“Callindra, I need you up here.” Tryst said. They had stopped after walking for perhaps a quarter of a candle-mark, the smell of fresh air was getting stronger. Callindra squeezed past the others and came to where Tryst was frowning at a closed door.
“I think it’s locked but I can’t tell. I don’t want to break the latch by trying to turn it without unlocking it first.” He said, “Can you take a look for me?”
She laid her hand on the door, leaning forward to look at the keyhole. The hooded lantern Vilhylm handed to her illuminated the lock, but she set it down and shuttered it. Pale moonlight shone through the hole briefly and then went out. The fresh air was briefly fouled by a whiff of rotting meat.
Stepping swiftly back, Callindra gently pushed the others back as well. “Something is out there, and I don’t think it’s friendly.” She said in a low voice. “I could smell rotten flesh, but I’m not sure if it’s undead or just has bad hygiene.”
“Is the door locked?” Tryst asked.
“I don’t know, I didn’t want to stay close enough to be within reach.” She said.
“Within reach of what?” Cronos asked.
Before she could respond, the door was slammed in with terrible force. It shattered the brickwork of the tunnel and half tore from its hinges and a huge hand reached in, groping for something to crush. With a cry, Callindra sprang forward and hacked the last knuckle off the middle finger with a blur of shining steel.
The hand was jerked out of reach swiftly and Callindra ran after it. “This might be our only chance to escape!” She shouted, not looking to see if her brothers were following.
Once outside, she dove to one side, tucking and rolling to come up in a fighting crouch. The others hadn’t followed and the giant didn’t seem to notice that she’d escaped. It was a massive thing, all ropy muscle stretched taunt over heavy bones. As she watched, it bent to reach its uninjured hand into the opening again.
She set her jaw, waited for her moment and ran towards the thing, ducking beneath the giant’s arm while whipping Brightfang in a wicked arc that cut the arm to the bone. The creature stumbled backward, arm hanging uselessly and mouth gaping in a silent roar of pain. Callindra’s triumph was short lived as its other hand slapped her aside like a bug. Brightfang flew from her hand as the blow fractured her left arm and several ribs.
Callindra gritted her teeth and swung her right arm in a wide arc even as she spun through the air to land on her feet, sliding to a stop with a gentle guiding gust of wind. The Mithril chain glittered in the moonlight as the motion of her arm brought Brightfang spinning in a wide circle that ended with the sword burying itself in the monster’s back.
The giant turned eyes burning with abyssal flame upon her and reached up to grab the chain with its good hand. She could feel the roots of Jorda’s Gift growing through the flesh of her arm to wrench the bone back into place and the pain drove her to her knees.
“HELP YOU IDIOTS!” She screamed, hoping to galvanize her brothers into action and tried to yank on the chain hard enough to dislodge Brightfang from where he was embedded in the giant’s back.
An explosion of light from within the tunnel was followed by a blast of fire that bathed the monster’s legs. Cronos leaped out in its wake, his twin swords flashing in the dying light of the fire. Vilhylm leaped completely over the younger man, stabbing his bone spear into the giant’s leg shouting a harsh battle cry. Tryst calmly walked forward, shield shining before him and hammer in his right hand.
Ignoring her brothers, the giant yanked on the chain, pulling her through the air by the shackle on her right wrist. Callindra twisted in the air, trying to control the path of her flight and only by sheer luck and the blessing of the winds managed to swing sideways far enough to wrap the chain around it instead of being deposited directly into the giant’s mouth.
A sickening crunch sounded just next to her and Callindra saw that the giant had bitten down on the chain instead of her body. Shards of shattered teeth were falling from its mouth as it shook its head in renewed pain and anger. She managed to wrap her gloved hand around the chain and hang on as she was flung about. The chain flung from its mouth and she swung briefly before Brightfang pulled free of the things’ flesh and she landed, rolling and painfully jarring her injuries.
Somehow knowing exactly where he would be, Callindra put out her right hand and caught her sword by the hilt as he flew toward her. Standing with a wince at the pain in her ribs she took in the battle scene. Working with precision, Cronos and Vilhylm flanked the monster while Tryst stood in front of it, the light shining from his shield seeming to confuse it. When her brothers ran forward in a rush on either side, she struck out as well, summoning a single mighty blade of wind to slice across the giant’s back. Their combined attack brought the monster crashing down, flattening some small trees with its death throes.
“We have to go.” Tryst said, extinguishing the light on his shield. “There are more of them. I can… feel them out there.”
Callindra looked at him, a flicker of concern flashing across her face. She thought she saw a flicker of emerald green in his eyes, but it was gone so fast it might have been her imagination. The lingering doubt that she thought she’d banished returned. Had he been infected that night? It seemed impossible that he had been able to fight it off for months. Jorda had even let him enter her realm and he hadn’t shown any signs.
A crashing sound in the undergrowth snapped her back to the current problem. “Tryst, I can’t run very far with these broken ribs.” She said, “Can you patch me up just enough that we can escape?”
“No time.” Vilhylm said, staring off into the trees.
“He’s right Callindra.” Tryst said, frowning at her as though she had gotten injured on purpose.
With a groan, she gritted her teeth and followed Vilhylm as he led them away from the walls. Behind them, the roar of battle erupted. Callindra shuddered at the sounds of men and women dying in the night while they fled. It didn’t seem right. It didn’t seem fair. But they needed to complete their mission or else more cities would fall. Somehow she was hopeful that Denoria would fight off this invasion. That huge dragon hadn’t been circling the city, and it was the real harbinger of destruction.