In her mind, Theodora knew the best thing to do was wait. In her mind, she knew that finishing off the chieftain’s attendants was the highest priority matter at hand, and once the party had accomplished that they should gather into a breaching formation and go through the door in their standard fashion, with weapons and spells ready to attack in coordinated fashion. She knew that waiting might allow the hill giant who had opened the door to get away, but in her mind she knew that was no big loss.
Her mind, however, was only barely controlling her actions. A seething, inchoate rage bubbling up from the pit of her stomach was filling her body, and it was saying How dare the giant open the door. How dare it close the door without facing her! How dare it deprive her of the battle she craved, and now it must be punished!
With a wave of her hand she cast the spell to throw the door back open. The rest of the party was surprised, but their extensive battle experience allowed them to adjust quickly. It also helped that the open door revealed not a relief force of giants ready to attack, but two panicked-looking giants running away.
Scratchy figured Milacent could handle what was left of the chieftain’s harem, and was the first through the door, riding on Fleabait. He raised his bow to fire at a fleeing giant, then felt a sudden drop as the floor collapsed from under his wolf; apparently the floor had pit traps placed at various intervals. Fleabait was quick enough to jump back to safety, but the shot was ruined.
Zelcor saw what happened and remembered that the Fly spells he had cast earlier were still active. He lifted himself a foot above the ground and was next through the open door. He saw that the giant furthest from them was about to escape into a tunnel at the end of the corridor, so Zelcor cast a Web to catch him. The mass of sticky strands filled the corridor, and from then on all anyone could see of that giant was the shaking of the web as he struggled.
Milacent and Helanda finished off the chieftain’s wives faster than they expected, and joined in the pursuit, flying into the room as Zelcor had. Milacent went to strike at the other giant they had seen, but as she dove at him she saw that there was yet another door in the corridor, this one opening up into a room full of giants being roused rather unhappily from their rest. “Eep!” she exclaimed, then remembered that she was a terrifying flying warrior wielding a flail made from spinal bones. “Rrrrr,” she corrected herself.
Helanda flew into the room with the waking giants, trusting her armor and shield to protect her as she tore into their groggy and unarmored ranks. They were shouting something as she arrived, but she couldn’t speak Giant, and anyway she figured they wouldn’t be shouting it much longer.
Theodora could speak Giant, and she understood very clearly what they were shouting: “Jubbek is dead! Intruders have killed him! Run away! Jubbek is dead!” She felt a twinge of pity, then the anger welled up again: These giants are our enemy and they need to die! Every last single one of them!
Theodora knew it was the effect of the shard she had just acquired, and she considered dropping it, but she remembered from her experience with Natalya and the first shard they’d recovered that the curse lingered for 24 hours after the shard had left the user’s possession. Throwing away the shard now would do little good: she’d have to summon up her will to resist its effects.
While she was thinking that situation through, the fire giant she had charmed strode into the corridor and shifted the whole situation. “Yes,” he proclaimed, “Jubbek is dead! I, Arlax, and my new bride have killed him!” and he gestured to Theodora, who was still in the guise of a female hill giant. Arlax continued, “Jubbek was weak and foolish and unfit to lead! He would keep us here waiting for the dragon forever! Bow down before me and I will lead us away from this terrible place!”
When Arlax finished his speech the giant Milacent was about to slay dropped his club and fell to his knees. Milacent hovered above him, weapon in hand, and pondered whether or not to perform a giant massacre. She turned to look at Helanda, and saw that all the giants before her were kneeling and cowering as well. Milacent lowered her weapon and backed away.
Theodora felt herself filling up with hatred. No! These giants all have to die! her gut was telling her, but her mind was stronger than that. She closed her eyes, took several deep breaths, then said in Giant, “You have made the right choice.”
Scratchy just said, “Dragon? What dragon?”
The answer to that question would have to wait, for there was the matter of the giant tribe’s change of leadership to deal with. Arlax assembled his new minions and brought them above ground, there to meet with the giants that the party had bypassed on their way to killing Jubbek. The entire tribe gathered together in a large building near the excavation site, and Theodora counted roughly two dozen members, mostly hill giants, but reinforced by mastodons and a small number of fire giants.
One of these fire giants stood up after hearing Arlax give his speech about leading the tribe. She was an especially bulky one, holding a hammer covered in flickering runes, and pointed a single thick finger at Arlax.
“So finally you have found the courage to slay Jubbek,” she sneered, “I have been telling you for months that we should kill him, and yet you did nothing but stand beside him like his loyal dog! And even when you did kill him, you could only succeed with the help of some outsider harlot and her tiny friends!” With that she gestured contemptuously at Theodora and the rest of the party, who were standing slightly behind Arlax. Theodora would have gotten angry, but she was too busy worrying about the fact that her spell of alteration would be wearing off soon. Actually, the fact that the spell duration was so short made her kind of angry.
The fire giant woman continued, “Yes, Jubbek is dead, it is true. And yes, a new chieftain will lead us away from here, but it will not be you! You, Arlax, are a coward and a weakling, and even less fit to lead than Jubbek was! I challenge you now to a duel to the death for leadership of this tribe, and after I kill you I will be the chief, and I will lead us home!”
“Stom, I accept your challenge,” Arlax roared, and charged into combat, but Stom’s words turned out to be true: he was no match for her one-on-one, and soon his crushed skull lay beneath her hammer. When Stom had finished crowing she turned her attention back to the party.
“Now we will leave this cursed place of terror and death, but you will not be with us,” she said, jabbing with her finger, “You are outsiders, and you are not welcome in our tribe! Stay here if it pleases you – maybe you can kill the rift drakes, they were Jubbek’s pets anyway!”
The party tried very hard to hide their relief over being told to do what they were going to do anyway, then slunk away before their spells wore off. The giants were remarkably eager to get away from Guiltspur, and very soon were packed up and gone. As the party watched them leave, Scratchy handed Theodora the deep red ioun stone he’d been carrying.
“Put this in your new shard,” Scratchy advised, “It’ll help you control your temper.”
Stupid condescending goblin giving me orders, Theodora thought to herself, but put the stone in the shard anyway. In 24 hours she would be back to normal again.
“Wait a minute,” Zelcor piped up, “Did we ask them why they came here? Or what the dragon was?”
“I don’t think so,” Helanda replied, “In all the excitement we never got around to it.”
And everyone felt mild disappointment at forgetting to ask, except for Theodora who felt extra super angry!!!!