Chapter14: Land of the Giants: The Gatehouse and the Guardians

Ambyrmont 20th 1014

The previous night the companions had met a local hunter and trapper, Barna, who told them that she had a sled on which D'mond could be carried and also mentioned that she might know where the giants' castle might be. “I know of something that might lead you to the giants’ castle. About a day’s walk west from here there is a stretch of paved road no more than a hundred yards long. No snow ever stays on it. My sheep used to rest on it as it was always warm. There was a marker stone there but I couldn’t read what was written on it.”

Agreeing that this might be as good a plan as any the companions agreed to leave at dawn in the company of Barna.


All went well until the companions started to cross a flat expanse of snow and ice. Suddenly from below the ice a creature burst forth, grabbed Barna and sunk below the surface again, without breaking the ice!

Moments later it returned and it wasn't alone. Encased in rancid green ice was the broken corpse of the guide.

A long battle ensued, the creatures were tough and fearsome to behold. Victor cleverly cast wind-walk and a fire-shield about his person which protected him from the ice-bound undead as well as doing damage to it. Chang destroyed the now undead Barna while Jedon finished off the other but not before most of the party had taken damage from the icy fists of their foe.

From his elevated position Victor was able to see the heated road that Barna had spoken off, a stretch of black stone pointing like an arrow towards a cleft in the mountains.

Towards the end of the day the companions arrived at the stretch of road. As Barna had described, it was warm and upon it no snow lay. Slender granite pillars stood beside the road and as darkness fell glowing balls of orange light appeared above each of the pillars.

Mixnan managed to decipher the writing on one of the pillars, “Festing Helligfjell, 10 Miles”.

Meanwhile Jedon and Chang had gone off to follow a couple of shady figures that had run off into the darkness as the lights came on.

They tracked the strangers to a clearing where a tumbledown shack stood. Beside it were a chained up bear and a horse tied to a rickety old wagon, its yellow paint pealing from its wooden sides. Of the two figures there was no sign and after a brief investigation they returned to the others.

The whole party returned to the clearing where this time the two figures were sitting beside a camp-fire. Jedon walked up alone and had a conversation with them. One of the two figures only spoke by repeating the last word of the other which made for strange listening. They appeared to want Jedon and the others to join them but Jedon shook his head and retreated.

After a brief conversation it was decided that the road, though warm, was difficult to defend and instead they retreated to a low hill which appeared to be a better place to camp.

Ambyrmont 21st 1014


The night passed without incident until just before dawn when the two 'merchants' approached and asked for food and clothing. When Jedon again rebuffed them they shed their skins and attacked, joined by two other hideous creatures that had approached unnoticed from the other direction.

Combat ensued. The creatures were tough, their semi-incorporeal nature meaning that some blows that should have struck instead just passed straight through them. On the other hand the creatures' bites were fearsome weakening the minds of those they struck. This combined with their hideous appearance that turned brave legs to jelly meant that the battle was long and hard but in the end, thanks to both spell-casters and weapon-wielders the fight was eventually won. Mixnan had born the brunt of the early attacks, the dwarf being shaken in mind and body. Thanduil had been shocked by the creatures' visage as was Zan and neither seemed up to much in the way of exertion in the near future.

Once the fight was over they decided that they should not leave the wagon and shack as a lure for future travellers just in case the one that had been turned decided to return so the shack and wagon was searched and burnt down. An iron bound box was discovered in the shack but due to a hideous lock plate no-one was brave enough to open it. Instead it was placed on the sled with D'mond to be investigated later.

As the sun had passed its zenith the party arrived at the opening to a steep-sided valley with openings from ground level up to the partially blocked with rotting wooden ridge. Some were open, some partially blocked with rotting wooden doors and others sealed with stone blocks.


Chang scouted ahead and found a pair of huge doors but the others wanted to investigate the openings before proceeding and in the first crypt they encountered a huge spider.

Inside the crypt they found a strange throne, a chest and several doors but after the trials of the combat with the spider they beat a quick retreat so that they could continue to the huge ebon doors discovered by Chang.

At the far end of the canyon, set into the almost vertical stone wall were a set of double doors, some forty feet high, made of a dark wood that has resisted the elements well. Upon them were bronze hinges and strengthening bands, wrought into the semblance of dragons and vines.

Set into one of the doors is a smaller postern but none of the doors had handles. Jedon had led the way and knocked on the door impatiently. A small hatch opened in the postern and a peevish voice shouted, “Can't you read? Answer the riddle and the door will open” after which the panel was slammed shut.

After much searching no sign of a riddle could be found and when this was pointed out the same voice shouted, . “Not again.” The hatch slams shut and some arguing can be heard, “Have we got any spare riddles, they’ve only gone and stolen it again. I don’t know? To wipe their arse with I suppose, they can’t read it. No spares? How are we going to check that we can let them in then? Well yes we could, but why didn’t you think of that earlier.”

