By Jared Perrone
Gardon BloodSkinned Valiameth-Draga, the first-born son of the latest generation of the Valiameth-Draga family. On top of the highest peak of the Spine of the World Mountains, he was born on what would be the coldest night in three centuries, the very fact he survived such a harsh birth was considered an omen of great things by the tribal elders.
As he grew Gardon was always larger and stronger than his already impressive kinsmen. His tribe, a more war-like group of goliaths than what was usually found, decided that he would make a fine leader for their armies. He was pushed through harsher and more brutal training than any of his other kinsmen, always succeeding in his tasks, never accepting failure. During hunting trips and small bandit skirmishes, he showed exemplary combat skills and bravery, being the first to step up to face an enemy, and taking blows meant for comrades.
When he finally entered his first real battle, at the head of five hundred mountain goliaths, Gardon faced down a hoard of mountain trolls, goblins, and frost giants that had been pushing against the tribes’ borders. Knowing that his enemy would prefer to wait until darkness to attack, Gardon hurried his men up a steep embankment during the night to wait for dawn. As the enemy army, over 2,000 strong, stopped for the day, Gardon blew his mighty ram’s horn to signal the attack.
At first light, with the sun to their backs, five hundred mighty goliath warriors charged down the ice ridden slope and into the west embankment of the enemy camp. Catching the enemy by surprise, the goliaths enjoyed initial success. However, once the enemy had awoken and regrouped, the battle became much fiercer. Despite their great size and strength, the goliaths were outclassed by the mighty trolls and frost giants. The goblins constantly running around their legs being the annoying little insects they always were. The battle raged for hours, Gardon, after having felled a massive troll single-handedly moved toward where he knew the leaders of the enemy army would be. Batting aside trolls by the dozen Gardon came upon the center of the battle, his father, the great Raga Blackheart Valiameth-Draga. Ten feet tall and all scared muscle, facing down three frost giants and two cave trolls alone. Bloody, and tired, but a grin still upon his face, for the thrill of battle, had intoxicated him. While already fatally wounded and missing a chunk of his right thigh, Raga refused to yield even in the slightest. He charged the enemies knowing this would be his final clash, and he would be damned to hell if he didn’t take as many enemies with him for the journey down.
Shocked that their enemy could still move at all, let alone attack with such ferocity, they were unprepared. With a mighty cleave, Raga drove his great axe diagonally through the body of a cave troll and took the head of a frost giant. Managing to regain their senses the remaining frost giants and cave troll drove their weapons into the great old goliath. Gardon ran to his father, but not fast enough, and could only watch as the man he thought undefeatable by any foe fell to his back, axe still clutched tightly in his giant hand and did not rise again. Enraged, Gardon let loose a mighty yell that shook the mountains. With all his speed and might, Gardon ran towards the enemies, dropped his sword and scooped up his fathers’ axe, the hands grip allowing it go, almost as if it knew who was taking possession of the axe.
With great ferocity and skill, Gardon butchered the beings that felled his father. Giving his all to the battle, Gardon killed mercilessly, never hearing his enemies’ pleas for mercy, or ignoring them, we shall never know. When the battle was finally over, the goliath army saw their mighty general Gardon covered head to toe in the blood of his enemies. His father’s great axe an extension of his arm, its once great oaken handle and shined blacked head now indistinguishable from the red that concealed Gardon.
Walking back to his father, Gardon kneeled down to look at the man that had taught him all he knew about leading, fighting, drinking, and the world. Opening his eyes for what would be the final time, the once-mighty warrior of the goliath tribe looked at his son.
“You are BloodSkinned, let it be known.” Giving his son a name, he could be proud of, Raga closed his eyes for the final time, going to join his forefathers in the heavens. Looking around for the first time since the end of the battle, Gardon realized the losses of the battle. While the enemy was completely decimated, the goliath forces were effectively cut in half, reduced to a paltry two hundred and fifty.
