CAS

CAS

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Castle 78


Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Astarte Syriaca


Wormy's World - Characters - The Dwarves - From Dragon #10





Wormy's World - Characters - The Dwarves - From Dragon  #10

The Dwarves


Not pictured (but here is a snip of one my favorites from last issue - I call him Bismark). They can be heard singing their song of revenge and restitution of their stolen bowling balls. Wormy has his own ideas about what is going to happen next. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Castle 77


The Hill Giant chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 77



"Wait!" Ivo called to the orc, but it did not stop. At the sound of Ivo's voice Harold looked back and saw the little monster come running toward him up the path. The halfling drew the long dagger from his belt and waited for the orc to catch up, the naked blade held in his hand.

"I help, I help," Little Rat squeaked out as he approached the thief.

"Stop right there!" Harold commanded. Little Rat stood a half dozen feet away, he bobbed back and forth from one foot to the other, scared and excited both.

"I help, good at finding things, I help!" he said in a high voice.

"Come here," ordered Harold, "slowly now."

Little Rat came bounding over, skidded to a stop when Harold waved the dagger at him, then took small careful steps over to halfling's side. "I help."

"So you say," Harold muttered, then he spoke to the youth in an orcish tongue. "You know these lands?" he asked.

"You talk funny," said Little Rat.

Harold spoke the language of the orcish half-breeds that lived within the great city. They'd kept their fathers tongue but it had changed and grown. Little Rat could understand only bits and pieces of what the halfling said.

"You... Know... Land," Harold said, loud and slowly.

"I help!" said Little Rat brightly.

"To the Nine Hells with it," cursed Harold. "Come on, we better get going before they overtake us." Harold kept his sword drawn, the young orc ran ahead.

* * *

"Look!" called out the ranger.

His voice was a whisper in Telenstil's ears, but the elf heard and looked to see the giants running far below. The magic globe raced by, quickly outdistancing even the lengthy strides of the giants. Telenstil directed it with ancient words, commanding it to take them beyond the giants and down between the branches of a stand of tall fir trees.

"Praise the mother," Harald bowed down and kissed the Oerth.

"You are safe, there was no need to fear," laughed Telenstil.

"I would have been born with wings if I was meant to fly," Harald replied.

"Well we have our feet on oerth now," said Telenstil. "We had better make our plans quickly. Those giants will be coming this way soon."

"Give me a moment to look over the trail," said Harald. "But we had best stick together. Your magic may stop them without my help, but if it does not and they reach you..."

"Yes, they would make quick work of me," Telenstil mused. "I will go with you. My spells will take only a moment to prepare."

"Come on then, let's find a good place," Harald led the way through the thick stand of trees.

The valley was wooded throughout its northern length. The trees were dense along each slope, the ground a slanting rise up to the surrounding hills. A stream had cut a bare gash down the valleys center, it was wide but low, the water only a few inches deep. Huge boulders lay exposed amid the running stream, like the seeds of great mountains left to grow.

"The giants will come this way," said Harald. "Look at the bank over there," he pointed across the stream. "They've torn out the big trees by the roots."

"Long ago," said Telenstil looking at the stumps, old and filled with rot, "They have beaten down the newer growth as well."


"Up there Telenstil," Harald pointed to a boulder sticking like a gallery from the far slope. "That will be the place for us to stand." 

Clark Ashton Smith - Art & Sculptures 34


Friday, December 26, 2014

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 76



The land below them was passing in a blur. It took only a few moments to reach the valley where Harald had seen the three giants. "Can you slow us down!" the ranger shouted out.

"Elente-senzim!" Telenstil called and they began to slow. "Klaudere," he said and they halted in mid-air.

Harald gulped, terrified at their magic flight. He found that floating motionless high above the ground was worse. "Thhheerree!" he stammered. "Down there," Harald pointed to the valley floor far below, as he managed to control his voice, but had to shout; there was a wind that struck them and swept their words away.

"You have good eyes," shouted Telenstil.

"What?"

"Good Eyes!" Telenstil shouted again. "Which Way!"

