Blood Ties

A Giant Problem

Our cast of characters is a motly bunch, including social outcasts, unwanted children, despised witches and generally people that are not well thought of. They however are the one thing stopping the world from descending into utter chaos. They live as the balancing force for one king over a hundred dukes, thousands of higher nobles, millions of lesser nobles, and half a billion commoners.

Giant

They serve the king as his secret police. They were gifts to him by the various noble families trying to curry favor. You see in a world where blood is truly the most powerful weapon, one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is another someone. So extra children are married off, given as gifts or even sold to pay off debts. Our cast includes just these kind of people, unwanted, unneeded, or maybe even just not liked (you can also clear the way for a favored son to take over the dutchy, by giving your first born to the King).

They serve the king, but the king doesn’t trust them. They come from other families. They come from other lands with other traditions. So who do they really serve?

He uses them though. He sends them on misisons. He has them get their hands dirty and bloody meanwhile his stay warm inside robes next to the fire.

They do his bidding though just the same, everyone’s reasons are different, but in the end it still comes down to a few simple facts. The world is a dangerous place, people don’t get along, and when people don’t get a long too much or for too long, it becomes a more dangerous place. Because of this they help keep the balance. They help each other, they help dukes, and even the king himself to keep things safe.

That’s why they accepted this mission. It’s why they accepted missions before.

So this time they met with their superior in a bar. They sat in the corner over a few drinks and were told what they needed to do. There is a Duke who lives in the far east. His name is Duke Anthony Stewart. He has been building an army larger then is allowed. So they were sent to look into him and find out what is going on, and to solve the problem. With little more information then I am giving you now, they were asked to set forth and solve a problem that could turn into civil war.

They set out and traveled many days across the countryside. They reached the border and greeted the guards, signed registries and went to find information on what was going on. Our adventurers used their contants and influence to gain information from the locals about the duchy and what has been going on. People were mostly helpful, but things just aren’t as easy as they might appear. Certain links in the chain couldn’t been broken. They were bound by contracts and unable to tell what they had seen or heard. So our travelers wandered onward.

They eventually learned of trouble ot the East. The borders were closed further on and men were dying. Recruits were being pulled up from the ranks of the commoners and sent to the front line.

They madde their way to the east, and under the clever disguise of a general and her bodyguards, the group made it’s way to the different army camps learning more as they went. Apparently an army of giants has landed and starting laying waste to the countryside. Though there are discrepancies.

First these giants are not using weapons sized to them.
Second these giants came in on boats that seem to be the same size as normal boats.
Third these giants bodies shrivel upon death and break apart if moved, as if all moisture and nutrients have been pulled entirely.

Lastly no supernatural creatures have lived in over to thousand years, so these couldn’t be trolls or giants any more then they could be dragons. I mean they don’t even exist, right?

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Investigating a Myth

Our adventurers headed up to the front lines to see what manner of creature awaited them. All the men agreed that they were really facing giants, creatures ten feet tall, wielding horrible clubs and daggers the size of swords. The camps were in disarray and hope was all but gone. For each giant it took five men to bring him down, and four of the five would never breath again, while the giant normally got up and walked away a few minutes later.

So our travelers went out to find the exact nature of theses monsters. They set off into the night to find a patrol and take a prisoner. It wasn’t until the patrol was nearly upon them that they realized how good the night vision of these monsters was. A patrol of two giants set upon the group and came within seconds of killing them all. As it was the strongest fell. If he had been a normal noble he would have died. If he had been a normal peasant he would have had brain matter on his boots. In the end they succeed in life, but failed in their goal. Both giants were killed without taking either prisoner.

They headed back to camp to solve the problem of these beasts and healed their wounds. They put together small squads of the best crossbowmen the army had to offer. They pieced together stories, myths and legends. That night one of our adventurers set forth into the camp to gain information. What he found was a camp that was as disorganized as any camp could be. Guardsmen and Sentries didn’t watch for people. Soldiers slept without anyone watching their back, it was a mess. He left a note to meet with the leader of the Camp.

