The next morning, five hundred strong including the Merchant’s Guild of Dunan had gathered at the front gates of the giant city. The trek to the mountains of the White North should take three days at the most. It was still very unclear to all the giants and the thieves exactly where the crown was. But, Titan knew, and as he watched his men prepare themselves for the unknown, he thought about the exact moment when he would find the crown; the look of jubilation on the faces of his men. How lucky he had been to find out this information, to come across such an unlikely ally. A good informant had let him in on a secret and he was positive about where the crown was hidden. It was not going to be easy. But, it would be done. It was his birthright.
Sitting in his giant wagon, Damien Nefaria and his blue box dwelled, waiting for the time when the crown would finally be found. Titan came down from his room and entered his chariot, then gave the order to exit the town. He had a dozen wagons filled with weapons and food and many waves of giant soldiers at his command. He watched as the gates of the city creaked open and his first wave of men began filing out of the open path. But no sooner than they had marched one pace away from the city did a huge rush of flame engulf each and every one of them. Titan was shocked at this and wondered who would have the gall to attack his own men in the gates of their own city! The second wave was now drawing forth their weapons, but some of the giants were retreating, back into the inner sanctum of the city.
“Take them out, Gramis,” yelled Croc, who along with the rest of his group had decided to ambush Titan. Luckily, they arrived in town just in time to find the army departing. Aphrodite (not the goddess) had used the last of her strength that day to bless her friends before they went into battle. She had been getting weaker and weaker every day, but was dwindling in even getting herself out of bed in the morning. Lentern was playing a song on his magical lute that was supposed to grant good luck in battle behind the wagon. Luther and Mary Ann were hiding in the wagon. Their newest partner, Jillineath, was trying to cover the ground in a thick sheet of ice, hopefully making the clumsy giants fall to the ground. Then, if any were still standing, she would try and turn their swords and clubs into bundles of flowers. Gramis was the one burning down every walking giant he saw as Croc and Gert stood at the entrance to Gorgaroth with weapons unsheathed and ready to attack. They started to get a little impatient and began running into the large crowd of giants coming towards them. They just kept hacking and slashing and bashing their way through the crowd. They finally came to a break where only one giant stood in their way. He was very familiar to them. It was Tholoff, the giant they had dropped a statue on. He was alive! Although his skin looked decayed, as if he was rotting. Croc took no step backwards. He just turned his sword horizontally and thrusted right into his midsection. Puss and ooze poured out, but it didn’t seem to have any effect on him. He gave Croc a stiff back swipe that sent him sailing backwards into another giant. Gert did a quick roll forward to avoid his giant-sized blade, and then snapped Tholoff’s right leg in half with a sturdy blast from his axe. The giant fell down to the ground, with no moan of pain, and grabbed Gert’s legs. He swiftly hacked the creature’s head off and headed towards the back of the marching lines. He saw the last wagon was a big one, and he knew it held Titan. He rounded to the door of it and stepped halfway inside to see a small person in a tattered cloak holding the blue box they had seen before. There was also the biggest giant he had ever seen sitting beside him. Gert pulled his arms inside and swung for the little creature, but he used his box as a shield. It put a huge split in the box, then he was kicked right in the face by the impressively big giant. It sent him sailing out to the ground. The wagon then started taking off quickly, moving through the mass of giants and out through the gates of the city. Croc, who was maneuvering and fighting off five or so giants at any one time, was losing wind fast because he wasn’t really injuring any of them. He needed a break, so when he saw the wagon coming, he jumped for it and landed on the back rail and let it carry him back out of the city where his own wagon was waiting for him. There was a tiny arrow slit in the wagon, and Croc looked inside to see the man he was looking for: Titan. Croc then stuck his massive blade into the spokes of the wooden wheel. The carriage came to an abrupt halt and Croc pulled heavily on one side as he leapt off. This was the same side Titan was sitting on in the inside, so all the weight tipped the whole wagon. Croc rolled out of harm’s way and ran to retrieve his sword from the fallen wooden beast. He stood there, poised for combat, waiting for Titan to stir. But, there were so many giants still exiting the city, he needed to regroup. Dite made her way out to check on Croc as they heard a faint scream getting closer and closer.
