Giant Slayer

From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, Tomb-seeker
The path is laid out before us; I hope we do not stumble.

With Karrguk slain, we gathered what we could from the spoils of Redlake Fort, rendezvousing with Captain Bloodtusk back at his boat and making our way back along the river. My mood was forlorn, though my companions and kin rejoiced at the victory. I still felt the sting of failing in my path to Apsu.

Still, I agreed with the others that we should spend some time in the great keep of Vigil on our way back, as the servants of Iomedae there deserved to know of the pendant we discovered with the help of Fabian Blix, as did the man’s descendant, Calrianne. So, after informing the girl, we made our way to Vigil, finding a lukewarm welcome there, as we were in the company of orcs. They heard us out there, however, notably marking the news that we had heard of giants congregating in the Minderhall Valley.

Along with Halgra, Chief Defender of Trunau, the priests and warriors of Vigil charged us with seeking out the growing giant horde, so, after spending some time to recuperate (and ensure that I had found my feet on the path of purity once more through a cleansing ritual), we set out once more on behalf of the peoples of this region, making our way deep into the Mindspin Mountains to seek out the giant-killer, Nargrym’s, tomb for aide in our quest, accompanied again by my dwarven kin.

Twice we were attacked on the trail; once by a fearsome, scaly creature Elynnar marked as a Bullette, and once by sickening spider creatures in the trees about us, but both times we bested our foes quickly. I feel, however, that whatever we find within the tomb and beyond will not be so easily overcome.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, vow-breaker
I can only hope my good deeds speak louder than my failings

We fell in on the beasts who stood outside the chanting chamber, finding ourselves in a pitched battle that extended into our destination room and the massive brutes inside. Seeing a giant mage past the two that charged us, I slipped inside to keep the monster’s magic at bay, thankfully keeping it distracted long enough for my brave comrades to slay the others and join me in finishing the fight.

Within, we found the bones of the traitor we sought, then retreating back to the room of treasure to determine how we might take these riches home. As we debated, however, Karrguk called out for us to surrender. We declined, our answer delivered in fist and steel as we burst out of the chamber and fell in on the remaining orcs from Karrguk’s attack on the fortress. After a timely spell from Thorsten, Karrguk retreated his feeble mind unable to stand up to our skald’s power, and we slaughtered the remaining orcs, Leetsa and myself even sneaking around the perimeter to execute another who stood ready to snipe us from above.

The immediate threat taken care of, we made our way back to the chapel, appeasing Fabian’s spirit by destroying his enemy’s bones. As his soul departed, Fabian spoke of a talisman of his goddess nearby, which we recovered, setting out to the chamber across the courtyard where we believed to have heard the noise of a retreated Karrguk.

We were wrong. Arriving there, I was set upon by a vile thing as I attempted to pierce the dark with my dwarven eyes, and, unthinking I…I struck out at the enemy with my fists, finding that the light of Apsu had abandoned me for the breaking of my vow of cleanliness. My spirit nearly shattered, I barely managed to drop the undead giant hand that had attacked me with the help of my friends, slinking off alone in my melancholy state to end Karrguk and his remaining orcs.

Spotting them, I made my way around the outer courtyard to catch them unaware, hearing the bold gnome, Leetsa call out a challenge to Karrguk from below. When I reached the tower where I had seen the orcs, I found only two remaining, quickly dropping one with my bloodied fists and hurling the other off the top of the tower. Then, peering down below, I saw that Karrguk had engaged with the others, Elynnar landing what would have been a mortal blow on a lesser orc, and Leetsa ready to cleave the brute from behind.

My anger overcoming me, I leapt from the highest point of the tower, screaming Karrguk’s name in a moment of vengeance. His people and their filth…they have no place in this world, if there is ever to be peace. So, as Karrguk looked up to bare his teeth at me, I landed a blow to face, snapping it aside to sever his spine with a mighty crack.

The monster felled, I glared down at his body, knowing that even this great feat in the name of Apsu, who gives me strength, was not enough to wash away the stench of what I had done. Though it had been to protect my comrades, I had betrayed a vow to both myself and my lord. Not even the vision I was gifted, feeling Apsu’s flames of vindication surround me, could undo such a wrong.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, assassin
Have we become the shadows of death?

