The four adventurers hovered at the edge of the harbor of Fireshear and took in the devastation around them. Scuttled schooners littered the shallow waters, their sails soaked through and useless floating in the briny water. The long narrow warehouse stood partly collapsed, with large holes in the walls and massive ballista bolts as large as tree trunks protruding from the rubble. Dock workers and sailors scurried around, quickly clearing as much of the destruction.
The goliath stood there, his teeth clinched and hands balled up into fists, flashes of past events in the forefront of his mind. As they stood there, a cloaked figure caught Aera’s attention, and recognizing some sort of hand signal, approached him and conversed quietly. Aera returned to the others, and told her traveling companions that she had some business that she had to take care of, and that she would meet them in Bryn Shander. Wishing the aarakocra well on her mission, the two rogues left.
The rest of the group saw a dwarf barking orders at a dwarven work crew clearing away broken timbers from the partially collapsed warehouse. Approaching him, the dwarf introduced himself as Darius Gromm, son of Tharkus Gromm, one of the Triumvirate leaders of the town, and representative of the merchant company Hammaver House.
Darius explained to the adventurers that under the cover of a cold choking fog, a frost giant greatship had sailed into the harbor, sending a hail of boulders and ballista bolts into the structures of the town. Several giants had waded ashore, leaving death and destruction in their wake. They appeared to be looking for something or someone, but none of the citizens of Fireshear could understand the frost giant’s language. Several of the giants had entered the bluffs north of the city where miners of years past had carved out a maze of open air tunnels into the cliffs. Just as suddenly as they appeared, the giants, having not found what they were looking for, had sailed away, leaving many townsfolk injured or dead.
Darius also told the goliath that two other adventurers had been hurt pretty severely in the attack when the southeast end of the warehouse collapsed in on a private bedroom. Tharkus’ wife tended to them the best that she could, but without healing magic, they were still unconscious and mending back at the cabins that the Gromms owned as living quarters for the miners.
Moving with purpose, the three adventurers visited the apartments, finding Tharkus’ wife carrying clean bedding and bandages for the wounded miners that they employed. She showed them to the two newcomer’s apartment, and as they approached, they noticed a black bear sitting outside the door, as if on guard. The bear sensed Bran’s connection to the natural world and let the ranger pet it.
Inside the cabin, there were two unconscious forms, one an older human male and the other a teenaged male half-elf. The young half-elf had his left arm set in a splint, and the human had a wound on his temple. Both Stark and Bran cast healing magicks on them, bringing them to consciousness. All of their belongings had been carefully locked up into chests next to their beds. As they began to outfit themselves, Mal questioned the two on the details of the attack, but since they had been inside a room in the warehouse when the frost giant attack happened, they didn’t see anything.
The sorcerer half-elf named Apa told the group that he had business dealings with Tharkus that needed to be concluded and that he needed to see the dwarf. The older human was a ranger named Turin and his animal companion was a bear named Crow. Turin had been traveling with Apa, giving him aid and protection on his quest.
The two newcomers had not eaten since they were knocked out in the attack, so the five adventurers reconvened at the Singing Manticore and continued to get to know one another over a fine meal that the dwarves brought them. Halfway through their meal, Darius stormed back into the Inn, telling the group that there is an emergency and to please hurry to Tharkus’ office on the outskirts of the mines north of the city.
The party ran to the dwarven patriarch’s office and was let in by the guards. Tharkus greeted the group, thanking the gods for Apa and Turin’s recovery. Hurriedly, he told them that a few of his workers spotted a frost giant that had gotten left behind in the mines, and that they were keeping a close eye on the cave where the giant was hiding. The party told Tharkus that they would take care of the straggler, but first, they needed an hour to find some new armor and prepare for the battle. Tharkus gave Mal a map of the mines a case with four healing draughts and asked him to return the remainder after they killed the giant.
The group entered the narrow, high-walled dwarven dug canyon that led into the mines. After following the winding gravelly path for a mile, the route widened into a central hub with several canyons leading off in several directions. Three dwarven miners huddled behind a large open metal crate. On the opposite side, a freshly dug cave mouth stood fifteen feet high, leading into shadow.
