Chapter Eleven: Giantslayer
“I think we should buy some drugs,” Roon said matter-of-factly as the group of them strolled to the inn. They had just arrived in the town of Silverymoon after leaving Evelyn’s family manor. They were initially looking for Zimmorvan Hall, where the owner of the giantslayer sword was said to be, according to what Urgola told Evelyn back in Triboar. However, after some discussions with townsfolk, they found the hall was another day’s journey. The owner of the sword, Harthos Zimmorvan, was said to frequent an establishment known as the Gilded Griffin in Silverymoon. That was where they were headed now. If they couldn’t find him there, they would have to make the extra day’s journey.
“Drugs?” Opal asked curiously.
“Yeah, like, hallucinogens.”
She shrugged, not understanding.
“Imagine what would happen if we used a pound of that on a giant.” He smirked.
“I’m sure that’s what you were thinking of using it for,” Thia rolled her eyes.
They came upon the Gilded Griffin, a white-wood establishment with etched golden markings around the doorframe. Roon picked up Beatrice the tressym, and stroked her fur as they entered. “Excuse me,” he called to the man behind the bar, “are pets allowed in here?”
The man looked at the odd assortment of them, spotting the tressym, and nodded, “that’s fine.”
Roon nodded and turned back to Kilian, who was just coming through the door. “Hear that, Kilian? You’re allowed in.”
The sailor grunted and went to speak with the man, asking after Harthos.
“How’d the rest of you like to try your hands at gambling?” Roon asked, looking to Evelyn especially, whose eyes brightened at the notion. “It’s time you put that training to good use!”
Bran said, “I think I’ll watch,” and Roon took Evelyn to a table of young men and asked for a game, and Thia joined in.
Kilian was told to wait around until evening to see if Harthos would come by, so he settled in with the rest while Thia, Evelyn and Roon played cards with a steadily growing table of bettors. Soon there were roars of laughter, shouts, and more than one slight of hand by the gnome, Kilian noticed. Eventually, with Evelyn blowing bubbles from a pipe and doing her best to distract the other players, Roon and Thia came away with their winnings, grins of victory on their faces.
“So,” Roon said as they sat and began counting their gold, “what’s the deal? Do we think Harthos is going to come?”
Kilian shook his head. “I’m not sure. We may have to take the extra day of travel. I told the barman to let me know if he comes in. Let’s give it a few more hours.”
So they sat, and drank, and waited. As the Gilded Griffin filled with more patrons, Roon took the opportunity to slip out of their booth and sneak behind the bar while the owner was in the back kitchens. He took out the head of broccoli he’d purchased a few days ago, which was now starting to grow fuzzy, and broke off smaller pieces and hid them around the bar, including stuffing one particularly large chunk into a corked bottle of fire water. He grinned mischievously as he returned to his companions. Arden would’ve been proud.
“You know what, Roon,” Thia said with a contented sigh, sipping on her mead, “I’m not even going to ask.”
Another hour passed before the owner signalled Kilian to a man who’d just walked in and taken off his cloak. He wore fine clothing that signified his wealth. He had a graying beard of reddish hair, which was thinning on the top, and fierce gray eyes. He ordered a drink and turned to see Kilian and Evelyn looking at him.
“Are you Harthos Zimmorvan?” the sailor asked.
“I am,” Harthos grunted. “Who are you?”
Kilian introduced them, “I am Kilian, and this is Evelyn Elynbrynne. We’re here because we were told about your giantslayer sword, and we need to borrow it.”
“Who told you about my sword?” He asked suspiciously, taking a seat at the bar.
“Urgola,” Evelyn piped up, “from Triboar.”
“Urgola,” Harthos mulled the name over, then nodded, “what do you need the sword for?”
“Well,” Kilian sighed, also taking a seat, “we were in Triboar when the recent giant attacks happened. They destroyed half the village before we could kill one and run the other off. I hate to say it, but that isn’t the end of the giant attacks. There will be more.”
“You,” Harthos laughed, eyeing the small Evelyn in particular with disbelieving eyes, “kill giants?”
