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Postscript on Elves, Dwarves, & Trolls

I’d noticed the odd relationship between the Elves, Trolls, and Dwarves concerning their evolution through mythology and into fantasy roleplaying as it stands today and decided to explore these commonalities and divergences. This is what led me to write Tabletop Meditations #11 through #13. However, there are few things that I’ve not said about elves, dwarves, and trolls such as bringing up the issue of half-races and sub-races including Orcs though I may have (or not as the case may be) touched on them.

The common points between each of the aforementioned races being their beginnings in mythology, their adoption into the realm of fairytale, adaptation into fantasy fiction, and further adaptation from fiction into the world of roleplaying seemed to me to be not only connected but related. Especially since they all originated in Northern European mythology and all at one time or another were also considered different types of fairy-folk.

They had all three begun as separate or mostly separate types of creatures where the lines of distinction in the original myths were still blurry. This is especially true of the elves and dwarves and then after their division between the trolls and dwarves though one was a diminutive race and the other essentially deformed giants. Note that I had avoided a discussion on giants in and of themselves as they are not as entwined with the dwarves and elves, though the birth of the dwarven race seems to owe directly to the lore of giants.

The subject of giants is also very broad and they really don’t change much throughout their existence whereas the trolls though they are essentially giants themselves noticeably change with time though their base nature does not. Trolls also possess several unique and readily identifiable features both physical and personality wise. There is also an abundance of material which brings these features to the forefront and serves as documentation of their evolution as a fantasy race. Essentially the giants’ path from myth to roleplaying is almost identical to if not a bit more plain than the trolls and so I chose follow trolls especially since they are more distinctly prevalent in myth and fairytale as archetypical villains and characters than giants. Not to mention the trolls’ evolution is more demonstrably entangled with that of the dwarves and elves.

Just as well, I also avoided any in-depth discussion of the sub-races derived from the 3 fantasy races only really mentioning the Orcs and Drow, both descendants of the elves. This was mainly so I could keep focus on the pieces and as the sub-races are simply variations on the core race getting directly to that core without explicitly excluding them was the best strategy. In roleplaying games these 3 races are used as a foundation to create variations off of, the elves in particular as demonstrated by the 2 most prevalent and popular of these which happen to be the Orcs and the Drow.

Orcs originally started as a sub-race of elves but embodying all of the opposite negative characteristics of the elves’ positive but the Drow have usurped that role in the minds of roleplayers. I’m not going to write an article solely dedicated to Orcs as it would be very short though there is an overabundance of information on them starting from Tolkien onward but most of it is supernumerary. As the Orcs are not only associated with the elves but derive, especially in Tolkien’s Legendarium, from them the story of their evolution is somewhat redundant with that of the true elves though the etymology of the name is interesting it’s also somewhat problematic.

Orcs are portrayed as a savage, clannish species that is barbarically tribal even though some authors and game designers try to inject some nobility into them, either through the design of their culture or the portrayal of individual characters as racial/cultural representatives of the more noble/human aspects of the Orcish. They have and are undergoing their own evolution in the world of roleplaying fantasy seen specifically in certain attempts at humanizing them. A perfect example is demonstrated in the Palladium Fantasy RPG. “In the right group, orcs, can be as fiercely loyal, heroic and courageous as a palladin [sic]. Orcs of good or aberrant alignment will never betray a friend or ally, or desert him at a moment of need.” [Siembieda, Kevin. 1998. Palladium Fantasy RPG: Second Edition. Palladium Books Inc. MI. 302]

Of course, this new humanization is built on top of the old and familiar. “They have a reputation for being dull-witted, muscle-bound brutes with a wicked disposition.” [Siembieda. 302] The Drow on the other hand are a more recent invention of Gary Gygax for Dungeons & Dragons and are essentially the literal visual and spiritual inversion of classic elves rather than an inferior and corrupted reflection that are the Orcs.

Half-races are another related subject which I also failed to touch upon although they play a prominent part in Tolkien’s Legendarium especially where half-elves are concerned. “The sons of Eärendil were Elros and Elrond, the Peredhil or Half-Elven. … At the end of the First Age the Valar gave to the Half-elven an irrevocable choice to which kindred they would belong. Elrond chose to be of Elven-kind[.] … To him therefore was granted the same grace as to those of the High Elves that still lingered in Middle-earth[.] … Elros chose to be of Man-kind and remain with the Edain; but a great life-span was granted to him many times that of lesser men.” [J.R.R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings (1991 ed.). HarperCollins Publishers. Appendix A. 1010]

Basically, men and elves can interbreed but the resulting offspring can choose between an elvish immortality or a slightly enhanced mortal span of life, at least according to Tolkien. Of course, he also mentions another half-race in his work which really doesn’t serve much of an explicit role overall, these are the half-orcs. “Among the Dunlendings who, in the Third Age of Sun, came to Saruman’s banner of the White Hand in Isengard, there were some whose blood, by the sorcery of Saruman, became mixed with that of the Orcs and Uruk-hai. These were large Men, lynx-eyed and evil, who were called Half-orcs.” [Day, David. 1979. A Tolkien Bestiary. Mitchell Beazley Publishers Limited. 128]

Both of these human-hybrid races are much beloved and perhaps a little overused in tabletop roleplaying though I guess there could be an argument here to logically classify both half-races as half-elves. This means that somehow the genetics between humans and elves and an elven sub-race, the Orcs, are somehow compatible. A taxonomy between these races, or is it species, might prove a bit problematic but this can be dismissed since the godhead of Tolkien’s Middle Earth created them all in the first place, so magic. Guess that helps to explain half-dragons too.

The attempt to fit fantasy races into modern-day taxonomy is beside the point failing the concept that, for one reason or another (often essentially irrational) they need to exist within that fictional world. Essentially, a half-race is a plot element or story device rather than a rational element to be quantified or scientifically explained.

Fantasy races as a whole being more than a collection of character traits and in terms of tabletop gaming, bonuses and abilities in the context of story and/or setting. This is especially useful to keep in mind when abandoning Tolkien altogether. Basically, when explaining half-races, species, and taxonomy in a fantasy setting it comes down to just utilizing the minimal amount of rationalization necessary for suspension of disbelief and patch the holes with myth and magic or good-sounding pseudoscience to explain it away.

My aim in writing these 3 articles was to explore the roots of these 3 archetypical fantasy races which are still an integral part of popular fantasy today, their entanglements, and how that shaped the current concepts about these mythic creatures while touching upon the more interesting questions that swirl about them and the concept of fantasy races. The common roots of elves, dwarves, and trolls continue to twist through myth, fairytale, fantasy-fiction, and even each other continually budding off and sprouting new ideas and concepts from the old.

Trolls

They have been and are, from their very inception, the consummate villain whether they be fierce beasts bent on random destruction and death, or mystical monsters that snatch away the hero’s loved ones for some nefarious purpose, or a supernatural arbiter of an unbelievably harsh but ironic justice.

The malformed embodiment of pure malevolence, the flesh-eating troll populates the many worlds of fantasy roleplaying serving almost solely as an adversary ready to slay and be slain. Trolls bring to mind the image of a ravaging giant obviously more beast than humanoid seemingly mindless in all its endeavors save the intent to inflict harm, at least in the minds of today’s fantasy roleplayers.

A troll is a predatory giant demi-humanoid with claws and fangs found in Nordic & Scandinavian myth and in the roots of Norwegian fairytales where they stand as vicious vestiges of an elder and chaotic world. In the Encyclopedia of Fantasy they are defined as: “MONSTERS of Scandinavian MYTH and NORDIC FANTASY; related Shetland myths call them trows. They have affinities with GIANTS (size, general malevolence, fondness for eating human flesh) and earth ELEMENTALS: they are associated with mountains and cold, and often turn to stone on exposure to daylight[.]” [Clute, John & Grant, John. 1997. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. St Martin’s Press, New York. Trolls.]

They have taken many forms from their inception in Nordic lore through to their adaptation into their fairytale roles as monsters with a penchant for abduction and cannibalism; at one time they were even able to fly. “Besides these [Elves/Dwarves] are the Trolls, who fly hither and thither carrying bundles of sticks, and have power to change their shape.” [Mackenzie, Donald A. 1912. Teutonic Myth and Legend. Kessinger Publishing (Reprint). 13]

The evolution of the concept of trolls has parallels to that of Elves. Like elves they matriculated through lore into fairytales and then into fantasy and Sword & Sorcery fiction then ultimately from there into tabletop RPGs. Also like elves they seem to have had a less than active role in the myths that birthed them serving mainly as an “off-camera” enemy to a certain hammer-wielding god. “[…] Thor was away Fighting trolls and troll women and their wolfchildren in Iron Wood[.]”[Crossley-Holland, Kevin. 2015. The Norse Myths. The Folio Society Ltd., London. 121]

At their beginnings they were closely associated with the gods, as adversarial legions, and there was little distinction between them and dwarves aside from a not yet strictly defined size difference. “In Icelandic myth malignant one-eyed giants, and in Scandinavian folklore mischievous DWARFS, some cunning and treacherous, some fair and good to men […]. They lived in hills and were wonderfully skilled in working metals, and they had a propensity for stealing, even carrying off women and children. […] Their name is Old Norse for ‘demon’.” [Rockwood, Camilla, ed. 2009. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, 18th Edition. Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd. Trolls]

The mythic roots of the troll, both as a fantasy race and monster, penetrate deeply into the mythology of Northern Europe (Norse mythology, the folktales of Lapland and Norwegian fairytales). At their beginnings in Norse myth they were giants born of evil taking their place as the enemies of the gods, this probably the apex of their imaginary existence. “Now by divination did Odin come to know that in Ironwood the Hag, Angerboda (Gulveig-Hoder) was rearing the dread progeny of Loke with purpose to bring disaster to the gods. Three monster children there were – Fenrer, the wolf; Jormungand, the Midgard serpent; and Hel. From these the Trolls are sprung.” [Mackenzie. 90] It is interesting that in the Norse mythology the trolls were the malformed offspring of godling monsters born of the trickster god Loki thereby distancing the trolls from the gods a step further than even the beasts of Ragnarök those who are destined to slay the gods and the world.

