As the heroes discussed their next move, the Sandpoint prisoners began to recover some of their wits following Tevan’s healing, although it would be a long time, if ever, before they truly recovered from their ordeal.
One young woman made her way over to Lokansir’s corpse, possibly wanting to reassure herself that their captor was truly dead. However, it turned out she was simply being pragmatic, unclasping the giant’s blood-soaked cloak and using it to wrap her naked body. Twitch’s first thought was to sneer at the fact that modesty was her first concern after all they had been through, before realising that the girl was probably simply cold.
“Thank you all for rescuing us.” The woman said, regarding them from sunken eyes. “ I don’t think any of us truly believed there was any hope for us.”
Speaking to the young woman, the group realised that this was Aylmora, the granddaughter of (CAN’T REMEMBER) with whom they had previously dealt. She was difficult to recognise, looking very small and frail after the ordeals she had been through, and this was only heightened by the bulk of the giant’s cloak. Likelly there were other familiar faces among them, but they were not immediately apparent in their current state,
“Don’t thank us yet,” Tevan said “We still have to get you out of this keep.”
Aylmora nodded “Still, at least we now have a chance. If not for you we would soon be lining up as sacrifices.”
“To what end?” Jon asked, curious. “What are these sacrifices supposed to achieve?”
“Lokansir said something about ‘feeding the well’, but I don’t really know what that means.”
Jon frowned, his thoughts turning to the fact he did have some ideas what that might mean. It didn’t sound good.
The other prisoners by now had begun looking for any form of clothing too, and the heroes gave what they could of their own clothing, as well as aiding in cutting up the remnants of Lokansir’s garments. It was clear, though, that they would need better than this.
“We should get them to Conna.” Twitch stated “She may at least be able to clothe and care for them for a short time while we clear a path back to the caverns.”
“Clearing a path sounds fun.” Belor replied. “Through the mess?”
“Probably better that than dragons and lamias. Let’s get to the shrine and work it out from there.”
“I’ll scout ahead, make sure the way is clear.” Krolmn stated, ducking back down the tunnel. Soon after he left, they heard the echo of a deep voice speaking in a strange tongue, and a sniffing sound. They heard Krolmn stifle a giggle, then heard a second voice, still unintelligible in language, sounding distressed after another long sniffing sound. Then silence.
After what seemed an age, during which the other heroes and Aylmora saw to the needs of the other prisoners as best they could, Krolmn finally reappeared through the doorway to Lokansir’s chamber.
“How did you...what the fuck is that?!” Belor began asking after the gnome’s mission, then quickly stood and drew his sword as a bear trundled through behind him, snuffling the air.
“Oh,” Krolmn stated with a grin, “That’s my new friend. I found him wandering and he followed me home.”
“That’s a young dire bear.” Twitch stated, somewhat unnecessarily.
“Wouldn’t have thought they’d be your favourite animals.” Tevan added.
“Well, we have an agreement.” Krolmn noticed that many of the prisoners were regarding the bear fearfully, and wondered whether the beasts had been used to torment them. “It’s okay, he won’t hurt anyone.”
“What was all that noise after you left?” Jon asked.
“Oh, the dragons I think. Might have smelled me. Certainly wouldn’t have heard me, I’m far too stealthy. I gave them something a bit stronger to smell and it seemed to shut them up.”
“Okay. So the way is clear to the mess? Is Conna in the shrine? How many giants in the mess?” Tevan asked.
“Er, I didn’t quite make it as far as the mess.” Krolmn replied sheepishly. “You see I was headed that way and then met this bear, and thought I’d better bring him back here to keep safe...Um, maybe I’ll send him back to the other bears for now and collect him later. And then go check they way.”
Several minutes later saw the group entering Conna’s shrine. The giant looked up at their approach.
“You’ve obviously been busy, and I applaud your efforts. But they can’t stay here; once they are missed I doubt fear of my husband’s spirit will restrict the search.”
“We understand that.” Twitch replied “We will clear a path back to the caves through the mess. We had hoped you might be able to supply some clothing and food for them while we do so.”
The elder giantess agreed, and the heroes quickly concocted a plan and made their way to the mess, where Krolmn had reported there were four giants sat at a table.
Krolmn and Jon sneaked up toward the mess, while the others hung back. Once in sight of the room, Jon began casting his spell. Alerted by the sound, one of the giants looked up.
"Intruders!" it yelled. As it stood to approach the gnome and human, the giant to tis side also stood. But instead of joining the race toward the intruders, it instead turned and pucnhed the first giant in the face. Jon smiled. Of the two across the table, one paused as it tried to decide what to do about its brawling mates, while the forth giant began to move toward Krolmn and Jon.
