The party returns all the slaves to their respective homes, however some of the the travelers, particularly Sialia and her family, were traveling north, and their goods went up in flames with the wagon. How will they continue their migration? The party was already going to head north. They call a group meeting.
Unther informs them that Lord Ferrum‘s bounty could feed them. Lord Ferrum’s bounty is for killing giant ants. The giant ants have been stealing sheep and attacking travelers and townfolk alike, and he has offered a substantial reward for the head of the queen. The group decides to slay the queen and use the bounty to offset the cost of the family’s travel expenses. Unther says that most of the attacks have taken place in the mountains. The party decides that they will go and hunt the ants, while the family stays in Boyne.
After two days of searching for the ants, the party finds a pathway that the ants frequent. Three ants swarm down the hill towards them. Rognar draws his bow against one of the ants, but hears a sickening scraping noise as his arrow slides harmlessly across his exoskeleton. Eoleo casts a ward around Rognar, to protect him. Niamh shoots at two of the ants. Her first arrow finds its mark, but does little to slow the ant. Her second arrow sets the ants legs trembling like a catholic school girl. The first ant aims its stinger at the largest target, Rognar, but just before the stinger enters him, he feels the push of Eoleo’s ward protecting him, just in time. One of the ants makes a charge attack at Owen, poisoning him, but not seriously harming him. Raleria fires blue bolts of energy from her finger tips, striking all the ants, but alas, not enough to do more than slow the onslaught. Rognar drops his bow and swings his war axe furiously at the closest ant, severing its stinger. Its entire body collapses in a twitching mass. Following his momentum from the first ant, Rognar lets his axe continue, slicing through the thorax and neck of the second ant. Hiding behind the glow of Raleria’s missile, Eoleo does a graceful forward roll behind Owen. Niamh lands a shot right between the last ants eyes, instantly killing it, avenging her wounded horse.
Instead of celebrating their victory the group works together to heal Owen. Eoleo casts a healing hex to ensure the horse’s speedy recovery and the group prepares to track the ants. They sever the ants’ heads, to take them back for the reward. They maneuver their way up through the mountains, avoiding the other ants, slowly making their way to the nest. They discover three piles of rocks that look like cairns. Upon closer inspection, it appears that they are the entrances to the ants nests. Unfortunately the three entrances are guarded by three ants. And these ones have wings. The foes see each other and prepare to face off.
Rognar sighs and draws his bow at one of the ants. He had been drinking again, so he didn’t quite get it. Niamh also draws her bow, but had been drinking with Rognar, so she just shot into the wood. Sobering up, she draws again and this time the arrow flies true. The ant is wounded, but not enough. They take to the air. As they do, a worker ant charges out of one of the holes, straight towards Owen. Niamh yanks Owens reigns, pulling him out of the way. Eoleo cleverly casts a spell to enlarge the already substantial Rognar, putting him on par with the ants! Raleria, who has been itching for a little flame action, casts a fireball at the flying ants. A massive discharge appears above the group and in a clap of thunder the ants wings are burnt to crisps. The fall to the ground dead. The party stands, looking dumb struck at Raleria.
The now very self-conscious Rognar makes short work of the remaining ant with his axe, cleaving the ants head from its body.
Niamh takes a careful look around and notices that most of the food is going down one specific hole. She dismounts from Owen and readies herself to fight. An ant charges out of the hole closest to her, but she is ready. Her arrow sinks into one of its eyes, causing a distinct twitch. The ant decides it wants a sandwich and wanders off. Eoleo casts a mage armor spell on himself, in preparation for the coming battle.
Raleria edges closer to the hole, casting a shield, because these ants are apparently tricky bastards. The shining aura surrounding her gives off a comforting light that is sure to attract ants.