After the battle, Gardon had the men gather the dead and return to the tribe. After burying his father and the others whom had fallen, the elder council was convened. It was decided that for his bravery, Gardon would be elected to lead the tribe, for they believed that he would lead them to great victory. Once he was cloaked in the shroud of the war chief, Gardon got to work improving the tribe. He drafted every able-bodied goliath man or women into the army, he trained the first class personally, ensuring that they would be the best of the best. When they completed his training, one hundred goliaths were worth four hundred of any other enemy.
Gardon tasked some of them to teach the new generations, while the rest would become his personal cohort. Realizing that his people would never be safe, Gardon planned to go to war to rid these mountains of any threat to the goliaths. However, he knew that the forces against his people were great and numerous, so Gardon decided that he needed allies. Taking with him a handful of his best fighters, Gardon traveled far and wide through the Spine of World. He went to different races and tribes in order to gain support for the coming war, sometimes having to complete tasks or challenges to gain the allegiance of a tribe. In the end, Gardon made allies with the humans, dwarves, verbeeg, duergar, and the fog giants. While a few races stayed neutral, they still faced enemies such as the bugbears, the drow, frost and hill giants, hobgoblins, goblins, and orcs.
Come the new year, the war of the bleeding mountains, as it would come to be known as, began. For five long, bloody, and horrible years the two sides of the war clashed in battle after bloody battle. The more numerous Frost Giant Alliance versus the more skilled and advanced Goliath Alliance.
Sometimes whole settlements or tribes would be wiped out in a single battle. A few settlements on both sides, prosperous and alive at nightfall would be found the next day burned to cinders, not a single soul to tell of what happened. Slowly but surely, the Goliath Alliance pushed back the frost giants and their allies, the lack of brute strength made up for with quality arms and armaments from the dwarves, and magical superiority from the elves. By the final weeks of the war, the Goliath Alliance had crushed and eradicated the Frost Giant Alliance, leaving only the frost giants themselves and a few stragglers of other races left to defy them. They pushed the last dregs of the enemy army up Thirdpeak, where the last enemy stronghold remained. By the 42nd week of the fifth year of the war, the goliath army was finally looking at the frost giant stronghold, preparing for the final push that would end the war at last.
Gardon stood in his command tent looking over maps and intel that would allow him to better plan the final assault to end the war. While the enemy losses had been steep, his side had not been without its own losses. His own forces were only about a quarter of what they were from when the war started. Many races had taken heavy losses for one reason or another, his own people had been hit particularly hard. Their ingrained need to best others at competition drove his soldiers to throw themselves into the thick of the fighting every time. No matter how many enemies he seemed to personally kill, he always seemed to lose more and more goliaths with every step of the war.
By this point, Gardon was one of the last two hundred goliaths remaining in the Spine of the World. He knew there were others out there in different mountains, but it still hurt to know that his tribe was basically eradicated from the once-mighty war party it had been.
Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Gardon looked back at a file in his hand. It contained all the information about the leader of the enemy army, a frost giant by the name of Gerti Orelsdottr. A female frost giant with blue skin, deep blue eyes, and long golden hair. Her twelve-foot frame was all muscle, concealed by a silver wolf cloak and a brown leather dress. He had heard rumors that her boots were enchanted and quickened her strides. Gardon would admit she was quite a pretty woman, and he could respect her for all she had done. She had taken the scattered frost giant tribes and formed them into one collective group with a single ruling body. If this war wasn’t going on, Gardon would admit he wouldn’t have minded a political marriage to smooth the tensions over. However, this war would end with one or both of them dead atop the frozen mountain. At well over 13,000 feet, this battle would be fought primarily by the goliaths and fog giants against the remaining frost giants. The other races of the army would serve a more supportive role as the decreased oxygen at the high altitude wouldn’t allow them to fight at full strength. A great blizzard was due to move over the area come the following day, which would play to the frost giants’ advantage. However, Gardon had a plan to deal with this.
