Following the events of the Fallen Fortress (replace Absalom with Waterdeep in previous narrative), the party took it upon itself to inform Odan's next of kin of his unfair demise. Balenor's historical society in Waterdeep was able to track down a few contacts, the closest of which was said to be in Nightstone, a village just off the High Road on the way to Daggerford.
However, the party arrived to devastation. Nightstone's drawbridge was raised, and the temple bell would not stop ringing. Unusual boulders littered the structures, seemingly dropped from a great height. No signs of life in sight, the party broke in past the fortifications to investigate. A guard on the border of life was able to point the group to a nearby cave, where survivors had hidden.
By all accounts, it was a cloud giant attack.
The survivors told you about what happened, about great floating castles raining earth upon them. About how they stole the Nightstone, a glyph carved hunk of obsidian by uprooting it from the town square. You also learned Odan's relative had fled early in the battle to the north, to Triboar.
The people of the North are no strangers to giant incursions, but in the past couple of months, attacks like these have been reported in Luskan, Neverwinter, and Waterdeep from giants of all kinds. Something seems to be causing an uproar. Some are more worried because dragons are the ancient enemies of giants.
Jysson meanwhile was chasing a band of orcs in the hills nearby with some of his elven kin, wholly unaware of what was happening in Nightstone. With no where to go, the orcs turned to settle in the ruins of Nightstone, causing a conflict with the party that nearly brought them down. The elves quickly dispatched them at the last moment, shouting "Your welcome." before thundering back to the forest. Jysson had a pause however, as his homeland was also destroyed. He offered to at least show the group the way past the Dessarin River, a shortcut.
Jysson, feel free to ignore that or do something else
You are currently 2 days on the trail, in the wilderness.
The fey-whisperer's words never sounded truer. Just what in the hell were you doing this far inland in the middle of nowhere? In a season of giant attacks no less. You might all indeed be on the verge of giving up this petty noble task, and wish to turn back while you still can.
But Jysson is the first to see it.
Up in the sky, it started as dragon's wing stretched in hover, but you didn't see a body. Closer it seemed alternatingly a great hole in the sky one moment, and the tip of a giant arrow the next. But the colors made it odd...a shimmering blue to challenge the sea speckled with great golden patterning, obviously a manufactured design. But is that...?
Yes, its a gigantic wizard's hat floating in the sky.
You've seen fashion sensible casters sport these little coney affairs in your day, but what makes this one unique is its size. Taller than a grain silo yet still seemingly able to catch the wind like a sail.
The hat avoids your gaze for a split second behind a cloud, and what emerges from its trajectory is an enormous white tower floating on the billowing cloud a thousand feet overhead. The tower must be hundreds of feet tall, and its spire looks strangely like a pointy wizard's hat. As the tower drifts closer, stairs made of clouds begin to form underneath it and descend gently towards a grassy clearing. Soon before you is a great spiral staircase, each step its own air essence, sized for humans...dare to ascend?
Jysson has spent his life in the forests, tracking ogres and hill giants, but despite all the challenges he has faced in his life, this is truly the first time he's left his home - his forests and trees. This is the first time he's been among non-elves.
Daddy has always said you can't trust the lesser races. Dwarves are too greedy, humans breed too much, orcs are too violent. Best avoid them all and kill any who get too close to the forest.
Any opposition to the argument was met with comparisons to cockroaches. Much like a cockroach, humans are ok in small numbers, but you can't let them infest.
Jysson wasn't sure he really believed all the things dad had said about humans, but what he did know is it wasn't them who killed his dad. It was the giants. He eradicated the infestation of giants in his forest, but there was nothing left for him there. No family. No friends.
Well, they were kind of a*$~@@+s anyways.
So he grabbed his shield and flail and picked a direction to walk. A few weeks later, he found himself amongst some elves hunting a band of orcs. He joined them, and while on the trail heard rumors of the giant uprising, the giant insurrection, the giant turmoil. And he had to find out more.
So again, he left. Now, he finds himself among some humans for the first time, venturing beyond the borders of his forest for the first time.
Upon seeing the floating castle give invitation, Jysson ascends the stairs.
