"Henri!" Talberth yelled above the din, "Can you make them stop that screaming!"
"I see their spirits," Henri said, "Those I cannot save I will cast out."
The priest strode forward and held up a disc of silver white. "By the symbol of my faith, by the God of blinding light!" he called, "I bring you the One True Way! Follow it or be banished from my sight!"
The heads upon the wall began to wail and as the priest said his last words some began to melt. They flowed like wax set above a flame, and their wailing became a final scream. Rows of fleshless skulls lined the wall, but some had burst and others burned like torches, licking at the frames which held them upon the timber wall.
The giant stag had stepped back at the priest's approach, but when he'd finished, it remained. In a smooth graceful bound it leapt to him and lashed out with its ghostly hooves. Henri was knocked back and off his feet, he rolled across the floor.
Harald felt a flush of shame to be the cause, but the sword he held quickly took such thoughts away. "Miming," he said aloud to himself, "I claim thee as my own." A flood of strength rushed through him. He felt the pain of his fall and stiffness of age all wash away.
* * *
Two of the giant guards walked across the inner field. The wolves had gone with the chief and most of the clan as well. A misty rain began to fall and both guards pulled up their hoods and wrapped their cloaks around them tight. Breme had set a fire near the center of the yard. It hissed and smoked as the damp rain fought against the blaze. Both walked toward its warmth, kept outside for duty's sake, they'd rather have been asleep in bed.
"What was that?" asked one.
"Nothing," the other murmured a reply, reaching out to warm his hands.
"You must be deaf. Listen!" A chorus of muffled screams drifted across the yard and blended with the crackling noise of the open blaze.
"Oh hells, that's the chief's hall. Raise the alarm!"
"Nosnra will skin us!" the giant shouted back.
The door to the outer barracks, a three room building unattached to the main hall in the north-east corner of the yard, burst open. Breme, an aging giant warrior came out. He gave a wide yawn, lifting his arms over his head and stretching his back. It took him a moment to react to the shouts and then he gave a start.
"What...what is going on!" he yelled.
"The chief's hall," a giant guard yelled back, "those heads of his have set to screaming!"
Breme ran over, passed the fire and continued toward the northern door which lead into the main building and down to the chief's trophy hall.
"I can't hear anything now," said Breme.
The two guards looked at each other then one spoke up.
"Well they were, just a minute ago,"
"They've stopped," said the other guard.
Breme looked from one to the other trying to decide if he believed them. "Come on then. We will go and see," he decided.
* * *
Inside the hall the stag was causing havoc. It passed through chair and table like a mist. The weapons of the scouts did not even touch the beast, but its horns and hooves had drawn blood from both. Edouard reeled back, his forehead bleeding, grazed by a jabbing horn. He had ducked back just in time or he would have lost an eye. His brother had been kicked aside and nearly trampled, but Gytha had pulled him free.
The red-haired cleric waved a cudgel at the beast, "By the Saint's mighty hand I call his wrath upon you," she cried and flung her cudgel toward its head. The wood shimmered as it flew and seemed to expand till it was of giant size. It struck the stag a good solid blow across the head and made it rear up and stagger to the side. It nearly lost its footing and dazedly weaved its ghostly shape through a table top.
Talberth had put his wand away. He slid it up his sleeve then called up a spell he thought would wound the beast. "Zimee-ari-kno," he said with force behind his words. He flung out his hands as if to toss away a stone and five streaking darts of glowing blue raced toward the stag. They struck its insubstantial side and left gaping holes along its blood-red coat.
A sweeping blade sliced across the stag. It wheeled, but dragged a wounded leg, then was struck again. Harald swung his new-found sword and with its ensorceled blade carved broad gashes through its ghostly hide. The stag lashed out, then bent its head and thrust a dozen pointed tines into the ranger's face. Harald brought his claymore down and sent a clattering of severed horns falling to the ground.
Gytha motioned with her hands and, several feet away, the giant cudgel smashed down and cracked against both solid bone and translucent skull. The stag lifted its broken head and gave one final coughing moan, then shriveled like paper set to flame. The horns fell with a crash and shattered on the floor; they broke apart, brittle as if they had been made of ice.