"Ughhh, this is disgusting," Harald complained. He used his dagger to cut away at the giant's hide shirt. "Telenstil... Telenstil!"
"Yes, Harald," Telenstil called back.
The ranger crouched by the giant he had killed. Skule's body lay between two boulders. It blocked the flowing stream like a dam. The water rushed against the mangled chest and bubbled from its open mouth. Harald tried to find a pocket in the rough hide shirt, or a pouch on its belt, but the clothes were soaked and tacky with the drying blood. Telenstil had better luck, he'd found a tied bundle of skins held beneath the giant's belt. The broken body was not the wet and bloody mess that confronted Harald, but still he had to work around the massive limbs and immobile bulk of the dead monster. He'd used a small knife with a razor edge to slice the belt away, then checked the body from toes to crown of head, but found nothing else. He could not check the side that lay upon the rock or move the body the slightest inch, he could not even lift the giant's lifeless arm.
"Harald, check the belt, I will come and help," called Telenstil.
"This one is a bloody mess," Harald shook his head, then dunked his gory hands into the stream and scrubbed them one against the other. "He has spilt out his innards. Whatever he had beneath his belt is ruined."
"What say you my friend?" asked Telenstil hopping from stone to stone trying to keep his robe from the water's touch.
"Just look at this," Harald pointed to the coiled loops which bulged from the deep rent left by Harald's sword. The giant's bowls were like huge red and purple snakes swarming in the stream, the water foamed red around them. "What is it we are looking for?" asked Harald. "Is it worth trying to sort beneath the giant's gizzards?"
"There should be a message from their chief," said Telenstil. "I have found one on the other giant, this one should have another."
"All right," Harald shrugged. "No worse than gutting a deer, it shouldn't be, but it is, this is foul work."
"I will help," Telenstil assured the ranger. "What can I do?"
"My sword is no good for this, it's a butchers job," said Harald. "I'll cut, you keep pushing the guts away, too bad he isn't facing down the stream."
The two went at the giant's body with their spirits set for the gruesome job, they were bloodied from hand to shoulder, but when they finished they'd found another roll of hide. It was soaked and had a gash left by the ranger's sword, but Telenstil held it like the rough bundle was a fine tapestry made from cloth of gold.
"Is that it?" asked Harald wearily.
"This should be it," said Telenstil. "Now we can find our companions, they will need your help to find another camp."
"I'll wash this muck off first," said Harald.
"Let me," Telenstil cast a minor spell, a mere cantrip, but one which he had found useful more than once already. With a word and a gesture he caused the blood to jump from the ranger's clothes and skin, then he did the same again and he was clean as well. "Now we must take flight."
Telenstil removed the small white orb whose enchantments had taken them like birds over the valley and ahead of the giants they had just waylayed.
"Can't we just walk?" Harald asked, leery of the magic which carried them through the air. "I could scout out the land."
"They may need us," Telenstil reminded him. "I would have let these giants be if I had not believed it was of vital importance to stop them. We have also gone far. It would take some time for us to find our companions trail."
"All right," Harald conceded. "Let's get this over with."
"This will be the last that I can use this toy to fly, for some time at least. I doubt it could have taken more than you and I with the power it still maintains," said Telenstil.
"That's good to hear," Harald said. "Are you sure it has enough power left to take us back?"
"We will find out. Now take hold of the sphere and let us be gone."
Ivo stopped them at the hilltop, both Talberth and the orcs were thankful for the chance to rest. The young mage had tested his endurance many times with long sleepless nights spent in study back in civilized lands, but it had been years since he had carried a heavy load, or done much physical labor on any kind. The orcs were used to hard work, but they took every opportunity that came their way to rest, such was how they survived their enslavement by the giants. All set down their burdens carefully. Gytha, Talberth and Ghibelline lowered the body of Jalal slowly and with respect, the orcs deposited Derue and the heavy chain on the ground with care as well. Talberth kept a watchful and scowling eye on them, but he was more concerned with his magic chain than the safety of the scout.
"We will wait for our thief's return here, for awhile," said Ivo. "We have not gone far."
Gytha stood beside the gnome. They were above the winding path on the south-edge of the hill. The top was a long cresting ridge rather than the wide flat plateau that the steading sat upon. It was lined with jagged rocks rising in a series of humps, longer from south to north than east to west. A higher ridge, a line of weathered stone lay to the eastern side of the hill. Narrow and barefaced rock, it hung over the wooded valley below.
"The giants would have a hard time picking through these rocks," Gytha looked across the rough, uneven ground.
"It will be hard going for us as well," said Ivo. "Perhaps we can find a suitable resting place for our rescued elf's departed friend."
"I will speak with Ghibelline and see what he thinks," answered Gytha.
"We will still have our mad scout to carry. Talk with Talberth about that magic chain. We could hide it here as well as Jalal's body."
"Yes. You speak with Ghibelline, I will speak with Talberth," Ivo agreed.