WORK IN PROGRESS…
Unable to cope with the crippling agoraphobia, Thom gives Vetnik hammer. Vetnik beats back the magical fear and agrees to carry Whelm the rest of the way. The party makes it back to Alhaster w/o incident and agree to get accommodations at a local inn for the evening before sailing back to Greyhawk. Thom gives the eight extra men a bonus of 50gp from his own cut of the loot as a tip, and together they make their way to the local tavern.
“After all of this, I could use a good body to help keep my bed warm tonight,” Thom quips to which Vetnik chuckles to himself.
They come upon the tavern and find it a bustling scene. A few of the men take their gold and go in search of company to hire. Thom, enjoying the game too much to settle on a whore, chats up the men while scouting for a woman of his own. His eyes meet with a human woman with cherry red hair and a milky, spotless face. He excuses himself from the table and approaches her. Before he can reach her, she begins to slink his way smiling seductively, a slight snaggletooth revealed behind her lips (which only seems to pique Thom’s interest more.)
“Care for a drink?” he asks her smoothly. Without word or hesitation, she leans herself in close to him, presenting herself eyes and cleavage first. She uttered not a word and replied by grabbing at the crotch of his pants. Thom, appreciating her forwardness, brought her in closer and wrapped his arm around her shoulders and the pair left the rowdiness of the bar behind them for more intimate games upstairs.
Vetnik stayed downstairs to enjoy a pint of ale calmly among his companions. He watched the locals and his hirelings mingle and schmooze. Trisoll sat across from him, a cup of water in one hand with a stein of mead in the other. Moira and Lyssa sat beside him, sipping on cups of water.
“It’s too bad your friend isn’t here, eh Vetnik?” Moira said looking up from the table, breaking her stoic silence.
“Oh why is that? Do you enjoy her company as well?” Vetnik replied dryly, sipping on his ale. Moira seemed stunned and returned quietly to her water. Lyssa scoffed at his boorish reply and excused herself from the table. She began to wander into the back area near the gamblers. Just as she entered, her attention (as well as the others’) was diverted to a commotion from the back of the bar. Suddenly, they watched as a mountain of a man drug two quarreling men towards the exit of the bar, their heads under each of his arms. Before tossing them, he bashed the head of one man against the wooden casing and knocked the other’s head into the now-wounded head of the other man. The bouncer spat out the door and stomped back towards the bar, where those who watched cheered at the vicious sight and continued to drink.
Grum enjoyed a glass of wine to himself at the bar, keeping watch over his friends while also enjoying a bit of withdrawn introspective time to himself. He watches as one of his hirelings gets too rowdy and begins to bump into other patrons. Fearing for the man’s safety at the hands of the brutish bouncer, Grum quickly gets a cup of water and hands it to his traveling companion.
“I… I’m jus’ havin’ fun yea…” the drunk began to apologize to Grum.
“We all are, we all are,” Grum replied, putting the cup into his hireling’s hand and bringing it to his mouth to both get him to drink and to silence him. Vetnik stepped away from Moira and approached the men and agreed to escort the hireling to his room.
Lyssa looked over the gamblers, their pipe and cigarette smoke creating a cloud of smog that hovered in the room. She watched as they played dice games, shells, various card games, and chess. Lyssa zeroed in on a large, sweaty fat man with pipe dangling out of his mouth filled with rotted teeth. Beside him stood a contrast in size, a gaunt man in clothes too big for his size and too regal for his station (though stained and torn from wear.) She sauntered up to his table just as another man walked away from his table, seemingly in defeat.
“Taking bets?” she asked.
“Of course we are, lass. Three-Dragon Ante’s the game. You put your coin down, I’ll put mine down, and we all handle the outcome like big boys and girls, yeah?”
Lyssa slid into the empty seat across from the man. “I’m big girl.”
“And I’m a big man,” the sleazy gambler replied, grinning his horrid teeth. Lyssa bowed her head to conceal her eyes. She fumbled through her sack of gold and as she did, she closed her eyes and began to focus on the chaotic energies surrounding the fat man. Once she could feel the spell take hold of her victim, she lifted her head and set down 100gp. The pair played through their first hands, dealt by the fat man, and in turn she won 350gp from him.
“Heheheh, beginner’s luck. Eh, lass? You in for more?”
Lyssa reached into her sack of gold and put up her winnings plus another 100gp. The fat man took a deep puff of his pipe and looked over his cards. His smile broke as he surveyed them. Lyssa remained stone-faced as she revealed her hand. The fat man huffed as he tossed his useless hand against the table.
“I’m out! This table just got too rich for my blood, lass. At this rate, I’ll be losing my shirt!” the fat man said as he struggled to get himself up out of his seat.
“Boo hoo,” Lyssa jeered deadpan, scraping the coin over to her.