Following our encounter with the two giants, we found ourselves greeted by a pair of great, winged beasts in a nearby room. Though they were caged, I knew their presence to be foul, but we all decided that we should hear the offer they wished to present. The arrangement was simple; their freedom for the treasure they guarded, a treasure apparently spurned by one Volstis of the Minespin Mountains after it had been offered by Grenzeldek as a kind of dowry.

Cautiously, and alert for any betrayal this time, we released the beasts Elynnar identified as a male and female manticore, quickly killing them when they attempted to turn on us. It was clear they particularly wished to feast on Thorsten’s human flesh, but we saw fit not to grant them the opportunity.

With the beasts dead, we ascended the tower above them, finding that a sobbing Grenzeldek awaited at the top, guarded by a pair of dire wolves. Seeing our chance to end the giant’s life, we burst in, taking quite a beating from both Grenzeldek and her wolves, but finally slaying the miserable woman where she stood. A great aura of sadness clung to the air, however, and we eventually found the source of it behind a cordoned-off alcove. The culprit was what appeared to be a human skull, its presence still filling our hearts with dread and sorrow even as Thorsten tucked it away in his pack. More happily, we discovered with the help of Umlo and Ingrahild that we now possessed both halves of a sort of geode map to the tomb of the great dwarf, Nargrim, their ancestor, having found the final piece in Grenzeldek’s spoils. However, we still had work to do in Redlake Fort.

From there, we pressed on toward the chapel to seek the spirit of Fabian Blix. The pair of ogrekin atop the bell tower overhead gave us little trouble, as we were able to kill them before they could sound the alarm, and we headed inside the chapel. In contrast to Grenzeldek’s chambers, the chapel seemed to exude an aura of peace and tranquility, and we were soon able to make contact with the unfortunate Fabian.

He told us his sad story of betrayal and instituted cannibalism under siege by the fortress’s former steward, and that the only way for us to bring peace to his soul was to burn his killer’s remains at the chapel’s altar. Producing the skull on a hunch, we learned that this was part of what we sought, though the rest of the man’s remains lay elsewhere. After an unsettling communion by Droja with the skull, we thought we had a hunch of where to begin our search; back in a room where we heard a dark chanting.

We rested that night in the chapel, awakening the next morning to find that Kargukk was making his move against the giants, seeming to have learned of Grenzeldek’s demise, and, departing the chapel, we thought to use the confusion to reach the chanting chamber. On the way, Droja slipped while attempting a climb, and I saw fit to let her fall, rather than breaking my vow of cleanliness, as she oozes the stench of undeath. She was relatively unhurt by the fall, but I can tell that resentment has been seeded within her. How this will manifest remains to be seen.

Still, unchallenged by any foe, Leetsa and myself pressed on for the chanting chamber, finding that a small band of ogrekin lay in our path. It seems that, even with our enemy distracted, it will not be easy to remain undetected in this awful place…

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Leetsa's thots

After checking that evil queen giant as she claims, I am glad she’s dead. She who caused all this just for love??What about my love for my parents…. As I pull out the deadly arrow I unleashed at her neck, its strike truer’ than many in the past, I think of my parents killed by these beast, and wonder where & when it shall end for me. But I know, the revenge not quite satisfied, there is a much better price for my folks’ death than a giant queen. Her a giant queen,,, ha. Yet I must go on, shuddering I think of my beautiful hair turning gray.. I must…
The presence of something pulls all of us to it; I can sense the magic all around us. I look over at my ragged warriors & am assured nothing can stop us & so I must go one, arrow knocked in Vemcin Sventar will it be a true strike again, there are more for all of us…..

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A glorious battle!
Grenseldek's defeat

I will write this quickly because I fear we most be moving quickly. Besides, this place unnerves me! There is an ancient evil about this place that I do not understand. It almost overtook me. It….it felt like overwhelming grief or guilt would consume me for a moment. As I look around I can see that the siblings Umlo and Ingrahild may have been overcome by it already. They are tentative in their movements while they search the room and Ingrahild seems to be holding back tears.

