Chapter 30: Defeat
“Iymrith’s gone down into that hole,” Kilian said, “so we’ll need to do the same.”
“Great,” Roon said sarcastically.
“How about us small ones go through that door?” Flint suggested, pointing to the doorway across the amphitheatre arena. His griffin croaked in agreement. “Uh, you stay here,” he told the creature.
“Quickly, then,” King Hekaton ordered, and the giants, plus Opal and Thia who’d grown with their enlarging potions, crawled through the collapsed ground.
Flint, Evelyn, Kilian and Roon ran for the doorway and descended a dark stairway, lit faintly by Evelyn’s sunblade. They followed a long hallway and entered a chamber with light filtering through. They looked up and saw the roof where it had caved in, and the giants crawling through.
“Oh, hello!” Opal said loudly, waving to them. Her voice echoed through the chamber.
They greeted the giants and scanned their surroundings. There was only one doorway, leading ahead, and it was wide open.
They followed it through, avoiding any notion of stealth due to their numbers and the fact of half their party being unused to their overlarge physiques. They travelled through near darkness for several minutes, listening carefully.
“The small ones should go ahead of us,” Harshnag said. “They have good eyes, and clever minds. Perhaps they will see what we cannot.”
Kilian gave an acknowledging nod to the frost giant, and he, Roon and Evelyn jogged ahead. A few hundred feet ahead, Evelyn spotted a smaller doorway to their right. “Here!” She hissed.
Cautiously, they opened the door and looked inside. “Woah,” Kilian said.
The room’s walls were carved in strange runes. “It’s some sort of language,” Roon said.
“Looks like it’s myths about someone named… Gendar, the Night Serpent…” Evelyn read, holding her glowing sword up for more light.
“You can read that?” Kilian asked in surprise.
“Sure,” Evelyn shrugged, “it’s abyssal.”
“You can speak abyssal?” Roon asked, eyebrows raised.
“Oh, yes,” the girl smiled in her haunting way, “I know all sorts of dark languages.”
“Sure, sure,” Roon muttered uncomfortably. “Well, sounds like it’s not directly relevant to us finding Iymrith. Besides, she wouldn’t fit through this door. Shall we continue?”
They continued down the hallway, until it split into two. One went right, the other left. They waited for the giants to catch up to them, and Hekaton suggested they try the righthand passage, sending the giantess, Vasha, to scout ahead. She returned a minute later and reported a simple sinkhole trap and another doorway leading back up to the amphitheatre.
“Left, then,” Thia said, and they moved ahead, still listening for any signs of the ancient blue dragon lurking somewhere in the caverns.
“Wait!” Evelyn said. “Do you hear that?”
They all stopped and listened. Roon could hear distant murmurings. “Can you hear what they’re saying?” he whispered.
“They’re speaking abyssal,” the girl said, then shook her head, “but it’s too far away. I can’t tell.” She looked around at all of them. “Let me go ahead of you and see what I can find.”
“Wait!” Roon touched her arm and a light passed into her and disappeared. “Okay, good luck.”
The white-haired girl turned and padded away on quiet feet.
They waited in the hallway for several minutes, and the giants grew more uncomfortable, crammed as they were in such a small space. Finally, they saw white hair and Evelyn returned, panting somewhat.
“What did you see?” Kilian asked.
“Snake people,” she said. “There’s a statue of this big snake in some sort of temple room, and the snake people are performing a ritual.”
“When you say ‘snake people’…” Thia started.
“Half snake,” Evelyn gestured to her waist and lower, “half people,” then to her torso and up. “Oh, and some have snakes for arms.” She wiggled hers around in imitation.
“Great,” the wizard said.
“Oh, we’re so big now, Thia,” Opal told the elf, as if that were comfort enough.
“So yeah,” Evelyn added, “there are six of them coming this way.”
“What!” Kilian hissed.
“Did they seem hostile?” Roon asked her.
