There was a gabble of rough voices below then they heard a human shout, Derue yelling for quiet. Gytha helped Telenstil down the last step. They paused to listen before entering the huge room itself.
Beyond the vaulting arch they could see a crowd of orcs sprawled out in groups about a cavernous room. Derue was surrounded by one group and faced another. Both groups looked ill-treated and half starved, but there was a demeanor to the orcs facing Derue that those behind him lacked, an air of resignation but also pride. They were a quiet lot while the orcs around Derue were boisterous and loud, these that parlayed with him were silent and only their leader spoke.
Telenstil counted several dozen of the beasts and perhaps twice as many in the other group. He walked slowly into the room with Gytha by his side. Derue caught sight of them and waved. He started toward them when they did not increase their pace.
"Hurry, this way," Derue shouted and lead them across the room to a large iron-bound wooden door. He banged loudly on its panel and shouted to those inside. Something gave a clang from within then a half-dozen orcs pulled the door open using an iron chain. A man stepped out, but Derue pushed him back and turned once more to signal franticly for Gytha to quicken her pace. "Will you hurry, we have wasted enough time already," he shouted.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," she replied, clearly annoyed with the mercenary's complaints. "Where is Edouard?"
"He's here," Derue pointed. He stood within a long hall lined with cells, a man stood beside him, swarthy and old, but calm, seeming to have mastered whatever fears or concerns he felt. Derue practically danced with nervous energy, his eyes darted from Gytha to the cell, back and forth till the cleric stepped inside.
Edouard lay unconscious, his eyes closed, his breathing faint and labored. Gytha knelt beside him and put her head on his chest. She heard the gurgle of liquid when he breathed, and put her hand lightly across his ribs. The bones were broken, she could feel the jagged ends where they had been snapped off and driven into his lungs. His face was badly bruised as well, but she suspected most of his injuries were inside.
"Heal him," Derue demanded.
Gytha paid him no mind, she would do what she could do. "Dear Saint," she began. "I have asked your help much today, but the need is great. This is a dark time and a dark place. Please lend me the strength to heal one who has fallen to this dark, who fights the evil you have fought with merely mortal strength. Please dear Saint, aid this fallen warrior who is near death." She placed one hand upon Edouard's head and the other on his chest. A deep green glow began but as it sank in it was replaced by gold, a shining gold that surrounded Edouard, his body lifted from the ground, his arms fell to his sides, suspended as well. His body shook and an angry line of red curved back and forth like a snake through the haze of gold. Gytha felt a great pain, her hands were on fire, it blazed at her, but she called upon the Saint and the golden glow increased. The red lashed out, it sprang from the cocoon of golden light and sought for Gytha's throat, but as it left Edouard it paled and faded into a dark steaming cloud, then blew away, up and up toward the high ceiling and disappeared.
"What was that?!" asked Ghibelline the elf. He had backed away when the cleric entered the cell and remained unnoticed while she cast her healing prayer over Edouard.
"Gytha! Are you all right?" Telenstil tried to go to the cleric's side but Derue roughly shoved him out of his way.
"Edouard!" he cried and ignored Gytha who staggered up, dazed, on unsteady feet.
"Brother," Edouard spoke. "Where am I? What has happened here?"
"You are in the giants' cells. I don't know how you came here, but you were badly injured," Derue told him.
"I feel fine," he said. Edouard felt his chest and jaw. "But I do remember great pain. It was like a dream. Derue! Where is my armor, my sword!" he grabbed his brother's arms so tightly that the links of Derue's own chain shirt bit into him like metal teeth.
Telenstil held Gytha up by the shoulders. She shook her head then steadied herself. Reaching out she gave the elf's shoulder a squeeze, then took the metal rod from where it rested against the wall. She leaned upon it and seemed to take strength from the black iron, recovering from her brief daze.
"Thank you," she said. "Come, let us step from here and let Derue and Edouard speak."
Telenstil lead her from the cell. "And you sir, who are you?" he asked the elf who followed them.
Gytha turned, a bit surprised. She had been aware that someone else had been in the cell, but had not taken note of whom or what he was. The elf looked worn and his injuries, old and new, showed plain.
"I am Ghibelline of Derelion," the elf said, then pointed toward the door behind them. "And this is Jalal-ud-Din of Zeif, Master Builder, and my friend."
Telenstil and Gytha both turned to look at the small old man. He placed his hands together and bowed deeply at the waist.
"I am Telenstil and this is Gytha, one of Saint Cuthbert's staunch followers," said Telenstil. "I have many questions for both of you, but this is not the place."
"Will you take us with you?" asked Ghibelline.
"Of course," said Telenstil. "I would not leave anyone in the hands of the giants."
"Gracious Elf," spoke up Jalal. "If that be true I must ask you for your help. There are others held captive, they have worked alongside me and one I hold dear to me as kin."
"We will see what can be done," said Telenstil. "For now there are others, my companions, who we must rejoin. Then we can speak and discuss how to help your friends."
As they spoke a commotion rose from the cell, then Derue backed out, his hands before him. Edouard followed, his pale face was red and he shouted and pushed at his brother.
"...done with it." Edouard yelled.
"Nothing, it was gone, Edouard, gone when I found you," Derue protested.
"No! It can't be," Edouard shouted. "I can't hear it anymore, what have you done with it?"
* * *
The wolves could not run; some were left behind, half-dead to fend for themselves. The giants plodded along the path, like the wolves they had been stripped of their stamina and strength. Only Nosnra still walked with his shoulders back. In his arms he carried the body of his friend, a mere souless husk, drained by the powers he had wielded in life. Only one more hill and a valley then they would be home.
* * *