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A Giant in the Silver Marches (3)

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThatSlowTypingG
previous thread: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/4671958/

>Character sheet / Dramatis Personae

You are Ulf, a Giant from the Stillwater plains. Among the tallest of the stone kin, your kind tower above any of the smaller races. With stone or bow you can lay waste to enemies from afar.

In the past you put your natural abilities to good use as a mercenary, working as part of
a siege regiment in the south. Now you've come north into the yet untamed wilds in the hopes of finding greater wealth in the Silver Marches. The prospect of being able to test your skills is also a welcome one.

After passing the great Tyrese airship gate you saw some action along the trade road from the south. You picked up a Kobold named Jib Jab along the way who now accompanies you. He has some training in stealth and scouting giving you a chance to locate enemies for you to hit from range. He's also being trained in the ways of the ranger to help in tracking. Though you generally dislike the thought of small folk sneaking around the kobold is proving useful at times.
In the city of Silver Mantle you've met other giants and plenty of the smaller folk. Some you've done battle alongside, or taken jobs from. From encountering mythical creatures like wendigo, to running escort on gold and platinum shipments, you're started to make some real money here in the north. Though you've only been here for close to two months, there is still much time available for work this season.

Time will certainly be needed if you intend to search for ancient ruins in distant locations. Giants wander far, see many distant places but rarely stop there. Most only putting down roots long enough to have a few children before moving on. There are exceptions of course, some settling for one reason or another like food, work, friends and allies.

While you had hoped for some adventure, what you increasingly want is to find a place for those few giants that wish to stop for awhile. A place of their own. Maybe there was once such a place in ancient times. If so maybe you can learn of its history from ruins. While giants aren't exactly dwindling in numbers you know they were once more numerous.

After talking with local enchanters and giants from farther north, you've picked up a few clues that may lead to ruins from a war millennia ago. The conflict between the Titans and the smaller folk left plenty of artifacts in the south that kingdoms making up the Empire still cling to. You'd rather not become so petty as all of them, but a few artifacts could provide enough resources to establish a new home.
Rolls in the Silver Marches quest.
Available roll types will be impacted by your training in a skill range. You're an archer and as such any sort of roll involving aim will be best of 3.

Untrained rolls will use an average of at least 3 rolls. If you feel that an archer appropriate skill should be used for a particular roll feel free to argue it with an explanation.

1d20 is generally used for combat
1d100 for certain types of abilities and out of combat actions

Roll ranges are: (d20 example)
(1)Crit fail / 2-7 fail / 8-12 average / 13-19 good / (20)crit success

Your Adamant Poisoned Golden Tree Bow [Adabar]? allows you to crit on an 18 or higher.
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Last time you met a giant by the name of Skadi while out escorting a diplomatic mission. Like you she is an archer, but the people of her village have developed composite bows specifically for use by giants. Your own have either been repurposed from ballista or crafted by smaller folk and simply scaled up. According to Skadi this is not ideal.

Cellica has been nice enough to contact a druid she knows in the dwarven scouts to help modify your bow. The Druid, an older dwarf who introduces herself as Bolinda Ironmane, finds you and Skadi trying out various types of trick shots in a field just outside the city walls. She's actually the mother of Garn Ironmane who you did some bounty hunting work with.

It occurs to you that most druids you've run into since arriving in the north tend to be women for some reason.
"I know right?!" Bolinda exclaims. "None of my sons have any interest in it at all. Or actually none of my kids do, they'd rather pound stone. Even Garn, but he was good enough that the scouts decided they wanted him to stay on.
Are he and Tara getting along? I'm hoping for grandkids at some point this century but none of my kids seem to be in any hurry. Not getting any younger here."

Seeing as you've only been out in the field with Garn once you're not really the best judge of such things.

"Let me know if either of them go and get themselves into trouble. Dwarven stubbornness has it upsides but it just so happens to have a whole heap of downsides. So, Ulf was it? What are we doing with this bow? It's serviceable in its current state but as your friend no doubt pointed there's plenty of room for improvement."

>Current bow optimization
>Approximately 60/40 Range / Rate of fire

Reminder: I am not an expert when it comes to archery. If you feel there are better optimizations or mechanics available please say so.
I've been considering changing the center ring to 3 shot but I don't want to make your already OP bow too powerful.

We had 3 votes last thread but they were somewhat split between range and Rate of Fire.
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voted for range last thread (>>4721540), changing to attached image
I vote for range
While we do still need more votes I'll get things moving along and we can hopefully get more opinions on it through the day.

Bolinda gets to work on the bow with direction from Skadi and using her unstrung bow as an example. Both point out that it would be best to leave the newly upgraded bow unstrung except when you're about to use it. In theory golden tree bark should be more resistant to damage over time than a normal composite bow, but they cant say how that will work out with a giant bow.

"Make sure you're happy with it before risking putting enchantments on it."

Skadi, who is quite happy with the state of her own bow, wonders about enchantments. You explain some of the various options you've previously looked at. Non-aligned magic enchantments that should theoretically work with any kind of arrows, then the elemental types.

Skadi shakes her head.
"So many kinds of magic. It sounds as though elemental types would be too limited."

Bolinda seems to agree with her.
"They're definitely something you only want to get if you're preparing for a particular type of opponent. For instance if you were fighting Frost Wyrms or giant centipedes. Those bastards are hard to kill, so it pays off. Maybe not so much for a giant given the costs."

You'd been quoted about 16 gold for a basic enchantment which Bolinda agrees is probably accurate for a bow of your size since it's effectively a siege weapon. An improved enchantment would cost double that unless you had the ores needed.

"Palladium ore?"
Bolinda claps her hands. "Yes! That stuff is expensive."
If that's the case you could certainly afford an improved enchantment now.

"Is there anything more powerful than that?"

The dwarf thinks it over.
"Hmm... yes but nobody will sell them to you. Greater weapon enchantments and stronger are extremely rare because of how dangerous they are. Kingdoms dont want them falling into the wrong hands."

Skadi thinks she'll simply follow your example and buy some enchanted arrows for the time being. Speaking of arrows, one thing she does like is that your arrows are generally of better quality than what she can make in the field. You tell her of your arrangement with the city guard to store excess arrows when you buy them in bulk. That the city fortifications are using some of them for their ballista apparently amuses her.
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The rest of the day is spent finishing out more tests of the bow and letting Skadi try out a few enchanted arrows. One of them manages to break on a rock but she promises to pay for a replacement. Money isn't a completely foreign concept to her but having so much at once certainly is. She's amazed at how much the giants have been paid.

"Part of that is because of how dangerous things might have become if we'd had to fight so many ogres."
"I do not doubt that," Skadi answers. "If we had not been looking down on them from the ledge I would have been much more concerned."

Other jobs probably wont pay as well unless you or others can convince those doing the hiring that you're worth the coin.

The next day things in town are just as busy as before. Plenty of new faces are present around the shops and bars. Carts are rolling past laden with goods or in some cases prisoners.

A rather well dressed goblin runs up trying to get your attention.
"You're the giant Ulf right? I work for Lady Erjia's potion shop. She wanted me to tell you that she'll need a blood sample to continue work on giant potions like you'd asked."

>Are you okay with this or did you have other questions regarding the work?
>Are you okay with this
You thank the goblin and head over to the shop. When you arrive you're just in time to see a half-elf sellsword rushing out the door. Erjia sticks her head out a window, shouting after him.
"And don't come back until you have the five hundred silver you owe me!"


Seeing you the woman's demeanor instantly changes to that of a pleasant business woman.
"I have no problems with paying customers. Thank you for stopping by. I've made some progress with the potion you asked for but I need a blood sample for testing."

It only takes a few minutes for her to collect a small vial of blood. Most of that is spent trying to get through your tough skin. She seems satisfied with the minuscule amount however.
"Giants are similar to dwarves in many respects. Immutable almost, quite the opposite of elves. I need to make sure my potions won't have any ill effects before I go selling them to any of you."

"The blood will help?"
"Oh yes. Though you should be careful who you give blood to. I know some clerics are trying to find ways of storing blood for use in some non-magical medical procedures. That's very noble of them, but some mages can use a person's blood to place curses on them or otherwise inflict harm. So always be careful not to donate to just anybody."

You've heard tales around the camp fire about blood magic but you didn't realise it could work like that.

After this you meet up with Skadi to introduce her to a few people around town. Srayagoth, Enidon and Antonio are good starting points to make sure she gets her order of enchanted arrows placed. Srayagoth thinks the Titan metals expedition could be ready in just a few more days. He's not sure what the holdup is. You'll need to talk to Tenn about it.

Explaining that Antonio was the one who did up your armor Skadi questions its effectiveness. Only stronger bow shots have been able to punch through it while still causing injury, and even those have been minor. Most arrows fired by the goblins in your last battle only managed to poke through the weaker sections. The much heavier steel reinforced bracer has so far remained impenetrable. That might have changed if fighting the ogres.

The leather worker is glad to hear that your gear is holding up alright. After Skadi informs him that she'll consider buying a few pieces, Antonio is interrupted before he can respond. A rather bulky looking woman approaches from behind and slaps him over the head with a rolled up bundle of paper.
"No you won't be the one helping her, I'll be doing it. I'm not about to give you an excuse
to see a young lady take off parts of her clothes."
With that she swats him again.
"Dearest I- ow! I was about to call for you!"
"Sure you were. Last time was just a fluke you're going to tell me."
"It was!"
"And the dwarf?"
"I told you she was standing on a chair. Through the curtain I thought it was you."
"So you're saying I look like a dwarf now?"
"That's not- ow!"

Leaving this domestic disturbance to work itself out you head for the hiring hall to see about available work. Quite a few people you recognise are hanging around in the assembly field next door. Different groups of sellswords are chatting or trying to work out who to team up with. Jib Jab is already here working with one of the rangers to increase his tracking skills.

Cellica is talking with Kossia and a few others from his band. The centaurs Neia and Arix are present and seem to be having an argument. Ithica Rilynn and her friends are hanging around as well.

Hearing the flapping of wings you turn to see Ocette gliding past, the young harpy then begins to fly circles around you.
"Hello! Argigoth and Gegor aren't back yet so Cellica is trying to figure out who we should team up with."
Attempting to keep an eye on the bird woman soon begins to make you dizzy. Eventually Cellica notices what's going on and calls her friend over.
"Ocette, stop circling people like a buzzard."
When you head into the courtyard of the hiring hall itself Tenn Duskarm soon has the window open at your level.

"Ulf, it was too busy to talk the other night but I thought for sure that you'd have ended up fighting ogres on that diplomatic mission. I even bet twenty silver that you'd kill at least two ogres yourself."
You're sorry to disappoint.

"It's fine. Everything turned out well and that's the important thing. There's a whole slew of odd folk in from the south with the fast caravans. A crazy mage thinks he can use dowsing to locate precious metals from dozens of miles away."
"How successful has he been?"
"Eh, I guess it worked in the south but not much luck so far here in the north. Claims the high concentration of magic here in the city is throwing off his readings so he needs to get farther away from it. I think he's a swindler myself, but don't take my word for it. You might want to ask for pay up front or ask Flora to negotiate your rates."

Of course that might make him less likely to hire giants in the future if the outing isn't successful.
"Anything else?"

Flipping to the next page Tenn grimaces.
"Ugh, drakes, disgusting creatures. A few have been spotted coming down from the mountains to the south west. People are worried they might be migrating in the direction of Lansdowne. Brown drakes, not black ones thankfully or it would be an actual emergency. This shouldn't be any rush. Those things tend to take their time. Have you hunted them before?"

You shake your head.
"No. Cousins drove some off from the iron hills but that's about it. They did tell me how tough they were. Big enough to take arrows fired by giants. Dangerous jaws and spit."

"The good news is they're not as dangerous as black drakes, those spit acid. Brown drakes spit just sticks to things and slows them down long enough to chomp them. I hear there's a glue factory in the south that wants to capture some but nobody's been crazy enough to try it."

"Anything else?"

"The guard wants a team to sweep the west road after reports of highwaymen came in. Most groups are holding off on this one because a group of paladins are expected to be coming back that way soon.
The Red Blades are finally paying for someone to investigate reports of giant spiders down river.
Nothing else exciting right now except the one prospecting mission you said you were interested in. Everything else is basic mercenary work for the tribes fighting to the east and escort work. Caravans, prospectors, etc.
Oh there's a mercy mission of sorts being set up by the clerics. They want to try and wipe out a few more common diseases that a lot of the local tribes suffer from. They want a dedicated escort of their own even if they'll be accompanying the trade caravans. Apparently they're worried people will think they're there to spread disease not cure it."
"So what's the holdup on the Titan Metals Prospecting mission?"

"Well, uh, a few things. Firstly is muscle, both in the short term in the way of an escort, and long term in how they're going to get any metals back to the city that are found. The detractors are worried that the places the metals might turn up will be too hard to for shipments to and from. Worse that orc tribes might take control of any mine that's set up."

"That..." You stop for a moment to formulate a reply. "Isn't that like putting the cart before the horse? We don't even know if it's there yet."

Tenn agrees with you.
"It does sound a bit silly. The short term "muscle" problem is making sure they have an escort in the hear and now. Every single giant in town up and leaving on that diplomatic mission gave the Enchanters Collective a bit of a shock I guess. They need to know that there is going to be an escort here ready to go by the time they get everything ready. From here on out they could still get the mission together but the longer it's delayed the more time it will take to assemble.
Right now they can be ready in two days if they're guaranteed an escort. A week from now it'll be three days, and so on."

"So sooner would be better is what you're saying?"
"Yes, but if something important is going on then hey, at most it's going to cost an extra day of prep time for the expedition for every week you wait."

>Titan Metals Prospecting (ADMIN / ENC) (Weeks)
Is there interest in any of the jobs below, or did you want to begin putting a team together for the Titan Metals Prospecting mission?

Local Contracts
>The Highwaymen (Army/Guard)
Sweep the west road of potential hostiles.

>Dowsing for Ruins (IND/ENC)
Escort a mage who thinks he can use dowsing to locate precious metals.

>Investigate Giant Spiders (RBLD)
Look into reports from traders and trappers about spiders down river.

Long Term Contracts (weeks)

>Brown Drakes (SLVT)
Recently spotted coming down from the mountains, people are worried they might be migrating in the direction of Lansdowne.

>A Strong Sword Arm (IND/Tribal)
Chief Urag's contacts in the city have begun to offer contracts for good fighters.

>Trade Missions (MMRC/IND) +
With the yearly slow caravans now in town additional trade missions are being undertaken with the local tribes. While the pay is not great it would allow you to trade for orcish runes for your armor.

>Mineral Prospecting +
With summer on the horizon now is the time for prospecting expeditions.

>Gas Prospecting (Air Corps) +
With mithril production started the air corps needs gas for their airships before they'll risk them in the north.

>Mercy Mission (PaladinS/Clerics) +
Clerics want to try and wipe out a few more common diseases that many local tribes suffer from.

+ = Jobs of this type will be available through the rest of the season.
>>Investigate Giant Spiders (RBLD)
Spiders have poison, poison makes killing easier, especially for tiny kobolds.
Getting to this point only took about 6 hours longer than I expected it to.
>Trade Missions (MMRC/IND) +
>With the yearly slow caravans now in town additional trade missions are being undertaken with the local tribes. While the pay is not great it would allow you to trade for orcish runes for your armor.
>>Investigate Giant Spiders (RBLD)
>Investigate Giant Spiders (RBLD)
So we're going after some spiders, or at least having a quick look-see. Though fairly close by all things considered, it's still a good idea to take a team who can move quickly. That means horses for any of the smaller folk.

Kossia and his people are still a bit short on horses but you could probably recruit a couple of them. Cellica and Ocette you know are capable of keeping up as are most of the others you recognized in the field to the west.

Then there are the giants. Sétanta probably couldn't be bothered to go on a scouting mission, but one or more of the others might be up for it.

This might also be an opportunity to get to know a few people with the Red Blades, since they're the ones who posted this job.

Did you want to mostly recruit people you already know or use this as an opportunity to meet new people?
>this as an opportunity to meet new people
>>this as an opportunity to meet new people
Let's get some networking done.
use this as an opportunity to meet new people, yup.
Deciding that this would be a good a time as any to meet some of the people working for the Red Blades, you ask around to see who might be available. One of the first you run into is surprisingly enough someone you've met before. Urshul the orc spellblade you last met working for the Air Corps scout division is there. Though lacking the distinctive uniform she appears just as well armed, now wearing the crossed dagger insignia of the blades.

"I hope this is not an awkward question, but what are you doing here?"
In response to your question the orc woman briefly looks away while making a face, then turns back to you.

"With that big shakeup happening among the upper ranks here I decided it might be beter to spend some time in the reserve force. Make a bit of money, avoid questions that nobody really wanted an excuse to ask. The blades didn't really want me but I offered to help train another spellblade user so here I am."

Whatever her reasons you know she's capable and doesn't seem one for needless violence. She could have beat the hell out of a kid that ran at her with a pitchfork but didn't. Telling her of your intention to take the scouting mission to look into the spider situation, you ask who might be available with the blades to help out.

"We have a decent roster right now," she admits.

Her apprentice is Charlotte Weaver, a human woman who is still learning the basics of mastering a spell weapon. If Urshul is going so is Charlotte as she badly needs the experience. As the blades dont generally care for the so called "savage races" they must be desperate for an adequate trainer.

For heavy hitters there's Gimira Hardfall, a dwarf barbarian who wields a dangerous looking hammer... axe? Shortened polearm?
Amedee Heiroris, an elven paladin from the south who wears the more bronze coloured armor of the Dawnbreaker order.
Laeroth Balsys, another southern elf but she's a ranger.
A local half-elf by the name of Bayern is a skilled rogue who is good with his blades, but his only ranged weapons are throwing knives.
Annika Dam is an archer who arrived a few days ago with a more recent group of Luthienites.
Last is Jacques Fosse who is a cleric that has worked with the blades most of his career.

>Who did you want to recruit for the scouting mission? (Maximum of 6)
> Urshui
> Charlotte Weaver
> Gimira Hardfall
> Laeroth Balsys
> Annika Dam
> Jacques Fosse
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Schedule for this week. With my province once again in lockdown I won't be doing much except for friday and saturday. I'll be seeing if I can apply for the temporary layoff thing since I'll probably make more doing that than anything else right now.

In slightly easier to read format. Sorry, thought this list was in the post. This has been kind of an off day. I'll likely be stopping here and resuming in the morning.

>1) Who did you want to recruit for the scouting mission? (Maximum of 6)
Urshul (Orc F Spellblade) [Air Corps Scout Division] (reservist)
Charlotte Weaver (Human F Spellblade)*
Gimira Hardfall (Dwarf F Barbarian Warhammer)
Amedee Heiroris (Southern Elf M Paladin)
Laeroth Balsys (Southern Elf M Ranger)
Bayern (Half-Elf M Rogue)
Annika Dam (Human F Archer)
Jacques Fosse (Human M Cleric)

>2) Bow specialization
Could use some more votes.
supportin >>4739256
may as well, although the pay will be divided more hands are always good
supporing >>4739256
Charlotte Weaver
Gimira Hardfall
Rate of fire but I may have voted for that last thread. Also hope your feeling better tstg.
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This is a sort of midway point between the 3 votes so far. (Rather than making the center ring 3 shot I'm thinking of just extending the 2 shot area.) Thoughts?
Urshul and her apprentice are your first choice, as is Gimira Hardfall. If the spiders turn out to be as large as that undead one the necromancer was riding on your first outing then heavy hitters will be welcome.
Though you're taking Jib Jab another Ranger would help since odds are they'll still be a bit better than your kobold companion. Maybe they can show him a thing or two?

As your bow has yet to be tested in combat another archer could be useful. Especially if the group needs to stay back and deal with enough spiders to get through an area. Lastly a cleric is essential should anyone end up poisoned.

You briefly consider taking the rogue, but you're maxing out on party size for this job as it is. As for the paladin you have zero interest in them.

Urshul says she'll help get the team together.

While that's happening you decide it might be best to tell the other giants you'll be out of town for a few days. Especially Skadi so she isn't looking for you to do more bow training. That's a thing you may have to do more of now, keeping in touch with the others in regards to where all of you will be. Especially if you plan to go looking for more ruins.

After picking up Jib Jab you meet up with the rest of the team. Most of the others are surprised to find out that Urshul wasn't joking about a giant allying with them for the mission. Gimira, who seems to like this, raises an armored fist in the air.

"Yeah! Stone kin! You hit em high, I'll hit them low!"
A few of the others chuckle when they hear this earning a scowl from the dwarf.
"He's a giant, the two of us can make height jokes with each other but the rest of you lay off."

Some of the others appear to be a bit put off by your Kobold's presence but you figure they can deal with it.

Before setting out you make sure everyone knows what the job entails. Head down river, investigate the reports of giant spiders people are seeing. Confirm if it's an actual threat. If they're just slightly larger than average spiders it probably wont be worth dealing with aside from a caravan escort needing an extra fire mage to burn the place out.

"Sounds straight forward," says Laeroth. "Let's do it."

As the group departs Urshul hangs back and whispers to you.
"I didn't realise Laeroth was a man. Elves."
There is still a bit of debate going on as to how best to get to the area the spiders have been reported in. Taking the road until it reaches the river and then trekking north should get you there quickly but the terrain around the river is difficult due to marshlands.
Enough of the party are experienced enough with the area that they think the group could swing through the allied orc territories and get there just as quickly without the harsher terrain. You just may have to worry about hunters and bands of orcs as you've seen.

Urshul points out that you could potentially get information out of the tribes that are closer to the area.

Did you want to stick to the road or swing through orc territory?
>swing through orc territory
Roll 1d100 for avoiding encounters with patrols.
Rolled 13 (1d100)

If your previous encounters with the more friendly tribes are any indication they'll be reluctant to get into a real fight with a giant nearby.

The Red Blades for the most part turn out to have good horses. Those who have spent much of their lives in the area are quite knowledgeable of the back trails through the forests. A few times you have to put actual effort into keeping up with them. Keeping up this pace should allow you to shave most of a day off the normal travel time.

Early the second morning there's an encounter with orcs but not the one you'd expected. There's a great deal of shouting and screaming going on along with the clashing of blades.

Gimira curses, pulling her horse to a stop while trying to figure out what direction the fighting is. Laeroth points just slightly south of due west.
"It sounds like whoever is fighting is headed north. Do we want to get involved in the tribes fighting?"

Urshul answers by spurring on her horse and charging ahead. The dwarf laughs, readying her weapon and following after.

"Aw hell, she's gonna be one of those," Jacques complains as the rest of you set off in pursuit.

Breaking through a tree line you catch up only to find a full on skirmish raging. Dozens of orcs from two different tribes are fighting for control of several wagons that are trying to escape north. These look to be wagons from one of the trade caravans but they're bring driven exclusively by orcs of a tribe with purple war paint.

Urshul and Gimira are already riding in, attacking members of the northern tribe. When the rest of the party catches up to you they likewise ready themselves for a fight.
"Those ones on the wagons ain't locals, they's from the north!" Jacques shouts.

"If they're not loaded down with stolen goods they'll be full of prisoners," Laeroth warns. "Try not to put any arrows through the wagons."

Did you want to help out allies fighting in the general melee in order to break the hostile tribe? Or would you rather help catch the wagons? Or did you have another plan in mind?
>catch the wagons
Catch the wagons.
"I'm going for the wagons!" You shout.
All but leaping forward you stomp across the northern edge of the battlefield building up speed into a sprint. Behind you Annika says she's going with the giant while Laeroth tells the rest to help out Urshul and Gimira.

A handfull of wagons are clear of the worst fighting, but a few more at the back are still being harassed by riders from friendly tribes. You think there might be a few sellswords from the Mantle helping as well, but you don't have time right now to stop and check. Stopping the first wagon should in theory slow the others down. Or at the very least cause them to divert and potentially run into trees and rougher underbrush.

With bow strung the issue of how best to catch the wagons is now the question. Shooting the horses will certainly stop them dead but will make it harder for the wagons to be recovered later. Taking aim at the drivers runs the risk of stray fire hitting anyone in the back of the wagon.

There are other options of course. You are a giant, and grappling the drivers using your dagger, bracer or even bare hands are possible.

Then there's Jib Jab. You could drop him on the roof of another wagon and let him deal with the drivers. Or simply help protect one or more after you've stopped them.

>1) Ulf
[ ] Take down the horses
[ ] Try to snipe the drivers
[ ] Grapple the drivers
[ ] Write-in

>2) Jib Jab
[ ] Have him help with the first wagon, then guard it
[ ] Let him handle the second wagon
[ ] Write-in
>[ ] Grapple the drivers
>[ ] Have him help with the first wagon, then guard it
I will second this.
Roll 2d20
Rolled 14, 9 = 23 (2d20)

Rolled 7, 6 = 13 (2d20)

"Jib Jab, help with the first wagon. I am going to grapple the drivers, jump aboard then."

As you close with them, arrows begin to fly back and forth. Orcs aboard trying to deter you from approaching while Annika return fire. Putting your bow away you draw your knife, trying to deflect as many arrows as possible with your bracer. Several of them land hits on you but none serious enough to have much impact.

The orc archer begins to panic as you grab hold of the wagon seat. In response he throws his bow into your face causing your slash with the dagger to land between him and the driver. The back swing still manages to wound him.

By now Jib Jab is aboard and dodging arrows from the second wagon. There's enough fire to keep him from doing much.

Your weight on the wagon's right side is beginning to slow it somewhat, or at least pull it aside, making it difficult for the driver to maintain control. The now wounded orc passenger hurls a hatchet that strikes your upper chest armor but bounces off. Before you can try to attack them again he leaps onto your arm, trying to break your grip from the wagon. It momentarily works, causing both you to stop and the wagon wheel to run over your foot.

Backing away and sending the orc flying with a punch, you notice that you're in a good position to stop the second wagon now. Or would you rather chase after the first wagon which is now weaving between the trees?

[ ] Resume pursuit of the first wagon
[ ] Second wagon (Bonus to attack)

Roll 1d20
Rolled 1 + 1 (1d2 + 1)

Is it possible to do multi dice? I dont think I've ever tried.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Rolled 18 (1d20)

>Resume pursuit of the first wagon
Nope, just one type of dice allowed.
Rolled 14 (1d20)

>[ ] Resume pursuit of the first wagon
Rolled 11 (1d20)

>Resume pursuit of the first wagon
Conflicted over which to chase after next, you step out of the way just in time for the second wagon to race past. By now Annika has caught up and puts an arrow into the orc guard on the third wagon.

Deciding you'd better do something you lean in and tackle the front of the third wagon. The drivers legs are crushed by your arm and you can hear the sound of wood cracking over the screaming of the horses. The wagon still has enough speed built up that your feet dig furrows into the ground.

The back wheels lift off the ground and for a moment it seems like the entire thing is going to topple over. Making things either better or worse depending on your standpoint, the front tongue snaps off the wagon setting the horses free. Eventual the weight in the back is enough to bring the back end down onto solid ground.

Standing up you grab the wounded driver by the front of his armor and send him flying off into the distance. You have places to be and with broken legs he won't be getting back to the damaged wagon any time soon.

Annika is continuing to follow the second wagon with the fourth having avoided you now following after her. A fifth and sixth wagon have pulled to a stop farther back, their drivers cutting the horses free and riding them bare back into the woods to avoid more of your allies.



Hearing the distant noises of an alarmed kobold you take off after the first wagon once more. After being thrown off course the wagon has been cutting a swath through underbrush, leaving a trail even you find easy to follow. There are also enough low lying branches in places that Jib Jab must be having a hard time hanging onto the wagon cover.

Picking up the pace you duck beneath branches following the continued sounds from ahead. The driver has been trying to find a trail that will lead farther north but they're clearly not that familiar with the area. A few minutes of running later you catch up shortly after he finds a good track to follow.

Jib Jab is now in the back of the wagon, trying to get a clear shot at the driver around the side with his hand crossbow.

"Hang on, I'm almost there!" you shout, as much to encourage the kobold as the scare the orc.
The driver looks back around the side of the wagon, spotting you and almost getting a crossbow bolt in the face for his trouble. After a few quick turns to the left and right in an attempt to shake Jib Jab off the wagon starts to speed up. Clearly he hopes to outrun you.

That's not happening.

Putting on another burst of speed you tell Jib Jab to hang on then grab either side of the wagon and plant your feet. Your feet leaving drag marks in the ground once again, the wooden frame groans in protest and you hear a sharp shout of alarm from the front. The orc must have been thrown from his seat as he soon fetches up against your shins.

When the wagon at last comes to a stop Jib Jab jumps down and shoots the orc in the knee. From the muffled scream you think one of the horses might also have broken his jaw.

Did you want to leave Jib Jab here to keep an eye on things while you check on the others, or focus on getting this cart back to the main group?

[ ] Leave Jib Jab here, search for the others
[ ] Escort this wagon back
[ ] Write-in?
>[ ] Escort this wagon back
> Check what's inside real quick, then escort the wagon back.
>Leave Jib Jab here, search for the others

Given how far off track you are it might be best to escort this wagon back to the others. After seeing what's inside of course.

Lifting the flap you see that it's packed full of well secured crates and at least three unconscious bodies. Double checking from the front you find that there are two human women, one human male and an orc female. Jib Jab thinks they've been drugged as neither of you can wake them.

Tying up the wounded orc raider the two of you try to find the main path back to the south that the other wagons had been following. Rolling along at a slower speed to avoid more damage to the wagons, you reckon it takes an hour and a half to get back to the site of the battle.

Dead and wounded litter the area, though less than you might have expected given the numbers present before. Jacques along with several other clerics and shamen are hard at work tending to the survivors. Once the worst of the wounded are looked after he takes a moment to see to the rescued traders. A few orcs from the allied tribes take temporary custody of your prisoner.

Some of the party is still missing having gone after the other wagons. Urshul eventually returns with Charlotte and Laeroth. Annika is slung over her horse unconscious having taken a number of arrow wounds.
"Cleric, get over here!" the spellblade orders.

While the others help Jacques with the arrows, a pale looking Charlotte dismounts and heads over to some nearby bushes to throw up. Over on the other side of the field it looks like Gimira is in talks with your allies regarding the prisoners.

[ ] Check on Charlotte (What say?)
[ ] See if you can get a bounty on your prisoner
[ ] Write-in?
>Check on Charlotte
Ask them about the battle I guess.
>[ ] Check on Charlotte (What say?)
See how she is holding up after such a chaotic event.

Also make sure to also make sure Jib Jab.
>[ ] Check on Charlotte
Best to check in on Charlotte. Along the way you also make sure to ask Jib Jab if he made it through okay. Hanging onto the top of the wagon for dear life was certainly scary, especially when it veered off into the trees. He'd prefer to not do that again if possible. Fortunately his combination of armor and wolf pelt are tough enough that he avoided any serious injury.

If the wagon had gotten any farther away he had been planning to use an enchanted fire bolt to block the path ahead.
"When did I get you fire arrows?"
"Found near wounded harpy. One we got bounty on."
Right. You might need to check what other things Jib Jab has been finding at battle sites. Not now though.

"Charlotte, how are you holding up? That must have been quite a battle."

Coughing a bit the young woman stands up straight, clearly trying to pretend nothing's the matter.
"I-I've never been in a battle with more than one or two opponents. Those were closer to street fights. This was just supposed to be a scouting mission. I didn't think I'd have to do anything like this for a couple of seasons."

"You're alive, that's a good start! How did you do?"
"I spent a lot of time blocking and backtracking, enough that Urshul yelled at me when she noticed. She is so much stronger than me, are all orc women that strong?"

You're not a good judge such things.
"Did you down anyone?"
"Um, I wounded one in the back, and focused enough sharpness magic into my blade that it cut through another orc's weapon. After that he ran away."

Charlotte leans against a nearby tree still looking unwell and clearly trying to avoid the site of the battlefield.
"I'm not used to seeing that much blood."

