"You will get out of my way!" Derue yelled at the others.
"Derue, you are possessed," Gytha yelled back at him. "Throw away that sword. Fight it!"
"I will fight you if you do not move.," Derue told her. He began to advance with his sword at the ready, the fire bright along its length. "Elf!" he commanded Ghibelline. "You have sworn an oath to me, strike her down."
"My debt to you is paid," Ghibelline said in a calm voice. "Your brother is healed. I will not raise a hand against this good cleric."
"Trust an elf and elf's word," Derue spat out. "I am leaving here. I should cut you down in any case, but stay out of my way and you will live!"
Telenstil did not reply to Derue but spoke quietly to the elf. "Take your friend into the cell, out of the way. We will deal with our companion."
Ghibelline carried Jalal into the cell; the old man was thin as a figure made of sticks held together with string. The elf could not say if he still breathed or if the madman had slain Jalal in his escape.
* * *
"Don't forget the chain," Talberth said to the ranger.
Harald grumbled, but wrapped it about his shoulders with care, more to balance it evenly than any worry he had about damaging the weighty links. As they left Ivo kept glancing back at the chute. He could not decide whether he was happy to be rid of the priest or sorry to abandon even so regrettable a companion in such a place as the giants' hall.
* * *
The hallway was huge, more like a road or some covered bridge of stone. Edouard ran fast, faster than the orcs who pursued him. After a hundred paces they let him go, he had maimed and injured many of them and the others had no great desire to fight the madman again. Ahead, the passage ended in a door and two ways, smaller than the hallway he'd just run down, they ran to his left and to his right. The door was heavy and old, wood bound with iron and set with metal arms to hold a timber, that kept it closed. The timber lay against the wall, and the door was open wide. Inside, it was a reeking pit of black. Edouard stood, he looked back the way he'd come then ahead peering into the lightless room. He turned to his left to look up the smaller passage then around again, facing the right-hand way. Something tickled his mind, a lazy finger of heat, a tongue of flame he could not see. It pulled him to the right. He stumbled forward and felt the flame increase then he began to run. His sword, it called to him from somewhere ahead, down the right-hand way.
* * *
"Pod-At, Taz-Pan, Zamp-La," Telenstil intoned and threw a dry pellet toward Derue. The scout brought up his sword, but the pellet became a white viscous blob. It hissed as it passed through the burning sword and thinned to a mist as it struck Derue. A wave of nausea nearly made him wretch. Derue felt as if he stood upon a ship that was caught rolling in a storm upon the deep. He swayed and the world went upside down. His sword fell from his grasp and he rolled after it. His fingers touched the hilt and sent the blade skittering further away. He could not stand, he tried and fell. Before he could rise again Gytha's metal staff struck him aside the head. Stars sparked behind his eyes and a dark wave came up and swallowed him.
"Bind his hands," Telenstil said to Gytha.
"What will we do with the sword?" she asked.
"I do not know. I hate to just leave it, but it is dangerous to touch or even possess." Telenstil eyed the blade lying cold and naked on the ground.
"Can you destroy it?" she asked.
"No, not even if I had my rest and the most powerful spells at my command. This was crafted with both evil and power," he nodded toward the sword. "It will take much power to destroy."
"Good cleric," a voice spoke. Ghibelline the elf came from the cell. "Can you see to my friend? He is injured."
"Certainly," Gytha said as she tied Derue's hands behind his back and tied his feet as well. "Does he wake?"
"No, he is senseless," Ghibelline replied.
"Here," Telenstil asked the elf, "help me bar the door."
Ghibelline left Gytha to attend Jalal and went with Telenstil to the huge door. A wooden beam could be dropped between metal brackets to keep the door from being pulled open, but now it lay propped up against the wall. Both elves wrestled with the beam. Ghibelline would have been the stronger of the pair, but starvation and torture had weakened him, he was only a thin shadow of his former self.
"You are of the high brethren," Ghibelline said to Telenstil.
"And you are of the woods, and for the woods, are you not?" Telenstil replied.
"Yes." he answered. The two swayed back and forth with the beam, they managed to place one end against a bracket and struggled to raise the other side, but could not.
"We will need Gytha's help," said Telenstil. "
She is of the lands below, you are far from home," said Ghibelline.
"You seem to have strayed far as well," Telenstil replied.
"Yes, these hills are not my home, but I came to find someone. They may have been taken by these giants," Ghibelline answered. "They were not here. I was taken instead. I did not think I would be struggling to lock myself inside these cells."
"We have companions coming," said Telenstil, "and those orcs outside may object to us leading away our scout as a prisoner. They seem to have taken a liking to him."
"He seems just their sort," said Ghibelline.
"Harold," Ivo called quietly to the halfling. "Harold."
"Shhh!" Harold hissed back. He ran from the stairwell to the pantry door where Ivo, Harald and Talberth padded slowly in. "I'm glad you've come, there is something going on below. I can hear the shouting."
"They are in trouble," the ranger shook his head. "Come on, we better go help."
"We don't know what is happening down there!" Talberth exclaimed with in an unexpected squeak.
"Then we had better find out," Harald shrugged the chain from his shoulders and let its length come crashing down.
"Watch that!" shouted Talberth.
"It'll be alright, come on!" Harald cried to them.
"Talberth, prepare a spell," Ivo told him.
"I can do better," answered Talberth taking a wand from a sheath he wore on his arm. "I have magic enough left in this to give anyone or thing we might meet below quite a shock."
They ran to the steps, both Ivo and Harold looked askance at the deep treads the giants used for stairs.
"Follow us as quick as you can," said Talberth.
The ranger was already dropping down the steps with reckless speed.
* * *
Gytha stepped from the cell. She left Jalal sleeping, healed of his wounds, but weak and tired. She felt weary herself, being a vehicle for the Saint's grace and power enriched her spirit but took its toll on her strength.
"Gytha," called Telenstil, "please give us a hand."
The two elves struggled with the heavy beam. Gytha set aside her metal staff and ran to them. With her help they set the bar in place.
"Phew!" said Gytha letting out a small huff of breath.
"I concur," said Telenstil.
"And I," added Ghibelline. "How is my friend?" he asked Gytha.
"Asleep, but I believe he will be fine," said Gytha. "That was a nasty blow he took, and he is frail."
"The giants use up their slaves, at least Nosnra does," Ghibelline told them. "The dwarves last the longest."
"We saw no dwarves," said Gytha.
"No, they are kept at the forge. It lies somewhere among these passages," explained Ghibelline. "It is near their chamber of pain. I have been there many times. There are a pair of huge giants at the forge, the kind that are kin to fire. They look like creatures of that plane, burnt skin and hair like the embers in their forge."
"That," said Telenstil, breaking into the elf's rambling speech, "that is very strange. Fire Giants you say, hmmm..."
"Yes, I have heard them talk, but I do not understand their words, it is not like the speech of Nosnra or his kind," said Ghibelline, "but Jalal might be able to tell you more. He has become close friends with one of the dwarves who they hold at the forge. They use them for the finer work that the orcs cannot do, the giants of stone find them useful as well and make sure that Nosnra does not kill them out of hand, but still they work them close to death."
"Giants have little feeling for those smaller than themselves," said Telenstil.
"Those are kind words to describe such evil monsters," said Gytha.
"No, there are giants of all kinds, some are cruel and some are not," said Telenstil. "I have met worse than Nosnra, both giants and those of our size."
"You are right," said Gytha. "The Saint teaches that the body is but a shell, it is the spirit inside that matters."
"Wise words," said Ghibelline.