Chapter 25: Court of the Giants
They appeared in a large room that resembled what Roon could only describe as the inside of a barnacle. The walls were shell-like and slick and glowed with a blue and pink luminescence, with rough corral growths and slimy seaweed. The floor was made of smooth, glassy rock and led off the platform where they stood, into a long hallway. They all looked around at each other, and Flint nodded appreciatively. “I have to write a song about this one.” The dwarf clutched his bagpipes excitedly.
They stepped off the platform. There seemed to be no one around, but they could hear the faint, echoing sound of music from far above them. They quietly stepped down the hallway and found a giant-sized set of stairs leading up. Now that they stood at the base of the stairs, they could hear the music more clearly. Two bellowing female voices accompanied the music.
“Should we go up?” Kilian whispered uncertainly.
Roon gestured to their left, where the hallway continued. “It’s either up, or down that hallway.”
“I say we go up,” Thia whispered, and they all padded up the corral stairs. There were two sets, one large enough for giants, and the other set made for humans. Roon was out of breath by the time they reached the top.
There were wide, double doors at least twenty-five feet in height. They were built of driftwood and carved in wavelike designs. One of the doors was open, and through it they could see a guard standing just inside the door. The room itself was massive, with a ring of seats and a stage in the middle. It was too difficult to see how many giants were inside. Thia motioned for them to return down the stairs, and they hurried off.
“That’s a lot of giants,” she said as soon as they reached the bottom, out of earshot.
“We need to come up with a plan,” Kilian said.
They all nodded, and Roon pointed down the hallway. “Let’s see what else we can find.”
They crept down the hallway and found a mix of human-sized and giant-sized doorways, all of which led into bedrooms. “It’s like some kind of hotel,” Thia said, eyeing the perfectly made beds and uniform decoration of the rooms.
Down the centre of the hallway was a small divot where water trickled down until they reached a widening in the hallway, and the water culminated into a shallow pool. Roon dipped a finger into the water and tasted it. “Salt water,” he confirmed.
Kilian stared up at the shell-like ceiling. “We must be underwater.”
There was a staleness to the air. “It must be a very powerful, unnatural magic,” Opal said in awe.
“All of these rooms must be for guests,” Flint surmised, closing yet another door to bedrooms.
“There’s no one down here,” Evelyn said disappointedly.
“I think we should go back up and confront the giants,” Roon said. “Now, hear me out,” he added as they protested. “We go in as emissaries of some kind and say we are here to meet the giant in charge after King Hekaton. We tell them about the conch, search for the betrayer Iymrith, and hopefully make some giant allies.”
Thia shrugged in the following silence. “It’s the best we’ve got. Let’s go.”
“Uh, maybe not all of us,” Kilian said quickly, eyeing Evelyn and Roon skeptically.
Roon crossed his arms.
“Only that, if there are too many of us, we may slip up,” he added.
“Also, Evelyn is a terrible liar,” Thia said.
Evelyn nodded. “That’s true.”
“I can stay with them,” Flint said, gesturing to Roon and Evelyn.
“Why am I in this!” Roon demanded.
“Just—watch out for them, will you?” Kilian said softly, then nodded to Thia and Opal.
“We’ll be back soon!” Opal said happily, and the three of them left back up the hallway. As they walked away, Roon sent a death-warding spell after Kilian. The protective spell wrapped around his friend as they moved, undetectable by anyone else.
“C’mon,” Flint said with a sigh, pushing open a door to one of the human-sized rooms. The three of them slumped inside.
“I hate sitting around,” Roon said bitterly. “It was my idea.”
“Kilian is right,” Flint waved a hand. “Too many of us would raise suspicion. They’ll be alright,” he added, noticing Roon’s worried expression beneath his angry one. “If anyone knows how to talk to giants, I’m sure it’s those three.”
“You don’t know them like I do,” Roon said quietly, then glanced over at Evelyn, who was distractedly staring at a piece of pink corral jutting from the wall. She raised a finger to touch it. “Hey, Evelyn.”
The girl jumped and looked at him. “Yeah?”
“Wanna try something stupid?”
The grin reached her face quickly, and she nodded with excitement. “Always.”
“You still have those spider-climbing boots?”
Evelyn reached into her bag and took out the long black boots stitched with runes, holding them up.