[ ] You'll get used to it, it takes time
[ ] Have you considered other jobs?
[ ] You're clearly not a warrior
[ ] Write-in
The first few battles are always the hardest.
supporting >>4741340
>Have you considered other jobs?
"The first few battles are always the hardest," you encourage her.
"It's true these things generally take time but life is not always so cooperative. The important thing is to find a way through and learn from it."

You point to her water skin.
"Also, water helps."
"After throwing up."
"Oh. Thank you."

When Annika is back on her feet she confirms that at least one wagon got away. As the allied riders begin to filter back they confirm that many others that had stolen horses also escaped into the woods. The good news is that most of the traders and artisans who were captured have been freed and there are enough captives now to negotiate a prisoner exchange through a neutral tribe or perhaps the druids.

Urshul does manage to get a few prisoners to talk. Apparently the raid may have been because the tribes to the north need to pay tribute increasingly powerful warlords across the plains.
"We've been getting reports that the black tongue tribes farther north have been trying to subjugate the more nomadic tribes that live in the plains. Maybe these ones were trying to get ahead of the game and throw in with them now? Paying a tribute of southern goods and skilled tradesmen might have earned them a respite for a year or two."

"Is this an important development?" you have to wonder.

Gimira shakes her head.
"It's not the worst thing but it isn't great either. If a warlord subjugates or unites the plains tribes it will threaten the west road. If they spread from there it could cut off all trade north of the Roaring River. We've got a lot of prospectors out there."

Urshul says she'll file a report when you return to the city. If the caravan guards don't do so first. For now you have spiders to investigate.

Did you want to continue on for the rest of the day to try and make up for lost time? Or would you rather rest up and see that traders get back to the nearby village safely?
I think rest would be a good idea. We are just on a scouting mission after all. Lets give everyone time to recover and help the traders get back.

Might not hurt to see what they have for sale while we are at it.
+1, we have some coin on us, maybe they have something useful.
I've been working on getting stuff together for the next post but it will have to go up tomorrow.
ok ~ Thanks for running today.
Thanks for running!
Given the ordeal the traders have just been through and the fight your wounded are recovering from you suggest seeing the wagons back to the nearby village. Jacques points out he could put the time to good use getting more people fixed up. He's done enough to keep anyone from dying but hasn't cleared the sleeping poison from those who had been abducted.

By the time the impromptu convoy reaches the fortified settlement, a so called oppidum, Jacques has most of the traders starting to wake up. Though alarmed they're quite grateful for the rescue. It's much the same for the rest of the traders who had been inside the village when the fighting started. There's disappointment that some were taken but gratitude so many were rescued.

A number of the caravan leaders are annoyed with their hired escort having failed to prevent the abduction of their people. The theft of wagons, horses and trade goods seem to be of greater concern to them. You suspect the sellswords had been more worried about security issues from the local tribe rather than an attack from external forces.

The prisoners you came back with are being taken to a holding area. A number of orcs from the local tribe are already arguing with a trader over what is to be done with them.

As you do have some spare coin this might be a good time to see what the orcs and traders have for sale. There are plenty of mundane goods and others you did not expect. Everything from raw materials like metals, leather and furs, to gems, potions and enchanted items. While in the city enchanted amulets might be made largely of finished metals, here the orcs prefer gems.

You hear Gimira shout; "Yes!" as she heads for a few orcs selling various forms of alcohol.

Annika and Laeroth inspect bundles of arrows along with materials for arrow fletching. Urshul, who is keeping a close eye on Charlotte, heads for a potion and poultice seller. Jacques is staying back with the wounded, seeing about doing the most good with the least healing so he doesn't exhaust himself.

With so many things for sale or barter you're not sure where to start first.
>What sort of things are you looking for?
>you're not sure where to start first
In other words my list of trade goods is too long.

Alcohol & Food
Furs & Leather
Weapons (enchanted or otherwise)
Enchanted Items & Runes
Potions & Medical supplies
>Enchanted Items & Runes
something to protect against arrows
Seconding this
Looking around you eventually find an apprentice shaman that is trading in magic items. There are even some arrows here, though none big enough for you to use. Asking about if it might be possible to get a few of your arrows enchanted the shaman answers that the could finish three by morning.

Most of the arrow upgrades cost the same or more than they would in the city. A few do stand out though, especially fire ones which remain overpriced in Silver Mantle.

>Fire- Grants additional heat/fire damage (Incompatible with ice bow)
18s (Basic)
36s (Improved)
90s (AoE)

40s (Improved)
100s (AoE)

>Sonic / Thunder
30s (Improved)
75s (AoE)

>Enfeeblement (incompatible with holy bow)
38s (Improved)
95s (AoE)

560s Basic Spirit magelock
1120s Improved Spirit magelock

>Amulets (You can make use of 2 amulets at a time, more will result in penalties)
520s Amulet of Protection (Physical defense)
498s Amulet of Stoneskin
640s Amulet of wound closure (WARNING: Not a substitute for healing!)
660s Amulet of poison resist
1170s/7g Pristine Amulet (Protection from curses, poison, hexes,etc)
328s Amulet of minor strength
1312s Amulet of Lesser Giant strength (No effect on giants)
700s Amulet of vigor
880s Amulet of silence
1082s Anti-spirit amulet (prevents magic-regeneration)

>Ring of stone fist
236s (Basic)
500s (Improved) (Ranged attack)

>Runes of protection (Physical defense)
143s (Basic)
290s (Improved) Will recover from minor damage, may need recharge from a mage
>Runes of warding (magic protection)
143s (Basic)
290s (Improved) Will recover from minor damage, "

The Shaman regretfully informs you that your armor is not ideally shaped for the use of runes. Being made up of what are essentially leather scale sections, putting runes on it would be difficult. Though challenging it should be possible for a sufficiently skilled leather worker to craft custom pieces of armor layered in such a way to incorporate the runes into them. You'd have to buy the runes first and provide them to the craftsmen. That will be a bit time consuming.

Or the more expensive option is to rune the various sections that make up your current armor.
If there are specific types of magic items you guys would be interested in seeing feel free to suggest them.
>520s Amulet of Protection (Physical defense)
Seems like it would be all around helpful.

Maybe check with Jib Jab to see if he has anything he is trying to sell or pick up. He seems to be gathering a bit of loot as we go.
>520s Amulet of Protection (Physical defense)
>Maybe check with Jib Jab to see if he has anything he is trying to sell or pick up.
He doesn't have anything he wants to sell right now, but would really like an amulet of minor strength. Being a bit small and not that strong, this would be a big help.
>Fire (Improved) x1
>Sonic/Thunder (AoE) x1
>Enfeeblement (Improved) x1

What's the difference between The Protection and the Stoneskin Amulet?

>328s Amulet of minor strength for Jib Jab
While you're tough, you could always be a bit tougher. Asking about an Amulet of Protection the Shaman isn't entirely certain how well it will work for a giant but it should help somewhat either way.

Gimira wanders over with a bottle in hand.
"Hey, at the very least I bet it'll keep your head from getting knocked around too much if another giant clobbers you."
"I'll take it."

The Shaman hands the amulet off to a goblin who runs off to have the necklace for it resized. Before long they're back and you put on the new trinket. You don't feel any different and begin to worry your other amulet might be in the way.
"Can it interfere with my amulet of night vision?"
"Only if you wear more than two types. No promises what crazy stuff happens when you do."

Gimira again speaks up.
"I saw a miner go mad once down in the lower levels because he'd put on too many amulets. He was so worried about some of the more poisonous elements that he'd bought six different kinds of protection. Took a week for the clerics to get his head on straight. They couldn't even get him to touch beer for six whole days."
The dwarven warrior shudders at the thought.

>What's the difference between The Protection and the Stoneskin Amulet?
I'm glad you asked. Stoneskin keeps things from easily penetrating the skin, but blunt impact can still cause injury to the underlying tissue.
+1, and an Amulet of Protection

All together you're set back a little over a thousand silver. It's a fair dent in your spending money leaving you with slightly more than 1400 silver left over, plus the gold back in the city.

"Dropping a lot of coin," Gimira observes. "Did you capture any enemies?"
"I wounded some, threw another whose legs I broke, then Jib Jab and I handed over one prisoner who had been knocked out."

The dwarf continues to drink until you've finished then asks another question.
"Did they pay you?"

You shake your head.

"You should see about compensation. They're going to trade those prisoners away, either to get the kidnapped merchants back or in return for money and goods from the southern slave traders. You've technically only handed over a prisoner for safe keeping, so by orc law they belong to you."
She gestures to the stockade.
"Even beat up and wounded I bet you could get 600 silver for an orc warrior."

It may be time to finally put your foot down when it comes to issues such as these. The longer you spend in the north the more they're going to recur, unless you decide to start killing all your prisoners. It might be best to deal with these situations in a consistent manner.

Did you want to discuss this with some of your party members to try and get a better idea of what options are available? Pay the tribe to hang onto your prisoner for a few days, or just leave the prisoner with the orcs and continue to ignore the problem?

[ ] Talk to the party
[ ] "Hang onto that prisoner for me."
[ ] Keep ignoring this problem for now
>[ ] Talk to the party
>Talk to the party
Yes I am writing it's just taking awhile.
This is worth discussing with the rest of the party, even if you don't know most of them that well. Once all of them are done shopping you ask to speak about the aftermath of battles and the like here in the north.

Following the previous battle between giants and goblins you'd traded the captured goblins freedom for information useful to the mission. That had worked out quite well. Everybody got what they wanted and you didn't have to deal with longer term ethical issues. This time and others may not be so simple.

Despite being the youngest in the group, Charlotte has made up her mind on such issues.
"They're a bunch of bastards who tried to kidnap civilians. They get what they deserve."

She's maybe not going to be the most helpful in terms of presenting multiple view points. You're trying to understand what options exist.

"What happens to slaves in orc society? Or would happen if the traders from the south weren't here?"

Laeroth, who you might start simply calling Roth so you stop mistaking them for a woman, is the first to speak.
"I've seen enough of the orcs to say it's similar enough to the countries in the south. At least the countries where it is present. Some might become slaves to pay off debts, or because they were captured in war. The former is more common in the south, the latter more common here."

"Might makes right," Gimira comments.

You glance to Urshul but she's letting the others speak first. Roth continues.

"The orcs in the north take tribute in resources as well as slaves. Captives are also taken in raids. These are used to swell their tribes numbers so some may concentrate on becoming warriors or in other areas where they have greater skill. Tribute or capture of those who are great craftsmen, smiths or mages can greatly enhance the strength of a tribe.
Orcs have laws -usually- against the mistreatment of slaves. These are in the captors best interests. They will want captives to assimilate into their tribes over time, pass on valuable skills."

Jib Jab makes a comment about orcs kicking kobolds out of the way. Urshul stifles a chuckle turning it into a cough.

"Orcs don't care as much about kobolds and goblins," Gimira comments. "Even I know that."
"They still don't go out of their way to torture them though," Roth counters. "Most just have a low opinion of them because they're not very strong."

Jib Jab again speaks.
"Orc tribe demand kobold as tribute. Use to dig or scout. Sometimes build if not important."
"They probably used you to scout because they figured you were expendable."

"What about warriors?" you ask, gesturing in the direction of where the prisoners are held.

Roth continues.
"Warriors are strong and can make for good labour. They can be used to help train other warriors on what to expect from another tribe's fighting styles. They're also convenient to have around in order to pay tribute without giving away any of your own kin. Many tribes will try to recruit captured warriors one way or another. Even through marriage to other tribespeople."

"And escape attempts?"
"Anyone who manages to escape is worthy of respect by the orcs but it's unlikely. Those who fail will be under increased guard and may have their meals cut back. They're not going to kill them, though a beating might be in order. That's how the tribes closer to the city and along the west road operate."

"Are there laws that protect slaves in the south?" Gimira asks.
"Yes. As much to prevent slave uprisings as it is to keep kingdoms from cracking down on them. There are some nations where slaves are treated better by law than the peasantry. Also a few notable exceptions where things are far worse."

You cross your arms, looking in Roth's direction.
"So you approve of this practice?"

"I certainly wouldn't want to be one!" Roth asserts. "In some cases it is better than the alternatives. Silver Mantle doesn't have the space or guards needed to look after hundreds or even thousands of prisoners. Few southern nations are centralized enough to make debtors prisons work properly."

Just because it's an acceptable practice to some doesn't mean you have to like it.

The spellblade shrugs.
"If you've met many orcs in the city you've probably heard this story before. My ancestors tribe fought the city, the city won. Any surviving children with magic aptitude were picked up by the Air Corps. That included me."

You met a mage by the name of Largah south in Ballidon.
"I know him," she answers. "I know most of them. Most of us see it from the standpoint of the city just being a larger tribe we've been forced to join. It may have a facade of civility but it's the same as the tribes are."
With an edge of sarcasm in her voice she looks to the others.
"So who really won the war? If the city had to become just as bad as the tribes in order to survive, did the orcs win?"

"That's... arsenic. Why did I never see it like that?" Gimira stomps off, uncorking another bottle.
Urshul doesn't seem to have derived any enjoyment from the minor victory.

You get the others attention.
"So that's the way things are right now. Nobody's saying it has to stay that way. What other options are there?"

This question gets the others thinking. Even Charlotte looks to be re-evaluating her position. Jacques is the only one who really shrugs it off as above his pay grade.
"I just heal people, don't care much what side they're on. Red, white, green, blue it's all the same to me. Undead can go jump off a pier though, hell with those guys."

After some more pondering Urshul points to Jib Jab.
"Not to change the topic but, what's the story with your kobold?"
"What do you mean?"
"He's not a registered sellsword with the MMRC. He has no professional record."

This draws a few looks.

"So what is he to you?" she asks.

You look to Jib Jab who raises both hands in a shrug.

>What say?
A useful ally.
Sorry for the lengthy lore dump guys.
Jib Jab is started out as part the payment for helping deal with some trouble while on our way north. However we take good care of him as he is a helpful ally and also a good companion. Jib Jab is a good kobold and glad to him his help.
The general gist of is that we felt having another pair of eyes on the journey would be helpful and do our best to treat Jib Jab like a proper group member and not a slave.
I'm having a really hard time staying focused this week.
"I took him from a band of raiders trying to blockade the trade road. He may have started out as something else but he has become a useful ally in my travels. I'm glad to have his help."

"Does he get paid though?"
"I've been paying his tuition while he's been learning more ranger skills. I also have made sure to provide weapons and equipment he would have had a hard time obtaining otherwise.
Once he's finished his training I'll see that he's registered with the hiring hall with... suggestions? Recommendations, from myself and any others who have worked with him that wish to do so."
You turn your head to look at the kobold.
"After that what you want to do and go is up to you."

Jib Jab doesn't take long to come up with an answer.
"Staying with Ulf safer!"
This gets a few chuckles.

"Luckily kobolds are a lot like dogs. It doesn't take much to earn their loyalty."
Annika comments.

Urshul frowns in thought.
"I don't know if that way of operating will work with orcs you capture in battle. If you put yourself at risk that's ones thing. Just be aware, endangering others by taking captives along won't earn you a lot of friends."

She makes a good point. On your trip into the north a dwarf officer warned that Goblins are dangerous to keep around. Orcs are far stronger. You're still looking for suggestions for other options.
"You said the city didn't have room for many prisoners but I've heard that people can be sent to work the mines."
"That's only for locals," Charlotte informs you. "The dwarves don't want people loyal to the tribes in the undercity if they can help it. Only dwarves and people who work there permanently. Local children are given tours or shown around sometimes."

Urshul knows that there are orcs and even some goblins who work in the mines but most of those are like her, captured at a young age. Slaves have been used on occasion but normally only ones that are about to be shipped south.

Gimira comes hurriedly stomping back.
"Has anyone ever considered a prisoner battalion for dangerous missions?"
No one present thinks anyone has been crazy enough to attempt it in the north.
"It would be perfect though wouldn't it? Offer them the chance to do a small number of dangerous assignments and then cut them loose."

The others aren't sure what to think of this. It's clearly a very specialized sort of option that wouldn't be accepted by everyone. Nor should it be.

If you do decide to just have your prisoner tag along there might be some options. Though Urshul is not well versed in the current beliefs of the tribes, many orc warriors do have a concept of honor. If he could be convinced to swear by whatever god his particular tribe worships, he could be convinced to follow you for a time until you considered his debt to you repaid.
Of course then you're basically just hoping he'll honor his word and not run away or try to kill you in the middle of the night.

Annika has a suggestion.
"Get a shamen or a mage to cast a garah... gehshala- shela kaela. What the hell is that word?"

Jacques raises an eyebrow. "Do you mean a geas?"
"Yes! One of those."
"They're real easy to dispel," he warns.

That would still require another mage or a wand of dispel magic. As the others point out having a geas cast would be far cheaper than getting an enchanted prison collar or bracelet.

>Any ideas for what to do with hostiles you may capture now or in the future?
Please write in.
Honestly thats a hard question but in general its not realistic to bring in every hostile we subdue.
I've been searching and haven't been able to find it. There was some old age of sail naval law that allowed for the release of the crew after the capture of their ship in war time. The catch was that they essentially had to swear never to fight against that other nation again. Or at least for the course of the war. Probably on pain of death.

Does anybody know what I'm talking about? Does this sound familiar?
It's an option that sprung to mind about here
then I had an ADD moment and forgot what the hell it was.
Well for the current situation trading our current captives to the village is most likely the best route. They most likely need them anyway to prisoner trade for the people that got taken.
Though failing to decide on a new policy the issue of what to do with the current prisoner is now at issue. Are we taking the orc with us in some capacity, or leaving them here?

[ ] Take them with us now, use a geas
[ ] Take them along, swear them to service however brief
[ ] Ask the tribe to hang onto them for you until job is done
[ ] Leave them with the tribe (no pay)
[ ] Trade them to the village
>[ ] Trade them to the village
>[ ] Trade them to the village
>Leave them with the tribe
>[ ] Trade them to the village
While you may not like it taking a captured warrior along may be too dangerous an option. If he's being left here then best to get something in return for your work. It's not like you were paid for helping stop those wagons.

"I'll take care of that for you," Gimira promises. "I've been around these parts long enough to know what the going rates are. Hang on."
She heads off and soon you can hear her distant shout of; "Oi, jailer! We gotta talk!"

True to her word the dwarf returns with 605 silver for you, most of it in the form of bars rather than coin.
"Here you go. Let me know if you come up with a better idea for things like this in the future. I'm kinda curious now about alternatives. The last thing I want is to be resolving problems like an orc."
She looks to Urshul then adds; "No offense."
"None taken."

Despite being camped near the village a watch is kept. The reason why being amply demonstrated by the recent raid. A few local orcs think to proposition Urshul or the other women but are firmly told off. They don't seem to take it personally which is good.

You're up at first light only to find that some merchants are already hard at work. A few are hawking wares while others are rolling out crates. Though you haven't gotten a good look at the potion maker Erjia back in town, you spot what has to be a much larger male snake kin helping with wagon repairs. Once far enough from the village and headed west you ask the others about them.

"Snake kin? What about them?" Gimira asks.
"When I was doing siege work in the south I'd mostly heard they were a monstrous race that looked more like dragons. Since arriving in the north most that I've seen look more like elves."
"Yeah, what's up with that?" Annika wonders.

Neither Urshul or Gimira know much about this, but Roth seems to.
"I think it's their trader caste. They brokered an agreement with one of the elven kingdoms for magic centuries ago."
"So it's an illusion?" questions Gimira.
"No, they just look like that. Or some of them do. I'm not sure of the details."

Good to know that not all of the stories you heard around the fire back in the siege company were bullshit.
Delays or no the team does its best to make up for lost time. While the initial pace would have allowed you to reach the area of the reports within three days, the battle has extended that to four. So much for spending less than a full week on this job.

After swinging past the marshes to the south you've on a straight shot for the area in question. Urshul had hoped to be able to talk to some of the nearby tribes about the spiders but there are less and less signs of regular patrols.

Roth and Annika spot signs of larger than average spiders in the upper branches of the forest. A few strands of web here and there are strung tree to tree, almost like a road. It leads back to the south west.

"We've got spiders a bit larger than my hand but nothing too crazy yet," is Roth's assessment.

This might have been a good opportunity to have a druid figure out what was happening.

Do you proceed farther in and investigate as planned or did you want to divert to the nearest orc village to see if they have any useful intelligence beforehand? This will cause a delay.

[ ] Press on to investigate
[ ] Seek out nearest village to question orcs first
[ ] Write-in?
>[ ] Press on to investigate
>[ ] Press on to investigate
"We're here to investigate, let us investigate. We can always talk to the tribe later to warn them of what we find."

Gimira agrees. "Let's save any more delays for the return trip."

Resuming the advance west Annika and Roth wordlessly ready their bows, watching for signs of activity. It doesn't take long for things to begin changing. Less than an hour later the webs in the upper reaches of the trees begin to connect with other similar "roads" in a network. The spiders are getting larger too. You spot one the size of a small dog retreat into a hiding place farther up a large tree.

Urshul orders Charlotte up to the front along side her and they both dismount. Using their swords they check for any webs at the lower levels that might act as trip wires. Most are still up high where they're not in the way, but there is the occasional one. Roth and Jib Jab both note that this part of the forest has significantly less animal activity. Not completely devoid, there are still some here, but most birds have left.

Though it's getting late into the afternoon the sky farther west gets darker more quickly than normal. Networks of webs are now thick enough and scattered between so many levels that it's blocking out light. Jacques suspects this is mostly from dust and debris getting caught in them. Some of the "webways" are low enough that you might have to start ducking under them to continue.

Stopping at the edge of this new area the group spots at least 40 of the smaller dog sized spiders and 7 or 8 that may be even larger.

"How big are those?" Urshul asks.

Roth looks around trying to gauge distances.
"The smaller ones have a span perhaps two feet. Larger ones I'm seeing have entire legs that size. Chitin on the larger ones are different. Their legs are made of stronger material, maybe magically infused? They wouldn't be able to grow to such a size without it."

The bigger ones look very similar to the undead spider you saw the necromancer riding, only a good deal smaller. So far the spiders don't seem to be aggressive toward you but if that were to change things could get bad quickly.

Charlotte thinks there's a pattern to the network of webs.
"This reminds me of when we were learning stitching when I was younger. My grandmother always liked to put extra patterns in. All of these roads may lead to one place."

"We don't have a lot of daylight left." Annika worriedly points out.
That won't be problem for most of you, just the three humans lacking night vision.

[ ] They're not hostile yet, press on
[ ] Camp a safe distance back then search farther tomorrow
[ ] Split the party, those with night vision go in now
[ ] We came, we saw, let's get out of here
[ ] Write-in
>[ ] They're not hostile yet, press on
>[ ] They're not hostile yet, press on
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18xGdzPvm5Q [LOST-23]

Pressing on all of you prepare to repel an attack from any direction. Charlotte helps point the way towards what might be the center of this place. After you're forced to duck under a second web bridge Jib Jab asks to sit on one of the unoccupied horses. At least that way he'll have an unobstructed line of sight with his hand crossbow.

"Just be ready to move out of the way if we need to re-mount them," Urshul warns.

Despite how ominous it may look there is still some light in this darker area of the forest. For now. Once the sun goes down that will change. For now things are slow and steady. The webs above may be worse but it takes a few hours of advance for the spider webs at the lower levels to increase. For a time you can even see signs of animal life still in the area.

As the light finally begins to fade with the approach of sunset Urshul wills her sword to glow with a faint lick of flames. Charlotte is having to cut through more webs but does so quickly and quietly.

''Anybody know if spiders can see in the dark?" Jacques asks. "Didn't really cover that in school."
"They move around in dark rooms don't they?" Annika points out.
"Aw shit. I'm getting a better weapon after this."

"Quit your jawing!" Gimira hisses. "Listen."

Tapping and clicking from spiders that are becoming increasingly difficult to see is becoming much more pronounced the deeper you get into the forest. There are plenty of larger ones now like you saw before, but smaller ones too. Some are even carrying things.

"I really hope those are not bodies." Charlotte whispers.

Roth doesn't think so. Or they're not from any of the sapient races.
"These spiders are acting more like ants in a way."

The clicking continues to increase in frequency until you reach an area of the forest where the tree trunks and ground are completely overlaid with a carpet of webbing. Charlotte stops then backs away, struggling to get a section of web off the bottom of her boot. Urshul resolves to burn it off which only takes a moment.

Before the group can decide whether to resume or not the clicking stops, only to be replaced with the whistling noise of blades cutting through air.

A spider the same size as the one the necromancer rode crashes down in front of the group, it's scythe like legs cutting gouges into the ground. Charlotte and Urshul rapidly back away, weapons at the ready. All the while it makes a series of aggressive sounding hissing and clicking noises, jabbing the air in the group's direction with its front legs.

"Okay, I don't think it wants us here!" Gimira points out.

[ ] Full retreat, spare no web bridges that get in your way
[ ] Cautious retreat
[ ] Hold your ground, try to communicate
>also since I forgot it.
[ ] Write-in
>[ ] Hold your ground, try to communicate
"Everyone get behind me."
You don't advance on the spider but hold your ground.

Putting the arrow away you hold up your bow sideways in as non-threatening a gesture as you can manage. By now the others have pulled back and are preparing to make a run for it.

"Spider, do you know any languages of the surface peoples?"

The spider continues its hissing, clicking and air jabbing but it does not get any closer. Other smaller ones do though. A dozen of the roughly mid sized ones that probably mass as much as a wolf closing in.

You try again this time in the stone tongue. It's harsh booming tones shake the ground sending smaller spiders scurrying for cover. Even the wolf sized ones retreat for quite a distance.

"What the hell are you saying?" Annika asks over the loud echoes and reverberations.
All of the smaller ones are covering their ears, with even the dwarf not really enjoying it.
"Hello I think!" Gimira answers. "I knew I shouldn't have skipped out on stone temple days."

The big spider backed off slightly in response to your queries but quickly resumes its previous position. Shaking back and forth it begins rhythmically stabbing the ground with its legs. When they pierce through enough topsoil to strike rock the tapping noise begins to sound familiar. It's not stone tongue, but it might be related. Either way you're not fluent enough in it to tell what's being said.

Then two more of the large spiders appear. These crawl up out of what you've just realised is an enormous crack in the earth a handful of your strides behind the first one. More of the wolf sized ones follow in their wake and they don't sound happy. It might be time to go, or you could try to get a few of the others to attempt different languages before fleeing.

You could probably scare the smaller ones away with a loud enough blast of stone tongue. That might help cover the party's escape, or maybe buy enough time to talk with the larger ones if it doesn't anger them too much.

[ ] We have enough data, let's go!
[ ] Hold long enough for the others to try different languages
[ ] [Stone Tongue Shout] to buy time + one of the above?
>[ ] We have enough data, let's go!
The Dwarven warrior tries to get your attention.
"Hey Ulf? I think they might be done talking big guy."

You agree.
"We have enough data, let's go!"

Backing away slowly until you're sure the others aren't underfoot, you turn and chase after them as they take flight. Urshul rides ahead with sword drawn, as much to act as a beacon to follow as to, or cut through stray webs. Providing enough light for the humans to avoid tripping over roots or rocks is an added benefit.

Checking over your shoulder on a regular basis you don't see any signs of pursuit from the larger spiders. The more mid sized ones however are making plenty of noise. Sound picked up and carried by those higher up in the trees. You can't spend all your time keeping the rear covered though as the lower web bridges are a serious obstacle for you when at speed. At one point you all but crash full on into one of them, though they're built out of such strong bundles of material the impact doesn't break it.

The orc has a fairly good sense of direction, mostly following the same route you came in through despite the darkness. Charlotte only has to shout left or right to her mentor on a few occasions. Given how far back you are the night vision amulet is once again proving its worth many times over.

It's easy to lose track of time during the retreat. The others are clearly not going to be satisfied until you're well beyond the range of the spiders. No point in letting them use their highways to catch up.

Annika is considering using a few of her flame arrows to torch a few trees in order to cut the link. Roth cautions against this. So far you haven't done anything that can't be explained away by a group of diplomats at a later time.

Finally the group halts to rest. None of you can spot signs of the extensive spider webs out here. You should be clear and even if you're not the horses can't go any further. Two of you are kept on watch at any given time, including at least one person with fire arrows.

When it's her turn on watch you ask Gimira bout the spiders.
"Did their tapping on stone sound familiar?"
"Not really? I'm not the most in tune with the old stone. The only dwarves who really are tend to be the temple clerics and the druids. Sorry, Stone Temple clerics, I gotta be specific.
A lot of dwarves these days follow the trinity. Gods of the forge, the hearth and secrets. Law says we can worship whatever we prefer but older law says we have to put in time at the stone temple to at least learn what it's about when we're younger. I skipped out on that a lot so my stone tongue is shit.
Mother said you'd have an easier time getting sparks trying to rub two pieces of sandstone together than trying to get a passage out of me."

You hope someone in the city will be able to make sense of your report.

In the morning Roth alerts the party that a few smaller hand sized spiders have caught up but they're mostly staying back and observing.

"We should move before something else happens," Urshul suggests.

The question is where?

[ ] Return to the city ASAP
[ ] Warn the nearest orc tribes first
[ ] Try to chart the edges of the spiders territory
[ ] Write-in?
>Try to chart the edges of the spiders territory
Still want music suggestions?
>Still want music suggestions?
After retreating a safe distance the party circles back and begins plotting the approximate edges of the spider territory. It does require you split up into two teams but given how few spiders are present around the edges you should be fairly safe. This takes the better part of the day before you rendezvous at an agreed location.

It looks like they're spreading out fairly uniformly in all directions from that hole in the ground you saw last night. The others couldn't get a good view of it because of their height, only that it was large enough for two of those big spiders to appear out of it. It looked substantial to you.

"We've been hearing rumors about spiders for weeks now. They can't be spreading to quickly so odds are good the nearest tribes are safe for now. Getting this information back to the city is top priority now," Urshul concludes.

By the next day the party is safely back into "friendly" territory. Hopefully that's the last bit of retreating you'll need to do this week.
"I've spent more time running away from dangerous encounters since coming north than I would have expected."

Gimira doesn't seem to believe you.
"What? That had to be a fluke. What have you been running from?"

"A forest full of windego."
"That's... okay, that's perfectly okay. What else?"
"Two full tribes or orcs with their auxiliaries."
"Oh, well that's just being smart really. Anything else?"
"A necromancer riding an undead version of those giant spiders."
"The biggest ones?"

Roth helpfully speaks up.
"These all sound like legitimate reasons to me."
"So it is unusual that it's happening to you so often but parties have to choose flight over fight sometimes. Part of the job, don't feel bad about it."

You leave out the part with the grizzly bears being so numerous closer to the mountains that it was easier to simply retreat than fight them all.
On return to the city all of you are called in for a full debriefing by the Red Blades officers. When they remember you can't exactly fit in their offices they relocate to a room with a window. All the information you collected is recorded along with any insights you had on the spiders communication.

"That alone is worth an extra gold piece as bonus. Good job. You understand of course that we'll be paying in silver equivalent."
That was to be expected.

With the extra bonuses it works out to approximately 500 silver in pay. Not great pay mind you but this was a regular job, not one demanding increased giant pay. The Red Blades have been against race dependent wage standards despite their reputation for preferring to hire those from civilized races.
"At the end of the day if you do the job you get paid."

Whatever the policies and politics they're glad you tried to talk to the spiders. The city may want to see you about that matter in the future, though the notes taken will do for now.

At the bar you hear that Skadi and Cirus went out as escort for the mage who wanted to use dowsing to find precious metals. Flora talked him into paying them the increased wage.
"They should be back no later than tomorrow."

>Anything you wanted to take care of in Silver Mantle?
Heading out for a bit.
I was thinking it might be worth seeking out a magic equipment merchant or an enchanter to see if we can learn more about conflicts with worn magic equipment.