The leader of the giant camp showed up to the meeting. He did little more then taunt our troupe and brag that he would one day rule the entire continent.

Our troupe starting training soldiers to get everything ready to take captives. Then they set out back to the Duke’s territory to meet with him. Things went relatively well with the Duke. He gave them the supplies they needed and lended what aid he could. He also gave them information. In exchange for solving his little problem of the giants he agreed to give them all a boon. Armed with metaphysical weapons and a reward, they headed back to the front lines.

Once back up at the front, they started making defensive preparations in case the giants counter-attacked when captives were taken. After they were satisfied, they went forth to get the captives. This time they brought crossbowmen and foot soldiers with them. They laid in wait and ambushed the giant’s patrol. They found them, captured them, and killed them. No they didn’t kill all the captives, some they kept for research the others they tested on effective ways to kill them. In the end they found that besides just repeatedly stabbing them after they were already down, fire and dismemberment also worked.

By now they have figured out that they are somehow gaining the giant powers from eating a giant. And that all these giants were indeed northlanders when they originally landed in this country.

The supplies from the duke arrive the next day. They have even more crossbows to outfit the soldiers with. They sneak into the camp as a force to find out anything else they can. They find a chained tortured giant next to a cookpot. So they free this giant and take him with them.

Our troupe interrogates the prisoners trying to gain as much information as possible. When little is to be had they kill one and wait to see how long it takes the other to revert to his normal form.

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Repelling an Invasion

The select few members of the “Kill Squads” armed with crossbows went off into the night to lay traps for the giants. Slowly picking them off two by two.

Five days after the captive had been taken from the giants the characters went back in. The place was set on fire and another note was left for the leader of the giants. Once again the strong man was dropped by a large group of weakened giants. The “Kill Squads” went back in and killed what remained of the giant’s forces. Although most their number had fled on their boats and their leader was no where to be seen.

And just like that the siege of the north east coast that had lasted four months was over. The leader gone, the forces either slaughtered or fled.

The adventurers went back to the duke to claim their rewards and report of their victory. Our witch wanted nothing more then the Duke’s assistance in finding a friend of hers that has been lost a noble of the wolf blood line. Our Shadow asked for lands to build a library on, so the Duke granted him a plot on the lands of Sir Greggor (one of the knights who had been killed in the battles). Then granted the rest of the lands and the title to Sir Daniel Thorington “Thor Giantslayer”. Our pixie wanted nothing for the time being. And our dragon received a pair of warhorses.

Half the group set back to the King’s lands right away while the other half stayed to help Thor Giantslayer set up on his new land and help with the founding of the library.

Once everyone was back at the king’s lands they questioned the third son of Duke Anthony Stewart to get his side of the story and find out if he had indeed received a request for help from his dad, which he denied.

Their supervisor the treant went off to analyze the magic involved with these giants. And they received their next task, which should be a nice break after all the craziness of the last four months. They are to solve an issue with war profiteering by another duke who is far overcharging for wheat.

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The Thorington Library

Two of the adventurers stayed behind to help Thor Giantslayer. Build the new library. Since the lands are small they called upon a master architect’s knowledge to build a tower to act as the library. The foundation needed to be dug down in the bedrock to stabilize it. While digging one of the group members ran into a very old artifact.

Library Tower

They tower is a modest six stories, with a full time staff of ten with three on duty at any given time. One for the upper levels (advanced research), one for the lower levels (academics), and one to maintain the grounds. The funds to pay for these people and their costs of living comes from the lands of Thor Giantslayer.

They are tasked with giving knowledge freely to all those that enter. They are also required to ask for any knowledge that the person has that isn’t already held in the library to be added to it. Thor also let it be known to all traders and travelers who come into his lands that he pays 125% the going cost for a book, for any book that the library doesn’t already contain. Unfortunately he doesn’t make all that much, so he must limit his buying of books to the best value for now. As he gains wealth Thot dreams of adding a second tower to the grounds for a military academy where soldiers can come not just to train in battle and weapons, but in tactics and strategy as well.

