Posted on July 1, 2011
The Acts of the Lords of Rannick, XXIII
Moving on, they spied a cairn a few hours across the plain. Investigating it, they found it to be about giant-sized and fresh. Digging it out, they found a dead giant, who showed signs of having been hit by what Dagfinn somehow recognised as Manticore barbs. Tersplink also found a Wand of Pyrotechnics and Corwyn took the Giant’s good quality fur cape.
As they progressed they came across a stand of massive spreading oaks and spotted a man’s body hanging by his feet from one of the low boughs. Riding over to help him, they found him still alive, but very badly wounded and weak. At that moment a manticore sprang out from the tree and launched a volley of barbs from its tail. As surprising as that was, it wasn’t quite as surprising as all of the barbs missing Arradin and landing in the ground. I think the manticore maybe failed to land a single hit before he was very badly smote by the combined ire of the party, but mostly Albedon’s scorching rays.
The man hanging from the tree was Voyan, a carpenter’s assistant from Sandpoint. He had been grabbed during the raid and shoved in a bag with two other victims and then carried off with great haste by the Stone Giants. Upon questioning, he told them of his treatment. The giants had kept them fed, not much but enough to keep them healthy. The giants seemed to delight in a particular game – placing the food in front of the captives and seeing who took it first. The captives were initially suspicious, but whenever they took food, one of the giants would make a mark on a slate. Voyan wasn’t sure, but he seemed to think the giants were wagering on who took the food first. They became very angry when anyone gave food to the children and made a rule that you could only take your own food.
After the Stone Giant party was ambushed by the manticore, and one of their number killed, the leader parlayed with the beast. So Voyan was strung up in this tree and bled while the Manticore waited, drooling, above. He did not understand the content of the discussion, it being all in Giant. The giants appeared to have taken a disliking to Voyan after quizzing everyone as to what they did in Sandpoint. The majority of people they stole were merchants, or related to merchants, but when he told them he was an assistant to a carpenter, the Stone Giants seemed disappointed and treated him poorly from then on.
After Dagfinn healed him, Voyan was seated on Corwyn’s spare horse and they continued to Ravenmoor where they hoped they’d be able to have Voyan sent back down the trade routes to Sandpoint. Ravenmoor came into sight a little before dark and they hurried to beat the sunset since they knew no-one was able to stay overnight in Ravenmoor.
The town of pretty chalets looked clean and wholesome but was not walled off from the outside. Instead it had a ring of a dozen tall wooden watchtowers that kept guard. It was from one of these towers that they were approached by a friendly young man. He welcomed to the town and encouraged them to trade, but reminded them that for their privacy, they insist that outsiders leave town at sunset. Don told them of the reason for their journey, and asked if any giants had been around Ravenmoor. The watchman told Don that an increase in giant activity had been observed and appeared to have displaced the local Shoanti tribe to the north, but that none had harassed Ravenmoor. There was something weird about the man’s demeanour that Don picked up on; a superficiality to his emotional responses. When he showed sympathy for the people of Sandpoint and expressed concern about the giant activity it was clear to Don that none of that was really bothering him at all. As they found out, everyone in Ravenmoor was like that: All shallow smiles, wholesome contentment and out of date fashion.
The party progressed into town, some to buy provisions and simple materials and others to investigate the Shrine of Saint Ignatzio. The shrine was a well maintained (actually everything in Ravenmoor is well maintained) addition to a large, seemingly undedicated temple. It was being cleaned by two middle aged men who were only too happy to recount the deeds of Saint Ignatzio, a paladin of Aroden, the now-dead patron god of humanity. They knew all the monsters he had slain and great deeds he had accomplished but the party was somewhat distracted by the presence of the Saint himself: A desiccated corpse, dressed in well-polished ceremonial armour lay in state inside the shrine. When he was viewed with a Detect Magic spell, it was revealed that a great many of his items gave off a magical aura.
Sunset came and the party made its way to edge of town as the towns folk began to congregate for their private religious ceremony. A watchman fired an arrow from the closest watchtower and the party had been told to camp no closer to the town than the arrow landed. Arrows go a really long way.