Sohar surveys the carnage with a sorrowful eye, responding to Jysson's words with a heavy heart. "Aye, 'tis true, Brother Jysson, but if I was the loved one, I'd want the effort to be made all the same. Shall we turn away now after the hardships we have endured to arrive here?"
Sohar is fairly resolute since he feels quite a bit of guilt over Odan's death. When the tower and stairs appear, he exclaims, "Anyone who says they see that every day is a boar-faced liar, tusks and all! But it does seem an invitation." He follows Jysson.
Updated slide 1 with current local map, updated slide 2 (world map) with a bit more info
The ascent up the stairs plays with hard with your mind, your body seems to hover over the nearby mountain tops. Still, there is no reason to have fear, the steps are bizarrely solid. Also despite the strong winds at this altitude, your climb is not shaken. Still, your calves are burning by the time you reach the clouds.
The tower is made of huge polished bricks interlaced with winglike protrusions. It has an ornate navy blue door inscribed with runes, which is ajar.
Ill put some examples of the runes on another slide
|Pindleton Montague IV|
"Whether evil wizard or not, a castle like this is not something I am capable of passing up! Although I do worry about the complaints my small legs will have."
Pindleton goes up the stairs - quickly at first in excitement at the amazing castle, but soon realizing that pacing himself would be much wiser.
Might we have any idea what the runes could be? I know Giant and Primordial, or is it something that Arcana or History might help with? I will roll just in case. If it's useless, that's fine.
Arcana: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9
History: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (17) + 5 = 22
These runes are not part of the regular giant alphabet. The normal giant alphabet (as you are fully aware) is written in Dethek (a Dwarven script). Proficiency in Arcana is enough for you to tell that they are related to magical spells, and indeed the entire castle is ensheathed in mysticism.
Its passive perception unless some special circumstance. Detect Magic (free) is a 1st level spell and can give you location and school. Identify (100gp cost) is a 1st level spell/ritual and works on any magic imbued object/creature, giving you properties, spells currently active, and/or the spell that was cast that imbued it. Then there are some higher level ones. Arcana skill can be used on 'eldritch symbols'
Seth, as you cautiously analyze the door, from behind you, a bird screams "Montague!" or "Cacaw!" something like that before zipping past, through the open door unscathed.
|Pindleton Montague IV|
"Hmm... I don't seem to recall knowing that bird or any bird that frequents magical flying towers. But considering it made it in safely, and the fact that something put stairs out for us, well... here's hoping!" Pindleton slowly and cautiously enters - first holding an arrow out to cross the entrance before his body does.
You enter what looks like an orderly office, but again the shear size of everything is hard to get over. A tabletop arching up 12 feet high rests on the far side, behind which is a equally scaled chair carved from a single piece of alabaster. Flanked on both sides are 24 foot statues of giants, one of which has had the face removed.
There is also a 10 ft diameter orifice way overhead, leading to another level apparently. As you turn your squinting gaze through it, a cloud giant pokes his head through booming down "Ah, the Wardens of the North. Please, make yourself comfortable, I'll be right down..."
There is definitely no where to make yourselves comfortable, not a single chair or bench or stool of regular humanoid size to be had. Regardless, the tone of his voice didn't hint at betrayal and was quite the contrary, oddly familiar.
To your horror, the giant swings his feet through the hole, and for a split second you think he is about to jump down on top of you! But, no, he floats slowly down like a feather, his arms crossed with a wide smile.
edit: Map updated. For future reference, most giants are huge and have a space of 15x15...but they actually aren't that wide so I'll represent them with 10x10 tokens. Just remember there is an extra square for space. Im going to try and avoid grid combat as much as possible to make it a non issue
Its a 10 ft climb up the polished alabaster chair. You would probably need a grappling hook, or shoot a rope arrow into it, or friendly boost, or something. Or, you could climb a statue or the wooden table which have many more hand-holds, and jump onto the chair from there.
str(ath) and/or dex(acro) as you choose
Wait for me! Gloriana exclaims as Pendelton's feet disappear in the clouds overhead. Gasping for breath, she begins to climb the mystical stairs as well, trying not to look down for fear of throwing up...or worse!
Once she reaches the landing above, Gloriana scurries away from the edge, marveling at how high this tower is above the ground below. Feeling her knees weaken, she turns and hurries inside...only to see her companions, plus an unfamiliar person, standing, gawking at the giant as it floats down to greet them.