We know that more then 2 magic amulets start to reduce the effectiveness. What we should try to learn is if that also includes magical rings, etc.
ask Vaft if he knows something about communicating spiders or speaking stone tongue by tapping on stone
Rather than wait for the papers and reports to filter through to the city guard and administration, you decide to go talk to Vaft. He's both a stone druid and older than the other giants here. Also he has more dealing with the dwarves than most. Better to talk to him now if the city decides in a few days they need him to do research on the problem.

Flora passes word to have Vaft meet you at the ramps in the mason district. Sure enough right at sunset the older giant emerges and tells you to walk with him while he heads to the temple. It's hard to get a read on his reaction to your tale of the spiders.

"Very unusual for spiders to come up to the surface like that in such numbers. Not unheard of, it happens from time to time. Rarely talked about, not our business. The surfaces will be alarmed of course."

"Are they dangerous?"
"Yes and no. Dangerous to get stabbed or bitten by. Not dangerous if you don't. They have a good reason to be there, or they wouldn't be. I'm a bit tired Ulf, let's talk to some of the clerics in the temple. They may know more."

Vaft heads inside and talks to an old greybeard relaying what you'd told him. He is far more alarmed at this news than Vaft is, and begins bombarding you with questions. You dutifly answer all he has to ask before Vaft tells him to calm down.
"He just got in with this news. It's not as though you had to wait for the elders and topsiders to pass it along the chain."

"Vaft, surfacers couldn't tell granite from marble. Of course they wouldn't think to ask somebody knowledgeable about deep spiders. Who knows what could be happening?"

"Deep spider migrations happen. This is the right time of the year for it too. Usually they're smart enough to leave the orcs and tribes alone. According to what Ulf saw that's what's happening. You're overreacting."

The old dwarf screws his face up in an inscrutable expression before it eventually reverts to a frown.
"Yea' is right, I'm overreacting. Getting to old for this, and I'm concerned. Deep spiders don't migrate in those numbers unless someone's pushing or chasing 'em. Maybe both. I'm going to warn the scouts-"
Vaft looks like he's about to speak but the old dwarf raises a hand for him to hold.
"-and I'm gonna do it calmly. I'll ask the mad lads with the cave teams to find out why we have deep spiders topside. Then I'll see who knows spider tap best. It may be related to stone tongue but damned if it's not tricky.
We'll get those bureaucrats calmed down before they even know what they're worried about. Happy Vaft?"

"Yes thank you," the giant bows in respect. "Now good night all of you, I sleep."
With that he disappears into one of the other chambers of the temple.
Vaft is barely gone before the cleric turns to you.
"Lad, Ulf. Don't go getting him killed off on some mad quest in the wilds you hear? A lot of dwarves look up to him- look to him, to help in ways of the old faith at times. I'm going back to the stone some time this century. The last of our local clerics that remember the time before the stonefall. Our people will need mentors like him still alive when I'm gone."

>What say?

Maybe try to find an apprentice for Vaft?
"All of stone kin need their druids... I'll do what I can."
This was supposed to get posted here.
It is good to hear this is not the worst of situations but we all know the dangers of digging too deep, too greedily.
"All stone kin need their druids."

The greybeard gives you a nod of approval.
"Then you understand. Good."
"I'll do what I can," you promise.

In the morning you go to see Enidon, asking about magic equipment and the like. Specifically regarding conflicts between different worn magical equipment. The gnome steps outside to talk to you.

"Finally getting enough money to spend it on enchanted gear eh? I'll tell you what I can. If you want to be safe, 2 amulets and 2 rings at a time maximum. Substitute an amulet for a belt if you want. Never have 2 magic items that affect the same thing or you'll start feeling odd fast."

"Could you give an example?"

"Tireless Archer. As you might guess that is an enchantment some archers use."
You've heard of it.
"Good. It keeps them from getting exhausted in a long battle, might even improve healing it's said. Good in a defensive siege. I heard good things about it from the war. You can't, or at least shouldn't, use an Amulet of Vigor at the same time. I've heard dwarves call it stacking. It can't be done without penalty."

Troublesome, but valuable to know.

"Also beware of enchantments with opposed effects, they can be a problem too."
"Like firing ice arrows with the fire bow?"
"Yes, but also things like stoneskin or iron toughness can get in the way of a featherlight enchantment."

You don't even know what that is. Enidon explains that the air corps use them to survive falls from great height if shot down. He thinks that should cover the basics but if you have any questions about particular combinations just ask.

Just to be safe you show him the ones you've picked up so far. Enidon pulls out a glass bead that he holds to his eye then replaces it with a small magnifying glass.
"I was about to dismiss this one as orc made trash but it's actually rather well made. I don't know how much use a giant will get of it, your kind are quite tough. Should you change your mind about it I'll give you a fair price."

As Enidon moves to head inside he notices a pair of shadows as two well known trouble makers swoop down to land on the railing nearby.
"What do you two want?!" he demands of the two elder harpies.

Ellsworth pauses and looks to Astoria. "I forgot why we're here."
"See, this is why I'm recommending you for the oversight committee."
"Wait, I remembered. Giant, there's an old trick that I wanted to tell you about enchanted items. With certain smaller ones they just need to be far enough apart. As long as they don't conflict that is. Some people will put a spare ring on one of their toes."

Ellsworth holds out one of his talons, grasping in the air. Sure enough he has ring with a few gems on it. Though you don't know how else a harpy would wear enchanted rings.

Astoria pokes his friend with a wingtip.
"Don't do that, your toes look weird."
"Now that’s being a little callous."
You thank them for the useful information. Enidon is quick to warn you that extra rings increases the chances of something conflicting. So while what Ellsworth says is true its a risk for complication.

Before heading back inside the gnome asks; "Where is the Kobold?"
"He's finishing his ranger training."
After counting off days on your hands you think today should be the last day to completed his basic training. More he can learn himself in the field, though it might take a few months to learn everything. That means you'll have to see to it he's registered with the hiring hall soon as promised.

>Jib Jab can now consistently use best of 2 on ranger skills
About mid morning you spot Cirus and Skadi escorting their mage back into town. Once they've collected their dues all of you trade stories.

Supposedly the mage's dowsing worked and pointed him to metal deposits he had recorded as references. A lot of his readings were as predicted thrown off by the city, with strong returns from it regardless of what he was searching for. When looking for gold he seemed to be pointed to the east with a few other returns elsewhere.

"Probably shouldn't be discussing such things in a bar," Drummer tells all of you.
"Why?" Skadi asks. "Only the mage will know exactly where."
"Because, you tell anyone in these parts where to even start looking for yellow stuff that's not grain or piss and you'll have a stampede."

The bartender may have a point. East also isn't the most convenient of directions right now with the tribes fighting.

To change topics you ask Skadi about any ruins she may have seen in her travels. The north is vast, but she was wandered the length and breadth of the plains.

Of the ones she's seen the most prominent is the fallen city built by the giant chieftain. The "Shining City" as some giants call it, was built into and on a mountain out in the eastern plains. Some walls with runes on them survive, made of slabs of rock only giants could lift.

The other locals know of this mountain. It's the only one for 200 kilometers and is straddled by two arms of the roaring river that stretch out farther into the plains. No expeditions have tried to climb it yet. Just as well according to Skadi, as only the stairs to survive were carved for giants and even those are badly damaged in places.

"One of my uncles knows there are ruins elsewhere. He and my father spoke of undead in an area not far from one of the southern villages. We're forbidden from going there alone and encouraged to never visit that place."

>? = Giant Village approximate area
>* = Possible ruins
Why the fuck didn't the image post? I even double checked it was on.

I was going to resume but a thing with relatives has come up. Woo, really looking forward to wearing a mask the entire time.
At some point going out to the eastern edges of the plains basin may be in order. Neia is supposed to be from that area if you're not mistaken. Before that it would be good to get some actual use out of your newly upgraded bow to make sure everything about it is just right.

Looking around the bar you don't see signs of anyone paying particular attention to the discussions you've been having. Hopefully your earlier discussion about the gold searching mage won't cause problems as the bartender suggested. Likewise giants discussing old ruins must be fairly ordinary for those who have seen you in here before.

Aman Rosales walks in and shouts in your general direction.
"Hey, there's another new giant!"

Drummer turns to the regular.
"She's not new, she showed up last week."
"Nah not her, a bunch of paladins just came back with another one in tow."

You, Cirus and Skadi exchange glances then rise and head outside. Coming through the western gate you see Gegor and Argigoth being followed by a gaunt and badly wounded giant. One of her arms are in a sling and whatever skin her clothes dont cover shows signs of scars and lacerations. She might be missing an eye too, it's hard to tell with a jagged scar across her forehead.

When the paladin and cleric dismount Argigoth moves to direct the giant toward their temple. Gegor takes charge of the horses, four of them, two carrying sacks of gear. You hear a few other people near the bar commenting that at least one other paladin had left with them.

[ ] Investigate
[ ] Get the other giants
[ ] Stay out of this
[ ] Write-in
Hallo the party and ask what happened?

if the giant is a prisoner -> ask Argigoth where they are taking him and why.
"I'm going over to see what happened."
The others are right behind you.

As Argigoth and the giant are moving off to the south away from you, Gegor is the first one close enough to speak to. The paladin nearly has all of the horses tied up by the time you get down the hill.

"Gegor, what is going on? Is that giant a prisoner?"

Looking weary the paladin shakes his head in response to your question.
"No she is badly wounded Ulf. We all were. She's going to our temple for more healing. lt's the closest one. Most are old wounds that may not heal right. We've just been trying to keep her alive until now."

You look to Cirus who clearly has the same idea as you.
"I'll get Argen to help."

As he heads off you try to get more of the story from Gegor.
"We lost people. We should have brought more paladins but I see why it couldn't be risked. I took more lives in a week than I have some entire seasons. Wherever we went they followed like a beacon."


Gegor looks very distant for a long while before answering by shaking his head.
"No. No I can't say any more, I wont. It is done. May it be that no one else touched by the light ever has to suffer from it."

[ ] "I should have gone with you."
[ ] "I'm glad I didn't go with you."
[ ] Help him but remain silent
>[ ] "I should have gone with you."
>Help him but remain silent
Voting for
>[ ] "I should have gone with you."
>[ ] "I should have gone with you."
"I should have gone with you."

Gegor gives a tired laugh. "No it's just as well you didn't. I don't think you would still feel that way if you'd been there. It just would have been more death. You might have been fine, it might not have affected you but we took enough risks. There is one thing you can do for me."

"What is it?"

He unslings a larger sack from the horses.
"Carry this for me would you? I'm exhausted and this is heavy."

Picking up the sack it's quickly apparent to you that it's full of armor. Likely a full suit of what the paladins wear. You note that Gegor is not wearing his usual cuirass but the chest piece made from the poisoned golden tree that has been marked with wards. Probably a lighter option for on the road.

You, and to a lesser extent Skadi, help him carry the bags of gear to the Order's temple. There the wounded giant has already seated herself and more clerics are exiting the building to help see to her. Gegor asks you to stay here while he calls a few spare apprentices to help take his things in via a side door. Stepping back you give everyone plenty of room.

The clerics work to carefully remove the giant's sling and tend to the worse of her arms. They're throwing plenty of healing her way but in some cases disagreements start over how best to repair the damage. Surgery will almost certainly be needed to fix her shoulder and that can't be done out in the street.

"Never seen a half dead giant before?" she asks the two of you.

You can't say that you have. Or at least not in such a state. Most you've seen were either doing better or had died.

"That's usually how it is for our kind. Name's Rinda. Promised to help these paladins if they helped kill my son."
"You killed your own son?" Skadi asks in disbelief.
"Had to. He was... taken from me. An orc warlord turned him into a monster. Nothing but hatred left in him. Joke was on them, he killed the warlord and near the entire tribe."
Rinda gives a dark humored laugh then winces in pain.
"Was ready to go back to the stone after the killing was done. That paladin though, asked me to come here, told me I could start over. Figured I should give it a go."

Cirus returns with Argen in tow. He helps with some of the basic healing then waves the smaller folk out of the way to work on the arm and shoulder.
"This will hurt," Argen says.
"Tell me something I don't know."

Much to the displeasure of anyone within hearing range he dislocates the shoulder before fixing some of the surrounding are. Healing the collarbone, shoulder blade and socket almost completely exhausts Argen before he pops the arm back into place. A few passers by on the street are trying not to be sick from the noise. Rinda seems to have passed out, either from the pain, exhaustion or both.

The other clerics have largely stopped here to discuss treatment options. While this is going on first Flora and then Vaft arrive. Argigoth eventually relays to all of you what's going on.

"I'll give you the good news first. She's out of danger and should be fine from here. The temple's not going to charge the usual healing fees for so many clerics doing work."

"So what's the bad news?" you ask.

Flora and Cirus help lift Argen to his feet before seconding your question.
"Let's hear it."

"We can't do much for the rest. Her eye, some of the underlying issues from old injuries, these wont heal right. She needs surgery and that's something we can't provide for a giant."
"There's nothing you can do?" Skadi asks.
"Not us, but others in town can. They charge money."

Florah sighs.
"Here we go. What are we looking at?"
"Surgery plus healing, potions, maybe even an enchanted piece for the eye."
That's going to cost a lot of money you can tell.

Flora looks around.
"If we all chipped in it might not be that big of a hit. Many hands make for lighter work and all."

You have more than 2400 silver in spending money at the moment, plus twice that much in gold in the bank. Nobody is going to ask you to part with gold but silver can go a long way.

>Are you willing to chip in to help get Rinda healed? And if so how much?
>Are you willing to chip in to help get Rinda healed?
>>Are you willing to chip in to help get Rinda healed? And if so how much?
Yes, and how much depends on how much it costs. Let's say 600 for now.

How about tracking down the giant healers and asking a giant discount in exchange for giant-sized favours? :)
You're willing to drop a few hundred silver if it gets the ball rolling. The total costs can be figured out later. For now Flora and Cirus will drop Argen off to get some rest then head over to the saw mill to make up a suitable stretcher.

Vaft gets the names of a few available surgeons and doesn't seem to like the list. There's a dwarf in the undercity that is reliable but might not be up to the task of such work on a giant. A snake kin healer that supervises the slaves and prisoners in holding is qualified, having worked on gladiators in the south. The problem is they charge ludicrous sums for anyone not "on contract."

"Those cant be the only ones in a city this size."

One of the temple scribes does a quick check and finds that another cleric from the south has just arrived. Not much is known about them aside from the qualifications they listed when registering with the city healers. The hiring hall should know where they are.

You look to Skadi.
"What about giant healers?"
"We could reach my village in twenty days, but the healers there might not be skilled enough to repair all of this."

Vaft pauses to consider other options.
"I would almost think it would be better to amputate and use more powerful regeneration magic to rebuild the limb."

One of the Order clerics steps in front of Rinda with their hands raised.
"Please, don't do that! It's hard to do with humans, elves and dwarves. We don't have anyone powerful enough in the north to pull that off with a giant."

>Did you want to talk to this newly arrived cleric first or go with one of the others?
Heading out. Cant promise I'll be awake enough to finish another post after work. Will probably put something up tomorrow evening.
talk to new new guy
Talk with the dwarf.
Best to split up and cover your bases. Vaft will go and talk to the dwarf to see if he thinks this is something he could tackle.

"I'll head to the hiring hall to see this new arrival," you tell the others. "What is their name?"
"It's Ama Botha," the scribe informs you.

Good enough. Skadi is torn between helping search for the cleric and staying so that at least one giant is present. Argigoth guesses that Rinda will be unconscious for hours given everything.
"Go, we're not leaving her alone on the front step of the temple."

Catching up with you Skadi politely suggests that the two of you try not to simply ask around for this cleric loud enough that the entire district hears. At least not yet. She hopes that will keep from annoying or scaring the smaller folk.

You shrug.
"Flora rarely seems to care about such things."
"So I've seen. I am trying not to be as brash as her."

Humoring her, you head over to the courtyard to ask Tenn if he's seen or heard anything about this cleric. While he hasn't yet that can be remedied by a visit downstairs. While he's taking care of that, Skadi talks to a few clerics in the assembly field.

After a few minutes Tenn emerges from the building at ground level, the halfling going over to talk to a caravan leader. it takes a few more minutes of conversation and follow up before the hall agent gives you a thumbs up and runs back upstairs.

"Sorry that took so long Ulf. You're looking for a human woman, slightly taller than average with very dark skin. She's usually wearing patterned yellow robes."
"Thanks Tenn. Let me know if you need a hand with anything."
"Maybe if I win the betting pool you could move a crate of gold for me."

Glancing around you don't immediately see anyone who fits the description. Asking a few sellswords you eventually run into Roth. He's seen them in the offices for the Red Blades. Waiting a few minutes a woman who fits the description exits. Yellow robes with triangle shaped patterns of many colours, darker skin than you've ever seen on a human, a bit tall for the smaller folk.

"Excuse me, are you Ama Botha?"

She looks up with a smile.
"Oh a giant. I'd heard there were giants in this city but hadn't seen any of you yet."
She speaks the southern tongue well enough but with an accent you're unfamiliar with.
"My apologies, yes I'm Ama Botha."

You introduce yourself and tell her a giant in the city has old wounds that are not healing properly.
"The clerics say she needs surgery. Would you have the skill to attempt such a thing?"

"I have done surgery in the past but mostly on humans and hobgoblins. I don't believe it would be too different. If anything it should be easier. Part of blood magic is that their blood can tell me what needs to be done for a patient."

"Wait, blood magic? I thought you were a cleric."
"Healer? Cleric? They mean the same thing in the north don't they? Blood mage is just another kind if healer where I'm from."

You can't help but notice the sound of swords and daggers being drawn by nearly everyone within earshot. The ranger Kal'al Indus approaches, sword in hand.
"You're a blood mage?"

Ama Botha looks equal parts surprised and concerned.
"Why are you pointing swords at me? Blood magic is entirely normal in my homelands."

>Your orders?
Slowly back off and maybe ask if anyone will vet for her?
I feel like the risk is worth it. We should at least take her to the hurt giant to see what her price will be.
>"What's the issue with blood magic?"
Will back.
Got held up filling out paperwork for my covid layoff insurance. Technically unemployed which may actually pay better than I've been getting the last 3.5 months.
Resuming tomorrow.
Your initial reaction is to back away slightly to give everyone room and avoid stepping on any smaller folk. While most of those who have drawn weapons are spreading out to create a cordon, nobody is willing to get within a handful of strides of the mage. Hoping to at least find out what's going on you speak up.
"What's the issue with blood magic?"

Kal'al gestures towards her with the tip of his sword.
"Blood mages massacred the people of the Kladz valley in the eastern empire fifteen years ago. They killed thousands, ripped the blood out of their bodies and wiped out armies with it. The kingdom of Arcomanni fell because of them."

Ama shakes her head.
"I don't know anything about that. I'm from Medewi, far to the south in Alkebulan."

Two southern elves approach, one of which is Roth.
"The elven kingdoms have forbidden blood magic, which means the signatories of the Empire have as well. How did you even get this far north?"

"I came by boat," Ama answers. "We landed at Hennessy and then I took a caravan north. I'm just here to study the green folk. I haven't hurt anyone."

Forbidden knowledge or not, it doesn't sound like she's actually done anything yet. That bears asking an important question.
"What law has she actually broken?"

"None." Garn Ironmane answers.
Entering the courtyard, he's flanked by two other dwarves with the city guard. Marching toward the ring of sellswords surrounding the mage, they push past them to reach Ama. Once there they take up positions around her.

Garn turns to face the mercs, mostly directing his attention to Kal'al and the elves.
"This city is not the Empire. We're allied with it as a trading partner but we aren't beholden to it. Neither is the Tyrese Gate. This shanty town on the surface exists with our blessings and by our law.
Has this woman attacked or harmed anyone in this city, or otherwise threatened to do so?"

This question draws a great deal of silence from those assembled except for Kal'al.
"She's admitted to being a blood mage! You must realise how dangerous they can be. She can't be allowed to pass on that knowledge to anyone else."

One of the elves back this up, claiming the guard already has a hard enough time trying to stop the trafficking of restricted magics and items.

Garn frowns.
"Hmm. You're not entirely wrong."
He points at Ama.
"You. You're not allowed to teach anyone your craft until the city has reviewed their policy regarding blood magic. Until then you're free to go about your business as long as you don't harm anyone."

"Can she still heal people?" you ask. "We've got a badly wounded giant that needs fixing."
"We can always use more healers but don't go making a spectacle out of it. The guard won't always be nearby to calm people down."

The crowd gets the message and begins to disperse. There's plenty of muttering and whispering going on among those who arrived late.

Ama is looking a bit nervous but tries to push past it.
"You have a patient for me?"

Moving on with this unless there are any objections?
No objections
No objections.
"This way."
Heading back to the order temple you pick up Skadi along the way. Even you giants notice one or two people following at a distance. That could be an issue later.

After introductions to few of the clerics that are still outside Ama gets to work. This time she didn't bother mentioning her profession to the other healers. After the reaction over at the hiring hall she's likely worried how an entire order of clerics and paladins would react to her presence.

After a quarter hour she finishes her assessment.
"This giant has clearly been infused with a great deal of healing magic. It's helping but won't do anything for old injuries that healed badly. I can already tell what needs to be done to fix these but in her current state it would be unwise."

"You can't do it?" Skadi asks.
"I can but there would be less allowance for any errors. To do this safely she would need a blood transfusion from a suitable donor. Or we could wait a week or two until her overall health has improved. Has she been eating?"

"Barely," Argigoth answers.
"That needs to change, but slowly."
"I understand that much."
The orc has seen people killed from eating too much food after starving for awhile.

So the question will be to wait or figure out who could give blood. Fortunately for the latter option Argigoth already knows how to determine giant blood types quickly. Before that though it might be wise to find out how much the mage would want in terms of payment.
"480 silver, or 100 if I'm allowed to keep a sample to study."

Though you already suspect what kind of sample, you still have to ask.
"A sample of what?"
"Giant's blood. There are no giants native to Alkebulan. Probably because there is a sea in the way. The only giants I had seen before were those controlled by the slave traders and they are jealousy guarded."

Vaft returns having spoken to the dwarven surgeon. He isn't as confident in his capabilities but is willing to try. He'll charge 400 silver. Mostly to pay for equipment needed. Much like Ama the dwarf said you'd have to wait at least a week until her overall health had improved before attempting the surgery.

Ama seems confident in her abilities and is not that far off in terms of cost. Healing this giant would certainly go a long way to improve her local reputation. She still is a blood mage though and her curiosity may be enough to call her ethics into question.

"How much would the slave trader charge?" Vaft asks.
One of the older clerics thinks he'll probably demand at least 10 gold.

>1) Who is fixing up the new arrival?
1a) The Dwarf (wait a week)
1b) The Blood Mage (wait a week)
1c) The Blood Mage, now with a transfusion
1d) Slave trader

>2) If Ama is selected would you be willing to give a blood sample to cut down on costs?
2a) Yes, volunteer
2b) No samples
2c) Not Ulf, but one of the others could volunteer if they want
1c) The Blood Mage, now with a transfusion
2a) Yes, volunteer
>1c) The Blood Mage, now with a transfusion
>2a) Yes, volunteer
"I'd rather not see her suffering for a week. Tells us what you need and you'll get your blood sample."

No one is a perfect match for Rinda's blood type but according to Argigoth you and Cirus are close enough.
Flora and Cirus at last return with a stretcher leaving only the question of where to carry out the operation. An empty lot across the road next to the city wall is cordoned off. A few temporary posts with sheets draped between are put up to isolate the area. The clerics helpfully provide some medical grade alcohol and other equipment, though Ama believes most of it will be unnecessary.

Aside from the blood transfusion the only thing she really needs help with is making sure Rinda is secured in case the giant wakes up. Weakened though she may be, a maddened giant could easily kill most humans. Supposedly for their own safety anyone from the Order are asked to wait outside.

The actual surgery requires less cutting that you might have expected. Plenty of incisions are made and things get a bit messy at points but actual blood loss is kept to a minimal. You can't really tell what's going on and in what ways the magic at work is being used.

Cirus trades places with you half way through, Ama making sure the transfusion doesn't wipe either of you out. The arm takes the longest to repair, with the other injuries requiring far less attention. According to the mage the ruined eye is a complete write off. That will have to be solved in some other way. Other than that things go well and in under two hours the operation is over.

"She'll still needs plenty of rest to recover but as long as her diet is managed carefully it should be a much quicker one now."

Ama gets her sample from you while closing the wound from your transfusion. She would have preferred to keep one from the patient to check post surgery interactions, but this is good enough.

Though tired you help the others carry Rinda's stretcher to The Big House where a room near the door is rented. Everyone will take turns checking on her as will the clerics.

"I... might stay nearby as well." Ama decides, still somewhat worried about the prospect of hostile encounters.
"I'll book passage with a trade caravan to the orc tribes eventually."
You hope for her sake the situation with the city is resolved amicably.
The next morning, though still tired, you find that Rinda is wide awake. Sitting outside she's trying to get some broth down, drinking from a mug borrowed from Drummer's bar. Her left arm is once more in a sling but doesn't appear to be bothering her as much.

"Stone below, hurts all over but different from the damned stuck feeling I'd had from the old wounds. Before it was like I had bits of tree branches inside. Now it feels like I'll actually get better."

That's good to hear. You're not sure about the eye, but the clerics did say there were other options.

"Eh, I've mostly gotten used to it. Holding your head to see better is a dead giveaway to enemies you're blind on the one side though."

>Anything you wanted to ask the new arrival?
Hopefully once she's recovered there will be enough opportunities for work to help pay for a replacement. Rinda isn't sure about this, largely having resigned herself to getting used to just the one eye.
"I wouldn't turn it down if someone could guarantee a replacement."

After wishing her a speedy recovery you head off to take care of something important you've been putting off.

Jib Jab has completed his training making him a basic trained ranger. There's plenty more to pick up in the two fields he's trained in. Some can be picked up in the field, others might need to be learned from a mentor. Fortunately some of the weapon skills are equally useful in both paths.

He's getting quite good with the hand crossbow, though still lacking a bit with the dagger. Sneak attacks are about his only hope when it comes to melee. Something you both might need to learn a thing or two about. Your own dagger is often an afterthought, used mainly for carving arrows.

The important thing is that you promised to get Jib Jab registered with the hiring hall once he was done training. He's formally recognized as having a base level of skill in certain areas that the paper pushers can gauge and calculate. That mean he'll be getting paid, maybe even providing some of his own gear upgrades now.

Not that he hasn't already taken steps to loot equipment in the field.
"Jib Jab, I hope you know not to loot or steal any equipment from allies or people in the city."

"Yes. Only take from enemy. Or dead enemy."
Okay good.

It's the time of truth. Will you uphold your promise to the kobold? Maybe even give him a bit of extra silver to start off with?
>Will you uphold your promise to the kobold?
Yes, release him from slavery.
>Maybe even give him a bit of extra silver to start off with?
Sure. Not sure how much.
>Not sure how much.
Even 1 gold worth can go quite a ways.
Marching across town you look up various people who have worked with you and Jib Jab before. It doesn't take long to get signatures from at least six people willing to vouch for him. Most importantly Cellica talks to Scott Flint, one of the officers with the Silver Talons you've worked with before. As Jib Jab helped out on two missions of considerable importance he's more than willing to add his own signature.

Tenn shows Jib Jab to one of the lower windows in the building where the smallest ones do business and soon one of the other clerks are getting him registered. Like you Jib Jab is now an associate member of the Silver Talons, as opposed to being a full member. He can't get any company owned gear but at the same time won't have to drop everything if there's an emergency and the Talons need their mercenaries called up.

It's definitely a good start though, and he'll have access to paid training from other Talons members to help hone his skills.

"Jib Jab still go on jobs with Ulf?"

[ ] "Well of course you can!"
[ ] "You can go on jobs with other people too if you want."
[ ] Encourage him to try at least one job with another group.
>"You can go on jobs with other people too if you want."
"You can go on jobs with other people too if you want."

The kobold thinks it over then decides; "Stay with Ulf for now!"

You shrug.
"I'm fine with that. Just remember you have options now."
Jib Jab nods in response then uses uses his rope and grapnel to climb back up onto your shoulder. Much faster than any of the previous times you'd been paying attention. Clearly that Amulet of minor strength makes a considerable difference with a creature the size of a kobold.

"Just be careful not to hit anyone in the eye with that. We have enough giants that need eyes replaced right now."

Considering options for future employment there are of course a few things available, but also one or two that aren't likely to be listed. Your continued interest in ruins throughout the north. Now fast approaching summer, this would be an ideal time for a longer ranging expedition before the end of the season.
While you and the other giants could easily handle winter conditions, the same can't be said for the smaller folk and their horses. Freak snowstorms are possible as far south as Silver Mantle as early as the first days of fall, and that may only be three or more months away.

Skadi mentioned ruins near the giant villages far to the north east. Possibly protected by undead. That would certainly be interesting. There are also the ruins of the "shining city" along the way. The trip would also take you most of a month in one direction barring delays.

Then there are the titan metal deposits. Srayagoth and other interested parties have continued research into where best to look for these. There are two areas that should have richer deposits north of bow lake. This is part of the area up stream and north east of the larger willow lake.

Would you like to start planning one of these expeditions or continue to focus on regular jobs to build up your war chest?
I'm heading out to get some exercise! Back later.
Looking into the undead ruins could be fun.
>Skadi mentioned ruins near the giant villages far to the north east. Possibly protected by undead. That would certainly be interesting. There are also the ruins of the "shining city" along the way. The trip would also take you most of a month in one direction barring delays.

I think this is a good place to start and also might be easy to drum up interest. Everyone loves cleansing the undead.
+1 on shooting the undead
>Titan metal expedition
While the titan metals expedition remains of interest to you, the entire reason it held your interest was because of the prospect of finding ruins while still getting paid for it. Ultimately it's not a guaranteed thing, where as the ruins known to the giants certainly are. Not that you know much about them.

With so many unknowns it would best to be ready for anything, but especially undead. Clerics and paladins would seem to be a must. Convincing Argen to go along would be wise. You're not sure about Gegor or Argigoth. Even if it takes a week to prepare they might not want to be away from the city for so long.

A serious downside to organizing an expedition yourself is that you won't be getting paid. That's going to make it more difficult to recruit. Perhaps offering a cut of any loot would be a good start? Or a down payment of sorts?

Talking this over with Flora she suggests that unless you want to lose a good chunk of your profits from this year, finding a patron or sponsor for the trip would be in order. That's assuming you really expect to find anything and are willing to share a good chunk of whatever is discovered.

"Of course the smaller the operation, the less you'll have to share if it succeeds. Less people to disappoint if it goes bad. The benefits of having a well stocked expedition though is that you'll be better prepared for things going sideways. Plus only having to explain yourself to one person if you dont strike it rich."

"Where do you stand?" you ask.
"Oh I agree that Argen should go with you. The only thing better than smacking demons around are undead. I'm conflicted about going personally. Someone needs to keep an eye on our new arrival and it sure as hell isn't going to be Sétanta."

You wonder where the barbarian is anyways?

"He's trying to negotiate for a better rate from the orcs fighting across the river to the east. Maybe hoping he can play kingmaker. Someone is going to have to keep an eye on his dumb ass and I really don't want it to be me."

If you wanted to find a patron you've already met Agatha Balavin. Aside from being a Silver Talons shareholder she also deals in enchanted items. Something found among ancient ruins might be on interest to her.

The Enchanters Collective might be equally interested in such things. They had put some work into the Titan metals expedition so they might not be entirely happy you're ditching it. They are still a good angle for financing. It'll just be a larger number of people you'd have to report back to.

The Silver Order my not be able or willing to provide much in the way of financial support, but their backing as a means of getting rid of undead would ensure easier access to clerics and paladins. A few less people you'd need to pay personally.