Evelyn reached into her pack, which was stained beyond all reason, and Kilian was impressed the stitching was still intact with how much was stuffed inside it. She drew out one of the large giant’s hearts she’d harvested. It was sticky and smelled horrible. She gave Harthos a look, tilting her head as she held it aloft.
The man shook his head in shock and raised a hand, motioning for her to put the organ away. “Alright, alright, I believe you. And I’d be happy to give you the sword. Unfortunately, I don’t have it anymore.”
Kilian felt his stomach sink. “What do you mean? Where is it?”
“My good-for-nothing son stole it when he ran off and married some common thief in Yartar. I disowned the bastard, but never tried to get the sword back.”
“So, he’s in Yartar?” Evelyn asked.
“What’s his name? Do you know how we can find him?”
“His name’s Harthall. I’m sure if you ask around, you’ll be able to get to him.”
“Thank you,” Kilian said sincerely. “If we find your sword, do you mind if we borrow it? It would be of great help to us.”
Harthos shrugged. “You can keep it, if you like. I’m an old man who has no use for such things, and I no longer have an heir to pass it to. If the blade can be used as a giantslayer once more, then I will be proud to give it up.”
They thanked the man and returned to the table to give the news to the rest of their companions.
“I’m so glad we came all this way,” Roon said sarcastically, “just to go straight back to Everlund.”
They returned to Everlund after a two day’s journey, thankful the trip hadn’t been a complete waste, though Roon grumbled that they could have just as easily sent Harthos a message before making the long trek on his tiny legs. They went straight to the mage’s tower, climbing the stairs and being greeted by the mage, who brought them onto the transport circle that would take them to Yartar.
“This is more like it,” Roon grinned, happy to be off the road.
The mage touched a marking on the wall, and everything spun as they were lifted off their feet, Roon’s stomach going weightless for a second. He felt his lungs compress as they popped into existence in another space entirely.
As their surroundings clarified, Roon turned and vomited, spraying the stonework in sick. “Egh,” Thia jumped back before she could be splattered, but Opal wasn’t so lucky. Kilian shot a blast of wind at the genasi, and the vomit was blown off her cloak and splattered on the walls behind her. She smiled up at the storm sorcerer.
“Welcome to Yartar,” a voice said, and they turned to see an elderly man in thin orange and yellow robes, his beard reaching halfway down his chest. He gestured for some younger initiates dressed in similar, if less decorated robes, to clean up the sick with magic. “Happens more than you’d think,” he told them.
“Thank you,” Kilian said as they all stepped off the transport circles. “We’re looking for Harthall Zimmorvan. You wouldn’t happen to know him, or where he lives?”
The old man shook his head. “Yartar is a big city. I suggest talking to the locals. We,” he gestured around, and they could see they were in an open-roomed temple of sorts surrounded by lush gardens, “rarely walk the common streets.”
They thanked the old man and Kilian handed him a silver. “I—don’t know how this works,” then they headed into Yartar, searching for the busiest part of town.
“Kilian,” Roon said casually, “did you just tip a mage?”
Bran suggested they look for contacts in the Thieves’ Guild, since Harthos said his son’s wife was a thief. They’d asked around for the better part of an hour for Harthall Zimmorvan and found nothing. Bran told them the guild was made up entirely of women. Roon thought that sounded terrifying, and they agreed the rogue should do all the talking, should they find them.
They found rooms at the Wink and Kiss tavern and inn, and Kilian again took the lead and approached the owner, a tall half-orc man with bluish skin and thick tusks that jutted from his lower lip. “Can you tell me how to get in contact with the Thieves’ Guild? We’re looking for a man, Harthall Zimmorvan.”
The owner grunted and leaned in. “Aye, I can get you a meeting. Sunset, tonight,” he nudged a chin to point at the corner of the bar where a booth of seats and a high table were, “that table. I suggest you meet alone,” he looked over at the other five of them, “otherwise, your guest may not stick around.”
Kilian thanked the shady owner, trying to himself look dark and mysterious and being rather unsuccessful at it, then returned to the rest of them.
They waited until sunset, and Kilian sat with Bran at the corner booth waiting for the member of the guild to make herself known. The others sat in a table nearby, hoping to listen in and react if there was trouble.
