Recap from 4/2. I figured I'd do a full one since most of the players couldn't be there. And then I got to feeling purple. But I did manage to finish it!
tl;dr: OK, Utropia, the giant is debilitated by agony, blind, on fire, greased, prone, and covered in icy spores from beyond the Black Gulf. All you have to do is hit it. Ready?
Solon Eurybia: Atlantean Magician 4 (rising to 5) (cornrowed bear-fur all over nody, distended unlocking jaw, missing arm)
Qandal Torrgollos: Common Berserker 1
Utropia "Legs": Kimmerian Ranger 4 (frost-bitten lips, facial scarring, bad at ape pantomime)
--Rhona Runtos: Common Henchcleric of Rel 1
Tulukaruk Yeil: Esquimmeaux Jester 2
Billy Ray Valentine: Common Legerdemainist (Mountebank) 1
Vorr: Common Necromancer 1
Zilly: Hyperborean Scout 1 (six fingers)
The party made it back from dungeon to Dunwich and there met with Hallstan the Wayfarer in his new guise as Olav the corundum merchant, though he truly represented the Kybernetes of Felchapel as she sought to extend her influence to this most isolated of the Gal Hills towns. They told Hallstan what they had learned. He told them not to be as sublte as possible so that their connection was not obvious but that he could act as a fence for most things they recovered and encouraged them to get to know the locals. All pledged this with wine, and one thing, as it does, led to another. Over breakfast ales the next day, it turned out that Billy Ray Valentine did so by tumbling a village elder's daughter (Looking good, Lous!) Tulukaruk ended up sleeping in the goat pen, but all thought this was innocent enough. Vorr the necromancer started a drunken brawl and ended up arrested and owing more in fines and damages (200 GP) than anyone could afford to pay. Utropia woke up with what she vaguely remembered someone with arms (so, not Solon) swearing was a totally accurate and documented treasure map. And Solon woke up missing his lotus diadem.
Once the breakfast ales were dealt with, Solon cast locate object and located his object on a young man sleeping it off in a hay loft. The sleeper's younger brother, Brin, was also present, forking hay aloft, and he begged Solon not to punish his brother, who apparently is the Bealtainn King and so has spent the entire year living without consequences and being fed and wined at the expense of everyone else in the village. Brin insisted his brother wasn't used to consequences anymore. The rest of the family, too, received help from the village and had to do little work, and Brin was able to spend the year studying with the druid, Malvek. Maybe sensing an opportunity, Solon let the matter drop.
With Brin's eventual introduction, they went and met the druid and intimated that he would do well to assist them since they would clearly feature majorly in any narratives told of Dunwich in the near future. The druid retorted that until they had proved they had some value to the town, they could bleed out in a hole or fill the wicker god for all he cared. But it turned out that he had a couple of tasks that might be solvable with the throwing-at-them of bodies. For Bealtainn, since they had met its king, Malvek still needed the blossoms of the russet lotus to prepare the king for his ascension at the festival. These could be harvested in a nearby bog. Also, a hill about ten miles away had been repeatedly struck by lightning several nights before. It was clear to Malvek that the god Cerrunnos had sent some of his generative sky power to Yoon-Deh, kindling his fires on her in anticipation of the coming of Bealtainn. But Malvek also feared the power unleashed would attract others who would seek to steal it. The party elected to investigate this, and Malvek gave them each ten staves that had been cut from the sacred oaks. These were to be planted around any area struck by lightning, and they would communicate the god power to the parent oaks.
So, oakenly laden, they set off. They reached the hill just before sundown (after Eutropia helped them avoid a wild aurochs by reminding Solon not to magic missile it) and scouted around the base before making a hidden camp. In full dark, they heard what sounded like hammering, metal on metal, as if from a forge, coming from the top of the hill. Also, they saw occasional flickerings of actinic blue light among the trees. They decided to move up and investigate.
Billy Ray Valentine, as the sneakiest and therefore most expendable member, was sent 20' ahead, which meant he was all alone when he stumbled into a lightning-blasted area. Actinic bolts leaped and flared, illuminating the surprised mountebank--and the eight animal skeletons that heaved out of the ground and attacked. Four of them converged on Billy Ray, and electricity leaped and flared from the shining bones as two of them struck the mountebank, knocking him to the ground before anyone could react. Solon levitated the unconscious mountebank to safety, and Utropia, and Qandal destroyed the two skeletons that were not driven into the surrounding darkness by Utropia's henchcleric. With the animal skeletons pacing through the surrounding woods, lurking in the shadows, the party thought to deploy the oaken wands Malvek had provided. They staked eight of them in overlapping diamonds around the lightning-blasted area. As the last one went in, current arced from the surrounding skeletons into oak branches, and the skeletons collapsed, destroyed.
