The hunchbacked giant stepped into the fray. He swung his axe and chopped an orc in half from skull to groin, the blade sparked against the stone. Up went the axe again to his shoulder and then swept down. It skimmed off the top of one orc's skull, greygreen brains sloshed out; then split a second orc from shoulder to waist across its chest. That swing brought the blade down low almost scraping the floor on its descending arc before rising up to the giant's other shoulder.
As the hunchback prepared to strike again Derue screamed out a challenge and rushed in. A group of orcs ran at the giant as well, mad with fury and immune to fear. Derue's blazing sword smacked against the giant's chest and snapped a line of steel rings on the monstrous shirt.
The burning tip of the sword set the hunchback's greasy beard aflame. Its backhand stroke went wild; the flat of the blade stove in an orc's head just the same and sent the body flailing across the ground. The flames danced about hunchback's face and burned off the thick fringe of hair around its bald pate as well. The axe fell to the ground while the giant used both hands to try and smother its burning beard. Derue cut deep gashes across both the giant's arms then stabbed it deeply in the gut.
The giant gulped, one vast hand flashed out and grabbed the blade as Derue drew it free, the blade cut to the bone and as Derue yanked it to the side cut off the giant's thumb.
The orcs had not stood idle while the fight went on. Those who fought the pair of apes matched fury with fury, but paid a fearful toll in life and blood and broken bones. The apes fell at last and lay dead amidst a pile of orcs slain by their naked hands and ragged claws.
As the battle raged a handful of bugbears, no more than a dozen, came roaring into the room with two ogres pushing them on from behind. All the while Derue slashed away at the hunched giant and five orcs attacked its legs. One died beneath the giant's feet, an accidental death; the giant completely unaware it had stepped on the skinny beast.
The bites and scratches from the unarmed orcs were ignored while it beat out its burning hair, but when Derue stuck it deep with the white-hot blade the pain was overwhelming. The giant gasped for breath, its eyes bulged and slowly it fell to its knees. An orc ran up its back and sank its teeth into the burnt and blistered neck, Derue used two hands and cracked the hunchback's skull, but the bone was thick and the blade wedged tight, the hilt resting on its nose. He had to place his foot against the giant's face and waggle the blade back and forth to get it free.
Across the room the bugbears had cut a swath through the orcs, fresh, uninjured, armed and armored, they killed a dozen with as many strokes. The ogres seeing the bugbears carnage laughed and brushed their lackeys aside. The orcs drew back and as the ogres stepped forward, Derue stepped from the crowded midst of orcs, his sword still burning in his hand.
"Not another one," an ogre with a scorched face called out.
"Edouard!" Derue screamed. "Where is my brother!" he charged them and laid open the wounded ogre's stomach with his first stroke. Long ropey intestines burst forth like the coils of a red-purple snake or monstrous worms. The ogre screamed and tried to hold itself together with its hands while the orcs began to hoot and cheer.
The second ogre growled and swung a massive fist that passed harmlessly just a hairsbreadth above Derue's head. Derue lashed back and cut open the ogre's arm from shoulder to elbow and then the orcs charged. The wounded ogre was pulled apart, the bugbears turned and ran. Surrounded by orcs the last ogre broke one of the pig-faced monster's back with its wounded arm then had seven blades cut it from back and sides.
Derue found himself surrounded by the victorious orcish mob, both ogres dead, their bodies hacked apart and strewn across the floor.
* * *
"Henri! Henri!" Ivo called. He weaved his way past piles of rotting muck and carefully watched where he placed his feet. The floor was slick with filth and studded with half-gnawed fragments of bone. The old gnome easily spotted the tall opening in the wall, it was narrow for a hill giant to use, they would need to enter shoulder first and scrape belly and back against the frame. To Ivo the gap was as great as a castle gate, rising high above his head, he could swing both arms out and never come near to either side. "Henri!" he called again, a little exasperated with the priest.
The room was filled with chests and trunks, a rough cloth sack had split and poured out a tide of coins, all green with age and welded one to another with verdigris. Atop a wooden crate sat the Pholtite priest, his eyeless mask of gold downturned, a pile of coins he held in cupped hands. Ivo did not say a word, he caught the last hushed phrases that Henri intoned and threw his arm before his eyes. There came a flash, the old gnome's arm became translucent red, only the dark mass of bone inside saved his sight from the blinding flare.