"Come along," Harold called to the small orc. "You little monster," he said under his breath.
"Wait, wait!" cried Little Rat. "I hurry."
The orc slipped from stone to stone following the halfing's path. The two were almost of a size; the small, thin orc was just a hand taller, but nothing more than flesh and bones wrapped in a dirty rag of shirt and pants. Neither wore shoes, the halfling had the wide heavy padded feet of his kind and the orc had soles tough as leather, thick and scarred.
Harold stopped, his feet on a split stone projecting from the wall of rock. He heard voices drifting up from below and peered down to see who made them. Between a wide cleft of rock his companions sat in two small groups. The orcs gathered round their leader, while Talberth, Gytha and Ghibelline sat by the body of the man they'd rescued and who'd died this very morning. Ivo sat atop a high boulder, half concealed by the stones around him and a cloak which blended in with rocks dull gray shade.
There was a scrabble above, the sound of cracking stone, he heard a small sharp yell and jerked his head around looking up the wall of rock. Harold had time only to raise his hands. A wide-eyed orcish face came hurtling down. Little Rat crashed into the small thief and both went over the foothold in a tangle, both shouting as they fell.
* * *
Harold barely had time to scream out a curse before he and the orc bounced off a small lip of rock projecting from the stones. The tangled pair flew apart, all eyes turned up to watch; a dark shape with many limbs and a howling voice that was both a squeak and a sharp loud screech that came hurtling from the rocks above their heads.
The quickest to react were Talberth and Ghibelline. The mage wore a magic ring set with stones, each a different type of gem; these housed the power of magic spells which could be called upon instantly. The touch of Talberth's hand on a small green emerald chip and an arcane word unleashed the spell. Talberth directed its energy and an unseen force washed over the nearest of the two who fell. Little Rat seemed to swim through the air, his arms and legs beat like a humming birds, a blur of movement lashing out wildly. At first his effort did nothing to slow him down, but as the magic that Talberth cast came over him he began to float. The small orc drifted like an autumn leaf dancing back and forth in a slight fall breeze. He landed on his back and lay there looking up at the sky, not moving, lying still but for the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed.
The thief was not so lucky. Talberth's spell did not take hold of him. Harold plummeted down, he had only a moment shake the panic from his head and let his form go slack. Land loose as a drunkard his old teacher used to say, but still he hit hard. With a running leap Ghibelline threw himself beneath Harold, his arms stretched out to catch, but he'd jumped too soon. The little thief crashed into the elf's back slamming him face first into the stones. Harold bounced, he knocked himself unconscious, his head smacking against a rock. Gytha ran over to Harold first. She saw Ghibelline push himself up, his face scratched and bleeding, but the thief was her first concern.
"Harold, Harold!" Gytha ran her hand down the back of the halfling's head. It came away wet with blood.
"Is he all right?" Ivo had come scrambling down from his perch atop the high boulder.
"He is hurt, I do not know yet how badly," The cleric felt Harold's neck, but was careful not to move him. "Cuthbert, dear Saint, aid me with your strength again." She put one hand to the back of his wounded head and the other behind his neck. The Saint's power flowed through her hands and bathed Harold's head in a gold light. Gytha felt his body relax, she hadn't noticed his breathing before, but she heard him inhale, deeply, then exhale in a long sigh. "He sleeps now," said Gytha. "I would rather have him awake, it is not good to sleep with such a hurt, but he is in the Saint's hands, I can do no more."
"You have healed him?" asked Ghibelline. The elf cradled his arm against his chest. The bleeding cuts went unheeded, leaving trails like tears of red down his face.
"It looks like you need some healing too," said Ivo.
"I have done what I could for Harold, let me see your arm," said Gytha. "Your face needs tending to."
"I am worried about your friend," said Ghibelline. Gytha reached out to check his arm but the elf backed away. "Heal him first, Jalal was injured so, he did not wake, the same as your friend." Ghibelline nodded toward the thief.
"Jalal was old, his time had come," Gytha smiled sadly. "I feel that Harold's time is not today. Trust me, he will wake, but you are injured now and we may need that arm of yours."
Talberth looked down at the snoring thief; he bent with the thought of turning the halfling to make Harold more comfortable.
"Don't!" yelled Gytha. "Don't touch him! Talberth you may hurt him worse if you try to move him."
The mage held up both his hands and turned away, chastened by Gytha's angry shout.
Ivo grabbed the edge of Talberth's robe and lead him aside. "Best not to interfere, she has things well in hand."
"I was just trying to help," muttered Talberth.
"Harold will be fine, but you and I will need to take watch, and decide what to do with our scout, and these orcs." The two wizards looked over at Derue and beyond him to where the orcs sat in a rough circle. Their leader talked with them and was answered with a few grunts and sullen looks, but they were a quiet lot. "I would prefer them to be loud," said Ivo.
"They are nothing to worry about," Talberth dismissed them from his mind.
"Well then, I will worry for you," said Ivo. "A knife is always dangerous, especially if it is behind you."