Thia, Opal and Kilian returned sooner than Roon had expected. They were led down the hallway with two guards, who showed them to an adjacent room. “She’s very busy but will call on you when she’s ready to meet,” one of the giant guards was saying in her low, rasping voice.
“Alright,” Thia said loudly, “we will await our meeting with great anticipation.”
Roon and Flint pressed their ears to the door and listened to the giants move away before throwing open their door and finding their companions. “What happened?” Flint asked.
“Where’s Evelyn?” Kilian asked immediately.
Roon waved a hand. “She just went to scout the area—don’t worry, she’s using her boots to climb on the ceiling. They won’t see her.”
Kilian sighed and pointedly stared at Flint, who avoided the sailor’s gaze.
“Well, what do we do now?” Thia sighed in frustration.
“You weren’t gone long,” Flint said, “what did they tell you?”
Kilian crossed his arms, his mouth turning down into a thin line. “The youngest sister, Sarissa, is in charge. The two older sisters, Mirran and Nym, don’t seem overly pleased to have her on the throne, but they seem to bow to her will. They told us she was very busy, but they would see to us when they could. They promised to bring food and any necessary accommodations, but…” he trailed off.
“But it seems worrisome,” Thia finished the thought. “I don’t trust them.”
“You don’t like giants very much,” Opal said.
“True,” the elf agreed, seating herself on the edge of one of the beds. A puff of dust sprang up from the duvet and she coughed, looking displeased.
“Remember,” Kilian reminded them, “the oracle told us that Mirran and Nym coveted the throne, but they are pawns of Iymrith, the blue dragon disguised as a storm giant. That is who we should be worried about.”
“Well, what should we do?” Roon asked.
Kilian tapped his foot impatiently. “I don’t like waiting.”
Thia stood and walked to the door, pushing it open. “We tell them our time is valuable. We tell them we want to find their father. And we warn them of Iymrith.”
“Was the blue dragon here, in the court?” Flint asked.
Kilian sighed, “we didn’t see her, but I suspect she’s here somewhere.”
“She killed Harshnag,” Opal said sadly. “If she’s disguised, she could be any of them.”
“C’mon,” Thia said, and strode out of the room, down the long hallway, and toward the foyer leading to the main stairs. The rest of them trotted to keep up with the long-legged elf, Flint and Roon grumbling in the back.
“Oh, there are more of you,” one of the giant guards said as they approached.
“Are there?” Thia said offhandedly. “Yes, well, they’re delegates, same as us. We wish to speak with Sarissa.”
“We told you,” the guard said patiently, “that the Queen is busy.”
“Queen?” Thia asked sharply. “Has news of King Hekaton been found, then?”
“She is the Queen until such time as her father returns,” the guard said smoothly.
“We must speak with her. It’s urgent.”
The guard shrugged unhelpfully.
Roon jogged to Thia’s side and pulled out the adamantium staff from his bag, handing it to the elf. She arched and eyebrow but took it from him all the same, planting it on the ground. “We have the vonenedod.”
“What?” It was the guard’s turn to speak sharply. She looked at the other, and they nodded silently to one another. “Come with us.” Looking uncomfortable, the two guards led them all up the stairs.
They hurried after them and arrived in the large auditorium surrounded by empty seats, where before music had been playing. They moved across the room to a set of large doors. One of the guards disappeared through it, closing it behind.
They waited for a few minutes before both doors were opened and they were ushered inside. They saw a circular room with large chairs around it. Half were filled with giants. Roon noted the two female storm giants, a fire giant, a stone giant, a frost giant… all except a hill giant were accounted for.
“So,” one of the female storm giants got to her feet and squinted her buggy eyes at them, “you’re not just the delegates you said you were, from Waterdeep. You’re spies. Assassins.” She said the words with relish, pointing at them all.
“Not assassins, Princess Mirran.” Kilian said, fists clenched. “We come for peace.”
“Yet,” the other storm giant stood, walking to her sister’s side. Their relation was obvious. “Yet, yet you threaten us. With the vonendod, no less.” Nym grinned wickedly.
“We do not come to threaten,” Thia assured them, gripping the staff tightly. “We offer you information. Duke Zolto had the vonendod with plans to destroy this court and take the Kingship for himself. We stopped him and took the weapon, then came here to help you find your father.”
“She comes in here,” Mirran sneered, “the dirty little elf girl, and claims to have killed one of our own.”
“Not one of your own,” Kilian said loudly. “A traitor.”
