Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part III - Giant Season - Part 2
The next day the five adventurers went back to the castle to look for another job. They needed just a few more thousand gold and they would have enough to pay for the scrolls to extract the golem from the chimney. Of course they still had not figured out the password for the control ring, but that wasn’t going to stop them.
Francis was on guard duty once again. “Ah, if it isn’t our favorite band of adventurers. Tell me, have you guys decided on a name for yourselves yet?”
“Err, not yet,” Aksel replied.
“Well you really should. You guys have become the talk of the town. Before you know it they’ll be writing songs about you. You’re going to need a name.”
“Ok,” Aksel said, “We’ll give it some serious thought. Meanwhile, we’re here to see Captain Gelpas about some work.”
“Oh, certainly. I’ll take you to him. Follow me,” Francis said leading them into the castle. The entered the main hall and headed towards the officers quarters. Gelpas was in his office, sitting at his desk. It was a fairly sparse room, mostly taken up by the desk and a few chairs. There were a few cabinets along the wall. There was a rack on the left wall where the Captains weapons belt was currently hanging. And the town coat of arms was on the wall behind where Gelpas was sitting.
“Aksel, Glorfindle, Lloyd, Seth, and Elvisda! Welcome,” the Captain said. “It’s good to see you. Have you finished all your errands in town?”
“Yes Captain Gelpas, we have,” Aksel said.
“Good,” Gelpas replied. “Then I assume you are here looking for your next quest?”
“You assume correctly Captain,” Elvisda told him.
“Great, because something has just come up which could use some immediate attention,” the Captain said.
“What is it?” Lloyd said anxiously.
“I have the report right here somewhere,” Gelpas said shuffling parchments around his desk. “Ah, here it is,” he said as he picked up a parchment which had been partially buried. “It seems that there is a two headed giant that has come down from the Xerbal Mountains and is terrorizing some farmsteads to the north between here and Bardon’s Gap. Do you think you could take care of it? There’s a 4000 gold piece reward.”
“Consider it done,” Aksel replied.
“Excellent,” Gelpas said. “When can you leave?”
“Almost immediately,” Aksel replied. “We will just need to pick up some supplies and we should be ready to leave in an hour at most.”
“Perfect,” Gelpas told them. “Once you have dispatched the monster, return back here for your reward.”
The adventurers got up and left the castle.
“Are we going to hire Glendor and Brundon again?” Glorfindle asked.
“Do we have to?” Seth said.
“Glendor is still a big help,” Lloyd told him.
“Lloyd is right,” Aksel replied. “Elvisda, can you go find them. We’ve been offering them 50 gold pieces apiece each day.”
“Sure, I’ll work out a good deal with them,” the bard replied. And he left to go to the Dying Minotaur in search of the hirelings.
“Lloyd and I will go buy supplies,” Aksel said. “Seth can you go get us some mounts?”
“No problem,” the ninja responded. He turned and headed off to the stables.
They all went to gather what they would need for the journey and then met out in front of the Dying Minotaur less than an hour later. Glendor and Brundon joined them once again. This time, however, the party headed out of town up the north road. That was the road that led towards Bardon’s Gap and the farmsteads which were being terrorized by the giant.
The north road went through a cherry orchard and past bald hill. The hill was covered with lush grass and trees right up until you got to the top. But the peak of the hill was completely barren as if some dark magic had made it incapable of sustaining any life.
The party made good time and were in farm country within a couple of hours. They still had another few hours of riding, however, before making it to Bardon’s Gap. The countryside was beautiful, filled with rolling hills and checkered with plowed fields that had been planted with a variety of crops. There were meadows of yellow corn, red tomatoes, golden wheat, orange carrots and brown potatoes. The different colors were breathtaking against the backdrop of the hills and the still far away Xerbal Mountains.
They were talking about giants while they were traveling along. “There are many different types of giants,” Elvisda was telling them. “There are hill giants, fire giants, frost giants, storm giants, cloud giants, and stone giants. A two headed giant, however, is actually called an Ettin. They are typically vicious, dirty creatures that hunt at night and sleep during the day. These Ettin can grow to 13 feet tall and can weigh more than 5,000 pounds.”
“Thanks for the lesson in giant lore,” Seth said sarcastically.
“Hey,” Lloyd jumped in, “not all of us are as smart as you Seth. Go on Elvisda.”