The fat man froze and stared her down. “Alright then, you wanna fucking go again you little trollop, we can go again!” The man yanked at his skinny companion’s blouse and whispered viciously into his ear. Lyssa tapped the toe of her boot against the pedestal of the table impatiently. Finally, the skinny man nervously emptied out his leather sack of all his gold., 1120gp! The skinny man nervously watched as his fat friend pushed in half of the pile and dealt both hands. Lyssa barely glanced at her cards before setting them down. The fat man’s face went ghost pale and struggled to show his hand. The skinny man scooped up the rest of his coin feverishly while the fat man yelled and called foul on Lyssa. His cries fell on deaf ears though and she picked up the rest of her winnings and headed back to the other half of the bar to rejoin the others. Passing Grum, who had watched the last hand take place from the doorway, he joked to her: “Shame, really. Had he been the least bit handsome, I might have made myself available to sooth his shattered ego.”
As the bar hours dwindled to closing, the party drifted off to their rooms one by one to sleep (all except Thom, who was kept awake by his insatiable companion, Melina.) In the morning, his companion watched as Thom intently as he studied his forms and sketched in his journal. She lay sprawled across his bed covered only in ringlets of plum-red hair and sunlight while he did his morning rituals, content to just be in his company. A sudden and hearty knock interrupted their quiet, peaceful morning.
“Thom?” Moira called out from the other side. The bard quickly took up his lady’s midnight blue cloak and draped it hurriedly over his nudity.
“Yes, Moira!” he said cracking the door open.
“I’ve secured a vessel for us back to Greyhawk, it will be ready within the hour.”
“Fantastic! Then I shall see you at the docks then,” he said, shooing her away. Thom quickly shut the door, threw off the robe and tossed it back to Melina before he began to gather his things.
“Do you have to leave so soon?” she mewed.
“I do, I must go to Greyhawk—“ he said, unable to cut himself off before revealing his destination.
“Greyhawk?” Melina asked, her sapphire eyes lighting up as she draped herself in the equally brilliant blue robe of hers. “Is that where you’re heading? I’ve always wanted to see Greyhawk!”
As Thom buckled the belt of his trousers, an idea crossed his mind. Thom fancied himself a perceptive judge of character, and her admiration for him seemed nothing but genuine. He reached into his sack and pulled out a gold coin. Looking her in the eyes, and flipped a coin her way. Thom watched as Melina reached out and snatched the coin out of the air, all without taking her eyes off of him. The pair smiled at each other before colliding for another, passionate kiss. “Let’s go to Greyhawk!”
Melina escorted Thom to the nearest general store to replenish supplies. After getting rations and equipment together, the pair made their way to the docks where they met with Moira and the others.
“Taking your pleasure with business?” Vetnik asked Thom very briskly.
“This is Melina,” Thom replied, addressing all in his party. “She is my charge.”
“New student, eh?” Trisoll nudged Thom in brotherly gest.
“Amongst other things,” Thom winked.
“Well done!” Trisoll laughed before Vetnik ushered him away. Melina looked to Thom, still optimistic and quite accustom to the playful ways of boys.
“If you’re all done gawking over Thom’s latest concubine,” Lyssa grumbled before boarding the ship.
Halfway through the ride back to Greyhawk across the Nyr Dyv, one of the hirelings spies a lightshow in the water.
“Look!” he called out, “below the water!”
The party – save for Lyssa, who’s lack of sea legs kept her nauseated and clinging to the center of the ship – rushed to see. The hireling pointed out a strange sight beneath the surface: a series of large globes of light that slowly trailed alongside the path of the boat.
“Let’s keep an eye on it, but nothing more.” Grum suggested. The party watched as the lights continued to float beneath the water until they dispersed and fluttered away behind the boat. After a few days of uneventful sailing, the party could spy the shores of Greyhawk in the distance. Their vision was obscured though by the sudden presence of a fog bank that hovered on the horizon.
“No, no, no!” Grum moaned as he whipped out his gem of seeing. The crystal revealed the truth about the nature of the fog. It was no bank of fog at all but rather a horde of buzzing insects humming above the surface of the water. “If any one has anything to get us past this, now’s the time to do it!”
Lyssa gathered up her nerve and with a rumbling stomach, she rushed to the bow of the ship. She opened her hand and summoned a torrent of wind and funnel straight through the throng of buzzing and stinging insects. The ship continued to sail towards the shores of Greyhawk but despite Lyssa’s best efforts, the swarm continued to advance!
Trisoll raced up to Lyssa’s side and stretched his hand out as she had hers. His eyes disappeared into a haze of faint white glow. “I suggest anyone who wishes not to get bitten come up the bow!”
The party quickly secured their horses beneath deck, gathered what weapons they could and crowded up behind both Trisoll and Lyssa. As the ship drifted towards the swarm, they watched as the insects zipped and buzzed at them with hungry fury, snipping with their alien jaws and stabbing with their barbed tails. The swarm fluttered around the party but found themselves stopped by an invisible barrier conjured by Trisoll. Repelled and frustrated, the insects moved on from their seemingly impenetrable prey. The party watched as the insects buzzed around the rest of the ship, and after finding nothing else on deck worth defiling, fluttered off into the distance behind them in search of an easier meal. The last hour was smooth sailing as they pulled into the docks of Greyhawk.
The party unloaded at the docks and discussed how the trade off for the items should take place.
“Do we want to set up a meeting with them?” Thom asked while the hirelings unloaded the horses and chests at the cargo gate.
“We ought to go to them, ourselves” Grum suggested. “Better business.”
