last remaining orc.

Coughing and bleeding, we retreated from the building and back behind the barricade for healing. Even as my flesh was mended, however, I heard frantic footsteps, turning to see a sprinting, shouting Leetsa. She and the boy, Zekant, had diverted course to determine where our enemies had gained entry into the city.

And, in the process, Zekant had fallen to an orc blade.

I cried out in anguish at the news. This boy, who had just gallantly saved my life, whose family we had promised we would do our best to protect and guide him, was dead. I’d not been strong or fast enough to prevent the tragedy, and now those beasts had claimed the life of one whose story had only just begun.

Dread seeming to close around me, I sprinted back toward the site of the event alongside my comrades, not even granted the chance to offer my respects to the lad’s still, bloodied form before movement caught my eyes through the buildings ahead.

Moreena, a woman I had visited earlier in anticipation of her fast-approaching time of labor, was struck down with the butt of a spear as she raced forward to assist her husband, a man held in the grasp of two orcs. Even as I watched, a third stepped forward to slit the man’s throat.

Enraged at the sight and the loss of Zekant, I charged forward, screaming at the monsters and denouncing them as the cowards they are.

But…I grow tired of the memory. I’ll finish this entry at a later time.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, trollslayer
That was...oddly inspiring.

Upon our return to Plague House, this time with Thorsten in tow once more, we encountered a trapdoor on the bottom floor, discovering a poor, captured boy inside a secret hall. Leetsa quickly freed the lad, and Zekant armed him before we pushed into the final room from two sides.

Within, we discovered the half-orc who had captured Often, the boy, and a flood troll that quickly felled poor Leetsa. While Fijit, Whisper, and Zekant dealt with the orc, I rushed in to protect my fallen comrade. Suddenly, I found my will and strength bolstered through a strangely powerful shout-ballad of Thorsten’s, and, as Fijit blinded the orc, causing him to fall prey to his own traps, I leapt around the troll, slashing across its spine and felling the foul beast.

Our enemies defeated, we found further treasure within the back chambers of the Plague House, returning to Trunau to inform Kurst that Katrezra’s story of the troll could be corroborated. We also brought the half-orc back to town for questioning, soon informed by the returned Jagaren that the orc was, in fact, a member of the guard who had been led astray by our true enemy, finally revealed; another half-orc by the name of Skreed, who was planning an attack on the city.

After resting and attending the late Rodrick’s funeral, we sat about in the wake, wondering what to do next. It was then that the lady Brynya approached me, presenting me with Rodrick’s Hope Knife. Greatly honored, I accepted the gift, only concerned that I would be forced to use it soon, and before Jagaren returned from his mission to retrieve all patrols to protect the city at the news of attack.

My fears were only too well-founded, as, almost instantly, the sound of great boulders striking the city walls and the chime of alarm bells began to rend the air.

Trunau is under attack, and I’m not certain my new friends and I will survive. Apsu, guide our blades.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, oozeslayer
I may never have jam again...

As our party returned to the Plague House, I used the time to acquaint myself with the young rogue who has joined our party after we stopped by the newly-arrived caravans by the gates. It was nice to have someone else join, following Durmok’s departure to retrieve Kurst’s father, though the rogue, a boy named Zekant, was not very talkative. He did, however, speak confidently of his own abilities, as well he should have, I was to learn, and I think I’ll grow to like the lad, should he continue with us throughout the investigation.

Nearing the Plague House, however, the party found a small fire bit, lined with coals meant to send up blue signal fire. Before we could determine who had been there in the night, I caught sight of a dark, cloaked figure through the mist. I called out to the man in greeting, only to have him bolt inside the Plague House. Our party gave chase, thinking to have him cornered inside the ghostly room that had left me the fool once before, but, upon having Zekant survey the room, we found no sign of him. Worse, the lad fell prey to the ghostly fears of the chamber, and I was unable to halt his flight from the building as he ran in terror.

Upon his recovery, I attempted to soothe his bruised ego, and we delved further into the Plague House, daring to venture through the doors at the end of the hall where our search ended last time with the discovery of Rodrick’s Hope Knife. A large chest awaited us, as did a pack of sickly rats, which we quickly dispatched, Zekant even scoring his first kill with the group. Whisper, Fijit, Leetsa, and I cleaned up the rest, as the room was too confined for Elynnar to lend support, and we claimed the chest’s contents, venturing down the stairs at the back of the room.