The remainder of the heroes chose that moment to race to the room. Twitch brought and icy story down upon the giants, the brutes brushing off the damage of the oversized hailstones, but slowed in their progress by the now treacherous floor. Krolmn, Belor and Jon continued to let fly with arrows at the approaching giant, while the first two swung at each other in earnest with their clubs. The giant that had been watching its companions now turned toward the heroes ,taking several steps in their direction before apparently forgetting what it was doing, then slammin its club into its own head.
The battle continued, punctuated by bizarre actions from two of the giants as arrows and spellcraft rained down. As Tevan and Belor traded their bows for swords and made their way toward the giants, one broke away and ran toward the corner of the room.
"Gremelda, come out here!" it yelled.
One giant fell. The two that had been trading blows broke away from each other and made toward the heroes, but both they and the third giant by now were bloodied.
Suddenly a door that they had not previously noticed burst open, and a giantess stepped out into the mess, hurling a pot toward Krolmn, but the improvised weapon sailed harmlessly overhead. Deciding it would be best to take cover, the gnome ran under one of the giant tables, firing his bow in return at the giantess while taunting her in her own language.
A second giant fell, and soon a third. Gremelda gave in to her rage at the pesky gnome, smashing a club down on teh table and leaving Krolmn standing among a pile of splinters. The ranger simply grinned and took a step backward under an undamaged portion of the table.
The fight was turning against the giants now, and it was not long before Gremelda fought alone, and then inevitably fell. There was silence in the room.
"Thought all the noise might have brought Galenmir out."
There had been no sign of the Mokmurian's second-in-command throughout the fight, and they would still have to pass the tunnel to his office to get teh prisoners out.
"Let's just get the prisoners and bring them." Twitch said "As they pass the tunnel to Galenmir's room we'll assault it, giving them time to escape to the caves."
With no other suggestions forthcoming, the heroes gathered up the prisoners, leading them through the mess hall, past broken giant bodies and splintered tables.
"Once we reach the tunnel off to the side, run and keep going. You'll reach a cave entrance shortly enough." the druid instructed.
"We have no light." Aylmora replied "We'll be blind back there!"
"No problem." Jon said. The sorcerer picked up a piece of debris from the table Gremelda had smashed, enchanting it to emit a soft glow. He handed the large splinter to Aylmora.
The group cautiously made their way to the branch in the tunnel.
"Go!" Tevan whispered, nudging the prisoners on their way as the heroes broke off and stormed Galenmir's room.
It was with some disappointment that they found the chamber empty.
"Where the hell is he?" Belor asked, sheathing his weapon angrily.
With no answer forthcoming, they made their way back to the cave entrance, cehcking that the Sandpoint prisoners had found their way safely inside.
"Is it safe to make our way back to Sandpoint now?" Aylmora asked.
The heroes looked at each other, and silent agreement passed between them that they still had work to do.
"Possibly," Tevan said "But we still have to see if we can shut these giants down, and hopefully free the remainder of the prisoners. Wait here, and we will be back as soon as we can."
"But Master Tientrich!" one youth speaks out nervously, and Twitch recognised him as the son of a neighbouring farmer. "What if the giants come back? What do we do?"
"They won't know you're in there." Krolmn chimed in. "And besides, look at the size of the cave entrance; it's not even an easy fit for me, the giants will never fit through there."
"Listen to Krolmn," Twitch added his reassurance "His advice has never done us wrong. You will be fine."
"But where are you going?" the boy whined.
The heroes looked at each other.
"To kill some dragons." Belor said with a smile.
"Perhaps we should rest first." Tevan advised "I've no healing left in me today."
"I thought dragons were scared of you?" Krolmn asked mischievously, referring to their encounter with Longtooth in Sandpoint.
"They are," the paladin returned with a grin "Which just means they're more likely to attack all of you. And as I said, I can't heal you any further."
"I'm getting close to my limit of spellcasting for the day too." Jon added thoughtfully.
"I'd prefer to deal with the dragons now." Twitch voiced his opinion "If they did smell Krolmn earlier I'd rather deal with them now than have them come looking for us; what if they breathed fire into the caverns? They might not be able to get in, but they could still roast those Sandpoint citizens."
"I thought they were chained up?" Belor said.
"No," Krolmn remembered "Conna said they were chanied, but had been released."
"I'm still a bit concerned whether we currently have the firepower, and the health as Tevan said, to fight two dragons.
"I've been holding a bit back." Twitch admitted "You did all seem to have the other fights well under control."