A younger dwarven woman with thick, dark hair braided back stepped on quiet feet into the inn and, spotting Kilian and Bran sitting, went and slid into the booth across from them.
“You gave her how much gold?” Roon asked, aghast. “We’d better hope you haven’t been swindled. Did she seem okay to you, Bran?”
The rogue shrugged. “You can never trust a thief.”
“Great,” Thia crossed her arms. “Well, I guess now we wait for this dwarf to come back with the information we need.”
“I thought she would know Harthall, or at least his wife,” Kilian shook his head, looking disappointed.
“I’m sure she’ll come back,” Opal smiled.
“Well, while we’re waiting, I think I should send a message to Zephyros and see where he’s at,” Roon suggested, and they all agreed.
The gnome closed his eyes and focused on the cloud giant. Sensing his consciousness he began to speak his twenty-five-word message. He told him where they were and asked if he knew where they should go once they had the giantslayer sword.
Zephyros answered after a minute. “I can’t know for sure, but I have heard of a dragon in Crypt Garden. The dragon knows about the oracle. You could look there.”
“Huh,” Roon said, repeating the message to the table, “I don’t really get it.”
“Who’s this dragon?” Thia asked.
Roon shrugged. “Crypt Garden… I think that’s South of Triboar, so it looks like we might be going back there after this.”
“I thought giants didn’t like dragons,” Opal said.
“And what’s the oracle supposed to be?” Roon wondered aloud.
Thia shrugged. “Oracles are seers, right?”
“So, we’ll go there, talk to a dragon, hope it doesn’t kill us, get it to tell us where this oracle is, and then… find out the future? See how to win and bring order back to the giants?”
It was Kilian’s turn to shrug. “It’s the only lead we have, so I guess we have to try it.”
Roon pressed his face into his hands. “I’m so confused.”
Thia said, “we know we have to stop the giants. At least there’s that.”
“Yes, but even with a giantslayer sword, we can’t kill every giant in existence. Besides, some of them are like Zephyros and don’t deserve killing. They’re just as confused as us. We need to find this king of the giants and put him back on his throne, not go around trying to take down creatures that are much bigger and stronger than us.”
“We’ve killed giants,” Evelyn said.
“Yes, but they also killed many of the people fighting with us,” Kilian pointed out, “think about all the villagers in Triboar. Roon’s right. We can’t let that go on.”
“I don’t feel worthy,” Roon sighed dramatically. “I need another drink.”
Thia looked at all of them curiously. “What if Zephyros has gone around to every group of adventurers he meets in Faerun and tells them the same thing?”
“What,” Kilian said, “that they’re destined to save the world?”
“Huh,” Roon smiled hopefully, “that would be nice. It would also make more sense, because I definitely don’t feel destined for anything quite at this caliber.” Not to mention he hadn’t heard anything from his trickster god, despite his nightly prayers to the deity of deception.
Bran watched them but remained quiet.
“Maybe we should quit,” Roon finally said.
“We can’t!” Opal insisted.
“Right, cause, maybe, destiny.”
“Opal’s right,” Thia fingered her porcelain mug thoughtfully, “we can’t give up.”
Roon shook his head. “Fine, but we need a team name if we’re going to keep running around the wreaking havoc. I want people to know who we are.”
“Team name?” Opal said excitedly, “Hm, let’s see…”
“Team Giant Slayer,” Bran said dully.
“TGS,” Thia smiled.
Roon snapped his finger and grinned over at Kilian, who raised his eyes to the ceiling in silent prayer for patience. “TGS.”
They spent the rest of the evening discussing their plans for when, and if, they found Harthall. They threw around ideas of disguising spells, following him to his house, and even using a mind-reading spell. Kilian grew more and more nervous as the night wore on, and still the dwarf from the Thieves’ Guild did not return.
“Remember that thing I said about drugs?” Roon asked again.
“Yes,” Thia said immediately.
“Well, I still think that’s a good idea. Besides, I’m getting bored sitting in this tavern.”
“Buying drugs sounds fun,” Evelyn said politely.
“Let’s go for a walk!” Opal said.
“Someone needs to stay behind and wait for the dwarf,” Kilian said, “so I guess that would be me.”