>How did you want to begin organizing this?
[ ] Keep it small. Favours, loot and minimal pay only
[ ] Put down some of your own money to help (10 gold / 1600 silver)
[ ] Patron: Agatha Balavin
[ ] Patron: Enchanters Collective
[ ] Patron: Silver Order Paladins
[ ] Or did you have another plan in mind? (Write-in)
>[ ] Patron: Silver Order Paladins
>Patron: Enchanters Collective
Not sure what my new schedule is going to be like. Will try to figure out as much as I can tomorrow.
[ ] Patron: Enchanters Collective
Might be the best choice for a first time. If we can prove our selves then Agatha might be a good future choice. Need to build up our rep and ties.
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I finally get through waiting 45 minutes on the phone. Instead of hitting the button to turn off speaker phone I hang up.
Best to work with the Enchanters. If this is successful then it will at least partially compensate them for abandoning the other job.

As you'd expected the Enchanters Collective is not entirely pleased with your departure from the titan metals expedition. They're going to have to figure out how best to launch an expedition of their own without you, which was part of the reason it was able to be organised in the first place.
At any rate despite two prominent members of the collective wanting nothing to do with your new excursion plan, three others are interested. They're willing to provide some minimal funding, mostly for supplies and pack mules. There should be enough money that you could recruit 5 people at something approaching regular pay. It won't allow you to pay the other giants going with you. The collective will also be sending a specialist.

"Is it you?" you ask Srayagoth.
"ME?! No, I don't do field work, that's for actual combatants like my brother."

The collective will be sending along a mage by the name of Rolf Longgrove. A halfling that may not be the most powerful magic user, but can certainly evaluate artifacts for value. You're also informed that they'll want to have a look at all recovered artifacts, even if they'll only be getting a cut of what's found.

>Is this acceptable?
>>Is this acceptable?
You decide to accept the enchanters offer. It's something at least and should allow you to recruit a few of the smaller ones, even if the pay won't be amazing. Any giants that come along should be able to life off the land well enough.

Talking to Argen he is interested in fighting undead. Its not a thing he gets to do very often. Skadi was already headed back to the giant villages when you first encountered her so it doesn't exactly require much if any convincing for her.

Rinda is slowly but steadily improving. She won't be ready for a fight for another week at best but all of you are certain that will happen sooner rather than later. According to Argen, Rinda is also a Paladin. Though she lacks any formal training she apparently learned to fight demons and the like in her youth near the storm coast mountains. It might be worth delaying departure until she could contribute.

Talking over planning with Rolf Longgrove he suggests including a Paladin (which you have covered) a cleric, and a rogue experienced with traps. Undead or no, ruins can be hazardous, even after hundreds of years if there are traps that have a magic based reset mechanism.

Jib Jab might be good at sneaking around, perhaps even setting traps out in the wild, but he's inexperienced in that area when it comes to civilized places. You haven't even met any other rogues while in the city. Urshul had suggested a half-elf named Bayern for the spider job but you didn't actually meet. There must be others in the city though.

Rolf offers to look for someone if you can't but that will count toward one of the 5 paid party members. You know enough people in town now that you could ask one of them to recommend someone. Alternatively the Talons might be able to give Jib Jab a crash course in learning what is necessary to check for traps in ancient ruins.

[ ] Let Rolf recruit someone
[ ] Ask your friends
[ ] Magic traps training course for Jib Jab

NOTE: You can still ask Jib Jab to take such a course either way, it will just mean less chance of delays because of it.
>[ ] Ask your friends
Schedule: Looks like I'll be available to run most days this week except thursday. May have to do a thing friday, don't know yet.
>[ ] Magic traps training course for Jib Jab
Asking around among your friends and contacts you're told of three different rogues who have the experience necessary to search through ruins. More importantly, they're actually willing to go off to a distant part of the north. There is also another one that is willing to take on Jib Jab's training and the two get to work.

One suggested by Tim quickly rejects the job offer, supposedly because he doesn't work with kobolds. Cellica introduces an ice elf that has recently arrived named Mithel. She has some experience with dwarven and elven traps and construction. She had spent a few years in the south and decided to do some work here before returning to the airless plateau. Because of this she's seen quite a wide variety of trap systems, but isn't specialized in any.

Tinik Ingmar is a dwarf that Tara recommends. He tends to complain about the outdoors preferring the undercity. Despite this he's capable enough and quite skilled in older traps and devices long used by dwarves and other stone kin. In theory this would make him a better fit for anything that the Titans might have been built, but won't be as good in other areas.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Who do you intend to hire?

[ ] Mithel (Ice Elf F Rogue) (Generalist)
[ ] Tinik Ingmar (Dwarf M Rogue) (Specialist)
>[ ] Mithel (Ice Elf F Rogue) (Generalist)
>Tinik Ingmar (Dwarf M Rogue) (Specialist)
>>[ ] Mithel (Ice Elf F Rogue) (Generalist)
Let's get him up to speed with everything before worrying about specialization.
Best to start with a skilled generalist and if necessary find a few examples to study while the mission is being put together. Cellica makes the introductions then attempts to calm down Ocette who thinks this is a clear sign they'll be going too.
"I always wanted to see places farther north!"
"Calm down, I thought we were going to go hunting drakes?"

Once they're gone you and Mithel gingerly shake hands.
"You look familiar, have we met before?" she asks.

This question surprises you.
"I don't think so. I didn't see many ice elves in the south."
"The south! You were in one of the siege units I'm sure of it."
"I was. For quite a few years."

Sometimes at night the siege units would be told to go out and fire lines over the walls of cities. Frequently they would be found and cut not long after. It wasn't typically your job to worry about that. Some had guessed it was a ploy to keep the garrisons on edge, watching for the threat of infiltration. It was rare for anything to come of it.

Apparently on one such occasion Mithel actually had ilnfiltrated a city, stealing plans or conducting other sabotage. All carried out before sunrise would make escape next to impossible.

"Nothing as heroic as opening the gates like in an old legend I'm afraid."
You still don't remember the time in question but she claims that's fine.
"I was trying to stay hidden after all."

Going over the basics of the expedition Mithel seems to like the idea. She'd never ventured this far into the north and hadn't paid much attention to the old stories before. Maybe she'll find evidence of her people in the north too.
"That would be quite a coup, returning to the plateau with a few things even our elders haven't seen before. Discipline me for not paying attention during my lessons will they? I can just see the looks on their faces."

Rolf will try to get her examples of ancient dwarven traps to study. The enchanters should be able to do that much.

This leaves you with 4 paid slots to recruit for not counting giants. That doesn't mean you cant try to recruit more people, you just may need to fork out money for them yourself.

You don't have a dedicated cleric yet which may be essential. A ranger might also be of use but isn't strictly needed. Besides, Jib Jab has a lot of the ranger gap covered.

>Current party
Ulf (+ Jib Jab)
Argen (GiantM Paladin)
Skadi (GiantF Archer)
Rolf Longgrove(Halfling M Mage)
Mithel (Ice elf F Rogue)

Flora (GiantF Spellblade)
Cirus (GiantM Soldier)
Sétanta (GiantM Barbarian/Berzerker) (Requires extra pay)
Vaft (GiantM Stone Druid)
Rinda (GiantF Paladin)

Gegor E Uller (Human M Paladin) [PaladinS][SLVT]
Amedee Heiroris (Southern Elf M Paladin) [PaladinG][RBLD]
Argigoth (Orc M Cleric)[PaladinS][SLVT]
Ferith (Human M Cleric)[PaladinS]
Jacques Fosse (Human M Cleric)[RBLD]

>Mage / spell user
Orlan (Half-demon M Mage)[SLVT]
Ama Botha (Human F Blood Mage/Healer)
Trilah Lylth (Southern Elf M spellgun) [Rancher]
Urshul (Orc F Spellblade)[RBLD]*
Charlotte Weaver (Human F Spellblade)[RBLD]*

>Mild magic
Aman Rosales (Human M Bard) [Rancher]
Kossia Skaled (Human M Bard) [Luth]
Cellica (Half Elf F Bard)[SLVT]*
Ocette (Harpy F Druid)[SLVT]*
Bolinda Ironmane (Dwarf F Druid)[Dwarven Scouts]

Tara (Dwarf F Ranger) [Dwarven Scouts]
Ithica Rilynn (Southern Elf F Ranger) [Rancher]
Urdrenn Ghinir (Orc M Ranger) [Rancher]
Kal'al Indus (Human M Ranger) [Luth]
Roth AKA Laeroth Balsys (Southern Elf M Ranger) [RBLD]
Garn Ironmane (Dwarf M Archer / Soldier) [Dwarven Scouts]
Dayer Havashaw (Human M soldier) [Luth]
Gimira Hardfall (Dwarf F Barbarian)[RBLD]
Neia (Centaur F Soldier/Barbarian)[SLVT]
Arix (Centaur M Soldier/Barbarian)[SLVT]

Tim (Halfling M archer) [SLVT]
Annika Dam (Human F Archer)[RBLD]
Bayern (Half-Elf M Rogue)[RBLD]

*= can only be recruited in a pair

Select at least 4 party members in addition to any giants you want to take along.
>Gegor E Uller
>Jacques Foss
Our current party is not counted as the 4 right?
>Jacques Fosse (Human M Cleric)[RBLD]
>Cellica (Half Elf F Bard)[SLVT]*
>Ocette (Harpy F Druid)[SLVT]*
>Neia (Centaur F Soldier/Barbarian)[SLVT]
>Our current party is not counted as the 4 right?
No. The current party is already looked after.
Not sure how she would do in ruins but they are giant ruins, so who knows?
>Jacques Fosse (Human M Cleric)[RBLD]
>Neia (Centaur F Soldier/Barbarian)[SLVT]
>Tara (Dwarf F Ranger) [Dwarven Scouts]
>Cirus (GiantM Soldier)

Extend an offer to come along for Cellica and Ocette.
>Cellica (Half Elf F Bard)[SLVT]*
>Ocette (Harpy F Druid)[SLVT]*
I was about to post but I'll modify what I have.
Jacques Fosse is first on the list in terms of healers. He's experienced enough that you won't have to worry about any slip-ups like Ferith might cause. Argigoth also might want some time to rest after his last outing. You know he'll keep checking on Rinda.

"What are we expectin', some dungeons or whatnot?" Jacques asks.
"No idea."
"That's fair. Long as I don't have to go near those spiders again I'm set. Goin out east is gettin me farther away from them things."

Cirus might be good to have along as another close combat focused giant. He and Argen are used to covering each other's backs, or forming a shield wall together. It's true they've gotten used to taking orders from Flora but they're fine heading out with you and Skadi. Like you and the other giants he'll take any pay in the form of a cut of any loot.

Tara is next on your list of most wanted recruits. She's certainly up for supporting you giants in looking into old ruins, and is happy for the chance to get away from the city for awhile. Or more likely away from Garn's mother.

Ocette is far more enthusiastic about joining up than Cellica. This is the sort of thing the young harpy has always wanted to do. Explore far off lands. Seeing the ruins of the shining city is an added bonus.
"I never get to fly to the tops of mountains or really high up places because they're so far away."

Cellica is a little disappointed as killing a few drakes would have netted quite the bounty. Despite this she's not willing to deter her friend from an adventure long looked for.
"Ulf I'm going to be honest; the pay for this job is crap unless we find something. It does sound interesting though."

The dwarf, the half-elf and the harpy signing up puts you in the position of having maxed out the number of recruits the enchanters will pay for. That's before even talking to Gegor or Neia!

Neia seems a bit jittery when you go to see her. She's been a bit more paranoid about threats ever since getting shot by that harpy during the platinum run. A vacation of sorts back to her home range might be in order. Her people live roughly in the lands between the ruins and the other giant villages. Plenty of centaurs migrate across the plains then south west for winter, but others remain to keep orcs from moving in.

"I would be willing to go with you until the farther eastern plains. After I've spent time with my kin I would venture to the giant villages to meet with you for the return trip."
She's willing to act as an escort and guild through the plains, not that Skadi couldn't do a better job but Neia might be able to diffuse situations with other centaurs. She's willing to do this much for half pay.

"And if we need your help against the undead?" you question.
"Then you will have to decide on a better offer."
You'll consider it.

After giving him a couple of days to rest you talk to Gegor to see how he's doing. The Paladin remains somewhat bothered by whatever happened but still refuses to say any more about it. Seeing that Rinda is on the mend does improve his mood though.

When you tell him about your expedition he's somewhat reluctant to join in.
"Not that I don't appreciate the offer but there are other Paladins Ulf."
"I don't know many others aside from Argen and Amedee Heiroris."

Gegor shakes his head.
"Heiroris? No no no. He's a Dawnbreaker Order Paladin, you don't want him around. Give me a few days to think it over and I'll get back to you."
Though Gegor still hasn't made up his mind, you suspect he'll come around.

That leaves the issue of pay for Neia and Gegor. Do you intend to pay their way so you'll have a second paladin and the centaur on hand? Or do you have any alternate plans in mind?

[ ] Neia (200 silver)
[ ] Gegor (400 silver)
[ ] Both (600 silver)
[ ] Neither
[ ] Write-in
With party numbers being sorted you still have a bit of time before all of the supplies and gear are ready. Time that can be spent on getting upgrades if you so desired. While your current armor has proven adequate against most threats one capable of having runes or warding built into it could be made. This will take a few days to have the larger pieces manufactured.
Antonio is confident that he could do it at reasonable prices, though final addition of runes would take another day minimum.

Tara suggests stocking up on a few healing potions. She can get weaker slower acting ones that she considers more reliable for 34 silver, or the more common ones for 68s. The latter are better for emergencies due to side effects she's told you about. Wounds not healing entirely properly and so on.

Heading over to talk to Erjia you find out that she's had some success with development of potions for use on giants. Obviously they require more volume and kick so they cost on average double that of potions for the smaller folk. She was worried it might be even more than that due to stone kin being resistant to some magic.

While you'd just wanted to sharpen your eyesight at the longest of ranges possible, Rinda could certainly benefit from eye related potions.

"Could you regenerate an entire eye for a giant?"
"Yes I think so? I can't promise how well it would work. Follow up healing or potions might be needed to sharpen their vision."

34s Basic healing potion (promotes natural healing)
68s "Improved" common potion (Fast heal but may cause complications)
136s Giant Size common potion
310s Giant Size "Eagle Eye" potion
480s (3 gold) Giant eye regeneration
Not too expensive.
1 giant size potion and 2 basic.
Your current leather armor cost 840 silver to produce. It would cost 250 silver more to produce something suitable for runes or warding. Most of the orc prices for those should be similar, and you'd need anywhere from 2 to 6. It depends how much coverage you want. 2 for the chest, 1 each for the upper arms or maybe even for your bracer, 1 for the back.

Runes of protection (Physical defense)
143s (Basic)
290s (Improved)
Runes of warding (magic protection)
143s (Basic)
290s (Improved)

Actual enchantment for armor would require metal and would be very difficult to do with leather armor, so lets consider that effectively unavailable.

>Giant Leather Rune Armor (no bracer)
2540 silver or nearly 16 gold
This is the cost for the improved versions.

>Golden Bow Enchantment (Improved)
2x Palladium ore + 16 gold
Options available on request!
Arrow Enchantments (Silver Mantle)
>Earth/stone- Gives arrows greater strength and mass at impact (Incompatible with lightning bow)
15s (Basic)
30s (Improved)

>Lightning- Grants additional lighting damage (Incompatible with druid/stone bow)
17s (Basic)
34s (Improved)
85s (AoE)

>Fire- Grants additional heat/fire damage (Incompatible with ice bow)
33s (Basic)
51s (Improved)
+164s (AoE)
Normal=18s (Basic), 36s (Improved), 90s (AoE)

>Ice- Grants additional ice/cold damage (Incompatible with fire bow)
18s (Basic)
36s (Improved)
90s (AoE)

>Wind- Grants additional wind damage/accuracy in windy conditions
13s (Basic)
26s (Improved)
65s (AoE)

>Spirit- Grants additional non-aligned magic damage
15s (Basic)
30s (Improved)
75s (AoE)

>Piercing- Grants additional armor penetration
12s (Basic)
24s (Improved)
60s (AoE)
>Current finances (Before hiring Neia or Gegor)

2407 silver
34 gold
3 palladium ore

>Current arrow stockpile
Steel bolt 2
Wood 26 (+30 in backpack)
Tear Gas 4 (+4 reloads)

Lightning S-Bolt (AoE)1
Ice (AoE) 2
Piercing (AoE) 2
Sonic/Thunder (AoE) 1
Ice (Improved) 4
Fire (Improved) 1
Spirit (Improved) 2
Wind (Improved) 2
Earth/stone (Basic) 4
Earth/stone (Improved) 4
Poison (Improved) 1
Enfeeblement(Improved) 1

I'll update the pastebin after all the purchases are done for the expedition.
[ ] Both (600 silver)

1 giant size potion and 2 basic.

Runes of protection (Physical defense) (Improved) - Used on the bracer

Spirit Arrows
5 (Basic), 3 (AoE)
>[ ] Gegor (400 silver)
>2x Basic healing potion
>1x Giant Size common potion
>2x 143s (Basic) (Chest)
>1x 290s (Improved) (Bracer)
>3x Spirit (Basic)
Sorry for the info dump last night but sleep was going to become an issue soon.
Money is put down on potions for the giants and smaller folk. An order is also placed for enchanted arrows able to deal spirit damage. Those should come in handy.

You'd like to get both Gegor and Neia if possible and are willing to put money down to make it happen. You let the paladin know about the offer before heading out to one of the nearby orc tribes. Other gear is still being prepared including a modification of your bracer, this means you have time for a quick trip to get hold of runes.

Cirus, Cellica and Ocette join you in order to pick up a few things themselves. Much like you Cirus buys a rune for his shield, with the ladies getting ones for their armor. Ocette also seems to be looking for a weapon she could use out in the plains. After hearing stories of the last platinum run she'd like to have a way to inflict more damage if caught away from trees where her powers might be less helpful.

It's good that she's thinking ahead.

Speaking of which, Cellica thinks she could get good prices from some of the merchants for things that could be resold back in Silver Mantle for a profit. The city is still charging a premium for fire enchantments of any kind.

>Did you want to try and back a quick buck?
[ ] No, just what you needed
[ ] Herbs & Medical supplies
[ ] Potions
[ ] Fire enchantments
[ ] Gems & rare metals
[ ] Let Cellica choose
>Did you want to try and MAKE a quick buck?
Don't know how I screwed that one up.
>[ ] Let Cellica choose
>[ ] Let Cellica choose
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Handing over a good chunk of your remaining silver to Cellica, you let her choose what to spend it on. It's quite a mix of things, half of which you can't even identify. With the amount of silver spent you could probably fill a wagon with druid goods. Once it's loaded into your pack the team heads back to the mantle.

Reselling it all is the real test. Fortunately for you it seems like the half-elf has this part down to a science.

Roll 3d20
Rolled 13, 10, 14 = 37 (3d20)

Rolled 6, 4, 20 = 30 (3d20)

Rolled 20, 18, 15 = 53 (3d20)

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"Cellica, how much of my money did you spend?"
"Uh, a bit? Don't worry, I can pay you back for anything I can't find buyers for right away."

It turns out a lack of buyers is hardly a problem. Especially for vials of perfume which she sells to one of her relatives. At an almost 20% markup across the board she pays back your money plus an additional 188 silver. As she'd had to rely on you to transport some things bought with her own money Cellica considers this adequate payment.

"I do really need to buy one of those magical storage spaces one of these days. It's too bad they cost nearly a dozen gold."
You agree that sounds excessive, though it is within the range of what you could buy with the spoils of a better paying job.

"Mithel actually has one she picked up in the south, so if you're nice she might be able to store things for you."
"For a larger cut of valuables?" Cirus asks.

Cellica shrugs. "Maybe, you'd have to ask her."

Antonio gets to work with an enchanter inscribing the orc rune into your bracer. It will be ready by the end of the day tomorrow. Gegor does eventually agree to go with the party, accepting an advanced payment to get a few things he think will be needed. Neia is doing much the same.

Rolf reports that everything on his end is ready to go at a moments notice. Mithel will keep studying any traps and plans for ancient holds for as long until the last possible moment. The others in a similar state. They can go the next morning after your bracer is done.

Pastebin will be updated shortly.
>Did you have any last minute acquisitions or other things you wanted to take care of?
Pastebin updated. Stepping out for an hour or so.
>>Did you have any last minute acquisitions or other things you wanted to take care of?
Can't think of anything.
After more than a week of preparations all of you are ready. Cirus even found an ice holding bag. The other giants and a few of the other people you know in town show up at the north east gate to see the rest of you off. Rinda is looking a lot better. Another week and she could have gone as well, but there are already four giants going. Someone needs to stay here.

"I also don't have any weapons or armor yet. Just you wait, by the time you lot get back I'll be ready to prove I'm not some bludger."
Vaft promises to give her one of his stone clubs as a temporary weapon.

Argigoth shows up to give Gegor a few last minute items. Kossia and a few of his people wish you luck. Cellica seems to be on the lookout for someone to see her off but they never appear.

Tim gives Neia a mock tearful farewell causing the centaur to stomp in irritation.
"I'm coming back you idiot."

Farewells given Mithel and Rolf are the first out of the gate followed soon after by everyone else. There's still a matter of the best way to the first objective to discuss. Avoiding the ogre village or their trading post is possible by swinging farther north through the more open areas of the plains but Skadi warns that will make it easier for raiders to spot you from great distances.

Cirus seems to think you'll be fine taking such a route.
"We have four giants, and two are archers. I still wouldn't mind a match against those ogres though. Argen and I think we can push them out of the ring."

Before this discussion can go on much further Jib Jab gets your attention. A boy riding on horseback is catching up with the group.
"Hey wait! Let me come with you!"

You come to a halt and the dusky southerner quickly catches up.
"Please, let me come with you. None of the companies will take me. Even the review board won't let me register."

Tara gives him a quick glance.
"You look like you're too young."

Gegor nods. "Even the temples will allow someone to join if they're young, they just wont let them out into the field right away."

You suspect there might be another reason and are not the only one to guess as much. The boy sighs when asked why.
"The mage that was training me kicked me out. He said I didn't have the attention span, so I've just been charging spirit magelocks for him."

Cellica who had been staying out of the conversation pulls her horse up short.
"Wait, you're a magic user?"
"I mean... I can use wands."

Gegor shakes his head in disbelief.
"How have you not been scooped up by the Air Corps? They need guys like you to man half the stations in their vessels it seems like."
"After my master kicked me out the air corps wouldn't take me! They said I was blacklisted or something, but I know I can do better. Just give me a chance to prove it. I have supplies and everything!"

Supplies or not he has no armor to speak of. The only weapons he's carrying are a knife, a throwing hatchet and two wands. Not exactly a lot.
Jib Jab again gets your attention. Reaching into his armor he pulls out two more wands.
"Where did you get those?"
"Loot from goblins."

You might have to discuss that later. For now the question of what to do with this young human is the issue. Send him back so he doesn't get hurt or bring him along so he's at least kept out of local trouble.
On the Air Corps job you briefly visited the Silvesa farm. They make spellgun ammo and wands. Perhaps they could help him in some way?

[ ] Go back before you get yourself killed.
[ ] Take him as long as he doesn't slow you down.
[ ] Send him to the Silvesa Farm.
[ ] Write-in
>[ ] Send him to the Silvesa Farm.
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"No. It's too dangerous, you don't even have armor."
"Oh," the boy looks crestfallen for a brief moment before trying a different tact.
"But I-I can get armor! Just-"

"Go to the Silvesa Farm, south of the city. They may be able to help you. They know magic users."

Gegor agrees. "The giant's right boy. We're going places too dangerous for anyone inexperienced. Practice your craft, get better at it. Someone will take you on eventually."

The boy turns his horse around and heads south. Hopefully he'll make it to the Silvesa's without incident.

"Poor kid." Jacques mutters. "He's gonna have t'do something impressive to get past that black mark on his record."

Perhaps but you weren't even prepared to take Ferith along and risk a screw up, let alone a novice magic user. Taking the kid is out of the question.

Now the real issue is the best route to follow. Skadi has provided plenty of warning already, and according to her the main approaches to the shining city ruins are from the south east.

Routes A and B cross the river north seeking to stay out of contested territory and away from any goblin tribe survivors that might still be south of the ogres.

Route A heads out into the plains allowing faster movement but as previously pointed out little to no cover aside from rolling rills. B sticks to the forests for the most part, which will slow things down but provides more cover.

C skirts farther south, which shaves off a bit of distance compared to B, but runs the risk of encounter with those goblins again.
>Route A
>Route A
>>Route A
Route A might cover a bit more ground but you'll make better speed through the open plains. Skadi and Neia both know the region well enough despite being from farther north. They'll be able to guide the group quickly.

When crossing the river the party makes use of the stone barge that Vaft made. The traders have been experimenting with using it but for longer trips up river it might need a giant or ogre to man it. That or a propulsion system.

"What do you mean?" you ask the barge crews.
"One of the dwarves in the city has talked about using a smaller less powerful steam engine like they put in airships. It would paddle the barge up river, or so he says. Problem is nobody wants to waste an expensive engine on something that doesn't fly."

That's quite the conundrum they've got. Hopefully it works out. Faster travel up river could be worth quite a bit. This river and its tributaries reach nearly the entire north.

"Yeah, if it weren't for the huge waterfalls at the coast mountains we could have regular river trade with the March Counts by now."

By the end of the third day you've reached the edge of the plains. There haven't been any incidents so far but that could change. The morning start off nicely, you at last get to see the wide open plains of the north. Like those of your homeland in some ways though different at the same time. It's a bit more hilly, the plains grasses aren't the same kind and it doesn't seem quite as dry.

"We can get bad droughts," Neia warns. "The rains mainly fall to the south or far north as though they don't like the midlands."

Skadi things the coast mountains help to funnel air currents certain ways.

"I'm writing that down!" Rolf declares. "The Air Corps likes to build up a history of weather reports for new regions. May the air currents so it's safer for their ships."

"Should we have brought someone from the scout division?" Mithel wonders.
"No because then we wouldn't get paid for the weather reports."

Less than an hour later Ocette, who has been circling far overhead, begins flying in a distinct set of patterns before rapidly descending. Cellica calls for the party to stop or take cover. Not entirely easy for you giants but staying behind a hill or ridge will have to do.

"What did you see Ocette?" Cellica asks once the harpy has come in for a landing.
"I saw a big warband. It looks like they were fighting with another tribe."

"Time to be someplace else then," is Tara's assessment. "Cut farther east for most of the day."
"Is it a fight we want one side to lose?" Cirus asks.
Ocette doesn't know, she's not familiar enough with the tribes.

Rolf suggests that if they're fighting they might be too distracted to bother with your group. He's also quick to point out that he has little combat experience aside from repelling a caravan raid or two.

[ ] Skirt far around that
[ ] Move now while they're distracted
[ ] Get closer to see if you could affect the outcome of the fight
[ ] Write-in
>[ ] Get closer to see if you could affect the outcome of the fight
>[ ] Move now while they're distracted
Tie breaker anyone?
>[ ] Move now while they're distracted
"Rolf has a point. We should move now while they're distracted. Even if they do spot us they'll be too busy with their battle."

Cellica and Ocette discuss a few signals in case one side or the other begin sending people in your direction. Once they're set Argen helps loft the harpy skyward and the group gets underway.

Moving quickly you keep an eye out to the north and north west, watching for signs of the fighting tribes or scouts. Even with Ocette up above you're not about to let your guard down. Between a few hills and valleys you think you see the shine of sunlight off blades from the battle.

Though it takes time you gain more and more distance from the battle through the day, eventually leaving it far behind. At sunset Ocette tells all of you that she's fairly certain some of the tribes scouts saw the group but they didn't bother to pursue. That's some welcome relief.

"Just remember, they'll be aware of us now," Tara warns.

While Skadi agrees with her, even she thinks pursuit at this stage is unlikely if the orcs saw there were multiple giants. Provided you keep up good speed there shouldn't be further trouble with that same group.

Two days later Ocette spots centaurs in the distance. With no others in range besides a distant herd of bison Neia rides out to a hill top to signal them. Using her spear she makes a number of motions with it that should be visible for some distance. When she returns Neia informs the group that she's going to go talk to the centaurs and will find her way back to you in a few hours.
"I'm worried so many giants will scare them away if you approach. As long as Ocette stays near you it should be easy enough to find my way back. "

Is this okay or did you want to have at least one other party member go with her?
She should be fine. We have Ocette in the air keeping an eye out for trouble in general.
>Is this okay
There are no objections so she rides off to see the other centaurs. The rest of you continue on until evening with Neia catching up long before Ocette lands for the night.

The centaur herd she spoke with were searching for a smaller group that had gone missing. They believe the orcs from farther north are trying to capture centaurs to make up for their low numbers of horses. Too many are being killed in fighting for their losses to be made up quickly.

Going after centaurs is dangerous so they must be desperate for numbers.

"They'll be demanding horses as tribute from other tribes then," Tara concludes. "We'll have to warn the city about the risk of horse theft when we get back."

You and Jacques tell the others of the raid you helped largely interrupt while on your previous job. Cirus and Argen like the part about you tackling the wagon since that's not usually your forte.

Neia seems confident that the orcs wont subdue the other plains tribes this season. Next year or after things could get bad.

Rolf looks between the rest of you.
"What happened the last time a group of orcs tried to unite the north?"

"Their leader was mysteriously poisoned and they fell to infighting!"
Gegor answers with a grin.

Tara stifles a giggle. "I shouldn't laugh but that's fairly typical. The time before that it was all-"
"Most." Gegor interrupts.
"Most of the tribes south of the plains that united and attacked the city. It was pretty bad."

"And that's the one everyone talks about with the siege and the red blades and all that."
Rolf glances between the older party members.

Tara nods.
"Yes. It's generally accepted that the city didn't want that to happen again so they paid someone to poison the next big warlord that tried to unite the tribes. Nobody can confirm it though."

Mithel pulls out a dagger and begins balancing it.
"And if someone were to kill a warlord like say the one causing all the trouble right now, how much would it be worth?"

"Less than you'd like I reckon," Jacques answers. "They'd probably kill you to cover it up so they can blame other tribes."
The elf doesn't seem to much care for this answer.

>Any write-ins for political commentary on the north?
>Any write-ins for political commentary on the north?
That doesn't seem sustainable, even if no assassin ever gets caught, at some point they'll get suspicions if their leaders keep dying under mysterious circumstances.
Seconding this

Adding "Has the alliances and attempts to form relationships with the near by tribes help reduce the long term issues that the city has been facing?"
Assassination doesn't seem like it can be kept up.
"Even if no assassin is ever caught, at some point the orcs will get suspicious that their leaders keep dying mysteriously wont they?"

"He's got a point," Jacques admits. "Maybe the city will have to send out a proper military force this time."

Tara doesn't think that's likely to happen. At best she believes the city will get some of the mercenary companies to mobilize larger units and support allied tribes in annexing a few others.
"That might increase their strength to the point where they can act as a bulwark against the north."

Mithel shakes her head. "A buffer state? Don't those always end badly for the ones caught in between?"

"From what I saw in the south? Generally yes. It might slow down the northern orcs enough to give the city time to prepare for a more serious attack though."
You look around among the others.
"Have the alliances and attempts to form relationships with the nearby tribes helped reduce the long term issues that the city has been facing?"

Tara, Gegor and Cellica all think so. Kidnapping of settlers has gone way down, as have attacks on caravans in the area. When kidnappings do happen they're generally resolved quickly and without any bloodshed. Even the tribes to the east, though not allied, had been improving relations until this years events.

"I don't think the settlements around Silver Mantle would be doing half as well without those alliances."
That's Tara's position. Gegor doesn't think there would be any settlers coming north without those alliances in place. Or at least each homestead would be more like a fortress able to withstand days of siege. Convincing people to come north to that wouldn't be easy."