Harald held up two fingers and pointed to the north where a small stream flowed through the center of the valley, then held up a single finger and pointed to the north-east. A beaten trail could be seen, even from the height at which they hovered. It ran along a hillside and up, then over its top, disappearing out of sight down the far side of the hill. Telenstil pointed to the north and Harald nodded in agreement.

"Vo-aire," the elf shouted and they were sweeping toward the north, fast as a hawk again.

* * *

"You two, pick up this chain," Talberth told the pair of orcs. Boss scowled and Meatstealer looked toward his leader before bending to lift the black metal links.

"That one has the death magic," said Meatstealer. Boss grunted and hung his end of the heavy chain across his shoulder. His handful of followers bore the body of the human who had used the flaming sword, the orc leader would have given the chain to them if he could, but the squirming man took all six orcs to control.

"First chance, then we go," said Boss.

"We live, escape from giants," Meatstealer said. "These humans, they powerful."

"Stinking elves," muttered Boss, "slave to giants, now slave to elves."

Meatstealer just shrugged, he had served his orcish chief, the ogres and giants of the hall, at least these elves did not use the whip.

* * *

Harold walked with Ivo as they left the camp. Behind them the others were all loaded down with the bodies of the scout and dead Jalal. Only the small orc, Little Rat, was left free of heavy burdens. He kept pace with the halfling and the gnome. The pathway before them was not steep. It must have seemed no more than a narrow ledge to the giants, but the party found it a wide and easy trail. It took them along the south-side of the hill, rising up and to the east then switching back upon itself. Their going was slow. Never strong, Talberth tired easily, and Ghibelline's strength came from his will, his body was worn out. The orcs would gladly have slung both the chain and the scout over the edge of the cliff, but they carried them with care due to the dread in which they held the mage.

"I'm going to scout ahead," Harold said to Ivo.

"Be careful, these are not the streets of Greyhawk," Ivo told him.

"I've been outside the city walls before," replied Harold, "but I'll take care."

Ivo shook his head as the thief ran off. They'd lost their scouts and their ranger guide. He gave a shout as the small orc chased after, "Hey! Stop! Where do you go!"


"I go help," the little orc called back. 

Witch 54


Wormy's World - Characters - Wormy - From Dragon #9



Wormy's World - Characters - Wormy - From Dragon #9

Wormy

Wormy is a snooker-playing, green-colored dragon. He is a rough quick-witted character with a blue cap set so low it hides his eyes and almost always seen with a half-smoked cigar dangling from his mouth. His pal Irving, a small red-demon, hops up on his table to see what Wormy is up to and unsurprisingly he is in the middle of a game of snooker. He invites Irving to play but the little demon doesn't know the rules (neither does Wormy but the balls on the table were the biggest he could find and as everyone knows snooker balls are smaller than billiard balls).


Irving hears a ring at the door and jumps down to answer only to be surprised by a group of angry dwarves demanding their bowling balls back. Wormy tells Irving to tell the dwarves that he has moved to Pittsburgh.




Castle 75


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 75



"There is good mixed with the bad," said Telenstil.

Harold snorted.

"No, it is true. We came to hurt Nosnra, and that we have done," said Telenstil. "We have done much."

"We need to do more," the ranger spoke up. "If those giants have gone for help, and I am sure they have, we should stop them."

"They may just be scouts in search of us," said Harold. "Let's confound them. Let's be gone and not let them find us."

"We can't take the chance. They may just be looking for us, but if not..." said the ranger shaking his head, "but I do know that they are passing by us and quick. Telenstil..."

The elf held up his hand for silence but paused for only a moment, looking out over the cliff's edge. "I think we have strength enough. We will strike again. Harald, you and I will go."

"Just us?" asked the ranger.

"We will need to make haste," said Telenstil. "The others can set off in search of a better camp while we hunt down at least one of these giants."

"Telenstil, this is foolishness," Ivo shook his head. "We need Harald to guide us, and these are giants, the two of you will be hard pressed against them."