“A giant,” Nym cooed, anger colouring the sweetness in her voice.
The first sister tilted her head at them, then looked around at the room of giants. She pointed a beefy finger in their direction and said, “kill them.”
At that moment, Evelyn shouted from the ceiling, where she hung upside down by her boots. “Try to kill us, and you’ll end up like the rest of these!” She upended—or perhaps it was right-ended—her stained and overstuffed pack and let three giant, gooey hearts fall to the polished white floors, where they exploded, covering her companions in the rotting blood and flesh.
Roon turned to the side and nearly wretched.
“KILL THEM!” The two sisters screamed at once, and all the giants got to their feet.
In a moment of panic, Roon backed away as half a dozen giants drew weapons and ran at them. One swung a club at the ceiling toward Evelyn, narrowly missing. Kilian drank a potion, then whispered a spell so his form blurred. Opal drew up a swirling, roaring ice storm in the middle of the room. The noise of howling wind and snow was deafening, and the powerful swirling storm sucked some of the giants inside.
Before Thia could cast anything, a bolt of lightning hit her square in the chest and she flew across the room, sliding along the floor and not moving. Flint shot bolts from his crossbow and tried to back away as quickly as he could, and another bolt of lightning threw Opal and Kilian off their feet. Roon saw it was the sisters controlling the lightning and directed his ethereal weapon toward them as he searched for cover. Opal got to her feet, then jumped into the air and transformed into a giant eagle. Kilian also got to his feet and yelled over the sound of the storm, “IS THIS HOW YOU TREAT YOUR EMISSARIES? YOUR ALLIES?” He demanded. Then, he pointed his hands at Mirran and the giant woman flew into the air with a shriek. She flipped until she was dangling in the middle of the room. All the giants paused to stare up at the princess where she struggled and cursed. Kilian opened his mouth, but instead of words, blue fire shot from him into the giant’s face, a product of the potion he drank. She shrieked as the flames burned, but Kilian held back. Some of her hair was singed, but she seemed mostly unharmed. “STOP, OR SHE DIES!” He warned.
Opal landed by the stairs and nodded her beak, and the ice storm dissipated. The giants looked to Nym uncertainly, their weapons lowering half an inch.
She looked at her sister hanging in the air, then back at Kilian, then around the room, licking her chunky lips. Then, she whispered something, and the bottom half of her body blurred. Suddenly, she shot toward Kilian and made a grab for him. The sorcerer’s image blurred sickeningly, and she missed him, sliding past and stumbling. The other giants took that as a sign to continue the fight and roared in unison.
Another bolt of lightning struck Kilian from behind and he grunted as he hit the ground. “DROP HER, YOU FILTH!” Nym shouted, but Mirran remained suspended in the air.
Roon managed to skitter out of the way, then stepped into an invisible door and appeared on the other side of the room. He saw above them a large oval window, looking out into the dark, vast ocean. He raised his hands, gritted his teeth, and was about to shatter the window and let the weight of the ocean come crashing in, when another female voice bellowed over the noise of the battle. “STOP! WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?”
The fight stopped for a second time, and everyone turned as, from a hidden opening to a staircase, a giantess appeared wearing a corral crown and a flowing robe. Around her neck she wore a blue sceptre with a chain. Next to her walked a male giant dressed in fine clothes and grasping a trident.
Roon saw Flint move to Thia’s side and heal the elf. Opal stayed in the air, flapping her large wings and watching the newcomer cautiously. Kilian groaned and slowly got to his feet, and Evelyn stared at them all from her point on the ceiling.
“What is happening here?” Sarissa, daughter of Hekaton, demanded in a stern voice, eyeing her two sisters, one of which was still suspended in the air. “Who are these people?”
Kilian cleared his throat. “We are emissaries from Waterdeep. We have come to help you find your father,” the sorcerer said, rubbing his chest and looking pained. “And, to warn you of Duke Zolto and the vonendod.”
“Is that so?” Sarissa asked, stepping into the room. The other giants lowered their weapons and slowly moved into the corners of the room. All except the guards, who inched toward the doors. “Why, sisters, have you chosen to attack these people?”
“They threatened us,” Mirran wheezed and pointed at the splatter of gore on the ground. “They showed us the hearts of our kin.”
Evelyn began walking down the wall toward the ground. “Only after you decided to attack us,” the girl said grudgingly.
