Written in elegant Draconic script
Our time among the giants has been strange. We are surrounded by creatures that are far stronger and more martially inclined than ourselves, so therefore we’re relying on wits and low cunning to survive here. I am starting to think that this is another of Content Not Found: 32041 famous subtle tests. I belive we will will use finesse or die here. I hope we can pull it off, but I’d hate to talk to a professional odds-maker on the subject.
After that brute Hurlag nearly killed Thorfin over his son Findoll’s alleged pilfering of Hurlag’s kill, we went to look at the larder. It’s a crevasse where the winds from the mountain blow through. At this height, those winds are freezing cold, so it preserves the meat. Gorin showed us around the freezing room. Isak was kind enough to treat him (and the rest of us) to the Endure Elements ritual. The larder was covered with nets to keep out birds, but a sizeable crack formed an entrance for some other kind of pest. The crack was too small, even for the smallest giants, but not for us, so down we went.
We found ants. A common enough household pest. Except these were ants fit for a giant’s larder, which is to say they were as big as we are! We fought some in a network of caves just under the larder that had carried off some meat. Smoke tracked them farther down the cave system, until we found an underground river flowing out of the mountain. We could see daylight and the jungle past the river-cave, which is probably how the vermin got in. We skirmished with more of them in the cave with the river mouth and found a nest of them there. Nin, as usual, was the strong front line behind which Isak and I stood behind to rain spells down on the ants. Smoke and Barney were up with Nin. It was a rousing battle. Smoke says that he can extract some of the body parts to some use, but damned if I understand it. If Content Not Found: akra_ or _Content Not Found: 32032 finds some use for them, then I am happy to bring them back for their edification.
There’s something strange about the river… it makes one’s skin tingle and it has a faint blue glow to it. Spellplague. Why did it have to be spellplague? My first experience with the plaguetouched was in New Neverwinter, when a bunch of plaguetouched orcs tried to eat me and a small contingent of House folk coming back from the docks. I’ll never forget their eerie blue-glowing spellfire. I still have nightmares. Regardless, I ended up splashing into the river, but I pray to Oghma that the curse of the plaguetouched is something that I shall never know.
There was a nest of the brutes, so we perservered and went in. The first thing we saw was the 600 lb behemoth-haunch that Hurlag said that Findoll stole. Well, that’s a mystery solved, at least. A mess of the grubs attacked us, as well as some brood-ant. Smoke knows the gross details, I shall have to interview him for them if I’m to make a full report in the statistically unlikely event I return home alive. More likely, this journal will be found by some future explorer who will finish this jaunt. Regardless, we eventually dispatched them. I never thought about the problems of fighting things that can walk on the walls and ceiling. Ghastly.
We were about to leave when we figured out that the ant-tunnel complex went back further. Barney, when he’s not running his mouth like a sheer idiot, is quite sneaky. As it turns out, this is where the queen ant laired, along with two little buzzy ones. Smoke had something to say about it… they were drones, males. The queen ant had a huge belly bloated with blue glowing fire – more of the damnable spellplague! She came and vomited great gouts of the stuff all over most of us. I was too far back to be part of that miserable process. We were bottled up in a small tunnel, and Nin’trith’celan bravely fought around to the other side to her. My eyes, I fear, are getting weaker because I saw him in one place, and then suddenly , he was someplace else. I completely lost track of him for a moment. Barney ran forward, punching the queen viciously. She replied by nearly tearing both him and Nin in half, while the small buzzy ones flew around stinging us all with vicious attacks. The room was full of sticky eggs that were an additional misery. Once I finally (finally!) got into the room, I was able to dispatch both of the buzzy ones and the queen. This was due, in some part, to the amazing fight that had gone on while Isak and I were still trapped in the tunnel.
Isak was downed in the fight, but Smoke managed to awaken him and heal him. Power of Mielikki indeed! Barney had tried to jump across the ant-queen’s spellplague infused body, but tripped and landed in it instead. Ugh! It was horrifying! The thought of that greasy, sticky, blue fire touching one’s scales! Horrid! Isak and Nin figured that we should keep some of the “distilled essence of spellplague” in the beast’s abdoment for Master Nuresh. With great reluctance, I helped them collect it into two of the jars that were originally for the Earthfire. Once we’d cleared out, I used my own good clean spellfire to incinerate the eggs to hopefully exterminate that menace forever. Hopefully. Spellplagued ants! Horrid.
We found Gorin enjoying his endure elements ritual, and got him to carry the haunch of meat. We explained what had happened and he wanted to take us to king. We were covered in soot, mud, riverwater with spellplague, blood, sweat, ant goo, and in Barney’s case, ant goo with spellplague. I begged for an opportunity to make ourselves presentable before we met the king, strongly seconded by Isak. Gorin led us to the baths. Ohhhhh, very nice. They are heated by the Neverwinter River, or perhpas the mysterious heat source within Mount Hotenow. The natural baths and pools even included a mud pool. It sounds somewhat enjoyable, but it was too hot for me to find out firsthand. Many were hot enough to burn through my scales, but I found some enjoyable ones for myself and my companions and we got clean.
King Thar joined us after a bit. At one time, no doubt, he was a proud figure of a giant, but the wasting disease that has withered his legs makes him less imposing. He listened to our tale with relative interest, and perhaps a glimmer of intelligence with his brow. He said that Findoll (the boy) will be declared innocent and Thorfin will have no more cause for duelling with Hurlag. Though he really didn’t say as much, I got the impression he knew this would create an emnity between Hurlag and ourselves. No loss. He hated us before. Better to have the king’s gratitude and Thorfin’s also than try to make diplomatic inroads with Hurlag. King Thar said that Bregga would call the earthfire for us on the morrow, and had other things to speak to us about as well. He also said that we were welcome to stay at Gorin’s and we were free to wander during our three days of hospitality with the giants, but that we should have an escort at all times. The king’s legs were paining him, so we left him in peace.
A whispered discussion and comparison of thoughts among our group led us to the following conclusions:
- King Thar’s days are few. He will either die peacefully of old age or Hurlag will kill him for being weak.
- If Hurlag succeeds Thar, it will, at the very best, destroy any hope of peaceful trade with the giants. At worst, King Hurlag could attack New Neverwinter in a fit of xenophobic rage to consolidate his power.
- Gorin is a nice person, but unfit to rule by virtue of his academic temperament.
- Thorfin seems to have the support of many of the women and mated families of giants, the traditionalists. He owes us, personally, his son’s life and perhaps his own. That seems to mean something to him, and he would be a monarch we could work with.
- Hurlag seems to have the support of the younger, single, hunters and fighters among the tribe – their military might.
Kingmaking among giants is a dangerous pastime, indeed.