Leetsa and Elynnar are busy plundering the corpse of Grenseldek! Yes we have defeated her! The battle was fierce as she had two direwolf pets guarding her. Yet we finished the hounds quickly and surrounded her. Both Umlo and Ud were badly wounded in the exchange but, our greater numbers and superior tactics prevailed. Ud, hero as ever; stood at her front. He spun wildly, with the defense only a master marshal artist could summon. Yet even so, one of Grenseldeks wicked axes almost took his lower jaw off. If not for his quick reflexes, Ud would have only half of his face instead of, the nasty gash that graces his right cheek and jaw. Once again Ud’s bravery allowed the rest of the party to position themselves to, overcome our enormous adversary.

It was Leetsa’s arrow that finally took down the pitiful foe. Elynnar’s magic played no small part either! However, I get the feeling the battle was tilted in our favor because of, our adversaries state of mind. She fought desperately but carelessly. As if she had nothing to loose. Maybe the pain of being rejected by this so called Storm Tyrant pushed her sanity over a teetering cliff. Our maybe it was something more. I can still feel it….the presence of loss and regret. An ancient presence…..an evil presence…we must leave here soon and seek our answers elsewhere.

Torstern Stein

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, trap expert
The art of trapping seems to elude me...

It’s been an interesting day of traps thus far. Following our visit with the half-orc enchantress, Droja, we made contact through her with Karrguk, leader of the orcs in the exterior of the fort. He was less than receptive to our offer of joining forces, despite the deception we took care to sow that Grenzeldek was plotting against him. Still, thanks to Thorsten’s fancy talking, we secured a passage into the fort through the back of Karrguk’s tent, even persuading him to allow us to take Droja, his concubine, along.

Once inside, we took quite a beating from the traps in the first passage, but Leetsa’s skills emerged victorious in the end, and the two of us set about trying to find a clear path toward our first goal; the chapel that housed the imprisoned spirit of Fabian Blix. We found none. Giants lay everywhere in the fort: along the battlements; squabbling in the courtyard over an unfortunate orc; patrolling the apparent sleeping quarters…

At last deciding that there was nothing for it but to make some noise, we attempted to lure a pair of the brutes toward a section of crumbling floor on the second level that would, we hoped, drop them to a room on the first story where we would have them lethally surrounded. The plan, however, went awry, and our trap was left unsprung as the giants sniffed out our intentions at the last second, stopping short and declaring that they would go and sound the alarm.

At this, Thorsten bravely, and foolishly, charged forward, bludgeoning one of them so mightily with his magic hammer that the beast shrank to nearly human-size and taunting it forward to spring the trap after all. That one was quickly bludgeoned still by Ingrahild’s brother, Umlo, and his mighty skillet, while Leetsa, Elynnar, and Ingrahild peppered the other giant with magic and arrows from below. As the remaining giant made to flee, Thorsten, Elynnar, and I intercepted, dropping it before it could make good its escape and betray our position.

Still, the encounter was far from silent, and I have no illusions that no other enemies are prepared for our push deeper into the fort. And…I find this Droja woman unnerving to my very soul. I find myself flinching from her supposed healing hand, nearly gagging on the stench of death that pervades her being. Can it truly be Apsu’s will that we ally ourselves with harbingers of darkness such as she?

These thoughts and more trouble my mind as we seek to conclude our mission. Somewhere in this fortress, Grenzeldek awaits…

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, infiltrator
Perhaps this will be more difficult than we thought...

The boulder was followed shortly by a team of orcs and their large, oafish leader. A harrowing fight ensued, during which both of our gnomes displayed great courage and deadliness, and we emerged victorious.

We were, however, unable to locate Ingrahild’s brother in the brutes’ encampment, leaving us to assume that he had been taken with the other band; the one that had made for Redlake Fort.

So we returned to Captain Bloodtusk’s boat, Fijit departing back for Trunau to continue her training, and we set off down the river once more, arriving at our destination some days later, armed only with Calrianne’s map and varied rumors for knowledge. What we found was…disconcerting. The moat, it seemed, had been drained, and, after an extensive scouting flyover by an invisible Elynnar, we learned of the fort’s extensive defenses and deadly denizens, both orc and giant.

