A huge and black-nailed hand grabbed onto the thief and tore him from the ogre's back. Harold had time for one more stab and twisted the blade in the wound as the ogre pulled at him. He locked his hands upon the hilt and it was drawn from the ogre's back as he was pulled away.
The ogre held the thief in one hand before its eyes to get a look at what had bitten it so badly. "Me eat you, little dog." it said in broken common tongue.
"Eat this!" Harold screamed. His arm lent strength by the terror he felt, the halfling brought his blade down and struck the ogre between its eyes. The monster jerked its head back and to the side and Harold's blade snapped off at the hilt,
Harold felt as if his wrist was being torn apart. He dropped the hilt from a numbing hand. With a stumbling backwards step the ogre's legs pressed against the edge of the garbage chute and tripped. Harold struggled to break free from the vice-like grasp. He felt the world begin to tilt as the ogre fell. His knife was gone but from a wrist sheath he drew out a magic scaling spike. He pressed it against the base of the ogre's thumb and spoke the word which brought the spike to life. It whirred and sank in with a spout of blood.
The ogre did not feel the wound but its hand unclenched and Harold fell back into the room even as the ogre dropped backwards down the garbage chute. Harold landed on the wooden lid and rolled off the edge. He caught himself with his one good hand and hung from chute's edge by his finger-tips.
The climb up had been hard, but Derue had spent all his life at such practice so that this was little more than play. He had learned to step back from what his body did and watch from a distance. He still felt his hands against the rough cord and his muscles roll beneath his skin, but any pain he put into a box within his mind and shut the lid. The smell was the hardest thing to ignore. The reek brought back memories he had closed off from his youth, distractions that he suppressed. He shut them away as best he could and kept on climbing. A small speck of light began to grow then became a square. Derue increased his pace, hand over hand, his legs wrapped around the rope. He worried about his brother who had gone ahead.
"Edouard!" called Derue. "Edouard!" He heard a deep voice and a dark shape blocked out the square of light above him. Then there came a howl, a grunting roar that did not come from a human throat. Derue began to climb with a frantic haste but paused for just a moment to collect himself. He thought of a burning flame that ate away his fears. With even greater speed, but with calm control, Derue pulled himself up the last few feet to the top of the shaft. As he reached the edge a large form came hurtling past, a thick and heavy leg went by and smacked Derue hard across his side and buffeted him against the filthy walls.
"Helppp!" Harold screamed out. He banged his numbed hand against the wooden lid but could not get his fingers to grip the edge.
"Hold on," Derue hissed at him. "I'll get you in a minute." The mercenary swung over the wooden lip of the garbage chute with a graceful twist and landed on his feet upon the kitchen floor. He bent and grabbed the halfling by his arms and lifted him to the half open wooden lid. "Where is my brother?" Derue demanded.
"Where indeed!" Harold replied. "I have been having Brandobaris's own blessing upon me here and he takes off after an orc."
* * *
Talberth and Ivo stood ankle deep in rotting trash, they stared up, up, up and watched Derue begin his climb.
"I'll need a spell to do anything like that," said Talberth.
"In my youth I went caving and climbed up and down the caverns beneath my home, but now...." Ivo shrugged.
"I should have gone first," spoke up Harald. "Then I could have pulled you after me."
"That was what I was planning on," Talberth told him with a smile.
Above them Derue reached the ceiling and disappeared up into the dark vertical tunnel. Below him Gytha held the rope and talked with Telenstil. The cleric Henri had wandered off. He walked toward the eastern corner of the room. Talberth always tried to keep an eye on him. He did not trust the Pholtite priest.