The classical root of the troll twists from myth into folktales and eventually fairy tales particularly those of Scandinavia. They were adopted by folktales in Lapland in the far north of Finland as supernatural antagonists then collected into fairytales in Norway at various times especially in the 19th century with Asbjørnsen & Moe being the most notable today of those collector-editors of folk & fairytale aside from the German Brothers Grimm. In the Norwegian tales trolls were synonymous with mortal fear of the dark and wild places of the world. “Every Norse child had heard […] that giant trolls laired under country bridges, preying on livestock, shepherds, and farmers. […] The Lapps gave a wide berth to the northern mountains, assuming that trolls chose places large enough in scale to suit their size. The same wariness of mountains applied to other countries, and trackless forests were also regarded as unsafe.” [Constable, George ed. 1985. The Enchanted World: Giants and Ogres. Time-Life Books. Alexandria, Virginia. 86]

Trolls invaded vast tracts of wasteland and began to take up residence in the familiar haunts of fairy-folk, wild woods, dark forests, shadowy canyons, windswept mountains, and occupied ruined castles and old shanties in the middle of nowhere. “In the old days, the Lapps rarely ventured north towards the Arctic coast: They were hardy people, but all knew of the land in the north called Trollebotn, or Troll Bottom, a wind-swept waste haunted by huge, murderous beings. No Laplander cared to face those trolls, some of them three-headed, some with more hideous deformities, all malevolent and filled with hatred for humankind.” [Constable. 79]

In these tales the concept of trolls is similar to elves in that their, the trolls’, identity merged with that of fairies becoming a part of the realm of fairy for a time even exhibiting the level of mystical power associated with such beings. However, trolls were always nasty. They ran the gamut from being vicious supernatural predators with awesome magical powers to simply giant slavering beasts that happened to be very formidable against even the strongest warrior.

The fairy tales of note concerning trolls are, at least in my opinion – Three Billy Goats Gruff (the troll lives under a bridge and threatens the titular Billy goats), The Ash Lad who had an Eating Match with the Troll (where a farm boy tricks a troll into committing hari-kari), Soria Moria Castle (where trolls  with 3 and even 9 heads make an appearance), The Golden Bird (where trolls are caretakers of wondrous treasures & enchanters of a prince to whom they’ve cursed into the form of a fox), The Companion (troll-hags are slain and there’s a potential troll-wife in a princess who was described to “wear a troll-hide” but was restored by the hero who beat the hide off of her).

In these tales trolls also seem to exhibit a trait which definitely distinguishes them from their true-fairy brethren, they are viciously, even sadistically, vindictive.  For example in the tale titled Troll’s Stone – After her and her husband’s failure to lure any herdsmen or the village priest to their cave so that they could eat them, the she-troll sends her husband to the frozen lake to catch fish where he promptly lays on the ice, he’s lazy, and freezes to death while fishing and as he was late with dinner his wife decides to go out to find him. Finding instead his frozen corpse on the ice and unable to drag his body back home she promptly snatches up his catch and: “Before she went, she said, “A curse on thee, thou wicked lake! Never shall a living fish be caught in thee again.” Which words have indeed proved fatal to the fishery, for the lake since then has never yielded a single fish.” [Booss, Claire ed. 1984. Scandinavian Folk & Fairy Tales. Crown Publishers, Inc. 630]

Trolls always seemed to direct this particularly vicious side towards humans especially those who refused to hold fast to ancient traditions and arcane treaties with the elder world of the trolls even as the trolls themselves faded and sank into the shadowed places of the earth.

The Trolls in Resslared best exemplify the balance of the trollish sense of justice. In the tale the local trolls “were wont to borrow food and drink, which they always returned two-fold.” [Booss. 282] The people of the village had a certain understanding with them and lived with the trolls peaceably. Eventually of course, the old residents died off and new people began to replace them who were not as “charitable” as their predecessors while the trolls lived on. Eventually, as fairy tales go, “[o]ne day the “mother” of the Trolls went, as was her custom of old, to a cottage, and asked the housewife if she could lend her a measure of meal.” [Booss. 282] Needless to say the housewife refused this and every additional request of the old troll lying that all her cans were empty, her cows farrow, and the like. So as justice is served in such stories: “The housewife laughed in her sleeve, and thought that she had escaped the Trolls cheaply; but when she inspected her larder it was found that she had really told the truth to the Troll woman. […] Ever after that the plenty that had heretofore been was wanting, until finally the people were compelled to sell out and move away.” [Booss. 283]

A perfect example of pure viciousness on the part of a troll is in the tale The Trolls in Skurugata – Once a hunter named Pelle Kant trespassed on troll territory. “It is generally understood that Trolls, when their territory is encroached upon by mankind, withdraw to some more secluded place. So when Eksjö was built, those that dwelt in the vicinity moved to Skurugata, a defile between two high mountains whose perpendicular sides rise so near to each other as to leave the bottom in continual semi-darkness and gloom.” [Booss. 251]  It is in this place that the hunter, Pelle, decided to go shooting and then as the hunt was unsuccessful cursed and raved aloud that the trolls had cursed his gun. So a troll woman makes an appearance and offers a poodle for him to shoot instead. He ties the unfortunate animal to a tree and shoots it through the head only to discover afterward that it was actually his own child wrapped in a dog’s hide. The troll woman then rewards him with a dollar piece which always reappears in his pocket when spent which he proceeded to use to drink himself to death.

Starting at about 1841 Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe collected together folktales from around Norway many of which concerned trolls. In these tales Christianity has a significant part to play representing an opposing force to elder and very hostile pagan forces (embodied primarily in the trolls). It is the wave of the new world overwhelming the old fully represented in the struggle between the hero and the troll(s). Once again it seemed that the trolls were nearing new heights as potential opposition to the divine though now even the sound of church bells could hurt and even kill them. “Should they be within the hearing of church bells, or otherwise fall under religious influence, their power is destroyed.” [Booss. xiv] The new power of Christianity was overpowering the older world of faerie.

Of course in these tales trolls were also granted the ability to sniff out “Christian blood” as well as having certain thirst for it. In the story The Boys Who Met the Trolls in the Hedal Woods – “The boys were all ears, and listened well to hear whether it might be an animal or a Forest Troll which they heard. But then it started snorting even harder and said, “I smell the smell of Christian blood here!”” [Asbjørnsen, Peter Christen & Moe, Jørgen. 1960. Norwegian Folktales. Pantheon Books, NY. 10] Trolls were the enemy from the elder chaos opposing the emerging god of light and its new order. “All at once the Troll came, and he was so huge and burly that he had to go sideways to get in through the door. When he had got his first head in, he shouted, “Ugh! Ugh! I smell the smell of Christian blood!”” [Asbjørnsen & Moe. 70] – from the tale Soria Moria Castle.

It is at this point that J.R.R. Tolkien makes his appearance once again in the ephemeral world of faerie and that of the elves, dwarves, and trolls. He redefined their birth as a race of pure unadulterated evil. “It is thought that in the First Age of Starlight, in the deep Pits of Angband, Melkor the Enemy bred a race of giant cannibals who were fierce and strong but without intelligence. These black-blooded giants were called Trolls, and for five Ages of Starlight and four Ages of Sun they committed deeds as evil as their dull wits allowed.” [Day, David. 1979. A Tolkien Bestiary. Mitchell Beazley Publishers Limited. Trolls]

He refined the behavior of trolls including their level of stupidity, to be fair they were not very bright in the fairytales either (see The Ash Lad who had an Eating Match with the Troll for example), their strength, and their raw savagery. “They desired most a diet of raw flesh. They killed for pleasure, and without reason – save an undirected avarice – hoarded what treasures they took from their victims.” [Day. Trolls] The appearance he ascribed to his trolls though was not carried over into the popular figure of the troll but which did link the creatures more closely to the earth than they had been since their inception though he did leave their vulnerability to sunlight untouched. “Trolls were rock hard and powerful. Yet in the sorcery of their making there was a fatal flaw: they feared light. The spell of their creation had been cast in darkness and if light did fall on them it was as if that spell were broken and the armour of their skin grew inwards. Their evil soulless beings were crushed as they became lifeless stone.” [Day. Trolls] A curse which is prominent in gory detail in certain tales.

“Just then, the sun appeared at the rim of an eastern ridge. […] With a hoarse cry […] Her great bulk swelled, until her eyes were black and her skin taut and shiny. Then she burst in a blinding spray of blood. Slowly, the loose skin collapsed and crumpled toward the rock edge, shriveling into a boulder that still bore the troll wife’s face, its mouth wide in a silent scream. Trolls could not survive the sun. It turned them to stone.” [Constable, George. 1985. The Enchanted World: Night Creatures. Time-Life Books Inc., Chicago, Illinois. 28]

Tolkien did cement their size and strength in the popular imagination however which was then further refined in a later work of sword & sorcery and this is where current tabletop roleplayers will start to recognize the monster that stalks the underworlds of their imaginations. The tough specimen of troll found in the novel Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961) by Poul Anderson is the model used by Gary Gygax for his troll “which regenerates even as it is hacked apart and must be burnt piecemeal.” [Clute. Trolls] That very work is listed under “inspirational and educational reading” in Appendix N of the Advanced D&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979) evidence of its direct adaptation by Gygax.

