Still sucking wind from their battle against the fire elemental and giant shaman, the Brotherhood decided to seek shelter in one of one of the anti-chambers they had previously ventured through. Taking out their bandages the heroes began to mend their hurts, with Manfred peeking around a corner on the the previous carnage the band had rent, to ensure nothing caught them unawares.
Less than 200 seconds after sitting down for their brief respite, Manfred turn and gave a whisper of alarm. “Orcs! At least three. They have started to raise an alarm.”
The wounded five-some gave a long look at each other and their hurts, each silently asking one and another if they had finally gambled too much, despair began to show on the heroes faces. Remembering, the lengthy text by Paq Petr the Younger and how immortal Artax was brought asunder by despair, Manfred knew what he must do. Leaping out from behind the corner, he unleashed a burst of flame amongst the patrol, catching two of the battle clad orc mercenaries in the flame.
Blood still flowing down his arm in a thick ooze, Dirstav sprinted forward as quickly as he could to engage the orc in nearest the Roughnecks. Ignoring the searing pain in his shoulder, the dwarf swung wildly with his mighty hammer. The orc managed to regain enough of his composure after the wizard’s blast to side step the reckless swing. The sizable chuck of stone the maul removed from the room’s wall, however, was more than enough to gain orc’s attention.
Seeing Dirstav once more brashly charge into danger, the mighty Ragnarr sighed and drew his holy blade. With a prayer to Bahumut, he rushed forward to meet the orcs. As he ran, Ragnarr saw a tiny ball of shimmering energy, crackling with static energy gently sped past his head. The static ball exploded amongst the orcs in a thunderous boom! The storm sorcerer had made his presence known on the field. As Ragnarr reached his target, he thrust Aecris hilt deep into an orc, leaving a bloody abyss in the creature as he wrenched the blade free.
Shocked by such savagery the orc mercenaries quickly regained their composure, two closest to the dragonborn paladin swung wickedly at him, their toothed battle axes bouncing harmlessly off his well marshaled defences. A third, previously unseen, threw a hand axe into the melee, though his aim was off and it sailed harmlessly past Ragnarr’s stout.
Unable to join the front line with his allies, Halor hung back and called forth the warmth of Pelor’s radiance to sear the remaining orcs. The burning smell of orc flesh seemed to bring about a temporary relief to Dirstav, his lifeblood still running down his left arm.
Few foes have been able to challenge the Roughnecks on a battlefield, and three orcs, no matter how well trained, stood little chance against the combined might of the all five heroes. In less than a count of five score, two more of the orcs lay dead; one’s head a good ten feat from where Aecris had severed it from its body, the other burned to a mound of char by fire and lightning magics.
Olskag, the fourth orc, seeing his comrades so quickly subdued, knew himself to be outmatched, turned and ran back into the deeper chambers of the fortress. Enraged by such a brazen act of cowardice, Ragnarr started to pursue, but thought otherwise when he looked back at his friends, particularly Dirstav. Leaning against a door jam, the dwarf’s left armed looked as if other a thin layer of skin and his chain-mail were the only things keeping it attached to his body.
Unable to prevent an alarm going up throughout the keep, the Roughnecks scampered back to another room, to mend their wounds. The minutes ticked by agonizingly slowly, however, the heroes were able to find their rest. Through the power of Halor’s deity the adventures wounds were mend. Divine energies coursed through Dirstav’s being as his near severed shoulder knit itself back together. Once the vicious gash was fully closed, Dirstav took a couple practice swings with his, complaining the his healed should felt off and not as strong as it should. Not daring to spend anymore time at rest, the Roughnecks were forced to press onwards.
Quickly, searching the room where they did battle with the fire elemental, the band discovered some minor treasures, and an iron box with an intricate lock. Examining the box Manfred was able to determine that it was either a ritual box, having something do with hill giants’ toe nails and coming of age ceremonies, as describe by Ractlin, or some type of magical communication box, with a twin elsewhere. Such devices, Manfred had dismissed not to exist as they were only describe in Frelkain’s mad rabbles, Magickel.
