"No need to get snippy," Harold called back. "Let me just see what is around this corner."
"Be careful!" Gytha told him. "I don't think Henri's spell covers the entire room."
"What! Harlot! The God's light illuminates what he wills, he knows no limits." Henri exclaimed.
"Harlot!" Gytha shouted back. "Why you sanctimonious stuck-up pr..." She could barely restrain herself from striking Henri.
"Now stop this!" Ivo yelled at them. "In Nosnra's dungeon with no way out, and you two want to fight each other! Save it for the giants."
"He started it," Gytha complained and cast a dangerous glance at the blind priest. "Henri you did. Is this the way that your liege the Theocrat would have you behave?"
Ivo looked up at them both. "Children, big as houses you are, but you act like children."
Harold had paid their argument no mind; instead he continued exploring the room. "Trust that pompous cleric," he said to himself, "not likely."
Against the eastern wall were several chests, some giant-sized but others that must have been crafted by smaller hands. Harold was drawn to these like a moth to a flame. He circled them; even crawling behind to check for hidden traps. He climbed atop the largest one, he felt along the sides and carefully examined each hinge, but he found nothing other than plain wood and iron bolts. Gytha came up to him while he searched. Her eyes still shone but she had kept her temper in check, a most notable achievement for a follower of the cudgel-wielding saint.
"I take it that these are safe?" she asked Harold.
The halfling was sitting atop the largest one. He had climbed over the other coffers and chests as if they were a set of stairs.
"It's safe. This big one looks to be at least." Harold gave the broad lid a pat.
Behind them came Ivo, then the scouts. Henri walked in last and looked at the southern alcove he walked over to the southwestern corner and reached into an area covered with a yellow mold.
"Hey!" Harold yelled. "Careful there, that stuff could be dangerous!"
Henri did not reply or stay his hand. He pulled a quiver full of arrows from the mold. "I do not fear weapons hanging on a wall," he said.
"An illusion!" Harold cried. "Ivo, I am surprised that you did not spot it first."
"I would have done," Ivo said, "but before I waste a spell..." he began, "What is it that your metal mask lets you see Henri."
"The True God grants me to see what is," Henri told them all. "No illusions can cloud my sight."
"Oh gods and magic," Harold cried. "This coming from a blind man who speaks of sight. Well my eyes still see a moldy wall. What else do you see?"
"A spear, and two sheathed swords hanging here before me," Henri turned to take in the rest of the room. "Over there," he pointed to where the thief stood atop the giant wooden chest. "There is a large wooden trunk and several smaller ones."
"I see these as well," said Harold.
"And here," The cleric stared looking with his golden mask at the southeast corner of the room, "A stout cask and a large box of black stone."
"Ah-Ha!" Harold almost clapped with delight. "Something else they did not want us to find. Ivo, you are a master of this magic," began Harold graciously. "Have you ever heard of giants who could hide their treasure thus?"
"There are giants and there are giants my friend," said Ivo. "Some of the cloud dwellers are as skilled as any of my kind."
"Oh. I pictured them all like these," said Harold.
"No, these are hill giants. There are others bigger, fiercer and more skilled," Ivo told the halfling.
The two scouts approached Henri and the cleric handed a sword to one. "Careful," Henri said to them. "These are fine blades. They may be more than just steel. Do you take them in the name of the True God?" Henri asked.
Edouard held out his hand and crossed his fingers in his mind. "I do," he said aloud, but wordlessly said a prayer to Syrul. He gave an honest smile as he held the sword. A fiery voice spoke in his head. "It speaks to me!" he cried out, and regretted his momentary lapse of discipline.
"What does it say?" Derue exclaimed.
"It says that its name is Kalfashow," Edouard answered in a subdued voice.
"Magic!" Harold cried. "That would be worth a chest of gold."
"It will serve us better in a swordsman's hands, thief," Henri rebuked the halfling.
"What of the other?" asked Derue, eager to claim it as his own.
"Do you swear..." Henri began.
"I swear, I swear..." Derue burst out and grabbed the sword from Henri's hand.
The cleric flushed and would have redressed his hireling but Edouard spoke up.
"Master Henri, my apologies for my brother's haste. Derue!"
"It speaks as well! It says that its name is Ardare and it will burn with flame!" Derue was as delighted as a child.
"What of yours Edouard?"
Edouard rolled his eyes. He would have struck his brother for such a careless tongue but not before the others in the room.
"Your sword seems to be more talkative than mine," Edouard gave Derue a hard shove to break him from his reverie. "Apologize to master Henri," he commanded.
Derue flushed redder than the cleric. He bowed his head and knelt as a supplicant craving his master's pardon. "I beg your pardon master. I acted without thought."