"So definitely for the best then."

All of you agree the situation in the plains is topic to be discussed with the city once you return from this expedition.

The rest of the week continues to go smoothly. The farther east you get the less aggressive locals tribes seem to be about your presence. Or they could be saving their strength against real threats that are coming. Either way, orc or centaur, nobody tries to stop or both you.

Your first destination, a lone mountain driving up out of the plains, draws closer with each day. With good terrain and the horses holding up you've been making great time. The animals will need a couple of days rest once you get there but that's not far off.

On the 6th day in the plains you begin the approach to the mountain itself. Though nothing record breaking it stands out against the relatively flat terrain just as much up close as it had in the distance.

From here you can make out signs of ancient habitation, lines cut across the sides of the mountain in places. Rows of stairs spiraling down from the summit to its southern side perhaps? Jagged edges where blocks were cut out? It's hard to be sure but actually seeing it does give the impression of a place touched by your kind. It doesn't feel like something built by dwarves or humans.

With steep mountain walls it takes time to circle around, looking for a better approach to the place. Ocette circles the mountain once, not getting too close to the ruins of the city itself in case anyone is home. She reports signs of hand holds being cut into the northern face of the mountain that don't go anywhere. On the south east side as Skadi had said there are stairs but large chunks of them are missing.

Rounding an extended outcrop the party reaches the base of the stairs only to find that there are a few cracked and crumpled ramps that lead part way up. Despite the damage the rest of the party are able to bring the horses up to a level area surrounded by ruins of fallen stone buildings. A few larger columns litter the square here and there. Larger stairs at the back lead up the mountain to what you guess is the city itself.

Rolf dismounts and begins looking around.
"Fascinating. Maybe this is a market square, or a trade post."
Mithel chases after him, eager to prevent the enchanters representative getting himself killed by any traps.

You're less worried about that than the staircase, as are the other giants. Each step is not so big you can't climb it, they're just somewhat uncomfortably large. Above the waist on a human. This could take some time for the smaller folk to surmount. You're already regretting not asking Vaft along. Or any stone druid for that matter.

"Rolf, I dont suppose you know earth magic?"
"Stairs are too big for you." Argen helpfully adds.

"Er, afraid not. I do have a rather good slashing disk spell."

With the sunset fast approaching that will have to be a problem for the morning. Setting up camp is the more immediate one. Some of the ruins cut into the side of the mountain at this level are still intact. There are even signs of passing tribes having made use of them.

The downside of such an elevated position is that anyone to the south or east will see the light from a camp fire. Then again most trouble seems to be coming from the opposite direction.

[ ] No fires while you're here
[ ] Keep the camp fire in the sheltered area
[ ] Fires in the open should be fine this far east
>[ ] Keep the camp fire in the sheltered area
As a heads up I'll be running only in the morning tomorrow, then not at all thursday.
>Fires in the open should be fine this far east
I am fine with this if we need a tie breaker.
>[ ] Keep the camp fire in the sheltered area
It's snowing outside. What the hell.
"Let's keep the camp fire to the sheltered area. We don't want to show everyone for a hundred miles there are people here."

That's agreed to easily enough. The tents are also set up in a way that will further block light from the fire. You're woken early that night by Rolf and Tara talking.

"Glow stone!" The halfling declares, looking over some of the ruins. "I've heard of this."

You head over to see what he's talking about. Some fallen pillars do indeed seem to be glowing with a faint eerie light. Some a faint blue, others closer to moonlight. Tara picks up a chunk of rock that has the glowing material on one side.

"My parents said we don't know how to make it anymore. Tyrese has a bit of it they salvaged from other destroyed holds in the mountains. Nobody bothered to record how on the old markers."

This only further encourages Rolf to rush about every which way, looking for stray rocks.
"I have to get samples!"

"Be careful what you pick up," Tara warns. "We don't know if there are any old dwarven curses yet."

Rolf stops long enough to give Tara an indignant look.
"Dwarven curses aren't real."
"You people say that, right up until something bad happens I bet."

"Should we get Mithel?" you wonder.
"Curses aren't like regular traps. She's already cleared most of this square as being safe."

Looking around you see that the stairs leading up the mountain also have glow stone in places. Some of the ruins higher up are likewise backlit by the same ethereal glow. Farther over to the east side of the square you spot a thin glowing line that seems to head up the mountain on that side.

As you head over to investigate Tara asks what you've seen.
"Not sure yet."

Getting closer you see that the line is actually several smaller ones that come to an abrupt stop about half a giants height above the ground. Following it upwards it appears to follow a steady incline with the spacing between them all the way up to the top.

Tara can't see from her angle but after you describe them she asks for a lift up.
"These are transport rails," she confirms.
"Can we use them to get up the mountain?"
"No, there should be a cart that runs along them. Maybe it's at the top?"

Given the state of the ruins you doubt that. If what Skadi said about the gold vanishing is true this cart thing might be gone as well. This does seem to explain how most smaller folk or perhaps goods reached the city.
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Rolf is informed about the latest discovery, which he's quite excited about. Any later expeditions could potentially make use of that. For now you can't do anything with it, and advancing up to the city, even with the aid of the glow stones, is probably far too dangerous right now.

With not much else to be done until morning, the mage is politely told to get some rest. That doesn't stop him from being up bright and early. While Rolf might be loath to inflict more damage on this place he does have some idea to make the climb more manageable.

The giants help move a few fallen pillars around, lining them up so the mage can chop them with careful application of his slashing magic. Though he largely exhausts himself in the process, it does leave you with easily stacked blocks to build up stairs for the rest of the party. Or at the very least it will get you part way up the mountain. Neia will have to remain at the base with the horses.

Reports about there being large chunks of the stairs missing are confirmed. The gaps are rather substantial. Argen has an idea. Putting his back to the wall he offers to give the rest of you a boost. With your foot in his hands he's able to heave you up high enough to reach the next undamaged landing.

This should be repeatable and then you can bring help him up. It does leave the question of what to do for the smaller party members. Ropes will be difficult to climb and there are two such gaps to get past. Ocette could fly Rolf or Jib Jab up, maybe some of the supplies too, but anyone else is too big.

"We could pass them up to whichever giant gets up top," Cirus suggests.

Mithel has another suggestion, though she doubts people will care for it.
"I carry a portable hole. We could put supplies in it, maybe even people, and let Ocette fly that up."

Rolf looks a bit cross with her.
"You're not supposed to put people in those."

The elf shrugs.
"It's only for a few minutes. I've done it before on a kidnapping job."

How did you want to get the smaller ones up to the ruins?
[ ] Set up ropes or rope ladders
[ ] Giants pass up the party members May include dwarf tossing.
[ ] Portable hole delivery
[ ] The giants will explore the ruins first
[ ] Giants pass up the party members May include dwarf tossing.
>Pull up with ropes
Jacques raises his hand.
"I vote do anything but that last one."

"Agreed," you call out, quick to support anything that wouldn't be hazardous to the party's health.

Though you and the other giants help the party up, Jacques and Gegor will hang back. One will work away at each of the gaps setting up ropes for the return trip.

For the rest of the trip the stars remain a major obstacle for the party. If this was the city's main form of defense it would make for a good one. Trying to attack this place would be difficult even for giants and a nightmare for anyone else.

After crossing the second gap Ocette flies up with additional rope from the horses. From here you can start to better make out the tops of stone pillars from the city itself. You're just in the process of getting set up to help people up the stairs one at a time when a screeching bellowing noise echoes down from the mountain.

Ocette lands in a panic, taking cover behind a rock and blending in with the grey and white stone. You catch her saying she doesn't like that noise.

"What was that?" Rolf asks.
"That's a Wyvern." Mithel states, keeping her tone neutral.

"Okay, that's bad. That's bad right?" Rolf looks between the rest of you.

Tara readies her bow.
"Yes it's bad half pint. Especially with us stuck on this staircase. We need to be someplace else."

Getting to the top, is closer but you have no way of knowing how far away or how big that Wyvern is. Retreat down the mountain might be sensible, you and Skadi could cover, but this would take a lot longer.

Cellica looks up from her attempts to get Ocette to move.
"I could try to use an illusion to camouflage us, but it will only work if we remain still."

"That still leaves us stuck on these stairs," Tara points out.
You could wait until nightfall and move then, but that's a long time.

[ ] Get to the ruins for cover
[ ] Retreat down the mountain
[ ] Stay here, use illusion
[ ] Write-in
I'm going to have to head out soon. I've still got a few minutes though if anyone wants to know how well other ideas might work.
> [ ] Stay here, use illusion
I'm just going to assume that fighting will not work against this thing lol.
>[ ] Stay here, use illusion
>Stay here, use illusion
Just stopping in quick.


Cellica does what she can to put up an illusion. Camouflaging a group of people is outside of her usual expertise but you can tell there's a bit of a change.

"Is it working?" Cirus asks.
"Shh! Everyone be quiet." Mithel instructs all of you.

Listening intently you and Skadi get ready to start putting arrows into anything that flies and looks like a dragon. Eventually you hear sounds that you guess are the flapping of leathery wings. A few more growling bellowing noises follow before they get quiet again.

After ten minutes Rolf whispers to the others.
"Did it fly away?"
"No. It's still up there." Mithel insists.

Tara confirms that one of you would have seen it if it had flown from the city ruins.
"It might be roosting up there."
"That's a problem."

No doubt. The question is what to do about it? You might be stuck here under this illusion until sunset. All of you except one.

"Jab Jab, you have a ring of invisibility don't you?"
He nods enthusiastically.

[ ] Head down, warn the others
[ ] Sneak up, see how big the Wyvern is
[ ] Let one of the other party members borrow it (who?)
>[ ] Sneak up, see how big the Wyvern is
>Sneak up, see how big the Wyvern is
>[ ] Sneak up, see how big the Wyvern is
Be very careful little friend.
>>[ ] Sneak up, see how big the Wyvern is
Don't get eaten Jib Jab.
[ ] Sneak up, see how big the Wyvern is
If someone gets a chance today, could they check if the pastebin link is working?
Tried adding some stuff to it and they set it as private. Not entirely sure if I got that worked out.
Right now it works
Sure brah.

No problems on my end.
Lost some data to a crash. Posting as soon as I retype it.
You point up to the ruins of the city.
"Can you sneak up, see how big the Wyvern is? That would give us an idea of what we're up against."

The kobold thumps his chest and you help him up a few of the large steps. Rather than try and tackle the rest of them he move off to the side and begins climbing the rough rock of the mountain. It must be easier for him to get a grip there. Though it's slow going he steadily moves upward until he disappears from sight. That or he put the ring on.

For the rest of you it's a matter of waiting. Tara begins chipping away at one side of the steps with a small chisel and hammer, cutting into them to create dwarven sized ones. Cellica looks at the dwarf worriedly but doesn't say anything, clearly focusing on keeping up the illusion.

Rolf finally heads over to Tara to speak to her.
"Are you crazy?"
"I'd argue I'm being practical."
"We're going to need better stairs at some point soon."

She keeps working away but doesn't carve out more than a couple of levels, staying well within the range of the illusion. Those of you keeping watch see no sign of a monster being bothered by the noise.

Down below Jacques is catching up. He and Gegor fave finished a rope ladder and have been ferrying enough stone blocks to make the steps just barely passable. Once he reaches the second gap in the steps he calls up to you.

"Why're y'all just hangin around while I'm doing the back breaking labour?"
After the lot of you have shushed the cleric Tara says that she'd better go back and help. Mithel also gets to work helping with the second rope ladder.

It's quite awhile before Jib Jab returns. You eventually spot him climbing back down the rocks. Slowly but carefully making his way between them and making sure he has good handholds. By the time he reaches a point close enough for you to pick him up the others have returned from the bottom.

"We're out of cut rock," Tara informs all of you.
That will make the things a little more difficult for the rest of the way up but it's the least of your worries right now. Everyone wants to know what the kobold saw.

Jib Jab holds his arms out to either side.
"Jaws this big."
That is quite large, and causes plenty of concern among the smaller party members. Among the giants however this news gets a laugh from Argen.
"Not even big enough to eat a giant."

Not all at once maybe. Skadi gestures worriedly for all of you to keep your voices down. Cirus does his best to comply but still speaks.
"If we could get into those ruins we might be able to take it."
Mithel meanwhile has popped off the front plate of her armor and is rummaging... through it? The portable hole must be affixed to the backing of it. After a minute she pulls out a scroll and begins to unroll it on the staircase.

At first you thought it was parchment but looking at it more closely it appears to be more like a tapestry. Various shades of dragon and related species are on it. Things like drakes and wyverns split off to one side while wyrms and snake folk split off the other. There's also a line linking dragons to an entire row of kobolds with different shaded scale colours. Like the dragons they seem to be mostly in earth tones.

"Okay. To my knowledge there are only two types of wyvern. One's rust coloured, the other is white and grey to blend in with snow."

Jib Jab points to the rust coloured one with a horn curving backward from the front of its nose.

"You're sure it doesn't have forelegs?" Tara asks. "Because if it's a dragon we're screwed."
"Just wings and back legs?" Mithel asks, to which Jib Jab nods excitedly.

Wyvern are described as smart but not bright. They can learn to speak but that requires more patience than most of them possess. Mithel has heard they're supposed to be easy to trick.

"Their favourite food is-" The elf stops and looks to Cellica, gesturing in Ocette's direction. "She knows about Wyvern right?"

Cellica shakes her head.
"No, she's not that old. Why?"

Grimacing Mithel continues to point in the Harpy's direction.
"Anyways, that's their favourite food. We could use that to draw it into an ambush."

"Let's get this straight," Gegor begins. "You want to play hide and seek in the ruins to draw the Wyvern out so the giants can beat it down?"

[ ] I like this plan
[ ] I don't like this plan
[ ] We're not using Ocette as bait
[ ] It's not worth the risk
[ ] Write-in
>[ ] I like this plan
>[ ] We're not using Ocette as bait
While you like the plan you're against using Ocette as bait.

From her hiding place you hear Ocette add; "I don't want to be on this adventure anymore. I want to go home."

Gegor shakes his head.
"We don't want to use her as bait. If she flies off for any reason so would the Wyvern. We need to take it on the ground. I can draw it out, or Cellica could use an illusion. Can these things breathe fire like dragons?"

Mithel shrugs. "A little bit? Maybe a tiny little burst."

Rolf should have minor spells in his books that would protect the party from fire. It would take time to ready them though. You'd have to wait until morning.

Cellica will try to use an illusion to draw out the creature but if it doesn't work Gegor will be standing by to take over on that front. According to Jib Jab there is a wide street with ruins on either side leading from the stairs all the way to the mountain wall. There structures have been cut into the rest of the mountain that continues upwards. You'll have to see what it's like when you get up there.

Do you want to delay until morning so you all have some level of fire protection? Go now before the sun sets so there's still enough light to see by? Or wait until its dark. By then Rolf thinks he should have enough fire protection for four of you.

[ ] Go now
[ ] Wait until morning
[ ] Wait until nightfall
>[ ] Go now
Finishing up the map.
>>[ ] Go now
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"Let's go now. We've spent enough time on these stairs."
Besides, if any of you get close enough for its breath attack to do any damage you're already doing rather badly.

Skadi and Cellica convince Ocette to go to the bottom of the mountain and warn Neia about the Wyvern and planned attack. Which is to say that Skadi picks up the bird person and threatens to throw her.

"What happened to not acting brash?" you jokingly ask her.
"A time and a place for everything."

After that the four giants and 7 other party members head for the top, lifting people up the stairs or carrying them in order to speed things up. Remains of collapsed buildings come into view as you crest the stairs. Sturdier pieces of ruins that you could see from the distance have held up better. Slabs of rock only a team of giants could erect dot the area.

What you hadn't seen before is a ring that looks almost like a section of roofing that's held above the ruins. The heaviest of the stone supports hold it in place. With the sun now heading for the horizon in the west, anywhere currently in shadow is starting to be lit slightly by traces of glowstone light. Rolf and Tara quickly realise most of that light is coming from the edges of the ring above.

"We won't have many shadows to hide in as it gets darker."

Rolf is in the middle of pulling out a notebook to start recording runes on the glowstone ring, when a noise from the back of the ruins reminds all of you of the ever present danger.

Where do you want to position your party for the ambush?
I left out a section.

Most of the ruins are in such a state that you could easily walk through gaps in the former walls. You doubt they'll stop a Wyvern or dragon but could slow it down. Fortunately the remains are needed more for cover rather than defense. They're still intact enough to use for that purpose.

At the back where the Wyvern seems to be are still solid looking walls of stone set up like the outer wall of a castle. Its gates are long gone. A section of the ground near a large well in the city center looks to have collapsed. That might not bode well for the structural strength of the foundation nearby.
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If there are no objections to this plan?

Moving into cover you look for a good spot to lay the ambush. There's a small square off on the western side of the city. If the Wyvern could be drawn out of the castle then down the side street its mobility would be restricted. After that its just a question of how best to hit it.

Where do you want to position the giants? The smaller ones will figure out where best to part themselves once you're in place.

(A) is a good spot for those wanting to attack the Wyvern from behind. They can step out of the ruins and into the lane without much difficulty. Any of the other lanes (B,E,G) might be good spot for the giants if you didn't want their movement restricted by the ruins. Unfortunately it also means they'll have no cover.

Ulf - Archer
Argen - Sword and Shield
Cirus - Sword and Shield
Skadi - Archer
Ulf: A
Argen: G
Cirus: E
Skadi: D
"We come at it from all directions," you explain.
"Cellica and Gegor lure it past me. Argen, Cirus, you block the two larger streets to the south. Skadi, you attack from these ruins opposite."

Hopefully she'll be able to keep hitting it with arrows from that side without any way for the Wyvern to strike back.

Cellica and Gegor will escape out the northern side street at (B) once it's in the square. If there's an opportunity to do so they may rejoin the battle.
Mithel has found a good spot to shoot from at (C).
Tara and Rolf will set up in the ruins at (F), with the ranger mostly being prepared to quickly haul the mage to safety.

Jacques will stay back behind Skadi at (D) where it should be safe.

Jib Jab will be up on one of the higher sections of ruins near you at (A), keeping watch where most of you can see him. From there he can signal to you all if the plan is working.

>1) What if any enchanted arrows did you want to ready for immediate use?
Full list under >Arrows

>2) Roll 2d100 for Cellica and Gegor
Rolled 69, 77 = 146 (2d100)

Start with Enfeeblement,
keep Ice ready
Rolled 28, 55 = 83 (2d100)

Rolled 20, 53 = 73 (2d100)

> 1) Enfeeblement, then Poison
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You ready your improved enfeeblement arrow, along with all of your ice and the poison arrows. None of you are sure how tough the scales will be on the Wyvern. If none of your other arrows can get through the ice ones should help weaken it.

When everyone is ready they pass the signal to Jib Jab. You stick your arm out a hole in the wall to give Cellica and Gegor a thumbs up. Now concentrating, the half-elf manifests an illusionary copy and sends it onto the main street, out of your view.

After a few seconds you begin to hear the distinctive sound of a sword scraping across stone. When there seems to be little response to this Cellica calls out via her illusion in a harsher tone than you've heard her use before.
"Hey! Reject from the Dragon aspirant club! I'm going to turn you into a handbag for my mother!"

https://youtu.be/9q8ZBsumfZQ (Alligator bellowing)

This time there is a loud deep growling followed by the same bellowing noise from before. Jib Jab soon signals that he sees movement. The Wyvern has moved to the opening of the castle gate but has stopped there.

In the hopes of keeping it moving Cellica continues to taunt it.
"Are you what happens when a harpy bangs a dragon?"

Before she can continue to question its parentage you hear the flap of wings and catch the flash of scales above the tops of the ruins. The half-elf's illusion has enough time to shout, "Oh shit!" before the beast crashes down on it. Shortly after you see the real Cellica sprinting down the side street past your location.

It must be Gegor's turn. Looking out through the hole in the wall you see the paladin adjusting his helmet before stepping from cover. He doesn't call out, instead beating the front of his shield with his sword.

The Wyvern must have realised there there isn't a body where it landed anymore because it's sounding increasingly angry. Jib Jab signals that it's working and the Wyvern is advancing, but it's also hanging back quite a bit, acting wary.

Eventually Gegor must have judged it to be close enough because he makes a run for it down the street. Jib Jab is still giving a thumbs up when the Wyvern crashes through the north east wall of this block of ruins. It hasn't seen you yet and the building might keep you from its view given how dark it's getting.

You could step out into the street where Gegor is, but it might be able to see you relocate. Then again the plan might be approaching the point where it's unsalvageable. Or maybe you could be the new bait? Start shooting regular arrows and try to try to draw it into the square.

[ ] Stay hidden
[ ] Get out into the street
[ ] Shoot, draw it toward ambush
[ ] Write-in?
>[ ] Shoot, draw it toward ambush
>Get out into the street
Did you want to try and combine these somehow?
> [ ] Shoot, draw it toward ambush
Roll 2d20
Rolled 17, 2 = 19 (2d20)

Rolled 15, 10 = 25 (2d20)

Rolled 1, 7 = 8 (2d20)

Rolled 2, 1 = 3 (2d20)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQWFXdiezkY [Go Big or Go Extinct]

Stepping out of cover you shout towards the side street; "Gegor, stop!"
If he keeps running you and that Wyvern are likely to drop a wall on him. Hopefully he'll understand shortly.

Having heard your shout the Wyvern slows long enough to locate the source. Eyes the size of cannon balls lock onto you just as the first arrow flies from your bow. It strikes the beast in its front horn, shattering into splinters. By the time it shakes off the unexpected hit another is already in the air. You keep smacking it in the face with arrows while steadily moving towards the square.

Becoming annoyed it shields it head with an outstretched wing. One arrow drives into its arm while others punch through scaly membrane without issue. When it pulls the wing back a moment later a small fireball erupts from its mouth. You'd hardly consider it dangerous but it does give you a chance to retreat. Leaping through one of the gaps in the ruined wall you turn and resume firing.

This time the Wyvern full on roars before barreling forward. Leaping up, it smashes through the upper parts of the still standing walls. While it's still in the air you put the enchanted enfeeblement arrow into its exposed lower belly. However this does little to slow its momentum, now focused entirely on the giant in front of it. It slams head first into your chest like an avalanche of teeth and scales, throwing you back into the building to the west.

Masonry and brick work shatters, doing little to slow you down. The backs of your legs catch on the foundation dropping you on your back inside the same building Skadi was taking cover in. In a panic she fires off a few hurried shots at the beast that's on top of you, but most of them break or bounce off it's thick armored skull. Now you're faced with an angry Wyvern trying to gore you on its horn or bite through your armor.

[ ] Knife
[ ] Fist
[ ] Grapple
[ ] Ice arrows still in your hand
Roll 1d20
Rolled 18 (1d20)

>[ ] Ice arrows still in your hand
Rolled 1 (1d20)

>Ice arrows still in your hand
Cirus and Argen are on the way, you just have to buy time and not get your head stabbed through or bitten off.

Though you've dropped your bow a few of the enchanted arrows you'd previously been holding are still in your hand. As the wyvern begins to rip the front of your armor off you grab hold of its horn and stab all three arrows into its eye. A blast of ice magic lets loose from its socket, coating the side of its face and your left arm with freezing shrapnel.

In response the beast yanks its head back roaring in pain. Thrashing all around it causes you to lose your grip before it rams its face into yours. It's a solid hit and one that leaves you stunned.

Luckily you're not in this fight alone. Skadi and Jacques are doing what they can to inflict damage on the beast. The cleric emerges from cover long enough to fire a beam of white energy into the Wyvern's shoulder. Surprisingly its scales blacken and flake away where hit.

Skadi has paused briefly to switch arrows. This time when she lets loose she puts a pair of enchanted arrows into the Wyvern's neck, hitting with considerable force. They must be earth enchanted.

As you start to come to your senses once more you hear a shout from on the other side of the ruined wall.
"Legs!" Argen hollers.

Not two seconds later the Wyvern is hauled back into the square by the other giants. Cirus is soon hit by a clawed leg and sent stumbling backwards. He isn't given a chance to recover as a tail swipe catches him in the side of the head sending him sprawling.

As it rounds on Argen a disk of magical energy cuts through the air, chopping off the Wyvern's left wing arm. Rolf next aims for its other wing with a barrage of weaker wind based attacks. These aren't doing much but it's an added layer of distraction as Argen fights it head on, taking hits to his heavy shield.

The skirmish in the square has bought you time enough to locate your bow. With it finally distracted by melee you and Skadi both have clear shots. Time to choose a target and an arrow type and keep shooting until it stops.
Your poison arrow and all of the ice arrows have been dropped. Fire and conventional arrows will likely be ineffective and so are not listed.

[ ] Head
[ ] Chest
[ ] Belly (Easier to penetrate, may do less immediate damage)
[ ] Foot (Attempt to pin with steel or earth)

>2) Select Arrows
Steel bolt: 2
Lightning S-Bolt (AoE):1
Piercing (AoE): 2
Sonic/Thunder (AoE): 1
Spirit (AoE): 3
Spirit (Improved): 2
Spirit (Basic): 4
Wind (Improved): 2
Earth/stone (Basic): 4
Earth/stone (Impr): 4
> [ ] Foot (Attempt to pin with steel or earth)
> Pin it Improved Earth
[ ] Belly (Easier to penetrate, may do less immediate damage)
Tear gas

Give it a real bellyache
A hail of smaller arrows from Tara and Mithel are now pelting the Wyvern. Those fired by the elf turning the area around its joints into pincushions. Tara is mostly just trying not to hit Argen or Cirus.

Despite the danger Gegor charges in. With his sword glowing a pale white he dives under a tail sweep and catches the appendage while it's reversing direction. A strong cleave later the last six feet of the tail have been severed. This clears the way for the paladin to reach Cirus. The giant is still rather out of it and has done little else but keep his shield up.

Putting a hand to the giant's forehead Gegor yells angrily.
"Come on, for once actually work!"
Eventually his hand glows faintly and soon enough Cirus is back on his feet.

With the fourth giant back in the fight the Wyvern's movements are now restricted enough that you and Skadi can't possibly miss. A little extra help never hurt anything though. Using your earth arrows you put two bolts through its nearest foot, pinning it in place. This is followed by a pair of wind arrows to the head. These chip away at the frozen areas further wounding its head.

It's not dead yet though. Using its remaining wing to drive Argen back you hear it growling, this time in a much deeper manner.

"Bad words!" Jib Jab shouts from across the square.
Whatever it's trying to utter doesn't get anywhere. Skadi's earlier neck shots are preventing it from vocalizing properly. Instead it takes another swipe at Cirus with its still free leg before growling something at Jib Jab.

The kobold looks like he's been hit by something, then takes aim with his crossbow.
"No," he says in response, before firing a bolt at the Wyvern's head.

You and Skadi pummel the beast with the rest of your earth arrows. Enough of your shots eventually getting through its thick skull that it collapses to one side. Argen grabs it by the horn, holding it down so Cirus can move in and hack away at its neck behind the head. That finally finishes it off.

The square at last is silent and all of you take a moment to catch your breath. Mithel breaks the quiet with a long string of elven curse words, matched only in intensity by those coming from Tara.
Jacques soon rushes out of the ruins and begins checking who is most badly wounded.

>What are you plans for the slain draconic beast?
Tear out it's nails and teeth for arrowheads.
Skin its flesh for a nice armor of Wyvren scales.
Rip the tongue, gut the belly, separate the meat, and clean the innards for Serpent Stew.
Crack the bones to fashion a club.
Scoop out both eyes and sell to a potion maker
Cut off a foot and keep for good luck.
Use the skull for as a night cap or eday cap.
Clean and dress it, then bring it back to town to sell to a merchant.

I mean. We're a merc, not a craftsman. We can sell most of it to get some really good stuff made. Also we're not the only person who participated, easier to split coin than the wyvern bits.
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Jacques waves for Argen to stop poking himself with smaller bursts of healing and hits him with more powerful stuff. This then allows the giant to help fix up Cirus.

You're doing mostly okay except for the head hit, and minor teeth marks to the chest. Also some claw marks to the arm and legs... plus frost bite to your left hand and arm.
"How about sit yer ass down," Jacques finally orders.

The cleric believes you and Cirus both have had concussions, though minor ones by giant standards. Still he wants to keep an eye on both of you.

Cirus slaps you on the back.
"That was mad. Glad you hit it with that curse arrow earlier. I could tell it was getting weaker through the fight."
"Yep," Argen strongly agrees.

Skadi shakes her head.
"I'm just glad none of you were killed."

Gegor is also glad you stopped him and drew the Wyvern's attention.
"I would have been crushed by that wall."

Jib Jab and Rolf are inspecting the Wyvern. The Kobold looks deep in thought while the halfling takes measurements of the skull and horns. Mithel has started bottling some of the Wyvern's blood. Tara soon joins her and suggests the mage do the same.

"This stuff is worth a lot of money, isn't it?"
"To the right people," the elf confirms. "Just like dragons it's slightly poisonous, and so is the meat unless prepared properly."

This gets everyone else's attention.
"Can't grill it?" Argen wonders.

Mithel doesn't remember the details. According to her the meat will keep for ages though. Cirus also has the ice bag he brought along.

>armor of Wyvren scales
Good idea.
It's a big skull.
>bring it back to town to sell to a merchant.
At this point the giant villages are closer than the city and may be easier to get to.

So current plan: field dress the wyvern, take most of it down to camp once everyone is healed up. Give Rolf and Mithel at least a day to study the ruins while the rest of you determine how best to transport the carcass. While presumably trying not to die experimenting with different ways of cooking wyvern meat?
> So current plan: field dress the wyvern, take most of it down to camp once everyone is healed up. Give Rolf and Mithel at least a day to study the ruins while the rest of you determine how best to transport the carcass. While presumably trying not to die experimenting with different ways of cooking wyvern meat?
Sounds about right, let's try some roasted first.
Yeah, that works. I just feel the materials are too valuable to be worked by enthusiastic amateurs.
Resuming tomorrow.

Goodnight, we love you!
Thanks for running.

Good plan. Also, ask Jib Jab what it was saying to him.
After shouting an all clear to the others at the bottom those of you ordered to do so rest up. A camp is made ready in the shadow of one of the least damaged pillars.

The majority of the party need to help with the not simple task of field dressing the wyvern.
It's a task that not only takes time but is necessary to get some of your more expensive arrows back. Often mostly just the arrow heads, though in some cases those were destroyed by impact as well. A little over half end up being recoverable.

A whole list of ideas for what to do with the remains runs through your head. You'll have to share with the others of course but there is plenty to go around. While resting you and Cirus have already decided that the carcass could be slung with a large enough log and carried by two of you. Transporting the skull might be a problem. One giant would have to be dedicated to carrying that by itself.

Overnight one issue that becomes apparent is why the city hasn't been resettled. Water. The main well and the collapsed area around it hasn't been functional in a long time. It's left most of the ruins on the north east side unstable and at risk of collapse.
There were cisterns below the city too but they're full of stagnant water. Tara and Rolf report clear signs of ice damage. There's a risk of the entire east side collapsing within in a few years to a decade.

You and Argen help bring the Wyvern to the base camp at first light. This takes some time but you get it done. Now much calmer, Ocette flies out and locates a suitable tree to use for hauling the remains. It was agreed that two giants at all times remain in the city to help with any situations that may develop. Tara is tasked with recording runes on glow stone ring. It may be made up of other materials but identifying them may have to wait for another expedition.

Rolf has kept busy even through the night and doesn't stop during the day either. He's downed a potion of vigor to keep going. Clearly he wants more than the day you've tentatively agreed to stay.

After you return with the log Argen heads topside to trade places with Cirus. It takes awhile but the latter giant arrives at the bottom with the oversized skull strapped to his back plus a bag full of loot. Apparently that wyvern had managed to hoard away a few odds and ends, but it's a far cry from the legendary wealth of dragons. Still worth a fair amount though.

