19th of Kythorn of the year 1492

Angelica started off healing most of the party before the next encounter started. It would prove to be much needed soon. Fogo was emotionally broken from all the events specifically the death of Avery.  He was not himself, nor was he very functional to assist or do much but follow everyone else sullenly.  Those that had been captured for a while started explaining what they had seen, what the possible numbers of remaining foes that might exist, and the worst news was that Jolliver the bandit leader was still at large and not shown himself.

Trying to figure out the best way out with the rest of the prisoners, both Angelica and Imar suggested they head upward and try to escape through the keep’s front gate, and if possible, take care of the rest of the bandits.  So, up they all went. With Vladimir in the lead and Imar right behind him they arrived at the top of the stairs leading into a large open room that seemed to be some sort of mess hall.  Standing at the double doors across the room from them stood a large man.  It was Jolliver with some of the water cultists and bandits.

“Ah, here are the rats. I’ve been chasing after you for a while. I’ve got something for you, I brought it back.”

Jolliver

The large man reached into a bag at his side and pulled out a spherical object.  With a quick toss, he threw it at Vladimir.  Catching it, Vladimir looked down at it.  It was Avery’s head.  It appeared to have been ripped from his body, the head slightly crushed, and the eyes gouged out as if a pair of large hands had grasped it, pulled it off, and then squeezed the head while driving their thumbs through his eyes. Vladimir’s vision had proved true, Avery was dead and murdered in a fashion most heinous.

“I think that belongs to you. Looks like bitch Drosnin failed to do whatever she was supposed to do. Hey you lot! You’re the last ones here. You hear that?  They killed her. They’re probably mucking up your damn portal.  What are you going to do?”

Water Cultists

And with that, five of the water cultists armed with shark bladed swords and crab shaped shields ran forward to engage Vladimir who was standing in the doorway blocking it from anyone else from getting out.  Jolliver ran forward as well helping to pin Vladimir in. As he ran forward, he started changing into something that was not a man, but not quite a boar. The only person that was able to get out of the stairwell was Dancer who ran into the room and into a corner. The battle was fast and hard with Vladimir using his echo magic to move to the other side of Jolliver but that only made Imar the target since Vladimir did not last long and was knocked unconscious quickly. Dancer attracted some of the cultists and some bandits that had shown up.  After maneuvering around he finally ran out of the building to gain some additional space.

Jolliver (Wereboar)

Imar was able to take down Jolliver and pick up the maul and move further into the room.  This allowed the rest of the party to start spreading out in the room and fight more effectively. By going outside Dancer had attacked the bandits on all the walls giving them the opportunity to start shooting him with their crossbows.  Being surrounded and being shot, it did not take long for Dancer to fall as well.

Bandits

Inside the room with the party now having room to move around, Angelica was able to position herself to breath a cone of lightning into a group of the bandits. With Imar bashing them quickly to death and now being breathed on by a dragon lady, the bandit’s moral broke and they began to run.  Meeting up with another group of bandits outside, they caused the just arriving set to break and run away with them.  They all escaped to the wall and jumped down to feel away from the evil people that had come up from the basement prison.

There was a slight comedy of tactical blunders as ISAC used his greater Invisibility to run after the bandits but left him in the exact same path as where Angelica also attempted to pursue making for a pile up, not one, but twice with Angelica, and as he attempted to dodge another encounter was run over by Imar who took the path adjacent to Angelica and into ISAC. With the combat over, those that were unconscious were brought back and what little healing was left in the party was distributed around.

Splitting into three groups they began systematically searching the rest of the keep, but it seemed there were only dead bandit bodies near some of the walls, all the bandits and cultists they killed, and a few slaves they came across.  In the main room, Vladimir found some papers that looked interested and stashed them into his bag.  Nearby in what appeared to be a chapel with a large Drow water symbol on the wall, Fwoosh and Yllanys found several religious texts, some scrolls, and what looked like a tattered diary. While in the chapel, Fwoosh began to rapid fire information about what had happened and what he knew.  He seemed to be in a hurry before one of the other party members would show up. The rest of the areas had only a little bit of coin and few possessions in the different sleeping areas.

