Harold found a latch and pulled up the barrel's tight, sealed lid. It had hinges down the center and the top opened up, split down the middle, opening in a semi-circle. Inside was a roll of hide, Harold reached down and bent back an edge, he saw the same markings he had seen before upon the map which Telenstil had transported with his magic to the land below.
"So what is this? Another map?" the mage asked amused. "Do these giants keep all their plans in duplicate?"
"I don't know about that, but this has the same spidery scrawling on it," said Harold.
* * *
Above their heads the alarm kept sounding. Giants fought the fire which blazed and spread throughout the hall. The roof was damp and sent black choking smoke out into the sky. Nosnra would not be pleased, his sleeping chamber was afire, his trophy hall blackened by smoke and licked by flame. The iron door, magicked into place by Telenstil, glowed red, the wooden frame blackened and charred. Suddenly the crack of splitting wood resounded, the lintel parted, the burnt wood revealed its untouched heart, but too little was left to keep the iron valve in place. It swayed back and picked up speed then slammed against the floor with a boom heard throughout the hall. Flooring shattered revealing the stone beneath, and a cloud of smoke lit orange by the flames came rushing in. No one would notice the missing map, within minutes the chief's private meeting hall was covered in flames. The great chimney acted as the flue and the table, chairs and many tapestries burned for moments and then were gone, like a lantern wick. Out across the fields and still far off, Nosnra came walking home, his warriors still weak and dazed, even the wolves were silent and withdrawn.
* * *
"What was that!" several voices said at once.
"Sounds like the giants have breached that door," said Talberth. He had been waiting for the sound.
"Then they could be down here at any time!" cried Harold.
"Don't worry," Ivo called to him, loud enough for everyone to hear. "I can mask us all from their sight."
"What if they find us as they found the cave and our camp?" questioned Talberth.
"Then we will fight, and they will die," Harald answered him plainly and unconcerned. He had come up after shutting the hidden door. "But we'd best get those packs we left behind by the stairs."
"Too late for that," Talberth looked around the room, at its empty floor and doorless walls. "We're trapped."
"Nonsense," Telenstil spoke up. "Talberth you are too worried. The giants have not found us yet, but those packs might be a help to us, remember, they are all that we have left from our supplies."
"I remember," said Gytha thinking of her and the other's horses left back at the cave rather than any supplies. "I'll go, how about you Harald?"
"Telenstil, looks like I have nothing else to do here, and I can carry half."
"Good," said Telenstil. "Edouard, Derue, please go along as well."
The scouts looked first toward their master Henri who gave to them a nod before they followed the ranger and cleric out into the hall.
* * *
"Smell that smoke," Harald said.
"Yes, it is thick," Gytha replied.
They'd run down the hall and stood by the stairs which went back up to Nosnra's private meeting room. The smell of burning wood was overpowering but so far no smoke had come drifting down.
"I am going to go check on this," said Harald heading up the stairs.
"Harald, no! What if the giants are heading down?" Gytha called to him.
Harald sniffed at the air. "I don't think we have to worry about the giants, but I am worried about the fire."
The two scouts noted the ranger's words but said nothing. Each slung two packs over their shoulders and started back to the hidden room.
"Harald, you be careful. I will be back as soon as I have talked with Telenstil." Gytha ran after the departing scouts.
The black box, obsidian stone, smooth and sharp cornered, chipped all along its length, was heavier than the small halfling could budge. It took Talberth, Telenstil, Henri and the wiry old gnome to shift its lid. The top slid aside and smashed against the floor, a corner shattered into fragments and the lid itself split in two.
"What do we have here?" Talberth asked himself aloud.
Inside the box was a white, fur hide wrapped into a roll. The mage reached down and pulled, but it would not budge.
"Something inside," Talberth answered his own question, "heavy as this box."
"Can you unwrap it?" asked Telenstil.
Talberth gave it a half-hearted tug. "No, I will cut it away," he said and reached for his knife.