“Trolls are horrid carnivores found in nearly every clime. They are feared by most creatures, as a troll knows no fear and attacks unceasingly. Their sense of smell is very acute, their infravision is superior, and their strength is very great.” [Gygax, Gary. 1978. Advanced D&D Monster Manual. TSR Games. 97] This is the very image of what is now considered a troll reimagined as a nightmare predator and fodder-monster of RPGs.

The scaly stone-hide ascribed by Tolkien now fully shed and their subhuman appearance now exaggerated to its fullest. “Troll hide is a nauseating moss green, mottled green and gray, or putrid gray. The writhing hair-like growth upon a troll’s head is greenish black or iron gray. The eyes of a troll are dull black.” [Gygax. 97] They are also mostly bestial and are more brutish and dangerous than ever. “A troll attacks with its clawed forelimbs and its great teeth. […][A]fter being damaged, a troll will begin to regenerate. […][T]his regeneration includes the rebonding of severed members. The loathsome members of a troll have the ability to fight on even if severed from the body; a hand can claw or strangle, the head bite, etc. Total dismemberment will not slay a troll, for its parts will slither and scuttle together, rejoin, and the troll will arise whole and ready to continue combat. To kill a troll, the monster must be burned or immersed in acid, any separate pieces being treated in the same fashion or they create a whole again […].” [Gygax. 97]

In the popular imagination Trolls lurk in ill-lit (often slime-plagued) subterranean lairs and are ugly, smelly, often giant, and always viciously evil. They are not as codified as the Elves though, aside from the ideas of the sun turning them into stone and their eating flesh. Most trolls found in roleplaying games have retained the ability to regenerate found in Gygax’s AD&D, however this ability is not always carried over. Strangely enough, the popular concept of trolls has splintered the magic-slinging elder-world denizen of fairytales from the monster-enemy concept of sword & sorcery and RPGs to the point that trolls have bifurcated into two separate species: the RPG Troll and the troll of fairy-stories.

Born in the cold forge of Nordic myth trolls trickled down through history in folktales and then fairytales where they served as the hideous man-eating monster lurking about the wastes at the edge of civilization just waiting to snatch away women and eat livestock and children. Sword & Sorcery fiction trans-mutated them into veritable juggernauts, more than a match for any warrior who would dare confront them face to ugly face. They are the embodiment of every repugnant aspect of mankind sitting in their lairs among the hoard of treasure looted from the corpses of their victims, striking out blindly at the sunlit world in which they have no place.

Trolls like elves were transformed and added to by storytellers and writers until they reached their core forms in fantasy games today but unlike elves they seemed to spring forth fully formed very close to what can still be recognized as (if not already named) a troll being thought up from the ether as antagonistic monsters from the very beginning.

A Giant in Xuun Pt.12: Tower of Darkness

The threshold where Nezor found himself extended as a ramp falling just about 10 ft. shy ofPassage into darkness the statue which stood at the center of the rather large ground floor chamber. It was lit dimly by a dull blue light that hid most details and seemed to deepen even the slightest shadow and intensify the darkness. The room was of an alien design its floor was like a bowl its surface sinking towards the center and in place of a staircase was a smooth ramp winding up to a balcony shaped into the likeness of large serpent with fangs bared. Set in the sculpted eyes of the balcony were a pair of fire rubies which glared with an angry red light adding a tinge of menace to the eerie chamber as it mixed with the source-less blue glow.

The statue which dominated the center of the room was only about half of Nezor’s height but was masterfully wrought of black marble with a pair of glinting ruby eyes. It was of a stylized Naga warrior armed with a master-work steel pole-sword. Phenox and Zacha having bypassed the entryway trap came to either side of the giant. Nezor strode to the end of the entryway ramp and stepped hesitantly onto the depressed floor. Phenox moved around him and to the rear of the black statue at the bottom of the spiraling ramp-way.

Suddenly the statues ruby eyes lit with a violent magic red glare and it struck with its steel pole-sword at Nezor whom was barely able to move in time to parry the blow. The giant replied with a titanic club strike followed with a massive backswing either of which blow could’ve brought any flesh and blood opponent down. The statue was chipped in a few places. Zacha cast a spell and filled the air around the statue with dancing glittering multi-colored lights to no effect whatsoever. Phenox made his way up the ramp towards an archway he had spotted at the top behind the snake-head balcony.

Nezor again struck valiantly at the animated statue knocking of some larger bits of oily black marble. Then a shadow beast stretched from the darkness behind Zacha striking at her with its inky claws. She dodged. Another unexpectedly emerged from the shadows near Nezor whose armor absorbed the damage and he in turn stomped on the beast nearly killing it. A third clawed at Phenox engaging him in battle on the spiral ramp. Nezor in a desperate attempt to reduce the number of enemies swept his club in a wide arc (fortunately Zacha was behind him) slaying both shadow beasts within his reach and cracking the statue a little more.

Nezor once again parried the slash of the pole-sword just before the veil of darkness fell over the whole room blotting out all vision and light. It was an opaque and nearly palpable darkness as if pure shadow had been dumped into the air like ink in water. Zacha shouted out, “It’s a Globe of Darkness!” She paused for only one tense second, “he’s here.”

Phenox: “Shadow Scale right!?”

The grim-warrior continued to fight blindly and then killing the shadow beast with a lucky blow proceeded up the ramp to the balcony. He could hear the mystery mage slithering over the stone floor from the archway up there. Nezor in a panic made another wide arc with his weapon cracking what he assumed was the statue. Then he felt the pole-sword drive itself through his armor and deep between his ribs. His pained groan echoed across the black chamber.

Suddenly it felt as if the very air that surrounded Nezor had congealed and time seemed to melt into a thick morass. He felt the magic take hold of him, he was a victim of a slow spell. The giant could hear Phenox shouting something but his voice was distorted, slowed down. No doubt the grim-warrior was a victim of the spell as well. Nezor again swept with his club and in his frustration strained his muscles to the point of agony. A sudden bolt of lightning arced through the room illuminating Phenox as it struck him but nothing else. Then it was gone.

Zacha (whispering to the giant): “I’m gonna swap places with him, so he’ll be right behind you okay?”

The giant wound up his strike and stopped suddenly when he heard Zacha’s voice scream pathetically, “it failed I’m still here, still HERE!”

Nezor was barely able to deflect an incoming blow presumably from the statue’s pole-sword. He replied with a crushing blow but could tell the thing was still standing. He wound up again and suddenly couldn’t move a muscle. Another spell had taken hold of him and he was unable to move or defend himself. Another flash of lightning revealed the death of Zacha’s familiar who was engaging the cloaked figure on the balcony. Then Zacha cried out in pain and the giant could hear the sound of her corpse flopping onto the tower floor.

Nezor felt the searing pain of the pole-sword as it jabbed deep into his thick neck again and again cutting deeper each time. He felt his own blood run down his chest and fill his shiny plate-mail. All the sounds in room began to drown in the darkness and seemed so very far away then a horribly sharp pain stung into his neck and rippled throughout his body. The last thing he heard was the crunch of steel meeting bone.

The End

 

Campaign Played between October 2015 and January 2016.

A Giant in Xuun Pt.11: Demon Day of Summer

The hill-giant Freeman Nezor, now officially Guardsman Nezor, stood proudly in the parade ground in front of the Southgate city guard headquarters. It was the happiest morning of his life though it was very damp out and the oppressive heat of the previous day was already mixing with that of the new. A tear almost dropped his eye as he was presented an armband striped blue and yellow signifying his promotion to the rank of captain of the guard by Lt. Krolin himself. If the air hadn’t been so still the giant would swear that his own cloak was wafting heroically behind him. It was a reward for foiling a burglary at the apothecaries down the street from the Troll a day or so just before he reported for training.

With the brief ceremony over Lt. Krolin began shouting his orders and the entire troop of new guardsmen began their rigorous drills and week-long training regimen. Occasionally it included jaunts into the swamp and a fair amount of mass-organized weapon-katas using the standard pike and long-shield. For most of the recruits it was hell for Nezor on the other hand it was a breeze. He never seemed to stop smiling. At the end of the seven-day stint of forced marches and wading through waist-high (or in Nezor’s case knee-high) muck and a very well-deserved bath at the local brothel, for Nezor it was in the carriage park of said establishment, Lt. Krolin took him with the usual entourage in tow to the Whiskey Troll to celebrate the giant’s new rank and probably in part to cement him as a permanent fixture of the Southside city guard. It wasn’t long before a bar-fight between two opposing pirate crews broke out but the guards didn’t interfere as they were busy celebrating.

The day after that and more towards the evening as the orange-gold and rapidly reddening rays of the dusk weakly flooded the entryway of the Troll, Phenox walked in with a curious looking companion unknown to Nezor. He guided the new potential addition to the ‘goodfellows’ up to the giant who was in his usual place flanked by his “men” on either side. He was signing up “new recruits” for his command. The scroll rolled out over his table even had several sloppy black ‘X’s on it.

Phenox introduced the new addition as Xxoosha, he struggled to pronounce her name as he was not fluent in Scael Split-Tongue. Nezor was having none of it as he despised Nagas, they had taken out Cantra after all and this one had black scales. He had heard that Scaels with black scales were marked by “other forces”. Xxoosha the Black Scael smoothed over the giant’s concerns in the course of the night through sheer charm. The giant took to calling her Zacháah, it was the natural pronunciation of her name in his hill-lander drawl.

