It took a long time for Shalalu to reacquire the trail, but they knew (or thought they knew) generally which direction the giants were heading, which made it possible to try.
They fell into a rhythm -- they'd force-march until enough people fell unconscious that they had to stop (with Phoof's horse and Ash's floating disk letting them carry on with a few sleepers), then take a full rest to let everyone recover. This quickly meant that they got completely unsynced from the sun, but Kaito had a pile of sunrods, which lasted for hours and let them track at night.
Along the way, they saw other signs of giant activity in the area -- caravans smashed, other towns raided -- and they weren't the only party out on the plains trying to get people back. The town of Ravenwood(?) in particular had some folks out, although they eventually found their dead bodies because five city guards is not really a giant-killing force.
After days and days of marching, fighting off giant vultures, and generally not really feeling like they were ever going to catch up to the giants, they finally did. When they camped for the night, they were close enough to spot the giants' bonfire, so they crept close with the party members who were still awake (Kaito and Elyssie), Shalalu, and one of the guards who didn't take their suggestion to guard the sleepers while they did that.
The camp only had two giants, and one was asleep -- also, two sacks full of (presumably) prisoners. Elyssie snuck close to try to see if she could sneak people out of the sacks, but for once Kaito was the bloodthirsty one and drank a potion of Greater Heroism he'd been saving and tried to slit the sleeping giant's throat.
Unfortunately, giant throats are really big, so he still had to fight the giant after it woke up. Fortunately, two giants were not a match for the four of them, and they were able to free the people in the sacks. Unfortunately, only two of the people were from Sandpoint -- most of their princessess were in another castle.
Once everyone had rested, they send the rescued people back to Ravenwood with three of the guards, and Shalalu found the tracks of the (wiser) giants who hadn't stopped to build a bonfire and gotten themselves killed. They were getting *really* close to the Standing Stairs, however, where they knew the giants had a camp...
And before long, they were there. They'd failed. Or... had they?
Altei turned invisible and flew around to scout out the giant camp. Most of the giants were at the very top of the stairs, near the road to Jorgen's Fist, but most of their *treasure* was in some buildings halfway up -- one building full of literal treasure (silver, gems, etc.) and another full of sacks that might contain prisoners. She saw two giants guarding the treasure room from outside, a bunch of giants mostly sleeping near the sacks, and 'too many to count' on the upper platform.
So they decided to pull a heist.
Since they had Elyssie who could grow to giant size (using a potion) and carry several sacks ethereally, and Phoof and June who could cast dimension door with (judging from the campsite) a full sack's worth of prisoners, that was all four sacks they could rescue if they could just get everyone inside without being seen.
And oh look! Their sorceror who scoffed at using low-level slots for attack magic knew Invisibility.
The problem was that the guards wanted some action after marching all this way -- except for one of them they hadn't gotten to participate in the campsite battle, and they weren't going home without getting some sort of revenge. So they decided to pull a double-heist, with the party going after the prisoners in sacks and the guards sneaking into the treasury to take all the coins, both parties invisible and the guards silenced because shoveling coins into sacks is usually kind of loud.
So June made everyone invisible, and protected from fire and acid in case he had to start fireballing, and Phoof cast her Good Hope to help people sneak and fight if it came to that, and they snuck up the staircase to the halfway point, where they discovered that oh my god there were like three times as many giants as they'd expected because apparently this was where a bunch of them came when their shift was over.
But they literally couldn't abort, since they couldn't see each other to coordinate and the guards were silenced. Besides -- they weren't planning on *fighting* the giants, so how wrong could it possibly go?
And the rescue section of the heist actually went better than it had any right to -- some of the sacks were tied down, so Kaito and June focused on those since they knew Elyssie couldn't grab them. Altei and Phoof had worse luck on that point but still managed to find one sack with two people in it for Phoof to Dimension Door out with. But... there were *six* sacks, not four, so that left two.
Kaito's other sack just had dead pigs, so he snuck out, figuring his part was done, and got spotted running away but was too tough to get taken out with an AoO and too fast and sneaky for them to really chase. He eventually ended up waiting near the base of the stairs in case there was something he could do.
Altei's sack, though, had four people inside, and no one left to rescue them except him. Also, after Elyssie grabbed her sacks and vanished onto the ethereal plane, the giants were all awake and alert and searching around for invisible people -- so he hid in the sack with the unconscious prisoners, waiting for an opportunity.
Meanwhile, the guards were happily and obliviously looting the treasury. There were two giants *in* the treasury, but one was asleep (and inside the Silence spell, so not likely to wake up) and Shalalu took the other one out with a giant-slaying arrow, which blew her Invisibility but she could still hide normally. Unfortunately for them, the giants who'd been alerted by the rescue immediately headed over to check on the treasure.
Shalalu saw this but couldn't get the Invisible, Silenced guards' attention fast enough, and three of them were pinned inside the treasury while Shalalu, trying to run away with the two she'd been able to alert (and Ash), had to dodge a swarm of giants who could see her. Two of the trapped guards managed to slip out past the door guard, but the last one was stupid and attacked -- and was quickly pounded into paste for his trouble.
At this point, June had teleported back and was looking around for someone to swoop down and rescue. He was thinking of getting Shalalu, but she managed to get to the stairs down without his help, and the giants weren't chasing -- instead, they were throwing boulders. Altei heard the commotion and decided it was now or never, and slit open his sack, dropping himself and four prisoner to the ground in a heap. June swooped down and rescued three of them, and Altei grabbed the last and slowly started to fly off with her, dodging boulders thrown at the mysteriously hovering woman.
For a second, it looked like it might be over -- Shalalu got away quickly using the same method Kaito had (sliding down the bannister, basically) and the remaining guards slowly picking their way down the staircase were still invisible. Altei was being targetted, but could dodge behind some ruined buildings and statues. The giants weren't chasing, just throwing rocks...
...oh no, wait. They were lining up at the top of the stairs, and *rolling* rocks down them in a coordinated pattern designed to hit anyone on the stairs, invisible or not. They weren't very good at dodging, but Ash and the first pair to run were almost to the bottom and managed to get away. The two who'd had to squeeze past the giants to escape were further back, and had more rocks to dodge, and one of them didn't make it -- one rock too many hit him, and he turned visible as he fell, unconscious and dying.
Kaito, who'd been waiting all this time, ran over and grabbed him, then jumped over the side of the staircase -- he'd almost made it down, so it was only like a fifteen foot drop. He fed him a healing potion to save his life, which thankfully worked because he'd only been mostly dead.
At that point, the giants started chasing -- or at least, a patrol of three did. So Kaito climbed back up and shot a flaming arrow at them -- not to hurt them, although that would have been nice, but to illuminate them so that June could send a fireball their way.
BOOM! And then, when six more giants came down to retrieve their fallen comrades, BOOM again. Because you know, sniping with fireballs is still basically sniping.
While the giants scrambled for cover, the party regrouped and prepared to re-enact the endless chase, this time in the other direction, with like fifteen extra unconscious people to somehow drag along with them.
June: "What's the end-game here? We know the giants are faster than us."
Kaito: "Not if we force march? We caught up to some of them that way. But really, I think we just have to hope that we can take on whatever expeditionary force they send out after us."
...no one remembered that the original end-game plan was for Phoof to use one of her Masterpieces to summon an Earthquake to destroy the stairs. Oops.
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