Wands of summoning and minor healing
A somewhat chewed suit of southern steel armor
An enchanted spear
Amulet of stoneskin
Potion of temporary dexterity
8398 silver worth of silver coin and minor gems
4 platinum pieces (1600s each or 6400s)
Though she wasn't able to take part (much to her annoyance) Neia would seem like the best recipient for the spear. The potions, amulet and wands will be a matter of some debate. The real question is how to split up the silver? As none of the giants have been paid yet, and because they would be harder to split up, Tara suggests the giants take the platinum. The silver can be divided among the rest.

>1) Are you okay with this or did you have another idea for dividing up the loot?

>2) Neia and Ocette
The harpy and the centaur didn't really contribute to the fight against the Wyvern, each for their own reasons. Some of them being very good ones. Will they be getting a share of the Wyvern's loot?

[ ] Equal shares of the silver
[ ] They can split 1 share between them
[ ] No silver, just other loot (spear, etc)
>1) Are you okay with this
[ ] No silver, just other loot (spear, etc)
Yeah lets learn what it said to Jib Jab. He clearly was not pleased.
1 yes, 2 [X] Equal shares of the silver

They still came out, and there are things like scouting and whatnot to consider. Since we didn't really discuss it prior, it would be miserly to cut them off now.
Tara's idea about the platinum sounds good to you. Skadi is certainly happier with platinum rather than gold.
"If I return to the city I may trade with you."

The rest of the silver is split between the other party members that contributed to the fight. Neia will still get the enchanted spear and Ocette can have some other piece of loot that she finds useful, but not the money.
When Jib Jab finds out he now has more than a thousand silver to his name he goes a little crazy. Not a panic attack per se, but more of a... joy attack? He's clearly not sure what to do, so the rest of you leave him be until he's burned through his manic frenzied state and calms down.

Having eventually exhausted himself you ask your companion what exactly the Wyvern was saying.

"Bad words. Tried to put curse?"
A death curse would certainly have been a bad thing, no doubt about that.
"What about after that?"
"Tried to order me. Kill all of you in sleep."
"That... uh."

Wyverns are vindictive assholes it would seem. You're not sure how best to respond to Jib Jab refusing to betray you. Eventually you settle on something simple.
"Thank you. That means a lot."

When it's your turn to head back up to the city you find that Gegor and Cellica have been hard at work through the day. They've been moving the smaller more regular blocks of stone from the ruins to the stairs. Building up steps the smaller folk can actually use.

Cellica stops to take a breather.
"You do know the more work we put into this the more likely it is this place will be occupied when another expedition returns?"
"I'm willing to risk it," the paladin replies. "These stairs are a bitch to deal with."

Rolf has filled most of a book with notes, sketches, diagrams and tracing of old runes through the day. In his estimation the Enchanters are getting their money worth just from this place.
"This city, it had to have been built by survivors of the ancient war. There are signs, signs everywhere, of old knowledge. The glow stones are only the most visible layer of the knowledge retained. I-I could spend weeks here!"

You're certainly not going to spend that long here are you? It would be good to get underway again so the Wyvern could be brought to someone that could make the most of it. Did you want to continue on to the giant villages as planned, or turn back for the city?

[ ] Giant villages
[ ] City
[ ] Write-in/Other?
>[ ] Giant villages
>[ ] Giant villages
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Much as you might like to stick around and let the mage play archeologist, this was just one stop on your journey. He's gathered enough information that a follow up investigation can properly equip itself. Hopefully with some stone druids or earth mages. For now you're headed for the giant villages.

You've tried your hand at cooking some of the wyvern meat before departing. Though still declared too dangerous for most to eat, stone kin like the giants and Tara are able to stomach some of it. Most of you even like it. It has a unique taste. Against everyone's advice Rolf tries some and soon enough needs to throw up. Jacques is not happy with him.
"Bein' a mage don't make you immune to poison!"

Headed across the plains once more Gegor is still happy about how the fight went.
"I've never fought a proper full sized dragon before. Well dragon, wyvern, close enough. It's going to be a popular topic among the paladins, good for a few retellings. The most unbelievable part of the story might be that I was able to heal someone."

You'd thought that was a thing all paladins could do. He cant?

"I may be a veteran paladin but I tend more toward stab-kill than the stab-heal like some are known for."
"Both are good." Adds Argen.

"You may say that, but you're actually able to heal people reliably. I can probably count the number of times it's worked for me on one hand."

>What say?
>How common are Paladins with healing issues?
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With a statement like that you have to wonder if he's the only one.
"How common are Paladins with healing issues?"

"I can't say it's uncommon. Some can't heal, others can heal but can't inflict holy damage. I've even met two or three that are paladins in name only. Little more than especially driven soldiers. They usually find ways to make up for it. For a long time I thought I would be in the same boat."

"I had no idea."
"Plenty of people make up stories about paladins. From any order. As long as it isn't anything bad we won't discourage it because it helps recruitment."

"It sounds like you have a lot to be grateful for then."
"I suppose I do."

Cellica has been preoccupied with her own performance in the battle.
"I should have been able to contribute more. I can use illusions to trick people, I can negotiate, or use my sword against goblins and orcs. Against anything larger than that I feel like I'm just in the way."

"Your illusion did help draw it out of the castle," you point out. "Someone might have been killed if we'd done it any other way."

"But after that I hardly contributed at all," she protests. "I need to figure out a way to help in battles against larger opponents."
"You could learn to use a bow?" Tara helpfully suggests.

Cellica scoffs at this idea.
"My mother would never let me live it down. I hate using bows."

You recall hearing Aeson say that most Mages can learn to use wands. She can already do illusion magic.
"Are they closely related enough that you could use a wand?"

"Maybe? I don't know. It would certainly be worth looking into. They're not the quickest thing to train on so it might take a few years."

Fulfilling her scouting duties Ocette warns that a large herd of bison are ahead. They're crowding a good section of land to the north and east, including most of the best places to ford the river that you're now closing in on. Unless you're planning on going through the herd, or waiting until they pass, you'll probably have to circle around them some distance.

Circling farther north could add anywhere from a day to two. The river here doesn't have many good places to ford so you'd have to backtrack to the south if wanting to circle more east. That or risk a crossing in a faster flowing stretch.

[ ] Circle North
[ ] Circle South East
[ ] Risk a crossing due east
[ ] Try to cut through the herd
[ ] Wait them out
>[ ] Circle North
> try to cut through the herd.

They come up to what, our knees?
The smaller ones. Bigger ones a bit higher.
There's not really many good options for combining these two. Could we get a tie breaker?
> try to cut through the herd.
"Why not try to cut through the herd? They're barely taller than our knees."

"Ulf, that may not be wise," Skadi cautions. "Bison herds will stampede if panicked and they can cause a great deal of damage. Our people as well as centaurs routinely hunt them."

It's a good thing there is a ranger and a druid with you. The giants can forge a path while everyone else follows in your wake.
"It should be fine, right?"


Roll 2d100 for your party druid and ranger finding a way.
Rolled 72, 70 = 142 (2d100)

While the rest of you form up to better protect the horses and pack animals, Ocette and Tara plan how they're going to make this work. It's not going to be anything scientific but rather feeling out where best to lead the group through.

The harpy is trying hard to make this work, practicing her technique on some smaller groups of larger bison so she doesn't scare the main herd. Most of the smaller ones are back among the main group. As she looks and acts an awful lot like a predator that might swoop in and grab a small calf, making sure she doesn't startle them takes a bit of work.

In the end flying near them simply doesn't work. Tara has Ocette land on the back of her horse and they ride ahead of the group by a few dozen yards. This time they're able to get by without incident and clear a path for the rest of you. The going is rather slow but it's getting you through a lot faster than most alternatives.

"I'm surprised this is actually working," Skadi comments. "Just make sure not to draw a bow."

You can't count how many of these creatures must make up this single herd. Small than you or not, a few thousand of these things ramming into your shins and knees would hurt. Maybe even bowl you over. That would be bad.

Things are going well until approaching the far side of the herd.

"I see centaurs." Skadi warns.

You can't see much due to taking up the rear with the Wyvern rack but you're guessing the centaurs arrival might not be good. If they're hunting bison at the back of the herd that will only serve to drive them toward you more quickly. Sure enough when you're able to get a clear view you can see those at the back are beginning to stampede.

A change of plans might be in order. Picking up speed could be dangerous but the sooner you get out of here the better. Halting to quickly dig earthworks might be possible in the few minutes before the stampede spreads. You giants can move a lot of material after all. Or maybe scaring the bison could work in your favour from here? You still have an enchanted fire arrow, that might startle them.

[ ] Hold your course but try to pick up speed
[ ] Argen & Cirus block, the rest quickly dig earthworks
[ ] Draw weapons, scare them into opening a path
[ ] Write-in
>[ ] Argen & Cirus block, the rest quickly dig earthworks
>Argen & Cirus block, the rest quickly dig earthworks
>[ ] Argen & Cirus block, the rest quickly dig earthworks
"Stop. Stop everyone, there's no way we'll get through that many. Not like this."
You and Skadi set down the Wyvern.

"Then what are we doing Ulf?" Gegor asks, sounding a bit apprehensive. "I hope you have a plan."
"I have a plan."

Drawing your sword sized dagger you stab it into the earth. Carving out a substantial chunk of turf, you pull it free, the block largely held together by a thick mass of roots.
"We dig earthworks. Quickly."

You and the other giants set to work with gusto, tearing into the surface and piling heaps of sod and turf into two sloped walls forming a triangle. With luck it will force any bison that heads your way to break around it.

"This has got to be the craziest plan," you hear Mithel mutter.
Despite the complaint she quickly retrieves a pair of small shovels from the inside of her breastplate and begins to help. Everyone does, with whatever implements they can find that are handy.

Once the lead walls are up to your waist in height you help the others extend them backwards enough for the horses to be brought inside. Jib Jab quickly locates and points out rocks that can be pulled free and added to the walls. The earthen walls go up fast, and while they're not as high as you'd like they're going to have to do as you're out of time.

Tara and Ocette come rushing back with a small wave of bison charging after. The dwarf brings her horse around the back and Skadi blocks the entrance with a few larger rocks. Argen and Cirus position themselves at the leading edge of the fort, ready to batter back any bison that decides to try and jump the walls.

While the others keep digging you ready your bow and a fire arrow just in case some additional persuasion is required. Neia has driven both of her spears into the ground on the north side next to Cirus. They should kill or hang up any bison that tries to jump the wall there, creating an even taller obstacle for the rest.

As the initial wave reaches you they split to either side for the most part, avoiding the new walls. In case that wasn't enough Argen shouts a deafening battle cry as further incentive to stay away. It's hard to tell which was louder, the giant or the increasing thunder of hooves drowning everything else out. Either way it seems to be working. Only one bison that isn't really looking where it's going has to be rebuffed by a shield hit and a shove to the side.

"Is it working?" Cellica asks, covering her ears.
"Keep digging!" Gegor admonishes.

When you're sure that things are under control and your arrows aren't needed, you rejoin the rest in shoring up the fortifications. Tara clearly wants to be helping but she has her hands full preventing the horses from trying to bolt. Ocette is thankfully helping her a bit.

As the wave of animals dissipates the party doesn't have much time to celebrate. An even larger group is bearing down on your position.
"Is there no end to them?!" Rolf cries.

While the giants throw themselves back into more heavily fortifying your position, Jacques turns to Rolf.
"Don't suppose you've got any useful magic?"
"Uh actually, maybe I do!"
Running up to the highest point on the wall he begins casting. Streamers of coloured magic flash out from his staff, hitting twenty or thirty bison all at once. The streamers bind their legs sending the front row slamming face first into the grassy terrain. Those who collapsed are soon trampled under thousands of hooves from those following.

Taking up positions once more the bison again mostly try to go around the walls, though increasing numbers are shifting southward. It looks like the centaurs are flanking in on the north side causing the herd to try and evade. One bull attempts to jump the north wall and meets the business end of Neia's spears. Skadi quickly moves in and stabs it to death with a dagger.

At long last the animals clear away, replaced by two dozen centaurs. Most of them continue on driving the bison toward the south while a third of their force stops nearby. Some carry bows or even swords while nearly all have spear, javelins or throwing weapons of some kind.

Pulling her spear free Neia climbs over the walls to begin speaking to her kin. Though none of her direct family are present several of those here are more distant relatives of hers. Two males have markings similar to that of Arix, one of the other few you've met before.

Once Neia has talked to her people the group is introduced Ende, the leader of this band. He congratulates all of you on the resourceful survival of the stampede. He also thanks Rolf for essentially killing a whole swath of bison they'll be able to harvest.

"If you wish I can see that some of the meat is sent to the giants."

You could accept their offer of what is essentially a gift. You'd never be able to move any of it yourselves, currently loaded down with the Wyvern. Or you could suggest they may have more use for it in the weeks ahead if the northern orcs continue to expand their territory.

[ ] Accept and thank them for the offer
[ ] They may need it more
[ ] Write-in?
>They may need it more
>[ ] They may need it more
>[ ] They may need it more
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngAqP1jrE5w [FFIX - Crossing Those Hills]

While you're grateful for the offer you're more worried they may need it more. The orcs from the north seem determined to subjugate the plains and are even capturing centaurs to use in their war efforts.
"If things keep worsening you may not have much time to hunt."

"Grim tidings," Ende replies. "We know the orcs have been taking our people more than usual of late. If it is happening across the entire north then we may need to begin stockpiling more as you suggest.
If you could bring word to the other giants before hand, we may take to speaking to them more often of events in the plains. We have no alliance with them, but it may be necessary to stand together in the future if the orcs become even more aggressive."

Skagi promises to tell her village, the Adarak clan.

Argen declares that the party is definitely taking the bison that had been speared and stabbed though. It could be cooked up for tonight.

When most of the other centaurs are out of earshot Skadi calls you, Argen and Cirus over.
"What the centaurs asked to do for us was a gift. You're supposed to accept gifts."
"We are?"
"Yes," she whispers. "We'd done something nice for them, they wanted to do something nice for us in return."
The other giant men are left in the same position of befuddlement as you. Cirus would have accepted it but mostly because he wasn't thinking of the larger war, not for Skadi's reasoning. Fortunately the centaurs aren't mad about it and genuinely accepted your warning.

Neia is going to part ways with you here. She'll go with some of her people to reunite with her family. She'll arrive at the Adarak village in about two weeks. That should give you time to visit the other giants, the ruins, and figure out if more backup is required.

>Anything you wanted to talk to Neia about before you split up?
Can't think of anything.
Nope. Let's move on.
I've got most of the next post done. I think parts of it need to be reworked a bit but I'm too burned out to do so tonight. So resuming tomorrow.
Sleep tight.
All of you wish Neia and the other centaurs luck before they depart. The party meanwhile camps in the turf fort overnight after some slight improvements are made. The bison that got killed on the wall is cooked up giving you a break from the other supplies. The entire experience isn't bad.

It's another 4 days to reach Skadi's home. On the last day you leave the plains and enter into more rugged forested terrain. It doesn't take long to encounter other giants. The first that greets the party is introduced as Olvald, Skadi's grandfather. His grey hair and beard are long enough that they nearly reach his belt. He's been keeping watch for anything unusual, armed with a bow very similar to the one Skadi carries. Not quite the same, but similar.

"Your father will be glad you've returned. The village even more so that you've brought friends and a great prize."

"Will you come with us back to the village? It's been many seasons since we talked."
"No, no. I must keep watch. It is growing dangerous again in the north, just as it has before and will again. We will speak again soon, do not worry."

Skadi leads you onward through some difficult terrain choked with older trees that widens out into a small valley. There you eventually come to their village. Upright stone slabs very similar to the larger ones seen in the shining city mark its edge, and likely act as an added barrier for protection. Bright red and orange runes mark each one.

Crossing the village threshold Skadi knocks a pair of smaller rocks together that are laying nearby. They produce a loud CRACK with each impact, then she drops them and proceeds inside. Within are many huts and houses built of stone block, larger slabs, or more rarely with something approximating regular masonry. It's quite an eclectic mix.

Your arrival doesn't go unnoticed for long, likely what the noise makers were for. Soon ten and then twenty giants emerge from various buildings, or finish what they're doing to see the new arrivals. They're glad to see Skadi's return, along with that of other giants. Introductions are made and you're given more names than you can hope to remember all at once.

One you make a point to remember is Skadi's father, Thajal. He's not terribly old looking, hair only starting to go grey in a few places. He's certainly glad to see his daughter again.
"I was starting to worry. I expected your return weeks ago."

"I met other giants from the southerner city," she explains. "A small clan's worth now live there. These are just a few. There are so many dwarves and the smaller people living there that they seemed beyond count. It was very strange, but I'm glad I saw it."

Thajal is impressed that your group slew such a large Wyvern. Though the craftsmen in the village are primarily skilled in bow construction, one of them should be able to produce armor and weapons from the creatures remains. It will not be quick, as this is not the most common material. In return their craftsmen would like to keep some of the bone for their own use.

>Is this acceptable?
Also, did you have any specific requests for things to be made besides armor?
>>Is this acceptable?
>Also, did you have any specific requests for things to be made besides armor?
Maybe a small memento made from the wyvern for everyone to remember the fight
With an agreement struck the Wyvern carcass is at last done with. No more hauling it around for hundreds of miles or kilometers. Some of the elders here do know how to cook the meat properly to get rid of the poison. Everyone is still warned to have very little just in case. Jacques won't be allowed to have any at first as an added precaution.

With talking and laughing the party's arrival becomes something of a small celebration. The smaller party members seem to be a curiosity. Though the giants here have all seen orcs, goblins, centaurs and the like, few have met dwarves and then only a very long time ago. An ice elf like Mithel is more familiar but only slightly so.

Tara is quick to strike up conversations talking about her people to those who are less familiar. They seem to get along well with her. Rolf on the other hand has a bit more trouble. Being of much slighter build it's difficult for the giants not to consider him a child. He certainly doesn't look very threatening, unlike some of the local goblins.

Ocette is treated like a curiosity, harpies never having much numbers in the north. Apparently white or snow coloured Wyverns will come down from the north every so often, migrating to the airless plateau. They may have wiped out any harpies that lived in the north before the Tyrese pass opened up.

Humans they're more wary of. A few have seen human led expeditions searching the north for riches, generally not caring what they kill to get them. Others are more mindful of their history. Some of the pillars and stone slabs at the edge of the village have images carved into them of ancient times. On one showing humans in the days of the Titans, several of them are wearing armor that looks similar to Gegor's. Many of the decorative elements are nearly identical.

As the paladin points out his order would have been founded by survivors from the wars. They've carried on using similar markings, though his plate is hardly as decorated as the old ones made of mithril tend to be.

Jib Jab's presence is not met with any ill will. Kobolds are a familiar enough sight, though the ones in the area are so skittish most in the village haven't even gotten a good look at a live one in decades. They and the smaller dragon kin mostly leave each other alone.

Stories are shared not just of the battle with the Wyvern but of the city ruins. Tara and Rolf are of the opinion that with a few giants and a team of dwarven engineers, the shining city could be repaired and even rebuilt. It might not be gold plated but it would certainly be a defensible position. One well placed to control the surrounding plains.

The locals are worried the place may be cursed. There is little seen or heard from them in support of such a rebuilding.

[ ] They may be right, best to leave it be
[ ] It could be a bulwark against the orcs
[ ] You don't care for it either way
[ ] Write-in
> It could be a bulwark against the orcs
>[ ] It could be a bulwark against the orcs
>[ ] It could be a bulwark against the orcs
If what Tara is saying is true the the shining city could be a bulwark against the orcs as they try to expand their power. While it might not be the ideal location for your idea of a place for giants to call their own, it could be a necessary one. With that in mind you ask if any would be willing to help if the dwarves could be convinced to help rebuild it.

There is only one volunteer. A woman named Estla, whose skills are analogous to that of a ranger. From what she's heard of the party's stories the city ruins are not in a good state to be held. If its wells and water source could be repaired she would be willing to help defend it. That would be no small feat but it does seem like a bare minimum.

Recruiting from the other giant villages in the area will likely be necessary in the long term. That or convincing more giants from the south to immigrate. An idea along those lines occurs to you.

"Mithel, do you have any maps of the south?"
"Somewhere I'm sure."
After some digging the elf unrolls a rather expansive map showing everything from Andalucia to Osomanni in the south, all the way to the starlight mountains. Though you know the way between many lands quite well, the journey north to the gate took you out of more familiar territory.

You wouldn't say you got lost, it would just take longer to follow the way back that you previously took. Eventually you find what you're looking for, The Iron Hills. You'd thought it was farther north east but it's only about 20 days travel from the Tyrese Gate. That's still quite a distance but a realistic one if you wanted to look for recruits. Maybe during the winter when there is less trade going on? You'll have to remember that as an option.
The partying and storytelling goes on past sunset. Cooks finally finish a few pieces or wyvern meat that are safe enough for the rest of the party to try. Most of them like it.

By morning things have calmed down and a modicum of normalcy has returned to the village. Rolf is jotting down pictures of the giants runes and pictograms as soon as the sun comes up. He's dedicated you'll give him that.

Once enough of you are awake and sober you talk to Thajal. You tell him that getting Skadi back safely and investigating the shining city are not the only reason for your visit.

"Father, long ago I overheard you speaking with uncle Tayal about other ruins. The ones we're forbidden to go to on our own. The ones undead are found near."

Thajal lets out deep rumble, clearly not happy about this topic.
"Daughter we should not speak of such places."

"Nevertheless speaking is what we will do. Ulf and his friends have come all this way to search these ruins. They have brought magic that can kill undead and even wound a Wyvern. We even have arrows that can harm spirits that may haunt it."

"I had hoped you would never go looking into these places. This is what happened to your mother. Always hoping to find places like these."

This seems to surprise Skadi.
"I thought she vanished into the northern wastes?"
"She did. All to look for more runes and strange metals that we would have little use for. Ice and cold held no sway over her, she would not have died from the elements. Even she would not attempt to go near the undead ruins. Not after she saw what protected them."

Rolf as always has a notebook out as he asks the question you're all wondering.
"What's in there?"
"No less than an army of undead. Still bearing arms and armor patterned like those you carry."
He points to Gegor who frowns.

"Undead paladins? That's... I'm not about to let that continue. I want to see this place."
Jacques claps him on the shoulder, agreeing strongly.

Thajal shakes his head.
"I caution all of you against this, but if you can't be dissuaded then be warned, we once tried killing them. Breaking their bones into splinters and dust. By the next day it was as though we'd never laid a hand on them. An orc tribe once tried as well in the distant past but they too failed."

Gegor points out that orcs almost never have paladins and their shamans are frequently unwilling or unable to banish spirits.

>Did you have any questions about this place before investigating yourselves?
How to sneak around the undead, do they have any tips or tricks?
>>Did you have any questions about this place before investigating yourselves?
Did the undead seem organized?
"Are they organized? Working together would make them more dangerous than numbers alone."
It would also make it harder for someone like Mithel to sneak past them.

The other giant confirms that they are.
"They march in a circle surrounding the ruins. Some scattered as skirmishers, others in larger or smaller groups. They attack any that get too close, some with magic, others with bow, sword or spear. You'll see soon enough."

Thajal suggests you take the day to rest and prepare. In the morning he'll lead you south to the valley where the ruins are located. It will take 4 days to get there provided you don't rush.

Rolf begins doing research, looking through various books he's brought along. Spells that will help repel undead or otherwise identify magics at work.
Gegor, Jacques and Argen spend time deep in talks over best methods of engaging the undead or exorcising them from an entire area. Cellica looks into ways to avoid possession after what happened with the wendigo.

Skadi's father and two other giants lead the way to the ruins. Traveling south you skirt the plains. A giant from another tribe is encountered and one of your guides stops to talk. They catch up later on in the day.

In the early morning of the fourth day you arrive at the mouth of the valley. It's easy to tell you're at the right one. More stone slabs have been erected as markers, each with runes cut deeply into them. Some are darkened with red paint or perhaps dried blood.

"This is as far as we will go," Thajal informs you. "When you wizen up and retreat, the undead will not follow beyond these stones."

"What's the plan?" Mithel asks. "Want to see how far I can sneak into the valley?"

"Maybe knock down a few undead, see how the rest react?" Jacques suggests.
Skadi supports observing the undead patrols and movements first to gauge their numbers.

Ocette suddenly gets very excited.
"Oh! Oh! I could fly Rolf up above and then he could draw a picture of the ruins and where the army is."

>What did you have in mind?
[ ] Probing attacks
[ ] Mithel attempt close recon
[ ] Ocette & Rolf attempt aerial recon
[ ] Stay back, simple observation
[ ] Write-in
Ocette and Rolf take a look from the air and Mithel grom the ground
Knew I was forgetting something.
You could also send Jib Jab instead of Mithel.
> Mithel and Jib Jab close recon
Mithel and Jib Jab close recon.
Not dead, just correcting problems with my map.
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Mithel and Jib Jab are both well suited to sneaking around and getting a closer look. You're not against Ocette and Rolf trying to scout from above as long as it will be safe. Cellica suggests they try a few practice flights first.

"Okay!" With that the harpy swoops down towards the small mage.
Rolf realising she means to do so right this instant, tries to stop her without much success.
"Wait I'm not read-EEEEE!"

The elf and the kobold are well on their way by the time the other two circle back to get themselves sorted. Rolf has removed anything heavy on him, plus put extra protection spells on himself and Ocette. He hopes this way he won't be badly injured in a fall.
"Really wishing I'd bought one of those featherlight pendants or some sky step boots."

On their next attempt they fly up above the rockier terrain that makes up the valley walls. About a mile off to either side they slope back into minor plateaus. Down here in the valley though there are plenty of trees growing. They may provide much needed cover if the advance to the ruins becomes difficult.

"Trouble!" Cellia warns.
Glancing skyward you see Ocette and her cargo perform an impressive loop and course change. It causes a bolt of blue magical energy to flash past her, spiraling off briefly before turning back towards them. The harpy turns again putting the halfling between her and the missile. A second or two later the spell impacts something in mid air and fizzles out.

After this close shave the pair rapidly descend, coming in for a landing at speeds nearly anyone would consider unsafe. They both crash into a particularly thick shrub where they all but disappear from view. Cellia focuses and sends out an illusion of Ocette to fly above the area as a decoy in case any more magic attacks are on the way. Fortunately that seems to be it.

Rolf confirms that there seems to be a mage or other magical weapon as part of the undead surrounding the ruins. He wasn't able to tell much more than that but he did get a good enough view to draw a basic map.

Two hours later the rest of your scouting force returns. Mithel didn't get as far as she would have liked, and Jib Jab had a difficult time even with his ring. He thinks some of the undead warriors can see through his invisibility. Gegor speculates that some ancient armor might have visors of true sight, able to ignore illusions and magical invisibility.

"Can undead even make use of those?" Tara wonders.
Gegor shrugs. "I have no idea, I'm no necromancer."

The army of undead patrol in two rings around the ruins. The outer ring is made up of skirmishers always within bow shot of one another, with larger groups perhaps 15 to 20 strong passing by every five minutes. The inner ring is similar, except rather than patrolling skirmishers there are dugouts facing the ruins.

Within the inner ring are several fortified positions facing the ruins. They're manned by considerable numbers and have siege equipment. Mostly catapults and the like, but Mithel thinks she may have spotted an airship grade spellgun. No telling if it still works. One of the fortified position includes a remarkably intact tower which has been reinforced. Some undead from both patrol routes seem to stop there.

The ruins themselves are substantial. A city that may have been of dwarven make, with some of the turrets large enough for giants to make use of quite easily. The walls are cracked in a hundred, maybe a thousand places but there are signs that some holes have been filled in. All of it is built on top of a sturdy rock outcropping, similar to how Silver Mantle is.

According to Rolf part of that ridge extends to the valley wall. A small plateau there overlooks the ruins and the undead seem to have established a redoubt there.

"If my math is right there should be at least 400 undead making up the outer patrol ring alone, maybe more. That's going to take a lot of killing."
That's Mithel's assessment, the others aren't sure.

Gegor points to a lesser defended point on the map.
"I think we could safely wipe out two patrol groups at once to open a hole to the inner ring. The question is what then?"
If these undead are going to come back in a day you'll want to have a clear objective in mind. Even if it's just to see how effective the paladins are at dispatching the siege army.

Jib Jab belatedly mentions that the besieging army looks to have diverted the stream around their fortifications at some point in the past. You're not sure how to make use of that right now.

>What are your plans?
Punch a hole in their patrols, look for a mage target him/them, be prepared to retreat if their are too many.
What are the undead trying to keep in the ruins?
Maybe there's a a clue in the tower?
At the very least testing a patrol in battle to see if we can make a reduction in the numbers is the right start.

Working toward Gegor's idea as a starting point.
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Did you have any particular area in mind? Though maybe not as big as Silver Mantle it's a good sized city.

>What are the undead trying to keep in the ruins?
At the moment you don't really know. Cellica and Mithel think they've worked out a position they could keep the place under observation without attracting fire that targeted Ocette. They might be watching for a bit, but it's not like the undead are going anywhere.

>Maybe there's a a clue in the tower?
Keep in mind the tower looks well defended. A ring of earthworks similar to the army's fortifications facing the city encircle it.

>testing a patrol in battle to see if we can make a reduction in the numbers is the right start.

Test the patrols capabilities first? Or see if the elves can spot anything?
>Test the patrols capabilities first
+2 see how far they follow us out, maybe we can bait out smaller groups to wreck at a time.
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You're leaning towards testing what these undead are capable of. Finding out if the cleric or paladins can permanantly remove these things from the field would make a big difference. Then it would just be a matter of wearing them down over time. As you only have 9 arrows enchanted with spirit magic, you're limited in how many you can take on in a single day.

Where to test them is the next question. It's agreed that being far from their inner defenses would be wise. Points A and B seem like the best candidates while allowing a quick escape. A might be a little better but B may get you closer to the city walls if things go well and you open a large hole in their lines.

C is less ideal because of how far out of the way it is. Like B it's closer to the wall, but Jib Jab thinks the city gates might be on that side.

D is suggested by Rolf.
"I'm curious as to if we can draw defenders away from that tower. I'm guessing there might be clues in there as to what's going on. Maybe an old command post?"

Tara gives the mage a disapproving look.
"That seems rather suicidal for a probing attack."
"Valuable data," Rolf shrugs.

[ ] A - Keep it simple
[ ] B - Closer to the wall
[ ] C - Closer to the gates
[ ] D - Near the tower
I'm heading out for probably an hour. I'll see if I have time for any more posts tonight after that.
>[ ] B - Closer to the wall
Back and writing.
>[ ] B - Closer to the wall
Yes, i was thinking more along the lines of testing their capabilities.
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You decide to attack at B. That should be safe and in the event things go really well maybe you can get a closer loor at the city walls. Non-essential supplies are left at the camp.

The smaller party members take the lead, heading in on foot. Mithel and Tara look for ways through the valley to the planned point that will provide the most cover. Being able to see people that are invisible doesn't mean they can see through trees. The scouts signal a halt at the edge of the tree line.

Everyone is given time to situate themselves and get a brief look at the patrolling undead. Even when not present it's easy to tell where they're going to be. A line of hard packed earth and stone worn down by the patrols many passing is clear to all.

While the rest of you have a look Mithel mutters.
"Too bad they couldn't have walked single file for a few hundred years. Then we'd just need a shovel."

The larger patrols are made up of a good mix. Soldiers mostly, though it's hard to be sure due to the quality of their equipment. Mostly mithril with some adamant in one form or another. Anything else that isn't enchanted wouldn't have survived the test of time. Even the archers are wearing mail and light helmets that would cost a fortune. The mages are hardest to be certain of as even they have mithril, but it's a very different cut. After some discussion its agreed on there's at least one mage among each undead patrol.

