When the morning came, the party left Magnimar by hastily-commissioned merchant ship. They had decided that that way was faster than following the coastal road, and they might be better able to sneak up on whoever might still be there. Along the way, they stopped at the town of Sandpoint. It was the closest large town to the abbey, and a likely spot for travelers and escapees who had witnessed the abbey’s destruction to stop and tell their story. The party hoped to gather information about what had attacked, and they were not disappointed.
“Giants!” a woman was proclaiming in a local inn, “Big as a castle! They saw me passing and started tossing boulders the size of a horse at me! Why, I was lucky to get out alive!”
“Excuse me miss,” Theodora said as she approached, “I couldn’t help but overhear your story. You say you were passing by Windsong Abbey?”
“Aye, I was,” the woman replied, “I was passing by, bringing my goods to Sandpoint to sell, when I sees a boulder the size of this room come flying at me!”
“The size of this room? That’s pretty big.”
“Well, they’re giants.”
“And then what did you do?”
“I’m not stupid! I ran as fast and as far as I could! But not before I found this.” And she held out a small red cap. “Soaked in blood, it is. Whatever killed those priests, it’s not just giants.”
“Hmm, that’s very interesting,” replied Theodora. They chatted a little more, and soon Theodora was satisfied that she’d gotten all the information she could out of this woman. “One more thing,” she asked as she was getting up to leave, “how big were the boulders?”
“The size of a house!”
Milacent smirked at her as they walked away, but Theodora was dead serious.
“She likes to exaggerate, but I think the basics of her story are true.” Turning to Scratchy she asked, “Did you smell the cap?”
“Oh yes,” Scratchy replied, “and it was definitely soaked in blood. Human blood.”
“So how are we going to approach this place?”
“At night. And sneakily.”
The next night found them off the coast, staring at the multicolored light that still shone out from the abbey lighthouse. There were outlines of buildings visible in the darkness, and jagged silhouettes that they figured were ruins. The party clambered into a small boat, then paddled as quietly as they could toward the cliff as the ship that had brought them sailed away. Regardless of how things went, they would not be needing it anymore.
The party docked their boat at a small pier on the beach, and then cautiously made their way up a wooden stairway to the top of the cliff. Once there, they surveyed the area as stealthily as they could. The buildings around the lighthouse were mostly intact, but the village that had supported the abbey seemed mostly destroyed. There was a low wall enclosing the area, and near this the party could make out large shapes, humanoid forms larger than a house, moving noisily among the building remains.
“Well, there’s your giants,” Milacent whispered, “should we go fight them?”
“Not just yet,” answered Scratchy, “Let’s see if we can get into this abbey without attracting their attention.”
Scratchy kept closer to the abbey proper. A section of wall had been destroyed, allowing easy entrance to anyone willing to climb over the pile of rubble. As Scratchy approached, he caught a strange scent, unlike anything he’d smelled before. Using the message spell, he called the rest of the party a little bit closer and peeked over the top of the pile.
The room he saw before him had clearly once been a magnificent cathedral, but now it lay in ruins. Rubble, broken beams, and shards of stained glass lay all about the inside, interspersed with splashes of dried blood and fragments of flesh and bone. Scratchy barely noticed any of that, however, as his eyes were drawn to the most salient feature of the room: two creatures floating above the mess, both looking like a mass of intestines tangled around a mouth full of fangs. Scratchy wasn’t sure what they were, but he was pretty sure they would have to die.
Scratchy messaged everyone to get ready, then fired several arrows at the first of the creatures. Knowing that some creatures could only be harmed by certain types of weapons, Scratchy had a sequence of arrow materials that he used: normal arrows, then silver, then cold iron, then adamantine. When one of them bit hard into an enemy, he stopped the progression and used those exclusively. This time, however, he watched in horror as arrow after arrow bounced off the creature’s skin, doing little more than scratch it. Then he was done, and the creatures were rushing towards him.
The rest of the party was sitting outside the wall, weapons at the ready, when they saw Scratchy retreat from the rubble pile and they two writhing masses of intestine float over it. They were nauseating to behold, but everyone had seen some terrible things by this point, and they were able to keep their stomachs down long enough to loose arrows of their own. Again, they rebounded off the creatures’ skin with little effect. The monsters responded with jets of acid, and then a surprise. One of them made a strange, guttural sound, almost like a burp, and then those party members who had been waiting outside were engulfed in a swirling cloud of caustic acid.
Helanda and Milacent were the first ones out of it, stumbling forward to escape the greenish cloud eating at them. Theodora side-stepped it, then began casting the protection spells he knew they would need. Zelcor, on the other hand, had gained acid immunity from his association with elemental magic. He strolled forward casually and began casting protection spells of his own.
“Kill them!” Scratchy shouted, “Just hit them as hard as you can!”
Milacent was happy to comply. She rushed forward onto the rubble pile and took a great two-handed swing with the spine flail she had taken from the Dark Rider. One of the floating creatures fell back, screeching in pain. It wasn’t as hurt as it could have been, but it was hurt some, and that would have to do. Milacent began to swing at it again and again.
Helanda felt the energy of a protection spell ripple around her, and moved in to attack as well. Just as she did, the creatures broke out another acid cloud, this one centered on themselves and encompassing both Helanda and Milacent. This time, however, the two warriors were protected from the acid by magic, and they moved in to strike some more. Unfortunately, the creatures had other defenses besides the acid. They tried to bite with their fanged maw, while the intestines that surrounded the maw lashed out with mouths of their own. Helanda dodged one and felt the bite of another, and realized this wasn’t going to be a pretty fight; it was going to be an ugly, chaotic brawl amidst the limited visibility of the acid cloud.
Theodora helped out as much as she could, healing the injured fighters. Then she had an idea: she would rush into the cloud, touch the creatures, and determine what sort of weapons they were vulnerable to. Before anyone could dissuade her, she entered the cloud, and though she could barely see inside it, she was soon able to reach out her hand and touch something warm and wet. Knowledge flowed through her mind, and then a tentacle-mouth bit into her arm and she recoiled in pain. “Lawful weapons! You need to hit them with weapons imbued with lawfulness!” She shouted as she stumbled back out of the cloud.
Scratchy was right beside her as she emerged from the acid. “Don’t have any lawful weapons,” he told her, then continued exhorting everyone to just hit them as hard as she could.
Milacent had no problem with the “hit them really hard” strategy. Again and again she swung at the creatures, and eventually they went down, like all things do eventually. Ugly as the fight was, an ugly win is still a win. As she kicked away one of the enemy corpses, the fog cloud began to dissipate, and she was startled to see that Zelcor had been right beside her the whole time, obscured by the cloud.
“Oh, the cloud’s going away already?” the immune-to-acid gnome said, “But it was so refreshing!”
Theodora just shook her head as she finished up her healing. “Welcome to Windsong Abbey,” she muttered.