Time Marches

Fairy Tales I: Jack and the Giants (Act 1)



Day 3 in Thelanis

On their way to the Isle of Dread, the party’s boat of reeds provided by Elias Alastai ends up at a lake next to a town called Luchair, which is full of apparent humans that seem oblivious to the idea of being in Thelanis. They soon discover they have stumbled into the realm of an archfey, associated with stories about giants: in particular, Jack the Giant-killer and Jack and the Beanstalk. A lone mercenary from the missing Tharashk mercenaries, Rogdan, explains that he deserted here out of fear after the mercenaries travelled through several archfey realms with substantial casualties. He explains that like all other archfey realms, the only way out is to complete one of the relevant stories, or a known variant of one of those stories.

The party tries to pursue both stories at once, with Samson planting magic beans in the ground and the others slaying the hill giant Cormoran. They receive a hero’s welcome and the title of “Giant-killers” back in Luchair from the mysterious “King Without Sorrow,” who then gives the party all of Cormoran’s stolen wealth. While retrieving this hoard, the party encounters Sir Humpty of Dumpty, who watches a damaged wall that marks the border between Luchair and the giants’ territory. Galorax attempts to knock him off his wall before realizing that a nursery rhyme is not equivalent to a fairy tale, which accidentally tangles the party up in another, unrelated tale.

They manage to escape the tale related to Sir Humpty and return to Luchair, where they rest the night in the Giant’s Folly in.

Main Characters:Galorax, Samson Grugnak, Peril Edenhall, Kraft, Vaxin


Day 3 in Thelanis

The party drifts along the river on the boat of reeds provided to them by Elias Alastai, and soon find themselves outside of the eladrin domain. The river winds down through some hills and feeds into a pristine lake in a shallow valley. The river appears to stop here, and is the only river that feeds the lake, but there is a town built on the shores. They drift towards it, making a fairly straight path despite not paddling in any way and no obvious current to the lake.

The boat arrives at the harbour at what appears to be noontime, where a number of fisherman from the town regard them with curiosity, but not suspicion. They are almost entirely human by the looks of them. As the party disembarks, Galorax tries to hawk wares to the townspeople, who examine the goods from afar with some interest, but none express a desire to purchase anything. Peril, meanwhile, speaks with some guards who are overseeing the harbour. The guards speak Common, and inform the party that they have arrived in the “idyllic” town of Luchair. They are, he says, the first visitors the town has had in some time.

When questioned about the Faerie Courts, the guard claims to have no idea what Peril is talking about. Peril asks where Luchair is actually located, but this line of questioning gets nowhere; the guards will only refer to the town’s location in general terms (“it’s in the valley”, “it’s west of the mountains”, and so on). Samson inquires who rules these lands, at which point the guard points towards the great white palace at Luchair’s center, and answers with the “King Without Sorrow.” He then directs the party to the town’s only in, the Giant’s Folly. At this point the party splits up to seek information, with Galorax and Vaxin going to the Giant’s Folly, and the others going to the palace.

At the Giant’s Folly, the party encounters only two daytime drinkers. One is a half-orc, grizzled and scarred, wearing the undercoat of a suit of armour and a sword belt. The other is an eladrin woman, dressed in fine clothing and sipping at the same green spirit that Reardon drank before. Galorax goes to speak with the half-orc, while Vaxin sits at the table with the eladrin woman.

Galorax orders the half-orc a drink, which comes from a serving girl who appears as if from nowhere and for which he is not charged. At this point, Galorax learns that the half-orc’s name is Rogdan, and he does not hesitate to reveal his origins as a mercenary of House Tharashk — one of the missing troop. He explains to Galorax that the mercenaries ended up in the Feywild and went through several archfey domains while seeking the Isle of Dread. His companions, Rogdan explains, moved on to another realm, but he chose to remain here, lacking any desire to move forward into more danger.

The eladrin woman, Orivyre, tells Vaxin that she is a traveler from Shae Loralyndar. She describes herself as something between a sightseer and a scholar, who is traversing different archfey realms to satisfy her curiosities. Vaxin asks how she manages to move between the realms, to which she responds with another question, asking which feyspire Vaxin hails from. Vaxin responds that it has been a “very long time” since he left his feyspire, claiming not to recall which. Orivyre asks if he still remembers the “pathways”, and Vaxin shakes his head. She then explains that those who still have deep connections to Thelanis can traverse hidden pathways between realms, but since he cannot, the only way out is to “draw the realm to its natural conclusion.” He nods, thanks her, and goes to join Galorax and Rogdan.

