They cut a path through the thick underbrush leaving a scar across the slope as if a giant snake had scrapped its belly over the ground. It had not been difficult to lower themselves down the crevice but it had taken time. The sun was past its height and sinking behind the hill, but there were some hours left before the night would fall. The ranger grimaced at the tracks they left. He kept up a nervous watch and tried to guide them down the slope, searching for the safest way between the boulders and slabs of rocks or through the bushes, sharp-thorned mostly, that clung to the hillside. Some stumbled; an orc fell to his knees and dropped the end of the pole that he carried on his shoulder. The scout Derue crashed heavily to the ground and gave out a muffled scream. Gytha ran to him and checked the ropes that tied his hands and legs.
"Set him down, carefully!" she told the orcs.
Talberth gestured to them and the orcs obeyed.
"Gytha," asked Talberth, "why are we stopping?"
"These ropes are cutting at him," she said. "He can't be kept tied up all the time, the ropes will cripple his hands and feet, kill him maybe."
Talberth scowled. Better to kill the scout and be done with him he would liked to have said, but he knew Gytha would not approve.
"That had better wait till we are on less precarious ground," said Talberth.
They were halfway down the slope, the hilltop now high above them. The grade was not so steep but there was little cover where they stood. Not far below the grade lessened and the trees began till they filled the valley and ran up the opposing slope. It was all hills and valleys in the lands around the steading.
"We go, we go," one of the orcs dared to say to Talberth.
The fear that they felt for the mage was not as great as that which the thought of the giants instilled.
"Gytha, is there anything that you can do for him while he is still bound," Talberth said to her. "We must be going and we cannot untie him here."
"I will try to heal him, but I do not like this," she said, "it is too much like torture."
"It is the best we can do," said Talberth, "it is a mercy, at least as much as we can offer."
"I know, but I do not like it," Gytha bent down and put one hand on Derue's wrists where the rope dug past a leather scrap they'd wrapped around his arms. They'd tried to keep the rope from biting, but the leather was pulled tight and had rubbed the flesh raw, a small trickle of blood flowed from his wrists.
"Mercy for the vanquished, dear Saint. Mercy for one taken by the dark, gift me with your healing strength," A gold-green light suffused the wounds, they healed but a red flash struck out like a whip, a deep fiery red like metal pulled from a bed of coals, barbed with flickering needle spikes. It struck the cleric and knocked her back, a line of burnt and bleeding flesh appeared along her hand and arm.
"Gytha!" Talberth cried out in alarm.
Ghibelline came running over to where they stood. He had moved ahead, born to the woods, he helped to find the best way down the hill, but Telenstil had noticed the others lagging behind sent him back to find out what was wrong.
"Gytha!" Ghibelline repeated Talberth's cry.
The two men, though one an elf, stooped beside the fallen cleric. Gytha waved them both away and stood up on her own.
"I'm fine, that spirit of evil inside of him struck back, it did not like the feel of the Saint's power."
"And you want to untie him!" Talberth gasped.
"Gytha your arm," said Ghibelline, "are you badly hurt?"
"No," she said running her fingers beside the wound, "it looks worse than it is."
"You!" Talberth commanded the orcs. "Pick him up and get him out of here. Go on, pick up, pick up," the mage gestured. The orcs obeyed, they barely understood the words, but lift and carry was most of what they did when they were the giants' slaves.