"Where are the others?" asked Harald.
"I sent Ghibelline to find out," Telenstil replied.
Ivo shaded his eyes and looked back up the slope. They stood within the edge of the woods. Behind them, the way they'd come, the hillside was bare except for boulders projecting from the ground and thickets of hearty shrubs. The old gnome could not see past a hedge-like line of thornbushes, but Harald and Telenstil could see above these brambles and watched the orcs come down the hill. Further up they could make out their companions, Gytha, Ghibelline and Talberth, following close.
"I wish they were down already," said Harald, worried about unfriendly eyes which might be watching from woods or rocks or a nearby hill.
"So do I," Telenstil turned and looked down the hill. "What about our thief?"
"He made it down," Harald said. He nodded toward the valley floor. "His little shadow too. That is trouble waiting to appear."
"Perhaps," said Telenstil, "but I trust Harold's judgement. There are orcs who dwell peacefully within city walls, he has trained such for his guild."
"Half-breeds mostly," added Ivo. "Orc thieves, now I know I wouldn't care for these cities of yours."
Harald shook his head.
"I 'm glad that this is not an age when man fought elf and gnome," Telenstil said sadly.
"You need to spend some time in the wildlands," said Harald, "that would change your mind. You know your friends from your enemies and no mistake between the two."
"I have found friends in some unlikely places," Telenstil told him with a smile.
"Hah! You would have dinner with a troll," snorted Harald. "Ah well, you best wait for the others here. I will check on our thief and scout out the way ahead."
The two wizards watched the ranger leave. He quickly disappeared among the trees, agile as a hare despite his size and advancing years.
"He is right you know," said Ivo. "You have become lax in your ways."
"Less rigid in my thinking," Telenstil said, "that is how I would put it. Yes I have been out in the world and have seen that elves and gnomes and men live in different ways but are more the same than not."
"And orcs?" Ivo shook his head in disagreement. "I am no man or elf, and though we are friends we are different, greatly so, maybe that is why we are friends."
"We will have to disagree," laughed Telenstil, "there is no changing either of our minds."
"That I can agree with," Ivo laughed as well. "But merriment aside, Telenstil we are in a bad way here. Even I can see we are leaving a trail that no one can miss, certainly not the giants."
"Yes, and we are moving too slow," Telenstil agreed. "In a few days' time I will be able to transport us through the air again, but for now we are afoot."
"I thought I would be the slowest of us all," Ivo said wistfully. "Derue is slowing us. If we cannot cure him of his curse we may have to take a drastic step and end him of his life."
"No," said Telenstil firmly, "a fallen comrade, he stood with us and served us well, I cannot repay him in such a way."
"Telenstil this is a war we fight," Ivo looked grim. "Friends and comrades die, sometimes they are left behind. This would be a mercy. And Telenstil, what we do here is for more than just ourselves."
"The giants have not found us yet," said Telenstil. "Ivo, killing Derue is the easy way to solve the problem. He deserves more from us than that. We owe him the risk we take. If the giants track us down, then we will fight. We will save the mercy stroke for then, I will not let him fall into their hands, but I will not take his life to save us time. Nothing will make us safer in this land."