Rognar decides to take advantage of his size and heaves his bulk at one of the piles of rocks. He manages to collapse the tower on itself, leaving the ants only two ways out. Niamh lets the liquid courage that she has imbibed lead her down the hole, landing herself in a pitch black labyrinth that is presumably filled with ants. She is immediately surrounded by three ants, who begin stabbing her. Niamh prepares to defend herself and contemplates talking to Rognar about AA. Her thoughts are interrupted by a stinger piercing her armor. The plucky lass squeezes the poison from her arm and cries for help. Niamh, still surrounded by ants, recalls that she has a sun rod and feels like an idiot. Eoleo and Raleria leaps down the hole beside Niamh. Wisely, Raleria has remembered to bring a light source. Outside, Rognar wonders where the hell everybody went. Apparently his brain did not grow with the rest of him. Feeling insecure about being left behind, Rognar yells to Eoleo to please make him “not large.” Eoleo obligingly restores the dwarf to his still-considerable size.
Meanwhile, in the tunnels, Niamh lands an arrow smack on the kisser of a nearby ant, and another in the family jewels. The ant begins to twitch and writhe. Raleria is attacked but is not gravely injured. Niamh is chased by another ant, which weakens her.
Eoleo: Don’t worry. I can reverse that. Wait, never mind.
He gives her a potion of lesser restoration instead, restoring her strength. Just to make sure, Eoleo also casts a spell to prevent further poisoning to protect his friend. He manages to do all this, while evading the other ants. Raleria contemplates her next move, thanking the True Light that she did not go drinking with Niamh and Rognar last night. (Those two need help, she thinks. Therapy or something. Eoleo and I just play cards at night. I really don’t see what all the fuss is about with the drinking I mean, is not that much fun, right? Maybe I should go with them at some point. You know, if they let me. I think Eoleo goes sometimes. I could tag along. Also, maybe I should cast some burning hands. Never mind, I like Eoleo’s face.) She casts magic missile at the ants instead, killing one of them instantly.
Rognar readies himself to leap down the hole, and tries to aim his ample padding right for one of the ants. He ass plants right on its face, and he begins to grapple with the ant. Sick of the fat jokes, he punches it in the face, while Eoleo shouts encouragement from the sidelines. The ant writhes under his weight, gasping for air.
Niamh takes aim at the ant, just as Rognar lifts its head and slays it with an arrow through the neck.
Rognar: What the fuck! That was my fucking ant. FUCKING HALF-ELVES, STEALING MY FUCKING KILLS WITH THEIR FUCKING POINTY EARS AND HIGH SHELVES.
One of the ants manages to slip past Eoleo’s guard, weakening him as he tries to protect Raleria. Attack it, attack it, the party yells to Eoleo.
Eoleo: I am three feet tall and I have a dagger that you could take on a plane, what the hell do you want me to do?!?!
The whole party: What the hell is a plane?!?!
Eoleo stabs at the ant fruitlessly, pissed at his buddies for not getting the whole “gnome” thing.
Raleria casts electricity through the ants bodies, damaging them significantly.
Rognar: I’m going to show you how a real man attacks ants.
Eoleo: I am a gnome, I’m not a real man.
Rognar: Oh, and I am a dwarf.
Eoleo: So what exactly are you showing me?
Ants: Could you please just attack?
Rognar butchers one of the ants, just because he can.
Niamh suddenly remembers to drink her potion. Eoleo tries to heal himself but is too weak.
Raleria casts light for the party, lighting the way.
Rognar creeps deeper into the cave to discover ROSIE O’DONNELL in the cave!!! The queen is huge and gross and has lain several eggs. Niamh notices that the eggs are half way through their gestation and not yet ready to hatch. She fires an arrow straight at the queen, and it sinks between its legs. It thrashes, hurling itself at Rognar. At the last second he raises his shield and wedges the ant’s treacherous jaws open, saving himself.
Eoleo is still recovering from the poison and heals himself so that he can better help his friends. Raleria hurls another fireball at the giant ant, covering her in flames. The blast consumes the entire abdomen of the queen, and burst all of the egg sacs.
Rognar: I WAS GONNA DO IT!!! Fucking half-elves think they are so fucking smart.