Roon put a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I can get you some extra drugs if you’d like.”
“Thanks,” Kilian said sarcastically, then added, “be careful.”
“I’ll stay with you,” Bran offered, and the rest of them headed out the door into the night.
Roon shot Bran a glare, but he wasn’t sure if the half-elf noticed.
It didn’t take long for them to come across a group of men standing in a back alley, drinking and laughing and wearing clothes with just enough patches in them to suggest they were the types Roon was looking for. Roon used a disguise spell to change his form so he looked like a young halfling man with curly ginger hair. He cleared his throat and strode toward the group; Thia, Evelyn and Opal following, Opal looking nervous, Thia looking bored, and Evelyn looking like she was ready for the deal to go sideways.
In the end, Thia did the best at getting what they wanted, and Roon came away with a bag of, what the man claimed was, powdered unicorn horn. After a serious discussion between Opal and the man about the moral implications of harvesting unicorn horns, the man admitted he didn’t know what the substance was made of but promised it would work for what they needed. Thia smelled the contents of the bag and confirmed that they seemed legit, and Roon decided not to ask the wizard why she knew so much about buying hallucinogens. He, himself, had never done so, and thought it would be rather prudent not to mention that now.
They returned to the Wink and Kiss a short while later, and when they asked Bran and Kilian if the dwarf had returned, Kilian shook his head.
“I didn’t realize how difficult this fellow would be to find,” Bran said, crossing his arms. “If I’d known this, I would’ve just looked for him myself.”
“We’ll table that for next time, I guess,” Kilian said, looking embarrassed.
“If she’s not back by morning,” Thia said, “then I’d say we’re out some gold, and we need to search Yartar ourselves.”
They all agreed, and Roon and Kilian stayed up while the rest went to bed, Kilian scratching a fingernail into the wooden table surface, and Roon spreading out his tinkering tools and working on a tiny clockwork creation. “What are you making?” the sailor asked finally after watching Roon work in silence for nearly an hour.
“Hopefully,” Roon said, tightening a piece, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth with the effort, “something we can use to distract an enemy.”
“Enemy?” Kilian raised his eyebrows. “Our enemies are giants. How are they going to see that little thing?”
Roon shrugged and looked up at his friend. “The mighty TGS will have many enemies before this war is over.”
“Are you always this funny?” Kilian asked dully.
“Usually,” Roon admitted.
He finally finished his little figurine, which was a tiny knight in painted armour that, when a knob on his head was turned ten times, would click internal gears forward and start walking. It was appropriately annoying, which meant it was effective. He pocketed the trinket and gave Kilian an apologetic look as he went upstairs to bed.
“She came back,” Kilian said, looking relieved as everyone came downstairs for breakfast. He looked like he’d barely slept. “And she found Harthall. He’s in prison.”
“What’d he do?” Thia asked as they all sat.
Kilian shook his head, “supposedly he murdered someone. Anyone who knows him didn’t think he was the type.”
“What about his wife?” Bran asked.
“She said she didn’t find any sign of a wife.”
“Well, at least we know where he is. All we have to do is sneak into the prison and ask him for the sword,” Roon said.
“How are we going to do that?” Opal asked. “We can’t just walk in there!”
“I have a disguise hat,” Bran said, “it will change the way I look. I can pretend to be his father, Harthos, and go and see him. I’ll lie and say I’ve forgiven him, but I want the sword back as a way to make amends.”
“Repairing families and saving dreams, that’s the TGS way,” Roon grinned.
“Okay, but you shouldn’t go in alone,” Thia advised. “Take my fey owl so we can see what’s happening.”
“Wizards are so weird,” Roon said. “Why don’t I get a pet that can flash in and out of existence?”
“You have a tressym,” Thia said, pointing to the winged cat that was currently lounging nearby in a stream of sunlight, licking her private parts.
“Yeaaaaahh,” Roon said slowly.
Kilian cut in. “I think we should also send you with a couple of bodyguards, Bran. A man like Harthos wouldn’t go without an escort, and that way you’ll have backup in case something goes wrong with the disguise.” He looked at Evelyn and Opal, “I think you two would be best.”
“I can put disguises on both of you, just in case,” Thia told them.