They got Billy Ray back on his feet, lit torches, and advanced. They came to another lightning-scorched area and staked it with the oak wands before anyone entered it. Lightning coruscated from wand to wand, and disconnected bones shivered out of the scorched ground. Two animate skeletons also formed, a deer and a human. These were eventually dispatched once swords were dropped in favor of staves and bludgeons.
Now from the top of the hill, the sound of hammering ceased a voice so loud and deep that they could feel it vibrate in their bones called down, "Whatever worms crawl up this hill, you move toward your own doom! Turn back now, or bone, breath, and body shall forever separate!"
This was greeted with variations on, "Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man--sir."
At Solon's urging, they charged up the hill toward the voice. In his philosophy, s*** had come up and had to be dealt with. That s*** turned out to be a 16'-tall blue-skinned, white-bearded giant using a splintered oak as a club. The giant stood in the center of the naked crown of the hill, surrounded by the blackened, blasted stonescour of lightning scar. Behind him, a twisted, pygmy creature clad in shining blackish steel pounded a hammer over and over against a cold anvil. Seemingly in time with this forging beat, a half dozen sickly yellow maggoty sacks, wriggling and stretching beneath their sheath skins, were birthing from the charstone ground. With each hammer stroke they heaved another fraction of their bulk from the stone, and the dwarf's maddened laughter rang out with the hammer blows, and sparks from the hammer flashed over the stone, and the hill's stone crown seemed to arc and flare brighter than dim, fading Phobos as it crawled along the world's rim as if to escape the sights wrought beneath it.
Stunned by what they saw and by the sudden end of the tree cover and the scarred nakedness of the hilltop, the party hesitated a moment, Utropia reaching for her bow, Solon reaching to protect himself through mirror image while exhorting the others to attack. A moment too late, Utropia called for the party to retreat, and they turned back into the trees. But the giant had heaved up a fractured, charred stone and sent it hurtling through the treeline, where it crushed Utropia's henchcleric, spraying the others with faithful henchblood as they raced past. Another boulder crashed through the trees, sending splinters the size of spears after the party, but they dropped over a ridge and ran back down the hill, past their campsite and into the forest, the mocking laughter of the dwarf dweomercraefter still ringing in their ears, the pounding of metal on metal filling the dark valley.
The party decided to head immediately back to Malvek, reaching the oak grove near dawn. The druid seemed unimpressed by their desire that he send aid with them. Had they not taken on the task? Did they not seek to prove their worthiness and use? Was it not their task to risk and his to reward? When the party insisted that Malvek himself should come to aid them in the battle, he laughed, saying that his place was with those he guided. If his chosen instrument was too weak for the task it had been meant for, he would find a new instrument and new ways. There was grumbling. There was even muttering. Finally, there was a grudging acceptance of a job left unfinished. Malvek used what healing magic he had available to restore those who were wounded, for Utropia had never fully recovered from fighting the apes she had insulted to frenzy in the nearby dungeon. Then the party set off once again for the hill.
This time in full daylight they made their way up, careful to avoid any area marked by lightning char. They crept through the last of the trees and spied on the giant. He stood in the center of the hill's stone top, amid blackened rock and blasted gravel. The wriggling yellow forms now bulked half exposed from the rock, their skins still twisting and distending with the movement of what was within. The dwarf was not apparent, but the party guessed that it sheltered from the ruddy daylight within a massive leather sack rucked near the giant's feet. The party redistributed resources of Greek fire, and Solon gave Qandal his pouch of frozen spores, which he knew had come from beyond the Black Gulf and could be activated only through flame. Leaving Tulukaruk and Solon in place, the others scattered along the circumference of the tree line. Utropia's experience as an old artificer of ambushes stood them in good stead, and they had all reached their appointed positions when Tulukaruk and Solon gave the signal to attack.
Tulukaruk forged a phantasm of shadow, a beast that lurched out of the trees and onto the charred stone in umbraceous silence. It had something of a whale in how it flowed and fluked from the forest, and something of a wolf, but its bat wings beetled low over its lowering brow and came together, and from them flew two spheres of bone-white light as Solon used his illusion to conceal himself and the origin of the magic missiles. The giant, stung by these, roared out its rage over the blasted rocks and leaped to challenge the shadow. But now from the trees on all sides came the others, racing across, the ground, and the giant lost precious moments in its confusion before it kicked at the dwarf to rouse it and scooped up a shattered stone that could have served as the plinth of some massive statue. This he hurled at Utropia as she labored in her armor, slower than the others, but the stone sailed wide away, crashing into the trees and down the wooded slope.