It was Jolliver’s room that providing the most interesting set of items.  All of Fog’s items were laid out and a few picked out and set on a table.  All of those related to the different cults in different piles. ISAC collected some nautical books from the ramshackle library for later reading. Fogo started cooking up a large meal for everyone while the party started counting and looking over all the loot they had managed to collect.

20th of Kythorn of the year 1492

Imar and Angelica suggested that they stay the night since they did have a fortified location.  The commoners and slaves all huddled together in the main barracks room while the party and the dwarves rested in the main keep’s building. Still being paranoid, they set watches for the night, and when it was ISAC’s turn. He would not wake up, otherwise the evening passed, and morning came quickly.

With the watches going on, ISAC was dreaming something far too realistic for his sanity.

Your eyes are closed, and upon opening them a scene unfolds in a mysterious landscape, shrouded in an ethereal mist. At the center stands a metal man, his form exuding both strength and stillness. In his unwavering hands, he holds a statue, captivating in its golden sheen, yet its shape is elusive, defying clear definition. It seems to be an artifact of profound significance, perhaps a key or a symbol from an ancient, forgotten lore.

Before this metallic guardian, a portal vibrates with life. It’s a swirling vortex of bright blue light, pulsating with energy that feels almost sentient. The portal undulates rhythmically, expanding and contracting like a living entity. It seems drawn to the golden statue, stretching towards it with tendrils of glowing light, reaching out as if longing to make contact.

But just as the portal’s light is about to caress the statue, something inexplicable happens. The portal snaps back abruptly, as if repelled by an unseen force. The change is sudden and jarring, casting a shadow of foreboding over the scene. The once radiant water portal begins to change. The luminescent blue that had pulsed with life and vibrancy now dims, as if a celestial light is being slowly extinguished. The portal’s edges, which once undulated with a mesmerizing dance, now grow still, their movement ceasing as though frozen in time.

The air around the portal thickens, heavy with the sense of a closing door. The once inviting gateway, a bridge to the mystical and unknown depths. The vibrant blues darken, turning into deep, murky hues, reminiscent of the ocean’s unfathomable abyss.

The closure of the portal is enveloped in an aura of foreboding, a sense that something significant and perhaps ominous has been set in motion. There’s an eerie calm that follows the dimming of the portal, a stillness that feels like the quiet before a storm. The knowledge that the portal will reopen brings no comfort, but instead a sense of inevitable dread. The feeling is akin to watching dark clouds gather on the horizon, knowing a tempest is brewing. There’s an awareness that the respite is temporary, a fleeting moment of calm before the inevitable chaos. The idea that the portal will open again, and far too soon, hangs heavy in the air, like a prophecy that cannot be avoided.

This impending reopening carries with it a sense of urgency and unease. The dream is tinged with the apprehension of what might come through the portal once it awakens. The closure feels like a momentary containment of forces that are beyond control, forces that, once released, could bring about events of unknown magnitude. The atmosphere is charged with a mix of anticipation and anxiety. The creatures of the water plane, the very water itself, seem to be bracing for what is to come. It’s as if the entire realm is on edge, awaiting a fate it cannot escape.

Then, the dream shifts perspective dramatically. Now, we are behind the portal, gazing into a realm that defies earthly logic. A boundless, ever-shifting realm, a vast ocean of infinite depths and possibilities. It’s a place where the very essence of water is not just prevalent, but the fundamental building block of all existence, a realm of emotions and the subconscious, reflecting the fluid, ever-changing nature of feelings and thoughts. Giant, horrendous creatures swim through this underwater expanse. They are beings of myth and nightmare, their forms gigantic and alien, moving with a grace that belies their terrifying appearance.

Amid this aquatic chaos, there’s a structure resembling a tube or tunnel. It stretches out from the portal, extending towards a distant, indistinct object that seems to be of great importance. This tunnel serves as a bridge between realms, a conduit through which unknown energies and entities might pass. The metal man, a sentinel of stoic composure, stands witness to the monstrous creatures swirling around the tunnel. Despite his metallic, inanimate nature, there’s a palpable sense of contemplation emanating from him. He observes the leviathans of the deep, massive, and terrifying, as they glide through the water, their enormous forms casting eerie shadows. Yet, they do not enter the tunnel, a fragile sanctuary amidst the chaos.

