A Grassy, Wind-Swept Sandbox Full of Giants, Part Five
He spews lightning. He crashes into everything he gets near and knocks trees over onto himself. And yet he’s still kinda adorable. Continuing from part four…
The first town on the road north was Tyvalich, a major trading town at the mouth of a pass up into the richest silver mountains in the world. Before they got there, however, the party was confronted by Felgolos, the Flying Misfortune, a young-ish adult bronze dragon who came swooping in, blasted a line of lightning between the party and the road, and proclaimed that he was the protector of the north and they would go no further. And then had to duck from the lightning-blasted tree that almost fell on his head.
Seeing Xerlo in their company had apparently made Felgolos think they were among the stone giants raiding and apparently destroying whole towns in Elsir Vale. After congratulating him on his terrific entrance, they explained that Xerlo had left those guys specifically because he didn’t think wanton murder and destruction was a great idea.
Felgolos polymorphed into an adorable little halfling swashbuckler and came over to their camp to talk it all out. He explained that he was generally regarded as a great hero and quite disappointed they didn’t know who he was. (“Seriously, you guys never heard of me? There’s a statue of me in Avileigne! Well, there was a statue of me in Avileigne, it’s under lava now. But still!”) However, when it was pointed out to him that there was a dragonborn paladin of Bahamut in the party, he conceded that they must be all right, told them to continue being awesome, transformed back into a dragon, and took off. He then crashed into a tree, said, “I’m okay!” and took off again.
With that auspicious start to their day, they continued to Tyvalich, where they did some shopping to replenish their potion supply and get some armor upgrades and the like. They also picked up a job from the Adventurers Guild to investigate and stop displacer beast attacks on the local farms. They also pointedly ignored a job collecting herbs for a gnome named Digglet Pindernipper, apparently figuring that they’d met enough whimsically eccentric NPCs that session.
Ha, ha, ha. Like that’d stop me! 😉
While they were in town, Togar followed up on a note someone had left him to go see Dawnbringer Kelsan, the local priest of Lathander. Kelsan said that one of his associates in Three Roads had seen Togar helping out the refugees and cheering troops in the garrison and whatnot and been impressed, and so Kelsan offered Togar associate membership in the Order of the Morning Star, a kind of freelance do-goodery club, with the goals, “Protect those who cannot protect themselves, aid those who have lost their way, and bring light to a world prone to falling into darkness.” Togar was all over this idea, gladly accepting a cloak pin with the Order’s emblem on it. (Other members of the party, upon noticing the pin later, commented that in his halfling form Felgolos had been wearing one just like it.)
The farmer they spoke to informed them that the displacer beasts had attacked their livestock and that they’d managed to wound one of them and drive them off. Then hill giants had come in the middle of the night and taken the slain livestock, which was kind of a weird wrinkle but not all that weird with all the generally giant-themed nonsense that had been going on for a while now.
The party tracked the displacer beasts up into the mountains until dark, at which point they set up camp for the night. During Nikki’s watch, some kind of completely atonal mournful bellowing echoed across the mountainside– which eventually resolved into a very deep-pitched feminine voice singing “Nobody Knows the Troubles I’ve Seen”… badly. Nikki roused a few other party members (the ones willing to get up) and they went to check it out.
Eventually they found the open-roofed ruins of an old signal tower, with a boulder blocking the door. Nikki climbed up to the hole in the top, being attacked by some circling bloodhawks for his trouble, and poked his head in, only to have a histrionic hill giant toss a chunk of masonry at him and bellow for him to go away. It turned out that this whimsically-eccentric NPC was Moog, a hill giant whose husband Hruk had been “stolen” by Chief Guh. (“Just because she’s huge, she thinks she can have anyone she wants! How can I compete with that?”) Between wallowing in self-pity and being kinda malicious and awful the way hill giants tend to be, she was a pretty wretched specimen. When asked for a description of Hruk so they’d know to send him back her way instead of kill him, Moog gave a very helpful “He’s tall and strong and has dark hair.”
