We pick the story back up as Bers, Dead-Eye and Vorwulf depart the large town of Merdna by the lake the city arms consisting of a crossed hammer and axe silhouette against a background of deep green waved in the breeze. The previous few days they had met the Brothers Dracorian, a small gang of Hill-Lander thugs who were at odds with the Crossed-Staff gang and offered to be the slayers’ informants. A berserker cult, the Coiled Serpents, have been strolling about town causing trouble probably just waiting for violence to explode between Asternor and Achoran over the control of river trade. They were already taking bids from the competing merchant guilds. Merdna was probably going to take a neutral stance if hostilities went that far. They also bought some info which told them of an ancient dragon which held sway over this land for centuries named “Sawback”. They also found out that the town was the primary residence of Hirok-Nor’s druid and his apprentice. The druid was draped in jewels and appeared to have expensive tastes but where he was getting the cash the group could guess. The manor-house of Lord Vorahd was also within the town. The day before they left they talked to a survivor of the “North-Cross Massacre”. The man’s compatriots, a merchant caravan, were killed by a winged creature which slithered away during the night. The creature had gone southeast as far as he could tell. They mulled all of this information over as they sauntered through the gates.
They took the Sirti Road, a short 4 and a half mile stretch, traveling west to Sirti. They entered the town just after midday which was located at the base of one of the low Sirti Mountains on the top of a flattened hill surrounded by a cyclopean stone wall. Its banners bore crossed black hammers hovering over a grey block of stone against a field of orange. Sirit was populated mostly by Westlander Hill-Giants which ran the town’s mine and worked the local quarry both of which bored into the root of the mountain. Everything in town was built on foundations of stone and had massive entryways and cavernous ground floors of every building. They secured a space near the front gates for a pittance and left Vorwulf to care for their donkeys. They took up seats in the local tavern and at about the third round and after they enjoyed a sumptuous meal for which they had thrown down silver, gold and the last of the fliks they were carrying. They had collected some information mostly about a place called the Black Cathedral, it was a shunned place and they got the usually, “but you better leave that place alone,” speech so they marked it down as a to-do. As that was out of their way they talked it over as to whether or not to travel to Fertum Vorahd 6 miles by road to the north first or make a right at the crossroads which would take them into the Sirti Pass/Pass Road and after onto the Varidna Plain. They discussed the ratling savages which they occasionally caught sight of trailing them but dismissed them with the words, “we’ll track the little b@$%*&ds down the next time they steal from us”. They eventually made the decision to not waste any time in getting to the Varidna Plain and their quarry.
It came to the middle of the next day as they had just made it through the pass to where the road dropped onto the Varidna Plain passing between the foothills of the Sirti Mountains. As they approached the fork in the road splitting the Pass Road into the West road and the North Road which would take them southwest they noticed there were large berms of piled earth on either side of the road and Dead-Eye warned the group to slow and tread carefully. Directly in front of them about 50 ft away where the berms ended a hill-giant stepped out into sight wielding an iron staff, the gold necklace on his neck glinting in the sun. He was followed by Taga his Ferenoi mate. Thugs with crossbows trained on them appeared at the tops of the berms on both sides of the road, leading them on top of the southern berm was the familiar Thug Captain (see Pts. 23 & 24) his yellow waist sash flapping in the wind. Behind them two more hill-giants identical to the first and similarly armed stepped out into the road. They all had smug grins on their faces.
Giant Leader: “Well, well, well. Look who we have here!”
Cris/Dead-Eye to Jenn/Bers: “Looks like this is it we’re taking these f*&#ers down!”
The captain was the first to act firing a crossbow bolt into one of their donkeys killing it. The giant leader grasped his necklace which was in the shape of a lightning bolt and spoke a strange, alien word aloud. Arrows of electricity which boomed like thunder when they struck rained down on Bers and Dead-Eye hurting them both and deafening Bers. Taga charged and engaged Bers immediately and her mate met Dead-Eye in melee combat. The four thugs on one of the berms fired their crossbows at the wagon and Vorwulf whom took a couple of bolts but was barely scratched but the other donkey was dead. Dead-Eye was landing just about every attack he made with his sword and bowie knife and holding his own but the giant was landing just as often. Bers was swinging and missing with her axe as the amazon was landing more and more with the tips of her double-spear. Vorwulf was assailed by one of the other giants and forced to dodge and take cover nearly being killed by a single blow. Bers retreated to defend Vorwulf as Dead-Eye was too far forward and cut-off by the amazon Taga. Bers hit the second giant easily hurting him but taking the heat off of Vor. Dead-Eye was forced to make a recovery check to not be killed by a blow from the giant leader and his armor was essentially shredded and not providing much protection at the moment. The third giant moved in to attack Bers but was too slow and she was attacked again by Taga. By the beginning of the third round it was evident that they were losing and losing bad. All three were badly wounded and their armor was either completely gone or almost gone. Then Bers pulled off a power attack against the wounded second giant spilling his guts all over the road after pulling away from Taga. Vorwulf tried to run away to a small knob with a tree growing on it in order to pull a few potions and maybe so he could take a few shots and even the odds a little. The Captain and his thugs just looked on with loaded crossbows at the ready cheering. Dead-Eye was forced into two more recovery checks in order to survive the battle with the giant leader and he was almost as badly wounded to where only a single successful blow dealt to either would decide the duel. The third giant charged Vorwulf and bashed him into unconsciousness and prepared to deal a coup de gras blow waiting in order to savor his victory. Bers got hit hard, tripped then got pinned by Taga’s spear to the ground. The amazon’s bloody face locked in a bare-toothed grimace of hate. Bers reached for her belt and pulled the Mallet of Harm. The giant leader then scored a strike roll of a natural 20 and Dead-Eye failed to dodge with a Natural 1. His limp and broken body was flung 30 feet before smashing face first into the dirt of the road. Bers hit the ground with the mallet even though Taga twisted the spear hoping to stun her with pain. The magic rippled in all directions along the ground dealing enough damage to reduce the thugs and their captain into a red mist which coated everything it touched with blood. Taga’s equipment and jewelry dropped to the ground with a splash of blood drenching Bers. The remaining two giants shrieked and gasped blood exploding from their wounds as they died.
Bers limped over to Vorwulf, snatched a potion from his bag and poured it down his throat though he did not wake he was no longer bleeding out then collapsed to the grass. They both awoke at dusk and appraised the situation. They dug a grave for Dead-Eye burying him with his equipment he was loaded with magic items and money of various kinds, and set up a tombstone of a 20 lb. stone to mark it. They saluted their slain companion and moved through the night pulling the wagon behind them trying to avoid any potential encounters with anyone or anything. They moved at frantic pace deciding to return to Merdna completely exhausted and still badly wounded.
To Be Continued…