The question now is how best to attack. Hit a single patrol with everything you've got, tackle two at once as Gegor suggested, or perhaps hit while some of you remain in reserve as backup.

>What is your plan of attack?
We know that they will break off if we back off from the ruins area. With that in mind we can attempt to lure a patrol near that point.

If the whole patrol tries to return we can try that magical tether spell that rolf used on the bison. Trap some from returning.
Hit hard on one patrol.
this: >>4770440
Could we take all the gear (which sounds very valuable) from the skeletons we kill to make the whole army progressively weaker over time?
>Have a nightmare the previous night that was actually quite horrific for a change instead of mildly uncomfortable like most I have.
>Wake up quite disturbed, but not remembering it.
>Have a dream last night that was a literal hellscape
>Surprisingly, not freaked out
>Proceed to rip and tear until it is done

Anyways, slightly exhausted and I have a bunch of phone calls to make this morning. I don't think I'll be resuming properly until about noon.

In the meantime:
Even if you personally dont the rest of your party will absolutely try. So yes, standard battlefield looting procedures are go.

Using his binding spells Rolf could be on stand by to trip up the next patrol group to come along. That would buy you more time to dispatch one group and try looting.

Did you want to make sure they go down fast with some AoE arrows, or stick to improved enchanted and conventional ones?
Use AoE Arrows
AoE Arrows
AOE for the win

For Rolf that sounds like a good idea if we end up needing it.
You pull out a couple of your more powerful area of effect arrows.
"Who is familiar with the concept of overkill?"

There's no telling what these undead may be capable of. Best to err on the side of caution and put them down fast and leave them no chance for counterattack. Everyone else with a bow will use some magic arrows of some kind. This was planned for.
Mithel warns that if you and Skadi are going to use AoE enchanted arrows you should fire first, as the blast might damage smaller arrows nearby making them unrecoverable.

As you'll be hanging back using your bow the others work out the best formation to use when closing the range. Argen and Cirus will cover the left flank to better shield against attack from the next patrol rotation. Rolf will stay behind them to help use binding magic. Everyone else will be in the center and watching the right flank. Even Ocette wants to help by dealing with some of the scouts on that flank.

"How are you going to do that?" you ask.
"I bought some shiny rings."

That doesn't entirely answer your question but if she thinks she can help without being shot down so be it.
Jib Jab will hitch a ride on you as usual since he won't be able to keep up otherwise.

The smaller party members move up as close as possible using the cover of smaller trees and bushes. The idea being they'll have less ground to cover when the giants charge.

While you're waiting and watching them get into position there's a bright flash of lightning from the direction of the ruins. It's followed perhaps a second later by booming thunder. That was fairly close, and didn't sound like the weaker crack of lightning magic. The cloud cover also doesn't seem dark enough for a storm.
Asking the others, Skadi says that the bolt struck upwards from the city until it hit a passing cloud. Gound to cloud lightning is rare but does happen. Neat.

Once the distraction has passed you resume waiting and watching for the signal that the others are ready. Once you get thumbs up from everyone you and Skadi draw and take aim, the others preparing to sprint for the patrol group the moment you let fly.

Roll 5d20
Apologies for not resuming yesterday. Ended up dealing with a bunch of things I hadn't expected to come up that day. By the time it was all done just didn't have any drive to write.

Schedule for this week: I won't be able to resume until the afternoon tomorrow. The rest of the week is wide open as far as I can tell.
Rolled 2, 15, 9, 9, 20 = 55 (5d20)

Rolled 17, 17, 3, 14, 15 = 66 (5d20)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0KyhRkgThc [LotR - Amon Hen]

Counting to three you and Skadi both loose your arrows. The two enchanted bolts land precisely where you want them, within the formation, but far enough apart that they get full coverage. You don't think either were a direct hit on any undead but they don't need to be. Seven enemies crumple and fall under the magical blasts. Four more soon follow when Tara and Mithel land their own arrow shots. Others have been damaged but seem to be pulling themselves back together. In some cases literally.

As the others charge the remaining enemies you fire again. The undead have responded quickly to the attack, spreading out or raising shields if they have them. One of their mages survived, putting up a stronger barrier. Skadi's next arrow hits and overwhelms the magical defenses, allowing yours to badly damage it. Two more fall.

Jacques hits an undead archer with a beam of white light, causing its hands to crumble to dust. This doesn't finish it, but the animated skeleton is left without a means of wielding a weapon.

Off to the right Ocette swoops in just above ground level targeting one of the skirmishers. Some of the closer ones are turning to join the fight. Just before the harpy reaches her first opponent she extends a clawed talon. Whatever magic her new rings posses pulverizes the skeletal warrior, turning their upper body into a cloud of dust.

By now your melee focused party members have closed to range. Both paladins focus on quickly subduing the mage first, followed by any undamaged skeletons. This initially proves more difficult than expected. Though slow at first, the undead seem to be "waking up" in a sense. The longer they remain on the field and undamaged the better they fight. The giants seem to be having the worst time of it, as though their opponents are predicting their every move.

"Cleric, kill the downed ones!" Tara orders.
Those damaged by spirit magic may be out of action but they're not entirely destroyed. The Dwarf must have seen signs that they could return to the fight.

Shifting fire left you target the following skirmishers now rushing into the fight. On any direct hit your arrows still hit with enough force that they smash bone into dust. The spirit magic enchantment is definitely causing additional damage, it just cant permanently destroy them on its own.

Difficulties or not your people have them outnumbered and when some of the undead try to pull back they're quickly struck down. Argen, Gegor and Jacques smash the fallen corpses inside their armor, burning out the skeletons until they're nothing but ash and dust.

The Giants and Rolf get set up to continue blocking the incoming skirmishers and patrols while the others work. Everyone is aware that you have limited time until the next group comes into view and from then on things will become more complicated. Nearly everyone is checking armor, weapons, anything and everything that could come in handy. Jib Jab rushes around recovering spent enchanted arrows and dragging them back to the trees.

Within a minute Jacques speaks up.
"We got a problem."
"What's that?" Tara asks.
"Okay actually we got several problems."
"Today please?" Rolf presses while glancing between the trail and the cleric.

"I can't exorcise these spirits or force 'em to pass on. Somethings holding the lot of 'em here. It's also connected to the armor and equipment. Like an invisible force, pulling it back."

Mithel holds up a suit of light weight chain that seems to be her size.
"So we couldn't just disintegrate a few skeletons and make off with their mithril armor?"

The cleric shakes his head while waving his hands above a few of the destroyed bodies.
"Don't think so. Similar to a curse, but way more powerful."

By now Tara is likewise contemplating a nice mithril helmet.
"I wonder how much a mage would pay for cursed mithril?"

Jacques continues on.
"I think there's a ward covering the entire valley. Rolf, can you tell what's going on?"

You snipe the head off a skirmisher with a conventional arrow, severing it at the neck. Skadi cripples its legs with her shot.

"We have a minute before the next patrol gets into range," Rolf figures. "That's not enough time for me to do much here."

Cirus looks to the halfling.
"It gives you a minute to take notes that could be worth money later."

Activating some spells the mage quickly clenches his eyes shut.
"Argh, sonofabitch! There is so much magic here! It's like the place is built on top of a pillar of magic."
The halfling continues to try and get a look at things despite his own complaints.

Do you want to withdraw now, or use up more enchanted arrows to take down the next patrol group? After destroying this one you're certain you could take on another, you'd just be running awfully low on spirit arrows after.
On the other hand a simple delaying action with conventional arrows might give Rolf another minute or so to study this place. You'd be risking a fighting retreat.

>1) Stay or go?
[ ] Withdraw now
[ ] Fight a delaying action, no enchanted arrows
[ ] Engage and destroy the next patrol

>2) And will you risk taking some of the cursed equipment with you?
[ ] As much as Mithel can carry
[ ] One piece for study
[ ] None
As always, write-ins are an option, I was running out of room in the post.
>[ ] Fight a delaying action, no enchanted arrows
>[ ] As much as Mithel can carry
>Fight a delaying action, no enchanted arrows
One piece for study
"We'll fight a delaying action to buy Rolf some time. Mithel grab as much as you can carry. Or maybe don't. You can carry quite a bit."
The elf starts to grab up handfuls of armor and loot then pauses to evaluate what's at hand. She finally settles on three different pieces. A weapon, a single piece armor plate, and some mail.
"A bit of variety," she declares. "They'll each have been made differently."

Whatever, she and the others had better be ready to hightail it because here comes the next patrol. Argen and Cirus do their thing, forming a shield wall that you, Skadi and Rolf take cover behind. The others do what last minute things they can before running for the trees.

Your arrows knock out or cripple five or six undead from the next patrol. Having enough distance and warning, the others spread out before returning fire. This time there is an increasing amount of noise coming from them. It's like they're uttering a strung out battle cry. That can't be good.

A number of enchanted arrows strike Cirus shield but fail to penetrate thanks to the runes he'd picked up. You're taking a lot of fire but nothing too powerful yet. Their mage is being far too slippery to pin down so that's going to become an issue soon enough you suspect.
Getting annoyed at sitting around, Argen throws a cannon ball taking out one enemy that was attempting to flank.

"Does anyone else hear that?" Rolf asks.

"If you mean the screaming, howling battle cry that keeps getting louder? Then yes!"
Skadi answers, souding annoyed.

The undead mage fires off a bolt of energy that explodes into a blinding flash near your position. You've temporarily lost sight in your left eye. It's going to take a minute or two to blink away the brightness.

"We need to go!" Rolf declares. "The voices are coming from other directions!"
Including the direction of the inner patrol line you realise.

Not asking for permission you turn and pick up the halfling.
"I've got him, run for it!"

Sprinting for the cover of the trees the other giants are right behind. You pick up a few stray arrows but nothing too dangerous. The important thing is that Rolf is unharmed. Skadi empties her quiver of regular arrows while providing cover fire.

Once through the trees you take stock. Argen has taken a bad hit to his leg from an arrow that looks like it went right through. He pauses long enough to partially heal it then you continue the retreat. A good thing too a the trees you'd broken through explode in a fireball.

None of you slow down until you've caught up with the others closer to the valley entrance. Rolf is set down and rushes ahead to the horses to consult one of his books.

Reaching the standing stones you see Thajal waiting for you. He's glad to see all of you back in one piece. He and the other giants could hear the noise even this far down the valley.
Mithel halts at the stones, still carrying the pieces of weapons and armor.
"Friends? I'm having some difficulty."
It would appear she can't get past them.

Thajal looks disapprovingly at the elf.
"As I said, the undead will not follow beyond these stones."
"These aren't undead, it's just armor," she protests.

"After being here for so long, perhaps the armor is as much a part of this place as their bodies are?"
Thajal ventures.

"Well that's just stupid. Rolf, can you hit this thing with a greater dispel?"
By this point Mithel is actively pushing against the air with the gathered loot, trying to force it through the gap in the stones. The halfling is not listening, now flipping through his books looking for a particular page. Jacques can't be bothered either, working on healing the various arrow hits you've all taken.

"Anybody? A little help?"
Thajal shows no signs that he's interested in assisting her. Maybe it really is cursed?

>Your orders?
try to pull it through ourself
Have Ocette see if she can fly it over. Prepare a defender while those who could study it give it a quick look over.
See if we can't give her a hand.

Would help to have someone with her because we don't know the rate of reanimation or regeneration for these cursed undead.
FUUUUUCK! I have 1 paragraph left to finish this post and I have to leave! Fucking shit!
You decided to humor the elf and take over holding the loot. Mithel heads off to the stream complaining her hands feel gritty, perhaps from the bone dust. Try as you might, you're not getting anywhere with it either. The runes carved into the standing stones must have some potent magic in them to prevent whatever curse is on the valley from passing them.

Next you ask Ocette to see if she can fly a piece of it over.
"Be careful. We don't know if or how this will reanimate."

Cellica warns her to also be careful in case the stones magic cause the armor to stop all at once.
"You don't want to end up flying into an invisible wall at your top speed."
"Not after hitting your mom's barrier spell when I was little."
Though enthusiastic she's not having much immediate success. A few attempts to throw the armor at the barrier higher up just sends it bouncing of and back in the direction of the ruins. Ocette makes sure to swoop down and recover the piece but the height she can fly to is still restricted by the risk of anti-air spell attack.

Meanwhile Rolf has located the page he was after.
"Here it is, I've found it. That battle cry we heard is in an older southern tongue. Most people don't speak it anymore except for some elven kingdoms."

Trying to read parts of it aloud gets Jacques attention.
"Hey, I know that. It's Aenean, the language lots of the older Order passages an' script get written in."
Jacques explains that while he can read it, the other clerics have criticized his pronunciation. Gegor on the other hand is better at speaking it but not necessarily reading it.
Working together with the halfling they eventually translate a few lines Rolf was able to memorize before the escape.

The first and loudest was: Raise sword and spear, the great enemy is here.
"That would be the giants I'm assuming," Rolf suggests

The second takes a little longer but Gegor works it out to: Legion of Titan's bane arise, victory of the stone forever denied.

Tara shakes her head.
"I get the impression they meant it literally when they said FOREVER denied. Assholes. It's been how long since the ancient war?"
"Long enough we don't even know how long ago it was." Mithel answers, having returned from the stream.

Ocette still hasn't had any luck with the loot much to everyone's disappointment.
"Maybe we should just break the stones?" Cirus suggests.
Argen is strongly against this, as are several of the others. Thajal moves to put himself between Cirus and the nearest stone.
"You want the undead here to have the run of the north? Or leave you with nowhere to run if they follow in force?"

That should be left as a last resort.

Gegor is in the middle of coming up with an idea when Jib Jab gets everyone's attention. He points to a small figure with a staff hobbling towards you from the south. Not long after taking notice of them the figure calls out to you in a shrill voice.

"Hey rocks for brains! Quit banging your bits against my wards!"
The stranger turns out to be on old goblin woman who leans heavily on their staff once they get closer. Thajal seems surprised less by her appearance than by what she'd just said.
"Your wards? Giants put up the standing stones and carved the runes to keep these undead at bay."

"And they sucked swamp leaf so I made them better. At least dwarves have some subtlety in their stone scratching, you giants have none. Sharpened the runes here and there so they worked better then added a few extra touches. Gotta baste a new layer of blood on them once and awhile to freshen them up. Gives it an extra kick."

"So... can you help us get this armor through the barrier?" Mithel asks.

"Why would I ever do that? You know all of that gear is cursed right? The orcs that tried to attack this place? It didn't go well for them. You shouldn't try to wear any armor from this place for too long."

"How long?" Gegor asks.
"Half a day? Less? People who can resist magic can wear it a bit longer I think."

You thank her for the warning. "What is your name?"
"It's Briar. Now don't be a bunch of idiots and stay out of there."

Since you'll probably be ignoring that request you ask Gegor what it was he was planning.
"What if I talk to them?"

Cellica sounds a little concerned by this
"Wouldn't they attack you?"
"Why would they? I'm human, I'm wearing similar armor and can speak their language. We know some of them talk. The only undead who actually saw me were those we killed. They won't be back until tomorrow right?"

"No later than tomorrow," Thajal rumbles.

You're still down a good chunk of your spirit arrows until tomorrow. Not to mention conventional ones.
Ever the archaeologist, Rolf points out Gegor's armor is a slightly different style. As the giants mentioned it has similar markings but the construction has changed.

Did you want the paladin to attempt a diplomatic approach, or is it too risky? Or did you have some other plans in mind? Mithel did want to do some observation of the site through the day and night. The mage and the cleric could also use the time for studies of their own.
>Schedule for this week: I won't be able to resume until the afternoon tomorrow. The rest of the week is wide open as far as I can tell.
I'm going to see if I can find out ahead of time if there will be any more interruptions this week. We'll see. Resuming tomorrow.
>Did you want the paladin to attempt a diplomatic approach, or is it too risky?
Worth a shot.
Let the Paladin do diplomacy.
Can we melt the armor down or something? Change it so it isn't "armor" any more?
try diplomacy
If the paladin is up for attempting a diplomatic solution then you're not about to stop him. Gegor and Jacques head off by themselves for a few minutes to practice what he needs to say. Apparently they also need to discuss a few things their order members are supposed to keep to themselves. After that he gets some water and a few other things he feels could be useful.
"Better to try this out before any of those undead who saw us start to reassemble."

Rolf still has concerns about passing him off as a friendly. His only real suggestion to deal with this is to give him some of the cursed armor. That might help him get in the door so to speak but could put him in quite a bit of danger if it's left on for any length of time.

Tara has her own concerns.
"They might also recognise that armor as belonging to their own unit."

Mithel picks up the largest piece of armor that Ocette has been poking at and flips it over. Aside from the decorative elements that are present in a few places she doesn't find customization denoting deeds or successes like many elves from the south would put on theirs.

Argen and Jacques are strongly against Gegor wearing any of the cursed armor, while Rolf is figuratively digging in his heels against his regular wear. Tara is trying but failing to find a middle ground.
"Come on guys, are you arguing he should be waltzing into the valley in nothing but his small clothes? Be reasonable."

"I still have my arming doublet," Gegor points out, "but it will not stop enchanted arrows."
So he'll be in even greater danger if things go sideways. Wonderful.

Jacques finally comes up with a new alternative.
"If it's gonna be such a big deal why don't we just get the head of our order in the north? He's got the real thing, old mithril armor from when the sky was black. Sure he's back in the Mantle but this place ain't going anywhere, is it?"

[ ] He needs protection, stick with the Steel Armor
[ ] Maybe risk the cursed Mithril Armor
[ ] Arming doublet, at least he won't appear threatening
[ ] Maybe we need additional experts
[ ] Write-in
>[ ] Maybe risk the cursed Mithril Armor
>[ ] Maybe we need additional experts
I will be honest that I want to try to explore more but I feel like we have been pushing our luck on this. We achieved a lot so far and have a lot of important information to return with.

I think it might be best to escalate this with the city.
>Maybe risk the cursed Mithril Armor
>[ ] Maybe we need additional experts
Back. Now to figure out what we're going with.
Jacques new idea has as much merit in your estimation as risking the cursed armor. You put the decision to Gegor since he would be the one in danger.

"We haven't come all this way just to turn back now. I'll try it and if the effects are getting bad too quickly I'll take it off."
Jacques gives him a spare amulet from their order that may slow the curse, and Rolf puts a damage protection spell on him.
"I'm not sure how much good it will do."

Stepping past the standing stones, the paladin swaps out his steel plate for the mithril chest piece. Right away he can tell there's something wrong with it.
"This is definitely cursed."
Removing it he hands the piece to the Cleric.
"Can you carry this? I'll put it on at the last possible moment when I approach the outer patrol ring."
"Sure thing."

Now for an escort. If the plan doesn't work some of the party will need to be standing by to assist and provide covering fire for his escape. Giants may not be the best choice. If you're spotted before hand it could blow his cover.

[ ] Full party, giants hang back really far
[ ] All the smaller ones
[ ] Only allied races (human, halfling, elf)
[ ] Write-in
>Can we melt the armor down or something? Change it so it isn't "armor" any more?
I keep meaning to answer this but it keeps getting bumped from the ongoing party conversations. I'll get to it eventually.
>[ ] All the smaller ones
>[ ] All the smaller ones
So, I started writing a post an hour and a half ago which is now done.

I did this based on the giants staying hidden back in a gully near the stream, and the rest of the party sneaking closer in cover.

Is this acceptable or do I throw it in the recycle?
The party sets out again, heading for a different area of the outer patrol ring. Best to stay as far away from the site of the last battle as possible. Most of you stay back in a depression carved out by the larger stream in the area while the smaller party members move up in cover like before. Rather than risk inciting an entire patrol group the paladin will try to make contact with the patrolling skirmishers first.

Mithel climbs up a tree after wrapping herself in a forest green cloak. From there she can watch what's happening and relay it to you. This time, once the others are ready, Gegor moves in by himself making no attempt to hide. With open hands raised to show he's perhaps not unarmed but with no weapons at hand, he calls out in the old Aenean tongue.

The elf tenses, readying her bow.
"Shit, the skirmisher's drawn their bow on him. I think it's challenging him."
If that's true and the skeletal warriors are actually talking, then the plan might have a chance.

The Paladin keeps talking, as does the undead skirmisher, which seems to go on for quite awhile. Listening you can make out a few names here and there you don't recognize. A Rotholandius and possibly the name of the leader of their order in the north. Eventually you catch what you think might be the human introducing himself as Gegorios Eustachius Uller.
It certainly sounds impressive. Maybe that will help?

As expected with things carrying on for so long the next patrol arrives. There's an exchange between the leaders of the group then several of the undead surround Gegor, confiscating his sword and dagger. Once that's done two of them grab him by the arms and haul him off, following one of the patrol's mages.

"They're taking him in the direction of the tower." Mithel informs you.
"It doesn't look like he's fighting them but he's not happy about being force marched. What do we do?"

Tara rushes back from her position.
"If they take him inside that tower we're going to have a hell of a time getting him out of there. Even getting through the outer fortifications will be hard work."

Skadi frowns.
"Are you suggesting we attack and rescue him now? He's only just managed to talk to them."

By now the rest of the party has begun to arrive back at your position. Jacques and Rolf were following as much of the conversation as they could. According to them he did seem to be making some progress.
"They're taking him to talk to their commander."
"And their commander is inside that tower?" you ask.

Jacques shrugs.
"Yeah, well, one or two of 'em are at the tower. There are a few high ranking officers I guess."

Everyone's next comments are forestalled by another flash of lightning and thunder. It came from the ruins of the city again by the looks of it. Mithel belatedly descends from the tree.

Once the lingering echoes have faded from the valley Tara resumes.
"Are we going to get ready in case we need to save his ass or are we just going to sit around and hope for the best?"

Jib Jab volunteers to follow from outside the patrol area, staying hidden and keeping an eye on that tower. That would at least let you know for sure if they take him in inside, and give you all some warning if he leaves.

Now the question is what the rest of you will do?

[ ] Get him out now while you can still rescue him
[ ] Prepare for a possible rescue/ assault on the tower
[ ] Wait to see if he's successful
[ ] Write-in
>[ ] Prepare for a possible rescue/ assault on the tower
>[ ] Prepare for a possible rescue/ assault on the tower
File: E_Ruins_05.gif (35 KB, 1600x1454)
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"Let's prepare for a rescue. If we need to assault the tower we want to be ready before hand."

Given the number of available arrows you're likely to exhaust your stockpiles in a lengthy engagement. Thankfully where there are giants nature will provide. There is no shortage of conveniently sized rocks along the valley walls. Skadi heads back to camp with most of the others to see about additional supplies and to borrow more arrows from her father.

Crossing the stream and following it around to the east, you and the other giants begin looking for a good place to set up. Where the diverted stream changes course headed away from the tower you find a good location to lob boulders. This is your specialty; siege warfare. The accuracy won't be great at this range but it would allow you to continuously rain fire down on them without interruption. With the added barrier of the stream a counter attack would be slowed down enough for you put the hurt on.

Argen very rightly wonders if the undead would even be effected by the stream. While the three of you work away at moving a pile of rocks into position a discussion begins on whether skeletons would be slowed down by water. The conclusion that you arrive at is it might only be a little bit, but even that much might help.

When the rest of the party finds you the pile of throwing rocks and boulders has expanded somewhat. Remembering what happened out in the plains, Cirus has cut and overturned turf to create a few barriers. Initially these were to simply keep the rocks from rolling away. Now they're slowly becoming fortifications in their own right.

Skadi wonders if the three of you have been getting a bit carried away in your enthusiasm.
"You don't like Fort Boulder?" Cirus asks.
"It's fine, I just hope you are not too attached to it."

Jib Jab has confirmed that Gegor and his escort went into the tower through a heavy looking door facing away from the ruins. There may be other entrances into the base of the tower that connect to the earth works surrounding it.

With your rough defensive works up, any attack on your position will be slowed down greatly. They might even have to split up to try attacking the flanks, potentially leaving a weaker force you could punch through to escape. You could even hit the stream with one of your lightning arrows, shocking anyone caught in it.

As for how to make use of this resource the party has a few ideas. Firstly, using this position to bombard the tower fortifications to weaken them for an assault. Dangerous to be sure but any attempt to get Gegor out will have some risk.
The second plan is to draw the undead forces away from the tower, forcing them to take on you and the other giants at the fort. With enough distraction that could allow a few people to get inside and enact a rescue.

Do one or the other of these plans sound good, or would you like to prepare something else?
distraction plan sounds good
Just trying to figure out if we need to POV change to Gegor.
While watching and waiting another seemingly regular crack of thunder echos through the area. According to Rolf each one has been occuring near enough exactly the same length of time apart. A little over two and a half hours. The halfling looks at a pocket watch and then makes another note in his book.
"I'm going to try and time it to the second next time. I have a few theories. Actually I have so many theories about this place, even without all of the wards and undead. It's like this entire place was built on an enormous pile of focused magic."

"Could that be what's keeping the undead here?" Cellica asks.
"No, I don't think so. The wards and spells responsible for that are all near the surface. They're powerful but nowhere near as powerful as what's under the ruins. I do think they might be connected, but that's not what this place was originally."

For now you can set time by them lightning. If Gegor is not back after the next one then it'll be time to take the prospect of rescuing him more seriously. Cellica and Jib Jab are going to be the rescue team even with the risk of their invisibility being seen through. Mithel is their backup.

Everyone else will be on the distraction team. Ready to cause trouble, bombard the tower and draw enemies away and toward your fort. Hopefully that will cause enough of a stir to allow the rescuers to get inside.

Speaking of Jib Jab, the kobold comes rushing back through underbrush then sticks his head up high enough to see over the tall grass. Once he's gotten his bearings he runs to the stream to shout across that the undead near the tower are all yelling and chanting.

Everyone rushes to their positions with Jacques and Rolf jumping the stream. With Jib Jab leading them they sneak closer to the tower to see what's going on. They return soon enough.

"What are they saying?" Tara questions them.
"They're shouting; 'Death will not hold us.' Over and over again."

Maybe progress is being made?

As you all try to figure out if this means attacking sooner rather than later there's a new sound from the direction of the tower. Looking up you see what appears to be a fully armored paladin with metal wings leaping into the sky. They sail up and over the city ruins trailing blue flames.

While in mid leap yellow bolts of lighting the size of your arrows flash upward from the ruins. The paladin dodges, returning fire with streaks of blue magic. The display continues until you lose sight of them on the south side of the ruins.

Tara looks to the rest of you.
"What was that? Was that somebody flying?! We're not getting paid enough for this."

>"I'm taking that as a signal..."
[ ] To attack.
[ ] To hold tight.
[ ] Write in
Sorry that took all afternoon guys.
>To hold tight.
> [ ] To hold tight.
>[ ] To hold tight.
"I'm taking that as a signal to hold tight. Things are happening. He must be making progress."

The party goes back to observing, ready to begin your attack at a moments notice. Half an hour after leaving the plate clad flying paladin returns on foot, now with a mage in tow. A mage that looks remarkably alive-ish. According to Cellica he's using an illusion to give the appearance of someone still alive, but it's mostly transparent. At the right angles with sunlight on him anyone looking could make out bones. Both head into the tower.

It's coming up to time for the next thunder strike before any more activity is reported. Gegor is led out of the tower by guards who are not dragging him along this time. He's followed by the fully suited paladin and the mage. They say a few things to him and then point back off to the west where he had originally came in.

"He's leaving," Mithel informs the rest of you. "Let's go."

Packing in the camp isn't quite so easy as grabbing a few throwing stones you like and walking off. You and Cirus have a plan.
Sounding tired Skai gives both of you a look.
"What are you two doing?"
"Why now?"
"In case we need to use this later but don't come back right away."
Rearranging some of the dug up earth and grass you do a decent job of hiding the piles of throwing stone from casual observation. If it weren't for the fact you'd have been fighting undead you were going to ask Ocette about putting thorns or brambles along the front slope of the fort.

Circling far around the party meets up with Gegor near the valley entrance. He seems unharmed but is missing the piece of cursed plate armor.
"I got rid of it as soon as I could find an excuse. We have a lot to talk about."

Returning to the camp Thajal greets you. He and his friends have been nice enough to hunt down a couple of deer they're happy to share with you all.

"Still alive and with no extra holes poked in you. I can only hope that means you're ready to give up on this place?"

Not until you've heard about the conversation with the undead leaders. Rather than explaining anything Gegor has questions of his own.

"Rolf, or any of you for that matter, what in the light is the Pillar of Fire and the Pillar of Lightning?"

The halfling isn't sure but it sounds familiar enough that he immediately begins checking through his books. Thajal says that he's heard the names before. Skadi's mother was looking for them.
"She said this here was the Pillar of Lightning. I still don't know what it means. She wanted to find to find others."
As if to punctuate this the regular boom of thunder echoes down the valley. This drives Rolf into a cursing fit as he wasn't able to note the exact time.

Gegor points toward the valley.
"They -the undead army leaders- said the same thing, that this place is the Pillar of Lightning. When I told them where my order was based they wanted to know why we built our temple on top of the Pillar of Fire."

>What say?
> Well, why was it built where it is? Could be a clue to find more.

> Did they have any messages they wanted passed to the outside world?

> Yo, where's that armor at then? Can they sell us any or do they want to trade for anything? Human clothes to wear and pretend they're still alive like that mage does with illusions?
"Silver Mantle is an extinct volcano," you explain. "It cooled long ago. There is no pillar there."
"That's not what they claim, and they seemed quite certain they'd been there long ago."

Tara shakes her head.
"Hold on. Who is they? I mean- who are they I mean?"

According to Gegor the commanders claim themselves to be the Legion of Titan's Bane, the 20th legion making up the Starlight Army from the south. Though by the time they began the siege of this city they had been reduced to an ad-hoc force cobbled together from three other destroyed legions. At least one of those legions was from Lousada which is where the Silver Order originated. Apparently not everyone was in such a hurry to head north and fight giants.

You know that Lousada is not too far from your homeland in the Stillwater plains. You'd have to cross a stretch of badlands to get to it though so you've never bothered.

Rolf returns with various books that look far too large to have been brought with you. Flipping through them he begins looking up anything and everything related he can find. The Starlight Army consisted of some 60 legions of elves, humans and halflings. There are little to no records as to what happened to them aside from one or two units that survived and formed the core of new kingdoms later.

"Before they came here a large number of legions fought their way north through the Titan armies and besieged the Pillar of Fire. Then they caused it to melt, somehow. They weren't specific, just that it was the only one of the five they destroyed. Also that it was the farthest south. Then they came here to the Pillar of Lightning to cut off the giants supply lines."

There certainly hasn't been anyone getting supplies through here in awhile. You have to wonder why any of these "pillars" were built where they are. Mineral deposits maybe? And would they have enough in common to lead to others?
"Could we put these clues together to find more?"

Skadi's mother went searching to the north for one but never returned. Thajal warns that the northern tundra is far too dangerous with marshes, lakes and bogs in the summer, and even more hazards in the winter.
"The only people living out there are a few tribes of humans and ice elves."

Skadi looks to Thajal.
"Father, do you know what these pillars are?"
"Your mother just said they were places of power created by the Titans. Lightning, Earth, Fire, Ice and Wind. One for each element our people were connected to."

Rolf isn't finding anything on this in the books he's brought with him about the pillars yet. He has heard stories of the elemental giants though. Ones that harnessed each of the five elements the older giant just mentioned, using powerful weapons and magic.

"I'm going to take mineral samples," The halfling declares. "Maybe there are similarities between this place and the Mantle I can match up with other reports from prospecting teams."

"Good, please do."
Personally you supect the presence of Titan metals if this place was a source of supplies.
You turn your attention back to Gegor
"Did these commanders have any messages they wanted passed to the outside world?"

"Only messages that will help them win their damn siege. The want me to bring the head of my order here from Silver Mantle to negotiate. They are willing to trade mithril armor for aid in destroying or permanently disabling the city. All of their armor."