Zacha was a mage and a mighty fine flutist, her familiar on her shoulder which appeared much like a small sized monitor-lizard with draconic wings; it was never far from her when not on her shoulder. The newly hired mage wore a hooded purple cloak and seemed eager enough to join whatever mission Phenox had planned out but he was reluctant to reveal exactly what that may be as “there were too many ears abouts”. The giant shrugged his shoulders. He was confident that whatever it was he could simply stomp, smash, or crush his way through it.

Another uneventful day passed, the Lt. was running forced marches every other day and at the end of the day the giant and the other ‘goodfellow’, he still wasn’t quite sure about the mage because you simply couldn’t trust that type, were drinking in the Troll. Zacha was piping on her flute, a nice and cheerful medley; someone tossed her a few coppers. It appeared to be another typical evening in the Troll until a massive explosion somewhere outside shook the walls. The patrons rushed outside to see what had happened.

The street was littered with shattered stone and disintegrate adobe. A tower that had overlooked the street around an alley from the Troll was partially destroyed and flying on its wings of glittering mist was what appeared to be some sort of frost demon. Nezor pointed ‘dog-smasher’ at the howling creature and before he could shout, “stop in the name of the law” the creature had landed heavily in the cobbled street before him and the grim-warrior Phenox; Zacha who had been behind them slithered for cover behind a large crate.

The demon was nearly the size of Nezor, about 20 ft tall, and had wings that seemed to be mostly immaterial composed of poisonously glittering mists. It had a pair of curling horns as jagged as bent icicles on its malformed skull-like head and claws on its hands just as formidable. A hideous bluish light shone from its empty eye-sockets and from between the spaces in its glassy ribs. For the most part the creature was bluish-white in color. The frost-demon bore a battle-axe of ice in one of its hands and in the other it held the bleeding corpse of an apprentice mage. A handful of guards charged the beast and it spat a ball of blue energy at them which simultaneously froze them solid, reduced, and blew them away like a gust of snow. The gathered crowd immediately panicked fleeing in all directions.

It was Nezor’s “men” that acted first, Oxwulf dropped his pike and ran back into the Troll, Derig charged the demon. The monster responded with a swing of its axe horribly wounding the boy who dropped to the ground at its hoofed feet.

The giant roared and rushing in put all of his power behind his carven great club smashing out most of its ribs in the first hit then on the backswing the entire beast shattered like an ill-conceived ice-sculpture filled with blue-flame and exploded. Nezor was left standing there triumphant but a little frostbit, Derig was down and unconscious but otherwise untouched by the demon’s death throe. The giant acting quickly snatched up the boy’s body and rushed him to the local apothecary for immediate treatment. After Nezor was assured that the young guard would recover by the old apothecary, he left him there and returned to the scene to find the Lt. and his men already there.

The investigation lasted for only about 2 hours. A group of elder mages from the Obsidian Guild had appeared all of them old men in plain but clean brown robes with golden eye on a brown escutcheon embroidered on the breast. Their fingers and necks were bedecked in gold however and each also carried finely carved and lacquered staffs some bearing gems. They were a little indignant and rude towards the Lt. until the giant stepped in with a disapproving glare. They got cooperative real quick. It appeared that they had no information on the case as the apprentice was unknown to them and he assuredly wasn’t licensed to practice magic within city limits.

After the investigation was finished Lt. Krolin commended Nezor on his conduct and promised him a medal for his slaying of the rogue demon. The hill-giant was in the clouds as he strutted back to the tavern. The new trio reconvened at the Whiskey Troll.

Over some whiskey and while Zacha noodled with her flute, Phenox talked with Capt. Nezor about that new caper he had been planning for some time now. It concerned an evil mage, he emphasized the evil part, and the horrible things he was doing under the noses of the city guard such things as hiring foolish young mages under the impression that they would be his apprentices then having them do suicidal things like summoning demons too powerful for them to control. This mysterious and evil mage was known only as Shadow-Scale. Of course Phenox neglected to mention the contract out on the mages life that he was holding.

Nezor stood up suddenly, held his club above his head, and declared, “I dub thee Dog-Smasher-Bull-Crusher AND demon-SLAYER!” The entire place erupted in a riotous cheer. The giant turned to his stunned companions and said, “let’s do some JUSTICE”.

It wasn’t long after that the 3 were standing in the dark underneath the moon-shadow of Shadow-Scale’s tower. It was a relic from another time, a crude and strange structure fashioned from what seemed to be a single titanic stone and the few orifices in its face including its main door were fashioned in the Scael fashion of things, circular and deep. Just a few moments previously they had fought their way through four monsters with skull-like faces, shriveled skin, and hoofed feet. The giant assumed that they too were demons and seemed to be guarding the alleys that led to the tower. He was determined to take this guy down vigilante style.

Phenox (kneeling by the recessed entryway and inspecting the ground): “Yup. There’s a trap door here. Guess we better…”

Nezor with an earth-shaking roar ran past his companions and leapt at the bronze double door jumping over the supposed trap-door hurling himself straight into it. Either the doors or his shoulder would shatter. For just a second he feared as he felt the doors flex only slightly that he would be catapulted backwards onto his back and onto the trap-door. Fortunately, the timber bar that held the door gave with a sharp crack and the giant landed heavily just inside on the smooth stone threshold as the metal doors swung open wide with a crash.

To be Concluded…

A Giant in Xuun Pt.10: Snake & Dagger

It was another humid morning in the Whiskey Troll Tavern and it was late morningDagger and snake assassins guild mark by the time Phenox and Cantra came rolling in looking for their hill-giant companion, Nezor. They found him at his usual table, the wall behind decorated with the trophies from last night’s fight with the Black Hoods along with what appeared as a pair of new recruits, a pair of very young men, accoutered in the standard equipment of the city guard: quilted azure gambesons, a dagger, a pike, and a wood longshield painted with blue and yellow vertical stripes.

Nezor introduced the young guards as Derig (an Ivoran youth from a prominent Northside family) and Oxwulf (a Westlander from an immigrant family). They were his “men” and with them he was going to clean up “this whiskey town”! Sent by Lt. Krolin both boys had been officially put in the giant’s charge.

A pair of hunters stinking like the marsh pushed past the stunned pair of killers carrying a butchered pygmy-deer. Shaken from the stupor of ill-surprise the grim-warrior and deathgrin rolled their eyes as they sat down. They wanted to talk business, something about a mage; the giant was again not paying particularly close attention to them as he kept turning to his “men” to throw what he thought were clever bits of wisdom their way about the harshness of the streets and the worthlessness of the criminal element.

The trio could overhear two well-dressed Southlanders discussing something about a deal to sell a dozen gladiators being “off” and now they had to deal with Corvo-Doom. His name was mentioned with a palpable level of distaste.

Suddenly all of the tavern patrons stood up and began to hurriedly file out into the streets and slithering through the entrance-way with the trio in their sights were 5 Scael-Nagas armored in scale-mail marked with the coiled serpent and dagger symbol. Another flopped out of the shadows apparently running into a table fumbling his crossbow the poisoned bolt thudding into the table just in front of Cantra. The fight was on.

Nezor stood up and kept the young guards behind him ordering them to guard his flanks. Phenox leapt headfirst into battle behind a storm of scimitar strokes. Cantra knocked away another bolt with her brand new buckler and ducked into the shadows. Phenox dropped one of the assassins and when 3 others converged on him waving their naginatas, Nezor swept them away with a single deadly swing of his great club ‘dog-smasher’. Another nailed the giant with a lucky thrust of his naginata.

It was then Cantra shouted out a warning, “There’s THREE crossbows over there!” Then the twang of the bowstrings signaled the flight of the poisoned quarrels one aimed at each of the ‘goodfellows’. Phenox was struck but the poison didn’t stop him, the giant was mostly unaffected but Cantra froze in place paralyzed by the exotic toxin. Seeing this Nezor flattened the last Naga within his reach and intended to move to her aid.

Phenox moved in her direction as well but was caught up in a fight with another assassin as was Nezor who easily squashed his enemy. Another Scael slithered from the shadows near Cantra’s paralyzed particolored form as he pulled his naginata off his back. Grinning the creature put the blade of his weapon on her throat and slid it in nice and slow then twisted before ripping it back out. She collapsed and died on the dirty floor of the Whiskey Troll Tavern in a pool of her own blood.

Nezor roared and finished Cantra’s killer in a single blow. Phenox finished his foe. After finding that they had “won” the fight the pair stood over the corpse of their dear departed companion. Phenox went through her gear and checked for valuables.

Nezor: “She’s gonna get a heroes’ burial, nah expense sparred!”

Phenox (a large amount of gems and coins in his hands): “Um. Okay?”

Three days later Phenox and Nezor were sitting at their table in the Troll, their mug and bucket of whiskey untouched before them. The hill-giant had been carving something into the mutilated tabletop with his dagger for the past few hours or so. Cantra’s funeral had been two days ago in the age-old cemetery that bordered the city along the swamp just outside of the old battlements.

A fair portion of the graveyard was partially submerged under green swamp-water the ground studded with whitened grave-stones and stone tombs of varying sizes and degrees of decoration. They had hired professional mourners and had a procession of flowers that had moved along the streets from the charnel house to the cemetery. The money that Phenox and Nezor had found on Cantra’s body had also paid for a small stone tomb. On the front of the mausoleum was an image of her grinning hastily carved and painted with bright colors.

Nezor punched the table and went on a tirade about the hoods that they were “gonna pay for what they did!” Confused, Phenox simply let him go on until the giant just suddenly stood up and stormed off. The grim-warrior looked at what the giant had carved expertly into the booze-soaked wood of the heavy oak table: an image of Cantra grinning and balancing on the blade of her bowie-knife with a flute in her hands which she appeared to preparing to play.