She shook her head. “The priest was giving a speech. He said something about us being necessary, and that they should let us claim the dragon’s plunder.”
“How does he know we’re here?” Flint demanded.
Evelyn shrugged. “He said it was in the prophecy.”
“Huh,” Roon scratched his head in surprise, “maybe Zephyros was right.”
“Zephyros, the cloud giant?” Orlecto, one of the giants, said in confusion.
“That’s the guy!” Roon said with a flourishing snap of his finger.
“So, we’re not hiding then?” Flint asked for clarification.
“We charge ahead,” Hekaton said, and they all obeyed.
They moved toward the room Evelyn had described but saw no sign of the snake people. They approached a large, square doorway and saw the room.
At the end of the room was a massive green statue of a basilisk with ivory fangs. Beneath the statue was a large pit. In the corners of the room were great piles of sand, but there were still no signs of snake people.
“They must have left,” Evelyn said. “Oh, or they all jumped into that pit. I saw one of them do that. I’m not sure why.”
“Probably some weird ritual sacrifice shit,” Flint said, gripping his axe nervously.
They were about to step inside when they heard the echoing, growling voice of Iymrith. “I KNOW YOU’RE THERE,” the serpentine voice came, though there was no sign of her within the chamber.
“No you don’t!” Opal squeaked.
“COME OUT AND FACE ME,” the dragon hissed.
“Here we go,” Roon said to Kilian, touching his own chest and giving himself a temporary warding spell against lightning.
“YOU TRY TO TAKE MY KINGDOM,” Hekaton shouted, stepping into the room and holding up his greatsword. “YOU DECEIVE MY DAUGHTERS AND SEW EVIL INTO MY FAMILY. YOU WANT TO SEE THE ORDNING SHATTERED. NOW, YOU MUST PAY!”
Then, the giant king roared to his compatriots, and they all rushed forward, Harshnag the frost giant quickly out-striding the rest of them.
Roon saw her, then. Iymrith. He gulped down his potion of enlargement and shot twenty feet in the air. A strange heat moved through all his limbs as they stretched and expanded. A second later, Kilian, Flint and Evelyn drank their potions and stood next to him, flexing their giant hands. Evelyn drew her now-massive swords and ran into the fight, streaking her arms with her own blood as she ran.
“Woah!” Roon exclaimed in a deep voice, flexing his muscles.
“This will make for a great story!” Flint shouted, charging after Evelyn with his axe.
“Good luck, friend,” the large Kilian said, and then he was running too.
Roon took a second to pull aside his waistband and glance down. “Not bad,” he said appreciatively, then ran last into the fight.
Lightning shattered into the stone wall, throwing bits of broken pieces in every direction and clouding the air with dust. Iymrith had crawled in from the darkest corner of the room, sand streaming down her back. She roared and shot more lightning, but the storm giants absorbed the electricity and kept running. Thia’s blade was dancing with light from her bladesong and Evelyn was shooting a sickly green acid from her sword at the dragon. Flint hit her with massive crossbow bolts, and one caught her in the wing joint and broke off painfully. Roon was about to conjure his weapon over her head when she flapped her wings, knocking them off their feet, and flew up. She spun in a quick circle, then dove headfirst into the pile of sand behind her. Her body was swallowed whole.
“WHAT!” Roon exclaimed as they all ran for the pile.
“Blue dragons,” Hekaton spat, kicking at the sand. “They can burrow incredibly fast through sand. This desert is her domain.”
“Move aside,” Kilian said, and they moved back at once. He threw up his hands and the sand started to shake and shift. Then, it swirled into a whirlpool effect, showing them the tunnel through. “Let’s go!” The sorcerer said, and they all jumped in, sliding through the swirling sands. Roon squeezed his eyes shut against the torrent as they rocketed forward, Kilian following lastly.
