The party awoke from their rest to unexpectedly cold temperatures and a fog/mist over the woodland where they’d camped. They had not seen the lights during the night they’d come to investigate. Of more immediate concern, Cadwalider was still weak from his battering by the Stone Giants, and would need at least 3 days rest to better recover (his arm appeared to be permanently impaired).
After some discussion, they decided to follow the much reduced Kaz River towards a nearby peak in the hopes of finding more secure camping. They headed north again and began following it for a time until they came to a side stream feeding it from the south (the side they were on). Here they rested (Cadwalider needed frequent rests) and decided to have Havok try speaking with dead with the skull of the dead giant once more (with Iban assisting through use of comprehend languages). He asked it two questions: “How far is your lair from here?” “A league or perhaps much more” was the answer. “What is the direction to your lair?” “South.”
As the party prepared to move out, sudden howling nearby alerted them to four huge, white wolves that began rushing them form the south through the trees. Iban fireballed three of them before they could reach the party, but this did not stop their charge. The wolves rushed in and blasted most of the party with an intense frozen breath attack. But, they proved susceptible to fire from Aldeberon’s flaming sword. But it was a tough fight, with Wulfreed nearly slain before the party eventually gained the upper hand against them. One fled with a spring, but was cut down with a great throw of his axe by Iban. As the party came closer to them, one rolled over and murmured in a strange language – that Iban understood as his spell was still in effect, “may the ice swallow you all.”
The party now decided to turn south along the stream and towards the location the wolves had come from. That stream, however, soon curved west. The party crossed it to continue south but found a rough path paralleling it to the west and back east. They turned here to investigate, following the path for a few miles (it was little more than a path of broken trees and moved boulders). It finally ended at another stony peak, where they found a fortified construction. it consisted of huge blocks of squared stone flanking heavy steps leading to a 8′ tall stone door. There was neither window nor other opening. Several boulders lay strewn about and there was damage to the stonework everywhere – clearly giants had been bombarding the place, without success.
The party stopped short and Iban approached closer to parley (to ZZ’s annoyance, being the sole dwarf in the group). There was no answer for some time, until finally a strangely distorted, deep voice boomed out of nowhere. it demanded to know of the party, who attempted to curry favor by showing the head of the slain stone giant they carried. This eventually brought a second voice that seemed more interested in a parley (I forget the specifics, but they were reluctant to open up for you, and apparently the combination of a dwarf companion and giant head made the difference). Eventually the door was opened and the party admitted.
Inside they were met by a dozen or so dwarves, all well armed and armored. They were also short even for dwarves (under four feet), and swarthy. They were a rather grim and sketchy looking lot, but seemed genuinely excited by the giant head. Their master was Zakir and these were the Halls of Ibun-khim. Their people had lived in these halls for generations, they said, since before the coming of “the usurper dwarves.” There was clearly no love lost for the dwarves of the kingdom, and they did not seem to have contact with it. They were insular, somewhat unfriendly, and perhaps a touch inbred. They also did not seem overly numerous, though the party never learned the extent of their halls. Indeed, these halls seemed dingy, close, dark, and generally unpleasant — ZZ was particular incensed at how dark they were with soot and a lack of cleanliness uncommon for dwarves.
Over a rather unpleasant meal, their chieftain talked with them at length, as the party negotiated for shelter while they recovered from their various battles. The dwarves seemed uninterested until Cadwalider came into the mix, flashing his Dwarven Ring. That got the chief’s attention, as did a gift of gems, and soon the party worked a deal for a few days shelter and food in exchange for a promise to slay the chief of the Stone Giants. The magic-user, however, noted a lustful look from the dwarf at the ring that he could not fully hide. The dwarves knew nothing of lights in the sky and clearly did not care anything about them. Of note, the dwarves insisted that the giant chief lay to the northeast, not south as they learned from the dead giant head, though “other giants dwell all around these parts.”
The party were shown a somewhat spacious, if uncomfortable, room. They were brought food regularly (all dried and old, with sour beer to wash it down). At one point during their 3-day stay, they noted a slight movement of air in the room. They shouted for any intruder to show themselves, but only heard a slight click as of stone on stone. Fearing an intruder, they attempted to locate any possible secret doors, but found neither secret door nor intruder. Still, they were much more watchful after that. They also used this time to begin turning everyone in the party invisible, with Cadwalider (??) to be the last and remain visible to the last possible moment.
