Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 97

They wandered down the trail to where Gytha stood beside Ghibelline. The ranger talked with them, straight and tall, the grievous wounds he'd received healed by the cleric's faith and prayers.

" more." said Harald.

"I know, they will be hunting for us, those wolves of theirs will track us down," Ghibelline said.

"There are a few tricks to throw them off our trail," Harald glanced up and down the path. "But this place, they may lose our scent among all these bodies and blood."

 * * *

Telenstil had been right. The moons were up and still the party was on the move. It was slow going, and despite Harald's best efforts they were leaving an easy trail. They were heading north and west, away from the hills and up into the mountains, but they hadn't left the woods behind.

Low branches slashed at them, roots and stones caught their feet, made them trip and stumble; they followed a deer trail that weaved through the underbrush. The ground was rough and uneven, the trail narrow and lined with thornbushes, they moved with a slow and awkward pace.

Harald had gone ahead, some said that he had the elven sight but it wasn't true. It was Talberth and Gytha who had the worst of it, neither could see far in the dim moonlight. Gytha at least had some woodscraft, she'd lived within the hills and mountains of Geoff all her life, but Talberth had been born and raised in Greyhawk, the hub of the Oerth as he called it. The young mage knew much about the arcane crafts, had served as an apprentice to Telenstil and seen the world beyond his city's walls, but he had never been far from a campsite or an inn. He was not used to wandering through the woods at night, looking for a place to camp, forced to sleep out under the stars, his pack as a pillow and his arms folded about him for a blanket.

They traveled single file, the orcs last in line carrying Derue, the thief and young orc leading the others over the trail. The two humans were kept at the center of the file where those with the nighteyes could keep them from falling in the dark or straying from the path. There was a hiss, low and subdued, it came from the halfling and it brought them to a halt.

"There is a clearing up ahead," Harold whispered to Telenstil and Ivo.

"Where is Harald?" the elven mage asked.

"I have no idea," Harold snapped back. "What do you want us to do?"

"Did you see something?" Ivo asked him.

"Nothing but the end of this trail," said the thief. Harold was not pleased to come upon a surprise when his friend the ranger was somewhere ahead and nowhere to be seen. "He should have come back to warn us. I don't like this."

"Can you circle the clearing?" asked Telenstil.

"I can," said Ghibelline speaking over the gnome's head. "Let me go, I'll see what has happened to the ranger."

"I can do it," Harold said with a huff.

"You're as quiet as a mouse in slippers," said Ivo, "but Ghibelline has the woodscraft."

"Shhh..." hissed Ghibelline.

"Yea, quiet down." a voice said from nearby. Harald worked his way slowly from beneath a thornbush.

"Where were you?" demanded the thief.

"Sorry, you made better time than I expected," Harald replied. "I found us a decent spot. There is a spring up here and a small rise just beyond the clearing where we can camp."

"We nearly had to go looking for you," complained Harold.

 The ranger shrugged. "Good practice for you, out here you never know, scouting ahead is dangerous work, sometimes you don't come back."

"Harald," said Telenstil, cutting off the thief before he could say anymore, "Show us this place. We can all use the rest."

"Come then, follow me," Harald lead them down the last few feet of the trail into a small clearing, its western end held a small pond, but he took them to the northern edge

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