And so, we – which is to say may new companions and I – arrive at the fortress of the giants. Or, more to the point, to a place in the road where we can see it. A massive tower and other buildings, surrounded by a wall, surrounded by an army, and with a gatehouse of some kind.
We were told that our enemy – the main giant shall we say – lives beneath the fortress. There is discussion as to how best to approach. I make my own contribution, being a keen flyer and able to make myself invisible, I offer to scout. All agree that this seems to be a good plan. Being keen to not make a fool of myself, I am careful to ask what I should be looking for. The truth is that I am not a great student of battle – I should not wish to miss something that might be obvious to another.
Fully instructed, I take to the air.
Seeing as I was building a sorcerer with Fly, I gave him 8 ranks in the skill. That is – Xavier does not merely have the spell, he has put time into practising his aerobatics. 8 ranks + class skill + dex gives him a base of 13, and the Overland Flight spell (Arcane bloodline) gives him another +5 (½ caster level) to make it +18. He can do a 180° or fly upward steeper than 45° so long as I don’t roll a 1.
Overland Flight goes for hours, and is better than Fly, but it’s personal only and 4th level. Xavier’s invisibility goes for 11 minutes, and he can pop over a dozen of them if he has to. So Xavier as an aerial scout makes a lot of sense.
It was a fine day for flying, if a trifle cold. The fortress was surrounded by the tents of an army. I shall not say “small army”, firstly because they were giants, and secondly because there were many of them. They appeared to be segregated by race – ogres in one section, hill giants in another. Most of them appeared to be stone giants.
The fortress itself had clearly been engineered by magic – Stone Shape and other transmutations if I was not mistaken. Massive walls, a massive door. There were structures inside, one remarkable and clearly very old tower (perhaps dating back to Azlant?), other smaller buildings, a stable. I did not investigate closely – it would not matter much to us what was in it and I did not wish to get close.
Perhaps the main notable thing was the absence of troops of any kind inside the walls. Politics, no doubt. Teleportation or simply flying in was an option.
The second notable thing was a female giant standing at the top of the great tower. She must have been 20 foot tall – quite magnificent.
Having seen the fortress itself, I decided to take in a circuit of the surrounds (splendid day for flying!). To the left (the north? Whatever!) a cave set into the mountains. As we had already been attacked by dragons, it seemed a fair surmise that it was a lair, and I gave it a wide berth.
Behind the fortress to the east was a deep, steep canyon. Recalling that our enemy lived below the fortress, I set about looking for cave entrances and saw two – one about 50′ up with bones about the entrance (worryingly large ones), and another further up with spiderwebs.
On my return, I described what I had seen. To my relief, a frontal assault was quickly ruled out of the question. Teleporting in, also, was problematic as Vik is not able to teleport all of us; we would have to fight our way into the tower itself; and who knows what magics protect this clearly ancient structure?
(I simply must scribe Teleport into my spellbook at earliest opportunity – with my robe and my ring, I can manage two per day, and between myself and Vik we can move the entire party. Alternatively, a wand of Reduce Person I think would allow her to move everyone.).
In any event, we elected to try the caves in the ravine. The excellent dwarven ranger conducted us thereto with no difficulty whatever.
The lower cave proved to be the come of three Wyverns, which gave us no real difficulty although Zoran had the bad fortune to find himself poisoned. Still, Aeona was more than up to the task of restoring him. We found the cave to be a dead end, although there was some loot.
The higher cave was absolutely crawling with spiders. Quite disgusting. Vik summoned a fire elemental a dozen feet tall to clear the way. Natural webs are not flammable in the same way that magical ones are, but an elemental from the Plane of Fire nevertheless will do the job. When we entered the cave, we were attacked by three large spiders which proved later to be husks inhabited by colonies of smaller ones. Truly revolting. I used my Metamagic Rod – Reach Spell to place a Protection from Energy (fire) on everyone, and then began firing Fireballs, which is one of the better ways to deal with swarms.
Eventually, between the fireballs, the elemental, and simple hack-and-slash the threat was dealt with. And we found an ordinary, nonmagical secret door at the back of the cave.
We proceeded through a maze of small, twisty tunnels all alike. And were ambushed by fey – redcaps, I believe. Naturally, they went straight for the dwarves as there are very ancient enmities between the undergound folk. The close-quarters fight did not suit me well at all, and I was eventually reduced to using my last line of defence, Emergency Force Shield. It takes me out of a fight, but in this particular battle it was oddly useful, as my unconscious form with a bubble of force around it blocked off one of the passages.
Still, it was a nasty business and everyone got at least somewhat beaten up. I have depleted perhaps half of my magic, and there is still the fortress left. I need to get that Teleport spell scribed into my book as soon as may be so that we can recoup somewhere safer and return. As it stands, we can continue on at least a little more, and can return to the now cleaned out spider cave once we have mapped out a way into the bowels of the fortress itself.