But, at last, we were able to locate Ingrahild’s brother, Umlo, the poor fellow having been held captive and forced to battle a group of fearsome bears. The night after our arrival, we moved in silently to rescue him, using magics and great care, we were able to do so without incident, bringing him back to our camp and learning from him much of the intrigue that pervaded the fortress.

The leader’s mistress, it seemed, was hardly content with her station, and, as a powerful magic-user, had been able to help Umlo keep up his strength.

Thinking that we may have identified a potential ally, I posited that we infiltrate the fort again that night, myself, Ingrahild, and Umlo seeing this thought through (the two of them, we’d found after some discussion, being distant relatives of mine). Both have sworn their service to my allies and me, though I’ve tried to make it clear that they are free to leave at any time. Still, in times such as these, great loyalty should not be squandered, and I was grateful to have them at my side as, when night had fallen once more, we made our way through the cold, dark underbrush to seek the favor of the half-orc enchantress.

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, the naive
Again, my trust is misplaced...

Upon passing the sleeping vapor plants, we entered a great chamber filled with brambles and rot, almost immediately set upon by two more giant plant creatures. Though each of us was bloodied in the fight, we managed to slay them, thanks to a spell from Fijit that allowed us to move freely amidst the tangling muck and limbs. Almost before our eyes, the rot began to recede once the primary creature was felled. Though I found this curious, Fijit seemed to think this was normal.

A vault in this chamber revealed many weapons and treasures, however, as we entered it, Ewiga, who had accompanied us since her throne room, suddenly turned on poor Elynnar, revealing her true self as a horrible hag. A pitched battle ensued, during which our casters were drained of magic, and the rest of us were battered nearly to death by Ewiga’s clawed arms.

At last, however, she lay unconscious at our feet, and so we bound her and retreated to the treasure room to rest, hoping that we might question the hag once we had all recovered.

That night, I was assailed in my dreams by a vision of a hellish dark, landscape and a child far out of reach across a sea of swarming darkness, retreating up a jutting rock as the darkness climbed toward it. I tried to call out to the child, preparing myself to plunge into the demon sea, but then, my lord, Apsu, appeared as a great dragon of purest light, banishing all the darkness he touched in as he settled to perch behind me.

“Save the child!” I pleaded, looking up into the dragon’s fearsome, beautiful face. “Or, if you will do nothing, grant me the strength to do it!”

Apsu, however, only looked to the child, then back to me with a tear in his eye, and, before I could pursue my plan of leaping into the darkness, I awoke, shaken into consciousness by a concerned-looking Torsten.

Ewiga was awake as well, and, as we began to question her, revealing the baby boots and rattle we’d found on her as we did so, her story began to unfold, one of a barren wife, desperate enough to mother a child that she struck a deal with the hags of a nearby swamp to bring life to her womb. A daughter was born, one that the hags had demanded as part of the deal, but Ewiga had refused, leading to her husband’s flight from her with their daughter when he learned the truth, and leaving Ewiga to be taken by the hags to complete the contract. Bound to the hags, and to the swamp, she had become a hag herself, and, as I looked into her tearful eyes, I believed I saw some trace of her humanity resurface.

So I assured her that, if we all returned to the swamp peacefully, she would be left alone, though I would return to see the swamp cleansed should I hear of her corrupting it. I needn’t have worried, for, no sooner had we exited the treasure room than she attacked Leetsa and myself, slamming the door shut behind her to keep the rest of the group from assisting. I, however, managed to striker her with my newfound spear, and the owl, Whisper, slashed the hag’s throat before she could transport away.

Holding the once human woman’s body as she bled out, I then understood that her very nature rendered her incapable of being trusted, and so I delivered the killing blow, carrying her body back to the main atrium to return to the nature of this place. The weight of this act seemed to drag me back to the stone itself. Sworn as I am to shepherd new life into this world, and being forced to slay someone whose fall to corruption began with the pure intentions of wishing to become a mother…it continues to be a great burden on my heart, heightened by the darkness of my dream.

