By Beth Griese
Date: May 23, 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:
"Seven rounds of owie." -- Kent
To Garen Thundersson, cleric of Mielikki. From your faithful friend, Jade.
We had to find a way out of these frozen caves we were wandering in. Someone was plotting attacks against all of Cormyr, and here we were stuck under Mielikki-only-knows how much rock and ground and probably days journey away from the Purple Dragons. We struck out down the most likely tunnel we could find; I was scouting ahead in the shadows just beyond the light our party made.
The tunnel we were following suddenly opened up into a huge cavern. I had no idea how big it was, but I could hear the wind blowing through the room, so I knew it must be gigantic. I stuck to a wall and kept creeping around. Thank Mielikki's leaves that I stopped when I realized there was what I thought was a rockpile in front of me. It was only when it was in front of my nose - and it was my nose that gave it away - that I realized a giant was sitting right in front of me. He was sitting with his back to the wall I had been following, and was intent on the advancing glow of the rest of the Wayfarers.
I suppose I should have taken an easy shot on a killing strike and brought the giant down before he even knew I was there. I had my sword ready for the blow. It was what Nory had done earlier, and may have saved us a good deal of damage. This was the same kind of giant who had tried to kill us a few times over already, the kind who had agreed to march on Cormyr and raze every village to the ground. Maybe everyone would have agreed that it was a just slaughter. But I couldn't do it. I waited, breath held, and paused while the party entered the room. I didn't strike until the giant scrambled to his feet and readied his club to attack us. Then I finally put my blade in his thigh and yelled the warning to my friends. It wasn't enough to kill him on the spot, and maybe I brought more wounds on my companions for it. But it was enough to stun him, give us the surprise instead of him and his friends, and I know I can sleep better tonight.
Yes, I mentioned friends. One of the first people to react was Verence, and lit my giant aglow with magic, fiery light that blinded him and showed us the size and the other three giants of the cavern we were in. Borreau and I brought down the blind, wounded one, but as he fell, the other three scattered around the cavern lit a basin of oil to really bring light to the room, and one of them threw a rock, which crashed against Borreau and bounced him against the wall.
Telaran was the first to reach the other three, with his giant- killing spear leading the charge. I ran to join him, but one of the giants had a spear of his own, and the force of its hit against my side spun me clear around and knocked me to my knees. All I could think was that Telaran was going to get killed while I cleared out the bees that were buzzing in my head, but by the time I was able to see straight again, Telaran had one of the giants skewered on his spear. I shouldn't have worried for him.
Lorivar wasn't faring as well, though. He was trying to strike another giant, but wasn't landing much damage. His giant's reply was to lean over slowly and bellow right into Lorivar's face. Besides the damage to Lorivar's ears and nose, we knew any other giants in the area were now well aware of us.
Telaran leaped over to join Lorivar in silencing the talkative creature, so Borreau and I, who had both gotten our feet back under us, took on the last giant. Our swords bit deep wounds, and my dagger in his knee brought him down for good. I felt a bit like Nory, who usually specializes in those knee-high killing blows. Telaran and I moved fast to flank the only other entrance to cavern beside the one we had entered from. If the giant's yell brought any reinforcements, it would be from that door.
Sure enough, another head poked through, and before the giant could even get the rest of his body through the door, he was dealing with a spear at one side of his throat and a sword at the other. Lorivar charged, but slid on the blood on the floor and ended up careening right into the cauldron of lit oil. What a splash, and although I've seen our strange fighter move as fast as horses before, he never moved quite as quickly as he did then! While that was going on, Nory threw a spray of colored light right into the giant's face as Telaran struck again with his spear, and the reinforcement was dead before he had even begun to join the fight. And even while he fell, Borreau killed the last remaining giant. As quickly as the room had erupted into sound and light, it was quiet again, except for Lorivar's frantic check of his clothing to make sure he wasn't on fire.