Halor, shot a look of disgust at the long winded human and scanned the hallway ahead. It appeared that the crude wood and mud brick walls of the fortress ended here and the new hallway was cut into the mountain itself. In the mountain hallway, Halor attempted to see if he could determine which of the many doors had seen the most the traffic, but such a task was beyond even the keen eyes of the elf. It would be Manfred, who, after his speech on the iron box, found the trail of the orc’s blood heading towards a huge set of double doors leading to the very heart of the hill giants’ keep. Halor sent Manfred a second look of disgust.
Not wanting to burst head long into a trap, the Roughnecks circled around the central chamber and found a side door in which to enter. Deciding amongst themselves that this might be their only chance to strike out at the giants’ leaders, they had to risk it.
Slowly opening the door, Ragnarr peered into a massive throne room. Four stone brazers, each standing five feet tall and spanning eight feet across, cast a greasy smoke into the vast chamber, illuminating a massive throne constructed of bone and animal hides. Sitting atop the throne was a large hill giant, wearing the trappings a of a ” chieftain ”. Beside him stood a shaman, the punitive orc, Olskag, between them. Blocking the heroes from the giant leader, were four hill giant thralls with war clubs at the ready.
“Its thum! ITS THUM”, Olskag’s shouts greeted the adventures as the chieftain’s court sprang into action. As the four thralls rushed to block the entrance to the chamber a disk of concentrated elemental lightnings flew into the room and erupted in the midst of the giants. Three of the hill giants slouched forward on their knees, crying out in agony as Signe’s wicked spell super-charged their neurons.
Ragnarr, seeing the fourth charging giant unaffected by the spell, sprinted into the room. With a single motion he drew his dragon decorated long sword and slashed opened the giant’s wind pipe, never breaking stride until he reach the hill giant witch doctor. Seeing the shaman’s totem raised in defence, Ragnarr pivoted on his lead foot and brought the other around in a sweeping roundhouse, catching the shaman in the shins. The force of the paladin’s plate encased greaves brought the creature to its knees.
Blood leaking from their ears, the thralls’ cries of pain suddenly ceased and in unison they slumped to the ground dead. Signe’s spell had completely fried their synapses creating a bloody slurry in the giants’ skulls.
Dirstav was next to sally into the room. Easily crossing the distance to the hill giant chieftain, he swung his great maul into the giant, however, his recently healed shoulder still lacked any real strength and the blow glanced harmlessly off the chieftain’s hide armour.
Halor seeing his friends easily deal with four of the giants ran into the middle of the room where he could quickly come to aid to any of his allies should the need arise. Taking a defencive stance, Halor murmured a prayer to his deity to sear the cowardly orc.
With the entire Brotherhood now standing in his throne room, the hill giant chieftain acted. Moving from his throne to a hidden leaver, he shot a twisted grin at the adventurers.
“Ye’re goin’ down!” Boasted the chieftain as he drew back the leaver. Rusted gears screeched as they ground into action and the giant’s horrid contraption sprung into motion.
“It’s a trap!” Manfred screamed as the floor gave way underneath Halor, Signe and Dirstav.
Distav, for the second time in as many days, found himself in free fall. As the speed of his decent quickened, the dwarf mentally measured the distance to the ground and right before impact calmly rolled into a ball, meeting the ground in a somersault and sprang to a fighting stance, his maul held ready at an angle in his good arm. Two nearby thuds revealed that Signe and Halor had not landed their fifty foot drops as gracefully.
From the ground, Halor could see the oily smoke from the above chamber ooze its way down into the vast cavern. Its light mixing with hazy glow of two large pools of sulfurous magma, creating strange shadows and an unworldly feeling throughout the room. Deep underground with the height of the mountain pressing around him the elf felt as if he were in the very heart of the mountain.
Growning up in the underground city of Kazraq Glenqav, Distav had once been used to the feeling the weight of a mountain over his head, but now the sensation left him a little on edge. Muttering a quick prayer to the Lady of Winter, thanking her for seeing fit to continue his time on this plane, he began to scan the vast room. A large shape was moving behind a pile of boulders to his right and off to his left, he could see Halor and Signe regaining their feet staring across the room. Following their eye lines, Dirstav too saw what held his friends’ gazes; Breven Foss leaned arrogantly against the far wall.
“Tsk, the heroes of Ardent,” Foss sighed as stepped forward, “So predictable. Earthshaker I will give your regards to the frost giant jarl, destroy these bumblers and then send me word of your victory.” Without another word, the pyromancer suddenly burst into blue flame and was gone.