This gets everyone's attention.
Mithel is practically vibrating with excitement.
"What did you tell them?"

"I told them the truth, that I couldn't make any promises."
He continues to talk over several groans of annoyance.
"Those lightning bolts that hit the city ruins on a regular basis? They electrify a good portion of it. Enough that even the undead can't survive it for long. They can't manufacture strong enough protection against lightning to get inside themselves. I'm not even sure we can either."

He looks in your direction.
"I think a giant with the right elemental affinity could survive it. They could get inside the ruins and shut off whatever is electrifying the entrances. Here's the downside. That might let us in, but the moment the army notices the lightning has stopped I think they'll try to storm the city and destroy it themselves.
They really don't want whatever weapons or manufacturing is in there from falling into the hands of giants again. Or anyone else. They're still mainly worried about giants and dwarves trying to take over the world."

Wow, that's a lot to take in.
"Gegor what happened to that armor you went in with?"
"I ditched it as soon as I could? It's cursed Ulf. It's going to remain cursed until they pass on. They're not going to break their link to this place and rest in peace until they've won."

"That don't mean we've gotta win the way they want us to win," Jacques points out.

Gegor nods.
"That's why I didn't promise anything. There are other undead inside the ruins. Stone kin."
Those lightning bolts being thrown or shot at the flying paladin definitely came from somewhere.
> Yo, where's that armor at then? Can they sell us any or do they want to trade for anything?
It's a bit bound up in their spell unfortunately. Anything that isn't has largely wasted away over the years. This concerns Cellica quite a bit.
"This has been bothering me, how have they able to maintain a spell that strong? That shouldn't be possible."

"Maybe they're siphoning magic off the city-pillar thing somehow?" Rolf suggests.

>Human clothes to wear and pretend they're still alive like that mage does with illusions?
Pic related?

In terms of other forms of payment, they had some gold that wouldn't have been bound up in their spell but it seems to have gone missing.

Follow up. If a new expedition is formed to come out here again Gegor wants to bring some scribes along. Even he thinks these people should get a chance to leave something constructive behind.
A bit of an open question as to what to do next.

Ulf and Cirus both have an affinity for lightning. You've previously told Gegor this so he certainly knows that option exists. With your arrows replenished the next day you could try to fight through the patrols to get Ulf and Cirus into the city to do something. Or at least make contact with the undead on that side of the siege.

Or you could take notes and prepare for a follow up expedition. Rolf is going to be taking notes either way, the longer you give him the more detailed they'll be. He'll also want to research the locations of these other elemental pillars.

>We'll leave this as a What do? for the night. Resuming tomorrow.
>take a look into the city

>they had some gold that wouldn't have been bound up in their spell but it seems to have gone missing.
so it wasn't just giants' gold that disappeared
Can Gegor get an audience with the undead again? Could we get safe passage into the ruins, can they trust random giants?
If we "destroy" the pillar, will the undead army just go attack the next pillar? What if they march on the pillar of fire and the temple?
Can the undead tell us what the pillars are, can others? We need info before playing with old, possible super weapons.
Might not hurt to see if they would let us check or at least test our resistant.

We are here after all.
Rolled 85 (1d100)

>Can Gegor get an audience with the undead again?
They don't really want to see him again until he's returned with his superiors. Right now they're in the middle of relaying to the patrols to keep watch for people from the Silver Order. Once that's done it would be a bit safer to approach again. They're in no hurry for a resolution.
He could probably talk to some of the patrols the following day but its doubtful the leaders will want to say more.

>Could we get safe passage into the ruins, can they trust random giants?
"I brought up the fact that giant mercenaries are a thing now, and could be swayed with enough gold. We all know that big guy with the steel cudgel can be. They refused to hear any of it.
The only way you giants are getting through the patrols and into the ruins is by force, or with a big escort. Which is also by force I suppose, just a different way about it."

>If we "destroy" the pillar, will the undead army just go attack the next pillar? What if they march on the pillar of fire and the temple?
They already destroyed the pillar of fire, there's nothing for them there. As for the others they don't consider them as much of a threat for whatever reason.

Rolf also doubts they would be able to march on other locations, even if they could get past the runes on the standing stones. He believes they won't be able to go far from where they cast their spell.

>Can the undead tell us what the pillars are, can others? We need info before playing with old, possible super weapons.
Gegor shrugs.
"They made them sound like magic and industry hubs. I could tell they were were keeping a few things from me, but couldn't say what."

Tyrese still has markers made of adamant that they recovered from destroyed dwarven holds. Copies of the runes on them should be available for study in Silver Mantle.

Thajal suggests that the elders from the giant villages may know more about them collectively.
Whatever the next plan is, with the sun setting fast most of the party are for waiting until morning. Rolf, forever overworked it would seem, helps check the enchanted arrows to make sure they're fully recovered. Even recharging one of your AoE arrows that isn't at 100% yet.
"Please bring additional magic users if there is a next time?"

Those on watch at night have attempted to record the timing of the lighting strikes. Cellica learned enough math growing up that she figures out the timing of the strikes might be tied to a few different factors. One of which is the cycle of the moon.
"It changes speed based on the moon?"
"No, it's a multiple. 254 strikes per orbit."
"Per what?"
"254 for every lunar cycle."

That's probably very interesting to someone. For now you just smile and nod.

Once the team is awake and prepared the important questions come up. Do you do more research and gather a larger force before returning, or try to breach the patrols by force to gain entrance to the city now? Delaying a few days for study would give you time to stock up on conventional arrows.

>What's your next move?
[ ] Attack now
[ ] Study this place for a few days before another attack
[ ] Talk to the other Giant village elders
[ ] Prepare for a return to Silver Mantle
[ ] Write-in because I'm clearly forgetting an option
>[ ] Talk to the other Giant village elders
>Rolled 85
And this is what I forgot.

Still leafing through books (and complaining about needing a drink called coffee brought in by airship) Rolf stumbles onto a page he was looking for. Setting it down he points to the side with runes, magic circles and coloured cylinders.
"The elemental pillars are supposed to be a folktale. The source of the strength of the stone kin in the war between the Titans and the Gods. They're also called places of power. There are supposed to be five of them. Nothing is confirmed about them other than they were believed to be vital to the Titans.
The next closest thing I can find, there are references to a ferocious battle in a place of fire..."
Flipping the page he continues.
"Where the earth itself erupted in flames, rocks ran like water and many legions perished. I think the dwarves were supposed to have changed sides somewhere around this time, but it wasn't immediate. It took a few years for most of the dwarven holds to defect. Even then some remained hostile."

Not a lot of information about these pillars, but there has been a fairly serious collapse of civilization between then and now.

"I've been meaning to ask. What would happen if we melted down the cursed armor? Could we make something else out of it that isn't cursed?"

The magic is far more powerful than any the party is familiar with. If it were an enchantment the magic might erupt in a sudden and spontaneous manner, possibly destroying the object. That wouldn't happen to mithril. It's a metal that already has some magical properties on its own. With a curse this powerful it might stay with the metal.
>[ ] Talk to the other Giant village elders
Did you want to leave some of the party here to continue observations and sample collection? Rolf might seem the best suited to that but he might also be helpful to have along taking notes from whatever the giants tell you.

Cellica could take notes instead if you left Rolf behind.

Mithel can do some magic detection here and Tara is qualified for doing the mineral samples if you'd rather Rolf come with you.
take Rolf for the talk
Yeah, take Rolf
You'll take Rolf along. He might have better ideas of what to ask, or what's most important to write down. Mithel and Tara will remain here with Jacques in case of any accidents. Ocette can fly messages back and forth if there are any issues. You're not going too far.

With most of the group departing Thajal informs you all that he'll be returning home. One of the local giants will remain here to keep an eye out while your people are present. He'll even make sure to tell the elders what you wanted to speak about so they might have some answers.

The closest village takes a little over half a day to reach. The elders there are surprised by the questions asked but agree to answer what they can.

According to the old stories the elemental pillars were created by the Titans. Much of what they can tell you about them is a repeat of what Thajal had heard. Places of power. Understandable if Skadi's mother collected what knowledge she could from the other villages. What's new is that together the pillars formed parts of a greater whole. Just what that was they don't know for certain, but it was surmised that they formed a magic seal.

When the shining city was built there were requests for such a seal to be built into and around it for protection, good luck, or tradition. It's not known which. At the time the giants had lost the knowledge to properly make such a seal but they did know such things existed, that it was possible.

Full magic uses are rare among giants but they do exist. Long ago a mage from the village supposedly found traces of a larger seal radiating outward from the ruins. Their magic was faded but it was still there, possibly pointing in the direction of other pillars. The closest was one to the north-northwest.

"They claimed there were other lines but some were faded and broken. The seal does not work anymore, if it actually existed."

Much of the mages notes were destroyed in a forest fire some time ago, but a few pieces survived. The Elders claim they gave the bearing to what the mage had believed was the closest pillar to Skadi's mother years ago.
"That one was determined and stubborn like a dwarf."

They let Rolf copy the direction bearing. It points far into the treacherous terrain of the north.

>Questions while I'm writing the next bit?
The next two villages don't know much regarding a supposed magic seal or the creation of the pillars. They're not even sure if the Titans had built them or simply made use of things they'd found. Little of their information overlaps with the first aside from whatever Thajal himself has.

They do know what they were largely used for, to supply weapons and equipment. Armor, bow, shield, sword, axe and hammer. All in great quantity, each forged in the element of the pillar that made them. It was said that the Pillar of Earth and stone could be used to make magic that could build or destroy fortresses. Fire and Lightning could forge the strongest metals or weapons. Wind for the fastest scouts.

"What about ice?" Rolf asks.
"We know little of the Pillar of Ice."

As for the warriors themselves the Fire and Storm giants were considered to be among the most formidable and numerous warriors, though giants of the other elements could be destructive too.
As the Pillar of Fire was farthest south it saw the most fighting. They don't know what happened to it, just that one day it fell. Most of their records and stories cease after that until the rise of the chieftain of the shining city. By then the skies were clear.

"We killed a star," Cirus muses, drawing the elders attention.
"What did you say?"

You speak up. "The old story. 'The sky and stone fought. The stone killed a star'. All giants we've met in the south know this saying."

They've certainly never heard that before in the north. Which is curious.

>What say?
Share stories giant stories from the south

You, Argen and Cirus share what you can of the old stories from the south. Honestly there isn't much to tell. Giants from your lands don't have many tales from those times. They were stuck on the other side of the starlight mountains by the end of whatever dark age happened.

There are little to no legendary weapons still among the giants that you've ever heard of. On the other hand over the last few months you've been told about some elven kingdoms having old giant weapons. Cirus who is from the eastern part of the Stillwater plains, wonders if the giants in the south were forced to give up their arms.

Argen has a bit more to say, though it does take awhile longer to say it and it's in stone tongue. He's from the Typhon Fire Peaks.

"There was darkness before the long dark. Only starlight. Then the sky and stone fought. The stone killed a star. People of the fire peaks leave, fight in war. Trade help against small ones for weapons. Long dark happened, no more fighting. We went home. Some throw weapons away so small ones stop chasing."

Huh. You hadn't heard that before. Wait, he said some not all.
"Do the giants living at the fire peaks still have some of the old weapons?"
"Maybe have some. Don't know, have earth affinity not fire."

Pieces of the puzzle are still missing but its progress.
After learning what you could from the giants, especially the possible direction bearing on a magic seal, Rolf wants to return to the ruins and scout the surrounding areas.

"Everything we've already gathered could keep me busy for months. I could publish a paper or journal on this and gain enough notoriety for a position at one of the more prestegious universities in the south. I dont suppose you'd allow me to poke around in the area near the ruins for a few days? A week?"

>Are you okay with the halfling mage continuing his exploration around the Pillar of Lightning for a time?
Now having a better idea of what to look for Rolf does eventually track down signs of this supposed magic seal that the pillar is connected to. They're very faint and he ends up over in the valley to the north while looking for more signs of it. In the process he discovers a secondary circle or sigil that surrounds the pillar. Now that he knows what to look for it may be possible to find signs of a similar one around Silver Mantle.

Skadi mentions the mage she helped escort while you were off looking for spiders. She's willing to bet his dowsing magic didn't work while inside the range of the city's secondary circle. If it still exists. If the whole place melted down it would explain why there were such strong stray magic signatures.

Mithel has filled out the rest of her storage space with carefully marked mineral samples to bring back. Not mithril like she wanted. She's been promised that the enchanters and prospectors will pay a bit of silver for all of the rocks.

On the last day Rolf has Ocette fly him up to take a look for any runes on the local sigils. A safe distance away from the undead army and their magic weaponry of course. He nearly goes blind from the magic detection spell he uses, but in the process he's able to record a few runes that are consistent with dwarven markings for lightning magic.

Jacques spends the rest of the day berating him for being careless.
"We sure don't need a blind mage to baby sit on the way back. I'm bet yer fellow enchanters would get you fixed up right quick but we're a long way from them. Hear me?"
"Yes! Yes, I hear you. I didn't go deaf."
"I'm less worried about yer ears than what's between em."

The others want to know what the plan is from here on out. All of you have been helping out hunting, training or otherwise assisting with observations of the pillar and the valley. Now the question is to turn back or make ready for another attack, attempting to reach the city ruins.
Gegor should probably not participate in another attack unless you're ready to burn all bridges with the army right away. They're expecting him to return with other paladins to parley. If they see him attacking then his order won't be welcome later.

[ ] Attack, try to reach the ruins
[ ] Try to recruit giants from the villages to help in an attack
[ ] Depart for Silver Mantle (or somewhere else)
[ ] Write-in?
>Depart for Silver Mantle
>[ ] Depart for Silver Mantle
>[ ] Depart for Silver Mantle
We have done a lot. I think we need to let the Paladin Order's talk play out before we go messing around.
>[ ] Depart for Silver Mantle
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After careful consideration you decide it would be best to return to Silver Mantle. You've gained too much knowledge about new opportunities to accidentally jeopardize them now.

Who knows, if you make it back quickly enough maybe there will be time to bring another group out here before winter. Gegor doubts this because of how long it would take for his order to get into motion for anything short of a demon attack.

Getting a team together for a follow up expedition to the shining city might be possible though. Especially since it would require a far different sort of force. If you wanted you could even stop by there on the way back. It would give Rolf and Mithel time to loot or study more of the place. If not you're advised to stick to the southern tree line.

There is one more mater to consider. When you met Skadi she was headed back to the giant villages to spend the winter there. Did you want to part ways or try to convince her to return to Silver Mantle? You could always meet up the next time you head out this way.

>1A) Stop off at the Shining City on the way back
>1B) Stick to the south tree line

>2) Do you want to convince Skadi to return to Silver Mantle?
>>1B) Stick to the south tree line

>2) Do you want to convince Skadi to return to Silver Mantle?
>1A) Stop off at the Shining City on the way back

Civilization is good for dealing with the profits of our trip so far.

>2) Do you want to convince Skadi to return to Silver Mantle?

>1A) Stop off at the Shining City on the way back
> 2) No
>Stick to the south tree line
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x48oDCBpvd4 [The World is Ahead]

Wishing Skadi well you thank her for all her help. You've learned a lot and got your bow improved. You'll have to keep practicing to further refine your moving while shooting. Then eventually maybe even perfect some more trick shots.

"Glad to help," she tells you. "Let me know if you would like a hand when you return to this place. Or how things progress restoring the Shining City. It may need a different name to escape from its past."
That's the truth. You doubt you'll find a cache of gold or platinum to shine the place up again.
After saying goodbye to the others she sets off for home.

Over your last day camped near the ruins Ocette flies out to help locate Neia. Your movement between the villages when talking to the elders threw her off a bit and made it more difficult to locate you. Eventually she catches up, now with two other centaurs in tow.
They're introduced as Boran and Jenza. Both want to move to the south and escape the fighting with the northern orcs.

"There are still orcs in the south," you warn.
"Not like the black tongue tribes from the far north. We've been hearing terrible things about them."
Maybe they can fill you in on the way back.

Reaching the Shining City takes 6 days making good time across the plains. The black tongue orcs have their name for a reason. Apparently their warriors have to go through a ritual, drinking a special poison their druids prepare. It either kills them or grants them improved strength and toughness.

Some of the party have a hard time believing this.
"Wouldn't that kill off a lot of their potential recruits?" Mithel asks.

"Maybe it's just a story they tell their enemies and rivals?" Celia suggests. "Disinformation to frighten other tribes?"

Gegor and Tara aren't so sure. They've heard strange things over the years.

When you arrive at the mountain a number of goblins scatter, fleeing the lower reaches of the ruins and riding away on wolves. It's clear they've been here for a couple of days. There were signs here and there that passing groups of nomads sometimes stopped by, using the ruins for cover from storms. Now that you've built up or repaired stairs and ladders nearly reaching the top, these groups have begun to explore.

It doesn't seem like they've caused any damage in the upper city but Tara thinks it might be best to head that off.
"We'll have to remove the ropes and the smaller stone blocks when we leave this time."

You could move the blocks high enough that only one of the giants could retrieve them for subsequent parties. That would have a serious impact you hope and deter others from moving in. There's still the issue of no functioning well at the top, so for now no one else is likely to fortify this place.

How long did you want to give Rolf & co to do more archaeology? A day? Two or more?
Two days.
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In the two days you give them Rolf and Mithel work hard to unearth buried treasures in one form or another. In that time they recover a number of items made of bronze, including a sword, some oil lanterns, various smaller items made of pewter. They even find a few carvings made of ivory.

It's all logged, recorded and packed away for further study. Whatever that entails. Hopefully it means either more money for the party or more funding for a future expedition.

Departure from the ruins is delayed by a series of storms that roll in from down river. The mid summer heat plus a clash of strong winds from the south west and the north make for powerful thunderstorms and worse. Something you've not been able to see since leaving your homeland. A type of whirlwind that has to be seen to be believed.

You're tempted to laugh. The rest of the party is less amused.

"Ulf? What is that?" Cellica asks. "I haven't seen much of the plains before and certainly not a storm like this."

You point out across the grasslands to where the clouds themselves seem to be descending to scoop a funnel of dirt and debris into the air.

"That is a tornado!"

>Maybe you should calm the party...
[ ] By helping them find cover
[ ] By laughing maniacally
I suppose you could do both.
Resuming tomorrow.
I completely forgot the wyvern scales!
>By laughing maniacally
>[ ] By laughing maniacally
>[ ] By laughing maniacally
Good catch, that should of been ready when we dropped off Skadi .
>[ ] By laughing maniacally
We could help them find cover, but this is funnier
Your booming laughter is loud enough to compete with the echo of thunder across the plains. It's been so long. Maybe this place really could be a second home? The familiar sight of a tornado, raging storm and buffeting winds all certainly makes it feel like it.

Wind was one of the five elements of the giants. If not lightning then it would have been right for wind to be your element. That would have been something. To stride into the storm and tame it. You could swear you heard a story where someone managed to lasso a tornado. You'll have to ask the other giants in the north some day if they've ever seen such a sight.

"Jib Jab really scared!"
Glancing to your shoulder you see that your kobold friend is still hanging on, looking more frightened by the minute.
"Oh, sorry. I got a bit carried away."

Argen and Cirus are helping to move heavier blocks of rubble into better blocking positions to protect the few chambers carved into the rock. It's going to be a bit tight but everyone should be able to fit. Rushing over you help give them a hand.

The ruins are battered by severe winds, rain, even hail, but the tornado stays clear. It does pass close enough for everyone to get a good look at it despite still being some distance away.

The rest of the party are not exactly thrilled with the prospect of encountering storms like that in the future. Cellica looks to the others for answers about the tornado.
"Was that normal?"

Boran and Jenza confirm that is, with such storms only occurring this far north at the height of summer. Jacques apparently had always wanted to see a tornado but had never gotten a chance to. He'd have preferred to stay farther away, outside the range of hail and high winds though.

None of the centaurs seem to be phased by the sudden arrival and passing of the storm. They were mostly glad there happened to be shelter. A line of thunderstorms and other severe weather marches across the plains for the rest of the day. Though it has cleared out closer to nightfall it's too late to get a start back toward the south.

The next morning you resume the trek south. Sweltering heat not unlike that experienced this time of the year in your homelands has followed the storm front. Relatively clear skies ensure that the sun beats down hard on all of you. This will slow progress and forces the party to stay near the streams and rivers.

All of this is making you question the haste of launching the expedition when you did.
"People were really worried about the onset of winter if we didn't begin this expedition soon?"

Neia is the first to respond.
"In less than a month the leaves will begin to change. Perhaps three weeks. Once that happens we risk frost at night."

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She can't be serious.
"We're- no, when was the solstice?"
"Around when we fought that Wyvern." Rolf helpfully answers.
"It gets cold that quickly up here?"

"That it does," says Tara. "Don't worry, this year the druids are predicting we'll have a nice little summer. I doubt we'll get more than a foot of snow before that. It still wouldn't be fun to get caught out here in a cold snap."

With the current heat wave it's still hard to believe. Unlike the previous time, crossing plains now is turning into a slower affair. Much of the party suggests turning south and sticking to the trees from here on out. At least that way you'd have shade from the sun. You'd still have to cross the stretch of plains that follow the lea side of that one smaller mountain range.

On the other hand the steady winds across the plains might bow away this hot weather eventually. If that happens you could make much better time. If it doesn't you'll all be left miserable from the heat.

Will you stick to the plains or try the slower route through the forests farther south?
>blow away this hot weather eventually.
> Forests farther south
route B
You eventually agree that this heat is going to be too much of a problem for a quick trip back across the plains. Better to have some shade to at least keep the sun off for awhile. Though it takes a day to reach the tree line the forests are a welcome relief from the sun, even if the air is still hot.

Progress from here on out isn't terribly difficult. Not as fast as out in the plains might have been in ideal conditions, but you're making progress. There are a few minor slow downs that result from a group of dryads wanting to play games and trip people. Once the source is figured out things go smoothly again.

Crossing the northern edge of the mountains you bypass the ogre village. Any of the lone brutes that are out and about are spotted far enough ahead of time to avoid them. This gets you back to the river without any additional conflicts for once. Not that things are going to remain trouble free.

When fording the river you can hear someone on the other side having difficulty. Not with orc raiders, bandits or anything like that. Ocette soon finds the source and reports back. A greenskin summoner appears to be trying to stop an earth elemental that has escaped their control. The mass of rock is not trying to harm anyone. Instead merely ignoring the summoners presence and wandering off towards the north west.

Did you want to help the summoner or leave the hapless magic user to their own devices?
>help the summoner
Help the summoner
"I suppose we'd better help out."

You and Argen head off toward the summoner with Cirus hanging back until the rest of the party has finished crossing the river. The orc is surprised to see a pair of giants turn up but isn't about to pass up extra help.
"Stop the elemental. Buy time and I can regain control or banish it if you do," he tells you.

Coming up on the walking pile of rock you grab hold in an attempt to slow it down. Argen walks directly in front of it and simply stops. The elemental runs into him, failing to even budge the giant. Staggering back the magical creature attempts to throw a punch, first with its left arm which you stop, then its right. Argen grabs the incoming hulk of rock with an open hand then leans in and headbutts the creature.

The impact was enough this time that the elemental's form begins to collapse and reform. By the time it has collected itself again the orc has readied his magic and quickly banishes it.

After thanking you for the help the orc introduces himself as Woharo. He has been trying to gain experience and wealth as a battle summoner in the war between the tribes across the river. His own tribe may not be involved but they're desperate for better magic users and capital to prepare for future raids from the north.

"I summoned an elemental more powerful than I was ready for. Tell me giants, I have heard many things about the city, but never traveled there. Are there mages that would risk teaching an orc?"

Argen asks his tribe, finding out that it's one of the allied Stag Horn Clans. In theory he should be permitted into the city.

[ ] Tell him he should finish his business across the river first
[ ] He should be able to find work and training at the hiring hall on his own
[ ] Allow him to accompany party back
[ ] Allow him along, but tell him he owes you help on one job
[ ] Write-in?
>[ ] Allow him to accompany party back
>[ ] Allow him along, but tell him he owes you help on one job
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"Less questions and it will be easier to get in if you accompany us back to the city."
Woharo thanks you for the offer.
"Don't thank us yet. You might just owe us one. Or maybe just Argen?"
You pat him on the shoulder.

"Tell me when you summon a real elemental," the other giant rumbles.
Unusually verbose for him, but that rock monster didn't seem to hurt him in the slightest.

Heading back to the river you link up with the others and let them know what happened. Rolf questions Woharo about his magic preferences and those used by his tribe.
"We don't have too many summoners. I considered it but devoted too much time to other studies. Everyone is trying to make money through enchanting or other types of manufacture."

With the party now only a day or two out from Silver Mantle the prospect of secrecy comes up. Establishing the Shining City as a new fortress out in the plains will need as much publicity as possible to drum up support. Of course that will almost certainly mean it won't remain a giant city, but that's more of a political issue.

Sorting out who should be told anything about the Pillar of Lighting is the more pressing issue. Who knows what sort of people that place might attract if the specifics get out? Or maybe you could turn that around and help raise immediate additional support?
The Silver Order will take awhile to get organised for an expedition made up of just their members plus the giants. You doubt the Enchanters Collective would be able to field a small army on their own. Best to figure out your plans first.

Were you hoping to take another expedition out to the Pillar of Lighting this season? Or would you rather keep things quiet and prepare over the winter?

>What are your future plans regarding the Pillar of Lighting?
Now that we have some idea of what to expect, I want to sneak in there with a specialised team to look for and grab interesting artefacts/elemental weapons
You continue to discuss options with the others over the course of the last day on the road. The orc hitchhiker is kept out of the loop regarding the ancient Titan ruins, but there's no point hiding plans for the mountain city. That one's going to be a case of sooner, not later.

"What would our options be for taking a small team and sneaking in there? Just long enough to grab artifacts and elemental weapons. Not to hold it."

"None of the paladins or clerics from our order could go with you for starters."
Gegor answers.

That means recruiting dwarven clerics most likely. Which wouldn't be a bad thing in some respects. It might even be beneficial.

If the lightning magic protecting the place is as powerful as the army commanders warned it's going to be difficult to sneak such a team in. It would need to be done inside the window of lightning strikes or the surrounding army would attack as you'd been warned about. How you'd get in and hold the door open for the rest of a party, all without being noticed is an issue to be certain.

"So we still don't know for certain what we're doing?" Tara asks once the gates come into view.
When the chorus of 'not sure' and 'maybes' quiets down she resumes.
"Let's keep it need to know then. We can have a big discussion with the ENC and the order commander about it and only tell who we have to right away. Sound good?"

"We could spread misinformation," Cellica belatedly suggests.
"What do you mean?"
"Say there's a treasure out there but not what it is. Or we make a tall tale of what's protecting it. I can come up with a few ideas."
Information getting out, good or bad, could help with recruitment for another expedition this season. It'll make some wary of course but will serve to attract others.

[ ] Keep it need to know until the meeting
[ ] Spread misinformation
[ ] It's okay if people want to talk about it
>Keep it need to know until the meeting
Was there anyone beyond the party, the Enchanters who funded the expedition, and Francis Bastire from the Silver Order who should attend?

The city Administrators and possibly the Imperial Air Corps to discuss the northern orcs and fortifying the Shining City?
>[ ] Keep it need to know until the meeting
City administration yes
air corps not yet
> Keep it need to know
As I am a long way from anything resembling being organised at the moment I'm going to stop here.
Once I get a few things figured out I'll resume later in the day monday.
>[ ] Keep it need to know until the meeting
At the hiring hall Rolf signs off the completion papers for everyone. You personally will also be getting some standing as a hiring party. Nobody got killed and payouts weren't disputed. Mind you everyone was paid their base wages beforehand. Everything picked up along the way or from the Enchanters Collective for Rolf's samples is technically a bonus.

The mage heads for the undercity with Mithel and the pack animals in tow. They have plenty of things to offload and a basic sorting has to be completed before the meeting with the ENC. What he calls a debriefing.

Apparently the value of the mineral samples from around the pillar could be debatable as long as the undead are still in place. Then again given the distance involved that might not matter.
All of the runes, artifacts and ancient writings recorded along the way might be worth more of a payout than the Wyvern's horde. Of course the enchanters themselves will be taking a good chunk of that since they financed this thing.

Everyone from the party are asked to hang around town until the meeting which happens 2 days later. For the first time you're allowed into the undercity. You've glanced down into it through the atrium or the ramps in the masons district, but it's the first time actually entering.

Coming in through the ramps you only have to duck slightly underneath one of the loading gantries. Cirus leads the way having been through before. Once away from the ramps the center of each main hall is open enough for you to remain upright. Perhaps street would be a better way of describing them. Everything is well lit. Glass or crystal prisms direct beams of natural light from the atrium, while in other areas sconces glow with magical light.

Getting closer you see that small public gardens ring the atrium shaft at this level. It must be a popular meeting place because there are dozens of dwarves and a few from other races enjoying the open space. As far as the dwarves are concerned this is the real heart of the city, not the mud and cobbled streets above.

Cirus guides you towards the east side of the undercity. Tara is there waiting to wave all of you into the meeting hall.
"Just in case any of you got lost."

"Are all dwarven holds built like this?"
"I don't think so? Haven't been to any others myself, aside from a short trip to the gate. That doesn't count. The atrium was the original mine shaft that our people dug and the other levels spread out from there."

>Questions about the city/anything else before the others arrive?
>Are there more people below ground than above ground?
>Why are the halls tall enough for giants?
"Are there more people below ground than above ground?"
"Most of the year yes. When the largest caravans are in town it can briefly run close to even. You might have noticed there aren't many grain silos above ground in the city."
You hadn't but don't bother to interrupt.
"Those and a number of other things are stored in vaults in the undercity. I don't see why people had to learn that the hard way in the last siege. There are even emergency accommodations if the topside city need to be evacuated."

"Why are the halls tall enough for giants?"
"Only the main halls are that big, you'd have a hard time of it in the side passages. There are a bunch of reasons or so I've been told, like lighting, airflow, movement of cargo. I think it mostly boils down to tradition though."

Rolf, Srayagoth and a few other enchanters arrive. There are no dwarves among their number. It must be because of the stone kin's lack of magical talent. Aside from your party they're the most numerous group in attendance. Gegor arrives with an older human introduced as Francis Bastire, the local leader of the Silver Order. He's dressed in the robes more commonly worn by clerics when they're not expecting a fight.

Last to arrive are a trio of dwarves introduced as Councillors Barker, Marsten, Loredrak.
"Let's get this underway, we haven't got all day and it might take that long by what the enchanters were willing to tell us."

Rolf who has been to one of these meeting before starts off giving a brief summary of the intended ruins search. He quickly moves on to the discoveries at the Shining City.

Councillor Barker claps his hands.
"Hot damn! A whole ring of glow stone?"
Some of the older runes on the ring translated out to an older blessing in stone tongue. Rolf thinks that they might be able to figure out how to recreate glow stone with it.

The Councillors have a short argument over the usefulness of glow stone versus the current lighting. Two of them think it could be cheaper to produce and maintain and might have less deleterious effects on dwarven eyesight.

You glance to a glowing sconce giving off yellow-red light.
"What's harmful about your current lighting?"

"Less and less dwarves are able to see in the dark," the Councillor answers. "We think it's related."
"Or it's from our scouts spending too much time on the surface."
"Quiet you. It remains a matter of debate. The glowstone by itself is enough to fund another expedition I'd say."

The proposal of fixing the water issues and using it as a forward base or fortress to hold back the orcs in the north is brought up next. This is met with less enthusiasm. Establishing such a position permanently would be expensive both in money and manpower. Getting supplies in would also be problematic. This is your opportunity to offer some contribution.

"I have at least one giant from the tribes to the east willing to help defend the Shining City if its wells could be fixed. More were interested but only if someone were to take the first step."

This again triggers some debate. In the last siege the city suffered badly under bombardment by giants and ogres. Ev