Another statue of Iomede awaited us at the bottom of the steps, and the brave Fijit acquired a finely-crafted sword…just as Zekant fell prey to a vile ooze in the next chamber. A heated battle with the gloopy creature ensued, during which I was almost absorbed along with Zekant and Fijit’s owl, but we finally beat the thing apart, saving Zekand and Whisper before the creature dissolved them inside of its custardy innards.

Shocked at the bizarre attack, we return to town to rest up again before pressing forward with our search at the Plague House. Still, I can’t help but feel that we’re close to uncovering something vital to our search. I can feel it in the dirt…

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, fleetfoot
Redemption...if only for a moment

Once again, I find myself approaching the Plague House doors. I feel trepidation, as one of our party is no longer present, but also a renewed sense of vigor.

Immediately following my last entry, a shout rang out from above before any of us could take a moment’s rest. Sensing that my comrade, Thorsten, was in danger, I clambered up out of the pit, my limbs only faltering once, and I emerged into a great fray. A spider of beastly proportions had already felled Thorsten, and the rest of my team was only just keeping the thing at bay.

Eager to keep the others safe, I rushed into combat once more, slamming my fist into the creature before leaping over it and allowing Whisper, the greatest owl to ever live, a chance at a mortal strike as the thing was distracted. As the beast tried to scurry away, those of us still standing struck a united blow that felled it, never to rise again.

But a great damage had already been dealt, and, though we were able to locate Rodrick’s hope knife, confirming our intelligence that he had been loitering around this cursed place, we were forced to slink back to the temple, battered and bruised by the might of many foes.

We left the much-damaged Thorsten in the care of Trunau’s greatest healers this morning, after a much-needed rest all around, and now we intend to delve even deeper into the Plague House’s secrets.

I only hope that the inevitable dangers that still lurk within will not be the end of us all before this great mystery is unraveled.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, the coward
Will my shame never end?

I write these notes in the light of a glow stick at the bottom of a small chasm within the most dismal place on earth. Our band set out for the Plague House at the direction of Katrezra, the half-orc seer, arriving not too long ago after a short time in the city for purchasing supplies and making business connections (though my heart was not in it, I was able to forge the beginnings of a bond with one of the pregnant townsfolk, and I can only hope that this will translate to business later on…should I survive to ply my trade).

Anyway, after arriving at the Plague House, it was mere seconds before apparitions rose up out of the charred bed skeletons we found inside, and many of our company were overwhelmed by a sense of dread. We were sure to die unless we fled.

Much to my shame, that is just what I did, tripping over myself in a frantic escape, only to be brought back some time later to be informed by Elynnar that what I had experienced was a simple fright spell. There had been no danger at all.

Still not recovered from my near death experience at the hands of the water-blade assassins, this left me quite sheepish and on edge as we continued to explore the broken, burned building, but I was still determined to prove my worth.

I was granted some chance at this in the next room when we encountered a brace of giant centipedes (fearsome beasts!), though it was, once again, Fijit’s fiercest of owls who took much of the glory here.

It was upon retreat from this chamber that I chanced to feel that a patch of wall was not as solid as the others, so, intrigued, I requested that Thorsten attempt to search behind it. As if to prove that wonders never cease, he soon discovered the trigger that caused the wall to open like a door, and a small chasm opened up before us. Biting back my fear, I was about to attempt a climb down into it when the brave Durmok, having circumvented to the other side of chasm, had the floor give out beneath him, and he plummeted to the floor below.

Even as I called out his name, Elynnar seemed to encounter a great danger beyond my sight, and I was left with a horrendous choice; leap to almost certain death in an attempt to assist Durmok in the fight against emerging giant rats, or remain where I could press my back to a comrade on every side.

Not granting myself an opportunity for cowardice, I immediately leapt into the small abyss, a proud smile on my face as I crashed onto the head of the nearest rat. A heated battle ensued, during which Durmok valiantly slew one of the rats, but the other fast turned intangible, and I was pressed completely on the defensive, fighting for every second of life, until Elynnar, emerging victorious from his fight with giant spiders with the aid of those still above, raced to my aid with a bolt of magic that ended my foe to drop at my feet.

Now, as we catch our breath, uncertain of what else awaits us, I cannot help but indulge in a moment of reverie. In quick succession, I have experienced a moment of great cowardice, but also one of great courage. It is still not enough to regain what honor I’ve lost, but perhaps I will not have to bear the weight of past shames and incompetence for much longer.

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