Henri was pleased at such diffidence. He smiled and like a theocrat or a king touched the scout lightly upon his bowed head. "Your haste is forgiven," he said.
"Two magic swords!" Harold moaned. No chance, he thought, of ever parting them from those pale-haired scouts.
"That was not here before," Harald pointed at an open door where only stone wall had been.
"Looks like they may have found us another way out," said Talberth.
"Perhaps only another way further in," Telenstil replied.
"I thought I was the one with the gloomy thoughts," Talberth said to his old mentor.
"I hear voices," Harald interrupted them. "Sounds like Harold but I can't make out what he is saying."
The ranger stepped around the half open door. The halfing stood upon a man-high wooden chest against the eastern wall and looked toward the south, which was out of Harald's sight, while the red-haired cleric, Gytha, stood nearby. Someone spoke from where the ranger could not see then Harold spoke again.
"Hey!" the ranger called. "Have you found a passage out of here?"
The halfling turned and with wide eyes shouted for the ranger to stop. "Don't Move! You Fool! Don't Move!"
Harald paused his foot lifted, about to take a step which might have been his last.
* * *
Harold dropped to the ground and ran down the hall.
"You big buffoon, one more step and you would have been in it."
"In what?" Harald asked. "I don't see a thing."
The floor looked to be made from solid stone. The entire area seemed to be resting on a single slab of rock.
"Our holy Henri spotted it. He has a great talent for seeing hidden things," Harold explained. "It's some sort of trap, though what kind I do not know."
"Is there a way around?" Talberth asked as he stood in the doorway.
"Of course," laughed the little halfling. "How do you think we got across? Just hug the wall on either side. The giants have left a space big enough for us to pass."
"Harald, please help shut the door before we proceed further," Telenstil asked the ranger for his help.
"Sure, you go on, I can shut this by myself."
Harald walked over and grabbed the edge of the giant's door. One side was made of wood. The other looked and felt like stone but weighed far less. The hinges, which Harald could not see, made no noise, and the door clicked as he closed it shut.
"Telenstil!" Gytha called pleased to see the mage.
"Gytha, Ivo, what have we here?" the elf asked.
"Is there a door?" Talberth looked around the corner of the room. His hopeful smile disappeared. The room ended in a long southern wall, the priest Henri stood there among a covering of yellow-colored mold and pulled forth a spear, its blade shinning like polished steel.
"Where did that come from?" Talberth asked surprised.
"These giants are craftier than we had thought," said Ivo. "They have cloaked their treasure with magic spells."
"Henri here can see right through them with that golden mask of his," Harold said irreverently.
"We haven't opened up those chests over there," the halfling pointed to the eastern wall and the many wood and iron chests.
"Are they trapped?" asked Telenstil.
"Not as far as I can tell," Harold shook his head.
Telenstil watched as the cleric handed the spear to Edouard. The scout bowed his head and said some word of thanks that the mage could not hear.
"Henri," Telenstil walked over and called out. "Your faith stands you in good stead. Do you see an exit to this room?"
"No." Henri turned his gold masked face to Telenstil. "I see no hidden doors only these weapons hidden beneath a spell."
"And those chests, where we see broken boxes?" added Ivo. The old gnome went to the southeast corner of the room and waved his hands and spoke a powerful word. The broken barrels wavered as if seen through heat above a fire, they faded and were gone. In their place a large black box made of stone and next to it a barrel bigger than a man.
"Harold," Telenstil waved a hand toward the box and the barrel. "Please be so kind."
"My pleasure," the thief replied. Harold walked around the chest and examined it with care.
"I do not like it here," Talberth glanced around the room. "We are trapped if the giants come."
"Yes," Telenstil agreed. "Yet this hidden room bears searching out. Can we spare the time, Talberth; who can say, or even if it is worth the risk. No we won't rest here, not yet."
"Is this place on your map?" Talberth asked the elven mage.
"No, and it was never mentioned by the one-time merchant, more recently Nosnra's slave." Telenstil reached into his robe and removed an ivory tube. He took out the copy of the escaped slave's map. "As you see, somewhere below the steading there is a holding cell, a smithy, and orc pens, but no sign of secret rooms or treasure chests. Not surprising."
"The two ways may not even connect. How did this merchant escape?" Talberth asked.
"Somewhere there is a stream. See it marked here," Telenstil pointed to a roughly drawn symbol on the map. "The merchant was lowered on a rope and had to unclog the giants' garbage chute. The rope broke and by luck and fate he survived his ride along the stream and washed up on the banks of the White Oyt river. Hunters found him half-alive and when his tale was told he was brought before the duke where the first copy of this map was drawn."
"Telenstil!" the thief almost shouted, "This barrel! You won't believe it but I've found you another of those giant maps."