As the adventurers approached the miners, a large rock whizzed out of the cave opening, impacting the side of the metal crate with a loud clang. The two rangers and their animal companions flanked the opening as Apa and Stark took cover behind the crate, ready to snipe with spells and thunder cannon. The barbarian, ready to face the first frost giant he had fought since the destruction of the Freewind, shouted out in the giant language to the creature in the cave. The frost giant responded with threats of violence unless they let him leave unmolested, and continued to lob heavy rocks at anyone who could be seen in front of the cave.
Tiring of the obstinate giant’s tactics, Mal threw his crag cat pelt into the cave opening as a distraction. The blue skinned giant reacted to the flash of motion, throwing a boulder. As the pelt wrapped around the rock, harmlessly falling to the ground, Turin leaned around the corner, burying an arrow into giant’s shoulder. Seeing their opportunity, the group rushed inside, landing blow after blow. The sorcerer, Apa, cast an acid splash spell, coating the giant from groin to forehead, nearly killing the creature. Bran cast spare the dying, keeping the acid from killing him outright.
Mal dragged the unconscious, nearly dead giant outside of the cave, then the group woke the giant so that he could interrogate him. The giant told the barbarian that he was working for a frost giantess captain named Drufi, who in turn worked for the commander who destroyed Mal’s ship. The frost giant’s leader, Jarl Storvald, was looking for a man named Artus Cimber, a man whom they believed could help restore them to their rightful place of power in the world. The giants didn’t find Cimber in the mining town, and their prisoner told Mal that they would be attacking Bryn Shander next.
After Mal got every bit of information that he could possibly get from the critically injured giant, he shoved his sword into the giant’s neck, executing him. Apa searched the giant’s body, finding a large burlap sack tucked into its belt. Inside, the sorcerer found coin, several trout, and a live chicken, which the young teen immediately took a liking to.
The party returned to Tharkus, who thanked them for making the mines safe. He paid them their reward, then spoke privately with Apa about their business venture. The group wearily walked back to the town and rested for the evening, intending to set out for Icewind Dale in the morning. That night, the two rangers told stories of their past to one another, and Bran discovered Sir Richard, the former company member of the Shrine of the Shining Way and key to Bran’s past, was Turin’s mentor from years ago, though he had not been seen for many years. Turin recognized the black stone clasp of Bran’s cloak as similar to the one that Sir Richard wore every day.
That morning, Tharkus provided mounts for the entire party for their trek to Bryn Shander. The horses were hearty enough to survive the cruel climate of the Spine of the World. Setting off northeast along the Ten Trail, the five adventurers began their march for Bryn Shander.
After two days of travel, they reached Huddlestone, a tiny waystation on the route through the mountainous pass. The town was populated by mostly dwarves and gnomes, one of which asked to buy Apa’s chicken from him, as he had not seen or eaten a chicken in quite a long time. Mal asked several townsfolk if they had seen or heard word of giants in the area, but other than a few sheep going missing outside of town, quiet peaceful mountain living seemed to be the status quo. The adventurers continued their travels up the mountain pass the next morning.
On the third night of their travels (after Apa finally befriended his newfound pet chicken), the party camped under a clear, calm, and chilly star-filled night sky. As Malagoth stood watch, he noticed high in the sky a large oblong shaped cloud formation moving swiftly to the south despite the absence of wind. Muttering “giants” beneath his breath, the goliath continued his night watch.
Having passed beyond the mountains and into the flat tundra of Icewind Dale, the adventurers arrived at Bryn Shander on the afternoon of the fourth day. Situated atop a flat hill that allowed a view of the surrounding icy countryside, the town was contained within a thirty foot high stone wall, with towers flanking the city’s southeastern gates. As they climbed the hillside to the watchtowers, a female dwarf wearing a warm fur hat came out to greet them.
She introduced herself to the group as Augrek Brighthelm, deputy to Sheriff Markham Southwell. Reading from a prepared statement that made the other guards at the gate roll their eyes, Augrek welcomed them to Bryn Shander and told them of the marketplace, the stables just inside the gates, and of an tavern named Kelvin’s Comfort, which customers could buy a drink called Firebeard’s Firebrandy.
The adventurers warned the deputy of Drufi and the danger of a frost giant attack, and accompanied by Augrek, they entered the town and headed to the Town Hall to speak to Markham.
TO BE CONTINUED