The arrival of the griffons nearly causes her to draw her sword, but once she sees they mean them no harm...Is that one actually nuzzling Sohar?...she relaxes as much as she can and stands quietly, looking up at the giant.
The giant seems aloof to Jysson's antics. "Greetings travelers! My name is Zephyeros...oh, but you knew that already? Or did you...?" the old cloud giant seems to lose his train of thought for a moment. "Stay for a spell, I owe you that much...Xaxathroas?" he sings the name "Xaxathrooooas..." one of the griffons flies in from the top of the tower, perching on the desk. "Fetch some venison for our guests on your next hunt, wouldn't you?"
The griffon cacaws before dive bombing a deer 1000 ft below.
He looks over each of you in silence for an awkward moment, before his warm smile returns "I want to help you. I offer this vessel as transport to your next destination." he waves his hands dismissively "And perhaps I could use another voice besides my own bouncing along inside these walls..."
Sohar does not hesitate to reach out and stroke the griffon's head and beak, even as the white owl on his shoulder flutters her wings in protest. He has a special fondness for creatures of the sky. When it flies inside, he follows, and responds to the giant's booming voice. "Greetings, Brother Zephyeros, I am Sohar, this is Ghost. Why did you call us the Wardens of the North? And do you know us already?"
|Pindleton Montague IV|
Pindleton is intensely curious about this giant. He has read plenty about them, but never met one in person. This one certainly didn’t fit wth any of his readings. ”My name is Pindleton Montague IV, of the explorer Montagues. It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance. Did you just happen to be going in our direction and picked us up, or are you really placing your magnificent tower at our disposal to take us to our next destination?”
Responding first to Sohar, the ostensibly humble cloud giant says "We have not met, but I recognize you from the threads outside these planes. You are the Wardens of the North, or will be in another life. I think you are just getting started."
The griffon reappears plopping a huge buck carcass down in the middle of the room. There are eerily clean lacerations branding the deer's neck, and the griffon calmly licks the blood from its talons as a cat might tend to its paws.
He turns to Pindleton's questions, smiling again at the general cordiality "Truth is I was a bit lost. On humid days the navigational orb can become a bit...well, 'flooded' I guess you could say. An augury pointed me towards Nightstone...usually that indicates a strong flux knot, but it must have been you all... I am indeed offering you transport, name the place. It will surely be safer than the ground below, but I can't promise the journey will be uneventful."
He snaps his fingers and small stones start to assemble into a little campfire ring right inside the tower door, complete with spit.
Gloriana gawks open-mouthed at the giant; she's even more startled to see he commands a griffon, and more than one apparently! She bows awkwardly and stammers, M-my name...is...Gloriana, good sir...giant, er, sir. H-how can we help?
He leans over to get a closer look at Gloriana "Hmm, you're offering services, you say? Or perhaps you are simply uncomfortable accepting my help without giving something in return. Very well, should you choose to travel with me, you shall be the sentry of this office. Should I receive visitors, your duty will be to verify their intentions. You will wield the Sky Kris as your identification." in short order he produces a dagger roughly equal in length to your height. Holding it high, he intones Nevaris ante-quadrium..." and before your eyes the blade shrinks to the length of your forearm.
Jysson, still a bit skeptical at why a giant would want to help him, says, So you just decided to pick us up because you were lost, huh? This seems too good to be true. What's the ulterior motive?
Jysson's past with giants had led him to conclude that all giants are miserable sacks of s~+@, but he will soon learn otherwise - and that truly generous and noble giants exist in the world. And it seems as if he will also learn that the world is much bigger than he ever imagined - not only Faerun, but the multiverse beyond.
Seth twitches uncomfortably. The ground is too far below as to escape in case the giant change his mind and wants to eat all of them. Not to mention that the whole story of the warden of the north is crazy talking.
The Half-Elf is too uncomfortable to speak, he prefers to slyly look around for places to escape or to hide in case something gets wrong.
Gloriana blushes with embarrassed excitement as the giant hands the blade to her. She accepts it on bended knee, holding it in both hands.
Thank you good sir, Zephyros. Does this blade have a name?
Gloriana waits for the giant's response and then asks, Before we came here, we journeyed to Daggerford and found it in ruins. Do you know perhaps what happened there?