“Ahhhhhh!” It was Gert. He was thrown or knocked all the way over the gate right down in front of Croc and Dite.
“Are you both okay?” She asked, then let out her own scream. Titan clubbed Croc from the side with his massive club and grabbed Dite. Gert got up, but Nefria’s serpent had been unleashed from the box. It came after him as he tried to run to the wagon. He saw Gramis knocked down and a giant tipping over their wagon as the others tried to escape from it. Titan’s wagon was now up and mobile and the army of giants was now ignoring the battle fray they were just involved in. Gert also realized that the snake was no longer chasing him, so he rounded up all of the party and then they went to check on Croc who was just coming to over by the city walls.
“Are you okay? That was a really nasty collision,” Gert asked his friend.
“I’m fine. Where’s Dite?” Croc groggily tried leaning on the wall to stand on his own two feet. Gert assisted him as Gramis and Lentern also held Croc up.
“Those damn oversized oafs took her!”
The wizard was not in good spirits. Suddenly, the ground started trembling around them and the sky began to darken. By this time, all the giants and company were gone and marching off towards the mountains. Just as quickly as it started, the ground stopped shaking and started uprooting itself in small sections. Out of these holes rose zombies, dead humans willed back to the world of the living by an evil power.
“My Zeus! These wretched things have been after me for weeks! Stand back, fire burns them into thin air!”
Gramis jumped back and pulled a long, dark wand from his back and screamed and then raindrop-shaped balls of flame exploded from the tip and hit some of the creatures directly in the chest. But, it didn’t seem to faze them. They just kept walking.
“Huh? Well, that’s a first.”
He stood examining the wand, as Croc unsheathed his sword and ran towards them.
“This is not the right time to get me angry! Maybe the taste of steel will quench their hunger for death!”
He began to hack and slash on multiple creatures all around him. He hit anything that stood close enough to be hit by his blade. Gert followed his lead and jumped into the fray and began attacking all that moved.
“Don’t leave me out!” he said, as he charged forward.
Even Luther got angry enough to wield a small blade.
“Foulest of the foul! This is for Aphrodite!” and he began fighting ferociously against the creatures.
This continued only but a few moments, as the damned corpses were all cut to pieces. The warriors stood and collected their breaths, then without any words, mounted up their friends and pulled the wagon back down the road, away from Gorgaroth.
In the dark basement of the Meeting Hall inside the city, Permion and Gauge were picking the lock on Darius the Brave’s jail cell. Two giant guards lay slumbering on the floor thanks to some of Permion’s magic. Inside the cell, the knight awoke from a nap, looking quite unaware of his surroundings.
“Darius, come, we need to make a hasty retreat,” Permion said as he pulled out one of his curly hairs from his head. He straightened it in his fingers and it seemed to look like a lock pick.
“Give me that,” Gauge demanded as he quickly slid it in the hole and back out, opening the barred door.
“Well, you don’t meet many warriors that can pick a lock, Master Demagauge,” Permion said, looking q quite impressed.
Darius moved out of the cell, expressing his great joy for being released.
“I can’t thank you enough, both of you. When my constable hears of your good deed, you will be highly rewarded.”
“That can come later. Now, we must sneak out of this stinking city.”
Gauge lead them back up the stairs and out onto the street without being seen, or at least noticed. Cuttice came up to them with two horses and she saddled up with the knight, as Gauge and Perm rode together.
“We make for the Cave,” Gauge said, looking at Cuttice.
They rode through the city streets, barely looked at by all the giants who were left behind, mostly politicians and store clerks anyways. As they arrived at the gates, they found a most peculiar sight. Two men and a dwarf fighting a horde of zombies!
Perm looked over and recognized one of the men.
“Isn’t that the warrior that bested you in one shot, Sir Darius?” He asked.
“I don’t remember. What in Hermes are you speaking of?” Darius replied.
Gauge looked in his hind sight and saw a lone giant, gate guard, he would guess, making his way out to the scene. Gauge quietly crept off his horse and ran back to the far corner behind the walls, as his other three companions watched the fighting in front of them.
“Sir Darius, don’t you have the power of the gods or a holy weapon to defeat this abomination?” Perm said, asking another question he believed he already knew the answer to.
