Read the previous chapter here.
Nirg the giant acted quickly. He bent down, over the edge of the cavern plateau, and looked down at the steep slope, with its winding, ridged path upwards. As he bent he hit his head on a stalactite, and swore so loudly that the cave shook. He got his focus back in about a second, and his enormous arm shot down the slope to make a grab for the halfling. The huge fingers closed around the helpless halfling, and Nirg pulled his fist back up.
“All right, who are you?” he said, holding his fist to his mouth. He opened it slightly to get a better look at the intruder, but nothing was there save for his palm! He looked down again, and there still stood the halfling, gaping up silently. “Pah! An illusion!” said Nirg.
The real Gigas crouched behind a rock that shielded him from view of the giants. He only hoped that they wouldn’t come down and look for him, because he was completely exposed to the bottom of the slope.
“It’s just a halfling,” said Grakka, Nirg’s giantess lover. “Don’t get all worked up,” she said, putting a massive arm around his neck.
Nirg looked softly upon Grakka. “But who knows how long he was down there?” he whispered to her. Of course, his whispers were so loud that Gigas could hear them clearly. “What if he heard everything? What if he goes and tells your husband about us? Agor’s the chieftain now! He could liquefy us!”
Gigas was not at all likely to walk into a colony of giants and start spreading rumors about the chief’s wife, and he said so. His voice, smaller than theirs, still echoed around the chamber, masking his position. He hoped. “I won’t tell a soul, I swear it!”
“You won’t tell anyone when you’re dead!” roared Nirg. Gigas couldn’t see it, but the 18 foot giant was putting on war gloves, and picking up a morningstar which was enormous, even for him. The weapon was as large as a human, and Gigas was only half as large as that!
Grakka interrupted. “Don’t trouble yourself, Nirg.” Gigas let out a low breath, thanking Yondalla and whatever the god of giants was, for the good fortune. “I’ll take care of him myself,” the giantess went on.
With that, an enormous boulder came soaring through the air, aimed right at the rock hiding Gigas. And the boulder was larger than that rock. Stone collided into stone and exploded, forcing Gigas to dart out or be impaled by flying shards of stone. As he ran for new cover he pointed his finger at the giantess, and a dart of magical energy flew out and hit the giantess in the shin. To her, it felt like a sharp pebble. She went for another boulder, but by the time she was ready to lob it at the halfling, he was out of sight again.
“He couldn’t have gotten far,” said the male giant, now fully prepared to squash Gigas like a bug. “More likely he’s hiding. I’m going down to see.”
“I’ll cover you,” said his lover, holding a boulder above her herculean shoulder.
“Never fear. I believe I can handle one little squishy,” he chuckled. “No, I’ll go clobber it to death, my love.” He kissed her on the cheek, causing her to laugh, and then he started down.
BOOM. There was a massive step. Gigas, lying on his stomach on the rocky ridge of the path, felt the vibration of that step in his bones. It felt like an earthquake, even at the bottom of the slope. That was it for a long moment, before at last the tremor repeated. BOOM. One step closer to his doom. Nirg was taking his time, and Gigas was running out of it.
This, he knew, was not a battle he could win. Gigas was farther from home than he had ever been, with nobody to ask advice, and in peril of losing his life. His blood was running hot. BOOM. In times like these, Gigas instinctively wanted to attack, attack, attack until the threat perished under the weight of his magic. He liked coming up with strategies when he knew he was getting himself into trouble, but there was no time for that now, not in the midst of — BOOM. Coming up with plans in the heat of the moment was too hard! He wished he could just throw magic missiles at the problem until it went away, like he did with the poisonous snake. The snake! “Hup, come here, quick!” whispered Gigas, picking his familiar lizard up and whispering instructions.
BOOM. Nirg moved carefully, for a giant. Rather than follow the winding path down the slope, he was stepping down each ridge of the path like a staircase. He held his gargantuan morningstar out for balance. Some of these steps were tricky, but he was almost at the end. Just then, coming from below, there was a shout, a frantic incantation, a screech of agony, and then a soft thump. Nirg wanted badly to know what was happening, and decided to take the last two “stairs” at once: BOOM.
There, lying on the path, was the halfling. He lay on his stomach, unmoving. Dead? Or another illusion? The giant reached out with his gloved hand and gently picked up the halfling, who was as limp as a rag doll and definitely not an illusion. But there wasn’t any blood that he could see. He brought the body to his face, examined it, and took an experimental sniff. Something smelled… toxic.
And then something small, bright, and quick sprang from the halfling’s neck onto Nirg’s glove. In the dark, it was hard to make out something so much smaller than himself, but there was no mistaking those colors. The hissing thing was slithering all around his glove, and it was colored in dangerous blues and oranges. “Aaargh!”
“What is it!” called down the giantess.
“Poison! Poison!” Nirg dropped the halfling at once. Now he knew how the poor thing died, and that murderous serpent was climbing from the fingers, over the palm of Nirg’s glove, and heading straight for his exposed forearm! He’d heard all the stories of the poison creatures of the cave, of how their venom could fell even his enormous kind. He’d relied on those rumors to keep others away from the cave while he and Grakka had their romantic rendevous. To find out those stories were true! But Nirg was not going to become the next cautionary tale.
With a mighty flap of his wrist, Nirg let the glove fall off him, serpent and all. It landed on the dead halfling. The orange and blue creature hissed and tried to climb onto the giant’s boot. So Nirg scampered, as fast as a giant can scamper, back up the staircase-like ridges to the plateau and the exit to the giant’s camp.
“My love! Are you all right?” cried Grakka.
“I’m fine. Our secret is safe,” said Nirg, embracing his lover once again.
“But this cave isn’t! Nirg, let’s go back.”
“To my place?” he suggested. Grakka giggled, and the two adulterous giants left, arm in arm.
“Hup… you were brilliant!” Gigas picked up his lizard with both hands so he could speak face to face, and stood up. Hup licked Gigas with his forked tongue. “You’re too kind,” beamed Gigas. He removed the foul spell of poison from the air and restored Hup to his characteristic green, by ending the Prestidigitation spell. It was the first spell he had ever learned, limited to such minor tricks, and it had just saved his life. “Shall we continue?” He placed Hup on his shoulder where he belonged, straightened his feathered cap, and walked back up the slope. There on the right was the giant-size opening to the camp, and there on the left was the path that lead on to the dragon’s lair. Delighted, Gigas took the left path.