Come the dawn, the goliath army stood on top of Thirdpeak looking at the frost giant fortress. The battlefield for this final clash was a bowl formed by four natural slopes at the top of the mountain. Against the south embankment stood the frost fortress. A one hundred meter across square of huge black volcanic stone long since covered in frost and snow. A great metal gate stood in the center of the wall, forged with a snarling dragon’s visage into the iron. Parapets lined the top of the wall which was wide enough to walk along. Within the walls, there were various other buildings suited to the maintenance and support of an army. In the center of the fortress stood a squat stone tower twenty-five meters, tall wider at the top than the bottom, the command center for the remaining frost giant army. Behind the fortress, jutting out past the edge of the mountain over a drop from which the bottom could not be seen, was a fallen spire of stone and ice.
Frost giants already stood ready to defend the fortress to the death as they lined the walls and stood behind the gate ready for a breach. Simple catapults were in the courtyard and on top of the central tower, ready to fling artillery of many types at the attacking army. As the storm rolled in from the north, the giants could see their foe approaching their walls.
As I looked at the approaching army, I could not help but wonder how everything came to this point. For a hundred generations frost giants had shared this mountain peacefully, for the most part, with the other races. Sure, there was the occasional skirmish, but nothing Gerti believed worthy to start a full-scale war. She knew the cause of this however, a small army of frost giants and other races attempted to destroy the goliaths that lived on North Look.
From what she found out, the father of Gardon, general of this army, was killed in the battle and he swore vengeance against all that stood against him. Foolish, but Gerti could understand the point of a preemptive strike to ensure the safety of your people. She just wished it hadn’t come to this. The group that had started this was a rough band of giants, they weren’t under orders from her or anybody else. She attempted to send messengers to the opposing army to stop this and explain, but they never seemed to make it to the army. Something or someone wanted this war to happen and they succeeded.
There were only 100 or so frost giants left in the Spine, and today would decide if their race was to disappear entirely. She didn’t want this war but now had to finish it. As Gerti looked at the approaching army, she could tell that the way of life in the Spine would be forever changed, one way or another. As Gardon stood at the front of his army, he looked upon what would be his final obstacle to victory and peace for what remained of his people. His lion cloak that he peeled off of a foolish magic lion that dared challenge him, flapped wildly behind him. His father’s great axe gripped strongly in hand, its oaken handle now stained a permanent red hue. As he watched the frost giants line up on their great walls, he turned to the archer next to him.
“Signal the attack.” The archer nodded and sent a magically lit arrow into the sky to let the army know it was time to begin.
Overlooking the fortress on the west and east slopes of the canyon, regiments of dwarves and duergars, stood ready. Upon seeing the lit arrow fly high, the lead dwarves turned to their men lined up upon the ridges where the great ballistas, loaded with arrows five meters long and one meter around.
The dwarves stood ready to load them while the duergars stood by the front of the arrows chanting spells. Swinging down his sword the chief dwarve of the artillery group signaled the attack. At once, the ballistas fired their payloads. They sailed easily into the enemy fortress but didn’t strike any enemies. However, upon impact the arrow bolts exploded, having been enchanted by the duergars before firing. While the elves could not accompany the army for the final push due to the altitude, the duergars were more than capable of filling the gap left by the loss of their magical abilities.
Now in a panic, the frost giants began running around attempting to patch holes and put out fires before much-needed supplies were destroyed. After the initial volley, the dwarves continued to fire their explosive payloads one after another, knocking down walls and targeting key structures of the fortress. A few of the bolts struck the mighty gate, tearing it off of its hinges, and crushing giants in its fall. The bombardment kept up for an hour before it finally stopped.