"Every moment takes them further from us." the ranger said impatiently.

"Good," burst out the thief.

"How will you overtake them?" asked Ivo.

"That is why only Harald and I will be pursuing them," said Telenstil. "Harald, we will be flying once again."

"Ha," the thief laughed out and looked up at the ranger. "Still want to go chasing giants?"

The ranger looked grim, but still determined.

"Then cast the spell," said Harald.

"Ivo, search out a place at least more defensible than here. Let Harold scout ahead, he has a good eye, even in these wild lands," said Telenstil.

"How will you find us?" Ivo asked.

"Take this," Telenstil took an amulet he wore around his neck, green stones set in silver, shaped like an elven horse, and handed it to the gnome. "This I can always find."

"What goes on here?" Talberth called to them. He left Gytha and Ghibelline preparing Jalal's body to be carried in a cloak and joined the others at the cliff's edge.

"Telenstil is running off to chase giants," the thief told him in a disgusted tone.

"What?" Talberth exclaimed with alarm.

"It is not so dire as our thief makes it sound," laughed Telenstil. "Harald and I will take great care and will return as soon as may be. Talberth, keep your eye on the orcs. Ivo will lead while I am gone. Harold, you scout ahead. Ask Ghibelline to help you, but do not let him tax himself to greatly. Now all is said, set off, find a good camp and we will join you there."

"What!" Talberth said again.

Telenstil brought forth the orb he had used the day before. He drew breath and blew upon its surface, quietly letting the word of power, "Xsurjere", escape his lips. The orb began to glow, and gleaming with a white radiance floated upon the air. The ranger reached out and grabbed the orb, Telenstil did the same.

"Xsurjere-sublem!" he cried, and they rose into the air as if a rope that none could see pulled them up with haste into the sky. "Kon-istare!" Telenstil called out as the floated high above the ledge where their companions stood. "Which way?" he asked the ranger.

Still gripping the orb with whitened fingers, his hand clenched like a vise, and his jaw as well, Harald pointed to the north-east with his free hand.


"Good, Vol-atel!" the elf called out and the pair took flight, two wingless birds, their hands locked on the glowing orb, sailing across the sky. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wormy's World - Characters - Irving - from Dragon #9



Wormy's World  - Characters - Irving - from Dragon #9 

Iriving


Irving, a small red Demon, who talks suspiciously like someone from Brooklyn in a 1930's movie, is wondering what Wormy is up to. When Wormy tells him he is playing snooker and asks him if he wants to play. Irving says 'No Tanks ' he doesn't know the rules (neither does Wormy or so he says) but then the doorbell rings and Irving hops off to get it. At the back door Irving is surprised to find a small throng of Dwarves, axes and swords at the ready, asking for their bowling balls back. When Irving reports back Wormy just says to tell them he has moved to Pittsburgh.





Witch 53


Them Bones



Them Bones

Jarrod the Carver was a warrior-mage from the land of the Narve, a mountainous country north of the One Hundred Cities. He was known for his love of chance and his wondrous magical creations and of those creations his dice are perhaps the most famous and sought after. He is said to have made a hundred sets of each kind and scattered them across the world. Each of the die was crafted from the bones of some animal or person. Many have similar effects, such as simply summoning that particular animal (his six-sided die of the Owlbear is particularly popular and legendary), but others are unique, some trivial, some beautiful and some horrific.

Here are some of his dice.

1) The Die of Flowers

This pyramid shaped object has four sides with an intricate carving of a flower on each face. It appears to be made of stone but has no weight to it and if thrown will float in the air about ten feet from he who threw it and rise to the caster's eye-level. The effect of the die occurs in the same segment it has been cast, lasts for 1d4 rounds and afterwards the die drops gently to the ground.

