Dragon+ 11: Return to the Steading
Dry, hidden, and large enough to shelter a full party along with associates, hirelings, and mounts, the cave had once been used to stage forays against the hill giants’ steading. Now it remained in use as a way station on the journey to the steading for those seeking out its new inhabitants—the selfsame adventurers that had cleared out the giants years before.
The tiefling Garret poked through the meager supplies left by the last group of travelers. There wasn’t much, and Ocras had consumed most of it already—primarily moldy oats, eaten straight out of old bags that might have been taken from the steading’s original inhabitants. Garret looked up at his hill giant companion in utter disgust. But he was making his own foray against the steading, and necessity had forced him to bring the giant along.
“We reach the steading tomorrow,” Garret said, dropping an emptied sack to the ground. Tonight, he would eat from the last of the stores he’d more recently acquired, and which he kept hidden from the giant by need.
“Good,” Ocras rumbled. The hill giant’s speech was slow and labored, as if he carried all the words of Common he knew in a weathered bag—something like the one filled with useless odds and ends that swung from his belt—and was at pains to sort through and produce the ones needed. “A banquet for us there? You think?”
“Only if you plan to dine on sword blades and crossbow bolts,” Garret said . . . although given what he knew of his companion, it was possible he might. Hill giants, as he’d so recently observed, ate prodigiously, without equal or end. Along their journey to the steading, Ocras had eaten through their entire store of iron rations—a three-week supply, gone in three days.
The food they’d eaten since then largely came to them by way of a rust-colored magical sack in Garret’s possession. That bag of tricks could be used to conjure up an odd array of creatures that Garret had been forced to make unusual use of: a summoned lion could be ordered to go hunting, returning with deer (which Ocras had eaten raw) and rabbits (which Garret had managed to hide and cook). A giant boar under Garret’s control did an admirable job seeking out truffles and edible roots, one last meal’s worth of which remained hidden in Garret’s pack.
Using the bag came with risk, though, as Garret had found out the first time he tried to do so. Producing a goat had seemed less than ideal, but before Garret could dismiss it, he had watched horrified as Ocras devoured the creature. Garret had been forced to scold the giant, and from that point on, he used the bag and ordered its creatures to hunt and forage only while Ocras was sleeping. In that time, the giant had since consumed three whole deer, two wild goats, over a dozen hares, several dozen trout, a boar, a beaver, and a variety of small creatures caught by Garret’s summoned hunters—all of which Garret claimed were the products of his own powerful magic.
Still, it was very much in the tiefling’s interest to keep his companion fed. Ocras had been born and raised within the steading; he knew its layout better than anyone alive, including its current occupants. Garret needed the giant to guide him, while Ocras only cared that he was sufficiently fed along the way—and more than once, Garret had caught the giant looking him over when the previous rations had been eaten, and while Garret waited for nightfall so his fantastic beasts could catch their next meal.
“Remember,” Garret warned him, perpetuating the tale that had endeared the giant to his cause in the first place. “I am your familiar, and it would be unwise to eat me.”
As with past Dragon+ fiction, I workshopped this piece with Adam Lee, on the Dungeons & Dragons story team. As mentioned in the preface, this story intentionally kit-bashes elements from a number of D&D’s worlds. Though Storm King’s Thunder takes place across the Forgotten Realms, its storyline felt like a compelling opportunity to consider how elements of the classic G1-2-3 Against the Giants adventure modules might fit into that story—whether in Greyhawk, as originally written, or in the Realms. I beg your indulgence.