The Frost Giant Jarl - Grugnur's Lament
"I told you that chain would come in handy," Talberth said with an I-Told-You-So half-smile on his lips.
Several nasty looks came from the assembled party and the wizard-elf Telenstil put a hand on his old apprentice's shoulder.
They were a bleeried-eyed and worn looking group. Blood-spotted banadages were on most of them and three of the five dwarves looked like they were about to collapse.
"It's freezing..." chattered the halfling among them even though he was well wrapped in a bear-skin cloak cut down to his size. A small orc stood beside him wearing his bear-skin like a blanket with holes cut for his arms and legs. He wore a belt made of thick rope and two shortswords were sheathed at either side with a pair of daggers crossed at his middle.
Two of the dwarves were in well-fited, finely crafted mail. One bore a warhammer that was etched with cryptic dwarven runes while the other held a double-headed axe, short handled and of obvious dwarven craft.
"I still don't trust orcs," the axe-wielder commented in the old, old dwarfen tongue.
"You can trust that one well-enough," commented one the thin and greyhaired dwarves. Ginnar, for all that he was the hammer-wielder's younger brother looked older than their father after months of captivity in Nosnra's steading. "Little Rat ran errands for me from the forge to my friends and those rebel orcs. He was so small the giants didn't seem to notice him."
"Those giants," said one of the ex-slaves beside Ginnar, "worse than any orc."
"He's been adopted by Harold," Galar said firmly. He set his warhammer down and rubbed his hands together. As eldest and a priest to boot his word was final. "Be polite."
Around them the strange mix of humans and humanoids began to move. They were in some huge cavern, though to the giants it must have seemed low-ceilinged if wide and round. The magic chain which had transported them here glowed with a nimbus of blue-white light and provided illumination if not warmth.
At the one end of the cave were piles of crates and the walls were hung with the skins of huge animals. A blackened circle showed where a fire was once lit and wood remained in it ready to be kindled into flame. Fuel in the form of cold, dried logs was piled against another wall.
As they watched the huge human ranger withdrew a tinderbox from his belt and started some dry moss aflame inside a little frame of twigs. Quickly a lively dance of fire was growing as he bent and fed it larger and larger sticks and splinters of wood.
The halfling-thief and his apprentice Little Rat, the orc, began to pry open boxes at the back of the cave.
The sylvan-elf Ghibelline approached the dwarves with a smile on his lips. "I told you we would be free one day Ginnar."
"That you did, lad," Ginnar replied with a smile of his own, "But I never believed we'd live to see it."
"We almost didn't," said a deep voice beside them.
The dwarves looked at the figure smaller than all of them and older. Ivo was a gnome from the Kron Hills and a crafter of illusions more powerful than any they had seen before.
"It was good fortune to find you beyond the walls and outside that dungeon of Nosnra's," Ivo continued.
"There is something loose down there even the giants were afraid of," said Serleg, one of the two Hill Dwarves rescued with Ginnar.
"Even that bastard, Fehrig, that flame-haired Fire Giant, came up from the forges and dragged us along with him," added Feg, Serleg's brother.
"I wish that I could have collected the blood-debt that one owes," grumbled Serleg.
"We'd meant to collect from many a giant, especially Nosnra," said Ivo, "But here we are."
"And where is here?" asked Ginnar.
"If what we'd read about that chain is correct," answered Ivo, "We are in the land of the Frost Giants. The great glacier, the home of Grugnur, the Frost Giant Jarl, and we mean to deal with him as we dealt with Nosnra. Only, perhaps, a bit more dead."
The fire only occupied a portion of the large ring left by the giants who had used the cave. It brought light and dancing shadows. A cloud of smoke rose to the ceiling and disappeared above a large animal skin, some hairy mamoth-sized creature as big as a barn. Harald, the old ranger, had found a large passage beyond that turned and twisted, screened by two more hangings before opening to a land of glaring ice and rock beyond. A quick scout of the area showed no tracks so he returned quickly.
The rest of the company, five dwarves, a halfling, a gnome, two elves, three humans and a small orc were sitting around the fire warming themselves and cooking things on sticks.
"So, are we truly in the glacier lands?" asked Nyradir, the dwarven warrior.
"Yes," replied Harald tacturnly. His face was grim as approached.
"I am sorry Harald," said the old elven-mage. Telenstil knew how Harald had longed to stay, even if alone, to hunt down Nosnra or more likely die in the attempt. Only his loyalty to his companions had made him enter the ring of chain when they had enacted its enchantment, bringing from the hills to these cold, cold mountains.
"We will need to keep watch..." Harald began.
"I will go," spoke up Ghibelline. The sylvan elf rose to his feat and Gytha the priestess of St. Cuthbert rose with him.
"I will accompany you," she said and a quick smile touched Ghibelline's lips while across from them a bitter twist flashed across the tall human mage's features and then was gone.
"The ice glares in the sun," warned Harald, "watch your eyes. It can blind."
"I was raised in the same hills as you," Gytha replied, but she squeezed the ranger's arm as she passed him by.
"No matter how bright the sun will not blind or dazzle my eyes," said Ghibelline. "And after the dark of Nosnra's dungeons I still dream of the sun," he said, 'and the stars."
The pair disappeared through the woolly curtain which helped protect the cave from the bitter cold. The fire had already taken the deadly chill from the air and the small mountain of fuel left by the giants promised that it would not run out soon.
"Elves and halflings have the best eyes for the daywatch," said Ivo, "and the dwarves and I can handle the night."
"We have some hours till dark," said Harald. "I will rest now but once it is dark I will set out and find this next nest of giants."
"Not you alone," said Telenstil, "I still have my ring to help us and we have enchantments."
"Galar no trouble, find giants," said Nyradir. "I wish Berronar would let you speak their language all the time," he said to the cleric in their mountain tongue.
"That is no small thing to ask," Galar replied.
"I can speak well enough for the pair of ya," Ginnar told the two dwarves.
"Master elf," Ginnar said to Telenstil both with politeness due an elder and the respect due to a rescuer who saved him from slavery, torture and inevitable death, "My brother be a priest of Berronar, and in the God's good graces, so I doubt not he can find a true path to these giants."
"Yoyur brother, yourself and your companions are very welcome," said Telenstil, "But you need not accompany us..."
"Feg, Serleg and myself be better smiths than fighters, but still we are fighters," replied Ginnar. All three now stood and faced the others. "We go where you go. Your foes are ours," he said putting his thumbs in his belt and meeting the others eyes, "truly, these giants are our foes of old for all our kind, mountain or hill."
Telenstil stood and bowed to the three dwarves. "You are most welcome. We have much to avenge and even more to learn from these giants. For now let us take our ranger's advice and rest. Tonight we will begin."