The first face of the die causes a storm of flowers to flow from it in a cone shape that will fill a ten foot high, ten foot wide and thirty foot long (10x10x30) area away from the caster of the die. This cloud of flowers will disrupt the casting of spells, normal and shouted conversations as the flowers tend to get in people's mouths if they are trying to speak, and ranged combat as they completely obscure everything in the area of the cloud. Melee combat is considered Blind Combat with an extra -2 penalty to hit for anyone in the cloud as the flying flowers are distracting even to anyone with an ability to fight blinded. Firing into the area of effect is also at negative modifier (-6 to hit) as all objects in the area of effect are completely obscured even to those looking toward them from outside the cloud of flowers. The torn petals remain as a colorful carpet after the spell has been cast, but they are simply a common variety though quite edible.


2) The Dice of Caltrops (and Jarrod's Bag of Dice)

Another pyramid shaped die of which several are normally available at the same time. The reason for this is Jarrod's Bag of Dice (see item 3.). A Die of Caltrops shows an icon of from one to four caltrops on its faces and when cast (or thrown, which is the safer method) it will spread out a layer of caltrops (either the small kind used against man-sized creatures or the large kind used against horse-sized creatures depending on the type of Die possessed. The die that produces the human-sized caltrops is smooth green while the horse-sized come from a die that is mottled red and blue). The layer will be from a ten to forty foot area centered around the cast Die. The caster of the die can walk through this field of caltrops without risk as long as he is in possession of  the Dice Bag which spawned the Die (see item 3) but otherwise he will suffer the same damage as anyone else caught within a section covered in the caltrops.

Unlike normal caltrops which sit and hope for someone to step on them Jarrod's caltrops are more proactive. Anyone stepping into a 10 foot by 10 foot area will find caltrops underfoot no matter where or how carefully they step. Passing through the area causes 2d4 damage and reduces movement by 50% for 1d6 combat rounds unless the damage is somehow healed. Each time someone passes again through a 10x10 section of Jarrod's caltrops they must roll again for damage and add another 1d4 of combat rounds of movement speed reduction to their original total.

The caltrops from the Die have a chameleon ability that allows them to blend in with their surroundings rendering them effectively invisible. They do radiate magic and they will appear to any type of detect trap spell. These caltrops cannot be swept aside or regathered and remain in the area they originally covered unless disspelled.

3)  Jarrod's Bag of Dice


In the creation of his dice Jarrod realized that some must be crafted so that in the casting of the die the effect would consume the die itself. In order to free himself of the necessity of recrafting these useful objects each time he used them Jarrod created one of his most powerful, remarkable and temperamental magic items. The Bag of Dice is a semi-sentient magic item the least of which (for there are many species of them) is highly valued and sought after. Each Bag of Dice has both an intelligence and an ego. They can speak, but only to their possessor's who they tend to adopt as pets though some treat more like servants. Bag's of Dice must be fed. At least one spell must be fed to them each day or a magical effect or a physical magic item. They have limited ability of movement (hunching and crawling like an inchworm) and the more powerful and intelligent have learned to cast spells of their own (especially after consuming scrolls, potions and various magic items). For all the trouble that they can be and cause, the rewards of possessing one of these Bag's of Dice are immediate and obvious as they birth magic dice the way a chicken lays eggs. A Bag of Dice can 'lay' one magic die per week. These dice will be found within the interior of the bag though once removed they can be stored anywhere. The Dice have a sense of the Dice Bag and using a magic Die without possessing the Bag which spawned it will impose some risk upon the caster of the Die. The normal limit of how many unconsumed Dice children a Bag will spawn before becoming reproductively inactive in an even dozen (the Bag will create 12 Dice and if they are unused, stop producing more, if 1 Die is used it will produce 1 more. This amount is called a 'carton'. Only 1 carton of Dice may exist at one time per Bag).  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Clark Ashton Smith - Art & Sculptures 33


The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 74



Jalal's lips were blue. His breath came in shallow gasps barely stirring the hair of his beard. The rise and fall of his chest was slight, he exhaled, a hollow sound, his mouth half opened but his eyes were closed. And then he died.

One moment a spirit dwelt within Jalal's thin and weary frame, then the body Ghibelline held was naught but a withered husk, a shell left empty by its guiding force. Gytha said a quiet prayer and placed her hand upon the cooling brow. Telenstil shook his head. Whatever answers that Jalal had possessed where now most likely beyond his reach.

