The light of the fire illuminated the night and the sunken, dirty faces of the dwarves and humans. The Steading of the Hill Giants was an inferno. The flames danced and sway of their own accord as the fire elemental “consumed” with a vengeance. Moments passed and the gruff voice of Kane stated flatly “Come on, It’s time to go.”
Gathering the fur of a monstrous bear, to ward off the biting cold of the Galena Mountains deep in the month of Marpenoth, the grouping of former slaves and captives turned to follow the Dragonborn Paladin and his companions that had saved them from the dungeons of that wretched place.
Four grueling days later, the walls of Fort Thorn came into view in the distance. Travel through the mountains and low hills of the Galenas was slow and arduous for the bedraggled prisoners, but with the aid and magic of the adventurers they were able to summon enough food and provide enough warmth to keep the group moving. The fort provided the needed moral boost to finish the last leg of the journey.
Approaching Fort Thorn, the arrival of the refugees from the surrounding lands was apparent everywhere. Dozens of tents and makeshift camps had been constructed around the fort’s walls. Riding in towards the fort’s gates, a cry of “PAPA!” could be heard as one of the men saved from the steading was reunited with his family. Throughout the following several hours a few more men were reunited with their families and a few others were heartbroken to find that their family was no more due to a giant or orc raid.
Javoc and the surviving dwarves gathered near a campfire discussing what to do next. They all agreed that they needed a few days’ rest, and that when that was done they would trek north toward the Bloodstone Gates and then on toward home, Hillsafar Hall.
After the excitement and tumult of the return to the fort the group was asked to attend a meeting with Sir Tolgrith and Zander Caskerhill in the keep of Fort Thorn. Sir Tolgrith and Zander, looking more the role of noble then they had seen since first meeting him, met each and every one of them with a warm handshake and a smile. Sir Tolgrith’s gratitude was apparent with every gesture; he motioned for everyone to be seated and calls for wine from one of his attendants.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of Fort Thorn and the Bloodsworn Vale we would like to extend our deepest gratitude for the return of our dear friend Zander and the others. As promised, your reward for the rescue of our young nobleman is yours to take”,
He makes a motion to a small chest on the floor of the room.
“I would also like to honor you all with a feast for the ‘Heroes of the Bloodsworn Vale’, so that the general populace of the fort may thank you in their own way. What you all have done is simply amazing.”
“Indeed”, Zander speaks up, “I will forever be in your debt. Should you ever need a nobleman to speak on your behalf or find yourself in need and I can facilitate that need, it would be my honor to grant that.”
Sir Tolgrith, nervously regards you all, “You have done so much for us but I would ask for your assistance once again. You see, the population of the fort is growing by the day and winter is nearly upon us. Our supplies are low at best and not nearly adequate to feed and care for all of the refugees that are swarming to us for safety. Within a tenday or two we should have the smith and the guild house back in usable condition, and the chapel is nearly restored. What we lack is food and supplies to make it through to the spring. I humbly request that you travel north on behalf of Fort Thorn to the Bloodstone Gates and deliver this missive to the Captain of the Guard there to requisition troops and supplies. The choice is yours. If you are unable to, I will have to ask the half-orc Javok or one of the dwarves, as they made mention of heading that way. I would feel better if someone I trust in deed and ability would deliver the missive, and I cannot spare any of my men here. What say you?”
“Very well, then I hope to see each of you on the ‘morrow at the feast. I understand that the Boar’s Bones is even now preparing for the evening.”
The celebration and feast to honor the ‘Heroes of the Bloodsworn Vale’ involved everyone in around the fort. Your service to this part of Damara will be sung by bards for years to come. The defeat of the Chieftain of the Hill Giants has lessened the burden of these folks in this area that would have otherwise not stood a chance against such a foe.
After a wonderful night of amazing food, dance, drink, and song the party gathers up their supplies to head north. They are approached by Thoot Grimhold, one of the dwarves they had saved from the smithy.
“Oi, ye headin out then? Heading to the Pass I be hearin’. Me and me kin are headin that way as well. Javok be leading the way but we’d be feelin’ safer if’n we could ride along’ with ya’s. Javok’s a good scout n’ all, but ain’t be but a pup with a blade. Me n’ me boys don’t have much for the road, an’ I’m sure that we’d be makin’ the wall if we ride with ya’s. Whadda ya say?The trek from Fort Thorn had been uneventful and even a light spirited in some cases. Traveling with the dwarves was more of a joy than a burden. Their stories grand and their friendly insults to one another made the journey pass that much faster. Two days from the fort was the destroyed town of Ostrav, the source of many of the refugees that had traveled to Fort Thorn.
The destruction was complete. Hundreds of lives lost and left to rot in the autumn winds. Even now, a month after the attack the carrion birds still filled the sky. The jagged snow covered teeth of Ostrav serves as a sobering reminder to the ruthlessness of the giants that had been rampaging across this land. There was nothing to be done, so the column of travelers offered prayers to their gods and continued on.
Three days hence, the group arrives to the outskirts of the Bloodstone Gate, a massive awe-inspiring structure nearly three-miles long and over 100 feet thick, One of two twin gates that seal the Bloodstone pass between the Kingdom of Damara and the savage lands of Vassa to the west. Within an hour of reaching the Wall the group rides into a familiar sight. Refugees from the surrounding lands have come and erected a small tent city around the Bloodstone Gate itself. As you approach, you are met bay a man-at-arms and watched from arrow-slits above. After a brief exchange with the guard, the gigantic main portcullis is drawn up and you are escorted in. You enter into the cavernous interior of the main gate, and are greeted by another guard that introduces himself as 1st Lieutenant Geoffry Dowson of the Army of Bloodstone. Your horses are stabled and you each greeting with a handshake and a smile, except for Kane. He is saluted and greeted as Adjudicator. Geoffry motions to a door on the northern section of the wall and beckons you to follow him. He states that he will take you to the Captain of the Guard straight away. As you begin to make your way from the stabling area, a grumbling dust covered dwarf emerges from a door on the southern section of the pass.
“By Moradin, you humans are the stupidest lot in all the land… eh? What’s all this?”, he says noticing the grouping of dwarves standing with you. “By the gods, Thoot?”
“Aye, it tis, Grand Mason.”, responds the dwarf that was being addressed
“Why we though ye all dead. By the accounts of tha burnt up troop that came through a few ten-day ago, figured the Hilly’s had ate ye all by now. What happened, and how is it you come to be standing inside o me Wall?”
With a collective look in the groups direction, Thoot responds, “Ask them. They be the ones ta save us from the damned brutes.”
The party ended up collecting their rewards and being asked to deliver a missive for more troops for the Wall. The Captain bought them all dinner and they met a nobleman and his entourage. Of note in the group was the nobleman, a fighter named Reaver, and an old half-elf bard by name or Riordan Parnell.
Kane was challenged to a friendly duel by Reaver and was decisively beaten twice. Perrin using Wind Walk spirited the group off toward Helgabal. En route they came across a skirmish between the Army of Damara and some Frost Giants at the Ford of Goliad. They resumed human form and ended the battle. After rezzing the dead the group Wind Walked again to finish their trip to Helgabal.