After only a minute to catch our breath and count noses to make sure we were all right, we scuttled fast down the hall to see what else might have been warned by our loud enemy. We emerged into a cavern even larger than the first, a huge hall with a throne at the opposite end. The throne was surrounded by a semi-circle column that rose all the way up to the darkened ceiling. At least, I'm sure there was a ceiling up there somewhere. Curtained alcoves were dug into the side walls, each a dozen or more feet above our level. And the only living creatures in this room were giant glow bugs, like armored lightning bugs the size of men, who sat in cages that were hanging near those alcoves.
There were more living creatures to the side of us, though, in a small(er) room lit bright by cooking fires. Women - huge women, ogre and giant women - bustled around the fires grunting and growling at each other in what I suppose was a conversation. What took our attention, though, were the four men - normal-sized, human men - who were crouched in a cage against the far wall. They must have been on the menu.
We charged. I headed straight for the cage and smashed the lock with the hilt of my sword. The sight of a wild little warrior with a naked blade made the women start shrieking in sounds I wouldn't have guessed such huge creatures could make. It was ear-piercing, but when the rest of the party closed on them, they fell quieter. Thank the gods.
The four men quickly told us that they were all that was left of a merchant caravan. We quizzed them quickly on where they were taken. They said they had just left Tilverton - a name that meant nothing to us - and were headed for Shadowdale - ah, that city I had heard of before - when they were ambushed in Tilver's Gap in the Thunder Peaks. When we asked if that was in Cormyr, they laughed at us. Apparently Cormyr is a couple of hundred miles away yet. I felt more crushed than ever by all this cold stone.
Meanwhile, Lorivar had been watching the throne hall. He jumped into the room to announce that there was someone moving in one of the curtained alcoves. Nory and Telaran stayed behind for at first - my best guess is that they were doing something about the women in the room. Lorivar and I sprinted for the main hall. I swear, that wiry fellow could outrun a deer. We found the curtains to both alcoves thrown open. In each alcove was a giant with a ballista pointing down at us.
Lorivar started scrambling up one of the walls like a monkey. Borreau, who was right behind me, headed for the throne and the huge column that wrapped behind it - he was going to get a good firing position. I had picked up a grappling hook a moment ago planning to investigate the alcoves; I didn't need to investigate any more, but the hook was going up anyway - hopefully into a ballista to serve two purposes of messing up the giant's firing and helping me get into that alcove.
As Lorivar climbed, my throw was interrupted by a cut-off shout from behind the column. Borreau had found trouble, and I nearly took my own head off with that hook as I scrambled over to the spot that was supposed to be his firing zone. Sure enough, he was toe-to-toe with another giant. This one wore armor and had a battleaxe, which bit into my arm as we hacked the giant down. With the giant lying on the ground, I could hear the fight still going on in the rest of the room, including Telaran's voice now in the fight, and started to turn and run back out again, but Borreau would not let me go until he prayed a healing over my arm. I was champing at the delay, but he was right: I would have lost enough blood to be useless in moments if not for him.
When I finally got back into view of the main room, the usual swirl of battle chaos was going on. Telaran was climbing into an alcove, but it looked like he had already tried breaching the railing once and had paid for it - half his side was mangled, probably from the ballista bolt which now lay on the floor. The giant in the opposite alcove had his hands full; his face was lit by bright light, probably courtesy of Verence, who was now paying his attention to the other giant, and Lorivar was kicking and fighting for all he was worth against the blinded monster. Nory was also casting from the end of the hall, and before I could decide which giant most needed my help to die, a bizarre scuttering and scrabbling sound made everyone in the hall pause for a moment. A few dark shapes, then a few more, and finally a wave of little shapes - bugs and critters of every kind - descended on the alcove where Lorivar and the blinded giant fought. Both of them started hopping up and down and occasionally shouting as the vermin reached them and started testing for food.
It seems that Nory has learned another new spell.