“Thank you Lloyd,” the bard said appreciatively. “Well, there’s not much else to say except that although Ettins are exactly the brightest monsters, they can still be very cunning when it comes to fighting. So watch yourselves when you are facing this one. You never know what kind of trick it might pull in battle.”
“You said these things can be 13 feet tall?” Brundon asked nervously.
“Yes,” Elvisda said, “Why do you ask?”
“Oh, no reason,” Brundon said and road off ahead muttering to himself.
“Kind of jumpy isn’t he,” Elvisda said to Glendor.
“Oh, don’t mind Brundon,” Glendor replied. “He may be a bit squeamish, but he’ll be there when you need him.”
“More like he’ll be hiding behind the nearest rock or tree,” Seth murmured under his breath.
Glorfindle and Elvisda both had elvish hearing and picked up what the little ninja had said. Thus both were hard pressed to keep a straight face.
A few hours later they were approaching Bardon’s Gap. They were passing some farmsteads now that looked as if they had been hit by a hurricane. Houses had been leveled and barns were smashed in. Trees were knocked down. Fences were broken and farm animals were running wild.
They road up to one such place. The farmer and his family were out front packing a wagon with their belongings. They seemed very anxious to finish and leave as fast as possible.
“Leave this to me,” Elvisda told the others as they stopped in front of the farmer’s wagon.
“Hail friend,” the bard said to the farmer. “Can you tell us what trouble has befallen your farmstead that has left it in such a state?”
The farmer continued packing, but replied over his shoulder, “It’s that damn giant. Came down out of the mountains last night and broke through the fences. I heard the animals making a commotion, so I came out here to what was going on. The huge beast saw me and started chasing me around. I ran into the house and roused the family. We had just got out back and headed to the barn when the damn thing ripped the roof off the house. The whole building collapsed after that. We ran into the barn and it chased us. Smashed half that building in too. But we hid up in the loft under the hay and it lost our scent or maybe got distracted by the animals because it left us alone after that. When we heard it stomp away, we came back out. It must’ve walked off with some of our cows to feed on. Anyway, after that, we decided it wasn’t worth waiting around for that thing to come back. So we’ll be leaving as soon as we’re done packing, which will be real soon.”
“You wouldn’t happen to know which way the beast went, would you now?” the bard asked.
“Why? You plan on chasing that thing?” the farmer asked incredulously.
“Actually, yes, we do,” Elvisda replied.
“Well you’re either crazy or…” the farmer trailed off as he stopped and turned to actually look at the party. He took a good look at all of them as if he was sizing them up then settling his gaze on Lloyd. Finally he said, “Maybe you’re not so crazy. You don’t seem scared of this giant at all.”
“We’re not,” Lloyd said in a very serious tone.
“Hmm,” the farmer replied, “you do look like folks who can handle themselves. But this is a mean one. If you really think you can handle it though, rumor is that it has a cave up in the mountains just directly north west from here. If you got anyone that can track with you, you should find it’s footprints leading away on the north side of my fences.”
“Thank you good sir,” Elvisda said. “Do not fear. We will dispose of this vile creature. It will trouble you no more.”
“Well, I wish you all the best of luck, but we ain’t waiting around to see which of you wins. We need to be in Bardon’s Gap come nightfall so we’ll be leaving within the hour,” the farmer told them.
The left the farmer and his family to their packing and road to the north side of the farmstead. There Brundon and Lloyd both found the tracks of the giant. Lloyd had taken an interest in tracking ever since they had met the ranger and Brundon was teaching him what he knew of the art.
“These tracks are definitely less than a day old,” Brundon was saying. “This creature is huge and judging from the width of these tracks and depth of the footprints, can run at a good pace. I would guess that a man on horseback would have a hard time outrunning the beast.”
“Then we’ll have to do something to even the odds when we face it,” Aksel replied.
“I might have an idea,” Seth said. “But let’s find the thing first.”
“Brundon, lead the way,” Aksel ordered.
The ranger seemed nervous but Lloyd said to him, “Don’t worry, I’ll be right by your side. After all, you still need to teach me as much as you can about tracking.”
“Thanks Lloyd,” Brundon replied seeming more at ease.
The party followed the tracks up into the mountains. The creature did very little to hide its trail. Obviously, it was not used to being hunted. They had been tracking the giant for over an hour. They had followed the monsters trail all the way to the base of the Xerbal Mountains. It was starting to get late in the day and they really wanted to find the creature before nightfall.