When the resting was completed, they once more met with the lord of Ibun-khim. His eldest son, Grym, would be their guide, he said, emphatically demanding that he make it home alive. The dwarves seemed unsurprised by the party’s invisibility (“clever,” they said). Now ready, they departed with the close-mouthed Grym taking them parallel to the giant-made path (he was a little chatty at times with Cadwalider, mainly, it seemed, to give him an excuse to look at the Dwarf Ring). Not far east from where they found the path it came to a set of four ancient standing stones, large but much faded. Their path ended at a more permanent path running northeast-southwest. At this point, Cadwalider lagged behind and cast detect invisibility. Sure enough, two dwarves were following them invisibly (they were like enough to be twins and had been present with the lord, and were likely his younger sons). Cadwalider informed Iban, who then proceeded to scare them off. Grym was not amused, saying that they were likely sent to keep him safe.
They began climbing another peak, eventually coming to a bend in the path. From here, Grym pointed to a cave opening above. That was it, he told them, and it was time for him to depart, which he did. They approached cautiously, noting three objects in the ground before it – they proved to be stakes with the heads of a bear, a dwarf, and a troglodyte on them. ZZ reverently removed the dwarf head as Cadwalider became invisible. Now all invisible, the party put hand on shoulders and began to head into the tall, wide cave, led by ZZ. They had not gone very far when they heard a rumble and ZZ spotted an immense bear in an alcove adjacent to the cave they were following. They backed out slowly and quietly, but the bear was alerted to them.
Cadwalider now drew a card from his Deck of War and summoned a monster — a giant spider appeared and he ordered it to attack the bear. The party followed shortly behind it, and slipped by as the bear spotted and attacked the spider. That fight was short, but the spider poisoned and killed the bear before it, too, died. Meanwhile, the party dodged a trio of other huge bears that rushed to their fellow’s aid, followed by a pair of stone giants. Fortunately, the dead spider seemed to satisfy the enemy that their sentry had been effective.
The party continued to the right from a y-intersection, avoiding a few side passages down which they could see light and here the low rumbling of giants speaking. They eventually came into a huge, dimly lit cavern. Inside was a lone, ancient crone of a giant tending an immense pot over a fire pit and doing desultory domestic tasks. On one wall were hung dozens of skulls, while another wall held tied-up prisoners, including a troll, troglodyte, a primitive human, and a young giant. The party waited hear for a little while to see if there was any sort of alert or messenger regarding the spider intruder, but none came. Trying another cave leading form the large one, they turned a corner and found the largest stone giant they’d yet seen, wearing a huge belt of gold and gems, with two females and a younger giant. They decided they’d found the chief.
They slipped out slightly and conversed quietly, their slight sounds covered by the giantess’s mumblings and putterings about. Once they’d decided on a plan, they slipped back around the corner to the giant chieftain’s lair. They first sealed the room by blocking the passage with a silence spell and an area of darkness from a wand. This done, Cadwalider hit them with a hold monster spell from a scroll, which paralyzed the Chieftain and a giantess. Other spells including a fireball from Iban softened up the survivors who rushed to attack the now visible party. But, they were quickly cut down by the rest of the party, who then slew the held monsters. Not one adventurer had taken so much as a scratch! They quickly plundered the room of a fair amount of wealth and cut the head from the giant chief. Then, they each quaffed a potion of invisibility and made their way back out. In the room with the Giantess, Iban slipped over to the human, but he seemed agitated by his presence (albeit invisible) so he did not try to set the primitive free.
They got as far as the Y-intersection when they noted that several giants and bears remained blocking the exit near the alcove, the former skinning the dead bear and the latter growling about it. Iban now blew the horn of Valhalla, causing his summoned Maerling warriors to go up the other side of the Y-intersection. The giants and bears, stunned by the appearance of enemies to the rear, rushed to attack them. As they passed, the party slipped down the tunnel and out into the afternoon sun.
They cleared the area quickly, not waiting to see the results of the giant-Maerling fight. They headed back to the crossroads at the standing stones. Here they rested briefly. They were leery of the dwarves, however, and decided not to seek their hospitality again. Rather, they took the rough path to their hold and tossed the giant chief’s head on their doorstep, then returned to the crossroad. From there, they turned southwest along the more traveled path. This led them to an open meadow covered with countless bones, some old and some less so. It was an eerie and disquieting place, and they passed through it quickly (the path was bone-free). A short distance form here, they slipped off the path to camp the night, as the sun was already below the mountains…
– Experience: 5558 XP (6114 XP for those getting +10%)