Then, a young lady caught the magician’s roving eyes. She was in a white dress and she was stunningly beautiful. Perm jumped down from his horse and began making his way over to the wagon. But, as he did, something struck him in the back, something rather hard. He turned around and saw a severely decayed head lying at his feet.
“Ahhhh!” he shrieked, running behind the wagon.
“Don’t worry, that’s the last one!” Croc said.
Then, from the gates, an armed giant guard walked up towards them, club in hand.
“All of you are under the arrest of the great Titan!” He proclaimed.
“So, arrest us already!” Croc shouted back, challenging him.
“Fine with me!” and he came towards them, but only made it a step or two. He let out a loud bellow, then fell to one knee. He was holding the back of his neck, as Gauge jumped down from his back. The giant gasped a last breath of air and fell face first to the road. Gauge jumped back on his empty horse, then rode over to Cuttice and whispered something in her ear. She slid over onto the back of Gauge’s horse and off they galloped, northward, leaving behind two of their companions. Perm didn’t seem to notice as he was being convalesced by his lady in white, one Mary Ann, priestess of Aphrodite. Croc looked at Gert and said, “Let’s tip this wagon over and catch up.”
Gert nodded as Darius dismounted and approached Crocarius.
“Master Crocarius, I need to have a word with you.”
“Kind knight, if you wish to contest me again, we will have to make it quick. We’re sort of in a rush.”
“No, it is not that. Let me accompany you. That priest that was with Titan is wanted for murder and I intend to arrest him.”
“That is very just of you. Now help us tip our wagon over and you may take the reigns.”
“Agreed. And yes, I would like a rematch when all of this is over.”
They tipped the wagon back over and Crocarius loaded up all nine of the travelers into their wagon. It was going to be a cramped ride, but they would need the warmth of others to travel into the blistery White North.
A fire blazed in the domain of underbrush that grows all along the stony cliffs above it. It crackled and illuminated the faces of two weary travelers in front of it. One was wearing only a small section of treated hide with stitches in it. The other was wearing a dark, heavy robe that concealed his body, all but his aged face, which was wearing two weeks worth of beard. This man was born with the wind and the sun and the snow in his veins, built from the Earth Mother herself, so he felt no discomfort from heat or cold. He turned to look at his friend, whom he’d never shared a word with, yet had come to trust with his life. Dysia, the wise dryad of the Silver Wood, had told Sash of his importance. She knew his eyes and ears would be sought out by greedy men with evil ambitions. She had told Sash to watch him, and he had for years, as different animals. Hawkeye had always caught his trail and befriended him in many different forms. After a while, he knew that Hawk could sense his-self inside these bodies, and a friendship had grown from that. The decision to meet Dysia was her’s, as Sash knew the day would come. He felt something for her, respect maybe. He enjoyed her company, and cherishes the time he spends with her. As a dryad, she is confined to her pool in the Silver Wood, but she controls all there. That is why she’s allowed the Tiantans to reside within its heavenly keep. She knew that within the crown, the souls of ancients had seeped into it, and that for some reason, Shardic’s spirit was connected to them. Thus, believing that Hawkeye could locate it if concentrated on the task. Sash laid his head down on a roundish, grey stone and closed his eyes, trying to get some sleep before they moved towards the caves tomorrow. He glanced over at Hawkeye as he was now drifting off as well. Actually, he did drift off into slumber. He was dreaming of his tribe’s great hunt every year. It was a celebration of the chain of life in nature. He was now remembering his wife as something startled him out of his peaceful state. He felt something next to him. He opened his eyes a little and saw white fur nuzzled beside his hip. He sat up a little and a rabbit face peered up at him. Only this face had a horn spiraling out from its forehead. The rabbit jumped slightly and squeaked.
“Splink!” it said.
Hawk embraced the small creature and picked him up in his hands. His feet had long hair coming off of them, and he had sharp little claws on the ends of his feet. Hawkeye had seen many rabbits before, but none with horns before. The rabbit jumped onto his chest and waddled up to his face and spoke again.
“plink?” muttered the savage, unsure of what language he had tried to utter.
“splink, splink, splink, splink!”