Phenox had neglected to clue in the giant as to exactly what had actually happened. It was the Coiled Snake & Dagger, Xuun’s premiere assassin’s guild, which had killed her because she had foiled their attempt on Corvo-Doom as well as adding insult to injury by working freelance right under their noses. The final straw was when she had taken an extremely high bounty on the head of a Creschan merchant, a mission on which Phenox had accompanied her returning bloodied but victorious during Nezor’s celebration of his signing with the city guard. But Phenox had a plan, he had the information on the last bounty she had taken up and the grim-warrior would need the giant’s might.

To Be Continued…

A Giant in Xuun Pt.9: Club & Hood

An arrow flew towards Phenox but missed by a mile shot by the ranger skulking with the hoods through the shadows into the Whiskey Troll Tavern. The ear-shattering crack of colliding wood thundered through the smoky-thick tavern atmosphere as the hill-giant mercenary, indeed that’s what he appeared to be as he was not like his partners wearing a hood, struck with his spiked great club the blow parried by Nezor’s own hardwood great club. Thunder struck again and again as Nezor swung, was parried, swung again and again parried.

Phenox yelped when a bolt from the lead-hood’s crossbow hit him. Immediately another bolt flew from the shadows imbedding itself in Nezor’s new plate-mail armor. Cantra somersaulted to avoid two quarrels launched in her direction both of which thudded into the wall. Two of the hooded thugs went at Nezor but their short-swords were parried easily. The other leathern-hood wearing thief moved into the tavern bearing a bearded-axe and another of the hooded thugs charged and swiped at Phenox whom dodged the blow.

Thunder exploded again as the hard wood of the great clubs met once again this time clinching. The weapon-wood creaked painfully, muscles pressed and bulged, and the battle of raw brute strength took all of Nezor’s concentration as the tavern battle raged on around him. Both giants identically matched neither giving an inch each was intent on plowing through the other. Nezor kicked at the other giant’s groin but missed his mark.

Meanwhile Phenox was engaged with the bearded-axe wielding leather-hood managing to avoid every blow and Cantra got a lucky shot in with her bow and a poisoned arrow which paralyzed the hood allowing Phenox to claim the coup de grace. One of the thugs that was looking for an opening between the giants to try to stab at Nezor saw this and went after Cantra. She parried the sword-strike with the wood of her bow as she backed away. The other thug finally found the opening he sought and stabbed Nezor but only managed to score the hill-giants plate. The sound of Nezor’s teeth gritting could be heard by all.

Phenox spotted out the enemy ranger and hacked a gory wound into his neck nearly killing him. The merc-giant broke loose of the clinch and Nezor taking immediate advantage smacked him with ‘dog-smasher’ then on the backswing the mercenary clinched again with his parry. Both giants grunted as they found themselves frozen in the same strained stances. Again veins bulged, muscles creaked as loud as the weapon-wood and sweat rained on the flags and filled Nezor’s plate-mail and the merc-giant’s scale-mail.

Again the battle raged and another hood dropped with one of Cantra’s arrows in him. One of the petty human thugs close by Nezor stabbed him, again only mauling his armor so the hill-giant stomped on him. Crossbow bolts flew, the tavern was in an uproar as the drunks and tavern-goers crowded into the opposite half of the place and began chanting ‘”goodfellas” over-and-over again. Then the mercenary giant jerked unexpectedly and broke the clinch disarming Nezor of his great club in the process flinging it across the bar.

The enemy ranger dropped dead his head partially shorn from the neck by the stroke of Phenox’s paired scimitars. Two of the remaining hoods converged on Cantra their angry blades gleaming in the candlelight.

Nezor lunged at the other giant trying to grapple his enemy. He managed to get inside the reach of the spiked great club but could not find a grip on his opponent. It was his only chance to survive as he knew the merc-giant could easily kill him with a single lucky blow. The merc-giant knew this as well and tried to take a step back underestimating Nezor’s penchant for dirty fighting. Nezor kicked one of his enemy’s feet from under him tripping him and immediately stomped on his head crunching his skull. A crossbow bolt launched from an unseen assailant sailed into a chink in the triumphant giant’s armor wounding him.

Nezor took a moment to assess the situation and take in some desperately needed air. His other two companions were still fighting with both of the leather-hooded thugs and a ratling, probably the unseen archer that had put that bolt into him. The hill-giant scooped up his club and rejoined the skirmish.

Nezor missed with an initial attack on the hood with the bearded axe but struck him on the backswing wounding him. Cantra began to laugh unnervingly chilling the spines of all that could hear her as she dipped her dagger in a vile of Black Thorn Poison. The hood with the axe swung at Nezor scoring a critical strike due to Nezor’s clumsy defense forcing the hill-giant to back off in order to recover his bearings.

Phenox moved in and struck the other leather-hooded thug wounding him. The axe wielding hood moved after and struck at Nezor clinching with him when the giant attempted to parry the blow. Nezor then realized that this thug was as strong and about as large as a half-giant. More arrows and bolts flew from the shadows at Cantra whom barely avoided them. Nezor forced the half-giant to his knees with some effort. The half-giant tried to force his way back up but could find neither the leverage nor the strength to do so.

Phenox was in a duel with the other leather-hood and more arrows flew at Cantra. Nezor broke the clinch and swung on the half-giant who lunged to his feet parrying the club with his bearded-axe. Splinters flew everywhere but the axe remained intact to clinch Nezor’s club yet again. Nezor using all of his might tried to force the hood down to his knees again but the hood was barely able to hold his stance and tried to use his newfound leverage to break free but Nezor easily kept the axe bound up.

Phenox finally gained the upper hand in his duel with the other leather-hood and cut him down, the body instantly teleporting away in a flash of light from the magic hood. Cantra ducked under a table for cover and downed a healing potion. The half-giant and Nezor continued to struggle strength opposing strength the half-giant ever at a disadvantage but Nezor severely wounded. Cantra and the ratling suddenly disappeared from sight undoubtedly both playing at a very deadly shadow game. The half-giant suddenly broke the clinch with a sudden spot of luck.

Nezor in utter panic power-attacked putting all of his supernatural strength behind the blow in an all-or-nothing bid for victory and life the concussion of the killing blow stunned the crowd and the half-giant’s corpse was gone in a magic flash just as was his companion.

Phenox and Nezor looked about and saw no other enemies nor did they see Cantra though Phenox detected the ratling squeak as if it had been hit. Nezor was distracted when he saw the faun bartender and the trollish barmaids looting the merc-giant’s corpse.

Nezor (thrusting forth a stern finger): “Hey YOO! I impounded that criminal’s stuff! Tha’s the LAW’s property!”

After a few minutes it became evident that the ratling had escaped when Cantra finally emerged from a dark corner. The looting of the corpses that were left behind commenced. The take was disappointing though Nezor took delight in pegging up the spiked great club and giant suit of scale-mail as trophies on the wall behind his table. Phenox and Cantra retreated to her villa to recuperate. Nezor left to get a free healing at the local White Star house of healing due to his status as a city guard then returned to pass the rest of the night eating and drinking as usual.

The next day was for the most part a quiet one. The air was heavy and it was muggy, dense cotton-clouds hung in the stark blue sky. It felt like a heat wave was picking up. Throughout the day the usual patrons came and went. The rat-trappers, those with coats of patchwork rat-skins and an embroidered patch of a rat impaled on a dagger on their backs, sat and drank with Nezor eventually paying for their own drinks in rat-tails cut from the vermin that had infested that very establishment. The Black-Skull pirates also filed in around noon and filled the place with rowdy laughter and salty language. A fish-monger wandered in with his cart trying to peddle fish-stew but was chased out by the Troll’s owner. Phenox on his way in bought a jack of stew as the monger was leaving. Cantra wandered in shortly thereafter.

The trio enjoyed some drinks until sundown when the Black Skulls stumbled back to their ship. Phenox and Cantra left as they were meeting someone for something. Nezor wasn’t paying attention he was mulling over an idea. Shortly after they left he decided to put his idea into action and gathered up some random guards and friendly toughs in the streets and led a mob rousting the local pimps along the way. Nezor ended the night at the Troll as usual though 30 silver pieces, 100 coppers, 100 gold pieces, and 1 gold medallion richer.

Later that night, the hill-giant was awoken by a foul stench on the air. He saw the large hunched figure of a troll lurch into the tavern bearing a very large barrel. The tavern owner came out and talked for a bit with the creature, some coin exchanged hands, and the troll wandered out leaving the barrel which the publican had some hefty servants drag into the back. The giant rolled over and commenced to snore.

To Be Continued…

A Giant in Xuun Pt.8: Whiskey City

Morning in the cavernous taproom of the Whiskey Troll tavern and Nezor wiping Heraldry---Nezorthe sleep from his eyes picked over the cold leftovers from the previous night’s repast, a large number of swamp-constrictor steaks. After breakfast he hit the streets in search of an armorer and a herald. His friends had dropped off his pay last night, 10 gold talons, and went about their business afterwards. The “goodfellows” were to reconvene in the Whiskey Troll later that night.

It didn’t take long to locate the services he required in the city bazaar. He put in the order with the armorer for a suit of polished plate-mail which would take a surprisingly short time to be ready, 1 week. He also found a herald who quickly drew up a heraldic device for him: a white eagle’s claw on a round purple field with the motto “the Great Liberator” beneath in Hyvalian characters but the giant being illiterate took the herald’s word at what it actually read. When the armor was ready the herald was to enamel the device over the breastplate.

While wandering the impossibly crowded bazaar marveling at its smells and sights of strange animals, vast arrays of brightly colored fruits and pungent vegetables, and the shear variation of people and dress Nezor noticed a tight group of dusky Creschan sailors fresh and salty from the docks escorting a fat and apparently very rich merchant judging by his rich attire, also Creschan, by way of the bazaar to the “better” end of town and one of the nicer inns found there, most probably the Golden Moon Inn. He also noticed what appeared to be a very poor local following close behind them whom struck him as somewhat suspicious. What he didn’t realize is that it was Cantra in disguise.

