Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Session 53: The Cloud Giant's Castle

The dwarves have reason to dislike giants. Giants are mean. Having rested from felling the fire giant that attacked our fortress, we climbed further into the mountains in search of the rumored cloud giant castle, hoping to secure another section of the Rod. As we hiked upward through the mountains, I happened to spy a lizard perched on a cliff face peering at us. It was about ten feet long and crouched against the cliff face cautiously. Intrigued, I called out to it and introduced myself. To my delight, he answered back and corrected me that he was not, in fact, a lizard but was instead a silver dragon. Dubious, I questioned him on where his wings were if he were a dragon. Bristling, the creature shook itself like a dog and unfurled a pair of small, scaly wings. He was young and had not yet grown into his wings but satisfied, I flipped him a few coins of silver which he happily scooped up with his forked tongue. He said his name was Kieran and spoke of his family. It seems cloud giants had kidnapped his sister when she had ventured too close to their castle and were holding her captive. Enraged, Kieran’s parents had unleashed anger upon the group of fire giants we stumbled upon earlier but had, so far, been unable to penetrate the castle to free the she-whelp. We thanked Kieran for the information and continued on our journey but it wasn’t long before night was falling and we needed to rest.

They came at dawn, trying to hide in the sunrise and catch us by surprise. Luckily, we spotted the five griffons bearing down on us and had a moment to prepare before they were upon us. As they approached, our new friend, the warlock, suddenly became swathed in a cloud of inky shadows, obscuring him from vision. Lynnya and the warrior loosed arrows upon the flock of griffons. One of the griffons, felled by the warrior’s bolt, plummeted to the ground while another, caught in a confounding spell I cast, simply hovered in mid-air, addled. The goliath threw a lightning bolt from his javelin at another of the beasts. The battle was quick and fierce but when we had dispatched three of their number, the remaining griffons retreated.

Spent from our battle, we rested a short time before continuing our journey into the mountains, intent on making our way as far as we could before nightfall forced us to shelter. I must admit, our wizard friend and Lynnya notwithstanding, our dealings with the she-witch, Markessa, have made me distrustful of most elves. Even the best of them are so…anarchic. Thus, I was more than a little suspicious of the two we found when we turned the corner. Following a winding path up the mountain side, we turned a corner and found ourselves nearly face to face with a pair of elves, a female and a male (so far as one can tell with elves). The “male” appeared to be more of a fighter, though not as strong or as skilled as our own warrior, while the female looked to be some sort of magess. Crafty as always, we greeted them with kindness and vigor, never betraying our trepidations. They introduced themselves as spider hunters who had been hired by the cloud giants for extermination purposes. Immediately, our tone softened as we were sympathetic to their profession given our own interactions with spider demons. Their names were typically elven, unpronounceable with many syllables, but I think I recognized them. And they were familiar, and even impressed (for elves), with our exploits, particularly the spider cottage we stole from the demon witch some time ago.The elves had been inspecting the corpses of several stone giants lying in a crevice along the cliff. From the frost burns scoring the giants’ bodies, they surmised that the giants had been caught by the silver dragons in another rampage. We chose to remain mum on the source of the dragons’ rage. Curiously, the elves had a carpet unfurled beside them on cliffs. I thought perhaps their elvish whimsy had prompted them to stop in the mountains for a picnic but it was actually a magical flying carpet. They agreed, for an exorbitant sum (albeit discounted in honor of our deeds), to convey us the rest of the journey up to the cloud giant castle and even provide passage into the castle under the auspices of their own invitations.I cannot speak for my companions but I rather enjoyed the flight up to the castle. Drifting up through the clouds, we saw the castle itself, a brick and metal monstrosity perched on nothing more than a plain of clouds. 