The hatch opened again. “I shall read the riddle.” He coughs theatrically then reads out the following:

“Cannot climb but runs all day
Weaponless can quickly slay
Found in banks but not in chests
Rarely stops, no need to rest
A touch of salt may spell its end
Of like a snake will twist and bend.
Doesn’t eat but still gets fed
From it food’s taken instead.”

The party chorused loudly as one that the answer was 'River' at which point the postern door opened revealing a large stone chamber, some 100’ east-west, 60’ north south with a ceiling 40’ high. It was illuminated by lanterns hanging from the ceiling that were similar to those encountered on the heated road.At the eastern end is another large pair of double doors at least 30’ high and 20’ wide. Beside the western door there was a battered wooden box and nearby was a brazier filled with glowing coals. A small table and chairs, dwarfed by the size of the room stood near the brazier.

The companions explored the room and as the last person entered the postern closed and locked and a voice boomed, “The door has been closed for comfort and security.”

They had been in the room for a few minutes but had not found a way through the eastern doors when there was a loud knocking on the western doors and a gravelly voice uttered the password. With that five gargoyles and two harpies entered through the door which opened automatically when the password was spoken. A tough battle ensued with Chang and one of the gargoyles attacking the eastern door under the control of the harpies. It appeared that Chang had been somehow charmed to attack the gate alongside the gargoyle as once the harpies had been killed he ceased his attacks. The doors themselves had been defended by small earth elementals that had risen from the ground. The final gargoyle had been killed when a portcullis descended sharply impaling the stone beast. Thanduil found a bag of gems with some hardened illithid goo in a pouch carried by one of the harpies.

The door protected by the portcullis lacked a handle or a keyhole and when Thanduil knocked on the door a voice similar to the one that had uttered the riddle earlier intoned:

“Draw your weapons and you may pass.”

After much musing Thanduil drew a picture of his staff on the floor with a piece of charcoal from the brazier and stood back.

The door opened revealing a new chamber. This large chamber has plain stone walls and the same high ceiling as the previous room. A single large door is set into the east wall. This room is lit by several glowing lanterns hanging from the north and south walls. Large handles jut out from the wall on either side of the door. A notice stuck on the wall above each handle reads, “If you lower it then you raise it!” Both handles are in the “up” position.

Ignoring the obvious exit to the east attempts were made to look through well hidden narrow arrow-slits in the north and south walls and then Chang while climbing up to take a closer look at the slits noticed a face at a hatch in the ceiling. He jumped from the wall and clung onto one of the light globes hanging from the. Bravely he then swung back and forth before leaping to where the hatch was hoping to make a grab for a handle. Instead he punched straight through the ceiling and was dragged out of sight by whatever dwelt up there.

A short time later he called down that all was fine and that his captors where actually his rescuers saving him from falling back down to the ground. The others joined him, taking a simpler route up the stairs to a large chamber with tall windows overlooking a green vale surrounded by mountains.


Although everything, including the stairs, were configured for creatures of giant size Chang's rescuers were small, no more than three feet tall with green-grey skin, long pointed ears, large saucer like eyes and strong wiry hands with three fingers.

They introduced themselves as Torcuil and Finola Guardians of the gatehouse. They and their ancestors have been guarding the gatehouse for many generations under instructions from the 'horsemen'. They have been concerned that the attacks by the harpies and the gargoyles had become more aggressive in recent times. The Guardians believe that the monsters, with the assistance and guidance of the illithid, are searching for something of gnomish manufacture that remains in the giant's tower at the other end of the vale. The vale is protected by creatures known as wyrd one such creature, a mass of swirling air named Gustav, assisted in bringing the sled up the spiral stairs to the observation chamber.

Torcuil, prompted by Thanduil, spoke of the Ancients and Moreldrak.

“Many, many generations ago there was a great war between the Ancients. One side was led by Moreldrak the other by Ar-Bagrinâth. Humans fought on both sides, most elves fought on the side of Ar-Bagrinâth. The giant sky-ships of Lord Moreldrak rained down bolts of fire on the cities of men. However the armies of Ar-Bagrinâth were joined by the dwarves, including the fabled dwarven King Orry who with their strength and resistance to magic drove the dark-elves and their allies back and destroyed the sky-ships with large siege engines created by gnomes. Not all of the ancients fought on the side of darkness, some gave their aid to the humans and those elves that had not sided with Moreldrak. After the war the ancients and the dragons vanished, as did the gnomes but rumours and portents of Moreldrak’s return have surfaced recently.”

The Guardians then excused themselves and shadowy incorporeal giants faded into view laying a table with food and drink as well as constructing beds around the perimeter of the room.

Everyone, apart from Thanduil, eat their fill before settling down for the night on the comfortable beds.

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