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Against the Giants - Hall of the Fire Giant King, Part 5
Following Ambrie's lead, the group had reached the massive iron doors of the fire giants' armory. Without any pause, Orosius kicked the massive doors open wide. While the half-orc pirate roared a challenge, the rest of the group rushed past him! Spells and missiles staggered the three giants and sole azer in the room briefly, though the brass-skinned, fire-haired dwarf blasted back with fiery spells and the giants drew their greatswords and engaged the party in melee combat.

They had been fighting metal-skinned dwarves with fire for hair. Can D&D get any more metal?

The azer spoke a command and flames swirled out of two nearby iron braziers, filling two suits of man-sized armor. Beings of living flame clad in plate mail, the two elemental myrmidons each grabbed a pair of scimitars and joined the fray, along with a small pack of hellhounds released from their chain by one of the giants. While Dram Blighthammer, Fonkin Hoddypeak, Orosius, Krush, and Hornbeast held the line, Ambrie and Sindri peppered their foes with arrows. Rurik hurled his hammer, Whelm, at the giants time and again while Soren, Ella, and the warlock's thrall countered the azer's spells and blasted their foes. In moments it was all over, and their foes lay dead or, in the case of the fiery myrmidons, banished.

A quick search of the armory yielded little of value, save an enchanted shield that was given to the dwarf knight they had rescued, Dram. After binding what wounds they had, the group made their way down a nearby ramp to the second level of the fire giants' lair. Passing by the forge, barracks, and prison they had cleared, the group made their way down a long passage and over a basalt bridge spanning a chasm with bubbling magma visible fully 80 feet below. Iron cages hung on winches along the bridge, but the group only investigated one, which turned out to be empty.

...apparently, it can. They were fighting fire. Armed with swords.

At the end of the hall, they saw a stair on the left side (the south wall, in this case) leading up and a massive set of stone double doors about 40 feet ahead on the same side. On the opposite wall, an alcove was set about 10 feet back. The wall there was made of a strange, dark purple stone that was covered in ropy striations, as if it had party melted and re-solidified. As the group took up position in the hall, Hornbeast made his way to the double doors and Orosius crept as quietly as he could in full mail up the stairs. Both heard chanting, and realized there was a large chamber beyond.

Meanwhile, Ambrie had gone to investigate the strange wall. As soon as she touched it, the stone animated, becoming a mass of writing tentacles. She and Fonkin were quickly grabbed and drawn into the wall, as Soren, Sindri, Krush, and Rurik attempted to aid them.

Orosius had been heard by someone in the large hall however, and an alarm was raised. Hornbeast waited by the doors to ambush whoever opened them, only to be caught by surprise as they were flung open by a pair of fire giants. Orosius charged up the stairs and saw a huge, columned temple hall beyond. A pair of Luskanite warriors were there, along with a Northman priest adorned with the swirling symbol of the Elder Elemental Eye. With them were half a dozen drow, two of the female dark elves also wearing the same symbol. Ella and the Luskanite warlock she had enthralled turned to aid the pair.

As Krush hacked at the wall, it opened, revealing a small cave beyond. Four monstrous driders were there, and the centaur-like spider hybrids unleashed stands of sticky webbing and a hail of arrows. But Rurik, priest of the holy light of Moradin's forge, called forth daylight in a shining globe, causing them and the dark elves in the temple to flinch before its awesome radiance.

That's a whole lot of "nope" right there.

A battle on two fronts erupted, with half the group tearing at the living wall as the driders harassed them, while the other half traded spells and blows with the drow and giants in the temple of the Elder Elemental Eye. In the end, the drow high priestess fled using a magical orb that let her teleport away, though her words indicated she would await the survivors below somewhere.

Wounded, the heroes managed to catch their breath and bind their wounds. The altar in the temple had been activated during the fight, becoming translucent purple with swirling, amber eye at its center. Smoky tendrils had grabbed at all nearby. Ella, a servant of the Great Old Ones, recognized a sacrifice was needed. The Luskanite cult priest had been rendered insensate by a spell, and was drug over there. As his body was pulled into the crystal, it blackened and became opaque once more. A flask of black liquid appeared atop it, and the female warlock drank deeply.

Would you really drink anything at this guy's house? I'm just saying...