Entering the castle under the benevolence of our elven acquaintances, we saw many wonders. Lavishly decorated for an opulent wedding, the castle was festooned with bouquets of massive flowers, tables lined with a great feast of gargantuan vegetables and pies big enough to swim in, and remarkable displays of gems and precious metals. We were introduced and heartily welcomed by the parents of the groom and allowed to mingle with various guests. The castle itself sat firmly upon the cloud plain with nothing below to support it. I was confounded by this even as one of the cloud giants scooped up a mass of the cloud in his hands and, the cloud being viscous and gel-like in his hands, formed and packed it into a brick. When I tried to do the same, cloud drifted through my fingers, as ephemeral as any other, and the giant laughed heartily.

Lest we forget our purpose in the midst of the wedding festivities, we divined that the location of the next piece of the Rod seemed to come from beneath the castle. Our elvish acquaintances had since drifted away, presumably to do their duty in eradicating any spidery presence. So, free to wander the castle as we so chose, we asked one of the ogres serving hors d’oeuvres the size of hammers where we might find the lower sections of the castle so our dwarven friend could inspect the foundations. The ogre politely gave clear, concise directions to a set of stairs, each roughly three feet in height. We crept down the stairs to a landing with rooms down a hallway to one side, and another set of stairs on the other. The Rod quivered, signaling we were close. We quietly ventured down the hallway toward two doorways, one on either side of the hall, each covered by a mammoth hanging tapestry. Creeping into the room on the right, we found it to be a barracks housing roughly twenty giant soldiers. Three giants slept on cots within. To ensure they did not wake, Lynnya cast silence in the area, deafening any sound that may alert the giants to our intrusions. Across the hall, a pair of fire giantesses wrestled with the unruly locks of the bride to be. There, on the dressing table amidst an array of hair pins, brushes, and other paraphernalia, lay the third section of the Rod. Not keen on the idea of fighting a pair of fire giants, particularly giants agitated by wedding preparations, we resolved to attempt to retrieve the Rod through stealthier means. Using my trusty lute, I imbued the warlock with the ability move about unseen and fly. He silently flew into the room and waited for the opportune moment to pilfer the section of the Rod. Once he grasped it, it too became invisible. And thus, he was able to spirit it out of the room while the giantesses were distracted in their wedding machinations.

Our goal achieved, we briefly debated leaving the castle at that point before any of the giants realized the Rod’s absence. However, I could not conscience leaving the young silver dragoness to the mercy of these giants. So, delving deeper into the castle, we found ourselves at a crossroads. To the right, there was a portcullis and to the left, there appeared to be what looked like a series of lion cages. Venturing to the right, we tried our best to stealthily creep through the portcullis. Unfortunately, I sneezed so violently that I fell down and dropped everything that I owned. We were very quickly confronted with a guard who told us that the party was upstairs. Behind the giant, we could see a great round stone covering an oculus in the floor. The warlock, still invisible and flying, snuck into the room and attempted to listen for stirrings of the dragon in the chamber beneath the stone and, failing that, pressed his body against the stone to feel if it was cold from the silver dragon’s frosty disposition. Alas, the stone was too thick and the warlock was unable to hear or feel anything to indicate that the dragon lay below. Chagrined and yet intrigued, we decided it would be prudent to send the warlock for a quick check of the lion cages to be sure the dragon was not held in one of them. Unfortunately, it was not and we would have no choice but to dispatch the giant.As the giant was already aware of our presence, he was ready for an ambush. The goliath blinded the mammoth creature with a spell while the dwarf warded an area in front of the giant against encroachment, effectively pinning the giant against the back wall. We then unleashed upon it with spell, blade, and arrow. Pinned against the wall by his own bulk, the giant tried throwing boulders at us but, with its vision impaired by the goliath’s spell, the giant could not aim properly. We quickly slew the beast and then, pooling our strength together, carefully lifted the stone from the oculus. There, lying alone and frightened, was the silver whelp. We pondered our next steps on how to retreat from the castle with the dragon whelp without bringing down an angry wedding party down upon our heads.

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