Hup climbed. This was pretty easy for the lizard. The slope had plenty of pebbles and cracks that made good footholds, and the air, Hup tasted, was salty but pretty clean for a cave. It would have been dark, but for the glowing feather in his master’s cap. Hup’s master, a halfling named Gigas, was very clever. He cast a light spell on his hat, so they could see, and he magic armor around them both, so small rocks wouldn’t fall on them.
But what was this? The light was getting dimmer! Hup looked behind him to see that Gigas had stopped climbing up the slope. Silly master! They could communicate via emotions, and Hup sensed fear from the halfling. That was unusual! His master was usually fearless! Surely there were no predators around here, so close to the Great One. Was his master afraid of falling?
Two compact missiles of pure force slammed into the blind snake feet below. It had been poking its head out a hole, and it reeled. Gigas hadn’t recognized its markings, but guessed its bright colors meant danger. The snake, bloodied but not finished, snapped at Gigas’ knees. The vicious fangs pierced Gigas’ mage armor and scratched his skin. Another two magic missiles, and the snake went down. Hup crawled back down the slope to see what was going on, and Gigas pulled the motionless snake off his knee with trepidation. He didn’t feel poisoned. The bit mark hurt pretty badly, but didn’t look deep. “Did he get me, Hup?” asked Gigas shakily. The lizard stuck out its tongue. Gigas stood there for about 10 minutes, waiting to see if he felt sick, until at last the impatient lizard scapered up onto his master’s leg, up his chest, and onto his ruddy face. “All right, all right! Let’s keep going, then.”
They made it up the rocky little hill, and followed the passage farther into the dark, winding cave tunnel. Gigas had noticed how excited Hup was today, preferring to crawl ahead a bit instead of riding on Gigas’ shoulder, as usual. “Looking forward to seeing your friend again?” he joked. Hup kept crawling over the rock, at the forward edge of the light shining from Gigas’ hat as he walked behind. “I know, he’s practically a second cousin to you,” Gigas went on. “If you were just a little bit bigger and could breathe fire, you too could live in a fabulous cave like this one!” Hup’s tail swished as it dragged along behind him.
It was almost a month after Gigas’ encounter with the bronze dragon, Bosarius. In retrospect, his first reaction upon getting home had been childish: He went to tell his mother. Gigas’ mother, a middle aged pillar of the community named Megan, was a sorcerer like him. She confirmed everything the dragon had said, which was theoretically his reason for running to her, although deep down he knew he would have wanted her anyway. Her disagreement with the dragon, which had meant she was no longer speaking to him, was nothing more than a minor quarrel to the ancient dragon. Megan hugged her boy when she learned the dragon evidently intended to continue his friendship with their family, but refused, at first, to give Gigas permission to attempt the same cave that had stymied her and her owl familiar. It had taken a month’s worth of cajoling, arguing, and pleading to get her to relent, for Gigas was a young man who would not openly defy his family’s will, even if he could get away with it.
The dank path through the cave opened up onto a chamber with a ceiling so high, Gigas could barely see it. Before him was another upwards slope, but this one was so steep that the only way to climb it was a very narrow, zigzagging path to the top, which was out of sight. Standing at two foot ten, Gigas couldn’t even see what was at the top of the cliff, apart from two very large, unstable-looking stone pillars standing close together. There was also some light trickling in from somewhere beyond the top of the climb. “Maybe the path continues up there,” he suggested to Hup, “or maybe it doesn’t.” Hup had no advice. “I say we go,” Gigas pressed on. Hup’s looked back at Gigas, blinked his big eyes, and the pair of them started to climb the winding path.
About a quarter way up the path, Gigas thought he heard some kind of moan coming from high above. “Must be the wind,” he thought.
About halfway up, Gigas looked up to see that the pillars tops met at the ceiling. “Didn’t look like they were touching before,” he thought.
About three quarters of the way up, Gigas’ foot caught in a round and golden piece of jewelry on the ground. “What’s this… a bracelet?” he thought. “Who leaves jewelry lying around a cave?” He put it in his pocket without really thinking about it.
Just before the top of the hill, Gigas heard the unmistakable and grossly magnified sound of a wet, sloppy kiss coming from above.
Startled, he looked up. The things he had thought were huge stone pillars were not pillars at all… they were giants. And they were just breaking a kiss.
“My little darling. Run away with me,” said the male giant. He had blue skin and a short gray beard, which the dim sunlight coming from behind them made look like a storm cloud. He was wearing a fine purple cloak-like garment, a diadem in his hair, and a ring on each finger except for one.
“Oh, Nirg… I can’t. Agor will kill us if he sees me with you!” mewled the female giant. How the other giant could call her little was beyond Gigas’ comprehension. She had on a necklace larger than he was, not to mention earrings he could have sat in. She was easily five times Gigas’ height, and the male giant, Nirg, was about another Gigas taller than that.
“Not if we kill him first!” said Nirg, suavely. She giggled, and Gigas almost lost his balance from the reverberating sound. He was at the last bend before reaching the plateau at the top, and even from his current position, he couldn’t see whether the path continued on or not. He realized that if he climbed up the last part of the slope, instead of walking up the last leg of the path, he could possibly slip by the giants and see whether this was, indeed, the path.
“Stay here, Hup,” he whispered. The lizard crept behind a rock and tried to stay out of sight, although it wasn’t easy, being green. Trying to find solid handholds on the rocky slope, Gigas started to climb. He made it up a foot, two feet, three feet, four feet and he fell backwards with a thump. Something clinked loudly several times, and he looked down to realize that the bracelet was bouncing down each level of the winding path and making rather a lot of noise.
“What was that?” said Nirg sharply, looking over the edge of the slope and seeing the shine of gold at the bottom. “Grakka, is that your ring?” Then his eyes moved up the slope, and found Gigas.
Classes are slowing down my writing speed, and I’m cutting this into two chapters. Will Gigas defeat the murderous giants, or will they eat the halfling and have his lizard for dessert? Stay tuned!