The giant continued on his way deciding to patrol the streets as a sort of vigilante until he ran into some of the city guard. He tried to join in on their patrol but was denied so he got directions to the city guard headquarters for the Southside. He couldn’t find anyone but a clerk there and was thus directed to the North Gate instead. It wasn’t long before he found himself there under the auspices of one Captain Vorbaer signing up for the city guard. Apparently they saw recruiting one of the few, possibly currently only, hill-giant in town a major asset plus there was a definite lack of guards in the sector of the city around the Whiskey Troll for some reason which the captain seemed reluctant to elaborate on.

Nezor would get paid 15 silver pieces at the finish of each seven-day and it was his duty when he heard the guard bell being rung, to make haste to the Southside headquarters. For the now he was to keep a light patrol around the Whiskey Troll. Captain Vorbaer gave him what was essentially an old city flag clumsily stitched into a makeshift Acton bearing the arms of Xuun: A bold orange phoenix with a green man-faced serpent in its beak and talons while above a golden chalice radiated golden sun rays flanked by a white bladed broad-sword pointing upward on the left and a white-bladed black hafted scythe at the right with the motto “the path is clear” in Hyvalian characters along the bottom. Tears of happiness filled the giant’s eyes as he strode to immediately take up his duty. He would in time have to report to training sometime soon under his commanding officer named Krolin.

Of course, on his way back to the tavern he managed to gather up around 15 other city guards and even a few well-meaning street thugs into a vigilante mob which stomped through the streets and alleys of the Southside rousting beggars, pimps, and pickpockets eventually landing on the Whiskey Troll at the end of the night. He bought them all the whiskey and ale they could drink and the place was alive with a riot of drunken guardsmen around Nezor’s table, the candles had never burned brighter. Later in the night his companions, Phenox the grim-warrior and Cantra the deathgrin, stumbled in on the scene.

Cantra was in her “noble lady” disguise which was mostly torn away and she was obviously badly beaten up and sporting many savage sword wounds. She quickly buzzed through the clatter of guards and behind the bar where she predictably disappeared. She had been carrying a bag that may have been bleeding but he hadn’t got a good look at it. Phenox limped over to the drunkenly singing hill-giant. He was holding a rag saturated with his own blood tightly to his side, his armor was in shreds and he dripped a crimson trail on the floor behind him. Overjoyed to see him Nezor slapped the grim-warrior on the back causing him to have to recover himself from the friendly blow.

Nezor: “Hey! Wh’as happenend ta yoo!”

Phenox: “Nuthin’, nuthin’ I’ll be fine.”

Phenox waved away the giant’s concerns and dragged himself to a nearby seat. Nezor shrugged it off and went back to celebrating his new office in life.

Come morning the sudden blare of a bugle rudely awoke Nezor and the rest of the guards passed out on the benches and strewn about the filthy floor of the tavern. The giant shot straight up suddenly wide awake, the harsh light of morning searing his bloodshot eyes and when he caught a glimpse of a superior officer in the city guard before him, immediately stood at attention.

The man was in gleaming full-plate armor studded with diamonds and his azure & gold striped cape billowing, in Nezor’s mind anyway, behind him. The officer introduced himself as Lieutenant Krolin. He first scolded the drunken guards quickly dismissing them for the day as well as fining all of them for drunkenness and then escorted Nezor to the Southside headquarters to be cleaned up and assigned his gear. Lt. Krolin would be Nezor’s commanding officer and when he heard the guard bell ring he was now supposed to beat it to the Southgate.

Krolin gave the giant a quick verbal tour of the city while they walked to the station; his attendants were leading his horse behind them with the bugler and a handful of elite guards also in polished plate armor. The important points were that there was a Brighthouse church in the Southside, that faith having certain dominance in this part of the city. The Hyvalian faith dominated the north. Apparently there were frequent riots between the different parishioners from time to time. The Southside was also the poor side of town consisting of a large conglomeration of slums and shanties as well as densely packed apartment buildings, several old Hyvalian built estates, and several abandoned buildings and a few ruins. The only other places of note in the southern part of the city were the City Guard Headquarters (for the Southside) and the Whiskey Troll Tavern.

As the giant and his commander were about half way to the station Phenox passed by and halted for a brief moment at the sight. He decided to inquire of the giant as to what was going on.

Nezor: “Join’n da guards!”

Phenox (flabbergasted): “Wait, what, WHY!”

Nezor (looking to the sky, his chest inflating): “I have ta. For my sense o’ duty, the strong blood in mah’ah veins, and da need ta’ stomp out CRIME!”

Phenox just rolled his eyes and walked away. The lieutenant seemed genuinely impressed. They continued on. After a short while and seemingly out of nowhere the conversation turned and Lt. Krolin spat out his utter hatred of Corvo-Doom and pretty much all slavers. The giant mentioned that “he really didn’t seem that bad o’ a guy” but otherwise Nezor kept quiet on the subject of the master-slaver fortunately it was just before they entered the courtyard of guard H.Q.

Lt. Krolin took a certain pride in the appearance of his men and had a barber shave Nezor and even set up a bath for him, in the courtyard. He was given a clean and newly tailored cloak bearing Xuun’s colors, azure & gold vertical stripes, and a pike crafted from a flag-pole. After the giant was equipped and cleaned Krolin gave him his orders. He was to maintain a patrol that included the Whiskey Troll Tavern and the immediate surrounding area and after a 7-day he was to report for training. Nezor saluted him and strode off back to the tavern his ego vastly inflated. When he got to the Troll he burst in his chest puffed out and declared, “I am the guard responsible for this place and all Black-Hoods are sentenced to death on sight! I am the law!” The regulars applauded and a random slurring voice exclaimed, “buy that lawman a drink!”

A week later the three ‘goodfellows’ were once again sitting around a table in the Whiskey Troll trying to figure out what to do with themselves. Cantra had spent all of her money on leasing a two-story villa in the Southside complete with serving staff, the only downside according to Phenox was that the place was probably haunted. The grim-warrior himself was claiming indigence though he was sporting a pair of spiffy crocodile hide boots and some new armor. Nezor was due to report for training on the morrow. He was wearing his new suit of armor, he had the crocodile head refurbished to use as the helmet and hide gorget of his new suit. He was quite proud of his brand new armor often stopping to burnish it a little with a dirty rag. Along with his guardsman cloak he felt like a real hero.

Just when the trio thought they would again split up and call it a night in stomped a group of 7 black hooded thugs led by 2 others in leather hoods and scale-mail shirts followed by a hill-giant with a spiked great club also in scale-mail. One of the leathern hooded thugs was seemingly about to declare something when without prompting Nezor was up like shot charging at the hill-giant waving his club which whipped the pipe-smoke-ocean of the tavern into a candlelit cyclone.

Nezor: “DIE, HOODS DIE!!!”

To Be Continued…

A Giant in Xuun Pt.7: The Slave-Pits of Korvo-Doom

After 10-days of drinking and healing the trio reflect on the now semi-mythical Similar to the shield image of the master of the slave-pitsfour way bar-battle between Brighthouse witch-hunters, Corvo-Doom and his lackeys with whom the trio were now lumped in with, the black-skull pirates, and a gang of Naga assassins which rumors assert had been targeting the Hyvalian slaver. Some of the slithering killers had born a tattoo of a serpent coiled around the blade of a dagger. Cantra had already bragged to her companions that she and she alone had stopped one of the Nagas from getting a sneak-attack with an envenomed dagger on the slaver unseen by all including her semi-doubting companions single-handedly saving Corvo-Doom’s life. They were debating the merits of her story when a tall, skinny Ivoran with a shaved head approached them whom they recognized as Corvo-Doom’s interpreter/shield-man.

He introduced himself as Ilhand, the hill-giant simply didn’t pay attention he let the others listen for him while he drank his breakfast, and invited the trio to meet with his lord Corvo-Doom in the Slaver Quarter. So after the giant finished his breakfast all three of the ‘goodfellows’ followed Corvo-Doom’s shieldman letting him lead the way. Eventually he guided them to a large opposing building seemingly grown from a combination of stone, reclaimed ruins, and adobe brick, the slave-pits of Corvo-Doom.

The slave-pits consisted of a circular three story edifice of stone with a large adobe gatehouse enclosing a wide stone-flagged courtyard at the center of which were a few wide stone-lined pits lidded with rusted bars. Iron-barred cells of varying sizes faced inward to the courtyard built into the circular building and along the ground floor of the inner side was a covered adobe walkway along which Cantra and Phenox followed Ilhand, Nezor had to walk along side that uncomfortably close the goings on in the wider courtyard.

As they sauntered they could see that the pits and countless iron-barred cells were mostly vacant. They also spotted a hairy fanged humanoid of indeterminate race whipping a group of slaves herding them into one of the many empty slave-tanks. Two of the trio entered a fair-sized meeting chamber where Nezor could sit just outside and be able to see and listen through the gaping oak double-door.

Corvo-Doom joined them not long after they sat around the long plain wood meeting table atop which sat a decanter of fine wine and a bowl of various regional fruits. The meeting was short and terse with the trio accepting a 10 gold talon apiece pay rate in exchange for a raid on a slaver stronghold hidden in the marshes. Nezor saw and heard the proceedings as an assignment to liberate the helpless and immediately imagined himself as the shinning hero amongst a crowd of cheering newly freed slaves. Ilhand passed Phenox a blood-stained map.