"I am sorry," Gytha said to Ghibelline. The elf wiped at his eyes, then gave the cleric a faint thankful look. "What shall we do with him?" Gytha asked Telenstil.

He stood above them lost in thought.

"We can't leave him!" Ghibelline burst out.

"No, we will take him with us till we can bury him, or find him a proper resting place." Telenstil said calmly.

"What was his faith?" Gytha asked.

"I do not know," said Ghibelline. "He came from the west. He said once that I would not know his Gods."

The leader of the orcs, Boss, had wandered over. He listened to their talk and craned his neck, peering over the cleric's shoulder to see what drew the attention of the others. "Old man dead?" he asked. "That one good to work for, brought us drink and food. Back in cage," the orc nodded his head toward the steading, "we eat dead, remember before giants make us slaves. We put skull in cave of dead, just eat rest."

"Why you beast..." Ghibelline shouted at the orc.

"We do not eat our dead," said Gytha firmly.

Telenstil put his hand on Ghibelline's shoulder. It quieted the young elf. "Different people, different customs, he meant to honor your friend."

"We have plenty food," Boss said indignantly. The orc did not understand all that they said but he caught the meaning behind Ghibelline's words.

"I will help you carry him," said Gytha.

"I will help as well," said Talberth. He had approached quietly as they spoke. "Go ready your people," the mage told the orc.

The small group of monsters would do as the mage commanded, fearful of incurring his deadly wrath. Boss grumbled beneath his breath but took out his anger on his followers, pushing them into line. The thief called down to them a warning, his perch above the ledge gave him a far eye-view of the path both to his right and left.

"The ranger is returning!" he hissed.

"Probably wondering what is our delay." Ivo said to Telenstil.

"Perhaps, but he has returned sooner than I expected," the elf replied.

Harald came along the eastern path. They had followed the western trail up the hill the night before but had stopped at the first place that would shelter them, too tired to go on. Toward the east the trail went further up into the hills, they knew not where. Harald had left to see what lay ahead.

"Telenstil," Harald jogged up to the elf. "Telenstil, we had better get moving, there are giants up ahead."

"Coming this way?" Telenstil ask with some concern.

"No," said the ranger, "I saw three giants moving along a trail east of here. They are crossing through a path at the base of a ravine heading north, but one split off to the north east along a second trail."

"Scouts you believe?" asked Telenstil.

"No, I don't think so," said Harald. "My guess is that he is calling for help."

"We dealt him a serious blow," said Telenstil. "That is good and bad. It seems we have hurt Nosnra enough for him to set aside his pride and call for help. That is bad."


"What's the good part?" asked the thief. 

Castle 72


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wormy's World - Characters - The Dwarves - from Dragon #9



Wormy's World  - Characters - The Dwarves - from Dragon #9

The Dwarves


A throng of dwarves ringing the bell on Wormy's surprisingly small door are demanding their bowling balls back with rather vehement insistence. (Wormy is using them for snooker balls). Wormy tells Irving to say he has moved to Pittsburgh.

Henry Meynell Rheam - The Sorceress


Monday, December 15, 2014

Clark Ashton Smith - Art & Sculptures 32


The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 73



Dawn came to the giants' hill. Smoke still drifted from the embers buried beneath the fallen beams of the great hall. Giants and ogres poured water over the splintered wood; others pulled away the charred rubble and stirred the ashes beneath. In the sodden field sat Nosnra, he'd had them drag a table from the ruined hall and benches too. Engenulf's body lay prepared before him, Nosnra used piled boxes and crates to form a throne, then set the table at his feet. They laid the witan down and placed the benches round the throne for Nosnra's warriors, those who'd sworn the oath of blood. The giants put down their buckets, their bars of iron, and their axes. They left the orcs and ogres to drown the fire out then filed past the body of their witan and their chief. They had no feast prepared; the words they spoke were all of vengeance and of blood, the ale they drank, the final toast to their lifeless kin, was thick and bitter from the fallen ash.