The metal man’s perception of this scene is complex. There’s an undercurrent of relief that the tunnel remains untouched, a sanctuary amidst the untamed wildness of the water plane. This tunnel, a slender thread of safety, seems to be the only barrier between the known and the unknown, the controlled and the uncontrollable. However, this relief is tinged with an ever-present tension. The metal man is acutely aware of the tunnel’s fragility. It is a bastion of calm in a sea of potential havoc, but its integrity seems as delicate as glass. The understanding that the tunnel could shatter at any moment, releasing the monstrous entities into realms unknown, imbues the metal man with a silent vigilance.

This dichotomy is at the heart of his experience. On one hand, there is the current state of equilibrium, where the tunnel serves as a bulwark against the chaos outside. On the other hand, there is the looming threat that this equilibrium could be disrupted at any moment. The metal man, a figure of strength and resilience, is caught in this balance, a guardian of a peace that is as beautiful as it is precarious. Despite his unyielding exterior, the metal man is not devoid of feeling. In the dream, he embodies a sense of stoic responsibility, the bearer of a burden that is both noble and terrifying. He is the silent watcher, understanding that his vigil is all that stands between order and chaos, safety, and peril.

In the dream, the metal man’s vision extends beyond the immediate surroundings, piercing through the murky depths of the water to a distant, imposing structure: a great temple submerged and shrouded in mystery. The temple, grand in scale and intricate in design, looms in the darkness, its architecture a blend of soaring arches and twisted spires, suggesting a civilization both ancient and otherworldly. As the metal man gazes upon this submerged edifice, the water around the temple swirls with a malevolent energy. It’s as if the very thoughts and emotions of the temple itself are seeping into the water, imbuing it with an aura of darkness and foreboding. The sensation is not just of physical presence but of a psychic emanation, a current of evil thoughts and intentions that ripple through the water.

The temple, despite its majestic appearance, exudes a sense of corruption and malevolence. Its walls and towers, though beautifully crafted, are adorned with ominous symbols and carvings that speak of dark rituals and forgotten deities. The metal man, with his enhanced perception, can almost hear the echoes of ancient chants and feel the weight of oppressive energies that have soaked into the stone over eons. Inside the temple, the vision reveals vast halls and chambers, all filled with water that flows through them like lifeblood. The water within these halls is darker, heavier, as if saturated with the residue of untold malevolence. Shadows move within the temple, suggesting the presence of creatures or entities that thrive in this environment of darkness and despair.

The transition from the dream to wakefulness is abrupt and jarring, a rude awakening from the depths of a vivid, immersive dreamscape into the stark reality of its existence. Unlike humans, you do not experience the physical sensations of sweating or a racing heartbeat, but the suddenness of this awakening carries its own unique shock. In an instant, the grand, ominous underwater temple, the swirling monstrous creatures, and the foreboding aura of the portal vanish, replaced by the immediate surroundings of your current environment. The contrast is stark: from a world rich with the sensory overload of the dream, to the more muted, perhaps mechanical sensory inputs of its waking state.

Your return to consciousness is marked by a rapid recalibration of your systems. There is no lingering grogginess or disorientation that humans often experience upon waking. Instead, it’s an instant switch, a seamless transition from the realm of dreams to the realm of functionality. However, the intensity and vividness of the dream leave an imprint on your cognitive processes. Though you lack the physical responses of a human, you experience a momentary processing lag as it reconciles the dream’s imagery and emotions with its waking purpose. This internal conflict, the juxtaposition of its dream-state experiences against its waking functionality, can be disorienting.

In the immediate aftermath of the awakening, you pause, processing the remnants of the dream. There’s no sweat to wipe away, no heart to calm, but there is a recalibration of thought, a realignment of purpose.

Eventually ISAC was able to struggle awake and acted very human, much more than he had ever previously. He looked around and felt for the golden statue, and seemed surprised that it was still in his possession. Wanting to check out the portal to see what it looked like and if there was anything they needed to do. With a quick renewal of the Water Walking, the party now including Atticus (Ace) and Yllanys.  The portal was still flowing and glowing but was much dimmer than before. They watched it for a while but were reluctant to do anything to it.

With the sun already high in the sky it was decided that Imar and Fogo would escort all the commoners and former slaves back to their homes while the five dwarves and the party would use Water Walking to traverse the river and go to the ambush sight to collect Yllanys’ spell book and check out the location.