For this reason he has already decreed that farmers who help him in the excavating to the bedrock and the laying of the foundation shall pay 25% less taxes then a normal farmer. This might not seem like much, but for a farmer who has a lot of land, the taxes can add up rather quickly. So he already has a crew of fifty men working on their off time starting on the second tower.

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The Duke's Wrath

Our adventurers traveled to the lands of Duke Elverent. Upon their arrival at the borders of his lands they were met by a patrol who asked them to sign a standard non murder/assassination contract. When they did they were escorted to the duke’s castle high in the mountains. On their way to the castle they talked to the two members of the guard that were escorting them. They found out several key pieces of information.

Duke Elverent

Once they arived at the caslte, there was a small army that met them. They were brought inside to the duke who quickly jumped to bellowing at the “evil witch” who had ruined his family. As it turned out the “evil witch” had been betrothed to the duke’s only son. Who had subsequently disappeared after he went to talk to her. SO the duke was left without an heir. He has tried to gain a new heir, but so far his attempts had been futile.

After much bargaining, a deal was struck that would hopefully end well for all parties involved. The king would have his task complete (the original price of grain would be restored), the duke would have what he wants (either a new heir, or his old one) and the characters would have what they wanted (their task complete and their “good witch” alive). The majority of the risk comes to the poor pixie who will be stuck with the duke for six months to try to produce an heir, should they fail their task.

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The Southern Wall

Not to long after our last entry our heroes left to the far southern reach of the country. The first leg of their journey was by ship. They set sail from the king’s port and siled for nearly a month. The trip was not pleasant, but the crew was a good crew and got them where they needed to be without incident.

The next leg of the trip was over land. They kind of meandered a bit trying to gather information and find books for our shadows libraries. In their travels they found an abandonned village. They village appeared to just be left by it’s former inhabitants. There was one oddity, the well. The well had been destroyed and the bricks used to make it had fallen outward. So our intrepid adventurers explored. They found a network of very large tunnels. However after exploring for a while they hadn’t found anything of interest, so they moved on.

Giant Worm

They tried to find another town along the path of one of the tunnels. Sure enough the next town they ran into had a few refugees. They confirmed what the character thought, a giant worn had come out of the well, but couldn’t get all the way out, so it just snapped up the people it could get to, and then went back under. They went back on the road. Not knowing what happened to the creature, but then they came across another abandonned town.

While they were investigating they found one family who had stayed behind. The family told of a similar story in their town. They however were not convinces another town would be safer. They were far enough from the well that the worm was not able to get them, so they stayed put. By their reckoning they have more farms now.

They wanted to explore more, but were bound by their contract to keep moving to talk to the duke’s son. So they went to the outpost of the son. They were greeted by the surliest louts to ever walk the planet. After much cursing and irreverence they were let in. The rest of the camp and especially the bars revealed much of the same. Finally they just gave up on the common soldiers and sent word to Tarsus Greathammer that they wanted to meet the following morning.

They did have their meeting and things went well through most of it. Tarsus told them about his journey and that he didn’t want his father to worry about him, and agreed to send word that he was well. It was when the witch revealed herself that things got ugly. He was very insistent that what she did was evil and selfish. In the end he told an account of the events that led up to his disappearance that went erfectly in line with what she said.

So they left, having everything they needed. The Duke’s son was alive, he wouldn’t be coming home, the pixie had become pregnant with the duke’s child (with a little help from a witch’s blessing or curse depending on how you look at it!), and there could be no action against the witch since no real harm had befallen the Duke’s son.

