Chapter15: Land of the Giants: The Vale

Ambyrmont 22nd 1014

The following morning the shadowy giant servants returned to lay a morning meal and bowls of steaming water for washing. After breakfast had been consumed and preparations for the day ahead made the Guardians returned and showed them to a door that opened onto a ramp leading down into the vale.

“I hope you are all rested, fed and ready to continue?” Finola asked, “You may wish to head straight for the tower, or you may divert to the forest where the horsemen have a camp.”

The ramp leads to a track that runs through the shoulder height grass due east towards the tower of the giants.


The Journey on the Sea of Grass

Almost straight away the companions decided to leave the track and head off into the grass. Jedon stayed behind to study the land to see what it could tell him. The others headed towards a clearing in which stood a ruined watermill by a dry stream bed.
As they studied this there was a cry and Zan was dragged off into the dense grass.

Badger Sett

After the battle with the badgers, there was no sign of Zan. Chang and several of the others explored the dire-badgers' sett but found nothing but bones, not human, fortunately. Thanduil sensed that some magic had been used there recently, possibly related to the teleport spell. Jedon found some feathers and mentioned that he had had a conversation with some small rodents and they had mentioned: "The Master of Crows" who was the reason why there were no birds, other than Thanduil's familiar Sky-Fury in the vale.

Trusting that Zan would find his way to the tower on his own as they had no way of tracking the bard the rest of the companions continued along the track.

Troll Bridge

They crossed an old stone bridge over a dried up stream and saw signs of troll occupation but decided not to delve deeper into the cave that lay beneath the span of the bridge.

Blighted Copse

Further along, they came to a copse of blighted trees. At the centre was a huge tree, it's heart burnt out from a lightning strike. Glinting in the sun they spotted Zan's flute hanging from a spider's web. Thanduil managed to retrieve the flute but triggered a trap in doing so. Jedon identified it as the work of ettercaps and Mixnan managed to disarm the trap as well as find a trapdoor in the floor of the burnt out tree trunk.

Spiders Supplies

Leaving Aleanor on guard they descended into the shaft that lay beneath the trapdoor. Chang burnt away more webs and nearly destroyed the rope from which he was hanging. He dropped into a chamber from which other doors of wood and web lead off in several directions including another trapdoor in the floor. One door led to a chamber littered with bones and with clay urns stuck into holes in the walls. One of these contained coins but cautious now the companions shut the door and moved on.

Another chamber contained several large cocoons hanging from the ceiling. One contained the remains of a creature similar to the guardians at the gatehouse. Another was trapped and contained the remains of a man who carried a disturbing message on a square of parchment.

“ So I, Hurvild, am the last of our party, at least the last that is still of sound body and mind. I will return to the gatehouse and apologise to the gatekeepers that our mission failed The First and Master Kesryk will have to find the giants by other means. We were not able to reach the tower or find the horse-men. Caron, we lost at the mill, we sorely needed his healing skills later when Nolan was taken and I was wounded by the troll under the bridge. Vester was the last. He was studying the sarsen, hoping to find some clue as to where his familiar and the other birds had vanished. I only turned my back for a moment and he was gone. He shouted something about druidic magic gone wrong, the grass gateway. I write this note in case I fail to make it back to the gate-house and someone else tries to find the giants. Beware your lost friends and wish not for their return. Don’t leave anyone alone, no one is safe. Dated this 9th day of Thaumont 985.”

A hurried check revealed that Aleanor had vanished!

Vowing to keep each other in sight at all times they quickly opened the remaining cocoons finding nothing more than dead and desiccated dire-badger corpses. A final room was filled with sentient roots that seemed to reach out towards Victor and Thanduil and so the door was swiftly slammed shut.

Slug City

Mixnan was lowered on a rope down the shaft that led to the next level where he spotted a giant slug and quickly climbed back up the rope so that a plan could be made to combat the creature.

Chang discovered that he had received a gift from the King of the Mushroom men - he could now use the fungal tendrils in the ground to 'see' into the chambers nearby.

They decided to collect the partially decomposed badger carcasses and toss them down the shaft and hoped that this would be enough to satiate the slug. It worked and the slug slipped into a corner to digest his meal while Mixnan climbed back down. To everyone's surprise Hurvild, the supposed corpse in the cocoon came back to life. It appeared that he had just been asleep for thirty years!

He joined the others in climbing down the rope to take on the slug, just wearing a loincloth and a mithril vest. He kept asking for his backpack which had gone missing in the time he had been imprisoned.

With the slug dozing the companions checked the other doors leading from the chamber. Thanduil was attacked by a tall plant like creature which was identified as a moonflower behind the western door. On opening the southern door they were attacked by a giant praying mantis while the moonflowers opened the western door and blinded some of the party with a flash of bright light. The slug also started to come around so they were being attacked from all sides. The mantis was swiftly despatched while the slug was killed by a combination of Jedon's blades and Thanduil's quick thinking. He conjured a pile of salt and flung it at the wounded slug. The moonflowers proved to be a tougher foe and it took many blows and spells along with Hurvild's strange concoctions, to kill one of them after Hurvild had found his backpack in the mantis' lair.

Repelled by fire, Victor's holy flames and Hurvild's bombs, the last two moonflowers retreated back into their chamber where they started to put roots down. Thanduil scattered salt and water on them in the hope that this would prevent them from healing themselves. After wedging the door shut the companions turned their attention to the trapdoor in the floor.

Continuing down Hurvild glimpsed a man in a black feathered cloak who vanished leaving behind a strange combination of ettercap and construct that appeared to be able to shoot webs from its fingers. The alchemist prevented the creature from attacking his companions on the level above using some more of his prepared concoctions.

Meanwhile up above the rest of the party had been fighting off the remaining two moonflowers that had forced the door open and attacked. Some treasures had been discovered in the belly of one of the moonflowers - an iron ring, a wand, some enchanted arrows, a blue glass ring and an assortment of gems.

In the lowest chamber, Hurvild had found the rest of his gear scattered around and when the others followed him down and searched the chamber finding an amber wand, an arcane scroll, a divine scroll, some large black feathers and a pouch of coins.

What they were unable to find however was any sign of Zan or Aleanor. Nor were there any further exits from this chamber. Unless there was an exit hidden in one of the other chambers higher up, this was a dead end and they would need to continue the search above ground once they had rested.

Ambyrmont 23nd 1014

The Troll Cave

After emerging from the blasted oak they headed back towards the west and the Gatehouse. Thanduil's familiar Sky-Fury returned with news of the Master of Crows, he was a strange bird-man called Abatu. The weather started to worsen with heavy drizzle and dark clouds. They reached the troll cave but could find no sign of Zan or Aleanor so headed back east. After a short distance, Jedon saw signs in the grass of the same sigil that Aleanor bore on her palm, drawn in the mud by a group of harvest mice. While pondering this they were attacked by the Master of Crows, a pair of trolls and one of Hurvild's corrupted companions, Caron the cleric.

After the battle, they discovered that the Master of Crows had vanished taking Hurvild with him. The spellcasters amongst the party determined that the strange creature had used a spell similar to Travel via Plants. Jedon found that a group of mice had produced a sigil similar to that found on Aleanor's palm in the mud between the grass stems. Following the trail left by the mice and with Sky Fury, Thanduil's familiar, providing guidance from above they managed to find their way through the Sea of Grass and arriveed at a large man made burial mound set admist more normal grasslands.

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