Another figure appeared through a side door and slid into one of the seats, looking thoroughly amused. It was a storm giantess, but atop her head she wore a crown with a blue dragon horn. Iymrith, Roon thought. It had to be the dragon disguised. How dense were these giants?
“I would like to hear them out,” Sarissa said. “Please, would you mind?” She asked, gentler, and gestured to her sister dangling in the air.
“Of course,” Kilian acquiesced, lowering Mirran to the floor, feet first.
Mirran glared but said nothing, moving to take a seat. Nym followed, grumbling under her breath. The other giants waited for Sarissa to seat herself, then followed suit. The throne in which the Queen regent sat was carved of bone, and the legs of the chair were the skulls of blue dragons.
“Please,” Sarissa said in a ringing voice. “Speak. I would hear your words.”
They looked around nervously and saw Thia stirring on the floor. She breathed in sharply and scrambled to a sitting position, looking around. Flint held her shoulder. “W-what? What’s happening?” The elf demanded.
“Queen Sarissa has agreed to hear us out,” Flint explained in a low voice. “She stopped the fight.”
Thia got to her feet, blood in her dark hair and staining her robes. Her eyes burned with rage. “Bastards,” Thia cursed, staring at Mirran and Nym. “We came in peace and you attacked us.”
Mirran clenched her jaw but said nothing.
“Quiet, you,” one of the guards spat, moving toward the elf.
Thia turned to him and swore, wiping her face. “I said, QUIET!” The giant bellowed, lifting a finger and pointing it at her.
Thia flipped a rude gesture with one hand, and a bolt of electricity flew from the guard’s hand, hitting her in the chest. Thia crumpled to the ground. Flint shouted in anger, and Opal gasped, running to Thia.
“ENOUGH,” Sarissa said, holding up a hand. “I said not to harm our guests.”
“She had no respect, your grace,” the guard said.
Sarissa sighed and rubbed her eyes with thumb and forefinger wearily. “Take her to the dungeons. We can deal with her later. Just—make sure she’s still breathing.”
The guard nodded, nudged Opal aside, and picked Thia up with one hand.
Kilian reined in the storm brewing behind his eyes. “The elf is hot-headed, but she is also a diplomat and translator. I would prefer if you didn’t send her away.”
Sarissa raised an eyebrow. “Your diplomat needs to learn some respect. I don’t trust you, yet, so don’t ask me for favours. Simply tell me why you are here. The truth, this time.” She nodded to the guard, who took Thia away.
Kilian sighed but nodded. “As we said, we are emissaries of Waterdeep. The civil—ah, disagreements—between the giants have caused a multitude of problems in our lands. We,” he gestured to their group, “were chosen by the city lords to travel the land and discover what was causing this uproar between the giants. Through our travels we found giants collecting ancient, buried pieces of adamantium in the hopes of reconstructing them into the weapon known as the vonendod. This led us to Duke Zolto of the fire giants. We investigated his hideout, found the weapon, and interrogated him. Zolto told us of his plans to use the weapon to take over your father’s throne and rule the giants. We managed to stop him,” Kilian gestured to the splattered ruin of giant hearts on the ground, which Evelyn nodded at smugly, “and took these hearts as proof of his defeat.”
Sarissa frowned down at the hearts but said nothing.
“In Zolto’s chambers, we found the conch,” Kilian continued, and Opal quickly dug into her bag and pulled out the large conch. “It brought us to your palace, where we hope to make allies of your court, and aid you in the recovery of your father, the King.”
“Do you have any word on my father?” Sarissa asked.
Kilian’s neck stiffened. “We would prefer to discuss the matter in,” he looked at the two sisters, “a more private setting. It may be something you prefer to digest on your own, before sharing it with your court.”
Sarissa looked at him, considering the request. She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could, the storm giantess whom Roon suspected to be Iymrith, sat forward on the edge of her chair and stared at them scathingly. “We can’t trust these little people,” she spat, and some of the other giants in the room nodded along. “The little people have never been kind to us. Why should they want to help us? They have no proof that they are allies. Giants must fight for giants and remember who our enemies are.” She clutched her chair and glared down at them, and Kilian stood his ground. “For all we know, the little folk were the ones who abducted your Father.”
Evelyn crossed her arms and said loudly, “who said the King was abducted?”
Iymrith looked shocked, but then covered her reaction quickly. “Or missing. You know what I meant.”