“Why don’t we have them come to us?” Lyssa interjected
“Where do you suggest we meet them then? Pimpleton Manor?” Thom asked.
“We should deliver the goods.” Moira reasoned. “Perhaps there’s a third party venue?”
“What about that Friendly Strangers place over in Newhope?” Lyssa asked.
“Yeah, what about your mom’s place?” Trisoll followed up.
“Well, we have access to the VIP room” Grum
“And if something goes wrong, we always have Tic Toc to help us”
Moira sends word to the collector’s that they have returned and they wish to handle the trade off at Friendly Strangers post haste. Even now, Grunt can feel the buzz of Blackrazor’s hungry hum gnawing at the inside of his mind. Together, they made their way to Friendly Strangers and the Black brothers arranged to have a private room set up, ready for the meeting with Greyhawk’s most affluent. The party entered the cabaret during its afternoon matinee, where Tic Toc had already taken the stage to warm the crowd up with his unique brand of charismatic banter. The party is escorted to the back, where attendants prepare the room by lighting incense and lanterns and filling the buffet with assorted food and drink. The party waits for about an hour for the first of the collector’s to show.
“What do we even want from them?” Trisoll posed to his companions.
“Well, whatever it is it had better be individual to us.” Grum argues.
“Not necessarily. I mean, we could pull our resources together for strongholds, lands—“ Thom begins to reason.
“I don’t know, Thom. I mean, I kind of like having my own wish!” Trisoll rebuttals.
“What about you, Lyssa?” Thom asks the mage.
“I… I honestly don’t know yet.”
Before Vetnik could answer the bard, a knock came at the door followed by an attendant. “Master Black, you have a vistor,” the attendant announced before holding the door open for the first guest. “Captain Giltok.”
Moira and Vetnik stand promptly while Lyssa and Grunt meander up as the captain enters. He is an old dwarf, bald with a full and long beard of coarse silver hair. His uniform is decorated with an array of medals of Honor and valor. One in particular speaks to his time as Guard Captain of Greyhawk! Moira bows before the aged warrior as he limps in with his attendant.
“A second pair of visitors, from House Woodley: Barton and his daughter, Matrice.” The party remained standing as the rich Woodleys entered, both of dark features and garbed in rich, deep outfits appropriate of a family of their wealth and privilege. Those in the party with social graces bowed politely before the collectors, and noticing Vetnik decorated armor, responded accordingly – all except Matrice Woodley, whose father urged her to be more respectful.
“Master Black, a third visitor is here to see your party.”
“Who is it?” Thom answered back.
“Lord Eldon, sir,” the attendant replied, “of House Cerzan.”
All of sudden Lyssa seemed to tense up as Eldon Cerzan entered the room. She did little to hide her discomfort with his presence, though the room was dimly lit.
“Shall we begin then?” Thom said, ushering both parties over to a long empty table.
Captain Giltok spoke first, “I am Jardan Giltok, former Guard Captain of this fair city. So you have retrieved Whelm for me?”
Vetnik pulls it out and places it upon the table.
“Oh, I thought I’d never see it again. I cannot thank you enough, kind sir. Whelm belonged Beldak Tenandin who fell at the Battle of the Black Deep and I have held it ever since. This is a very special weapon for my family and I. I thank you good sir knight, and your companions, for returning it safely.”
As Captain Giltok took the hammer up from the table into his hands, Thom approached with Wave in his.
“Ah yes!” Lord Eldon exclaimed, taking the trident into his hands. “My gift to the temple of the great Poseidon, built to honor him just outside of Bayerton. Safe! I cannot thank you enough, bard. I cannot believe we all are here, truly you are all great warriors!”
Before the Woodleys could approach and before Grunt could unburden himself of Blackrazor, Lyssa whispered to him. “Give me the sword.” He barely looked to the mage and without resistance, passed the sword to her before stepping back and taking a seat, scabbard and all.
Blackrazor’s ego spiked as she as she took the blade into her hand. “Yesss mistress, you will feed me! I hunger! Long days at sea without anything to eat!”
“Hello, I am Barton Woodley and I am here for Blackrazor—“ the socialite began before noticing he was addressing Lyssa alone. “Matrice, darling, these brave people were kind enough to bring your sword back.”
Matrice stayed seated in her chair, rolling her eyes at the tedious exchange. “I told you, I want the Amulet of the Planes! I don’t care about this stupid sword any more. Daddy it’s beautiful, not like that tired old sword. I can’t wear a sword around my neck!”
“Cortox take me.” Barton moaned to himself.
Lyssa approached the table with Blackrazor in hand and faced Barton Woodley. Before he could continue to address Lyssa, she drew the blade out of its embroidered scabbard, turned to Eldon Cerzan who stood in between the captain and the socialite, and lifted up the shimmering black sword.
“You!” Lyssa said, her glare as pointed as him as the blade in her hand.
“I beg… I beg your pardon,” Eldon began to stammer, confused by the now-hostile exchange. Moira stepped forward and planted herself directly behind Lyssa, ready to tame the mercurial mage should anything start to go awry. The rest of the party was now on alert, ready for the worst but hoping for the best. Lyssa kept her eyes on Eldon Cerzan though, and without taking them away, she slammed the sword down upon the thick wooden table. The crashing sound seemed to shake Eldon but only for a moment.