Not soon enough for my liking, we left the Vault of Thorns behind, reemerging into the stone circle to find Ingrahild waiting, urging us to make haste for a band of orcs and giants that had taken her brother.

So we set off to the tune of Torsten’s marching song, only to be set upon by a swarm of awful bugs as we neared our destination. Though we tried to subdue them with stealth and a lack of bombastic spells, we heard the sound of approaching foes as the last of bugs flew into the night, the new enemies obviously the band we sought, and just as obviously searching for us.

We all rushed to hide, but, seconds later, a large boulder struck the ground where we’d just stood, and booming, giant-ish voice called out for us to emerge. I clung to the shadow of my cover, hoping the others would do the same as dusk and the heightening raindrops began to fall in earnest…

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, lilypad hopper
And the plants get bigger...

Following our fight with the bramble fiends, we pressed on into the next room, a great, domed atrium, only to be attacked by a pair of invisible light creatures. We eventually managed to drop them, but the encounter held great promise of danger had we not formed up so quickly on the great bridge that led deeper into the vault.

Reaching the far door, we discovered an ancient elven woman who claimed familiarity with the Vault of Thorns in centuries past. Agreeing that the evil here must be expunged, she accompanied us into the next chamber.

A series of floating lilypads awaited us, leading to a ledge on the far side of a chasm, and, without thinking, I nimbly hopped to the other side, only to find that I had awakened a vengeful guardian of the place. A great swarm of insects surged up from the swampy water far below, and a single large entity rose up, swooping down at us to attack, eventually taking up poor FIjit in its jaws. Just as it was about to devour her and her owl, we managed to slay it, retrieving them and a fallen Torsten as we regrouped to treat our wounds.

Agreeing that we should approach with more caution, we followed a passage down to the base of the chamber with the bridge, easing inside and keeping alert for any danger. While many small, friendly creatures approached us with benevolent intent, we were set upon once again before we were able to reach the far side of the atrium. A giant, tendriled beast laid into us, with Torsten and myself bearing the brunt of the attack to keep the others out of reach of the lashing, deadly vines. Flame and blade at last overtook the thing, the creature succumbing to its wounds like a toppling tree, and we ascended a staircase out of the atrium unhindered.

No sooner did we reach the door at the top of the stairs, however, than Fijit quickly warned us of sleep-inducing, carnivorous plants, leaving herself and Elynnar to carefully harvest them while the rest of us remained ready to pull them back from danger. Though not the most severe threat we’ve faced, it did nothing to quell my unease in this strange land of magic and chaos…

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From the Journal of Ud Nibbleaxe, tree-burner
I don't care much for the Faery world thus far...

The dwarf woman, Ingrahild, spoke of great monsters that had taken her brother, and she accompanied us thereafter in hopes that we would find strength in numbers. We did so, gratefully, for we soon fell into battle with a wretched wil-o-wisp that seemed to be speaking even as it tore into us. It shocked us a great deal with arcs of painful lightning, but we managed to subdue and kill it, tucking it away in Fijit’s lantern, as we’d been instructed in the efforts to guide our way to the stone circle we sought that was to serve as our gateway to the Faery world.

The lamp fulfilled its purpose, the light guiding us the stones. No sooner had we arrived, however, than we we were set upon one of the beasts that had taken poor Ingrahild’s brother. It was a tough fight against the monster, with many of us taking grievous wounds, but we managed to fell it, retreating through a portal opened by the lantern’s light and respecting Ingrahild’s wishes to be left behind to search for her brother.

Before us on the other side was a large flower-like door. As we approached it, lightning-quick wooden fiends set upon us, trying to batter us with thorns and wooden stakes. I was able to dodge every assault, but my teammates suffered greatly before we were able to use fire flasks and spells to burn the things to ash.

Afterwards, Fijit was able to commune with the animals that scurried in from around, though she learned little about wait awaited us beyond the door, save that an elf woman had previously done so, it seemed.

Despite the positive effect this land seems to have on healing magics, I find myself wary of it. I’m sure whatever lies beyond the flower door is just as foul as what attacked us on over here.

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