They all agreed, and once they had their disguises up–Thia deciding to change all their features except Roon and Bran, who could use magic for it–they snuck out the back of the inn, then headed to the prison.
“I can’t believe it actually worked,” Thia said, surprised, nearly an hour later.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Bran asked, his hat still on so he looked like Harthos.
“Well, only that our plans don’t usually work out,” Roon shrugged, scratching his nose, his finger passing through the illusion to his real face.
“What did we learn?” Kilian, ever the one to keep them on track.
Bran explained their brief visit. “They made me leave Opal and Evelyn at the entrance while I went in. Harthall wasn’t fooled by my illusion, but he says he was framed by Captain Brenner, the man in charge. When he saw the giantslayer sword, he was interested in it, so he got Harthall arrested for murder and took the sword for himself. The boy wouldn’t tell me where his wife was,” Bran shrugged, unfeeling, “so I told him goodbye and to enjoy his time in jail.”
“Glad you’re making friends,” Roon said.
With that, they set out planning, all sitting together in their disguises in the park near the prison, Thia keeping her owl on watch duty.
Thia, in her disguise, ran up to the guard at the entrance of the prison and told him she had a message for Captain Brenner. She’d forged the message expertly to look like it came from Darathra, the Lord Protector of Triboar.
“Message? Give it here, I’ll take it to him.”
Thia shook her head insistently. “Sorry, but I was given clear instructions to bring this directly to Captain Brenner.”
The guard looked at her in annoyance, then called for another guard, who trotted off and returned a few minutes later, letting Thia through. She followed him into a small office where he knocked on the door and she was allowed to enter alone.
Captain Brenner stood as she came through the door, and she saw immediately the sword they were looking for. It was looped around his chair, still in its scabbard, but with an unmistakably fine hilt. Captain Brenner was a tall man with blonde hair and a matching, well-groomed beard. He stood straight and gave her a gracious nod as she handed him the letter and flashed the badge they’d each received from the Lord Protector. “Message from Lord Protector of Triboar,” Thia announced.
The Captain looked at the envelope, then nodded. “What’s your name?”
“Fran of Triboar,” Thia said. He flipped her a silver, which she quickly pocketed. Before leaving, she pointed to the sword where it hanged, “that’s a fine blade, sir.”
Brenner looked round at it in surprise, then said, “yes, yes, when you become Captain of the Guard, you receive many such rewards.”
“Indeed, sir?” He didn’t respond. He was opening the envelope. Sensing he would tell her nothing more, she took her leave.
They argued in one of their private rooms back at the inn about what to do with Harthall and Captain Brenner. Roon insisted they get Harthall out by proving his innocence. Bran suggested they sneak in and open his cell and leave the rest of the escape up to him. Roon told him the man would have to run and live as a fugitive if they did that. Thia thought there was no time to worry about the man, and they would have to leave him in jail. Evelyn barely listened to the argument, easily distracted as she was. Kilian insisted their priority was to get the sword from the Captain, which they finally agreed on. Opal was just happy to watch the exchange.
Finally, it was nightfall, and the group snuck back to the prison and waited until Thia’s owl spotted the Captain leaving for the night with eight guards following him.
They followed the group through the city and watched several exchanges between the Captain and guards with other shady fellows in back alleys. One of the guards would grab the thug, demand money, and the Captain would receive the payment. Then, they would move on to their next target. They did this a few times, their group watching from the shadows, before one of the thugs shook his head and couldn’t offer them the demanded funds. The Captain ripped out the giantslayer blade and had it in the man’s gut before he could react. The thug dropped and the guards went ripping into his belongings in search of gold.
“Okay, this Captain fellow is bad news,” Roon whispered, “now I don’t feel so bad stealing from him.”
“Oh, shit,” Thia said quickly, looking up at them in surprise. “I did—something.”
“What?” Kilian demanded in a hushed voice.
“I think the guards just saw my owl, so I flashed it out of existence so that it wouldn’t be shot down , and now…”
“Now they’re looking for us,” Bran swore, and sure enough, they could hear the mutterings of the guards as they spread out in the dark alleys.
“Cover’s up, it’s now or never,” Roon said.