In a flash, she gathered strange insights. The cult of the Elder Elemental Eye - THARIZDUN - counted Sigryn Stormborn, high captain and war-lord of Luskan as a member. They had stuck an alliance with their compatriots among the drow, and had unleashed the giants to upset the balance of power in the North. They sought weapons of great power - Wave, Whelm, and Blackrazor among them - weapons that could serve as keys to free ancient and terrible primordials chained since the Dawn War. One of the weapons, a dagger named Flame, had been recovered by the drow as a gift for Luskan's war-lord, and was somewhere below. A sword named Storm was somewhere on an island in the Trackless Sea, and the last, an axe named Ice, was already in Sigryn Stormborn's hands. A set of rough-hewn steps off the small cave led down, as did a ramp back at the foot of the bridge on the north wall of the passage. No matter what, their foes lay below.
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Against the Giants - Hall of the Fire Giant King, Part 3
Ambrie scouted the long corridor ahead of the group, quietly peering around the corner more than 100 feet ahead. Two more dusky-skinned armored ettins stood there, along with a half dozen fire giants and a strange, one-eyed, hunched humanoid on a chain. Apparently, the frost giants had warned them as well on their way out. The tiny halfling thief sneaked back to the group, who decided simply to charge and barrel through the obstruction.

Forget cave trolls. They had a hynotoad.

Their tactics were surprisingly successful. Rurik conjured a wall of spinning blades, seemingly pulled from Moradin's forge, cutting a swath through the giants and quite literally cutting down their mobility. Orosius, Krush and Hornbeast took the lead, engaging the giants and ettins as the rest of the group stayed back and peppered the enemy with missiles and spells. The monstrous black-skinned, one-eyed nothic was dominated by Ella, and she turned the power of its gaze back on the giants. In short order, the enemy was dispatched.

The heroes made their way down the long hall, past a ramp leading up and a pair of sealed iron doors. To their left, more than 100 feet ahead, a short flight of steps led up to a cavern-like smithy on the edge of a pool of molten rock. The fire giant smith was there, and he wore a cunningly-crafted golden helm. He was obviously blind, but seemed to sense the heroes' presence better than a sighted giant would. Despite Hornbeast's attempts at parley, the giant smith would have none of it. A series of ringing blows on his anvil summoned more giants from a nearby barracks, along with another pair of massive hell hounds. A construct of stone and iron, set with dozens of whirling blades, stood near the giant smith's forge.

Yup, he threw red hot anvils at the party. Freaking fire giants are METAL!

The battle was bloody and swift. Krush charged the fire giant smith, and despite being hammered by him and slashed by his construct, the dragonborn barbarian cut him down with Blackrazor, causing his body to tumble into the magma pool. Ella turned the nothic's gaze against the giants and hell hounds, and sent the monstrous beasts running off while the giants reeled under its hypnotic gaze. The heroes ended up cutting down the giants and smashing the construct, and took a moment to rest as they looted their barracks.

Backtracking to the sealed iron doors, Soren opened them using a knock spell. There were a few azer guards and a pair of fire giant guards waiting in a long hall lined with cell doors. The dungeon! As the heroes charged in, Sindri and Orosius were nearly crushed as the steam-driven doors slammed shut again. Ambrie and Krush had run in, and all four were nearly cut off. Apparently, someone had activated a mechanism to shut the massive doors. Ambrie quickly began unlocking cell doors, freeing a doughty dwarf warrior who gladly took her magic dagger when offered it and ran into the fray. She also freed an elf warrior, who conjured his own blade before moving in to fight. The halfling thief found a lever in a third room, and opened the doors once more before running forward.

Meanwhile Krush and Orosius engaged the giants and Rurik and Ella ran in. The doors slammed once again, but Ambrie found a second lever, dispatched the azer who had pulled it, and opened the doors one more time. The heroes discovered that the intersection ahead where the giants stood led to a torture chamber. A pair of fire giants - the torturer and an executioner by the look of them - stood ready, along with another member of Luskan's Arcane Brotherhood and his two barbarian bodyguards.

The fire giant executioner - chopping necks and cashing checks!

The battle spilled into the torture chamber, and Orosius found himself slammed into a giant iron maiden. Only his half-orc constitution kept him upright, despite half a dozen piercing wounds. Though it was a difficult battle, the heroes prevailed as Ella briefly banished the executioner to the para-elemental plane of frost with a powerful spell and the torturer was cut down.

