By Beth Griese
Date: January 17, 1998
|Borreau||Blonde Human||Tempus Cleric||Brian Smith|
|Lorivar Menasson||Short, dark, & hairy||Monk||Vaughan Herron|
|Nory||Gnome||Illusionist / Thief||Stu Collins|
|Telaran||1/2 Elf, Buzz cut||fighter||Jim Gaynor|
|Verence Gallow||Thin human||Mystra Cleric||Kent Jenkins|
Quote of the Day:
"Oh, they've all left? In that case, I change my illusion... clowns!" -- Stu Collins
To Garen Thundersson, cleric of Mielikki. From your faithful friend, Jade.
My last letter left off with our preparations to attack the compound of giants who had attacked Castle Weston. The rest of the party had joined me at the wooden wall surrounding the buildings and we were as ready as we would ever be on such short notice for a situation where we were going to be horribly outnumbered. We even came up with a quick plan - we must be getting used to each other - and it gave us a good head start in our attack.
Since Nory had found the rest of the guards all asleep and half- drunk, we snuck in the doorways and slaughtered the giants where they lay. That was the hardest part of the entire battle, Garen. I was sick with myself, acting like a common assassin instead of a hunter, but I've learned that necessity sometimes makes us do ugly things. With the guards dead, we slipped inside the main building and found the dining hall. What a structure: a room that was larger than most taverns in their entirety, filled with giants, ogres, and... one drow woman. Surely the same one who had ordered the attack on our village. They all crowded in the room, jostling against each other as if it were a festival. A huge fire roared in the center of the room. Only the drow looked less than festive, but I'm not surprised that she would be empty of cheer. Nory, still invisible, slipped inside the door and cast a lock spell on all the exits, and then cast an explosion of fire on the center firepit. Telaran added a couple of bottles of greek fire that he had, and we slammed our entrance door shut, sealed it, and took off running. Not away, but to the back of the compound.
I had wanted us to go around to the back for two reasons. One, it was the most obvious place for anyone who escaped the inferno in the main room to run to. Two, this was the door that I had heard and smelled wolves behind. Between my forest training and the ring I had that helps calm animals, I was sure we could handle the threat of the wolves and maybe even make some allies. The wolves turned out to be dire wolves - larger than anything in our home forest - but their response was the same. They hadn't been treated well by the giants, and with the magic of the animal ring to help me as I approached them, eight dire wolves now became my friends. After I knew the wolves wouldn't attack me, I turned around to the rest of the party and couldn't help laughing at how far back they had hidden themselves. They were more worried about a pack of dire wolves than a festhall filled with giants!
While I had gained the wolves' confidence, Nory cast a spell on Telaran to enlarge him. He still didn't stand as tall as those giants had, but we now had to our advantage some guards already killed, a fighting giant of our own, a small pack of wolves, and the main hall that I had hoped was already significantly damaged. As it turned out, that hope was false, but at the least, the hall was in chaos. We were ready for our assault on the compound.
I headed across the compound yard toward the back entrance of the main building. Before I got more than halfway across, though, I heard an ear-piercing shriek behind me, and turned around just in time to see Verence throw his back against a far door he had just opened, followed a moment later by a shuddering thud that nearly threw the magic cleric off the door completely. It seemed that Verence had found our first fight for us. Telaran and Borreau were closer to the door than I, and they signaled Verence to stand clear. The moment he dove away, the door burst open and a young giant flew through brandishing a giant whip. The first thing I registered was that whip - this must be the keeper for the wolves, and the panicked flight of three of the wolves confirmed it. The second thing I registered was the immediate deep strikes from Telaran and Borreau; the giant was facefirst in the dirt before he even had a chance to swing at us. A fitting end for someone who would treat his charges so viciously.
We found our way to the back door into the main dining hall. To my sad surprise, when I stepped through the door, although the room was smoky there was actually very little damage. I blame the drow woman; she must have protected the room somehow. The hall was still filled with beasts... but no drow woman. Some of the giants started to throw rocks at us as we were spotted. We were going to get nowhere except waist-deep in a bloodbath - a large part of the blood our own - and never be any closer to finding out who the drow woman was or why she had ordered our attack. I stood my ground while rocks the size of logs crashed around me and called for Nasra. At the time, I hoped calling out their leader would stop the barrage and get me some answers. It mostly worked - I just didn't really think beyond that to realize it would also get me a challenge.
Sure enough, a woolly, filthy giant stepped forward with a huge ballista in his hands that he used as a crossbow. To my surprise, he spoke up right away in smooth Common, and called me by name, asking what Jade of the Wayfarers wanted. I demanded to know where the drow was, and he said she had already left, said he was paid to attack us, then demanded a duel. What else could I do? I accepted, hoping that I could get in close quickly and avoid the bolts from that ballista.