Now the faster people had reached throwing range, and Billy Ray Valentine threw a flask of incandescent oil full on the giant's chest. The flame seared the creature's icy skin, and it howled in rage. Even closer, Qandal flung one of Solon's space spores at the flames. Exposed to the heat, the seed from the stars burst, and a cloud of russet spores erupted. But the giant, already flinging itself backward and away from the flames burning on its harness, managed to avoid inhaling the ultramondane menace, though it could not avoid another magic missile from Solon.
Now the burning giant saw that its closest tormentor was Qandal, and it lunged at the berserker even as he flung another of the spores at it. The spore struck the flames as they continued to drip down the massive body, and again it burst. Even as the giant struck at Qandal, it breathed in the russet cloud. And from every pore on its massive frame, russet mould erupted. Its eyes went white, and the giant bellowed with agony as an alien intelligence stirred into hive life beneath its skin.
Now chaos foamed and flowed across the hill's scarred crown as the giant staggered in its agony, stumbling from side to side and menacing the fighting and the fallen alike as it sought to kill even in its torment. Its dwarf slave, emerged from its sackcloth cocoon, tried to hell Eutropia as the ranger lumbered by, holding aloft her sword now wet with the giant's blood. She managed to avoid it and ran back toward the tree line where she had left her pack. Billy Ray retreated as well, having delivered a ball of darkness about the giant's head to cover his retreat. Solon ran in to haul Qandal to safety, and Tulukaruk came with him. The jester began to tumble and caper around the enraged and half-blinded dwarf, luring it away from the fallen berserker, Solon, Billy Ray, and from Utropia and whatever plan she intended to enact when she finally made it back to the tree line. As he tumbled, he aped the creature's swollen limbs and shrinking eyes, its slavish nature and knavish stature, and rage flared in the forge fire of the dwarf's swart heart and it chased Tulukaruk around the char-scarred ground as the jester tried to lead it between the staggering giant's legs and so bring down the beast at last.
Solon, having missed with an acid arrow, bandaged Qandal's wounds and hauled the broken berserker toward Billy Ray, who was pinging sling stones off the pain-maddened giant. Utropia at last reached and reached into her pack, and from it she drew forth a mannikin of copper found on a fallen thief in the House of the Medusa. This she smeared with the giant's blood, having already well peppered Qandal and achieved that rare reagent, a berserker's tears. Activated now, the golem raced toward its one purpose, attacking the one with the abilities of the other, and and it flew across the field to belabor the giant's ankles with its berserk and cuprum fists.
This new pain perhaps cleared the giant's senses for a frost-clear moment free of furze and fire. For now it bent low and swept low with the club it clutched still and caught the bold copper on its shiny chest and scattered it like coins across the stone. And the blow carried on and caught Tulukaruk in midcaper and dropped the jester, too, his body if not his act fallen flat upon the rocks. Solon, seeing no one now between him and his foes, dropped the dwarf into sleep with a focused gesture as the giant once more bellowed in blind pain. And seeing Utropia once more lumber forth on the field, Solon greased the stomping giant's giant feet and sent the massive, mould-wrapped form crashing to the ground.
Utropia arrived as the giant attempted to stagger to its feet again, and though it was debilitated by agony, blind, on fire, greased, prone, and covered in icy spores from beyond the Black Gulf, the panting ranger managed to miss it. Twice.
At last, though, the ranger sliced the mighty thews that supported the giant's knees, and it fell crashing on the cutting stones, where Utropia, holding her breath to avoid the billowing spore cloud, dispatched it.
Many hours later, the party once more reached Malvek's grove of oaks. Here they found the druid well disposed to them after their trials. He helped them by freeing Vorr from the Dunwich gaol and identifying the giant's treasure: an aurochs cloak (basically a cloak +1 with immunity to natural cold and, if you're a fighter, the ability to fight like an aurochs), a tathlum shot (sling stone made by ancient Kelts of cement and fomorian brains; +2; slays cyclops; X2 dmg. to fomorians; explodes on criticals); and three golden cones (petals = a day's rations or heart = potion of healing). Also recovered: several gems, 3,500 electrum, the dwarf (who was given to Malvek for sacrifice after Halstan interrogated it in Old Norse and figured that going after its treasure was insanely dangerous and also exactly what the dwarf wanted), and the unconscious bodies of their friends.
They also burned the mould-infected giant and the maggot things, which were the larval forms of more dwarves that the giant and his helper were raising from the lightning-charged ground. And they staked it out with oak to add to Yoon-Deh's power at the coming Bealtainn.
In the end, Solon made fifth level and is going be in town for a while swotting away so the others figured they'd leave him there and see about going to harvest those lotus blossoms because that sounds safe and it's not like I've been reading through The Golden Bough lately!