After catching their breath, the heroes searched the remaining cells. They found a group of elvish warriors and the very elf princess they had been looking for - Moonshadow, daughter of King Melandrach of the Misty Forest. She was...well, a handful. Powerful and charismatic, no doubt, and a born leader. She was also kind of critical and demanding, and warned the heroes that other, darker forces were involved with the giants and the emissaries of Luskan's new war-leader; the drow. Specifically, it was a group of dark elves serving the cult of the Elder Elemental Eye, a power of darkness and corruption. The heroes had seen those same marks on the tools used by Sigryn's followers. There was a great conspiracy here, and it made them uneasy. All save Ella, perhaps. Despite her drive to continue on, Orosius and Ambrie convinced her to return home to her father and safety. Soren provided the princess and her retinue with a scroll containing the spell teleportation circle, and they departed. But the elf eldritch knight, Fonkin Hoddypeak, and the dwarf knight, Dram Blighthammer, agreed to stay with the group and fight the evil beneath the halls of the fire giant king.

"Are you really going to wear THAT into battle? And you should sharpen your axe. And..." Yeah. It was probably best they sent her back home. Adventurers never listen to authority figures! Don't they know a little guidance is necessary for success?

Perhaps more importantly, they also rescued a captive fire giant named Boldo, one of the former king's lieutenants. He vowed to unite the fire giants remaining and convince them to cease their attacks and sue for peace. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, the heroes turned over Snurre's iron crown to him and sent him on ahead. Meanwhile, they sneaked back to the king's treasure chamber to rest up in the still-extant extra-dimensional Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion spell. They were hurt and tired, and would let events progress as they would. After all, they had killed plenty of giants so far. What were a few dozen more?
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Against the Giants - Hall of the Fire Giant King, Part 2
Exiting the invisible portal Soren's spell had created, the heroes re-emerged into the fire giant king's treasury cavern. Someone had obviously searched the area, as the fragments of the iron golem had been gathered up and the dead hydra reduced to ash and bone. But they had remained unseen inside the pocket dimension. Figuring their next step should be to deal with the fire giants' queen, who had been mentioned by the surrendering azers in the king's hall, the heroes set about exploring. They opted to head the direction not taken in the secret tunnel, figuring it would likely lead to a bolt-hole in the king's quarters. They were right.

Unfortunately, the queen was waiting and ready for such treachery. A crude alarm had been set on the panel into the royal chambers, and it went off as the secret door was opened. Hornbeast went forth to parley with the hideous Queen Frupy, only to nearly have his head knocked off his shoulders by her flaming mace! The heroes had to fight the queen, her armored maids and bodyguards, as well as a dozen azer slave and her pet dire weasels. One of the man-sized beasts had clinged to Rurik's neck like a leech, trying to chew through the dwarf cleric's armor to reach his throat! The queen even employed a magic mirror on her wall, briefly trapping Krush, Ambrie, Sindri, and Soren in an extra-dimensional prison!

One could go as far as to call the fire giant

Despite the numbers being against them, the heroes felled the queen and her servants. This was in no small part due to the horde of berserkers Orosius had called forth with the iron horn of Valhalla he had recovered from the frost giant jarl's treasure hoard. He sent the berserkers ahead into the throne room, downing several hell hounds and driving off a pair of fire giants while the heroes managed to bind their wounds and loot the royal chambers.

Although the winter witch from Luskan had gotten away from the previous battle with the king, the heroes had no idea where she was or what the current disposition of the giants was for that matter. To that end...they opted to head back to the treasury! A second set of rough-hewn stairs led down to a secret door. As the heroes had learned that an elf princess and her retinue had been captured by the fire giant king during their respite in Phandalin, they decided to try for the dungeon. Ambrie opened the secret door into a partially-collapsed chamber.

Several hill giants and stone giants were there, no doubt guests of the king. Hornbeast attempted to parley, and with some aid from Orosius and Ambrie, they convinced the stone giants to walk. This was, after all, not their fight. The hill giant sub-chief had none of it. He wanted blood and battle, and he got it! He was the first to die. The rest of the giants were cut down in short order, and the heroes followed the stone giants into the hall beyond.

"And that's when the rest of the group realized when Hornbeast said he wanted to parley, what he was really saying was he wanted to murder every monster they came across."

Unfortunately the stone giants had warned the other guests - a band of frost giants - that the intruders they'd been warned of were back. As they made their way out into the hall, Ambrie and Orosius found a huge cart harnessed to a giant yak and several angry frost giants. The heroes fought these giants (despite some misadventures with the yak-drawn cart) and the king's other guests - a rakshasa noble and his three rakshasa guards! The fiends were nearly a match for the heroes, as Soren, Ella, and Rurik found their magic ineffective against the tiger-headed beasts and they were almost a match for Orosius and Krush in melee combat.

Um...good kitty?