A lot happened in the space of just a few seconds. When Nasra and I stepped forward, the giants (and, from what I could spot, some ogres and a few unlucky orcs being shoved in front) surged forward, too, like waves crashing against a beach but not quite making it to land. They were after my friends, who were stepping out of the hallway behind me. One of them - I later confirmed that it was Nory - cast the same enlarging spell on me that he had earlier used on Telaran, and as I took two steps forward and fired my bow, I found myself now at stomach level with this beast instead of thigh level. The odds had evened a bit.
As Nasra and I closed with each other, Telaran and Borreau started swinging at giants. Telaran, with his size and that giant-slaying spear of his, had a pile of bodies around him by the time the battle was over. Lorivar attacked ogres to try to clear some of them away, and apparently had a rousing good time kicking and punching his way through the stomachs in front of him.
The luck god Tymora must have been smiling on me in my battle against Nasra. As I stepped up to him with my long sword and dagger, he pulled a two-handed sword from his scabbard that looked to be the size of a tree. But while I struck his side, his very first swing brought the sword down onto the flagstone floor, and the blade snapped into three pieces. He and I both stopped fighting for a moment - I actually forgot to swing again - in surprise. And then he called me out again, saying that "a truly honorable warrior would let me rearm myself."
I hate when a creature that has no honor tries to take advantage of mine. But he was right; I couldn't cut him down unarmed. So I made a compromise; I nodded toward one of the clubs on the floor (there was no way I was going to let him saunter over to the wall to pick one of the massive hunting weapons that hung there). When he stepped toward it, though, I brought my blade against his neck and let him know the price of mercy; I demanded to know where the drow was.
He understood my meaning very well, but wasn't able to tell me where the drow had gone, and I believed him. I asked for her name, though, and got it: Eclavdra. Knowing the name of your enemy is good, even if I still don't know where she is. I was satisfied, Nasra bent to pick up the club, and with a vicious swing across my arm and side, the battle resumed and all the noise from the fight around us crashed back in on me again.
Nory had been busy with his enlarging spell: Lorivar was now also big, and Telaran was now as large as the giants, and bigger than the ogres and orcs that bustled around them. In the middle of all the chaos and deafening noise of the battle, Borreau cried out a word that rung through the hall like thunder. I didn't recognize the word - he told me later that it's a holy word of Tempus - but it sent a chill right through my back and, with no more than that sound, dropped every orc in the room like birds shot out of the sky. Even the dire wolves did well; they took down two ogres.
The battle with Nasra didn't last long; the giant obviously relied too much on his sword, and though he nearly took my legs out from under me twice and rendered my dagger arm useless with that club, it took me only a couple of swings to bury my blade in his stomach. Nasra fell, and with the loss of their leader and their friends dropping around them like flies, the remaining giants turned tail and ran. I fell onto my tail the moment the battle was over, and Verence was the first to offer me healing. I couldn't help but laugh at the sight of Verence now at least two feet shorter than me, buzzing around me with a healer's spell that usually took him only a hand against my shoulder, but now he had to pace around me as if I were a plateau. I was going to be glad when Nory's spell wore off.
We searched the rest of the compound. Lorivar and Telaran found the chieftain's woman; she and a giant bear she kept as a pet attacked them. The bear, as it turned out, fared better than its master. Lorivar took out the bear, but the giant Telaran with his giant-killing spear slew the woman with one blow, skewering her throat. The usually quiet Lorivar told us the story in a rush when we found them after the battle. They found a second bear - I suppose it was the pet of Nasra. Although it was huge, like the dire wolves, it was still a creature of the forests, and I was able to convince it that we were not an enemy. I released it and let it take to the hillsides around this compound.
The only other creatures we found who had not abandoned the compound already was a group of young female giants who had not made it out yet. When we came upon their room, they screamed in terror and shoved a box that I suppose to them was a jewelry case, but to us was the size of a couple of crates. They spoke no Common, but their meaning was clear enough. We stepped aside, and they practically threw the box at us as they scrambled out of the room and hoped they had bought their freedom. We had no problems with letting them go; our real fight was with the drow who had ordered these attacks. We had no interest in attacking the families of the mercenaries they had hired, no matter what their race.
The most interesting things we found in the compound was a council room that included a huge map - and some stairs leading down. The council room also had the agreement between Eclavdra and Nasra to attack Castle Weston. The wall map had Weston marked on it, as well as two "ambush sites" listed between Espar and Tyrluk and at Eagle's Rest. These giants had apparently been making a living as highwaymen as well as mercenaries. The Purple Dragons back home should have some interest in that. And in the far north, an X was marked, but none of us had any idea what it meant.
So now, we are resting for the night to catch up on our wind and our spells before we descend these stairs to see what lies beneath the compound. I'm hoping for more clues to the drow, since they can't stand living above ground, or maybe at least some clues about where to find Eclavdra. Vengeance has been paid for the attack on Castle Weston, and for blood of the villagers and workers in our charge. Now it's time to find the source of that attack and make sure no more come from it.
The Jade Letters are the property and copyright of Beth Griese, not to be published or redistributed without permission.
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