"Ivo, he is not coming," said Harald. "I've given him the five minutes, and more."
"Then it is time for us to go," Ivo replied.
"Telenstil won't like it but I say we leave," chimed in Talberth.
"I could climb down..." the ranger began.
"No," said Ivo. "If the giants catch us here Talberth and I could not hold them back."
"Leave the rope," said Talberth. "As Telenstil instructed we've given him every chance."
"Let's collect our packs then and find the others," Harald gave a deep sigh and a final pull at the rope, then let it drop back against the wall of the chute.
* * *
Edouard gave a growl and grabbed Derue by the throat with both his hands. For a moment Gytha saw the red streak coursing through the scout's body, wrapping around him like a vine around a tree, then Edouard pulled the sword from over his brother's shoulder. Smoke rose from his hand and the smell and crackle of burning flesh pervaded the silence and stench of the room. With a scream Edouard threw the sword from his hand, it clanged from the stone wall. Derue jumped for it and turned to face his brother, the flames racing across the steel as soon as he put his hand to the hilt.
"Ineptire!" Derue yelled. "Where is your blade? Hah! You have lost it, you cannot claim mine!"
"No!!!" Edouard howled. He kept his injured hand clutched to his chest and backed away from the burning sword. Suddenly he whipped around and ran from the room, pushing past the others with a maniacal strength. "Kalfashow!" he screamed into the cleric's face. He knocked her back and she swung out her metal staff to trip him up, but he took the fall with a roll and was on his feet with only Jalal, the old Bakluni, standing in his way.
The old man backed up and tried to press himself against the wall out of the madman's way, but Edouard clubbed him to the ground with his bare hands, striking a sharp blow to Jalal's head with his open palm, then grabbing a thin arm and twirling him about. Ghibelline jumped forward to aid his friend but Edouard flung Jalal into the elf then slammed into the door. He hit with force enough to open it a crack and slid through, scraping shoulder-blades and ribs between the stone frame and the iron straps across the wood.
Derue screamed out his brother's name and dropped his sword, the flames disappeared the moment it left his hands then he cried out again. "Ardare!" he screamed, then fell to his knees and scrabbled across the stones to grab the hilt again.
"I see it!" Gytha shouted. "There is a red serpent inside of him, it is that cursed sword!"
Outside the cells, the orcs watched Edouard as he ran about. He kept going back and forth, looking for his sword, making further and further sweeps of the room. One of the newcomers who had not seen Derue or his magic sword and obeyed the scout's commands struck out at the crazed man as he shoved by. Edouard slid past the blow, and into the orc's reach. One hand grabbed the orc's wrist, a strong thumb digging into the palm, his other hand, the calloused edge of it, struck across its throat. The sword dropped from the orc's numbed grasp, it grabbed its throat and let out a barking, strangled cough. Its companions yelled in fury and surrounded Edouard with their weapons drawn and ready.
* * *
He was more than just a whirling madman, Edouard's fists and feet lashed out at the orcs, hard as steel, deadly as any weapon they used against him. A sword jabbed toward him, he stepped aside and grabbed the outstretched arm then pivoted, adding his force to that of the orc's. The blade stabbed into an orc rushing Edouard from behind and with a twist the scout sent the orc he'd grabbed flying atop the one just stabbed. For a time Edouard's training took hold and proved stronger than the overwhelming need he felt to possess his sword once again. The voice which called to him, Kalfashow, was just a dim whisper at the back of his mind. There were a score of weapons set against him and three score fists ready to fight him barehanded, he had no chance, but he had been born and raised to fight, even when that fight would surely be his last.
They came at him, so many at once that they blocked each other out. Each wanted to use a weapon to fight the man, but if they had simply rushed in they could have borne him to the ground by their sheer weight and number. A morningstar whizzed by his head, but Edouard leaned back, supple as a willow bending beneath the wind. It passed just inches from his face and pulled the orc half around as it went by. Edouard used his foot, his torso still bent back, to strike beneath the armpit of the orc. The spiked ball flew free, smacking into the crowd, the orc's arm popped up and out of joint and the pig-faced monster flew back and yowled in pain. Edouard bent back even more, his torso horizontal to the ground and kicked up even higher. A second orc rushed forward to take its companions place and as it did Edouard drew back his leg, both at the hip and at the knee then lashed out again, hard as a mule, directly into the orc's throat. The sound was like a melon in a canvas bag being dropped against the ground, the orc collapsed, falling backwards, knocking down several who sought to close with the man but were bowled over into a writhing heap. Two clubs and a rusty blade sought Edouard's blood and life, the sword skimmed close, a club drummed against his side, but its force was spent when the wielder collided with another orc, and the last was stopped by Edouard's upthrust hand. He caught the orc forearm to forearm then hooked his other arm up behind the elbow. A quick merciless pull of his hooked arm driving the elbow forward and a push out of his forearm against that of the orc's and its bone snapped, the elbow came out of joint and the club hit only the ground as it fell from the useless fingers of the orc's broken arm. Edouard dropped into a crouch and spun with one leg extended, it caught the swordwielder behind the knees and sent the orc heels over head smacking hard against the floor. Then with a dancer's grace Edouard spun up rising from his crouch and with his gathered strength kicked with his right leg straight into the chest of another orc. Its breastbone cracked like lead shot against a stone wall, the crossbow it carried went off and left a gash which scored the outside of Edouard's leg leaving a bleeding trail. He shifted tactics then and brought the fight into the midst of the orcs crowded in the room. Edouard flung himself bodily into the mass, jumping high and crashing lengthwise against three orcs, knocking them down and creating a rolling, biting, clawing havoc as he fought through. He gouged eyes, broke fingers, smashed throats and noses flat with his forearm and edge of hand, cracked temples with vicious jabs of elbow, fell hard upon chest or spine or stomach with his knees. Close in the orcs weapons were more of a hindrance than a help, they could claw and bite, punch or grab desperately at the spinning fury which slashed at them, but Edouard was lightning fast, as dangerous with quick thrusts of fingers, or gripping hand as he was with the kicks and throws he used against them in the open. They would have overborn him in the end but he fought his way through the thinnest portion of the crowd.
An orc reeled back, its thumb pulled from its joint as it tried to grab the man and an elbow driven deep into its back where its kidneys lay, a blow struck as he passed by. Edouard spun as he cleared the room and kicked the reeling orc from behind, propelling it into the others, giving him a moment's lead, he ran down the dark corridor, he knew not where.