While they got everyone ready to run away (by carrying the ex-prisoners who couldn't walk), Phoof went ahead and did the earthquake she'd been planning. Unfortunately, the stairs were too sturdy for a mere earthquake spell to collapse them, but it did collapse the buildings nearby and hurt a lot of giants, hopefully delaying their pursuit.
The party headed north along the cliffside towards the river, figuring that if they could build a raft or something they could drift south to Ravenmoor and be harder to track. They considered sending people ahead to build the raft, but didn't want to split up in case they didn't make it to the river before the prisoners collapsed from the forced march.
They didn't. But few enough prisoners collapsed that they could pile them on a floating disk and make it the last few miles. There, Ash quickly threw together a giant raft while the others stood guard, then Phoof turned into a giant wooden hippo to pull it and everyone climbed onto her back or the raft and they rushed downstream.
...for about two hours, then they really had to sleep. There was no sign of pursuit by the giants during the night, although they did have to fight some giant crocodiles, mostly because Elyssie was on watch and decided to go punch them and then they had to rescue her. Or, well, they thought they did -- she'd mostly killed them by the time anyone else could get close.
At any rate, they made it to Ravenmoor and offloaded the prisoners and the guards. Some of the guards wanted to stay with them for extra revenge against the giants, but Phoof convinced them that they would all die horribly if they tried.
So it was just the party (and Shalalu, who would not be dissuaded by any means) who had to decide what to do next. It didn't take much thinking for them to agree that going all the way back to Sandpoint would be pointless -- they knew they had to infiltrate Jorgen's Fist to find out what was going on there and (if possible) stop it.
They still didn't want to climb up the deathtrap stairs, so instead they flew up the cliffside a ways southeast of the stairs and made their way through the mountains to a giant valley. Full of giants. They tried to sneak past, but ended up fighting some of them, although it looked like they'd avoided raising a general alarm.
After a couple of days they could see Jorgen's Fist at last, in the distance. It was across a barren, open space and a river, at the top of a cliff hundreds of feet high -- a fortress with several towers, surrounded by an army of giants.
There were some caves in the cliffs below, however, so they decided to look for a back way in.
The first cave was full of wyverns, who tried using flyby sting attacks to avoid facing Elyssie and Kaito in claw-to-hand. They mostly succeeded, but 'mostly' still led to them taking the occasional hit and half of them dying, either to that or to the ranged attackers waiting outside the cave. The last two fled, leaving the party to discover that this was not the right cave -- there was nothing inside but bones.
So they had the wall-climbing ninja run a rope to the next cave, 200 feet up, which they found full of spiders. While waiting for Ash and June to arrive to fireball everything until the spiders were gone, Kaito and Elyssie tried to examine them and discovered two things.
One: They were *zombie* spiders.
Two: Punching them was a bad idea, since the spiders not directly squished would take the opportunity to run up your arm (or sword) and cover you in spiders.
Also, there were three *giant* zombie spiders in the cave to shoot webs and bite with much more dangerous mandibles.
Since the reckless melee folks were stuck in close combat with the spiders, they had Ash throw the fireball since her fireballs were more survivable. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to get rid of the swarm. Once the melee folks had taken out the giant spiders (discovering that they were really empty shells, animated and filled by MORE SPIDERS), Ash and June tried to clean up the rest of the swarm with burning hands and flaming sphere spells.
Soon it was clear that the spiders were resistant to fire, so June had to switch to acid-substituted burning hands. Eventually they convinced Elyssie to back off, and a massive acid 'fireball' was unleashed, wiping out the spiders at last.
And in the back of the cave... a passageway!
It was a maze of twisty little passages, all alike, inhabited by a small group of redcaps who used the brilliant strategy of being able to fight two abreast while the party could only go in single file... which might have worked better if
(a) the monk wasn't a good enough fighter to kill them all on her own
(b) the ninja couldn't walk on the ceiling
(c) Kaito couldn't turn into a tiny fox, jump into the middle of their formation, and let his negative-energy rage aura slowly kill them all while he rather less slowly tore out their throats with his teeth
At the end of the passages they found a hoard guarded by a single kobold hoarder. Also, a single mother. Ash didn't want to kill a pregnant kobold, so they had Phoof charm her. She objected to the others sneaking past her into the rest of the giants' basement complex, but not strongly enough to overcome the charm, and was able to tell them a few things about the layout -- to the left were some workrooms and the barracks, and to the right was the general whose room was in front of 'the pit'. Mokmorren -- the evil lord of greed that the giants were serving -- was usually in the library, but she didn't know where that was.
So, since the barracks and the mess hall had at least ten giants each, they decided to assassinate the general. Kaito dragged Elyssie back from the mess hall to participate in the plan, since she was using her usual mode of operation in dangerous territory -- wandering off on her own. She hadn't yet gotten to the point of aggroing an army and dragging it back to the rest of them, at least.
They buffed up -- Phoof giving Elyssie one of her special 'cherries' -- and then case a silence spell to keep the general from summoning any troops, since they'd seen that he was alone in his room. They grouped up near the entrance, ready to charge in, and threw aside the curtain...
The general was *right there*, about to open the curtain himself. Elyssie recovered from the mutual surprise first, and punched him in the knees. A lot. Everyone else tried to follow up her attack, but mostly couldn't get to him or hurt him because his armor class was LUDICROUS, the silence spell filled every space in line of sight on their side since they hadn't been able to move into the room like they'd planned (preventing the use of spells), and he resisted piercing damage for some ungodly reason (negating all the ranged attacks).
The giant retaliated, doing about the same 120-130 damage right back to Elyssie, who just barely survived thanks to the temp hp given by the cherry. She took another flurry of blows against him, and with another 130-ish damage finished him off.
Ash: "Why are the rest of us even here?"
Kaito: "To loot the bodies of course."
The giant had some useful potions, and a pick which helpfully resized to match the wielder, which was a big upgrade for Ash, but the biggest treasure was his breastplate.
I mean, seriously, that thing must have weighed 500 lbs. It was too valuable to leave behind but too heavy to carry, especially while sneaking, so they settled for burying it in the giant's bed of furs and hoping none of the other giants would find it before they could come back for it after... assassinating Mokmorren or whatever they were there for.
It's been a long time since the party was able to go shopping for anything better than healing potions, and it's really starting to show -- their armor class is so low compared to the enemies that it might as well not even exist, and the only one who can 'tank' is Kaito, using temp hp and damage resistance.
At least Phoof's buffs keep their offense relevant!
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