“You do not recognize me, do you Lord Eldon?” Lyssa asked.
“N-n-no, should I?” he replied with increasing composure.
“Of course you don’t. I only toiled away on your farms in Bayerton, my family and I for more than two decades.”
“Ah, you mean my father’s lands.” Eldon replied, trying to deflect Lyssa’s aggression. “For which I know he’s always been tremendously thankful, now, if you could please just put the sword on the—“
“What are you offering us for these items? All of you?” Lyssa barked, the ego of Blackrazor weaving through her mind like a hissing black snake.
“Wh-what is it you all seek? I mean you have all completed your tasks quite… completely.” Eldon continued to stammer. “However, Barton—“
“Look, my lady, if it’s the blade you desire, we can discuss a price. Frankly, my daughter has lost interest in the thing, and I have no attachment to it beyond its worth.”
“Daddy, can we leave now?” Matrice whined.
“No! This is business,” her father scolded in return. He returned his attention to the party before him. “You all have completed the request of the contract and retrieved all three items. Now, what is it you wish to gain from us?”
Lyssa stepped back, Blackrazor still in hand and allowed her companions to take the floor. Thom was first to speak and most eager to do so. “For starters, I would like land and a stronghold!”
“Are we to build this stronghold for you?” Barton asked.
“Or give me the funds and the materials for it.”
“I believe I can assist with this,” Eldon began, “I have a parcel of land you might find suitable. One of my trading companies will supply you will all the stone you need. The men to construct this stronghold of yours, however, that is up to you. I will provide the materials and the land alone.” With a snap of his fingers, Eldon’s attendant rushed up to his side. After a few whispered words from Eldon to his attendant, Eldon turned back to Thom with a slight smile across his face. “You will have the land signed over to you before sundown.” Thom took Eldon’s hand and shook it heartily. “Grum?”
“Same thing, I suppose.”
Lord Eldon looked hesitant at first and returned to the hushed conversation between he and his attendant. His attendant paused and pulled a map from out of his coat and unfurled it onto the table. On it was a elegantly penned map of Greyhawk and its bordering lands (including Bayerton in Furyondy.) Eldon and his assistant surveyed the map quickly and marked off a dark spot of land opposite of Thom’s plot. “Yes, that seems doable. There is a parcel of land available to you in these marshes over here. They will require a bit more development, but again, the materials will be at your disposal and are yours to do with as you like.”
Grum takes Eldon’s hands and shakes just as his brother did. “Grunt, what do you require?”
“Ruby slippers,” the gloomy scout grumbled from behind the Black brothers.
“If its jeweled footwear y’seek—“ Captain Giltok began, confused by the hooded man’s queer request.
“Excuse my companion, captain,” Grum began to apologize, “he’s not quite used to these sorts of exchanges, yet.”
“Then perhaps some kind of favor from the Guild of Mages, perhaps?” Barton suggested.
“No! No magic. No money either,” Grunt more boisterously replied. He continued to mutter under his breath, “What good is being rich in a world I don’t want to be in any way?”
“Well boy, if it’s not land nor magic you require, what is it you seek? Money? A new weapon to take Blackrazor’s place?” Barton replied impatiently.
Grunt took a pause at the prospect of a new weapon. While he hated having Blackrazor’s influence in his head, the blade’s power was unmistakable. Barton took notice and whispered to his attendant briefly before excusing him.
“There is a longbow in my possession called (INSERT BOW NAME). It is free of ego and its aim is always true. The make of it is adamantine steel yet light as a feather. You won’t find a better bow outside of Enstad this I guarantee. My attendant will have it for you very soon.”
Moira stepped forward and requested a parcel of land from any of the men who could donate it to her. “Something as close to Greyhawk as possible, my lords.”
“I’m sure there’s something I can spare in the southern outskirts of the city,” Barton informed. “Again, what you do with it is your lot to determine. I’m sure Lord Eldon and I can come together to figure out how to divvy up materials.”
“Understood, my lord. Cortox’s blessing to you,” Moira said, bowing her head in gratitude.
Trisoll approached the table and as he did, he casually rested his hand upon Lyssa’s shoulder. “Well, sirs,” he began before realizing whose space he was encroaching upon. Taking his hand back, he leaned over towards the map and looked over the lands marked off for his companions. “There,” he pointed at a spot marked off in Woodley territory to the northeast.
“So it’s land you seek as well?” Barton asked bluntly as he pulled the map away from the unceremonious cleric.
“Yeah, well. I figure it’s time to really get a sanctuary together. I mean, Trithereon—“
“Yes, very good,” Barton continued, interrupting the cleric. “And what about you,” he asked exasperated by the stream of requests and Matrice’s waning patience. “What do you, my lady?”
“I want my home, and I know between your three powerful houses, you’ll be able to give it to me.”
“You want your home?” Lord Eldon asked before stepping back to hand the floor back to Barton.
“Yes, I want what is rightfully mine.”
“And what is rightfully yours?”