With the rakshasas and the giants down, the heroes took a moment to catch their breath before pressing on...
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Against the Giants - Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, Part 5
Having dealt with Jarl Grugnur's fire giant adviser, Haaskarth, the heroes explored the cavernous hall of the ice-skull throne. Hornbeast and Ambrie found the back wall was cloaked with an illusion, and what was seemingly frozen rock was actually a frozen hide curtain. Slipping between the heavy folds the halfling rogue and Sindri, the gnome ranger, made their way down a wide cavern passage to another large chamber. The passage branched, but the right side opened on a long cavern filled with frozen statues and crudely-carved ledges holding a variety of trophies - weapons, shields, the heads and hides of great beasts, and so on. As the duo drew closer, they saw the statues were actually the frozen corpses of dwarves. A pair of frost giants guarded an enormous set of double doors at the far end. A second passage led off from this area as well, headed north like the branch they had just passed.

Ambrie and Sindri slipped back to the rest of the group unseen, letting them know what they had seen. Forgoing stealth, they approached the giants - now four in number - and Hornbeast, Orosius, and Krush strode forward. The monk demanded to see the Jarl, and the giants laughed as the door opened. A quartet of winter wolves charged out, followed by the frost giant Jarl and his consort. The battle was on! The giants picked up the frozen dwarf-corpses and hurled them as missiles, while the winter wolves blocked Orosius and Krush. Horbeast darted past them, only to be felled by Grugnur and his mate. Soren, Rurik, and Ella hurled spells (and a hammer) while Ambrie and Sindri darted from cover to cover, their bows singing.

Grugnur, the frost giant jarl. Metal as f***...

Orosius won free, and despite the Jarl's might, a devastating blow from the trident Wave felled him, draining his moisture and his very life! The rest of the giants fell, and the heroes withdrew to the Jarl's chambers to catch their breath, bind their wounds, and search for treasure. They found a locked treasury with four large chests. Overcoming their traps, Ambrie found heaps of treasure - gold, gems, and jewels alike - an an iron box. She realized too late it was trapped, as it unleashed a pulse of anti-magic which stripped some of the group's items of their enchantments. But the treasures inside made up for it! There was an ioun stone that boosted personal magnetism, a mighty Hammer of Thunderbolts, a ring that could make the wearer invisible, and a ring enchanted to give three wishes, though the fact that the symbol of Beshaba (the goddess of ill luck) was on it gave them some pause...

After a few minutes' rest, the heroes pressed on into the next cavern. They heard more giants, yelling to them that they wished to negotiate. Fearing a trap, but bold enough to move forward, the heroes entered the vast cave, which was dominated by a frozen lake with a treasure chest at its center. The ransom the giants offered to pay, the voice bellowed, was there. Ambrie and Orosius moved forward on to the ice...which exploded as a massive frost worm emerged! The battle was on. More giants - two shamans among them - rushed from tunnels at the far end of the cavern, while five, terrible oni appeared from invisibility, blasting the heroes with magical frost.

In Soviet Russia, worm eats you.

The heroes were sore pressed, though a mighty blow from Orosius slew the worm...which froze over and exploded in a spray of icy shrapnel! This changed the tide of battle - for the heroes! In short order, the oni and giants fell, and the day was won.

Vaald, the frost giant they had negotiated with before, came out with a few more guards. He bade the heroes leave, offering them his promise that the frost giants (now reduced in number) would cease their attacks on Mirabar's mines and caravans. The heroes were certain that only their apparent strength kept them from facing treachery at Vaald's hands, but they had done what they had set out to do. With that, a simple teleportation circle took them back to Mirabar, and when their business there was concluded, back home to Phandalin.
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Against the Giants - Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, Parts 2 & 3
After taking a moment to regroup in the ice dome that was the lair of the remorhaz, the heroes set about waking their frost giant captive. With Krush holding the ebon blade of Blackrazor at his throat, the giant seemed a bit more willing to talk. Hornbeast asked him where they could find the Jarl, and he promised to show them a cave entrance at the bottom of the rift. Ella decided she would keep a close eye on the giant as they made their way past the jagged ice and mounds of snow and a rough ice stair ascending the far side. The group approached a cave entrance and the frost giant called out. What answered was not the Jarl they were expecting.

"Uh...wrong cave?"