After another 10-day stretch which Nezor had spent in the Whiskey Troll tavern making quick friends with the city rat-trappers, the trio found themselves in familiar territory astride a log raft manned by their old acquaintance Gator-Tooth. The swamp was even more stifling and stench ridden than they had remembered and the boredom and intermittent attacks by monstrous swamp vermin over the several hours that it took to reach their destination served to remind them why they preferred the city. Gator-tooth brought the raft to a small makeshift dock and form there the trio took off on an overgrown path.

Nearly invisible in places, the very narrow path twisted through the thick pungent bush with Phenox leading the ‘goodfellows’, Gator-tooth did the “sensible thing” and was waiting with the raft. The trio did run into a small group of tusked swamp apes and did away with them after some difficulty; Cantra was badly wounded in the fight but was able to restore herself to full health by downing a potion of Heal. It was not long after that they approached the slaver fort.

It appeared a ruin covered in over-growth save for the brand new iron-bar portcullis at the rounded mouth of the front gate. Nezor just strode right in as the portcullis had been carelessly left wide open. Cantra and Phenox were exasperated, they had a plan that they had neglected to clue the giant in on.

Nezor saw that the design of the place was much the same as Corvo’s slave-pits but all the befouled cells here were crowded with human slaves filthy hands feathering the caged pits as they reached up through the bars. It seemed most of the slavers themselves were away currently but the human staff were still there and 10 Naga guards 2 of which were in full plate armor and heavily armed, undoubtedly captains of the guard. Suddenly a noblewoman in a crushed velvet dress and jewels around her neck jaunted in through the front gate after the giant. He at least had sense enough to recognize Cantra in disguise. Needless to say, the charade didn’t last long and in a lightning quick turn of events the trio was engaged in savage combat with the Naga guards.

A naginata bearing Scael-Naga immediately charged and attacked the giant and took a powerful retort from Nezor shattering some of the Scael’s ribs and the backswing of the gigantic great-club finished him. The body flew clanging as it hit the rusted lid of a nearby slave-pit. Two more Naga guards went at Nezor both nailing him with their polearms as the killing stroke dealt their compadre had left the giant wide open. Nezor fell to the ground bleeding, dying.

The next thing the hill giant remembered was Cantra forcing a Heal potion down his throat. He noticed his armor was irreparably damaged being reduced to a tattered half-suit. He stood up anger smeared across his broad dirty face.

Nezor (pointing to his armor): “Ya RUINED it! Ya lousy snakey RUNTS!”

Nezor raised both his arms into the air and shouted to the slaves in the cells and pits, “I am the HERO Freeman Nezor of the Hill-lands! I am prepared to DIE for your freedom! Rise up and turn on yer masters and be FREE!” His words actually inspired the slaves, as probably did his sheer size. They began to try to pry their cages open and tried to fight the other more inconsequential slaver-staff with their rusted chains as improvised weaponry.

The 2 naga guards that had initially dropped the giant turned their attentions back to him and attacked. Nezor held his ground against them as they leveled attack after attack letting fly a virtual storm of flashing blades. Cantra tried to shift the odds in the giant’s favor using her bow against his foes but was too close and took a blow from a naginata blade that nearly killed her.

Phenox shouted his battle-cry as he leapt from the auction block at a Naga-guard. The armored captains made their moves and charged Nezor dramatically shifting the odds of victory in their favor. Nezor barely held out by parrying blow after potentially lethal blow and with a roar of desperation swept his club in a wide and deadly arc killing all 4 of his enemies in a single powerful sweep of his great club.

Phenox was working his way to the cells where he found a single chain securing the cell-doors of a considerably long row. He shouted to the giant as his strength was needed to snap the chain. The grim-warrior then easily dropped a human slaver that charged him then took the keys from the corpse and tossed them to a nearby slave. Two Scael-guards converged on him. Nezor rushed through the chaos and grabbed the chain with one arm and yanked, the rusted chain snapped and all of the doors along that row clanged open immediately.

Phenox continued to battle the two guards on him and the giant spotted 3 more Scaels coming at him. Nezor charged them with a roar killing them all in another great single sweep of his massive weapon. Phenox finally chopped down one of his two foes and Nezor squashed the second with his club. The freed slaves surged over the courtyard overwhelming the rest of the guards and slavers, many were chanting Nezor’s name. Even though he was bloodied and his fine armor was destroyed a very wide and toothy smile broke across his sweat slicked face.

Meanwhile Cantra found the fort lockbox and goaded the giant into snatching it up as they fled from the now burning stronghold as it seemed the liberated slaves had begun to set it aflame. Phenox and Cantra began to lament that they were missing out on the 10 silver piece bounties on each of the slaves’ heads that Corvo-Doom had offered for their return. Nezor wasn’t paying attention.

Later, the trio of “goodfellows” turned off of the trail into an old long-neglected campsite to divvy up the booty from the strongbox. Nezor’s cut was 124 gold pieces, 217 silver pieces, 58 platinum pieces, and 789 copper pieces. From there they discarded the small iron chest and moved quickly back to the raft. It was well past dawn when they finally arrived back in the city, a few minor incidents including an attack by a pair of giant constrictors had occurred on the return trip.

Cantra and Phenox split off from Nezor at the old gristmill intent on collecting the payroll, Nezor made sure to remind Cantra that if they didn’t pay him his fair share he would “squash” her with his boot. He had caught her trying to cheat him on the split back in the marsh. The pair was quickly out of sight on their way to see the master-slaver of Xuun. Nezor was heading back to the Whiskey Troll dragging the carcasses of a pair of butchered giant swamp constrictors behind him.

To Be Continued…

A Giant in Xuun Pt.6: Paladin Versus Doom

Corvo-Doom shot up from his seat battle-axe in hand and his translator/shield-Pirate Coin Bman raising the gold demon-shield just in time to ward off the first blow from the golden broadsword of the paladin. Phenox leapt onto a table while roaring something incomprehensible in a clear effort to intimidate the enemy. He failed miserably and the crowd of on-looking bar-patrons burst into riotous jeering. The grim-warrior barely dodged the arrow that thudded into the table shot by the ranger that accompanied the witch-hunters.

The Brighthouse cleric in lead of the witch-hunters said a prayer over his mace which began to glow ominously. Jokingly, Nezor shouted out, “So which o’ya would pay me to NOT hurt ya! Haw! Haw!” That’s when the golden helmed paladin that had already swung his golden sword at Corvo-Doom shouted out an insult, that which compared the size of a giant’s genitals with that of his brain. Nezor snatched up his weapon in ill-temper and launched himself at the witch-hunting paladin with a clumsy one-handed stroke of his club.

Phenox flew from his tabletop perch at the cleric landing a flying slash with one of his blades. The ranger turned and shot Nezor in the back. Cantra back-stabbed one of the 3 fighters that had surrounded Corvo-Doom and then the Hyvalian slaver did a sweep with his golden axe cleaving through all three of them in a single blow. The paladin leveled a blow at Nezor whom barely parried the glittering golden blade.

Three witch-hunters bearing bearded axes attacked the hill-giant, one of their number fumbled badly; the giant parried the other two easily. Nezor retorted with a wide, powerful sweep of his club fumbling the strike badly, losing his grip on the weapon tossing it into the entranceway of the tavern some distance away from the action. Nezor jaunted after his weapon with the three axe-men on his tail.

Corvo-Doom engaged the golden-helmed paladin in one-on-one combat. The three axe-men in pursuit of Nezor were able to put themselves in between the giant and his weapon attacking him in unison. The giant simply trampled them to death. The ranger worked himself between the Brighthouse cleric and Phenox. Phenox responded with savage blows from both of his weapons to the ranger’s throat. The ranger expertly parried one of the paired scimitars but the witch-hunter’s second short-sword failed to block the second incoming blade and as a result exposed his jugular. Blood spurt and he fell limp to the besotted tavern floor, dead.

The cleric tried but failed to complete a prayer his features overcome with shock that his defender, the ranger, had fallen so quickly. One of Cantra’s arrows shot from somewhere in the shadows nailing the cleric in his right hip. One of the other witch-hunters, what appeared to be the squire of the golden helmed paladin, threw himself at Phenox getting in a lucky blow wounding the grim-warrior somewhat. Corvo-Doom and the paladin were fighting furiously their golden weapons glittering and flashing brilliantly in the candlelight turning the sea of smoke into a swirling maelstrom as they exchanged blows.

Suddenly, from the rear of the place a gaggle of near a dozen drunken pirates with tattoos of a black skull on their bared chests threw their pipes down and rushed into the chaos adding to the uproar. The paladin side-stepped and made a restorative touch to the cleric healing his wounds somewhat. The squire continued to furiously swing his longsword at Phenox whom parried with one of his blades hacking a wound into the boy’s belly with the other. A black lacquered bolt shot suddenly from the shadows narrowly missing Corvo-Doom. The quarrel appeared besmeared with venom.

A pair of the pirates jumped Phenox with an amazing flying tackle and Phenox was able, by some miracle, to move gracefully out of the way. Seven buccaneers surged over the paladin and the slaver blocking them from sight with their stinking bulk. Another pair of the drunken seamen attacked Nezor, one of them landing a nasty blow on the giant, Nezor responded with a powerful buffet knocking the sea-dog to the ground. The cleric uttered a prayer and in a shower of heavenly sparks all witch-hunters still standing were healed almost completely.

Nezor turned as he picked up his club and saw a well-armed Naga tumble out of the shadows apparently wounded by one of Cantra’s arrows whom in turn shot into the shadows on the other side of the bar, Cantra then leapt from the dark remaining in sight for only a quick second as she dodged the bolt. The giant then stomped on the prone pirate squashing him.

