July 26

Against the Giants Session 166

In the morning the Heroes decide to continue travelling away from the valley. They spend an uneventful night on the edge of the forest, and prepare to combat the shadowy First Victim at dawn. This time they decide to place the blade outside their camp, 50′ away, to see whether the creature goes for it or the person who took it. As dawn rises on the 12th day of Wealsun, the creature appears and picks up the blade then disappears, taking it. The Heroes shrug, pack up their camp, and head home. They say goodbye to Scully and three days later arrive safely at Pest’s Crossing.

Medmyr meets them and tells them that a few days ago a warrant for the arrest of two lords, the Baron of Pregmere (Lionel) and the Marquis of The Lea and the surrounding area (Bertram), for treason. The two lords arrived a day later and Medmyr had them arrested, and placed in guest rooms under house arrest until Baron Calibos returned. The two lords wanted to see him, and the other heroes, and as soon as they have refreshed themselves a meeting is held in Calibos’ quarters. There the lords explain that they believe the Duke is not himself, that there is something seriously wrong. Other lords seem to be under the same sort of influence, but they do not know want. Both have been exiled and replacements have taken over command of their domains. Fortunately, some of their loyal soldiers managed to escape and are waiting for word to join them. They want the Heroes help in finding out what is happening and what to do.

After a brief discussion– since they too suspect something is up– the Heroes agree to investigate, and leave the lords under Medmyr’s care and watchful eye. The lords sends word to their men to come to the Hornwood to make camp nearby. Meanwhile, the Heroes pack their bags and head off to The Lea to investigate the new Baron who now rules there. They travel in disguise and under cover, with only Calibos and Ungrid posing as themselves. Halmary uses his mask to disguise himself as an elderly wandering cleric and Xellos and Sidni both keep themselves invisible. They find the village now has the additions of prison camps and a quarry where stone is being cut form the walls that are stretching from the major towns on the borders. Criminals are doing most of the work, used pretty much as slave labour, but rumour has it that these so-called criminals are merely people who have spoken out about the Duke and his lords. Calibos sends word home to check if the men the Duke sent to him are the same, and if so, let them be freshly judged and released if necessary: others are asked if they want to join his army, and a few dozen do so.

At the keep that overlooks the village Calibos, Ungrid and the disguised Halmary ask to see the Marquis, but are told that Baron Curtis is now in charge. They are asked to leave their weapons behind, which Calibos and Halmary agree to (Halmary has his disguised as a walking stick and takes it with him, Calibos has his weapon hidden inside his magic shield), leaving Ungrid in the Great Hall with the weapons and several guards. The other two are led upstairs into a spacious office where the Baron bids them enter and sit. Sidni and Xellos, both invisible, join them, and guards stand watch inside and out. Before they reached the keep, Halmary cast True Seeing on Xellos, who checks out the people he passes: there is something slightly off about them, the Baron as well, but he cannot tell what exactly. They begin to talk, questioning the Baron about the higher taxes, the slave labour, the whereabouts of the Marquis and what he thinks of the Duke; the Baron tells them he has a gift for them, and goes behind his desk and pulls a large mourning cloth off a huge ornate mirror.

Calibos and Halmary see their reflections. Their reflections see them smile. Then they step out of the mirror!

End of Session

July 20

Against the Giants: Session 165

With Ungrid’s help Halmary pulls free from the blood golem, leaving it open for Calibos to move in an use the First Blade to slice away at its solidarity. Halmary heals his wounds as the paladin hacks away, vanquishing one of the golems, and moving to the next, the blade cutting away strands of choking blood. It too falls swiftly, leaving the Heroes splattered with blood, but safe.

They dig out the rubies on the dais (36 in all) and search the cavern, but find nothing more of value. They head out, back into the courtyard, the sun high overhead. With their mission a success, they decide to head home and pause by the gatehouse on their way out, finding some more treasure buried in the debris. Down the mountain path they descend, reaching the bottom safely as the sun begins to set. Guards are posted, and just as they think they are safe, ghostly monks appear as the sun goes down and swarm to attack!

The ghosts manage to lay their cold hands on Scully and Calibos, freezing their skin but also ageing them a decade; as they do so, the ghosts become more solid, making it easier for the Heroes to take them out: Ungrid sends one screaming back into the shadows, as does Xellos, while Calibos manages to take out three more, but not before he is aged a further nine years. Sidni also suffers a few years of ageing, before Halmary destroys the rest by turning them.

The rest of the night passes uneventfully, and a Remove Curse on the dagger puts a stop to any more ghostly monk visits; but all is still not safe, as with the rise of the sun, the shadows fleeing the light gather and the shadowy figure of the First Victim manifests again and attacks, but it barely wounds Ungrid before everyone piles in and destroys it.

All seems fine as they leave the valley and head off towards Pest’s Crossing, but while they spend a restful night, in the  morning the First Victim reappears: this time Calibos uses the First Blade to wound it, but the creature is vanquished by the blades and hammer of Xellos, Sidni and Ungrid.

