Location: Star's End Monastery
Date: Fall, 1332 Avard
After defending the construction site against Staynair's Steel, the team returned to the monastery to find Shauny waiting for Ash. The two reconnected after having been apart for some time, and then Shauny decided to spend her time with Ash.
Brother Irol, the abbot in all but title of the monastery, quickly ordered the team to scout the area surrounding the monastery for any other signs of mercenaries. By dusk, they had scouted out a mile in all directions from the monastery – and found evidence for another team of mercenaries that had started moving towards the construction site.
After preparing for a multinight excursion in the middle of the Freeze, they set out to follow the mercenaries through the canopy-covered, starlit night. The mercenaries tracks led towards a valley that was on the opposite side of the ridge-cliff the construction site was on. The tracks were quickly overtaken by those of a giant – likely a remnant Nabrolian mount. The tracks had indications of webbing, likely from silkworms or spiders. Giant spiders. The tracks became unmistakable.
The tracks told a recent tale, only hours old, of a giant and ambush spiders overtaking a dozen mercenaries. After nervously tracking them for some time further and further up the valley, they came across one of the mercenaries' bodies suspended in a tree branch some twenty feet up in the air, cocooned in a fetal rictus position of great pain and suffering – and poison.
Ambush spiders were aptly named. They did not spin webs to catch their prey, but hid, waiting, nearly invisible, with just enough sticky silk rubbed onto their carapaces to pick up bits of their terrain and camouflage themselves. They could wait patiently for weeks, sometimes months, for a morsel to come walking by. Their poison would immobilize their prey with a neurotoxin, while digestive enzymes digested the prey alive.
The party opted to get up out of the valley, as quickly as possible, and get up to the construction site to warn them that the giant and its spiders might be coming for them, next. They slapped the horses on their rears and sent them back towards the monastery, and then clambered up out of the woods and onto the steeper scree of the less-wooded base of the cliffs. From there, they moved as quickly as they could up to where the fires burned to light the night-time construction crews.
They warned the engineer dwarves and the orc construction crews, and drafted one of each kind to man the ballista. The rest moved back into the catacombs and barricaded themselves in, just in case the worst happened.
Dawn arrived, and with no sign of the giant or its spiders, the team decided to head back to the monastery as quickly as possible. The road to the monastery was the wrong direction to avoid the monsters, however; the team was ambushed in a place with just enough trees to hide a giant and a horde of spiders, but nowhere else to really fight but nearly impossible to pass steep scree and cliff.
The giant wore robes of silk that could slow the hardest strike, and was covered in a crawling mass of ambush spiders – each of which had a body as big as a dog and legs as long as a man's arm. As spiders lunged out from behind trees and from behind stones and from under scree, the giant raced forward carrying a plow affixed to a tree negligently in one hand. The giant grabbed a spider off of his back and hurled it at the horrified, transfixed group.
Ash and Shauny reacted first, helping the rest of the stunned Procurators into action. The spiders proved easy enough to kill, their chitinous exoskeletons no match for a warlock's powers, arrows, fists trained to break bones, the snarling teeth of summoned and nearby wolves, and the ferocious bites of a thousand ravenous locusts. The giant, on the other hand, proved more of a concern.
Even blinded by their shadowy attacks, a mighty swing of his plow axe sent four of them hurtling backwards with broken arms, ribs bared to the bone, and leather armor rent asunder.
Worse, the giant shook off a new crowd of spiders. They were mature ambush spiders, whose armor had hardened to something nearly as strong as metal. The situation looked grim, and Koristhene very nearly died.
In that timeless moment none would forget, despair was replaced with something more primal: fury. They redoubled their efforts, working as a unified team, coordinating amongst one another with gestures, grunts, and fast shouts. Dividing their work, they used powers of the arcane and nature to force the spiders to attack the giant, while the monks pushed him off the road onto the difficult scree. Moments later, despite a last blow from the mighty plow axe, the giant fell. The remaining spiders attacked singly, but were defeated.
Jariskorne had been poisoned near to death, and Koristhene wounded gravely. The others, too had lumps and cuts and bites and burns from where the poison had torn through them. But they were alive.
Some took trophies of spider fangs, while Shauny managed to carefully extract a sack of spider venom. Inside the giant's purse – made from the hide of a displacer beast – they found bits and pieces of armor, a suit of enchanted armor made of manta ray leather that remained cold and moist to the touch, and dozens of ambush spider eggs that would each hatch to be the size of a full-grown tarantula. The giant's robe of spider silk was also salvaged and was turned into protective undergarments for the party.
DM's Notes: There were icy roads, out, and I appreciate Ross and Paul and Sam and Tab for driving through such weather to play. Luckily, the roads weren't as bad as they would be the next day, but they're either crazy or brave to deal with that kind of weather just to kick some imaginary butt.
I get the feeling that they don't like ambush spiders, for some reason. Or the plow axe. Or both together.
Ross noted that anyone could edit the pages without logging in, and I had to dig through the DokuWiki for awhile to find out why. During the latest install, the access control was set to 'all' for all pages, meaning anyone even reading the site could edit any page. I fixed that in a hurry! Thanks for pointing it out, Ross!
Reference: Campaign IX
Not gonna lie, I was pretty worried when we got blasted back by the blind swipe.
Brought back to consciousness by a timely heal from Halkad, Koristhene dragged his bleeding and broken body from out of the tree limbs. His initial pride at splattering ten of the giant's pets vanished, a lesson in humility driven deep. He paused to catch his breath and staunch his wounds further. A blue-aqua patch was slowly creeping out from the deep gash on his right shoulder where the giant's plow axe connected.
I'll deal with that later. Jariskorne is alone, I need to press forward now.
The giant staggered and toppled into the dust, leaving a swarm of spiders still attacking his brother. The poison was taking its toll and Jariskorne could hardly move.
Should I see to his wounds, or pursue these last few enemies?
Before he could decide, a spider again tried to sting Jariskorne. Instinctively, Koristhene attacked hard and fast. He deflected the attacker's fangs toward another spider, while simultaneously kicking out and splattering another spider on his flank. An arrow hummed past his face and burrowed into the last remaining spider. Koristhene's adrenaline dissipated and he staggered over to his brother to deal with the toxins still wracking him with pain.