Meanwhile, at the palace, the others find that it is surrounded by an outer wall and patrolled by guards. The royal guards explain that nobody is permitted in the palace who might “bring suffering or sorrow with them,” as the palace is a place in which negative emotions are forbidden by order of the King Without Sorrow. As they are foreign outsiders, the guards explain that they cannot trust the party not to bring such things inside, and refuse them entry to the palace. They also learn that the king’s son, the Happy Prince, is nearing a birthday that, in two days, will mark his passage into adulthood, and so this restriction is especially important right now.

Feeling this is a dead end, they go to join the others in the Giant’s Folly, where they sit at the table with Rogdan. He continues telling his tale, and explains more about the nature of Thelanis: the realms of the archfey are like self-contained worlds, that encapsulate the fairy tale (or tales) that gave rise to the dominant archfey. The only way out is to resolve a story, at which point the boundaries of the archfey’s realm thin until the story “resets” and begins to play out again. Multiple stories can play out in one realm, and variants on the tale can be played out just as well as the “base” story. In this particular realm of Thelanis, they identified two stories: Jack and the Beanstalk, and Jack the Giant-killer.

Rogdan says that the mercenaries were not able to determine who the actual archfey in this realm. They suspected that it was the infamous “Jack,” but after searching for days they were not able to find any such person. They concluded that they were meant to fill Jack’s role in the stories, and decided to pursue completing Jack the Giant-killer. They hunted and killed the cattle-eating hill giant Cormoran, but as Rogdan explains, “the rest of the story was too bloody,” and he deserted his companions, deciding that settling in Luchair forever was preferable to facing any more nightmares of the Feywild. He urges the party to do the same, and Galorax is nearly convinced.

The party decides to pursue both, despite Rogdan’s warnings that this could cause fairy tales to conflict. Vaxin asks what will happen if the stories veer too far off course or become impossible to resolve, and Rogdan tells them that if this happens, the realm will enter a sort of limbo state where nothing can finish for an indefinite period of time before gradually resetting back to its base state. This is a process that can take years, Rogdan says, and recommends that they are very careful not to let this happen.

Undeterred, they continue trying to pursue both. They speak with the barkeep, who points at the giant’s head mounted above the fireplace, and tells the party that the giant’s brother, Cormoran, has been eating cattle north of Luchair. The party leaves on the Road — the only highway out of town — bound for the north. They travel for what feels like only a couple of hours, but on looking back see that they have moved a great distance. Ahead of them, they can see Cormoran in the distance, fat and filthy, eating cattle in the fields of farmers. As they begin to move towards the giant, they meet another traveler on the road.

The traveler appears to most of the party as a hunched old man, carrying a huge bag on his back. To Galorax, he appears as a hobgoblin with a small pack and a mischievous expression, and to Samson, he is a handsome half-orc with a thin smile and a black cloak. They all recognize him as the magic bean merchant of the Jack and the Beanstalk tale. In the most common Darguun variant of the tale, the protagonist Juk encounters a malicious hobgoblin on the road who tricks him into buying cursed beans. Among the orcs of the Shadow Marches, the hero is a bean farmer who deliberately buys three beans of different colours off the bean merchant (who is actually the Traveler, of the Dark Six), and with hard work and diligence, grows them in fertile soil. In this version, one bean is blessed, one is cursed, and one is an unknown quantity.

The merchant, appearing to the party simultaneously in different ways, offers up the beans. Galorax is asked to trade the golden antler he acquired from the Elkweald, but he pretends he does not have it. Kraft tries offering a finger, but the merchant does not want that. He asks for Peril’s medallion he found in the Moon Spire, but he will not give this up either. Vaxin has nothing to give, so Samson reluctantly offers his goggles of night, which the merchant accepts. Because the variant of the tale known to Samson has been followed in this case, Samson receives a bag with three beans: one red, one blue, and one black. Samson plants them in the ground in an equilateral triangle, choosing the spacing and angles carefully so he can keep track of which one is which and so that they will not overgrow one another.

After this, the party discusses their options for defeating the giant Cormoran, and they exchange the versions of the tale known to each of them. They identify some variants:

  • Peril knows two versions of the story. One has Jack tripping and falling into a magic gourd, which makes him taller than Cormoran. Another has Jack luring the giant to the edge of a gorge, blinding him, and pushing him off the edge.
  • The version Galorax is familiar with (from Darguun) is similar to Peril’s second version, but has Juk the goblin hero breaking Cormoran’s knees with a crowbar instead of blinding him.
  • Kraft’s understanding of the story has Jack wrestling Cormoran to the ground, rather than luring him into a pitfall trap (or to the edge of a gorge).

