The Stone Giant Captain stands smirking behind one of the many boulders stockpiles (strewn throughout the keep), in a cave mouth 10 feet above.
Ahead in the tunnels I can hear Mahd and Wynter prepare to face a trampling onslaught of Stone Giants.
Somewhere behind me, Athene’s sword can be heard ringing off stone, over the growling of Dire Bears.
Briefly I consider my course if action…. And charge his position!
His grin falters ever so slightly as I draw wooden ladder, price tag still dangling, from my Handy haversack and slap it against the cave wall. I bound up the rungs, creaking beneath the weight of my armour as a boulder crashes across my shoulders.
I perch upon the top rung and swing Redemption, but tucked in his little hole, the coward ducks out of the away.
A lightening bolt cracks from the tunnels below and Wynter’s snarl echoes off the walls as Athene bounds down the ramp to join them.
The Stone Giant appears in a sudden lunge and shoves hard against the ladder.
I feel suddenly foolish as I tilt backwards and slam into the carrion floor.
Brittle bones and fleshy scraps break my fall (mostly) but my ears are still ringing… No, not ringing, it’s screeching… from outside, above!
What horror pursues us now!?
Picking myself up, the Giant Captain lobs Boulders at Mhad who is now backing out of the tunnels… All four of her in fact; obviously she’s learnt something from our Lamia foes about the effectiveness of Mirror Image.
Another run at him up there would be futile- let him come down to us!
I run forward to join my friends in the tunnels.
Mahd looks drained but not out. Athene, Wynter and a Dire Tiger stand back to back holding the three way intersection, already littered with Stone giant corpses.
I step up in front of Wynter and we push them back on two fronts.
They keep coming but they’re no match for us and the last grey skinned devil goes down, floor shuddering.
Or I thought so at least!
Standing with Wynter in a tall roofed common room, a Giantess with ragged apron stands defiantly in an alcove at the rear. Lit by cooking fires, she snarls defiance in her guttural tongue.
We charge her in answer.
I steal a glance behind me though as the sounds of what appears to be a flock of giant birds comes echoing in through the aperture outside, thrashing and flapping.
Iomadae protect the other two…
Wynter and I meet the Giantess half way, ladle in her hand (and what would be a maul in mine) and strikes me across the face. I pick myself up and we leap on her and it’s a short fight.
Then, over what could only be described as an avian cacophony, I hear Athene’s desperate plight ‘SIIIILLLVVVAAA!’.
I double back to the pit and stand at the tunnel archway in awe.
The pit lit is now lit by flames of a giant fire elemental, yanking the charred remains of the Stone Giant Captain from his little hole, but that is the least of it.
Not one, but two giant, dark feathered birds- Rocs; are locked in mortal combat at the centre of the chamber, claws and beaks slashing, beating wings sending charnel debris aloft.
No-one seems to know what to do.
Surely this can only be the enemy, and yet the birds are fighting each other.
Could this be some conflict between natural enemies that has spilled, incredulously before us?
No… One of the birds, the smaller one (if ‘small’ could be used to describe such a creature) bears a rider!
An ally? An enemy? Neither?
It has a vaguely female form, human sized at least, but blurred, as if by magic.
A spy perhaps? Surely that makes her an ally?
The rider leaps free of the saddle as the larger Roc near eviscerates her mount, calling ’I’m a friend of Sandpoint’.
With that, Wynter and the Diretiger pounce on the larger Roc but Athene finishes the fight.
And we stand a little dumbfounded, I’m not ashamed to admit.
The brown, smaller Roc, rights itself with an unsteady hop, talons crunching in the carnage strewn floor and immediately starts preening bloody, tattered feathers, Wynter and the Dirtiger eying her warily.
The Sky Rider steps fourth and pulls her dark, siver-threaded hood back.
The blurry image settles into that of a pale skinned half elf with black hair and strangely mismatched eyes.
She tucks a fine longbow behind her back and I notice, on a chain across her mythril breastplate a holy symbol of Erastil.
Her entrance will make quite a tale for Ameiko, but if that Roc can’t carry us all out of here, she’ll probably never here it…