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The Shadow Council

Our wanderers traveled back up to the Duke’s lands to report their resounding success. They had managed to find his son, and the pixie was with child. The only down side was that his son did not wish to return. His son also recounted the story exactly as the witch did, so he grudingly let her live. After their business was concluded they returned to the lands of the king, to check back in and report of their resounding success to their superiors in the King’s Hand.

After they had reported on their success with the duke, and that the duke would no longer be overcharging for grain. So with their last assignment completed their superior officer told them there were some tasks that needed to be completed, but they could take some time to follow up on things that they had found that were important.

So they traveled back down to the far south meeting up again with Tarsus to look into the giant worms. After much searching, they found a giant underground tunnel that had a nest of fifteen worms. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, they left.

They traveled back to the north, to find out what needed to be done for the King’s Hand. It turned out that one of the Archduke’s had requested that they help him out with an important task.

The archduke was very secretive from the first moment they entered, and forced them all to sign a non-disclosure contract before he even explained the full details of their mission. Once he had explained what little he could, they all signed the contract. He then showed them that he was capable of destroying contracts, by destroying the contracts that they signed when they joined the King’s Hand. He went on to explain that he was recruiting them to find the first contract. That his goal and the goal of the Shadow Council was to destroy the first contract and return things to how they should be.

The King’s Hand had another important task for them, and set them overseas to try to stop an invasion. The barbarians of the north were attacking one of the islands. So the king started to gather 5,000 of his troops, and sent our wanderers ahead to help in any way they could.

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Cultural Differences

Our intrepid adventurers had a meeting with the duke on the island, who filled them in on what was going on. The enemy forces had more then double all their forces put together, and with how spread out they were, the enemy had been able to march unopposed, except for a few small skirmishes, about the land. Up to this point the enemy had conquered nearly a quarter of the island.

Our heroes went to the lands of the earl that was on the front lines now. Once they got there, they found that there was a note waiting for them. Asking them to meet the commander of the enemy forces under a flag of truce following the exact terms that the heroes had discussed asking him for.

After a little confusion they accepted and proceeded to meet with him the following day. Where much was discussed. Finally so they could exchange information in a more comfortable setting, he suggested that they discuss things at one of their camps. In the end everyone wound up going to his camp. There he told them of the troubles they were having and that he was going to conquer lands until he found someone who could give him the information he needed.

There was obviously a huge cultural difference and many misunderstandings were blatantly apparent. Not the least of which, is that even their conversation was a financial transaction, because knowledge is power, and you charge for weapons, so you abviously should for information as well. But in the end they came to an agreement. That they would try to get him the knowledge that he was after and in return they would agree to a more permanent sharing of knowledge.

They went to ask the archduke about sharing the information they had with this invader, bringing three of his shadowguard with them. On the way they were waylaid by a sea serpent. The serpent put up a valiant fight, trying to destroy the ship, but in the end he was killed by spears and swords, before he could harm the ship.

A convienent use of necromancy allowed a few of the group members to get back to the King’s Castle faster then anticipated. Once they arrived they were greeted by a other member’s of the King’s Hand who were to take them in for questioning about the death of the Archduke, who was last seen alive with them. Once the rest of the group got there, they were reunited at the King’s Castle.

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The Shadow Council Pt 2

When our adventurers returned, they reported the information that they had, and tried finding the information to help the invaders from across the ocean. They also had to report back in to the Sergeant in charge of the murder of the Archduke. Everything went well in the interrogation. They attempted to contact another member of the Shadow Council. First they tried setting up a meeting with the Archduchess Erlissa Nadima using family connections to gain audience. However that was unfruitful, so they tried going to a ball next. This also seemed to be fruitless, but they were shortly thereafter contacted and had a meeting with the Shadow Council.

They survived the meeting and went back to the Island armed with the ability to give the invaders the information they needed. The invaders had come seeking only answers and once they had received them, they returned from whence they came.

After the mission had been completed they spent some time exploring the volcanoes and searching for the rest of the volcanoes, including some underwater exploration. Unfortunately their searches were unsuccessful and they had to return hom empty handed.

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