Roon grunted in pain as his feet hit solid ground and his unusually large legs collapsed under him. He got to his feet and Harshnag was cursing. “COWARDLY BLUE WYRM! WHERE ARE YOU HIDING?”
The room was large enough to fit a dozen more giants and a blue dragon inside, but it was empty except for a few large piles of sparkling gold. This room’s walls looked to have been clawed out, rather than carved by man.
“FIGHT US, IYMRITH!” Roon shouted, impressed by his giant-sized voice. “SHOW YOURSELF, OR—OR I’LL PISS ON ALL YOUR STUFF!”
It was quiet for a moment, so Roon shrugged, pulled it out, and let a warm stream of piss onto the nearest pile of gold.
“Egh, Roon,” Thia said, shielding him from view with her hand, “is that completely necess—ah!”
The walls shook and there were four tiny explosions as four air elementals appeared around them, swirling like tiny angry tornadoes. Three of them bowled into Roon and knocked him over, and he felt his head crack against stone. Everything went blurry and dark for a moment, and he heard shouting and explosions around him.
Then, he blinked a few times and found clarity just as Iymrith burst from another large pile of sand, roared, and lit the cavern with blinding lightning.
Flint shouted, “I BANISH YOU!” while pointing at two of the air elementals, and two identical black vortexes appeared and sucked them in, then vanished.
“Well done, dwarf!” Thia shouted approvingly as she slashed a third with her blade. “Maybe you’re not all stone-headed after all!”
The giants were converging on Iymrith, but Roon suddenly noticed Kilian was standing directly beneath her, bombarded with attacks. A thin, shimmering blue magical shield surrounded his form as Iymrith slammed teeth and claw into it. Finally, she rammed into him with her tail and he was knocked aside. Her attack on the sorcerer left her open to the other giant’s attacks as they tore pieces of the room apart and hurled whatever they could in her direction.
Roon got to his feet and swirled his staff in his hands. “Help me, Cloakshadow!” He said, and a flash of white light shot from his staff and blended with his companions, healing them. He felt his own wounds from where he’d landed roughly.
Flint, in all his dwarvish glory, destroyed the third air elemental with a well-placed swing. The fourth swathed a wide path around them and went for the king, who cut it cleanly in half with his massive blade and dispersed the winds.
“HARSHNAG!” Kilian shouted, getting unsteadily to his feet.
Iymrith turned her blue head toward him again, but Harshnag was running at her from the other direction. The two, who were now nearly the same height, slammed into each other as Kilian grasped Harshnag’s hand and threw him into the air. Harshnag, now defying gravity thanks to the sorcerer’s flying spell, shot over Iymrith’s head and landed on her back. He hefted his greataxe and slammed it into the back of her thick neck. There was a horrible, moaning scream from the dragon as the axe hit a nerve. She started to twitch as Harshnag wrenched the axe free, then slammed it down again, severing the neck cords. They all watched in awe as Iymrith’s face crackled with lightning, her expression going slack. Black smoke billowed from her nostrils and her eyes rolled up into the back of her head as her neck, nearly cut all the way from her body, collapsed, followed by the rest of her.
Harshnag’s flying momentum carried him stumbling back a few paces and he hit the wall, then awkwardly flew down, flicking dragon’s blood from his axe.
They all whooped in victory. “HARSHNAG!” King Hekaton cried proudly. “YOU’VE DONE IT!”
“She shouldn’t have tried to kill me that last time,” the frost giant said, grinning. “Thanks for the boost,” he added, nodding to Kilian, who smiled in return.
“Is that it?” Opal asked, looking relieved, “are we done?”
“We need the stolen sceptre,” Hekaton told her grimly. “It should be around here somewhere.”
“Oh, I can help with that,” the genasi smiled her enlarged smile. She closed her eyes, and her eyelids glowed with purple light, then flew open a moment later. “It’s through that sand, there,” she said, and pointed to where Iymrith had come through. “There’s a sarcophagus. She’s hidden it inside.”
