The party deploys scouts to spot and help avoid roving ogres, steering clear by miles where possible, holding still and praying when not. Surprisingly, they make it to the base of the mountain without incident, and Galswintha spots at least one pegasus nest, set into a nook in a sheer rock face near the top of the mountain.
And perhaps owing to a bit of overconfidence, when a path up the mountain is available, take it.
… and walk straight into a lair.
Here, granite has been carved away to form a defensible hollow, and a surprisingly well-crafted càrn marks the center. Seated in a semicircle near the back of the lair, three female giants (14 feet tall) look up from their sculpting, angry at the interruption.
They have skin like polished malachite, eyes of rust-brown, and straight, incredibly long blue-black hair woven into complex braids. They are each dressed differently: one (Gebede) wears a shawl and wrap of ermine cloaks, pinned with a cryselephantine hairpine; another (Dagunde) wears awkwardly stitched-together mail armor over bear skin, and heavy fur shoes of whole bear hide; and the last (Clothilde) wears a silk tapestry depicting a saintess calming a bear by a meadow stream as a grecian robe. Two bears sleep at the feet of the last.
Gebede remains seated; the other two stand up and Dagunde steps in front, drawing a dwarven-looking shortsword which she wields as a knife. Clothilde says something sharp in her own language, and the bears shamble to their feet … and two more come padding in from another room in the hollow.
Chlodomer is fast to apologize for the intrusion. Unfortunately, they do not appear to understand his crude, Frankish language, although they do pause long enough to listen. The one armed with a human shortsword finally shakes her head impatiently and spits something out … and Galswintha recognizes a hint of Greek and pounces, repeating Chlodomer’s apology in the older tongue.
Galswintha lacks Chlodomer’s natural diplomacy, good cheer, quiet confidence, aura of likeability, charm, wit, people-savvy, and absolutely astonishing good looks … but does manage to persuade the immense beings that neither she nor her friends intend them ill will, and that a fight would go poorly for all parties.
Clothilde finally puts a hand on Dagunde’s arm, and then gives Galswintha directions up the mountain that do not require stomping through the giantess’ home. The party retreats and make their way around.
Near the end of the day (with one actual fight with a lone ogre, but hardly worth noting), they find themselves at the base of the sheer rock face where Galswintha’s pegasi are.
She failed to mention how high it was, or how sheer.
Grumbling, the party sets up camp and beds down at the base of the rock.
At midnight, a warband of 13 ogres attack … and fail to get surprise on those awake (one squad of heavy infantry, 5 crossbowmen, 5 light infantry, Lanthechilde, Harberic, Merideth, Thorismund and Ingunde, Merovia, Galagunde, and Agalinda - you know, a freaking quarter of the party).
Still, a baker’s dozen of ogres, all at once, with no traps set and no surprise, and not from a direction chosen by the party, remains a scary thing.
The fight takes four rounds, in all; and only the latter two have the whole party involved. Healing is substantially improved with the party’s large cleric contingent, but there are still some scars.
They find, among the ogre’s traditional gold, a crude twig figure of a person wrapped in a bit of white cloth and a golden necklace, and spattered with blood. Chlodomer is beside himself - “WHO IS TELLING ALL OF THESE OGRES I’M THEIR DEVIL?”
The Judge just grins.
In the pre-dawn, the party tracks the ogres back to confirm a suspicion, and sure enough, the ogres were following the Grim Fist’s trail … the campfires of a few more warbands are visible in the distance.
Galswintha insists on warning the giantesses, who look saddened, and begin packing up their sculptures and gear. Gebede explains, “We fought the ogres off once, and earned sufficient respect for them to leave us alone … but it cost us the lives of our husbands. We will not survive another fight, so we must leave. Thank you for the warning. If you wish, this hollow is defensible, and you may use it once we leave.”
While the giantesses pack, Lanthechilde and her henches head out to scout the ogres; Shadagrunde and his henches pray; and Galswintha, a gleam in her eyes, confers with Chlodomer and Vulfelind. When Lanthechilde returns with numbers and positions, the party tactics session goes into full swing, and finally, Chlodomer writes a message down for Galswintha, which she memorizes …
And as the giantesses start to walk out of the hollow, Galswintha tugs at the hem of Dagunde’s mail skirt, “Please accept my apologies for this delay, but we have fought ogres before, in greater numbers, and seen victory at the other end. If you fought alongside us this once, I believe we could crush the warbands in the wood below with sufficient force to give them a generation of pause before they thought to take this mountain again.”
They are persuaded, if just.
There is no time to dig pits, no space or time to divide and conquer, and precious little cover, but the Grim Fist has the high ground, and a hollow of stone that can reduce the number of ogres able to attack simultaneously … as long as they can hold the entrance. They pour the party’s entire supply of military oil in a line 100 feet downhill.
An hour after dawn, four ogre warbands begin charging up the mountain.
At 300 feet distance, the giantesses throw three rocks, all aiming for the sub-chieftain in the lead … and killing him! At 180 feet, archers and slingers loose, preferentially targeting boars, and most of the ogre leadership falls to the ground. The charge falters, as the ogres wait a beat for the ogres to get to their feet to continue the charge (save for a few gangs whose leader remain mounted and continue charging alone). Another round of arrows and stones fall, and another sub-chieftain dies.