Suddenly a blue lightning bolt exploded from the center of the pirates that had overwhelmed Corvo-Doom sending them all retreating, smoking, and obviously horribly wounded. The slaver himself was visible for only a second after before he disappeared in a flash of pale blue light. The paladin shouting in rage as his desired quarry was now gone hacked down a retreating pirate.

Phenox attacked the squire whom was ready for the attack and put all his strength behind his weapon in an effort to pre-empt the grim-warrior’s overwhelming offense. Unfortunately the more seasoned fighter leapt out of the way of the clever strike and countered with both of his scimitars cutting the boy down. The pirates’ captain blew an earsplitting whistle calling his men, the ones still able to walk anyway, back and stopping another group from joining the fight.

The cleric made some motions with his hands and weapon and a ray of light sprung from his freehand at Phenox whom dodged the beam easily. Meanwhile the giant could hear the scuffle where Cantra played her deadly rogue-games in the dark with an unknown number of Naga assassins. The paladin charged Phenox but the grim-warrior was again able to dodge the righteous blow. The grim-warrior flung the golden sword from the paladin’s grip with one his scimitars in a successful disarmament and hacked into the church-knight with the other. The paladin answered with a stunning shield bash.

Of the foes left standing only the Paladin and the Cleric remained of the witch-hunters and an unknown number of the mysterious Nagas were skulking about the perimeter. Nezor moved forward and power-attacked the paladin with a two-handed blow launching the broken corpse into the far wall on the opposite end of the tavern where it stuck for as few seconds before falling messily to the flagstones. Cantra was visible now at the far end of the bar where a black crossbow bolt stuck into the board right by her head shot by an unseen crossbowman.

Phenox moved on the cleric and struck him once and as the priest was backing away to the door, hit him again with a pair of vicious sword-strokes. Cantra moved towards the giant as another black bolt chased after her narrowly missing her back. Yet another black dart oozing black poison thudded into Nezor’s armor fortunately it didn’t penetrate his thick armor. The Brighthouse cleric broke from Phenox and ran out into the streets. Another black quarrel flew from the shadows and nailed Cantra the toxin paralyzing her. She fell to the floor as stiff as a board.

Nezor turned towards the direction from which the bolt had come and roared at the top of his lungs flexing his awesome muscles making him seem to swell to double his already immense size. Every single bar-patron still in the place began to rush towards the exit. From the corner of one his eyes the giant spotted the same Naga that he had seen stumble from the shadows just a minute or so earlier creeping towards the door trying to use the crowd as cover.

Phenox apparently spotting the creature as well rushed in and hacked a gash into its neck then barely dodged a naginata blow from another formerly unseen Naga assassin. Nezor took the head off the one with the neck gash using his club. Phenox battled the one bearing the pole-arm and another slithered from the shadows. Both were wearing scale-mail vests. Another envenomed bolt struck the giant this time penetrating his armor poisoning him. Fortunately its effect was not quite so severe due to his supernatural constitution. He was slower and his joints had stiffened painfully but he could still move and best of all, still swing his club with full force.

It wasn’t long before both Nagas were dead and a quick cursory check of the near empty taproom revealed that the other had fled. Phenox picked up the 3 gold talons that were sitting atop the table Corvo-Doom had been sitting at and brought his “last” potion of Neutralize Poison to Cantra. The hill giant looted the corpses of the assassins. The other bodies had already been stripped by the bar-wenches.

The giant went back to his table and plopped onto the floor. A barmaid brought a cask of whiskey to him and said it was sent with complements from the pirate captain whom she pointed out. He was the only other patron left in the place. Nezor assumed that it was a “no hard feelings” offering.

Sometime later as once again the cream of the poor quarter of Xuun had re-coagulated in the Whiskey Troll’s taproom, a plainly dressed Ivoran approached Nezor through the clamor and introduced himself as the owner of the Troll. He was interested in buying the midnight steel box. Once shown the item the man offered 30,000 gold pieces, a cask of superior quality whiskey, and 1 month’s credit. Nezor ecstatically agreed as did his two companions.

To Be Continued…

A Giant in Xuun Pt.5: Selling Booty

About three days later Cantra, Phenox, and Nezor stumble back into the city of Brighthouse Clerics Heraldry group fights after selling chest contentsXuun, dirty, and not only foul from the slimy heat of the swamp but Nezor had spent about a day wading in the murk searching for the sunken chests in the muddy bottom. He had recovered both the smaller oak chest and the other chest the contents of which Zevor supposedly had already divided amongst the robbers. The mithral chest was lost.

Fortunately after a day had passed Gator-tooth had rowed back to the campsite on a newly built log-raft. He had come back for his promised pay. After a treasure exchanged hands he transported the surviving trio back to the outskirts of the city by the old gristmill.

The oak chest had contained: 10 blue-steel great axes with a single large black pearl in each of the pommels, 40 pigs of blood-metal, 10 lbs. of raw mother of pearl, a poor quality lacquered turquoise figurine of an armored warrior, and a high quality bronze-wood jar with a dragon carved over its face. In the other chest was a small superior quality midnight steel box with mithral rivets and hardware, a master book lot, a carven alexandrite skull which was given to Gator-tooth as payment, a superior quality dragon-metal tool hammer with a dragon-bone handle, and a high quality manticore hide cloak. Needless to say the hill-giant was a little miffed that such a haul had escaped his sight when shares had been split before the hoods had attacked.

As soon as the three hit town they opted for a quick drink at the Whiskey Troll tavern and Phenox after taking one of the blue-steel great axes and the dragon-metal hammer as his own left to destination unknown. Cantra took possession of the cloak and left for her apartment for “a bath”. Nezor mentioned before she left that he was going to the bazaar to lay out a carpet and hawk the wares that were still up for shares; the mother of pearl, the bronze-wood jar, the turquoise figurine, the booklot, the midnight steel chest, the blood metal pigs, and the rest of the blue-steel axes.

It was in the noisy, over-crowded, and bustling marketplace that Cantra found the giant when she came looking a few hours later. He was haggling with a group of bullywugs (frog-men) on the price of one of the blue-steel axes. He eventually let them have one for way below its actual market value as the entirety of their coin amounted to only a few hundred gold pieces. She sat with Hill-lander for a couple of more hours making sure he wouldn’t attempt to cheat her out of her share of the profits. Not long after Cantra had settled in that a mage wrapped in brown robes with an eye insignia on his chest walked up to the giant.

The mage bought all of the blood metal pigs for 400 gp. Cantra had initially failed to properly assess the value of the small bars it later dawned on her that each 2 lb. bar was worth around 20,000 gold pieces! Nezor just shrugged. Later, the giant successfully sold the booklot which Cantra was able to figure out the proper value of, to a man named Korfin whom passed along an address to where the books were to be delivered. It was a C.O.D.-type of deal. Just before packing up shop, Nezor managed to sell the mother of pearl, the figurine, and the bronze-wood jar for a combined 175 gp.

All three met back up that evening at the Whiskey Troll for a meal and several drinks after eating they would deliver the books to the address provided. Later that night it was Nezor who stumbled back some 3,075 gp richer. Phenox had stayed in the courtyard for some wine with the mage, for that is what Korfin turned out to be. Cantra buzzed away to her apartment again.

Nezor was about halfway back to the tavern when he decided to wander the streets and “do some good” if he spotted any “villains” about. It wasn’t long before the giant heard, “Die!” from a dark alley. Immediately he was beset by half-a-dozen black-hoods with a ratling shooting at him with a crossbow from the rooftops. The hill giant made short work of three of the thugs with a single sweep of his club sending their fellows fleeing. The ratling was suddenly nowhere in sight. Nezor decided to make a bee-line back to the tavern.

Back in the gossamer yellow glow of lamp-light in the pipe-smoke-fog of the Whiskey Troll Nezor settled in with a bucket of ale and a pitcher of whiskey. During the course of drinking himself unconscious Nezor talked to an older human in chainmail who, “thought it was a little suspicious that they went into the swamp with you guys and you’re the only ones that came back.” He was apparently a compadre of Zevor and his rogues. Nezor had just shrugged it off as the man stormed away. In the course of the night Nezor had put out the word to the trollish bar-maids that he had a midnight steel box for sale. When word reached the faun bartender he seemed intrigued but nothing came of it before the hill giant passed out.

When he came to, his friends were at the table, Phenox had sprung for breakfast. The three sat in the place for almost the entire day and by early evening were contemplating what should their next caper be when the slaver Corvo-Doom entered with his small entourage. It was after about a half-an-hour or so when the Brighthouse Witch-Hunters clattered into the place.

It was the same gaggle of fighters that Nezor had seen in the marketplace before the venture into the marsh. However, this time they were led by a Creschan (judging by his dark skin) cleric with the image of blue octopus impaled by a golden sword on his white Acton. At his side was a paladin bearing a golden broadsword and a gold great helm. Corvo-Doom with the unmistakable air of both hostility and over-bearing arrogance shouted something in Hyvalian at them almost as soon as they had stated their purpose to the bar. The golden-helmed paladin was the one that seemed to understand the gravity of the insult and seemed determined to face down the powerful slaver right there. The rest of the witch-hunters likewise readied their weapons and began to slowly surround the slaver’s entourage. Corvo-Doom’s right hand man which Nezor had seen act as his translator before shouted out, “A gold talon to any souls brave enough to help my lord!”

Phenox drew his weapons and Cantra hers. They both looked to the giant who didn’t seem like he was going to do anything. Phenox tried to convince him to join on the slaver’s side against the witch-hunters if for nothing “for the money!” But Nezor was determined to sit it out since the Brighthouse were supposed to be the “good guys”. The hill-giant took a healthy gulp of cheap whiskey.

To Be Continued…