Gytha ran across the room. She wanted to yell to Ivo but not alert the approaching giants. She hissed at him in a frantic whisper when she was thirty feet away. A few quick strides more and the gnome turned to her. He had been facing the northeastern passage with his back to the others.
"Gytha, what is it?"
"Giants! Harold has seen some approaching," Gytha called to him.
"I have a spell prepared. Quickly, we need to all be near each other," Ivo said to her.
At the chute Harald dared not quicken his pace much more than he had already done. The rope was swinging like a pendulum, the faster he pulled the more it began to arc, any more and he would be banging whoever was coming up against the walls. If they fell from this height he did not believe they would survive. The little thief reached Harald's side and looked on, breathing hard, mostly from fear and excitement, every instinct told him to run and not to stop, but instead he faced the way he had come and drew his sword, waiting for the giants to appear.
Gytha returned and Ivo pelted after, the gnome ran, but his short legs made him slow compared to Gytha's lengthy stride. The cleric stood by the ranger's side, the halfling thief on her right, Ivo was near. He stopped and began to intone his spell. He crushed a sticky wad of acacias gum in his hand and reached out to touch the ranger's arm.
"Hells!" cursed Harold. Before the gnome could cast his spell a giant foot hove into view, followed by a leg and massive body, slate gray skin, grained like stone. The giant froze, taken by surprise at the strange sight, two humans, a halfling and gnome, just before the spell took hold. And in a span quicker than half an eyeblink they disappeared. Two more giants followed behind the first, one bumped into his stalled companion and had to put out his arm to steady himself.
"Windthorst," the giant said in a deep gravelly voice. "Why have you stopped?"
"Be still Wolgast, and you Wedel," Windthorst declared. He held up his hand, the back of his palm to the pair that followed him. "There are intruders here, perhaps the ones the others are looking for. You there!" he called down to where he had seen the little ones standing. "Show yourselves! I wish to parley with you," the giant spoke again, this time in the common tongue.
They had been seen, Ivo knew it, he also knew that these were not Nosnra's kin, but giants of stone. They delved into the oerth and cared little for anything not directly of their kind or related to their craft. Gnomes rarely bargained for these giants' skills and the giants in turn had no need of the craft of gnomes, so Ivo's kind and theirs normally dwelt separately in peace. Ivo willed his magic to be gone but first he walked away from the others and backed a bit further down the kitchen to the north.
"What is it you wish to say?" he asked, appearing before the giant like a puff of smoke when the lid is lifted from a boiling pot.
"Ah, noniz, where are your friends? You must be the ones who have disturbed our sleep tonight and sent our lesser cousins scurrying about," Windthorst said to Ivo.
"Stonelord," Ivo addressed the giant leader, a title which the giant kind bestowed only on their greatest chiefs. "My friends and I are beneath your notice, but we do have a quarrel with your lesser cousins, please do not let me keep you from your slumber."
"What did he say?" asked Wedel, who did not speak any of the smaller peoples tongues.
"Let's squash him," Wolgast said loudly.
* * *
Harold did not wait for another word, he stabbed the giant called Wolgast through the lower calf severing tendons and making Wolgast howl.
"Curses!" Ivo exclaimed, he had been prepared for the giants' treachery if not the halfling's unexpected attack, but he had begun to hope for a peaceful resolution. He saw the halfling appear behind the giant and Harold's sword stab into the giant's legs, then come ripping out again in a spray of blood. In his hand Ivo held some colored sand and with a backhand gesture and a word which only he could hear, the sand flashed forth. A rainbow spray arced out and up into the giants' eyes. Windthorst brought up his arm, he blocked most of the magic from his eyes, and Wolgast had his closed in shock and pain from Harold's attack, Ivo's magic did not affect him at all. Wedel, though, had been peering down at the gnome, he bent into the spray and was struck blind with the colors flashing in his face. The giant roared even as his companion Wolgast did the same.
Wedel lashed out and his flailing arm brushed Wolgast's chest. Below them Harold stabbed the wounded giant again, dancing between the stomping feet, his small body at deadly risk of being crushed.
Gytha grabbed a mallet used by the giants to hammer in the plugs in casks. She tossed it in the air, appearing at the giants' side as she beseeched the Saint, breaking the enchantment of Ivo's spell. "Cuthbert aid me in this time of need. Give me strength my liege to smite these agents of evil mind," the cleric prayed. The hammer streaked toward the giant's head.
Wolgast was facing Wedel, trying to block his companion's arms when Gytha's bespelled mallet hit. The mystic force opened a pressure cut across his brows, Wolgast saw stars and felt the sting of blood dripping into his eyes, and from below, the warm sharp wounds of Harold's attacks bit into him as well. Three nutshells jangled in Ivo's hand, he cast them at the three giants. Windthorst still had his arms upraised but the force passed through them and entered into his dazed mind. Wolgast struggled with the blind Wedel and neither could resist the power of the spell which overcame them.
At first the situation did not appear to change, Windthorst still stood dazed, and Wolgast struggled with Wedel, but the two giants soon began to fight in earnest. Their hands closed, Wedel brought back his arm and smashed his fist into Wolgast's chest as if he would hammer it down, like a spike into a wall. The thump was loud and solid, it rocked the giant, but Wolgast struck back with better aim. His fist smashed in the giant's snubby nose then he used his other hand and struck Wedel's jaw. Bone splintered like a stone beneath a hammer. Wedel's lower mouth was driven to the side, further than his head would go. He reeled back and Wolgast began to hammer his companions head, he dragged his injured leg along, and leaned into each blow. Left then right, each punch sent Wedel reeling from one side to the other, but he did not fall. What kept him on his feet Harold could not even guess.