The three men took a brief pause and looked to each other before looking back at her. Unable to contain themselves, they burst into a chorus of nervous laughter. “Oh, if we had the means to explore that massive ruin, it would have been done long ago!” Captain Giltok said, his weathered cheeks rosy with hearty laughter. “The dangers that lie within the castle of the madman, there’s no — that is beyond even our reach and power!”
“Well, you could give it to her as is,” Thom reasoned.
“I believe it belongs to no one!” Barton replied.
“It belongs to me,” Lyssa revealed, stifling the men’s laughter.
“I beg your pardon, my lady?” Barton asked. “It belongs to you? That was the ruinous castle of Zagyg the Mad, dear girl!”
“It is my birthright!”
“Is this true?” Thom asked Lyssa, knowing of the rumored, sordid history of the ruins of Castle Greyhawk through prose and verse penned by famous bards and storytellers. She was unresponsive though and continued to stare Barton and Eldon down.
“We cannot do that as we do not possess those lands. Those lands belong to whatever foul things dwell in it now.” Barton began. Suddenly, realizing Blackrazor was still under her hand, he continued. “What we can do though is make sure that Greyhawk recognizes you as its legal owner. Do with that what you will, but the ruins will be your responsibility.”
“Fine,” Lyssa said before releasing Blackrazor from her hand and sliding it casually across the table to Barton.
“And what of you, good sir knight?” Captain Giltok asked the silent cavalier. “What is it you seek from us?”
“I wish to go home,” he replied coldly. The party’s head whipped to face the cavalier in shock. Even Lyssa jerked her head around, confused by the knight’s request.
“Vetnik?” Moira asked, shaken by his request.
“It’s time for me to go home,” he said, hesitant to face his companions.
“Malarkey!” Thom cried out. “Vetnik, you came here to represent your nation, you can’t leave now! Trade, exploration, education… your people know how to be themselves, but you have an opportunity to bring something back to them!”
“My people need me. My family needs me.”
“We need you,” Moira pleaded, taking his hand into hers.
While the display of affection had always seemed to make Lyssa uncomfortable, she too spoke up for the prince to stay. “Ugh, why don’t you just ask these men if they have something that can send you to and form?
Vetnik looked up at Lyssa with frustration across his face. As the party did their best to reason through the stubbornness of the cold prince, the collectors quietly gathered their things and prepared to leave the party to bicker with each other. Matrice was quickest to the door and Barton’s attendant hastened to keep up with her. Barter sighed and picked up Blackrazor, placing it back into its scabbard as he sauntered after his daughter. Lord Eldon seemed dubious to leave, but seeing Lyssa preoccupied with Vetnik and the others, quickly rolled up his map and stepped hastily towards the exit, using Barton as a human shield of sorts. Captain Giltok was last to leave, and as he did, he had no bones about interrupting the party’s discussion. He patted the cavalier on his gauntlet and nodded up to him.
“Yes, well, it appears ye got more thinking to do, good sir knight. When you figure out what it is you really want, come visit me. I won’t be hard to find.”
Before Captain Giltok could leave the private room, the sound of a war horn echoed outside. The party stopped their squabbling and froze, listening for the sound of more horns. The cabaret came to a standstill, as patrons and performers alike waited as well. Indeed, only moments later, a second horn sounded across town, followed by a third and a forth from opposite directions. Vetnik turned and rushed to the door. “Pardon me, captain,” he excused himself as he passed the aged Dwarf.
“By all means,” he said as he stepped aside and made way for the rest of the party.
Outside of the cabaret, Vetnik untethered his stallion and watched as the city guard and militiamen poured out of the Grand Citadel and rushed towards the ruins of Castle Greyhawk. Archers and siege weapon operators rushed towards up the hill to the ruins of Castle Greyhawk while warriors on horseback raced and emptied out of the Cargo Gate nearby. Over the war horns, Vetnik could only hear one creature mentioned: “GIANTS!” He hopped upon his steed but before making their way to the Cargo Gate, Moira reached out and tugged at his boot.
“One last glory before you go?”
“One last time.” The pair nodded at each other and Moira climbed up onto the horse. She wrapped her arms around his waist and together they rode off, fast as they could to the city gate.
As Thom and the rest of the party emptied out of the cabaret, he saw the current Guard Captain, Garyn Waller, leading a squad of men on horseback towards the gate.
“Guard Captain!” Thom called out, “What’s going on?”
“Giants are on their way down the Cairn Hills! Hill and Stone alike, working in tandem!” Guard Captain Waller shouted back before catching up with his men.
Thom and his companions shuttered as what might have provoked them. It was no time to be introspective though; war was racing towards the city wall! Thom rubbed the empty groove of his ring and as he did the space of the groove flickered with dim, white light. Suddenly, Thom lifted himself straight up into the air and took flight! Flying high above the town, he made his way towards Castle Greyhawk, where beyond it, he saw more than a dozen large bodies rushing towards the city from the hills. Thom himself was all too familiar with the make of the oafish Hill Giants, but this had been his first encounter with the legendary Stone Giants. They were taller and more athletic, with mottled grey skin that made it look as if the mountains themselves had taken shape. In their hands, the Giants wielded boulders and tree trunks banded together to make extraordinarily thick clubs. Thom raced towards the Cargo Gate and watched as others took flight: mages from the University wielding all manner of spells, magical wands and staves.