They break camp and make plans.

End of Session

Kills: 2 blood golems, 8 ghostly monks, the First Victim (twice).

July 9

Against the Giants: Session 164

Map of Monastery

Map of Monastery

While Sidni guards the captured hermit, the others search the lairs of the minotaurs and giant rats and come away with some fairly decent loot. Then they interrogate the hermit: they learn his name is Garrick, a former swordsman who came here to escape the world, seeking solitude and peace. He tells them of the broken bowl and where the other half is located, and they agree to leave each other alone. Calibos heals his wounds and gives him back his sword, and the hermit returns to his hall and his abode. The Heroes return to the temple, examining the doors once again. The paladin pushes the bowl together, and cuts himself so that his blood drips into the bowl: the doors swing open, revealing a vault with steps leading down to an altar flanked by sandstones statues of monks, and more steps leading further below. Scully makes furious notes and sketches as they enter the temple, descending into the sanctum below, wary of the statues, fully expecting them to animate and attack. The other steps lead to another chamber, with a natural cavern extending beyond it. In the chamber is a red marble statue of some elf-like humanoid, alien and exotic, arched as a simple bronze blade is driven into its back. The Heroes surmise it is the first victim of the first blade, and are again wary of it. Halmary prayers to his goddess to find traps, but none reveal themselves.

They approach the cavern, leaving Xellos above to keep an eye on the temple doors. Halmary enters the cave, Sidni and Calibos on the steps, with Ungrid and Scully coming down from the higher chamber. Inside the cave they can see a dais encrusted with rubies, a simple bronze blade resting atop it. The cavern itself is damp, pools in the shadows at the edges.

As expected, as soon as they enter the cavern, the statues animate and attack. None of them prove difficult, with a well-placed flame strike and blows from Calibos’ hammer and Sidni’s spear shattering the red marble statue, and the two sandstone ones falling to pieces by Xellos’ hands, with help from Ungrid’s hammer. They follow the others into the cave, surrounding the dais and the blade. After some discussion, Halmary tells Scully that it is safe to remove the blade. He does so, and immediately the shadows swarm and coalesce into a shadowy figure of the first victim, and humanoid shapes form from the pools: blood golems. They attack, and Xellos’ magic missiles, Halmary’s flame strike and Calibos’ sword send the shadows back to where they came from before the creature has a chance to land a blow.

The blood golems, however, prove not so easy to defeat. One resists Xellos’ attempt to disintegrate it and blows against it prove ineffective; it engulfs Sidni, and she begins to drown. Calibos runs over to where Scully clutches the blade, and takes it from him; this proves capable of wounding the golems, but a few lucky hits and the other golem engulfs Calibos, and also drags Halmary inside as he tries to help. Sidni is more fortunate, as Ungrid charges through it and knocks her out of the blood. She quaffs a water breathing potion. Calibos then manages to break free, but the cleric is still caught and the golems aren’t going down…

End of Session

Kills: 2 sandstone statues, 1 red marble statue, the First Victim.

July 4

Against the Giants: Session 163

Map of Monastery

Map of Monastery

Leaving the temple alone for now, the Heroes begin to explore and search the ruined storehouse, finding valuables that they could take. The gather what loose, small items they can find and leave the rest for later, heading off into the cloisters and through a door where rows of cells lie. As they begin opening each one, Ungrid and Xellos spy a couple of bull-headed humanoids (large, easily 7-8′ tall) trying to sneak up on them using the trees as cover. Sidni, meanwhile, goes off alone into the Great Hall, stumbling over some rocks, but finding it empty.

Halmary comes away from the cells that Calibos has been kicking open, and he attempts to communicate with them: thankfully, the monsters speak Common, but all the cleric learns is that the temple is evil, the hermit inside the Hall is dangerous, and the monsters also want to be left in peace. Both parties agree to leave the other alone, and the minotaurs head up through a broken part of the wall, to where their cave is. Sidni scouts this out and finds another two in the cave.

The Heroes now decide to seek out the hermit and see if he either knows anything about or has anything to use at the temple. But the hall is empty, but traps are all other the place, skilfully bypassed by Halmary’s Find Traps magic. Sidni and Xellos fly over the uneven floor, avoiding the traps. They continue to search, heading out in the grounds, Calibos imbued with True Seeing cast by Halmary; the paladin and cleric get too close to the minotaurs cave, who get agitated and stand guard at their cave, demanding that they leave them alone. The Heroes only do so after Sidni reports that the hermit is not there.

As the others loiter in the grounds, Calibos and Halmary enter the walled gardens to see if the hermit is there. The rats inside are hostile, hissing as the two divine members of the party intrude.

Suddenly, a harpoon flies through the air, fired from the large crossbow on the watchtower: it hits Scully, knocking the scholar to the ground. At the same time, the rats in the gardens swarm to attack Calibos and Halmary, and the minotaurs gather at the cave to see what happens.