The new arrivals in the one alcove made my decision easy - I wasn't going to go into either, in case the gnome decided to call more house pests down. I dropped my blades and got out my bow as the second giant's head suddenly glowed like a bonfire. He was effectively blinded, too. Nory chose that moment not to cast more bugs, but to stand in the middle of the room and shout and scream in some strange sounds that made no sense to me, but apparently made plenty of sense to the giants. They both started scrambling at Nory and roaring as if he had just insulted every ancestor in their houses - and maybe he had. One - the one that Nory had been fighting - lost his footing as he tried to clamber over the alcove railing. He made a sharp snapping sound when he hit the floor like thunder and didn't move again.
The other giant managed to be a little more careful and make it to the floor, even though by now he had no hope of finding Nory, who had long since rushed away. I buried arrow after arrow in his, and Telaran swung the loaded and unshot ballista in his alcove around and buried the bolt in the giant's shoulder before sweeping down to help me finish this last monster off.
With the guards cleared out, we took some time to get the men we had rescued ready for travel and to check out the throne room. The throne was made of bones, silver, and gems, and big enough for one of these giants to sit in. An impressive - but pretty creepy - sight. In front of the laid a giant polar bear skin, the hide of a white dragon, and an alabaster foot stool. I think we all got the same idea at once. Verence, who has some experience working with leather, cut a bolt of white dragon hide for each of us to carry home. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to make from it, but I'm sure it's going to look impressive.
We used the polar bear fur to fashion cowls that would keep our merchant friends warm. I quizzed them about how they were brought into this cavern. They said the stairs near where we started would lead up and out, but only one a thin, switchback path up a sheer cliff face, with cold monsters and the entire frost giant community resting along the way. It didn't seem like a very good option, but our magic-users started conferring about making us invisible and giving us flight. We might make it out that way yet, but we were interrupted by a booming question from the far passageway. I have no idea what the question was - it was in that growling giant language. So our answer was to charge toward the sound. We met her halfway - a huge, even for these giants, woman covered in furs, with an iron mace and a golden flagon. She was accompanied by two tundra wolves, which I turned my attention to first. I was able to calm one right away, and the other tried to charge me but I knocked it out cold with the hilt of my sword.
This queen - I think she must have been the queen - was joined by her mate (therefore I'm figuring he was the king), a monstrous man with plate mail, a shield, a sword that would have required two hands for a human to use but looked like a dagger in his paw. The queen didn't take kindly to my pacifying her pets - the next thing I knew I was against the far wall courtesy of her mace and she swung her goblet at me next. I scrambled to my feet and joined the battle as Telaran slipped behind us to fight the king. Nory sent firebolt after firebolt at the giants - all illusions, of course, but they didn't seem convinced of that.
Lorivar left. He returned a moment into the battle with a thick line of rope, which he used to try to wrap himself around the leg of the king. I have no idea what he was up to - he looked a bit like the sailor stories of captains who lash themselves to the mast of their ships during storms. He spent most of the fight attached to the giant's ankle.
After a ferocious fight of mace versus sword, I defeated the woman. Telaran had been doing well enough against the king, but he lost his luck when he was sent clear across the room like a swatted bug. I waded in front of battle with the king, but with his first swing against me, he hit the stone floor so hard his sword shattered into a half-dozen pieces. Verence stepped in, too, and breathed a fireball at the giant. An actual fireball! He explained to me later that it was a potion he had. It sure looked impressive. It hurt the giant, but his blasted tent- sized plate mail was still warding off most of the damage we could do to him.
Our gnome got a brainstorm. As we fought, I saw Nory leap right over our heads and onto the shoulder of the giant. He touched the armor once and was gone again as quickly as a squirrel, but suddenly every clasp and most of the armor itself rusted into pieces and fell at the giant's feet. He died with a look of utter shock on his face and my knife thrown right to the small of his throat that was now invitingly open and unprotected.
The giant rulers had been in what must be their private hall. I hate this room and am glad for the deaths of the two who held it - the place is covered in sick hunting trophies and disgraced animal skins and parts. We're collecting our breath, our booty, and our wits as we decide how we're going to assault the crevice out of here. I'll write more, hopefully, when we are back under the sky and well on our way to Cormyr. I remain,
The Jade Letters are the property and copyright of Beth Griese, not to be published or redistributed without permission.
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