Another man all too familiar with the veracity of Giants was Zemilay Lyks. From Pimpleton Manor, he and his family could hear the war horns sound, followed by the clamor of warriors and screaming of civilians, capped by the sound of rocks crashing against the city walls. He urged Burbis, George, and his darling wife Xanti to take shelter beneath the house. They did as they were told and hid in the cellar. Lyks limped out of his house and just as he descended down the steps, two sights took his attention. The first was a spell cast on the house by none other than Burbis Baggleton, which transformed the manor into a ruined husk. Immediately after, he watched as a particularly large boulder crashed against one of the towers of Castle Greyhawk and slid down back into the Selitan River. He put his fingers to his lips and let out a boisterous whistle and only moments later, his faithful Pegasus, Snowflake, galloped to the druid’s side. Snowflake leaned down and allowed for easier access for the hobbled druid, and together they flew as fast as they could to Castle Greyhawk.
Lyssa and Grum rushed to Castle Greyhawk to take position with the archers. Grum did his best to hone his ears on the chaos of the city, but could not yet discern why the Giants were ambushing. Before he could depart the cabaret, Grunt was stopped by a vaguely familiar man: Barton’s attendant, who cradled a large object wrapped in silk embroidered with the crest of House Woodley. “Sir!”
“Sir the bow you requested. (INSERT NAME HERE)!”
Grunt unwrapped the bow and tossed the silk to the ground (to which the attendant quickly reached down and folded it back up for later use.) Grunt quickly surveyed the ornate thing; he had yet to possess anything so finely crafted, but something irregular stuck out to him. “Where’s the bloody string?!”
“I know only little about (INSERT NAME HERE), but this bow possesses an invisible string that materializes only after your arrows are nocked.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Grunt said, pushing the nervous attendant aside before catching up with the others at Castle Greyhawk.
Grum broke away from Lyssa, who continued onwards up the ruins of Castle Greyhawk where a squad of archers readied themselves for battle. On the way out of the Cargo Gate, Grum spotted his teacher and recently appointed head of the Thieves Guild, Thurman Dietrien, leading a band of thieves with bows and blades in hand. “Thurman! Do you know what brought these ugly bastards down from the hills?”
“Rumor has it, the hallowed tombs were sacked by thieves from Greyhawk. Nystra’s doings, no doubt! Who else would have been foolish enough to rob the giant dead?”
Grum’s stomach sunk as he ran alongside his teacher. “Yeah.”
As the thieves raced out of the city, they watched as rocks and debris crashed down upon the first wave of warriors. Clerics from every good-natured church rushed the battlefield, dragging back the injured to heal and taking the bodies of the dead to be buried appropriately. Up on the hill, Lyssa stood on high and watched as the cadre of giants raced closer and closer towards the city, bashing and stomping those standing in their way. As the archers took up their bows, she called out to them. “Archers, ready your arrows,” she shouted with fiery red eyes. The captain of the archers gave her once glance and supported her call to arms. “Ready, men!” The twenty archers at her side did as commanded and as they nocked their bows back, their arrowheads burst into magical flame simultaneously. “Steady!” she continued as she watched the giants barrel closer and closer.
Down on the ground, Trisoll made his way towards the front line and began to call upon Trithereon once more. A shimmering mist of teal green emanated from Trisoll’s body and wafted around the soldiers from Greyhawk, bestowing upon them a cloak of bravery.
Lyks and Snowflake hovered in the air over the battlefield. Lyks concentrated on a section of debris set ablaze by a mage’s fireball and as the blurry haze of heat sizzled in the palm of his hand, the flame began to take shape. At first it appeared as a serpent of pure flame that slithered out of the debris, but as Lyks continued to concentrate, the coil of flame lurched upright before flaming, humanlike arms burst from the sides, followed by a leg and then a second. Between the armies of Greyhawk and the rushing Giants stood an imposing and scorching sight: an elemental being of pure fire! The creature lumbered towards the giants leaving scorched earth with every step. The arms of the elemental became more fluid and serpentlike with every striking blow. Giants howled as the fire elemental’s fiery hands slashed across their barely-covered skin and set fire to the wood of their makeshift clubs. The giants barely had time to get the bearings when all of a sudden, a large sword of glowing, crystal blue energy materialized in the center of the battlefield. It hovered vertically only for a moment before the blade surged and spawned seven more blades of a similar make. The vertical blades began to spin together slowly at first, but before the giants could approach or back away, the blades dropped in unison to a horizontal position. The cries of the giants echoed throughout the battlefield as the whirling blade barrier hacked into those unwise enough to be in its path. Giantblood flowed down through the singed grass of the hill towards the Cargo Gate as the armies of Greyhawk cheered. Lyks looked around and could only see a single priest floating in the air below him, seemingly controlling the blade barrier from afar. The blade barrier disappeared and the giants charged towards the city with bloody fury. Both giants and Greyhawkians marched and fell, with all manner of attack zipping through the air: everything from boulders and tree trunks ripped from the earth to fireballs and lightning bolts cast down from mages.