As Foss’ magical flames died down, Signe saw the wall the evil sorcerer was standing next to begin to move. No not move, but walk towards the adventurers. It was not a wall at all, but living creature. A living creature the size of a small hill.
“Tremble before Earthshaker!” in a deep, gravelly voice roared the living hillside, and it charged towards the middle of the room. Like an avalanche the titan rumbled into the middle of the cavern, engulfing both Signe and Halor in its bulk.
High above the chaos in Earthshaker’s lair, Manfred sprang into action. Not bothering to think of any past scholars, great thinkers or dusty tomes, the wizard’s battle instincts took over. Pulling his robes up past his knees, he sprinted around the open pit and to opposite side of the room. Dodging the hill giant chieftain’s axe, Manfred conjured a wave of pure force energy and sent it crashing into the mighty chieftain. The power of the mage’s spell was so great that not only did it push the chieftain over the lip of the trap, but also the shaman. For a brief second the orc, Olskag, managed to grabbed the edge of the pit, whining pleas for help, before his strength gave out and he too dropped into cavern below.
Ragnarr, for all but a second was stunned, the throne room now emptied, save for Manfred. Edging towards the pit, he peered down to see a cluster of bodies, elf, giant, orc, dwarf, and some titanic monster in the centre of it. Even on their knees the combatants were still locked in battle. For a second Ragnarr thought he saw Dirstav bite the a hill giant’s arm, but at this distance he could not be sure. Not wanting to risk a leap from the upper chamber into the melee, Ragnarr, stepped back from the hole, and ran to the throne. Once at the massive chair, he began to secure a length of rope to it.
Rising to his feet, the taste of hill giant blood in his mouth, Distav swung his maul in wide arc. His full strength still not returned, and the blow bounced harmlessly off the chieftain and a second giant that had charged out from its hiding place behind a boulder. Amongst the giants’ mocking laughs, a serene calm came over Dirstav and he spoke; “I am Dirstav, servant of the Raven Queen. I promise you now, each of you will die before this day’s end.” This calm proclamation immediately drew the attention of the nearby giants and titan.
With the monsters’ attention drawn to Dirstav for the time being, Signe took this opportunity to teleport himself to safety behind a pile of rubble. Lying in the shadows, the sorcerer attempted to catch his breath, before beginning his next spell.
The enormous Earthshaker wanted nothing more than to crush the dwarf, a member of slave race dared to threaten him and mention one of the foul beings who had usurped power from the primordials, however, he was unable to reach the pathetic creature. Instead the mighty titan chose to vent his frustration on the elf lying beneath him; another puny creature bearing an icon of the usurpers. His two fists, each the size of an ale keg, slammed into the prone elf’s shield.
Nearby, another of the giant’s axe swings cut clean through Dirstav’s mail and bit deep into his flesh. Numerous new gashes bled freely from the giants’ attacks, which only the Reaper’s fervent faith allow him to ignore. His maul swings, lacking any real strength due to his shoulder, were unable to inflict any real hurts on the giants in return.
Frustrated that the tiny creature was able to block its punches, Earthshaker raised his fists once more to pound the elf. Out of the corner of his, Earthshaker noticed a sword, with its guard decorated with dragon’s wings, come flying from the hole above. The sword bounced harmlessly off the titan’s tough rock hide, but it did focus the creature’s attention upwards. Suddenly, from the lip of the hole leapt a knight dressed in shimmering gold scales. Its shield hand clutching a strand of rope and its other empty.
“For the glory of the Platinum Dragon!” Ragnarr bellowed as he sailed through the air towards the earth titan. Within five feet of the creatures head, he mentally summoned Aecris back to his hand and plunged it deep into the ancient being collar, holding on as his momentum opened a jagged gash down the titan’s chest.
Halor saw Ragnarr land a few paces from his position and take a fighting stance. In the smoky light, he could see Dirstav maybe forty spans away get stabbed by a giants board sword. The dwarf was once more covered in crimson, his calm expression through such carnage serving to reinforce Halor’s belief his old friend had lost all touch with reality. Of Signe and Manfred there was no trace, though Halor knew it would not be long before their spells made their presence known once more.