Ungrid drags Scully into cover, the scholar thankfully only wounded. Calibos defends himself agains the rats, cutting one down as it leaps at his throat. Sidni, invisible and flying heads over the where the hermit stands on the tower and introduces herself with a lightning bolt that singes the hermit. She notes that he is dressed in old chain mail and has a sword out now. Despite the man’s age, it is obvious that he is a dangerous man.

Halmary rushes out to heal Scully, initially heading the wrong way, while Calibos just starts slaughtering the rats. Ungrid joins in the fun as some of the giant rats swarm out of the gardens, catching the smell of blood from Scully. Over at the watchtower, the hermit climbs to the bottom of the tower and ends up facing off against Sidni, exchanging wounding blows. As chaos seems to spread across the grounds, the minotaurs foolishly decide to take advantage of the situation and start heading to the battle.

The hermit, despite being the better swordsman, finds himself held as Xellos flies over and paralyses the old man so that Sidni can disarm him and hogtie him. She starts to drag him back to the main battle, and spies the minotaurs as they charge from their cave into the fight. Foolish. The first minotaur falls to Calibos’ giant-strength-enhanced blow, the second is finished off by Xellos with a flurry of magic missiles, and the final two (younger ones) are slain by Ungrid and his mighty hammer. The last of the rats is killed, and the Heroes pause for breath amidst the churned and blood-soaked snow.

End of Session

Kills: 4 minotaurs, 15 giant rats, 1 huge monster rat, and captured the hermit.

June 24

Against the Giants: Session 162

9th Wealsun, 594 CY

After travelling for over a week into the deepest valleys of the Crystalmist mountains, accompanied by a scholar named Scully, our Heroes reach the bottom of a switchback path that winds up a mountain to a small plateau hundreds of feet up. They have been hired to escort and protect Scully as he goes in search of the legendary First Blade, said to be the first blade ever forged that was used to murder. It is reported to have been kept and worshipped by monks in an isolated monastery, long abandoned. The blade, according to Scully, lies in a sanctum within the temple of the monastery.

After camping in the cold, snowy gully, the Heroes begin the long hike up the snow-clad path, keeping to the sloping sides, away from the drop. Halfway up they pause as they spot a wyvern circling overhead, but it does not approach and as the sun begins to set they reach the top. Sidni, invisible, goes ahead and scouts out the immediate area: old walls, broken in parts, a gatehouse with broken doors, no sign of life. After lengthy discussion, as the sun slips behind the craggy mountains, they decide to venture inside to explore before they find a place to camp. They enter a large courtyard, trees sprouting from the snowy ground, a frozen fountain in the middle, cloisters and buildings worn away by time and the elements but still standing. It is dark, only the light of stars and pale moons providing dim illumination. Halmary conjures up some continual light, and torches are lit. Sidni goes off exploring by herself, finding doors, a watchtower, and what appears to a temple. The others locate the walled gardens, which is partially covered by rubble that has fallen from the mountain. Giant rats inhabit the gardens, and watch the intruders warily. The gardens are warm, a pool of water unfrozen, and flowers bloom. They leave the rats alone and all meet up, Sidni too, outside the double doors of a great hall.

Now they begin to see ghostly figures moving about: monks going about their daily business, tending the grounds, exercising, walking; all silent and paying no heed to them. Into the great hall go Halmary, Sidni and Calibos, Ungrid bringing up the rear while Xellos waits outside guarding Scully, who is making notes in his battered journal. The hall is strewn with rubble, with old tables, some upturned on their sides. Halmary and Sidni step on caltrops hidden amongst the rubble, and Calibos narrowly avoids being pelted by rocks as he trips a wire: then a voice, gruff and stern, calls out to them “Leave now! You are not welcome here. Turn around and go”. They actually listen and back out, heading towards the watchtower Sidni discovered to use it for their camp.

The watchtower is crowded with everyone inside and guards are set, standing atop the roof. On the roof is a harpoon-firing crossbow, intact and relatively rust-free. It is loaded and more harpoons are below. As the others sleep, Calibos stands guard and spots a wyvern, possibly the same one, making its circle above them. It begins to descend, then suddenly dives!

Calibos shouts out to alert the others, and they slowly awake. Then he turns the crossbow on the plummeting monster and fires off the harpoon, striking the wyvern and throwing off its aim as it swoops down and tries to carry Calibos off. It flies overhead and is pelted by magic missiles as Xellos steps outside. As it begins to turn round for another pass, Calibos hurls a spear at it and again hits: the wyvern turns tail and flies off, driven away.

The rest of the night passes uneventfully and in the morning they head to the temple and find the stone doors immobile. Ungrid and Xellos use their magic to try and open it, but it is impervious to their attempts. Ungrid levitates to see the top and spies a skylight at its apex. They gather at the doors: a carving of a crude blade in on the left-hand door, and on the right is a broken bowl protruding from the wall, the other half nowhere in sight. The interior is stained black.

They discuss options as the sun begins to shine.

End of Session