Settling with another band of archers, Grunt spent a few moments observing the giants attacking the city. His eyes were fixed on a vocal Stone giant dressed in furs and leathers and decorated in white earth clay. This was most certainly their chieftain. Feeling ambitious, Grunt took up (INSERT NAME HERE) and held it just as he would any other longbow. It’s weight was remarkable though, and as he began to nock back an arrow, the air swirled around his finger tips and a thin, mercury-like string began to appear, stretching the length of the bow. “Let’s see what you can do,” he grumbled to himself before firing. He drew back effortlessly and fired; the arrow zipped across the battlefield with unparalleled speed. The shock of the bow’s range startled even the cynical scout. While the arrow traveled far, his inexperience with the weapon did little to help his form as he watched it fly out of range of the chieftain, who bellowed at the sight of the arrow zipping by. Mere seconds later, a voice from the level above Grunt called out. It was Lyssa: “FIRE!” A wave of flaming arrows was then set loose into the sky and Grunt watched as the arrows rained down upon the giants, boring themselves into their bodies. The siege weapons followed and catapulted jagged rock and flaming refuse down onto the giant hordes. As the chieftain continued to bark at his charges to avoid the onslaught of projectiles launched at them by the armies of Greyhawk, Grum took his place on the wall and aimed his arrows. The chieftain proved nimble once more, jerking his head out of the path of Grum’s arrows.
Vetnik and Moira made it onto the battlefield as both giant and man continued to have it out. Moira leaped off the back of the horse while Vetnik continued to ride. “By Cortox!” Moira cried out as she cut low with Starstrike in hand. Vetnik charged at the same Stone Giant with sword and shield and with their combined strength, fell the tall beast. As the giant collapsed to the ground, Vetnik rode up beside the paladin, their faces both flush with the passion of battle. Moira looked up at him and smiled and without word, he extended his arm to her. She leaped back onto his steed and together they continued on. Back at Castle Greyhawk, the archers loosed a second wave of arrows. Whether it was the number of giants being thinned or the lack of fire attached to them, the archers were less successful in their hits the second time around. The giants mobilized and took up the rocks and debris launched at them by the siege weapons and turned their artillery against them. Despite their thinning ranks, the giants pushed forward. The various clergy even took casualties of their own while attending to the wounded and the dead. In an effort to protect the armies of his city, Lyks conjured a hallucinatory forest between the giants and Greyhawk. Trisoll concentrated on the creatures dwelling beneath the earth and the armies watched as all manner of legged and squirming insect burrowed out of the ground in countless numbers to inch their way up the legs of the giants. The armies hacked and slashed at the giants, who now struggled to keep their footing thanks to the combination of father and son. Meanwhile, Grunt kept his eyes on the chieftain and continued to fire. While the bow still proved something of a challenge to wield at first, Grunt quickly began to warm to it. His second shot proved more effective as he watched it fly across the field and into the clavicle of the chieftain. He ripped the arrow out of his neck and growled for his men to double up!
While in midair, Thom drew his Kettle of Drumming! While cradling the kettle under his arm, he began to beat upon the side of the artifact. A strange, metallic sound echoed across the battlefield. The giants clasped their ears shut with their hands, unable to bear the sound of the Thom’s beat. So offended by the sound, the stone giant chieftain took up a nearby boulder and flung it at the flying bard. Before he could move out of range, the boulder collided into Thom and sent he and his kettle careening back towards the earth. A hill giant takes similar actions by launching his boulder towards the ruins of Castle Greyhawk towards the tower occupied by Grunt and Lyssa. The heavy rock collided into the crowds of archers, crushing a number of them – including Grunt! Lyssa too felt the effects of the crash, which shook her team of archers from below. Lyssa stumbled to the floor and watched as the last of the giants continued to mow down the armies of Greyhawk. Filled with rage, Grum unleashed two more arrows at the now laughing stone giant chieftain, but his rage proved to be his undoing as the arrows flew aimlessly and missed. While the archers staggered back to their feet to prepare a third round of arrows, Lyssa took notice Grum and Grunt’s attack on the chieftain. Once in her sights, she quickly armed herself with her longbow and nocked a single arrow. Using the focus and breathing techniques taught to her by the Black brothers, she calmed herself and steadied her aim. With a soft exhale, she released the arrow and watched as it descended down onto the battlefield. The chieftain watched the arrow zip from the tower and before he could react, Lyssa’s arrow burrowed into the eye of painted chieftain with such fury that it shot out of the back of his skull, raining flesh, blood and brain matter down upon the ground. The chieftain sunk to his knees and collapsed onto the ground to the sound of Greyhawkians cheering all around.