And then they reach the line of naptha and Galswintha’s fireball hits them, killing several ogres outright, and igniting the military oil, searing the vast majority of ogres just a little more.
The giantesses retreat behind the party and re-arm. Archers pull behind the front line. And Chlodomer, clad in his best whites, stands guard at the entrance, flanked by Baldaswind and her tigers, and Thorismund and Ingunde, and two spiritual weapons. Behind him, heavy infantry with spears. And behind them, archers and casters and giants.
The ogres, most of them still alive, decide to chance it and find that they have reached a point of no return. Assault ends in death, and retreat back down the mountain takes too long in the open, and ends in death. With no escape and no hope, the last remaining sub-chieftain falls to his knees and shouts a plea for mercy.
It falls on deaf ears (fun fact: the word “mercy” isn’t in the ACKS core book), but they do spare one ogre to send back with the story.
There is then a lengthy out-of-character discussion about stone giants, and what the PCs know about them - especially since some of the old-school players in my group were expecting gray-skinned bald men for some reason ;-).
After the diversion, Galswintha talks to the giantesses, with Chlodomer coaching her, and establishes a mutually beneficial arrangement:
- The Grim Fist can use an unused portion of the hollow as a temporary base.
- Chlodomer's armorer will link together mail from the giantesses' creates of armor to provide all of them with reasonably attractive tunics.
- The party will set aside a day or two each week to hunt for the giantesses, and perform a few other chores difficult for fourteen-foot-tall humanoids.
- Both sides will provide mutual protection against the ogres.
Days 11 through 14
The next three days are fairly humdrum. Hunting goes well (added to the ogre’s boar mounts, day 12 involves a feast of epic proportions), but Vulfelind and Lanthechilde’s initial explorations for a path up to the pegasus nest meet with failure (Galswintha can fly … but no one wants her to be up there alone).
On the fourth day, however, a lone ogre is visible down-mountain, waving a cobbled together truce flag just outside of range.
He has an eye patch and is kind of runty-looking.
Chlodomer beckons him up and promises safety for “the duration of parley,” and the ogre cautiously makes his way up the mountain. The discussion does not go well - the runt appears convinced that Chlodomer is going to kill him at any second. Chlodomer, when he saw the runt, became convinced that the runt was the one going around inciting ogre wrath against “the monster in white.”
(That latter is true, actually, but the runt denies everything and begs for mercy and denies everything again. It’s almost convincing.)
And then Vulfelind makes an impassioned speech about what it’s like to be the smallest, and how Chlodomer needs to be less of a bully … which leads to a rather loud argument about ethics and alignment and ogres and thieves and everything under the sun between the whole party.
The Judge lost track of who was on whose side and made what statements, so I will just summarize as: feelings were had.
Shadagrunde managed to calm everyone down. Chlodomer and Vulfelind were sent to separate corners of the hollow, while the other party members interviewed the runt, whose named turned out to be Ughunt.
Galswintha goes to talk to Vulfelind, but instead of chatting, casts ESP out of sight, and then returns.
Ughunt had been inciting the ogres to war. One of the ogres Chlodomer had killed was Ughunt’s bigger brother … and the only real protection Ughunt had had in his old tribe. When one village of ogres failed, he went to another and started the process up again, and had been trailing the PCs for half a year now.
The current village, however, knew a raw deal when they lost a limb to it. Having lost seven of nine warbands to the White Monster, they decided that was plenty sufficient indication, and dragged Ughunt to the edge of the mountain and left him there as a sacrifice to appease Chlodomer’s army.
And then Shadagrunde asks Ughunt what he would do if they escorted him out of the ogre territory and let him go. A hopeful look on his face, he replies, “Oh, I would flee and flee and flee. You would never see me again. Oh please please please, yes!”
In his mind, however, Galswintha heard the truth. That he would murder Chlodomer at first opportunity … and that he would find something other than an ogre village to throw at them, if he couldn’t manage that … and that first fall of night he would be looking for ways to slit throats and poison supplies and on and on and on.
Galswintha leaves, talks to Vulfelind about what she’d overheard in the ogre’s mind, and suggests that not all small people were also kind, and that it might be better to let this one die.
And when Vulfelind finally agrees, the party kills the runt and dump him down the mountainside with a little stick figure dressed in white tied around his neck.
The session ends on a somber note, and plans to discuss a new approach to finding a way to talk to the pegasuses.
Current XP total awaiting return to civilization: 69,000 (includes gold, which has already been split).
Stone Giants: stone giants are Neutral, but lack the fine-fingered finesse required to support industry or most technologies, and are too large to live on agriculture of their own doing, which largely keeps them at the hunter/gatherer level with mostly skins or borrowed gear. They do admire certain aspects of “small” culture, and some stone giants are deeply envious of the beautiful craftsmanship of the smaller races, which has led to altercations. These giantesses dressed themselves according to what they had available - i.e., treasure type N - which included tapestries, mail armor, fine fur cloaks, and the like.