The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part I
He awoke with a start. Pushing the heavy fur-cover aside and sitting up he wiped the beads of sweat from his thick brow with the back of his hand. Something was not right, he could feel it in the marrow of his bones. Placing his feet upon the cold, wooden floor, worn smooth by years of use, he cradled his head in his hands and listened.
At first he heard nothing, stray thoughts and the ghosts of dreams still inhabiting his mind, then, the breathing of his bear and the beating of his own heart. The walls were thick; the boles of ancient trees trimmed of branches but set in place still bark covered and green. They had a voice of their own, creaking and groaning, as the wind, the weather and time wore at their very hearts. Outside, beyond the wall of his chamber, a hound bayed then a chorus began as the pack joined in. He could hear a yelp of pain and a shout, loud and commanding, then silence.
All seemed well. No stirrings or misplaced sounds, yet his unease did not cease. He was bound to this place, born upon this very hill when this had been his father's steading, Tofig the Proud, a thegn of great renown. Now the steading was his, and he was chieftain over a dozen thegns, and these walls, the stones and the very oerth of this hill itself were a part of him. There was a presence, a wrongness, it twisted in his bowls and allowed him no rest.
Nosnra, Chief of Thegns, Master of Nidaros, greatest of all hill giant steadings (Trondheim in the tongue of the Frost Giants), balanced on one foot in the cold dark of night. He wavered and nearly fell as his other foot caught in the leg of his hide trousers. Somewhere nearby he had his boots, they took some time finding; one was under the bed and the other was under the bear. Ursoth, his pet bear, was slow to rouse.
* * *
The hall was cold, the great fireplace in the eastern wall had long since gone out. A cool flow of air came from the passage to the north where it lead to an outside door opening on the yard where the hounds ran and played. He had not sat in his hall this past night, there had been, instead, a great feast, then a private meeting. Zervan, the ambassador from the Cloud Giant Confederation, a more indecisive, stuck-up, self-important bunch he had never known, had talked until Nosnra was sure his tongue would fall out. A twisted, lying, weaselly tongue at that. Those giants had more than their heads in the clouds, but some, it seemed, might be talked down to oerth. He shook his head. Dealing with Zervan was always unpleasant. Just thinking about it made his head ache and throb. Ursoth gave a growl of sympathy, aware of his master's distracted mood and pained expression. Nosnra reached down and patted the bear's back and smiled, but it did not last. The feeling of unease returned like a recurring movement at the edge of vision which cannot be discerned no matter how quickly you turn to catch it. The mere thought of a fire warmed him, but he felt a tug of worry that there was some action he should be taking, and was not.
No time for a fire. Warmth from action. He would walk through the corridors of the steading himself. That eased him a little. The wall around the fireplace was festooned with skulls, skins and shields of defeated foes. Nosnra ran a hand across them. He tussled the hair of a fierce rival chieftain whose body lay among the charnel pit in the dungeons below, but whose head shouted an eternal scream of silent defiance. He pinched the nose of a proud dwarven lord, the look of shocked disbelief set forever on his face, and carefully fingered the razor's edge of an enchanted sword belonging to some forgotten knight.
Why could he not set himself in motion? Some dread foreboding nagged at him, but the smallest distraction served to pause him in his course. With a shout he could raise his people from their slumber, but his pride stayed his voice. What would he have them do; Chase the night-phantoms away like a child in the creche crying in the dark? Nosnra banished such thoughts. He gathered his will and heeded the warning which called out from within him. Letting Ursoth lead, he would follow the bear's inclination, at least for the moment. They left through the western arch heading for the great hall. Ursoth no doubt would take them to the kitchens and the promise of a midnight snack.