This was, of course, a doomed enterprise since it was not long after this that the sound of something large approaching the campsite was heard. Aerial reconnaissance revealed that it was a fire giant, prowling through the darkness. Elysia managed to get Benbo into the Hut by casting a Reduction spell on him to shrink him to a fraction of his size; as he was a hobbit to begin with, his reduced mass was not going to cause the Hut to malfunction.
The party swung into action with Gullhor and Larsh emerging from the hut first to take on the lumbering monster. They were followed a few moments later by Alurax and Alagon. Elysia had to stay inside to keep the Tiny Hut going but was able to fire Magic Missiles out. Ferros also kept up a stream of arrows to assist the party members fighting hand to hand.
It was not long before the attack strategy of the giants was revealed as two more giants came out of the darkness, heading for the fighting. The party decided to concentrate their efforts on bringing down the first giant, then switching to the others, rather than split their strength and run the risk of more casualties. This tactic bore fruit as the first giant was brought down, soon followed by the second one, who had been wounded in the earlier fighting and who had not yet recovered. The assistance of the polar bear, plus aerial bombardment from the air force, together with Alagon’s wolf made the party’s task much easier.
The third giant ran slap bang into Larsh; the rest of the party had dived for cover as Elysia prepared a confusion spell. Unfortunately, the giant managed to resist the effect of the spell but Larsh was not so lucky. Gullhor quickly turned his bear back into its figurine status to avoid its attacks upon party members. Alurax sent Eristar the hawk swooping in to pick up the figurine and deliver it back to the hands of its owner. The giant then charged at Alagon and Alurax but the party was able to direct its entire strength at it and it was whittled down and finally finished off with a combination of trident, phoenix, wolf, hawk, Magic Missiles, swords and axes. Was ever a Fire Giant killed by such a combination of attacks?
Totalling up the number of giants killed so far, Elysia realised that there must be one remaining. She used Relic (and Ferros sent Rufus) to seek out any more giants in the vicinity. It was not long before they reported back that the final giant was still at the campsite. He was clearly wounded and Elysia realised that it would not take much to finish him off.
So it turned out. She flew Ferros there and dropped him off a dozen yards or so from the fire, whilst she used her Cloak of Elvenkind to approach and launch her attack. A final Magic Missile combined with Ferros’ bow killed the giant and the rest of the party approached out of the darkness.
With no opposition to impede them, the looting began. There were several sacks and boxes of coins, a chrysoberyl, a silver crown set with gems and three magic items, a coil of rope, three blocks of incense and a scroll case. Elysia eagerly seized the latter, to find that it held two spells, Confusion (which she had already) and Polymorph Self (which she certainly did not).
There was also another scroll case which held two copies of a document in runes that Elysia could not decipher. She would have to rest and regain her spells before she could cast Comprehend Languages on it to work out what it said. After eight hours of restful sleep, she set about translating it and was alarmed to find out that the message was from the King of the Fire Giants to the chiefs of the other giants in the region, proposing an alliance with the aim of driving out the humans and seizing their lands. The party had clearly interrupted this particular courier but were there others and had the Fire Giants already delivered one message? The scroll case was a little too large for two letters so it appeared that this might be the case.
|This could mean war|
|"This won't take long, lads". And how right they were.|
Larsh did particularly well, managing to rip a bugbear apart entirely. The rest of the party fared similarly well; Ferros and Elysia sent their pseudo-dragons into action to finish off the bugbears on the flanks, first the ones still burning, then the ones that Alagon and Wolf had not had a chance to kill. With the flanks gone, the centre was steadily ground down, with Alurax’s new ability to launch two attacks every other round proving very handy. Elysia killed two with Magic Missiles. The power of the party was evident in the fact that five of the nine bugbears in the centre were killed with only one blow each.
Sooner than might have been thought, all seventeen bugbears were dead. Galadeus started to scout around and managed to find their trail, which he followed back to their camp, which was soon looted. A large chunk of amber, worth 500 gold pieces was a particularly nice find.
The party pressed on, feeling quite pleased with the way their fortunes were going. Some distance ahead on the plains, Alurax spotted some flying creatures hovering and swooping not far from the ground. As they grew closer, he was able to identify them as giant wasps. He counted eleven or so. He and Galadeus had encountered them before, at the ruined watchtower and they were not keen on getting involved with the stripy menaces again but cooler heads prevailed and the party laid its plans to get rid of them.
Florin the phoenix had the ability of Pyrotechnics, which of course included the production of large quantities of smoke. Galadeus proposed sending him into the lair whilst Elysia cast Web spells across the entrance. When the wasps were driven out by the smoke, they would become entangled in the webs and fire could then be used to eradicate them.
This sounded like an excellent idea and the party promptly put it into action. Florin disappeared into the cave and tunnel and a short while later, the smell of smoke was detected, together with an angry buzzing and droning. As luck would have it, all the wasps flew into the webs and the party set to with torches and oil to burn them alive, Alagon finishing off the insects with his axe.
Once the lair was clear, the party ventured gingerly inside. There were no more wasps but they were wary for larvae or other menaces lurking inside the cave. None was found but skeletal remains of the wasps’ former victims littered the tunnel. Ferros was delighted to find these and promptly animated seven of them to serve as replacements for his much-lamented zombies. The others started hacking away at the nest structure to find within a cluster of gems, twenty five in all, which earned them nearly ten thousand gold pieces’ value. A truly profitable raid, considering the eleven wasps killed as well.
|Now with added gems|
Hragnir went on to say that he was surprised to find the party in the wilderness since Olaf had set off for the Moat House to find them, bearing grim tidings. It seemed that a great evil had fallen on the dwarven burial grounds and that several dwarves who had gone to investigate had not returned. Unwilling to risk their best warriors, Hragnir and his comrades had asked Olaf to return to his old party and offer them rich reward to investigate and eradicate the evil.
The party were, of course, committed to the Holy Avenger quest, but they made a note of the dwarves’ problem and resolved to deal with it on their return. Whether they would ever return was another matter, but they were now building up a substantial list of things that they needed to do. The voyage west still beckoned and they had no idea how much further it was to their goal.