Not willing to give the remaining giants time to reorientate themselves, Gardon blew his ram’s horn and ordered the charge. He, along with his goliaths and the remaining fog giants charged towards the fortress that was now more holes than wall. As the group approached the fortress, some frost giants appeared on what remained of the walls and started throwing stones at the approaching forces. What few catapults survived came to life to hurl boulders at them. And what remained of the frost giant foot soldiers came charging out of the gates to meet the approaching army head-on.
With the battle finally started, everything came to a head. Many soldiers were crushed under boulders and rocks before they even had a chance to face a frost giant. Those that did make it to the blue giants were determined to end them once and for all. Gardon remembered his father and his smiling face as death took him and used the fury he felt from it to attack with all his might.
One by one Gardon hacked his way through the frost giants. Though they were much bigger, Gardon had speed and skill on his side. Eventually, Gardon managed to cut his way through enough giants to enter the fortress. His target was the main tower in the center of the fortress. Gardon knew that should the leader fall or surrender, this battle would be over.
Encountering little opposition on his way to the tower, Gardon entered unopposed. When he broke down the giant doors to the tower he finally came face to face with his target. There, upon a throne of stone, ice, and gold, sat Gerti in all of her giant glory. The final clash had finally begun between the strongest of the two sides.
The battle outside the tower came to a halt as both sides stopped to listen to what could only be described as a thunderstorm of steel. They could feel the ground around them shake, and the air vibrate with every clash of steel between their leaders. Suddenly, the once-great tower began to crumble in on itself. Floor after floor crumpled like an accordion as the tower was crushed under its own weight. With a simple look at each other, an unspoken truce was agreed upon to wait to see the results of this clash of titans.
From the rubble and smoke came the flying body of Gardon who had attempted to block a full two-handed strike from an enraged frost giant, a poor mistake on his part. From out of the wreckage came Gerti breathing somewhat heavily from the battle. Both combatants sported their share of injuries, Gerti more numerous in number but less serious in damage. Gardon picked himself up off the ground, dusted himself off, and made a come hither motion with his hand.
Gerti simply grinned and complied. Their battle knocked down walls of buildings, crushed boulders, and led to them clashing on the peninsula of ice jutting off the edge of the mountain. Blow for blow it was an even match, Gardon’s speed and skill versus Gerti’s strength and resilience. Impressive on Gardon’s part as Gerti still had the boots of swiftness. What should have been a great advantage for Gardon was mitigated.
As the two generals of the army battled, they traded quips and barbs back and forth. The more they fought, the more they talked. About what exactly, nobody but them will ever know. It can only be assumed that some sort of revelation was realized between the two parties. All of a sudden, Gerti and Gardon stopped trying to kill each other. A few more unspoken words were spoken. Then in a move that shocked both sides, both of them walked toward the other and clasped each other on the forearm, never breaking eye contact.
With that, the war came to a close. While a begrudging ending, the war was finished nonetheless. The two sides of goliath and frost giant signed a shaky truce, always watching one another for signs of betrayal. Only the threat of punishment by their respective leaders kept them in line.
With a little over 100 frost giants and goliaths left in the spine, it was decided that the best way to continue forward would be to move around the world. A mercenary group was formed, known as the G&G Allied Mercenary Group. With most of its members being creatures of substantial size, it was decided that a strict uniform would not be used. Instead, members would be given a medallion made of black ice. It would be enchanted to only accept that whom it was assigned to, and to never take damage or melt. Upon the death of its wearer, it was designed to disintegrate so as not to be stolen. Rank was determined by the precious metal used to make the symbol of two giant fists touching knuckles in the center of the medallion. Bronze for recruits with up to five stars surrounding the fists, silver for officers with up to three stars around the fists, gold for generals with up to two stars, and the final medallion was reserved for the leaders of the guild, Gerti and Gardon. They were the only ones in possession of platinum medallions, a symbol that they were the highest of rank in their group.