That didn’t stop Tersplink and Don from trying to get back in to town. Percy had been sent to investigate the town, but Percy reported that he had been mobbed by bats and that it was too dangerous for him to go. Tersplink cast Invisibility on himself and began sneaking into town. As soon as he did, he was located by the bats and they swirled around him, causing a lot of noise. So much so that as people left the temple, they all stopped and looked at the disturbance.
Don took a different approach and turned into a bat, allowing him to sneak into and out of the swarm. The limitation of the bat form, however, meant that he couldn’t get much of an idea of what was going on. As the people of Ravenmoor began calmly streaming towards their homes, Don secreted himself in a house and waited to see what the family did when they came home. They went to bed. Silently; not a word was spoken as six people prepared to go to bed with big dreamy faces.
Weirded out, but not threatened, the scouts returned to camp and the next morning set off for another day of plains travel. Eventually they began to approach the Storval Rise a line of cliff face that marks the end of civilised-ish Varisia and the wild Storval plateau. At places the cliff face is 1000ft high, but at the Storval Stairs, the rise is only 400ft. As they neared they spotted a Shoanti spear, driven into the ground point-first. Around the butt were tied a bundle of blue hawk feathers. No-one knew what this meant, so they carried on regardless.
The Storval Stairs are a formidable ancient feature from the long-long-ago: a set of steep and high stairs that once allowed giants access to the lower plains. Despite thousands of years, the stairs are in good condition and the surrounding buildings are still mostly standing. There are two 500ft statues on either side of the stairs. While they were once identical, the leftmost has split and shattered, but the right one is intact and shows a bald patrician figure in robes, bearing a book and a staff. Something niggled at Kerplak until he was able to put his finger in why the face of the statue seemed so familiar to him. Eventually it came to him that he recognized the man’s face from the looping recording in the lower levels of Thistletop. In the recorded projection the man thanked the recipient for their service and that their work would not be forgotten in the coming crisis. He had a commanding and authoritative air about him, but they remembered little else.
That was a long time ago now though and they had the more immediate problem of getting up the stairs. Tersplink flew ahead but saw no danger as the rest of the party tied up their horses as they made the ascent. The stairs were very steep, but a smaller set of steps had been cut into the northern side of the stairs, almost 3/4 of the way up the total of the stairs. It was tough going, but they began making their way to the top, but as Don and Arradin reached the top, four giants leapt out of their hiding place and attacked. The two to the south began pelting Tersplink with rocks while one to the north picked up a prepared canvas full of boulders and heaved it up, sending boulders cascading down the hill and Corwyn, Albedon, Kerplak and Arradin trying to dodge them.
One giant engaged Don, smacking him hard with a stalactite-club before Don set the stone club ablaze with a sneaky druid spell. The giant dropped the club and then dropped Don with a few well placed boulder projectiles. Since giants can hurl a boulder 180ft without it affecting their aim, I’ve got to imagine one being thrown 15ft away is really travelling quite fast. Don lay bleeding on the steps. Dagfinn made his way over, invisibly, and poured some potion down Don’s gaping face hole, rousing him from unconsciousness.
Tersplink was sussed as being a magic user and one of the giants held his boulders, waiting for the flying gnome to cast his spell before trying to interrupt him with a well placed throw. That totally worked, causing Tersplink’s spell to fizzle at his finger tips. He made himself useful by becoming invisible then casting Displacement on Arradin.
Arradin and Corwyn were working the northernmost giants, with the Displacement spell saving Arradin from a pretty severe pasting. She cut down one while the other waded in, still without his club. Kerplak galloped up and fired off two experimental rounds from his grenade launcher, but neither managed to make contact with a giant, so he reverted to puncturing them with crossbow bolts which works really well too.
Albedon meanwhile cut the southernmost rock-flingers with a Wall of Fire spell after sending in a Fireball. When the giants finally plucked up the courage to run through the wall, Albedon maneuvered into position like a billiards player and sent a bolt of lightning through both of them, frying the pair where they stood.
So, triumphant at the head of the Storval Stairs was where we left them; quite out of breath and inhaling burned ozone.