The rabbit jumped around for joy at the mention of this word. He jumped down from Hawk’s chest and started hopping away.
“Splink, splink!” he chirped again. He was seemingly trying to lead his new friend somewhere.
Hawk caught on to the clue and stood up and watched as the rabbit hopped along the trail. The bunny was leading him up into a rock face that was very hilly. The bunny, still jumping, could cling to the rock with his long claws. Hawk was amazed by this, as he had never seen a rabbit with this capability. The rabbit had only climbed about four feet where two large walls almost connected, except for a slight chasm in the wall. He hopped inside as Hawk had to slither in on his side at a very vulnerable position. The bunny walked into a dark corner of this enclosed space and turned seemingly into the rock itself. As Hawk came near, he could see it was a sharp turn around the wall. There was a small light coming in from the sky that lit up a grass patch inside this mountainous cavern. There was blood collected all over the solid ground. The bunny was now saying “Splink” over and over again, but in a worried tone. Hawk could now see similar creatures lying all over the grassy area. Some were only remains and some were only puddles. Hawk was bubbling inside and let out a great cry that vibrated inside the acoustic rock. He grasped the surviving rabbit and tucked him into a pouch on his belt, barely fitting. He turned to leave and came face to face with a black-furred wolf, grinning, salivating with white fangs, stained pink. He was ready to feed. Hawk saw the hunger in the animal’s eyes, and he knew what strength he had in his heart and he knew that he may have to use all of it to fend off this creature. They watched each other, slowly moving in circles, studying the other’s body movements.
The wolf lunged in and the sheer size of it alone put Hawk on his back. The wolf was snapping at Splink in Hawk’s pouch, but he was doing his best to hold back the beast’s jaws. Its hot breath stunk and he tried to keep as tight of a grip as he could. Then, Splink jumped out of the pouch and spike the wolf’s jaw and it reared back. Hawk scooped up the bunny and got to his feet, back peddling, as the wolf leaped at him again. He was ready this time and he moved to the side and flung the wolf at the cave wall, using his own momentum against him. Hawk unsheathed his spear and charged the wolf this time. He stabbed it in the front fore leg, but the wolf seemed not to mind, biting into Hawk’s arm. He had to release his grip on the weapon, but the wolf was right after him. It jumped on his back and knocked him over again ripping off his only stitch of clothing. Gashes and rips were all over his legs as the beast climbed up further on his back. Hawk tried to turn over and it would take all his strength to move his upper body with a two hundred pound wolf on it, trying to bite him. Hawk pushed with all the power in his body and did it! He turned himself over and again had to fight to hold the jaws clamped. It was a struggle he was eventually going to lose, so he pulled one hand off to use it, but as he did, the wolf clamped down and ripped right through two of his fingers. As this happened, Hawk, biting back the pain, jabbed his thumb into the wolf’s right blue eye and pushed it into his head. It was squishy to feel and blood rinsed from the socket. The wolf howled and Hawk with his legs heaved the wolf over his back into the other rock hard cave wall. This time, the wolf hit and scurried on the ground before regaining his footing. He quickly leaped back at Hawk, but he was rolling back over to his spear. He picked it up and lifted it into a defensive position as the wolf leapt at him, and dug himself throat first into the sharpened tip. It sunk onto the weapon a good six inches, but still kept trying to bite at whatever got in the path of its jaws. Hawk pushed the spear even deeper and began twisting it until the wolf stopped moving and slumped over the spear. He ejected the wolf’s body and fell to the ground, bloodied and bruised. The rabbit began “splinking” again and Hawk looked up to see a wolf that stood on three foot legs and had a head bigger than his torso. It had white and grey fur and had a group of six more wolves, all as vicious looking as the one he had just killed. Hawk stood up with spear in hand and Splink in his pouch, ready to die for that small animal. The wolves grinned and showed their sharp teeth and then the head wolf stood up on its hind legs straight up in the air and raised a paw, as if telling them to stop. Then, its lips moved and he spoke in common tongue.
“I know of you, Shardic. Your tracking skills are known all over this land. But, your spirit and ferocity was just proven, and will not be soon forgotten among us.”