From above, Lyks called down to the Hill Giants still standing: “YOUR CHIEFTAIN HAS FALLEN! SURRENDER NOW WHILE YOU STILL HAVE LIVES LEFT TO SAVE!” The last few giants took a pause and turned to each other then at the gore of their fallen chieftain. An eerie moment of calm descended upon the battlefield accompanied by heavy grey clouds that blocked out the remaining sun. The moment was short-lived. The giants banded together and let out a series of chilling war cries, beating their chests and taking up arms before rushing the city wall. Together they flung boulders, tree parts and even the corpses of fallen Greyhawkians back at the opposing armies, destroying a good portion of siege weapons as well as warriors. One stone giant tore off the arm of a fallen giant and launched it to a squad of archers like a horrid javelin, decimating their ranks. Wasting no more time, Grum fired off two more arrows, sticking and felling one of the few remaining hill giants. The grey clouds darkened and began to rumble with the sound of thunder. Lyks extended his staff away from himself, out towards the sky and with a war cry of his own, cast down a lightning bolt from the clouds that traveled through his gnarled wooden staff and down upon the battlefield, electrifying a remaining stone giant. Back down on the ground, Thom staggered back up to his feet and cast burning hands on a nearby giant, immolating it. Grunt got on his feet as well as launched a pair of arrows into a lumbering hill giant, both of which pierced deep into its flesh and fell it. Moira wildly slashed at another hill giant, cutting at its knees and shins. Unable to stand anymore, the giant buckled to the ground. Before it could call out for help, Moira drove Starstrike deep into the eye of the giant, slaying it for good.
“Can your lady do that?” Moira quipped to Vetnik. Feeling renewed with vigor, the last few archers banded together to unleash another wave of arrows into the giants. Those manning the siege weapons were not so lucky, as one catapult wielding flaming debris exploded, lowering the city’s defense. The mages continued to conjure the most powerful spells at their disposal while elementals of fire and air swirled and stomped wildly across the battlefield. The clergymen and women struggled to secure the soldiers, but did what they could as lightning continued to crackle above. Seeing the last few giants fend off the attacks from the armies of Greyhawk, Lyssa’s patience reached a tipping point. Whether it was bloodlust or wild surge, she unleashed a massive fireball down upon them that exploded with a great amber glow that engulfed those still left standing.
Those who did not fall quickly wised up and began their retreat, leaving behind the smoking and bloodied bodies of the fallen. Lyks helped to calm the skies, dismissed the fire elemental he had conjured, and descended down onto the battlefield. It was there that he found his dear friend Thom limping across the field. The bard was a bloodied and bruised mess. Lyks climbed down off of Snowflake and hobbled towards.
“Dear boy!” Lyks called out, rushing as quickly as he could. Thom picked up his pace as well, excited to see his old friend. The pair embraced in a gentlemanly hug and held tight to each other. As they embraced, Zemilay Lyks began to channel the very essence of the earth beneath them. Veins of glowing green energy inched their way up out of the earth and surrounded the pair, dissolving into Thom’s battered body. He could feel the broken bones inside snap back together; the torn sinew of muscles rethread itself; and the gashes that marred his face seal shut. “Thank you, Master Lyks!”
“Next time, try not to get hit by a giant’s boulder.”
Grum, Grunt and the other thieves armed with bows continued to fire off arrows at the defeated giants, cheering and laughing as they landed. Vetnik and Moira watched together as the last of the giants crossed the horizon. Together they tended to their wounded, helping the clerics to take them off the field before running into Trisoll, who spent his time healing those in need. The clouds now fully parted, Lyssa opened a dimension door – much to the awe of the surviving archers – and through it they could see the blasted head of the stone giant chieftain. She stepped through and the door disappeared. On the other side, she spent some time looking over the body of the chieftain for relics. “Surely,” she thought to herself, “he’d have something just as useful as the enchanted belt she’d taken off the hill giant chieftain.” Alas, she found nothing but bloodied garments and weapons too large for her to wield. She looked around, and seeing no one in sight, began to dig into the still-warm corpse of the chieftain in search of components for spells and potions. While Vetnik helped a nearby cleric cart off an injured soldier, Moira looked to the sky and the setting sun. She turned back to Vetnik, the sun sparkling off his armor, and spun him around. Without announcement, she quickly pulled his face close to hers and planted a warm and passionate kiss upon his lips. She pulled back quickly and the pair looked into each other’s eyes, and lingered there for a moment. The sun danced across their faces, glistening from sweat and stained with giant’s blood, their eyes swelling with a gamut of emotions. The cheering of men and the sound of horns break their moment and the separate to see a mix of triumph and mourning among the Greyhawkians.
On her way back towards the city, Lyssa passed both Vetnik and Moira, who both seemed quite solemn as they walked side by side. Passing Vetnik, Lyssa remarked one last thing: “Where else would you be able to slay giants?”
The party all agree to convene at Pimpleton Manor to celebrate their victory and see Vetnik off should he truly decide to leave. Beforehand, Thom goes to the library to do a quick round of research while Lyssa returns home to drop off items and consult the Eye of Modius about what lurks in Castle Greyhawk. A wave of vivid images flood her mind: three ruined towers, level upon level upon level of, horrors, traps and fiends. The idea that so very much evil and reward could be so very close all this time is staggering. More than 25 separate levels flash by in an instant. A few takeaways; a being whose form is naught but swirling light, Umber Hulks standing over an impressive treasure, a dead human laying face down only feet away from a portal, a straw bed filled with maggots, a 6 foot pyramid of packed earth, a stone drawbridge with glowing chains, a circle of runes surrounded by white incense sticks in deep purple sconces, a dozen female giants and their spawn and lastly, an aged red dragon before the vision becomes too much.