In the dark gloom of the cavern, Halor reached for his sun medallion and began to pray to Pelor. Slowly, from the very centre of the disk, a bright light began to radiate, growing larger and large until it spanned out four strides in any direction from Halor. Pelor had saw to grant his prays and had created a bastion from which he and his allies could defend.
His heart still pumping with adrenalin from his last bold manoeuvre, Manfred once more acted on his battle instincts. Remembering, his actions in the Keep on the Shadowfell, Manfred jumped from the safety of the throne room, and launched a burst a flame among the heads of the giants, before grabbing Ragnarr’s rope thirty feet from the ground. Securing the rope to his belt, Manfred prepared to fight the rest of the battle high above the hand-to-hand.
Olskag was terrified. He watched bug-eyed as the invaders were all around him killing giants; another of his huge masters dropped to ground, his head ablaze, as if to emphasis his terror. Sunlight seemed to surround two of them, another hung from the ceiling, the bald high elf was nowhere to be seen, and dwarf would not die. As he swung his war axe at the armoured dragonborn, he thought no amount of gold was worth this and began to look for a place to flee. Spying an open route to an exit shaft and he started to move in that direction. His attention focused upon his escape, Olskag did not notice the dragonborn’s long sword slip past his leather cuirass and plunge into his innards.
Signe Milnar stood in the looming shadows granted from Halor’s mighty prayer, he could see that the wild elf’s complete attention was focused upon his solar prayer. Watching he saw Dirstav step on a giant’s outstretched calve and then vault over the creature to take his place in the Pelorian radiance. He could see his allies converging upon the holy circle to continue the battle as a united force.
The time for action was now, Signe thought, leaving his place in the shadows and he ran past the earth titan, receiving a backhand from the monster for his efforts. Winded and hurting from the titan’s slap Signe began draw in the unseen elemental energies that he was so in tune with. Electricity began to crackling through the sorcerer’s robes, a million tiny sparks jumped from his body hairs. So full of energy seemed that he could feel it erupting from every pore in his body, Signe lifted his orb and staff.
“Get away from me!” Signe shouted and slammed his staff into the ground.
A blast of lightings and thunder spread out from Signe, rolling past his friends, but slamming into the giants and titan. Two more giants fell over dead,including the chieftain a savage electrical storm illuminating the inside of his skull. Exhausted from such an effort and feeling the effects of titan’s fist, Signe leaned heavy on his staff and basked in the light of Halor’s prayer.
Earthshaker felt betrayed, this was not the band of fools that Foss had said were coming. These were true warriors, true champions of Ardent, the likes of which had not been seen in centuries. He had seen the paladin slice through his warriors with its deadly blade. The elf a worshipper of the usurpers had spread its blasphemy with overwhelming authority in his realm. The dwarf, a slave race, had sustained more blows from his warriors than would fall a mountain. He glanced at the body of the chieftain Chieftain Grum, Earthshaker had known Chieftain Grum since the giant’s first raids, now the chieftain’s eye-sockets would not stop flickering with the eladrin’s blue lightning. And the human. The human with his fire hanging on that rope, constantly bombarding his face. Rage boiled over in the titan. They would all pay.
Still suspended thirty feet above the ground, Manfred had a clear vantage of the field below. Only the earth titan still stood and his four friends were clustered together in one of Halor’s prayer circles. As Manfred pointed both his wands at the monster and began to chant anew, he saw the creature’s head turn to look at him, its face twisted in rage. Managing to twist his body, Manfred dodge the first swipe, however, now swinging out of control, the wizard was unable to move his body out of the way of the second fist.
Blackness. The sensation of flying. Manfred did not know where he was, he felt his body slam into something. The ground. Skidding along the cavern floor, he came to rest less than a stride from one of the magma pools. Manfred exhaled; more blackness.
Ragnarr watched Manfred sail across the room, thankful the mage ended his skid before the pool of magma. He had noticed the titan’s movements had slowed since his fit of fury. He was growing tired. Ragnarr smiled. He waited and watched. When the creature slam a fist into Dirstav, Ragnarr uncoiled himself. Springing forward, he slashed Aecris once, twice, thrice across the titan’s exposed throat. Sheathing his blade as he landed, Ragnarr knew the battle was at an end.
Earthshaker , he who had held the line against Kord’s charge in the Primordial War, he who crushed the life out of Hilme, Champion of Ardent, he who had sought to return the titans to their rightful place in the Planes, fell over dead.