The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 27
"Elf, I will free you," Derue said, "but you must make me a promise first."
The cell was dark and damp, the walls bled a slow, clear liquid that stained them white and formed a crusty layer like tears dried on the face of a crying child. Against this was chained the body of an elf, fair but thin, filthy like all else within the cell. His body was a mass of scars, bruises that went from deep black to brown yellow at their ends, long cuts, some thick and white old scars, others fresh, sealed with clogs of drying blood. The elf's hair, once long, was cut short in ragged clumps, the ends of his ears had been sliced away.
"Who are you..." came a gravelly voice, his once light tones changed by strangling chains and ropes that had wrapped his neck.
"I am the brother of one you must swear to protect," said Derue. "But should I bother? Do you have the strength to lift a sword?"
"Free me. I will swear... I have the strength," the elf told him. He strained against his chains and with maniacal strength made them creak and dust fall from the bolts set deep into the wall.
"I am Derue. My brother is Edouard, he lies gravely wounded in the next cell," said Derue. "I free you. Swear to me that you will die before bringing my brother harm or leaving his side."
"I am Ghibelline, I swear by Corellon Larethian, father of my kind. I will not harm your brother or leave his side until my debt to you is paid," growled the elf.
Derue noticed the codicil that the elf attached to the oath and laughed. "Good, you show that your spirit and your mind are still intact and strong. I accept your pledge." Derue unlocked the chains and stood back as the elf fell from them to his knees. He turned and left him on the floor. "Be standing by my brother's side when I return. I will find you a weapon."
* * *
Outside the cells the orcs were milling about. The one who spoke for the others, the Boss, as the orc called Meatstealer referred to him, was waiting for Derue.
"What we do now?" the orc asked.
"Those stairs over there," Derue pointed to the west. "They lead up to the kitchens. There I have companions, and from there we can make our way out of the steading."
"Some o'the boys, they not want to leave," said the Boss.
"Then they can stay. Here give me two swords," Derue said to an orc standing idly near the door to the cells. It looked at him and seemed not to understand. "Stahl, swel stahl, getzt!" he ordered in a rough orcish tongue. It jumped and offered Derue its own blade, then grabbed another from the hands of a nearby orc and handed that to Derue as well.
"You speak orc?" the boss asked surprised.
"I know enough. Now, I am leaving these swords with those in the cells, no one is to bother them. I will kill anyone who does; and I will kill them slowly," Derue drew his sword once again and waved it back and forth before the Boss' eyes. "I command this fire. It will burn the bones of any who disobey my command, they will burn slow, I promise."
The orc gulped and nodded his head. Derue went back into the cells. He handed the swords to Jalal and to the elf Ghibelline, who stood strong, if worn, like a stag, bloodied but not brought down by the pursuing pack. Only Jalal spoke.
"Bring help soon," he said.
Derue nodded, but said no more, he just walked away and left them standing in the half-lit cell.
"That's it. Those are the last of the packs," Talberth said.
"I will go find Henri," Telenstil turned from the pile of gear gathered at the bottom of the shaft.
"Don't be long. They can no doubt use our help up there," replied Talberth anxiously.
"Go up when the rope is dropped back to us," Telenstil told him. "I will go when you have returned, with or without that priest."
Talberth folded his arms and gave his mentor a stern look. Telenstil shrugged, he saw no use in arguing with his former apprentice, Talberth could be a stubborn man.
The room was a disgusting refuse heap, but part of nature's process of decay. The smell was strong and rank, the scent of rotting flesh, the pungent tang of fermenting rinds and husks, death becoming life once more. Telenstil did not enjoy the sight or smell but he appreciated its presence, the balance of a pleasant day, a sunny field, the smell of a forest after the fall of rain. The dank he used to measure his enjoyment of these other things, the dark that balanced light. Light! A blinding flash erupted from an adjacent room. Telenstil turned the corner with care. Inside he saw a heap of empty chests, their edges charred, and amongst the smoking ruin, amid the sharp smell of air burnt by the pass of a lightning bolt, stood Henri, his arms raised to the vaulting roof.
"Henri!" Telenstil called firmly. "It is time to go."
The priest did not reply. Telenstil waited a moment then went back to Talberth, Henri would come or not, but he could do no more.
* * *
"The packs are going up," Talberth said to Telenstil when the elf returned. He was relieved both to see him come back so quickly as well as alone. "That priest!" Talberth thought to himself, he had enough of Henri's arrogance.
"Good, you follow them," said Telenstil.
"No, it's better if you go. If they need help up there you are the one who will be able to do the most," Talberth told him.
* * *
"It's that dratted chain!" Harald declared as he dragged it up and untied it from the rope.
"Talberth would not leave that behind," said Gytha.
"Then he should be the one who will have to carry it," said Harald. The ranger dropped it to the floor in disgust then tossed the line back down the shaft.
Gytha bent and examined the dark links. "It is heavy, but it may provide us with a way out. My poor old mare," her voice was sad and deep. "I shouldn't have brought her on this venture."
"Now we are on foot," Harald said. He waited for the signal from below and leaned against the chutes wooden edge.
"Yes, that as well," Gytha let the metal link fall from her hand. "How far can we get on foot?"
"Not far," Harald agreed. "But I came here to fight Nosnra and his kind, I won't run."
"I am not talking of running," said Gytha slightly annoyed at the old ranger's words. "Do you doubt my courage?"
"Gytha, I know you. You are not afraid to fight, and die if need be, but you are young, you have something to return to, I have left nothing behind. I am not worried about returning," Harald told her.
"You are unusually grim Harald. Do you seek death?" asked Gytha.
"I seek revenge. We have done little to pay the giants back for what they have done," said Harald.
"There is more to this than Nosnra, you know that. The cold ones are behind it all. Talberth's magic chain may be our link to them," Gytha nudged the black iron with her foot.
"Then we would have to leave our mounts behind in any case," Harald answered back.
"I would rather have set them free. They would have had a chance," Gytha thought a moment. "It may take us more than one foray to satisfy Telenstil. He still searches for something that he has not named."
"Hah, that elf... there is the signal," Harald bent to the task and heaved at the line. "Heavy... load... again."
"At least it is not another chain," Gytha laughed. "In any case we need to withdraw. I need some rest. I know our wizards do as well."
The ranger merely grunted in agreement. His shoulders bobbed back and forth, the coil of rope grew behind him. He had it wrapped once about his waist in case he lost his grip, ready to brace himself against whatever weight was on the other end.
Gytha did not hear the little thief's approach. The halfling ran almost as silently as he walked. "Trouble coming!" he gave a hoarse, whispered shout, throwing his voice across the room. "Giants!" Harold hissed.
"Harald!" Gytha called to the ranger.
"Ivo!" Harald called back. "Get... Ivo!"