Evelyn nodded to her companions, her white hair streaming behind her like some ghost from a dream, and she began climbing the building near them. She crouched on the roof and drew her blades and cut both her arms so the steel shimmer with dark energy.
“Right,” Bran said, and the dark-skinned half-elf ran across the alley and began climbing the building across from them. Once he was up, he took out his crossbow and took aim at one of the guards.
Kilian looked down at Roon, and the gnome gave a nervous nod.
Bran released his bolt and it hit one of the guards, sending the other seven, plus the Captain, into high alert. Thia began to hum a soft tune under her breath and her eyes seemed to glow with some strange power. Then she took out her longbow, leapt from her cover and shot another guard. Roon knew she hit because he heard the grunt. Thia pressed herself back against the wall and said, “they’re spreading out, all still alive. I got this one in the shoulder. Looks like Bran did the same to the other one.”
“FIND THEM!” The Captain shouted, giving up on being discreet. “KILL THEM!”
Kilian ran past buildings, casting his shatter spell over a group of guards, and Roon heard one die. A second later, as Roon began summoning his duplicate, he heard a grunt and turned the corner to see the Captain had caught Kilian with a crossbow bolt in the arm.
Opal transformed into a rhinoceros and charged.
Roon nodded to his duplicate and the two of them ran around the charging rhino and cast a giant middle finger over a guard running at Thia. The spiritual weapon of Baravar Cloakshadow, majestic mighty hand, smashed into the man, throwing him against a building wall with a sickening and deadly crunch.
Bran continued to shoot bolts from his place on the roof. Roon couldn’t spot him in the shadows. In the corner of his eye he glanced Evelyn running across the opposite building and jumping off, crashing into another guard and slitting his throat. When she stood, her knees were skinned but she seemed otherwise unharmed.
Thia put away her bow and shot a string of lightning, which arced through the alleyway and threw everything into a momentary blinding light. A second after the lightning hit a man, the rhino’s horns pierced his body and threw him lifeless to the ground. Opal snorted and pawed the ground as the other guards moved through the alley to get at her.
Kilian threw a fog cloud into another alley as the rest of the guards ran through. Then he ran at Brenner and swung under the arc of the Captain’s blade. He took out a dagger, grabbing his shoulders from behind and pressing the blade under his chin. “Your guards are dead,” Kilian said loudly to the Captain, breathing hard. “Your thieving days are over. Drop your weapon.”
Brenner roared and stomped on Kilian’s foot, bringing the giantslayer sword around to try and cut the sorcerer. Kilian jumped back and cast a magical, glimmering shield over his form, which blocked the blow.
Kilian had lied, of course. There were three remaining guards struggling to get out of the fog. Roon shot his spiritual weapon into the mist and heard it hit someone hard, but he and his duplicate were already running to protect his friend. He pulled out a shortbow and caught Brenner in the leg with a tiny arrow. The Captain screamed and turned on him just as a bolt from Bran zoomed from the darkness and hit him in the other leg. As Brenner turned to face his hidden rivals, Kilian swirled his hands in front of him, preparing a spell. “Surrender,” the sorcerer growled.
Just then, Evelyn charged from around a building and body slammed into the Captain, throwing him off his feet in surprise. Only when she stood did Roon see she had run him through with her blade. The blonde man stared up at the sky, choking on blood and giving up his last breath.
“Your Captain is dead!” Thia shouted into the fog, and Kilian dropped the spell.
There were three guards still standing, and they looked around, blinking for a moment in confusion. Then, seeing Thia and the rhino, they tentatively approached, weapons up.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Roon heard Thia say as she shot one down.
Bran shot down the other two quickly enough from his point on the roof. The dark alleys of Yartar went quiet.
Bran climbed off the building just as more shouts came from down the road. “Halt! Drop your weapons!” More guards.
Thia turned and, with a thunderous clap, she blinked out of existence, the area around her exploding and throwing the three newcomers back, killing them instantly. She appeared a second later next to Kilian. “We need to go,” the wizard said quickly through clenched teeth, “grab the sword.”
They heard echoing footsteps, and Bran ran to them. “There was a fourth guard. He got away,” he said quickly, “we need to run. He’s going for help.”