Then they spotted the cave. It was nestled in the side of a cliff, trees surrounding it on either side. The entrance was huge; a good twenty feet tall and equally as wide.
“That has to be the giant’s cave,” Lloyd said, “The tracks lead right up to it. Right Brundon?”
“Ri-right,” the ranger stammered.
Aksel rolled his eyes. Then turned to Seth and said, “Care to do some recognizance?”
“Not a problem,” Seth said.
“Good”, the cleric replied, “We’ll set up here and get ready for a battle. If you run into any trouble, just yell and we’ll come running.”
“Don’t worry,” the ninja replied, “I’ve got a plan.” He proceeded to tell the group what he was thinking.
“Good luck,” Aksel told him. Everyone else wished him luck too. Even Brundon who said, “G-Go-Good luck.”
Seth just shook his head, then turned and headed out stealthily towards the cave. He did not go invisible, however. If his plan worked, he would need that afterwards. Plus if he was right, the giant had fed well the prior night and was probably still fast asleep in its cave. But they were starting to lose light and he needed to get in there now. Still he needed to be silent. Luckily, his ninja skills enabled him to do just that.
As he approached the mouth of the cave, he started to hear a noise. It was fairly loud and rhythmic. It must be the giant, Seth thought. It’s snoring! Damn that thing is loud. He made it to the mouth of the cave and peered in. It was dim. Luckily, being a halfling, he could see quite well in the dark.
The ninja stealthily made his way into the cave. He could see the outline of the creature now. Its huge bulk was sprawled on the ground farther in the cave. As he made his way farther into the cave, the floor was littered with objects. He bent to examine one. It was a bone. Luckily, Seth didn’t scare easily. As he continued slowly moving towards the beast, he started to see entire carcasses. They were either halfway or mostly eaten. One must have been a cow. The other looked like a horse. Nasty diet this thing has, the ninja thought to himself.
He was very close to the creature now. It was lying on its side with its back to him. He made his way down towards the legs, every once in awhile stopping to listen. Its breathing remained steady and the snoring continued on like a badly played tuba. Either this thing was still fast asleep, or it was very good at faking it, Seth thought. But he knew Ettins weren’t that bright.
The ninja was now right next to the creature. Gods this thing smelled bad, he thought to himself. It was actually quite filthy. Half its body was covered in mud and dirt. He tried not to breathe too deeply. Then the halfling reached over to his belt and took out his two knifes. He listened one more time, but the creature’s snoring had not abated.
Here goes nothing, Seth thought to himself. He braced himself against a large rock next to the sleeping behemoth and then plunged both of daggers into the back upper legs of the creature while softly saying the word poison. The knives met a bit of resistance from the giant’s tough hide, but then slid in tearing into the muscles at the back of each leg.
The giant woke up with a start, roaring in pain. It reached down with its hand, trying to swat whatever had “stung” it. But Seth had already pulled out his daggers and jumped back behind the rock he had used to brace himself. He immediately folded himself in his cloak and turned invisible.
The Ettin sat up, holding the backs of its legs. Both heads looked around the cave in either direction. “Who stabbed me?” it roared. “I’ll smash you and grind your bones.”
But Seth was invisible and well wedged between the rock and the wall behind it. He was in no danger of being spotted or trampled.
The giant stood up, but was obviously having trouble moving with its hamstrings torn in both legs. It flailed around with both hands, but could not find its attacker. “I’ll kill you and feast on your carcass!” it roared again. Then it grabbed its huge club that had been propped up against the wall and started towards the cave entrance. It was still having trouble walking, and as it got close to the mouth of the cave, it suddenly yelled “Ow!”.
Ah, the poison must be kicking in, Seth thought. He moved out from his hiding place and slowly followed behind the giant.
Meanwhile, outside the rest of the party heard the giants roar. “Guess that’s the signal,” Aksel said. Lloyd and Glendor already had out their weapons. Lloyd had just finished a meditation which he had mastered which prepared him for battling large monsters. He and Glendor were ready to charge.
“Just one second,” Elvisda said. He had out his lute and was playing a tune to inspire courage.
“Go,” Aksel yelled.