* * *

It was past midday when Harald woke. He'd slept since dawn; hours past the time he'd asked Telenstil to wake him. Everyone else was still asleep except for that other elf, Ghibelline, and even he leaned against the rock wall with eyes closed.

"Telenstil," he said to the elven mage who stood by the cliff's edge, "you let me sleep."

"You needed sleep," Telenstil answered him. He looked past the ranger at the others who lay crowded under the overhang of rock. "Everyone needed some time to rest."

"The fire is almost out," Harald said half to himself.

Out across the valley the thick black smoke was gone, only small wispy trails of grey were left, cook fires or a last few steaming embers somewhere within the ruins of the hall.

"Telenstil, we should be going. Soon."

"Yes, it is time to find a better camp," he replied.

"We could hide that magic chain somewhere around here," Harald suggested hopefully.

"I hate to ask you to carry that burden, but it is something of great value to Nosnra," Telenstil said to the old ranger, "at the very least I wish to deny him its use."

"If I find a deep enough pit it's going in," Harald told him with a firm nod of his head.

* * *

They could not wake Jalal. The old man was stiff, his limbs were cold; Gytha thought he might be dead, but a faint pulse still beat within his chest. She called upon the Saint. Cuthbert was the strong arm that supported the weak, that lifted the fallen, and struck against evil, but his blessing could not make the old young or move the final moment of life forward one fleeting second.

"You can't aid him?" Ghibelline asked her sadly.

"The giants have worn him down. He is not hurt," said Gytha, "just old and weak."

"Yesterday his spirit burned bright," Ghibelline put his hand on the old man's shoulder. "Worn yes, but... I know that for you he is old, but for me... we are of an age, and to my people I am considered young."

"You have not spent time with humans before?" Gytha asked.

"No, I am of the woods. Humans I have met, but passing through our lands," said Ghibelline. "I have seen death, but not like this."

"This is not a bad passing," she told the elf. "What pain he feels is like that in a dream. I think his spirit will leave him while he sleeps."

"Gytha, what is wrong?" asked Ivo. The old gnome knelt beside the dying man. All around them the others had risen and prepared to leave. The orcs had little enough to take. They dragged the captive scout to his feet and put a knife to the rope which bound his legs, but Talberth stopped them. The scout had proven too dangerous to trust even with his hands tied behind his back. The orcs would have to carry him again, they grumbled, but remembered the power of the mage and hefted the bound man up with ungentle hands.

"Jalal is dying," Gytha told the gnome.

"Telenstil will want to know. There are questions we wanted to ask." Ivo said.

"Is that your only concern," said Ghibelline sharply.


"I'm sorry for your friend," said Ivo. He'd just stood and taken a step away when the elf spoke. He turned back to face Ghibelline. "I did not know him, but what he knew may have been important to us, perhaps more important than his life or ours."

Castle 70


GETTUM! From Dragon #14


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Castle 69


Clark Ashton Smith - Art & Sculptures 31


The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 72




"I've found out to be more careful around this old gnome," Harold nodded toward Ivo. "I've been doing a lot of listening, ever since we left Greyhawk, I wish I was back there now. I've been listening. We are a strange bunch. I know why that old ranger and Gytha are here, but the rest of us..." Harold shook his head. "We have come a long way to fight giants."

"But what have you found out my friend?" asked Ivo. "Have you noticed anything that we have missed?"

"I can only guess what it is that you two know but won't even tell each other," said Harold. "I don't know giants or these mountains..."

"Hills," Ivo interjected.

"Hills, Mountains, a couple feet of rock and dirt. What do they matter. You want to listen or do you want to argue," the halfling said firmly. He looked from Ivo to Telenstil, but neither did more than smile. "Like I said, I don't know giants but I know locks and I know traps. Down there in that dungeon, those weren't made by the hands' of giants. That secret door, that lock which held it, those were some type of gnomish work. That trap, the one that brought up the gate which held the manticores, and the one before it that I disarmed, those weights and balances, that looks like a dwarven trick, and that treasure. I couldn't tell you how they magicked those traps, but that was a fair piece of work I'd say, magicwise that is." he paused then looked at Telenstil. "Are these giants that spellcrafty? Can they wield the magic that fools the eye and mind like master gnome?" he asked turning to Ivo.