They go looking for an appropriately-sized gorge and discover one nearby. Galorax imitates a female giant to try and draw Cormoran near, which works, but sends him into a rage when he discovers Galorax is not a giant at all. The hill giant states his intent to crush the party, and he begins swinging his oversized club wildly. Peril and Galorax attempt to use their bows to blind Cormoran, one shot in each eye, but are met with little fortune. Galorax ends up skirting dangerously close to the gorge with Cormoran on his trail. Vaxin hides in a bush, and Samson offers only one shot from his thundergun — momentarily dazing the giant — before wandering off to tend to the beans.

Vaxin then emerges from the bush, attempting to climb Cormoran to blind the giant, but is thrown off and nearly falls into the gorge himself. After a time, Peril and Galorax finally manage to blind Cormoran. Kraft swings his great maul into the back of the giant’s legs, causing him to buckle but not fall. Galorax steps forward with his crowbar, bringing the justice of the story to Cormoran by finishing what Kraft started and shattering the giant’s kneecaps. Bone splinters fly from flesh as the giant topples into the gorge, screaming as he falls.

With their work done, the party rejoins Samson, who has somehow produced a straw hat and a watering can made out of a skull, just as in the story he’s familiar with. With Samson, the party returns to Luchair. While the road led straight out of town from the Giant’s Folly before, it now goes directly to the palace. Despite the fact that few people in Luchair were aware of what they were doing, the town is now in celebration over the party’s triumph against Cormoran. They follow the road to meet the King Without Sorrow. The King, resembling an aged eladrin with a white beard, is one of very few definitive non-humans in the town.

The King greets them and thanks them for their efforts, bestowing upon them the title of “Giant-killers.” He then offers the party the entirety of Cormoran’s hoard, which “all of the king’s horses and men” will be sent to retrieve. They ride out with a small army’s worth of people and horses, beyond the gorge where Cormoran fell and to a great wall marking the border of the King Without Sorrow’s domain and the giants’ territories. A Cormoran-sized hole has been punched through the wall, where stands one lone knight in strangely round, shining white armour. One of the riders identifies the man on the wall as Sir Humpty of Dumpty, the Knight of the Glen, who is charged with watching the wall (even though there’s not much point with a huge hole in it). The knight waves as they pass.

Cormoran’s hoard is in a huge cave a short distance away from the wall. The party finds various gemstones, coins, and miscellaneous goods with mild fey enchantments among the hoard. On their way back, Galorax recalls the nursery rhyme of Humpty Dumpty: in Darguun, Humpty is an egg made of gold, and Galorax sees him in golden armour. He is deliberately knocked off the wall by a stronger person in the goblin version of the rhyme, who gains great wealth but is cursed forever. Galorax fires an arrow at Humpty, attempting to knock him off the wall, but misses… twice. It occurs to him after Humpty discovers him that a nursery rhyme is not the same as a fairy tale, and that completing that story probably won’t give them a way out.

Humpty summons his horse, which Galorax attempts to steal, inadvertently stumbling into a different fairy tale entirely — one he is not particularly familiar with. Sir Humpty of Dumpty insists on boiling Galorax and the others until they confess to their crimes, but Galorax makes use of what little he knows of this tale: the Knight of the Glen has a notoriously terrible memory in the Darguun version, which mischievous goblins exploit. They convince Sir Humpty that the horse was stolen by one of the king’s riders, whom he seizes with his great strength and drags off for boiling.

The party then returns with their loot to Luchair, heading for the Giant’s Folly. Despite it having been “midday” for their entire adventure to this point, it is now suddenly the tail end of sunset. In the Giant’s Folly they find Cormoran’s head mounted above the fireplace next to his brother’s head. Kraft angrily tries to claim Cormoran’s head until Peril convinces him that the trophy will just vanish as soon as they leave the realm. They then have another drink with Rogdan, who warns them of the dangers of the coming day: Blunderbore and Rebecks, the Lords of Stone — the giants who rule the lands outside of Luchair — are going to collect the party and drag them to their castle by any means necessary. This led to a particularly bloody conflict for Rogdan’s mercenaries, which is what prompted him to desert before. He also warns them that the Lord of the Clouds, the giant in the sky, may react to the planting of the beanstalk(s).

Armed with this information, the party retires for the night.

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