"Healing?" Tevan asked. Prior to Tevan's arrival with teh groupd Twitch had done the bulk of the party's healing, but the paladin seemed to do it far mroe effectively, adn the druid had subsequently reduced his input in this area.
"No, that I used after the battles with Enga and Lokansir. But I have another spell that I think may be very effective. Especially if I can borrow that metamagic rod of Jon's."
"You can," the sorcerer replied "But it'll do you no good; I've exhausted it for today."
"No matter, I think I can still strike them a blow; weaken them at least for the rest of you to take them down."
"What kind of spell?" Krolmn asked curiously "Those balls of lightning are pretty handy."
"Actually, I do still have those up my sleeve too. But the one I'm thinking of is a spell used for putting out fires. It is allegedly also very effective against creatures that are attuned to flame."
"Allegedly?" Tevan asked.
"Well, I've never actually used it for such a purpose. Or seen it used for such a purpose. But I'm fairly sure it'll work."
"Sounds good to me!" Belor said.
Tevan and Jon seemed less convinced.
"I'm with Twitchy and Belor." Krolmn said "I don't like things sniffing me."
The majority decision made, the five made their way back through the mess and the shrine, to the crossroad. Northward was Lokansir's room, and to the east the dragons.
"When we left Sandpoint expecting to fight Longtooth you said you could give us all some pretty decent protection from flaming breath." Tevan said "I'm hoping you've still got that one up your sleeve too?"
"I have very voluminous sleeves." Twitch replied, smiling at his own joke; since reverting to traditional Shoanti garb he had no sleeve. They all understood the joke. Nobody laughed. Druid were not known for their comedic value. Not intentional, anyway. Twitch cast his spell, giving them cover enough for a does of each dragon's breath weapon (he hoped), and they raced down toward the dragons' cavern.
As they approached the cavern, it became increasingly dark; clearly there was no illumination there, the magical beasts likely having no need of such. Deciding that he would be using the spell anyway and may as well provide some illumination. Twitch cast his twin globes of lightning at the cavern entrance.
As the light appeared the dragons began to make theor way forward. In an effort to waylay them, Jon brought a field of black tentacles surging up from the ground. The dragons was too strong and too agile to be contained by the spell, but the writhing appendages did slow their progress.
Taking advantage, Tevan charged toward one of the dragons, calling on his divine energy to aid him in smiting the creature, even as he expertly dodged the beast's lunge at him as he closed. He struck hard with a double-fisted blow from his weapon, the blade biting deep through scales and into flesh below.
Krolmn adn Belor let fly with arrows, the warrior abandoning his usually-favoured blade in the hopes that the icy enchantment on his bow would be more effective against the fiery dragons.
Twitch now unleashed the spell he had saved, attempting to quench the smouldering beasts. His companions felt a brief surge of cold inside them, not painful but more like the feeling of quickly guzzling icy water. The dragons, however, seemed to enjoy the feeling far less, hissing and screaming as their core temperatures rapidly dropped. The druid followed up by slamming the tow electric globes into the flank of one of th beasts, eliciting a howl along with the sizzle of burning flesh.
Tevan continued his battle with the first dragon, and despite taking some wounds from tooth and claw seemed to be having the better of it.
The second dragon dashed forward.
"Prepare to taste the flame of my fiery flame!" it taunted, staring at Krolmn, Belor and the spellcaster and taking a deep breath. However, rather than unleash the inferno they were expecting, it quickly turned and lashed out at Tevan's back, tearing at the paladin.
Tevan had been managing admirably well in his battle with the first dragon, but two would perhaps be his undoing. Recognising this, Belor dropped his bow and charged forward with blade and shield, chopping at the monster. Krolmn fired another arrow into the first dragon, while Jon sent arcane bolts of energy jolting into it.
Now badly injured, the dragon was unable to stave off Tevan's continued assault, and fell to the paladin's blade. A continued barrage of missiles both mundane and magical from Kroln and Jon, as well as Twitch's actinic balls and Belor's swordplay quickly felled the second, and silence fell.
"Now we're resting." Tevan stated, it clear from his tone that this time he would brooke no argument. None was forthcoming; the paladin had taken the brunt of the dragons' assault, and had certainly earned that right.
Suddenly, drums boomed throughout the keep, and the groups were sure they had raised an alarm. The rushed back through the tunnels toward the caves, when Jon and Twitch, both hearing voices at the same time, called a halt.
The groups stopped and listened, but only Krolmn could understand the giants' tongue.
"Not an alarm for us." he said "It's signalling a round of sacrifices; they're headed to the top of the pit."
"Quick let's get back to the caves." Belor said.