Lloyd and Glendor took off towards the cave. The others followed close behind. They were almost up to the mouth when the giant appeared. It was huge. The creature was easily 13 feet tall, maybe alittle more. It was 4 feet across at the shoulders. Its limbs were the size of tree trunks. It was brandishing a small tree sized club in one hand. Its heads were looking around in two different directions. “I’ll kill you and eat you when I find you!” it was roaring.
Then it spotted the party. “There you are!” it bellowed. It lifted the huge club in its hand, but then stumbled slight on its legs. “Looks like Seth’s plan worked,” Elvisda yelled.
Lloyd reached the giant before it could recover its balance. He began slashing at it with his twin blades. One hit, two hits, both in the giant’s right leg. He was slicing easily through the thick skin, especially with his right hand which held the star sword.
Glendor had also now reached the creature and the big man drove his long sword straight into the creatures left leg, letting out a burst of electricity as he did so. The giant stumbled back at the ferocity of the attacks.
The Ettin roared. The two fighters braced themselves for the creatures counterattack. The rest of the party had just caught up and Glorfindle had begun to cast a spell.
Suddenly, without warning, the Ettin turned and fled. It ran west along the cliffside, deeper into mountains. Everyone was caught off guard. Lloyd was the first to recover. He took off after the giant as fast as he could run.
The giant was still lumbering along, it’s damaged legs hampering its attempt to escape. The others had also recovered and were now all chasing after Lloyd.
“Run you coward!” Elvisda yelled. “Get ‘em Lloyd!” the others cheered.
The warblade was now only ten feet behind the lumbering beast. Suddenly, he launched himself up in the air. It must have been a full ten feet. The big man came crashing down on the giants back stabbing it with his jet black star sword. The giant collapsed under the fierce attack. It fell forward and let out a huge groan as it slammed face first into the ground.
The others ran up as Lloyd was still extracting his sword from the giant’s back. Then the warblade stood on top of the beast poised to strike again. But the creature did not move. It lay flat on its face, its limbs splayed out in all directions. Its ragged breathing slowed.
Lloyd walked up the giants back to just behind its chest. He reared the star sword up with two hands and plunged it straight into the monsters back. The creature screamed, convulsed and then stopped moving completely. The breathing stopped. It was dead.
The company let out a cheer. Brundon, who had been trailing behind, slowly came up. “Are you sure it’s dead?” he asked cautiously.
“Oh, it’s dead alright,” Elvisda exclaimed. “Lloyd here just drove that black pig sticker of his right through its heart. It’s not getting up from that!”
Lloyd had jumped down off the creatures back and rejoined the others. They were all pounding him on the back when Seth magically appeared in their midst.
“Nice bad big guy,” the halfling said looking up at the big man.
Suddenly, Lloyd stooped down, and grabbed the little halfling in his huge arms. “We did it!” Lloyd yelled. “You and me, Seth! We did it!” He spun around with the halfling in his grip.
“Great Lloyd, that’s just great,” Seth said trying to extricate himself from his enthusiastic friends grip. “Now, please put me down.”
“Oh, sorry,” the big man said sheepishly. “I guess I got carried away,” he said letting the little ninja go. Then he suddenly remembered, turning to Glendor who stood to the side. The big fighter had a grin on his face. Lloyd walked over to him and said, “Sorry Glendor. You got a pretty good shot in there too. I bet that giant really felt it when you sent that lightning running through it.”
“That’s alright Lloyd. Just doing what you hired me to. Plus I really wanted to skewer that thing after what it did to that family of farmers we saw back there,” the big fighter finished. The two men grinned at each other and clasped each other on the shoulders. Then they both began to laugh.
“Seriously,” Aksel said, “really great job everyone. Seth, that plan of yours worked perfectly. If you hadn’t disabled it, we would have had a heck of a fight on our hands. But you two,” he said looking at Lloyd and Glendor, “really tore it apart, especially with that last leap of yours Lloyd.”
“Yeah, what do you call that move?” Elvisda asked.
“Oh, that?” Lloyd said grinning sheepishly once again, “It’s not so much a maneuver as it is a stance. My father taught me the basics, but I was only really able to master it yesterday. It’s called the Leaping Dragon.”
“Well either way, that was some leap,” Elvisda replied.
“Yeah,” Aksel concurred. “Maybe you should call it Leaping Dragon, Falling Giant.”
They all burst out laughing.