They were astride the green dragon spirit as it flew above the silver clouds that the shaman had successfully summoned and barely was able to get under his control. The icy winter air hammered at them in unending waves, frost fringed every hair and crusted over their furs and clothes. After a few hours it suddenly plunged into the sea of grey mist below and before even the dragon broke through the fog they could hear the ring of the planishers’ hammers on the anvils as they worked to repair the ironworks of Blackbrow’s castle. Soon they were through the chill moist and blinding white-grey of the clouds and back under the seasonal gloom the fires and furnaces of the workman’s camp blazed red and yellow below to the north-east of the citadel walls. There were hordes of men working there some appeared to be slaves wearing chains and collars but the majority appeared to be freemen working for profit under the lich’s auspices. The citadel was only half unburied from the side of the mountain, gangs of hundreds of skeletons were busily digging and hauling earth within the walled courtyard. Within the walls were ruined halls and buildings which were mostly just piles of wreckage. A few skeleton gangs were burning the detritus in a large bonfire just inside of the walls near the gatehouse. They were approaching from the outside plummeting towards the main gate of the citadel the actual gates of which were missing and presumably being rebuilt/repaired by the hirelings. A deep cutting in the mountainside led from the castle throat to a trail leading down the mountain with a spur forking towards the work camp. Before the gaping opening and at the start of the cutting stood three Hill-Giants armored in dirty, shabby iron full plate capped with great helms only distinguishable by the weapons they bared – the first had a gudendag, the second a billhook with an over-sized blade, and the last bore a great club. The dragon ceased to beat and stretched its wings slowing their rapid descent. Her head suddenly reared up with a perceivable pointy-toothed grin and glared at her passengers. She jerked her head back towards the iron-shod hill-giants at the gate unleashing a mighty roar which echoed from peak to wintry peak of the Central Mountains. Then it disappeared from under the entire war-party dropping them 50 ft. into the snow.
Grom the shaman got his cantrip off and began to fly. Olf the healer grabbed onto him both making it to the ground unharmed. Vorwulf rolled with the impact of the fall and Magiia did a midair flip and landed on her feet, the deep snow cushioning the impact. The 11 Westlander warriors, the 3 Hill-Landers and the bard hit hard thudding into the snow and put of sight. The Blue Hand, his blue cape billowing from his slight shoulders, landed gracefully onto his feet and turned to help the others. The three Hill-Giant gate guards, whom stood as still as statues while the group was in midflight, started to move jerkily but still rapidly due to sheer stature towards the slayers. Grom in response immediately gestured and called down lightning from the clouds onto the head of the lead giant, the one bearing the gudendag. The blue-white bolts of electricity crashed into the armored mass causing a brief spasm. Foul rills of smoke wormed out of the metal joints and eye slits of the antique armor. The monster continued forward unabated. Vorwulf shot an arrow into it, the arrow punching a hole straight through its chestplate, black bile leaked from the puncture in thick gobs. The clanking and hammering of metal that had carried on the frozen air suddenly stopped as the workmen gathered to watch the spectacle.
Gil (Grom’s Player): “The giants are undead!?”
Cris (Vor’s Player): “Of course they are! Zombie Hill-Giants in full-plate [sound of disgust and a gesture in my direction]”
Jenn (Magiia’s Player): “Uhg! They better not keep getting back up after we kill ‘em!”
Magii charged the lead behemoth winding up a power attack with her axe. She missed (Natural 1). The second zombie guard moved up and power-sweep-attacked with its billhook forcing Olf and Grom to dodge backward their full movement. Vorwulf tried to duck. The blow caught Olf and Vorwulf injuring them both badly. The third giant-zombie guard moved charged forward and walloped Vorwulf with its great club nearly killing him. Olf activated the Shield ability on his magic helmet. The first guard swung its massive gudendag nailing Magiia ferociously wounding her. Vorwulf did a quick-draw to pull his heavy great axe and activated his boots of Fleet of Foot. Magi swung again at the gudendag wielding zombie hacking through its rusty plate dropping it unleashing a waft of hideous smelling steam from the gash. The remaining two zombie guards swung at Vorwulf narrowly missing. Grom stepped forward back into battle to use his healing touch on Vorwulf. Vor immediately swung at billhook wielding giant-zombie chopping it down. Magiia hacked into number 3 and Vorwulf finished it off with his follow-up blow. The supernatural speed granted to the range/dragon-slayer by his magic boots allowed him to whack the zombies’ heads from their iron-clad shoulders before they had a chance to stand back up destroying them and ending the battle. A few weak claps and some joyful mumbling came from the gawking workmen whom immediately turned back to their work, the ring of striking metal began anew. The rest of the party had just extricated themselves from the snow; they had taken only a few scratches from the plunge.
Vor swigged down a healing potion after giving the healer another. Grom did what he could to heal Olf the healer and Magiia without spending too much of his magic to do so.
Grom [to Magiia after using his healing touch on her]: “Sorry.”
Magiia: “No, save your spells we’ll need more of this. I’m still pretty hurt.”
Vorwulf: “Same here, I’m f***in’ hurt.”
The party got back into formation with the ranger in the lead, Magiia behind him, with Grom and Olf following her and the Blue Hand and Canohk the bard abreast, the Hill-Landers and then the 11 Westlander tribals taking up the rear. They moved cautiously into the cutting, every step deliberate, towards the wide open maw of the disinterred fortress.
To Be Continued…