Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 124

He could feel but it was as if he stood back from his body. The Keeper's wounds knitted but did not heal. The cut which split his skull closed, a knotted lump of bone ran from his forehead back along the crown and to his bald pate. Skin stretched to the edge, purple and discolored. His severed thumb rejoined but here again the skin did not close and the same with every scrape and gash that crossed his flesh.

The orcs had carved him, scrawled foul words in their crude tongue with the points of knives. The Keeper lived again but only vengeance was on his mind. First he would hunt down those orcs, he could feel them; they were near, so close that his spirit could taste them. Those that had cut him while the last sparks of life were held within his dying frame.

Ardare, the spirit of fire housed within the blade he wore beneath his belt, it sought to turn him to his greater prey, the human warrior who had used the very blade the Keeper now wore; the human warrior who had slain him. The undead giant could see him, could feel the man sleeping with troubled dreams. With a shake of his great maimed head he scattered the vision. He knew where the man lay, but before the Keeper would leave this place he would crush and grind the bones of those orcs who had helped to bring him low; they had retreated back into the small caves nearby. While he'd lived the Keeper had never considered them of any consequence, a few dozen orcs left to starve on scraps and scrapings. Now he had a thirst that only their deaths would quench.

* * *

"Hells, we've lost the wizard," Harold cursed. "Come on you," he said to Little Rat, "We'd best go find Telenstil and quick."

The young orc did not reply. He'd been screened from the blinding pulse by Harold but he'd seen the mage Talberth thrown through the air and disappear into the solid seeming door. Little Rat's mouth hung open shocked by the display of power, frozen in place till the halfling tugged his arm and the two ran back the way they'd come.

* * *

The passages beneath the steading rang with the sound of hammer upon stone. Metal sparked and rocks flew into splinters as the Keeper smashed open the entrance to the cave which housed the rebellious orcs. Beyond the entrance there ran long rough corridors, natural tunnels widened by the orcs. Each boom echoed down these hallways with a painful jarring noise that made the orcs cringe and start. They hid, these few survivors of the mage's lightning and the mad scout Edouard's attacks, they cowered behind boulders or wedged themselves into dark corners of the cavern's walls.

There were adjoining caves that lead deeper into the Oerth beneath the giants' hill, but these were home to creatures fiercer than the orcs. Nearby lived a group of troglodytes, beyond them were huge lizards that had never seen the light of sun or moons, and further still there was a vast chamber split by a fast running subterranean stream. Along the banks crawled insectoid scavengers that feasted on refuse seeping from the giants' latrines and on the mire which was washed onto the muddy banks. The orcs could flee but the troglodytes would not welcome them and the lizards and insects offered them a simple fate, the same that the booming of the giant's hammer foretold.

The fiercest of their number had died; these had been the last to join the fray, the first to run. The hammering beat upon their spirits as the metal cracked against the stone, sending shivers down their spines. One orc whimpered and dropped the rusted blade he carried then turned and ran for passage which led to the troglodyte cave. He brushed past another standing near; that one ran as well. One shrieked, others saw them run and then all the orcs were fleeing. A smile raised the Keeper's lips, one corner lopsided by an orcish rune cut into the giant's cheek and running across his mouth and down his chin. He could feel the terror of the orcs, their presence drawing back, the giant knew they had no escape or place to hide. The hammer struck again, the Keeper put a joyful force behind the blow. A boulder half the giant's size tore loose and bounced down the corridor, but the ceiling groaned. Stones began to fall; they rained down and knocked the giant from his feet, bruised his lifeless flesh and buried him beneath tons of rock and dirt.

Small patters of loose oerth made the only noise, they stopped. The dark passage became still, the entrance neck deep to an orc in fallen stone. The rocks began to move, gravel shifted then the debris exploded out in all directions. The Keeper flew to his feet, his head bounced from a boulder trapped between the upper walls when the ceiling dropped. He reached up and placed his hands along his head and snapped the column of his spine back into place. Loose dirt sprayed out, he shook his head like a wet dog shaking the water from its coat, and then he laughed; ugly shrieks, high pitched and skittering like fingernails down a chalk board came from him.

It was good to be alive, even as a living corpse, he thought to himself. He'd be more careful with his hammer. The Keeper crawled on his belly like a snake and wiggled his way down the uneven corridor.

End 124

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