"No," Ivo replied. "I don't believe that they have such craft."

"I think they are aided by someone," Harold went on, "Evil dwarves or gnomes gone mad. I mean what gnome with any sense would aid giants?"

"You feel that it was a gnomish mind behind the traps?" asked Telenstil.

"The work is very fine. I would have liked to take that lock away with me and... Curse me for a fool!" the halfling growled. He grabbed at his wrist and felt the two empty sheaths in the set of six that he wore upon his arm. "Hells!"

"What is the matter?" asked Ivo, alarmed.

"I've left two of my magic spikes behind. One in that ogre, the other in the wall of the garbage chute." said Harold. "I'll never find their like again. Curse that Henri. I would have drawn up that rope if not for him. And curse my bad memory."

"That was a hectic moment, be glad that they served you well," said Telenstil. "They were spent in a good cause."

"We will be going back won't we?" Harold asked, cheered slightly at the thought.

"I will, even alone, but we will need to discuss our plans together," Telenstil said. "I cannot speak for any of our companions."

"I will be going along," answered Ivo, "but we will need to get rid of those orcs, and what are we going to do with our captive scout?"

"We will have to do many things before we return to Nosnra's steading," said Telenstil. "We will need to find a better camp for one."

"I thought our last camp was good," said Harold.

"As did I," Telenstil agreed, "but I underestimated the giants. Our camp should have been further off, and a smaller place found nearby where we could retreat to."

"Yes," Ivo agreed. "Several small camps, things like this ledge... Well better than this ledge," he said after looking around. "But many small hiding places where we would go to once then abandon."

"What is done is done," said Telenstil. "I placed too much confidence in magic wards and spells, and thought the giants' shaman just an unlearned practitioner of the arts. Now we may have to raid the steading for supplies and not just for revenge or answers to our questions."

"Speaking of questions, did you get any answers from what I've seen?" asked Harold.

"Only more questions my friend." laughed Telenstil.

* * *

Nosnra returned. His pace did not quicken at the sight of his burning hall, he had strength enough only to put one foot before the other, his warriors were twice as weary. Some fell along the way and were left lying in the dirt. They would make it back on their own feet or die where they had fallen. The wolves were scattered, a few had died, their spirits shriveled at the cave where the witan was destroyed. Only a young wolf called Harechaser kept up with the staggering line of giants. The canine was of a simple mind, the chaotic torment of the magical and unholy backlash had made it cower, its head buried beneath its paws, but it had passed the ordeal unscathed.

When he saw the fire from the far hill, Nosnra's heart sank, he misstepped and nearly fell but caught himself and shifted Engenulf's body in his arms. Behind him he heard a groan, too heartworn and bone weary to raise a shout or cry, the warriors stumbled to a halt. Nosnra stopped himself, below him the path lead down, a narrow valley, a small stream then the final slope.

There was a gasp, a sob, with a flash of angry strength Nosnra spun around. "Who are you!" he shouted. A wave of dizziness and nausea swept through the giant chief, a dark curtain came down across his eyes, but he fought it back. "I do not know you. You are not my kin. What are you, those feeble children of the lowlands, human scum? You are too tired, you moan and cry because the kindred calls us to their arms?" he shouted at his warriors. "Stay here and die, or run, or swallow your fear and swear an oath. I will find the ones who have brought this doom on us; I will have vengeance no matter what the cost!" Nosnra shouted at the night.


A giant forced himself to walk forward and face the chief. "I swear, my chief, I swear my life, my blood and my strength. Vengeance." the giant placed his hand upon Engenulf's brow and swore. One by one the others came forward as well. A knife was drawn; each gripped the blade and swore again with blood, then painted their faces red, first across their brow, then across the cold lifeless witan's head.