"Wait!" Ivo called to the orc, but it did not stop. At the sound of Ivo's voice Harold looked back and saw the little monster come running toward him up the path. The halfling drew the long dagger from his belt and waited for the orc to catch up, the naked blade held in his hand.
"I help, I help," Little Rat squeaked out as he approached the thief.
"Stop right there!" Harold commanded. Little Rat stood a half dozen feet away, he bobbed back and forth from one foot to the other, scared and excited both.
"I help, good at finding things, I help!" he said in a high voice.
"Come here," ordered Harold, "slowly now."
Little Rat came bounding over, skidded to a stop when Harold waved the dagger at him, then took small careful steps over to halfling's side. "I help."
"So you say," Harold muttered, then he spoke to the youth in an orcish tongue. "You know these lands?" he asked.
"You talk funny," said Little Rat.
Harold spoke the language of the orcish half-breeds that lived within the great city. They'd kept their fathers tongue but it had changed and grown. Little Rat could understand only bits and pieces of what the halfling said.
"You... Know... Land," Harold said, loud and slowly.
"I help!" said Little Rat brightly.
"To the Nine Hells with it," cursed Harold. "Come on, we better get going before they overtake us." Harold kept his sword drawn, the young orc ran ahead.
* * *
"Look!" called out the ranger.
His voice was a whisper in Telenstil's ears, but the elf heard and looked to see the giants running far below. The magic globe raced by, quickly outdistancing even the lengthy strides of the giants. Telenstil directed it with ancient words, commanding it to take them beyond the giants and down between the branches of a stand of tall fir trees.
"Praise the mother," Harald bowed down and kissed the Oerth.
"You are safe, there was no need to fear," laughed Telenstil.
"I would have been born with wings if I was meant to fly," Harald replied.
"Well we have our feet on oerth now," said Telenstil. "We had better make our plans quickly. Those giants will be coming this way soon."
"Give me a moment to look over the trail," said Harald. "But we had best stick together. Your magic may stop them without my help, but if it does not and they reach you..."
"Yes, they would make quick work of me," Telenstil mused. "I will go with you. My spells will take only a moment to prepare."
"Come on then, let's find a good place," Harald led the way through the thick stand of trees.
The valley was wooded throughout its northern length. The trees were dense along each slope, the ground a slanting rise up to the surrounding hills. A stream had cut a bare gash down the valleys center, it was wide but low, the water only a few inches deep. Huge boulders lay exposed amid the running stream, like the seeds of great mountains left to grow.
"The giants will come this way," said Harald. "Look at the bank over there," he pointed across the stream. "They've torn out the big trees by the roots."
"Long ago," said Telenstil looking at the stumps, old and filled with rot, "They have beaten down the newer growth as well."
"Up there Telenstil," Harald pointed to a boulder sticking like a gallery from the far slope. "That will be the place for us to stand."