"What?" Twitch responded, incredulous "We can't just stand by and let people be sacrificed!"
"I don't like it either," Tevan said with a shake of his head "But I can't see any other choice. We're in no state to assault the stronghold above. We need to ensure the safety of those we've already saved."
"It's true." Jon agreed "I've got nothing left. I'd be suicide to go up there."
"I'll head up for a look." Kroln said "But I agree; I don't think we'll be able to do anything.
The druid reluctantly agreed, taking the form of a small bird as Krolmn became and eagle. The two flew up and out of the pit while their companions made their way back to the caverns they had initially entered through.
As Krolmn and Twitch circled above the pit in their avian forms, they were witness to the horrific slaughter of the remainder of the Sandpoint prisoners, but not before Mokmurian had killed once of the giants and thrown him into the pit, apparently to the anger of other giants dressed similarly to the victim in roc feathers. Twitch could not precisely understand proceedings due to his inability to understand the language fo the giants, but Krolmn later explained to he and the others what had happened.
"Mokmurian said there was a traitor who had aided us in entering to free the captives and kill Lokansir and Enga the kobold." the gnome manged to find a moment's levity in the situation "Given how pissed off he seemed at that, I wonder how he'll feel once he discovers what we did to his men in the mess, and his pet dragons!"
"Anyway, he said he knew who the traitor was and that if they came forward he would be merciful. Clearly he had no idea, and when nobody came forward he said it was that guy in the feathers and killed him."
"His clansmen didn't seem too happy." Twitch interjected.
"At least Conna is safe for now, it seems." Tevan said.
"What happened next?" Jon asked, curious as to whether there was some ceremony involved in the sacrifice.
"Nothing fancy." Kroln said. "He clubbed the prisoners to death one by one and threw them in the pit. I decided not to watch til the end." he said, screwing up his face.
"I did." Twitch stated. "And I'll remember every one of those faces when we kill the murderous bastard.'
A few eyebrows were raised at this; the druid usually was quite circumspect in both his actions and words.
"The killing bit sounds good to me." Belor said. "So let's rest up, let you lot read your books or pray to the moon or whatever it is you need to do to get your powers back. Then we'll go back in and get 'em."
The following day saw the heroes make their way back into the basement of the keep. There had obviously been some cleaning up done in their absence, with bodies and debris removed from the mess hall. There didn't seem to be any particular level of activity here though; probably Mokmurian assumed they had taken the captives and run. That was good.
They made their way eastward, toward teh sound of the forge. Before reaching it however, they found another tunnel. Krolmn sneaked down it, screwing up his nose at teh stench as he reached the end.
"Tannery." he reported back to his companions "With three ogres working in it. I'm pretty sure I couldn't have been smelled this time!"
"Excellent" said Belor, unsheathing his sword and rolling his shoulders to warm up "Let's get started."
"Wait." Tevan cautioned. "While I'm no more fond of ogres than you, I think we should leave them be. No point wasting my healing, or Jon and Twitch's spells, on that rabble."
"Pfft." Belor said "Save your spells. I'll take them with my sword, and I doube I'll need your healing after three ogres. It'll be a warm-up exercise."
"I'm with Tevan." Twitch said "We still have the lamias, and hopefully Mokmurian himself to face. I neither want to waste my abilities nor risk raising an alarm unnecessarily."
Jon and Krolmn nodded. Belor sighed.
"It always ends badly when we leave stuff alive." he muttered as they moved on.
They soon came to the forge, where several giants worked, In cages along the walls were three dwarves, clean-shaven (forcibly, one must assume), with bellows-handles extending into theor prisons so that they might work.
"We're not fucking leaving them!" Belor stated, and marched into the room.
The giants looked up as the warrior charged forward, his companions close behind. The battle was brief and bloody, but the giants were soon down and the dwarves freed.
The dwarves quickly armed themselves, giant-sized daggers making fitting weapons for two, while one took a giant's hand-axe in two large fists. As they armed themselves they explained they had been with a caravan when waylaid by the giants.
"Luckily, we dwarves are always valued for our skills." One said "So we weren't clubbed like many others are. And now we get a chance for some vengeance! We'll go with you."
"I've got a better idea." Tevan said "We have freed a number of prisoners; they're hiding in caverns over yonder." he points. "If you could go to them and offer them some protection while we finish here I'm sure they would appreciate it." there were grumbles from the dwarves.
"Consider it your thanks to us for freeing you." Jon said.
"And there's a few ogres in the tannery on they way if you're really spoiling for a fight." Belor added.
The dwarves made their way off, agreeing to escort the Sandpoint residents home if for some reason the heroes didn't return.