They left her to her music. And also moved their camp over another half a mile.
In the morning they picked up the trail again. In a narrow valley they came upon three displacer beasts munching on the corpse of a fourth, and waded in. After a somewhat-frustrating fight in which several would-be hits were converted into misses by the beasts’ displacement ability, they finally worked out that Sheala’s magic missiles would disrupt the ability temporarily and enable them to overcome the monsters. Examining the bodies, they learned that the one that was dead when they got there was the one the farmers had wounded, and it had bled to death climbing up into the mountains and eventually just dropped where it was, prompting the others (which hadn’t eaten for a few days) to feast. They also discovered a collar with an iron tooth hanging from it– meaning that these were someone’s pet– and that they were following a trail back “home.” Sheala recalled with an Arcana check that iron teeth were associated with certain types of hags, acting as a kind of “radio” between the hag and whoever carried the tooth.
Deciding that the job wouldn’t be done until it was done thoroughly, they followed the trail further up into the mountains, finally coming to a small box canyon blocked off by an unreasonably-thick thorny bramble. Those who could went up and over, the elves slipped through as if it weren’t even there, and the paladin and storm cleric just powered through it. On the far side they found an old Calladganger homestead, with an animal pen full of dead livestock, and a hill giant and several displacer beasts lounging on the porch, only missing a banjo to complete the scene. Upon seeing the party, the giant called out, “Granny? Got comp’ny!”
Out from the house came the final whimsically-eccentric NPC of the night, Granny Withers. She appeared to be a little old Calladganger witch-woman, who cackled and said things like “Come in, come in, we’d love to have you for dinner!” The group dithered a bit– just straight up attacking a little old lady is awkward no matter how sure you are she’s evil– but when the gem of seeing they had lifted from Kolstaag Albrek’s desk revealed she was indeed an annis hag, they got over that and battle was joined.
Due to a quirk in Jamie’s build, Togar is actually able to turn fey the same way clerics normally turn undead, so he used that to force the hag back into her house so the party could concentrate on taking out the giant and displacer beasts first. Another giant came out of the house, yelling, “Don’t you hurt my Granny!” but was quickly dispatched. Finally, all the monsters were slain, their bodies piled onto the dead and gamey livestock, and all burned. The party rested the night in the dead hag’s house, which was creepy, but well-protected from mountain dangers.
They deduced that the hill giants, roving the mountains to find “Food for Guh!”, had come upon Granny Withers’ house and, in her weird annis-haggishly way, she had “adopted” them. However, between the three of them and her pet displacer beasts, they rapidly went through her stock of food and so they hatched up the plan of sending the displacer beasts to go kill farmers’ livestock, which the giants could then easily round up and bring back to the house. The displacer beasts just hadn’t made it back to the homestead yet because they were traveling slowly with a wounded pack member.
They headed back to town to collect their reward, stopping briefly to aid and comfort the same band of Calladganger hunters they had met before, who had been tracking a herd of aurochs through the mountains and gotten the snot pounded out of them by a bunch of hill giants. Still convinced that Nikki is some kind of nature spirit, they turned down his offer of “eagle” (actually bloodhawk) meat, because eagles were sacred to them and this was obviously some kind of spiritual test Nikki was putting them through to make sure they followed the old ways or some such. Nikki informed them that there was a nicely large, vacant Calladganger-style homestead in a box canyon just a ways up the mountain that they could safely camp and recuperate in, as long as they didn’t mind the smell of burning dead monster. Their leader promised they would ritually sanctify the house and that anyone who settled there would be named the People of the Squirrel in gratitude for this beneficence.
“Right. You do that.”
(For the record, the Calladganger leader is not whimsically eccentric, even if I do refer to him as “Kronk.” He’s a perfectly normal big dumb amiable lug.)
After a night of rest, it was time for the four day hike to Hierandal, which will come in part six.