"Are you crazy!" the thief exclaimed. "That hide is worth its weight in gold."
"Not here it's not," said Talberth. "Here it is just in the way."
"Well, give it a chance at least," Harold climbed up over the tall sides of the box and hopped within. He grabbed the edge and gave the hide a pull with all his strength. He strained and tugged it back and forth till he had drawn some slack. "You can help," he said to the others.
Telenstil laughed and took up two handfuls of the furry hide, Talberth did the same, but Henri merely stood back and watched them work. Ivo would have climbed into the box, but, though it was large, there was just not enough room for the gnome and halfling both. When they had unwrapped a length that he could reach, Ivo grabbed hold and pulled as well. Soon the hide was hanging over the box's lip, part of it still weighed down by what lay within. A black metal chain, its links thick and finely made, with a huge scroll was tied around a section of its length. Talberth drew up the links and untied the scroll; a cured skin, the blockish giant script written across its face.
"Hah!" he said. "If this scroll speaks true then we have our door!"
* * *
The ranger coughed, the smoke was a hazy mist before his eyes but thick and dark above his head. He stood within the small room that held the giants' firewood, the door to Nosnra's meeting room was hot beneath his hand.
"Yes, as I thought," he said then quickly dropped back down the giants' stairs.
* * *
"What do you mean?" Harold asked the mage.
"This chain," said Talberth. "From what this scroll relates, it is a magical device of teleportation."
"Wonderful!" the halfling cried. "Can it take us to Greyhawk?"
"Hmmm, well no I don't think so," Talberth read through the scroll. "It gives instruction for its use but says nothing about the destination."
"Oh great. It probably'll take us back to Nosnra's trophy hall," moaned Harold.
"Yes," said Telenstil, "that does pose a problem. Talberth, that chain seems very heavy. I doubt that we can take it with us and I am loathe to use an unknown device."
"How else are we to get out of this pit?" Talberth asked with vehemence.
"We are not trapped just yet my friend," Telenstil said kindly. "If we cannot take that chain with us, or this other map, and we dare not use it yet, then perhaps we can hide it."
"In here?" Talberth said and looked around at the empty room.
"I can render it invisible," said Ivo.
"Yes, but not insubstantial," Talberth replied. "The giants already are using illusions to mask these things in the first place. I can't see them believing just their eyes if they find them missing."
"Hey!" called Harold. "The others are returning."
The concealed door opened up and Gytha came running in. She quickly passed by the trapped floor and ran up to Telenstil.
"We smelled strong smoke back at the stairs and Harald has gone up to see how the fire is spreading," she said in one long breath.
"That big fool," Harold shook his head.
"Harald is no fool, but your concern speaks well of you," Gytha chided. "I do not think we need worry about the giants coming down from those stairs just yet."
"Good, then we have a bit more time," said Telenstil.
"To do what?" asked Talberth.
"To hide the chain and map," Telenstil replied. "You are correct, just masking them with invisibility is not enough. And I want a chance to study that map at the very least."
The two scouts returned while the others spoke. They dumped the packs they carried to the floor although they were more careful with their own.
"Where is mine?" Henri asked them.
"Oh," Gytha said and smiled at the haughty cleric. "I brought it for you."
Henri looked aghast. He stood there with his hands at his side and Gytha, seeing that he would not take the pack from her, let it fall to the floor.
"You're welcome," she said and turned her back.
"I have an idea," said Harold. The thief looked back down to the trap set in the floor. "I'll spring that trap and we can hide them inside."
"I don't like it," said Talberth. "We don't know what that trap will release; poison gas, set off some alarm, who knows."
"Harold, is such possible?" asked Telenstil.
"Sure, anything is possible, but giants aren't normally so subtle," the thief argued.
"No, and they don't normally use illusions to hide their treasure," said Talberth.
"I agree with Talberth," Ivo spoke up. "Best thing to do with a trap is to avoid it, not set it off."
"Well, it was only a suggestion," Harold crossed his arms and looked a little peeved.