The halfling stood and watched, his bloodied sword dangling forgotten at his side. At the chute the ranger huffed away and finally the rope was nearly drawn completely up. "AHHHGGG!" Harald yelled. "Packs!" he screamed. While his friends fought for their lives he had been drawing up the packs like a mindless beast. With one hand he raised them above the wooden lip and tossed them aside as if they were light as feathers, then reached for his weapon. The massive sword, the claidheamohmor, Weland's blade, he had set aside while he drew up the rope. Now he grabbed it and lifted it high. "Miming!" he called its name.
There was a wild fury in Harald's attack unlike his normal calm. He charged the giants with his sword held level at shoulder height, the hilt in both hands and the blade behind his neck. When he reached Windthorst he swung Miming in a wide scything arc that thunked like an axe into a tree as it hit the giant's leg. Windthorst sagged, his leg slipped out from under him and he fell with a crash to the ground. Harald drew back his blade and stepped away from the toppling form. He'd left a bone deep slash that cut through the calf and peeled back the flesh with a butcher's stroke.
Nearby, Gytha smashed at Wolgast again, but the giant was oblivious to the small blows of the spiritual hammer she wielded against him. The giant beat his companion into a senseless pulp. Wedel was pinned with his back to the wall. Wolgast used one hand to hold Wedel up by his grey throat and with the other, now bruised and swollen, he pounded piston-like into Wedel's ruined face. Ivo reached within his vest and from a hidden pocket pulled out a sling. He needed no stone or bullet of lead or steel; he swung the leather strap as if it were loaded and as he did a nimbus of bluish light formed within the holding pouch. Ivo released the enchanted leather cord and the light streaked toward Wolgast but missed him by the breadth of a hand. It struck the wall nearby and hissed against the stone like bacon frying in a pan.
Below the fighting giants Harold had to throw himself aside. Windthorst nearly crushed him with a shoulder wider than an oxen's flank. It brought him to his senses and with the agility of a cat he was on his feet again. He ran up the downed giant's arm and used his small sword to cut the giant's throat. Windthorst tried to struggle but the halfling knew where to place the blade and opened up an artery that stopped the blood from feeding the giant's brain. The spray knocked Harold back and off the awkward perch he had upon the giant's heaving shoulder. The blade flew from his grasp, he struck his head in falling back, smacking it hard against the bony shoulder of the giant. Harold landed on the floor unconscious in a heap, sprayed by a thick grey-red blood that still shot out in jets to match the slowing beat of Windthorst's heart.
Wedel was dead, the bones of his massive face finally broken by the relentless blows of his companions fist. With his death Wolgast gave a massive sigh and put both hands upon Wedel's shoulders. Both giants sank down, Wedel sliding against the wall, a smear of blood painting the stone, following the trail of Wedel's head with a grey-red streak. Both Ivo and Gytha used their magicked weapons to strike the surviving giant before he could turn on them, and turn he did. Like a bear cornered by hounds, Wolgast spun and nearly fell on his badly wounded leg. Both Gytha's hammer and Ivo's magic bullet struck him, but the giant shrugged off the blows then the ranger attacked as well.
Harald's two-hand sword went in like a spear. It drove through Wolgast's gut and out his back. The ranger was still half mad with fury and it lent a strength almost that of a giant to his blow. Wolgast was driven back and Harald drove his blade further in, he buried it to the quillon block, pressed it against the seeping wound held sealed by the steel trapped within the giant's gut. The point projected from Wolgast's back, it grated across his spine and gouged into the chest of Wedel's body lying dead against the wall. His leg collapsed, Wolgast fell backwards, driving Harald's sword deeper into Wedel's corpse. His hand smacked Harald aside, sending him rolling, and feebly plucked at the sword hilt with dissipating strength. The giant tried to rise; his good leg bent and pushed, but he could not make his wounded one answer his commands. Wolgast could not draw out the sword, could not rise with his wounded leg and the weight of Wedel trapped behind him. He sank back down and moaned, a trickle of blood poured from his lips. Harald was helped to his feet by Gytha who squeezed his arm and felt a deep sorrow at the sight of the wounded giant.
"Harald," she said, "end this quick."
The ranger grunted in reply. He shook himself; his back gave a loud pop as he stretched it. His wrath was gone. The giant still fumbled for the hilt and tried to push the ranger's hands away, but Wolgast was as weak as a human child for all his size. Harald grabbed the hilt with both his hands and tugged, the giant gave a deep painful moan and vomited out a barrels worth of blood. The blade was wedged tight, but Harald summoned all his strength, he braced a foot against the giant's thigh and pulled with all his might. The sword came free, it ground against the giant's spine and Wolgast tried to scream, but his voice was drowned in blood. The huge body slumped forward and Harald used his shoulder to push Wolgast on his side. The giant lived, but blood poured from his wound and came in gobs and torrents from his mouth as he coughed to free his lungs for air. Wolgast had one shoulder on the floor, his back was arched and his forehead was against the stones. Like the executioner of a king, Harald brought his sword down across the giant's neck as Gytha asked the Saint to allow the giant a quick death to end its pain.