The brutal cold of the Savage North sapped a man’s energy, making him wish for warmer fires and shelter. The winds blew and bit, slicing through to the bone. This was true for all except Nashua, Wolfe, Kazramir, and the women they had saved from the Underdark. Miles beneath the surface of the mountain they trod down from there was no wind. There was no temperature. The was only stagnant air and the dry odor of stone and decay.
They welcomed the winter as they hiked a day to the Long Road, and found shelter in the nearest inn. They handed the innkeeper a handful of coin, to which he became curious.
“Are these duergar coin?”
And this was where tales of their heroics began. The story of how they each had been abducted by the drow, enslaved, and escaped from their captors. Tales from here on were told by Quillathe when she returned to Silverymoon, and by those in the inn who listened to their story on how they had escaped Gracklstugh, and gained favor with the Deepking. As their audience looked upon Wolfe in his duergar-made armor, there was no doubt their tales rang true.
To Siva and Moira they promised to help her sister in Port Llast, and avenge her suffering. They traveled the Triboar road west to the coast, riding their horses past smoldering settlements and rotting battlefields where giants and small folk fought. The giants, as Hgraam said, were breaking their truce. Mankind was going to suffer as long as the Ordening was undecided.
Not the Beer!
Port Llast lay enshrouded in fog with the horns of war bellowing eerily. From a hilltop outside of town they could make out a ship from above the fog, and even witnessed the initial invasion.
The horrors of the Underdark were behind them, and as they saw it, demons were to be feared above any giants. Everyone tied their horses up in a copse of trees outside of town and snuck into town. The screams of the assault filled their ears. They saw a group of people running, far ahead, and their silhouettes were cut down by the silhouettes of two giants swinging their axes in deadly unison.
The giants’ longboat was beached sixty feet off of the shore. They squinted through the fog, following the boardwalk around to see if any giants remained behind. From here, nobody could be seen. Judging from the sound of war, there had to be at least a dozen frost giants pillaging the town.
A scream pierced their ears. Up ahead a tavern, the “Barley Pot” was caved in by a single giant. He smashed in the roof, and reached through the thatch to steal a cask of ale. The walls of the establishment groaned over his weight.
“No,” said Kaz. “Not a cultural icon, a place of joy an merriment!”
Wolfe shook his head angrily, “Not the beer.”
Wolfe charged, brandishing his maul. His run was timed perfectly with the onslaught of magic heralding his entry into battle. The fog drew together into a tight cylinder above the Barley Pot, and everyone felt the hair raise on the back of their necks.
As Amber and Moira fired bolts into the giant brigand, flashes of lightning and deafening thunder lit up the area. The giant screamed as the lightning channeled through him, and Nashua fired a fireball into him. The air was clouded by fire, ash and smoke, the giant on fire, bellowing as he and the building burned.
Wolfe and Siva leapt through the black smoke and wailed on their foe. The giant was so focused fending off Siva’s blows that Wolfe landed several solid hits. The giant’s axe came down on the stout warrior, knocking him to his knees. The dwarven plate absorbed it all, and he grinned up at the giant. Wolfe didn’t feel the thing.
But he did feel the next blow, the flat of the giant’s axe almost knocking his head from his shoulders.
The giant would have finished off Wolfe if not for another lightning strike and Kaz distracting him. Enraged that the giant dare make him bleed, Wolfe went for his legs with a flurry of blows. He couldn’t keep up with the crushing maul attacks, and one crippled his knee. The giant fell. The hammer landed against his temple, knocking him prone. Wolfe’s last strike crushed the brigand’s skull amidst the flash of Nashua’s magic missiles.
Smoke on the Water
“I read his thoughts before he died. They’ve been storing their plunder on the ship out there.”
A toothy grin spread across Wolfe’s lips, unmarred by the screams of townsfolk being slaughtered in the fog.
“Let’s grab a boat.”
All six of the party stole into an abandoned boat. Nostalgia of battles at sea swam through Wolfe’s head as he guided them silently through the fog, as he had once time stole silently through the night to defeat the pirate Daskar Vane. The Underdark hadn’t dampened his senses nor his skill in the slightest as he kept downwind, careful not to alert the winter wolves guarding the frost giant vessel.
Their maws were bloody from a recent feast. Their paws were as wide as a man’s chest. Northlanders often made knives from the teeth of these beasts, each animal being the size of a wagon. He’d witnessed the carnage following attacks by packs of these dogs, and Wolfe wanted none of it. He’d settle for nothing but a decisive and swift bone-crushing victory.
They hid below the edge of the vessel, spying on the two wolves as they licked their chops and their thick white coats.
Nashua smiled, breaking from a trance. His clairvoyance had struck gold. Literally.
“The ship’s loaded,” he told them. “There’s enough in there to fund an army.”
In a wizard’s whisper, Nashua enlarged Wolfe to be the size of they winter wolves. He leapt onto the deck brandishing his maul with Siva close on his heels. Kaz illuminated the wolves in faerie fire, rendering their concealment in the fog useless as they were outlined in bright hues of green and red.
Wolfe’s maul knocked the teeth out of the beast they concentrated on. The second swing sent its teeth skipping across the deck of the ship. The sword of Siva sunk deep into the winter wolf’s neck, releasing a satisfying spray of blood arcing into the air.
The winter wolf looked up from it’s agony, whining for its mate to help, but it was too late. The ambush was too perfect. Wolfe brought the hammer down in a skull-shattering maneuver, and sideways into the mate’s chops in a whirlwind of crushing blows.
The wolf stumbled backward, ready to howl an alarm to its frost giant masters, but the others were upon it. Crossbow bolts speared its neck, as did a fiery explosion that melted its fur. It reeled from Nashua’s magical attack, craning its neck to howl, when lightning from the sky, courtesy of Kaz, struck the creature dead.
Wolfe signaled everyone to silence. They stood on the edge of the boat, worrying the bard might have alerted their enemies. Nobody approached through the fog.
“Siva and I will stand watch. The rest of you, grab what you can.”
Amber asked, “Why’s that?”
“Because we’re burning this,” Nashua answered with too much enthusiasm.
The group loaded their boat with all of the plunder they could manage, and ferried it back to shore. From the docks Nashua shot a fireball, screaming into the longship. The battle had ravaged Port Llast, and many townsfolk lay dead in the streets. But, with nowhere to run or to retreat, the frost giants dropped what they couldn’t carry and retreated north toward Luskan.
Now it was time they face the duke.