Sorry my school's 'meet the teacher' thing was tonight, crazy day
Seth, there might be something valuable on top of the table (which you can't see) or on one of the other levels of the tower. The cloud matter is solid, but malleable like branches full of leaves. In a pinch, you could perhaps fashion a cloud igloo in concealment. True escape would likely require magic.
At Jysson's quip he responds "I understand your mistrust. Even I am quick to second guess my colleagues in these times. Something has warped the 'ordning'...our ancient society is in flux, and nothing stands to reason anymore."
For Gloriana, "No, I only knew something of import was about to happen or happening immediately...perhaps you could give me the details of what you found there?"
Int, Adv: 1d20 - 2 ⇒ (19) - 2 = 171d20 - 2 ⇒ (7) - 2 = 5
What's wrong with the Caste? Jysson inquires.
I get advantage on knowledge checks regarding giants.
Under the guidance of Zephyros, the energies assembling the campfire turn their attention to the buck corpse, skinning it, bleeding it, and preparing the spit. In short order the sweet, unspiced scent of roast venison pierces your nostrils.
"So what say you? Please enjoy my hospitality. Name your destination." you don't sense any betrayal in his voice, and the meat smells good.
|Pindleton Montague IV|
Arcana: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (14) + 5 = 19
"Thank you for the generous offer. I think we need to discuss where we would like to go among ourselves, if that is fine."
Pindleton talks quietly to the others... while approaching that food since it does smell so good. "First off, do we trust..." he eyes Zephyros, "... this means of travel, and secondly, where do we want to go? We had been traveling to Triboar to contact Odan's relative, and well, there didn't seem a great need to go anywhere else. However, this giant attack and the troubles in the giant society seem to be of great concern. Although I'm not sure what we of all people could do to address such things or where would be the best place to start. So I am certainly open to suggestions. Otherwise, it might be best to proceed to Triboar as planned but see what else we can find out from our host on the way? Opinions? Other options?"
RP away, but module is sort of limited here: you either take ground to Triboar, or take cloud castle to Triboar. Personally, in my opinion, more interesting things happen along the cloud route. If you guys decide not to go to Triboar, then I guess I will need a more compelling reason to get you there, heh.
"Of course, take your time...the winds have stabilized us here for the moment." he turns his gaze out a small window 2 stories up, reading the sky.
|Pindleton Montague IV|
I'm all for cloud route to Triboar. Just wanted to make sure everyone else was and figured in character we'd at least double check with each other even if out of character the path seems pretty clear.
Jysson doesn't really contribute to the conversation - he hasn't the connection the others seem to have with each other, and as best he knows, he's still just the hired guide.
But he does say one thing, Giants are usually problems, but this guy seems usable enough for now. Travel over land is often dangerous, and the skies are rarely populated. It'll likely be safer taking the skies, if you all think you can trust a Giant. His prejudice shines through with the last word, but he's also not so stupid as to say it loud enough for the giant to hear him. He doesn't have the advantage, yet. Besides, if this giant is to live, at least Jysson can take advantage of him in some other way - like gaining free travel through the skies (he's never done that before!) or perhaps even stealing some valuable items.
By cloud seems our only option at this point. He seems to mean us no harm or he would have done so already, don't you think?
Gloriana hefts Sky Kris in her hand, marveling at its weight and balance. Should we tell him about Nightstone? That cloud giants destroyed the town? Perhaps he knows who did it and where to find them.
Zephyros informs you the journey will take nearly 2 weeks, and in short order you are away. The transport is reminiscent of a sea voyage, though the sky is less viscous than water, and everything has a much cleaner feel to it. The griffons continue to provide meat for you, and you take a few stops at mountains along the way to gather high altitude berries.
On the third day of your journey, while Zephyros takes his afternoon nap, you spot nine very thin and lightly armored humans riding giant vultures. They land atop the cloud, whereupon the humans dismount. All the riders wear steel helms that cover their eyes and resemble stylized bird heads. One of them is equipped with a shoulder bag adorned with a smiling face.
Upon seeing the riders land on the cloud, Gloriana hurries to the giant's chambers...assuming she knows where they are after 3 days on the journey...and says, Master Zephyros! You have visitors > vulture riders! Are they a threat?