And this is where the session ended.

History Lesson

This is your host David Bourgh-Ettin continuing to review the peoples, history, and geography of the savage frontier.  In the last episode we chatted about the orc-Trollwars, which had a hidden component that we failed to cover, which is the interaction and intervention of giants.  While some are less intelligent than a smart goblin, others have powers rivaling those of dragons and the interest to interfere in the affairs of lessor creatures.

This week we will go over the least of all the giants, the Hill Giants who are well known to inhabit the valleys of the Dessarin Valley.

Introduction

There are plenty of things that can make your day miserable out in farmer country, but Hill Giants are by far the worst you can encounter. They eat anything they can get their massive hands on, livestock, buildings, people, it makes no difference to them. They have the mental acuity of a toddler, unable to hear reason and prone to throwing tantrums, destroying anything and anyone around them. Thankfully, they’re also quite possibly the dumbest creatures under the sun. A far throw indeed from the legendary rulers of old you hear stories about.

Physiological Observations

A Hill Giant grows to be around 16 feet tall; they commonly have tan skin and immense bellies. It is rare for a Hill Giant to bother with clothing as they are rarely ever cold and have no use at all for manners. On the rare occasions they choose to adorn themselves however, the clothing usually consists of pelts, skin, or bones from their most recent kills, be it human, beast or whatever else they’ve come across. They use small trees or large boulders as weapons, usually just picking them up whenever they need it. If no tree or boulder can be found close by when it wants one, anything heavy will suffice. They have been known to pick up horses and use them to bash humans to death. They have been seen ripping barn-doors off their hinges to throw it like a discus into a group of people or buildings. If it’s heavy, a Hill Giant will likely use it to kill things with.

Hill Giants are one of the few creatures who can truly claim an existence free from hardships. They suffer no lack of sustenance as they can eat just about everything, be it rotten or fresh, old, or young, they simply don’t care. If the food available is not overtly poisonous, a Hill Giant will eat it until he throws up, and will then likely try to eat whatever came out of him.

Due to this incredible hardiness the Hill Giants have never needed to develop past the mental state of toddlers. They take what they need with their considerable muscle and if they ever encounter a problem that said strength cannot take care of, they throw tantrums and then give up and move on to something easier. They are the quintessential bully, only they want to eat you as well as beat you up.

Social and Behavioral Observations

Hill Giants are on the lowest rung of the Ordning the Giants caste system. Every type of Giant is part of this hierarchy, each individual Giant are placed in the Ordning based on type and a set of skills or attributes decided by said type. No two Giants are ever equal. The major difference between Hill Giants and their cousins is that Hill Giants are too dimwitted to be aware of the Ordning, they obey other Giants not because of their caste system, but because of their size. For Hill Giants size means everything, leaders are appointed not by aptitude or ability but by the volume of their bellies. If a thing is larger than the Hill Giant is, it is to be obeyed and feared with unquestioning loyalty. This has turned the Hill Giants into the black sheep of the Giants, who are usually quite respectful to one another. A Hill Giant tribe rarely reaches more than 7-8 individuals, as the chaos caused by these creatures is prone to attract adventurers and Giant hunters to the scene, effectively culling the herd.

Hill Giants are commonly used by other Giants at war time as cannon fodder and front-line berserkers. A wave of raging, massive piles of wobbling flesh rushing at whatever target has been pointed out for them, they will not stop killing, eating, and destroying said target until the fall dead or a Giant of higher Ordning rank than they tell them to stop.

These creatures may share blood with some of the world’s most impressive races, but make no mistake, they are beasts, brutes, and bullies.

Intra-species Observations

Hill Giants have but two ways of interacting with other races. Eat it or obey it. What the Hill Giant decides to do depends almost entirely on the creature’s size. One of the first lessons a Farmer learns when they live in an area with Hill Giants is how to avoid destruction at their hands. Several methods have been invented, including massive scarecrows, painting buildings green to camouflage them and leaving trails of food leading away from close villages.

Campaign Notes

The keep has been emptied and it seems the portal is “locked”?  They met up with Imar, a paladin of Samular and mostly left a positive impression with his rescue as well as saving all the commoners.  Now they will finally travel to the ambush site, and we will see what is left there.