A frost giant that was no more than a skeletal corpse in full armor accompanied by a massive winter wolf with frozen fur lurched out of the cave, bellowing in the giant-tongue that all entering its domain faced death. It seemed disinclined to negotiate. Krush engaged the great wolf as the black blade howled for souls, while Orosius and Hornbeast faced the undead giant. Soren and Rurik offered support, while Ella hurled spells and Ambrie and Sindri used their bows. The frost giant attempted to flee, only to be cut down. The battle was fierce, but the heroes proved triumphant. They found a frozen, iron chest in the cave, and after chipping away the ice they found a small fortune in coins and diamonds, and a shortbow made of dark wood. Known as Autumn's Flame, it had been crafted by gnomes in the hills of the north and was a bane to trolls. It was decided that it would do best in Sindri's hands. A fine, gray cloak that protected against both heat and cold found a new home with Ella.

Opting to head up the icy stair they had found, the heroes scouted a ledge along the far side of the glacial rift. As Ambrie scouted ahead into a frozen cave slick with ice and filled with thick mist, the heroes were nearly caught by surprise as a band of huge, white-furred, ape-like creatures moved up the ledge behind them. Yeti, a whole band of them, led by a massive Alpha female wielding a sword! Following a fierce battle, one that saw both Orosius and the yeti alpha plunge off the cliff to the floor of the rift 200 feet below (and survive!), the wounded heroes recovered the blade, which turned out to be no less than the Sword of Croodle! The icy blade had a will of its own, and none took it to wield, instead planning on returning it to the noble family out of Neverwinter to whom it rightly belonged.

There was a whole lot of hairy, angry, and ape-like after the party.

After a moment of rest, the heroes found more cave entrances along the ledge...a lot more. And a lot of frost giants. There was a fierce battle along the ledge and the cave entrances, with Rurik placing a blade barrier spell smack dab in the middle of the giants while Ella cut off their retreat with a wall of fire spell from her magical helm. One by one, the giants fell. Sorely wounded, the heroes holed up to rest for a short time.

After tending to their wounds, they pressed on along the ledge and into another set of cave tunnels leading off. They were ambushed from behind by a group of ogre mercenaries, the same Ambrie had seen on the far side of the rift! Apparently, they had been tracking the heroes and finally caught up to them. Despite their numbers, the heroes overcame the ogres and pressed forward. Ambrie and Sindri scouted a few caves ahead, and found several other giants - a small group of hill giants, a pair of fire giants, and a trio of stone giants, to be precise! No doubt emissaries from the various giant leaders, the fire giants' pet hell hounds heard the group approach. A potentially tense negotiation got underway, with Hornbeast (!) convincing the fire giants to let them pass and see the Jarl. The hill giants would have none of it though, and engaged the heroes in battle as a pair of frost giant guards came on the scene. The stone giants held up, intimidated the heroes' ferocity, and opted to let them pass as well. Both groups of giants agreed to let them give their "tribute" to the Jarl, though the fire giants warned that if the heroes came to their king's halls, the only tribute he would take would be to flay them alive.

Thus warned, the heroes found a tunnel descending steeply, below the floor of the rift, into a system of caves that were more rock than ice. Making their way through a cavern with icy stalagmites and columns lined with ledges and smaller caves, the heroes found themselves under attack by giant blue-white toads, all radiating terrible cold. Some were the size of men and some the size of horses, and they leaped down to attack, biting with sharp teeth as they tried to grab the heroes with their long tongues. Sindri was swallowed - twice - and Krush found himself inside one of the massive ice toads as well. They managed to carve through the beasts, which seemed to communicate with each other. Krush was carried into a nearby cave, only to carve his way out of the huge ice toad that had swallowed him.

The cave beyond was massive, fully 60 feet high, more than 200 feet long, and nearly 100 feet across. To one side, cave entrances led off, and to the other, massive double doors carved from ice were flanked by stone platforms. A frost giant guard stood atop each, and they were alerted as more ice toads perched along ledges nearby began to croak in alarm. The heroes began to move in, ready to tackle the frost giants, when two other forms emerged from a large cave entrance to the east - a pair of huge white dragons!

"Do I have something in my teeth? Oh, not yet!"

The heroes withstood multiple blasts of the dragons' breath weapons and shrugged off thrown rocks from the giants. The ice toads wisely retreated. Despite the odds, the heroes managed to prevail, though one of the frost giants fled down a stair leading from his stone platform back further into the caves. No doubt, the giants would be alerted and a counter-attack could be expected. The heroes fell back into the dragons' cave, finding some treasure, including a fine suit of mail that Orosius took for his own. As they tended their wounds as best they could, they could swear they heard voices in the giant-tongue approaching....
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