The wolf’s fur began to dissipate and flesh grew in as wolf limbs grew into the arms and legs of a human being. His back grew into a long silver man and his skin turned a dark red. His face took on the features of a dog with a pudgy nose and wide eyes. He had patches of hair all over his massive frame. He stood at nearly seven feet tall and wore leather armor with designs etched on it. He carried a massive hatchet in his right hand.
“We are the ancients, destined and cursed to scour the land of evil or good and either bless the world or curse it for another one thousand years. But, we are also wolves and we must feed on our brethren animals. That is the way of the world. You have killed one of our pack, which I cannot forgive. Now, you’re indebted to us. We know of the giant Titan and his plan. It will succeed. It has been foreseen. You must retrieve it when it rests in his care. Then, your debt will be repaid.”
He looked down at the rabbit and stroked his face.
“What do you call him?” he asked.
“Spl-ink,” Hawkeye spoke, this time with more assurance.
“I am Mako. Surely, you have heard of me. Our time to roam this land is nearing at an end. But, we will be there to take the Tamer of Althuith when you retrieve it.”
He acknowledged them both and they collected their dead member’s body and left Hawkeye and Splink alone in the cave where so much blood was spilled. Hawk said a prayer of rest for the dead in Tiantan and took his new friend back to where Sash was still perfectly sleeping.
A wagon rode over the light cover of snow on the ground, preceded by almost five hundred strong marching giants. The ground literally seemed to shake all over as this massive amount of weight hit the ground every second, moving across the countryside. Titan and his small army were now at the base of the mountain path that led into the caves. Titan, inside his cozy wagon, with his captive priestess and demented sorcerer was waiting for a moment. And it came, very soon after he had expected it. He heard some of his men screaming that an enemy was approaching. They would be wrong.
Coming through the mountains was a large squadron of about three hundred men, from beyond the White North, high above sea level. These were the Dunlanders, scavengers and foragers of the North. They were a group of bandits, warriors, and murderers with now home or wealth, only what they steal or take from their victims. Their numbers have grown over the years, and many men come and go. None are to be trusted, but as Titan has found out, their services can be bought. They have had many ruthless leaders over the years, but their current one was possibly the cruelest ever to head the group. His name was Siphon and he had flaming red hair. He wore thick leather armor with spikes attached to it in random places. One of his eyes was even colored red by the gods, which every one says is because of his thirst for blood spill. He carries a massive thick leather whip, also with spikes attached to the tip. All who have seen it in battle are now dead. He has been paid to be in league with Titan on his quest to dominate the Dunan. He alone approached the wagon and pulled the door open. Titan, looking anxious, exited his moving throne and greeted the barbarian.
“Greetings, my merciless minion. I am glad we could be business partners.”
“And what business would that be?”
“The business of taking over the world. Hahahahaha!”
“As long as half of it is mine. Hahahahahaha!” Titan gave Siphon a long look and then they both shared a long laugh.
“So, you know where it is?” Siphon asked the giant king.
“Yes, yes, don’t worry about that. We need men to search for it once we’re inside and men to keep watch for traps or other security measures. I expect a small amount of trouble.”
One of Siphon’s men walk up to him, looking worried.
“Sir, we have reports of something….” His voice stopped speaking, and as quickly as the wind, an arrow was embedded in his back. Then, a flurry of arrow’s all streamed in to the group. Titan knew who it was.
“I need thirty of my best men to follow us to the caves!” Titan told a nearby commanding giant officer.
“And thirty of mine, as well!” Siphon shouted.
“The rest of you, attack!”
Titan and Siphon quickly ducked inside the wagon. Through the window on the side, Titan could see a wave of Elvin archers coming across the hills, from beyond the river banks. Their traitor had one-upped then, and now the elves were going to get the crown! Titan would make Demagauge pay!
“Driver, move us faster!”
As they drove away from the looming battle, they could hear the pelting of arrows against the huge wagon and they could see dozens of arrow tips poking through the wood covering the inside cabin. Aphrodite lay on the seat; still drugged from Nefaria and his poison. He was still holding his blue box, waiting for the moment when he would unleash him inside the cave. It would be the moment that Titan held up the Tamer high in the air in victory. Then, he would claim what should rightfully be his!