For the next 10 years, the G&G alliance traveled the whole world, defeating enemies and taking contracts. Often times they would take contracts for locations in which no other species could reach, such as high mountains. Over time as their fame grew, so too did their membership. They drew in members of all species and specialties. More goliaths and frost giants came to join. By the 5th year of the group’s founding, they were in need of a permanent location. They struck a deal with the dwarves of Mirabar. In return for the protection of the goods and the people of Mirabar, the G&G alliance would be allowed to build their headquarters, and collect part of the profit made from trade in the city. By the end of the year, the headquarters had been completed.
Just to the Northeast of the city, the mighty citadel rose. In accordance with its giant residences, everything about the citadel was enormous. A great circular wall surrounded the main building. Fifty meters high and twenty-five meters thick, sloped outwards as to deflect projectiles, the walls were designed to withstand all. Made of solid red granite, the walls totaled three hundred meters around. Every fifty meters of wall sat a guard tower ten meters tall and made of red granite, with parapets every two meters along the walls. Along the top of the towers sat wooden walkways so to allow archers to fire directly down upon the enemy in the case of a siege.
The citadel contained two gates. Both were three meters short of the top of the wall and made of five meters of pure enchanted steel. The great doors were forged with the figures of a frost giant and a goliath shaking hands, the hands meeting in the middle of the door. The doors required five frost giants to turn the wheels necessary to open the gates, and they could be barred with a great oaken log three meters in diameter. The back of the doors had great spikes that could be inserted into the ground and the wall above them.
Along the inside and outside of the walls sat ancient scriptures designed to stop or severely deaden magical attacks. At the inside base of the wall, there sat a rail track to deliver supplies to parts of the wall when needed. In the center of the walls sat the Citadel itself. A monstrous fortress of spiraling towers, walkways, columns, and arches. The tallest towers stand over one hundred meters tall, the main building standing at eighty meters tall. Over 20 floors and another 10 subfloors containing armories, smiths, training facilities, offices, barracks, kitchens, dining halls, rookeries, grainers, storage, and anything else needed to support a mercenary company as large as this one. The Citadel had an independent source of iron, food, water, and animals. The entire grand structure was surrounded by a transparent magical shield that allowed sunlight through but would stop attacks both magical and physical. The rest of the ground was taken up by walkways, training grounds, farmland, blacksmiths, and an assortment of various buildings dedicated to supporting the guild.
In the very top of the tower sat Gardon and Gerti’s room. A massive room with surprisingly simple decoration. Yes, Gardon and Gerti’s room. At the celebration feast for the Citadel being completed copious amounts of alcohol were consumed and one thing led to another, and the first-ever goliath/frost giant hybrid child was born. A girl named Hilga who had a mixture of her father’s grey and her mother’s blue skin, and light blue eyes with her mother’s blond hair.
Now five years after the completion of the Citadel, things have changed drastically. The G&G alliance consisted of over two thousand members made up of many different species. It was one of the best known and well-regarded mercenary groups in the world. Gardon had been elected to the Council of Sparkling Stones as he controlled a large part of the force that defended the city and its goods. He was also elected to be the northern ambassador for mercenary guilds. Gerti took a position to help train the city watch as well as run the Citadel seeing as Gardon was away a lot with his ambassador duties. They were somewhat closer to finding out who had caused the war between the goliaths and the frost giants. As far as their research could tell it was caused by something magical as there had been no reports of any physical anomalies in the area. Throughout the various missions the guild had completed, they had also been searching for any information they could find about what happened. Their last and most solid tidbit of information had led them to Waterdeep, a large city away south of Mirabar. Seeing as they had no formal connection with Waterdeep, they had to find a way to get there and ask questions without seeming too suspicious. It was decided that Gardon would use his position as ambassador to go there under the guise of forming better relations with the local mercenary guild. This excited Gardon, as while he had gone on many missions with the guild, the last year he had been stuck doing mostly political based duties for it. He was excited to let his axe sing again. So packing up what he needed, Gardon set out for Waterdeep to find answers and adventure.