The group wipes off all the ant guts, cuts off the queen’s head, and climbs out of the hole. Once out they find that they are covered in even more ant related goo and spend a lot of time cleaning themselves.
Eventually they head back to Rognar’s home town and start poking around. They are brought before the town guards. The party holds out the ants heads to the guards.
Guards: What are you names?
When the guards learn that Rognar is among the party, they demand that he come before their lord to answer for his association with the Sure Axes.
Guards: Surrender your weapons immediately.
Rognar: I am not ok with that.
Eoleo: Compensating much?
The guards demand all spell component pouches and weapons. Niamh decides to try to bribe them, but accidentally gives them money with the enemy’s seal on them.
Rognar: Look, if I was with the Sure Axes still, I would not have come here!
Eoleo: You sure about that, genius?
Raleria dials up the charm, but the guards are clearly gay and lead the party away. They enter a longhouse where before them there is a council of humans, dwarfs, and a halfling. A large human is sitting on a wide throne, gazing steadily at them. Judging by the seal on the throne, this is Lord Ferrum. There is also a steward of the lands. Rognar spots Maina in the crowd.
Lord Ferrum regards the companions seriously. He charges them with the crime of being affiliated with the Sure Axes. Rognar pleads not guilty. Javal, dwarf at the lord’s right hand leaps to his feet.
Javal: Rognar and the Axes are Villains. As the steward of the people of the mountains, it is my job to defend my people, and bring these villains to justice.
Lord Ferrum: Convince the dwarf of your innocence.
Unther: (stepping forward) Rognar is a hero! He freed us!
Lord Ferrum demands to know who was behind the enslaving of the halflings. The group tells him that it was the Hackjaw Tribe, and decides to bring in their prisoner, Dilek. Dilek, who was hoping that they had forgotten him, as they apparently did when they fought the ants, admits to everything. The steward of the mountains remains unconvinced. He claims that they are using intimidation against the prisoner.
Lord Ferrum, however, is convinced. The dwarf is deemed innocent. Unfortunately the Steward of the Mountains wont give up. The guards bring up the illicit coins and the poison that they found on the party.
Raleria smiles at the Lord.
Raleria: We got those while we freed the halflings!
The halfling in the crowd backs her up.
Lord Ferrum: Have you done nothing other than hunt gnolls?
Raleria: They attacked us, we were just defending ourselves.
Eoleo: Sorry, you have a problem with us saving your people? Really?
The lord remains unconvinced, and asks for further proof. The group tried to think of what they can offer him. Someone reminds them very subtly to show the lord the head of the queen ant. Raleria offers it to him with a saucy smile.
The lord rewards the party for their troubles and thanks them. In addition to the thanking, he clears their records of all association with the Sure Axes.
Lord Ferrum ask the party to join them in his private chambers (without winking). The group is lead into the longhouse’s study, where a fine fare is laid out for them. Lumen Hoden is seated at the table awaiting them. At the table, the lord apologizes for the aggression of his lesser lords. He tells the party that the nobles are frustrated with his reliance on sellswords and stewards without titles, and that he is afraid that he is on the brink of open war.
Lord Ferrum: And now I have been approached by the Lumen of Aurora’s End, with ever more bad news. My lady, you have a scale around your neck do you not? May I see it? So I see that its true. I would like for my mages to examine this scale. May I do so? I fear that we are facing something far worse than the Sure Axes.
Eoleo: I am not sure that the two issues are as separated as you think. The gnolls are riding hyaenadons with red dragon blood and these gnolls were highly organized. I mean, you know how gnolls usually are.
Lord: Then our paths are linked. Unfortunately, Bjorn has holed up in some tiny little howl that is incredibly defensible I have a favor to ask of you. I want you to find you’re way into Scoria, liberate the prisoners held there, and remove Tog Bjorn from power, by any means necessary. I can offer you as much as I possess. And of course, a lot of dwarfish mead.
Niamh: Keep it away from Rognar.
Rognar: Fuck off.
Lord: I will help you as much as I can. You may stay here as you prepare for your journey.