It didn’t take long for Kilian to pull aside the sand, and for the giantess Maneer to retrieve the sceptre without difficulty. She handed it to her king, and he turned to them gratefully. “Thank you, smallfolk. You have saved the ordening.”
They all smiled at each other, allowing the victory to wash over them. “Well,” Kilian said, elbowing Roon in the arm, “they don’t call us The Giant Saviours for nothing.”
The party took their weight in gold and the giants took the rest. Hekaton ordered Orlecto to wrap the dragon’s head for a trophy to bring to their palace. Roon took a small token of the blue dragon for himself—a large, sparkling blue scale. Then, they returned to the amphitheatre and hailed their airship’s captain. Marteen met them in the hot, dry desert air, just above the collapsed ground. “So, you defeated her?” The captain asked, shielding his eyes from the hot sun.
“Easily,” Roon said with a casual wave of his hands.
“Let’s get this gold onto the airship before we’re small again,” Thia said, heaving an overlarge bag over her shoulder.
They piled the gold onto the ship, then returned to Hekaton and his compatriots. Harshnag was again sweating profusely in the heat. “I can’t wait to get back to the mountains and snow,” he proclaimed.
“You have done well,” Hekaton scanned their faces, “all of you. How can we repay your deeds?”
Roon spoke up first. “Just remember that we’re friends,” he suggested. “And allies. It’s good to have big allies.”
King Hekaton gave him a large smile. “Allies,” he chuckled, “with smallfolk. Har! I’m glad to see the day come.” With that, he gave them each a rough handshake, and with every one, they shrunk down to their normal sizes. “Goodbye, Giant Saviours.” Then, he held a conch to his lips and blew into it. They all backed away as the bubble surrounded the giants, including Harshnag, and with a pop, they disappeared.
“I hope he doesn’t mind,” Opal said, pulling their conch out of her bag, “that I still have this one.”
“How else are we going to pop in and say hi to our new friends?” Roon asked happily.
“Now what do we do?” Evelyn asked, looking up at the floating airship.
“That’s a good question,” Kilian agreed, and no one had an answer.
They climbed aboard the ship, weighted heavily with gold, and soared through the desert heat back to familiar lands. Beatrice meowed and rubbed against Roon’s leg, and he let the tressym flutter up into his arms. “Good—ah, boy, I guess. Opal told me I got it wrong.” Beatrice purred. “Look, man, I’m not a very good caretaker,” Beatrice tilted his head at Roon. “How would you feel if I left you with Marteen? You two seem to get along.” The tressym purred again, then licked his cheek and flew out of his arms and landed on the captain’s wheel. He saw Marteen scratch the tressym behind the ear as he steered them ahead.
Roon then walked to the bow of the ship where Kilian stood, his gray-streaked hair blowing back in the hot wind. He leaned against the railing and watched the landscape speed by beneath them. “Well, we did that,” he said to his friend.
“Saved the world,” the sailor nodded.
“Wasn’t so bad,” Roon said.
“No one died,” Kilian agreed.
“Oh, right.” The humour died.
“So, what are we going to do next? Have you thought about it at all?” he asked his friend.
Kilian looked down at him, then let his gaze wander back over the horizon thoughtfully. Roon knew when the man needed time to think, and this was one of those times, so he patted the railing of the ship. “Well, I’m always up for adventure,” and walked away. As he did, he remembered something. He stopped in his tracks. “Oh!”
Roon closed his eyes and cast his mind out for Zephyros, the cloud giant. He found the familiar mind almost immediately. “Hi Zephyros. It’s Roon. Guess what? We found Hekaton, killed an ancient blue dragon, and saved the giant ordening! How about that?”
“Roon!” Came the cheery voice of the cloud giant. “I am not at all surprised by your success. You little folk are so resourceful! Now you know, you were the chosen ones after all.”
Roon grinned to himself, then pulled a deck of marked cards from his coat pocket and went to find Evelyn.