Sarissa cleared her throat impatiently.
“I think it is time for the advisors in this court to show their true form,” Kilian announced, staring at Iymrith.
Iymrith’s face dropped and there was lightning in her eyes.
“What does he mean?” Sarissa asked, watching the look between Kilian and the storm giantess.
“I think it’s time we were all a little more truthful,” Roon spoke up, walking next to Kilian and holding up a hand. “With your permission, Queen, I would draw a circle of truth in this court that will force everyone to speak truthfully. We believe one of your advisors to be—untrustworthy.”
Iymrith got to her feet and snarled. “More tricks by the little folk. They mean to curse us or kill us.”
“What have you to fear from the truth?” Kilian asked.
Iymrith snorted, but Sarissa spoke next. “Sit down, Iymrith.”
So, they knew her name, just not what she was.
Iymrith glared at the Queen, and both Sarissa and the giant holding the trident stood and blocked her from moving away. “Draw the circle,” Sarissa said to Roon.
The gnome nodded and quickly whispered the string of spells, feeling the magic leave his fingertips and fill the room. He turned to Kilian and nodded.
“Ask her about Harshnag,” Kilian told the Queen.
Sarissa folded her arms. “What happened to the frost giant Harshnag, Iymrith?”
Something changed in Iymrith’s demeanour. Her desperation turned instantly to a swelling rage. “Harshnag died, just like all of you giant scum,” she spat. Her hand sprang forward and grabbed the necklace hanging from Sarissa. She ripped the chain free and disappeared in a blue flash.
“The sceptre!” The giant with the trident shouted, and the rest of the court sprang to their feet. “She stole the sceptre!”
Sarissa looked horrified as she held her neck with a hand. “Uthor,” she said to the trident-bearing giant. “She betrayed us.”
“She was never one of you,” Kilian announced, and they all stared around at him again. “She is a blue dragon in disguise. She has been working against your court for some time, we suspect.”
Mirran and Nym looked outraged, and Kilian looked at them pointedly but said nothing of their work with Iymrith.
“We can’t let her get away,” the Queen regent said, fear in her eyes. “You said you could find my father?”
“We can do our best,” Flint said.
“Then do it. We will send you with all you need to get this done.”
Kilian nodded. “Iymrith is not the only one coveting the throne. We wish to help.”
Sarissa reached into her robe and pulled out a small object. She crouched in front of them and dropped it in Kilian’s open palm. “This coin was found with my mother’s body,” she said gravely. “Perhaps this will help you find her killer and find where my father has been taken.”
Kilian inspected the object. It was a wooden coin painted with gold. He closed it into his fist and nodded.
“So, uh, does this mean we get our elf back?” Flint asked awkwardly.
Sarissa got to her feet and nodded. “Yes, of course.”
“There’s one last thing,” Kilian said, “but we wish to tell you in private.”
“Very well,” Sarissa said, dismissing the room.
Mirran and Nym protested, but she glared at her sisters and they were escorted away with the rest. After a few minutes, only Sarissa, Uthor, and two guards remained in the room with them.
“Well, what is it?” She asked.
Kilian cleared his throat. “We suspect Queen Neri’s killer already.”
Uthor raised his chin and Sarissa looked over to him anxiously.
“We visited the All-Father and spoke with the oracle there. The oracle suggested it was your sisters who killed your mother.” He paused, waiting for their reactions. Sarissa’s face hardened. “Though,” Kilian added, “we don’t believe they were the hands that wielded the blade. They were manipulated by the blue dragon.”
“Still, they are guilty!” Uthor slammed a fist on his armchair.
“Thank you,” Sarissa finally said in a weak voice, “for your honesty. We will investigate this matter.”
“As will we, my lady,” Kilian bowed.
“What can we call you?” Sarissa asked. “Do you have a name?”
Kilian turned back to his companions helplessly and Roon stepped up. “Yes, we do. We’re called TGS.”
“TGS…?” Uthor’s brow crumpled.
Kilian held up a hand to stop him, but Roon continued.
“That’s right,” Roon said, throwing out his hands majestically, “The Giant Saviours!”
Despite everything, the Queen Regent looked amused. “Come, TGS. We will send you on your way.”
She stood, and as she did the doors to the courtroom opened again and Thia, still unconscious, was brought in and laid before them. Roon bent to heal her, feeling lighter already. They had allies. Now, all they needed to do was find the King.