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    The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga Part 1
    Posted on Thu, April 23, 2020 by LordCeb
    JasonZavoda writes "The Story of Giants and the Adventurers Come to Oppose Them

    The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga

    He awoke with a start. Pushing the heavy fur-cover aside and sitting up he wiped the beads of sweat from his thick brow with the back of his hand. Something was not right, he could feel it in the marrow of his bones. Placing his feet upon the cold, wooden floor, worn smooth by years of use, he cradled his head in his hands and listened.

    At first he heard nothing, stray thoughts and the ghosts of dreams still inhabiting his mind, then, the breathing of his bear and the beating of his own heart. The walls were thick; the boles of ancient trees trimmed of branches but set in place still bark-covered and green. They had a voice of their own, creaking and groaning, as the wind, the weather and time wore at their very hearts. Outside, beyond the wall of his chamber, a hound bayed then a chorus began as the pack joined in. He could hear a yelp of pain and a shout, loud and commanding, then silence.

    All seemed well. No stirrings or misplaced sounds, yet his unease did not cease. He was bound to this place, born upon this very hill when this had been his father's steading, Tofig the Proud, a thegn of great renown. Now the steading was his, and he was chieftain over a dozen thegns, and these walls, the stones and the very oerth of this hill itself were a part of him. There was a presence, a wrongness, it twisted in his bowls and allowed him no rest.

    Nosnra, Chief of Thegns, Master of Nidaros, greatest of all hill giant steadings (Trondheim in the tongue of the Frost Giants), balanced on one foot in the cold dark of night. He wavered and nearly fell as his other foot caught in the leg of his hide trousers. Somewhere nearby he had his boots, they took some time finding; one was under the bed and the other was under the bear. Ursoth, his pet bear, was slow to rouse.

    * * *

    The hall was cold, the great fireplace in the eastern wall had long since gone out. A cool flow of air came from the passage to the north where it lead to an outside door opening on the yard where the hounds ran and played. He had not sat in his hall this past night, there had been, instead, a great feast, then a private meeting. Zervan, the ambassador from the Cloud Giant Confederation, a more indecisive, stuck-up, self-important bunch he had never known, had talked until Nosnra was sure his tongue would fall out. A twisted, lying, weaselly tongue at that. Those giants had more than their heads in the clouds, but some, it seemed, might be talked down to oerth. He shook his head. Dealing with Zervan was always unpleasant. Just thinking about it made his head ache and throb. Ursoth gave a growl of sympathy, aware of his master's distracted mood and pained expression. Nosnra reached down and patted the bear's back and smiled, but it did not last. The feeling of unease returned like a recurring movement at the edge of vision which cannot be discerned no matter how quickly you turn to catch it. The mere thought of a fire warmed him, but he felt a tug of worry that there was some action he should be taking, and was not.

    No time for a fire. Warmth from action. He would walk through the corridors of the steading himself. That eased him a little. The wall around the fireplace was festooned with skulls, skins and shields of defeated foes. Nosnra ran a hand across them. He tussled the hair of a fierce rival chieftain whose body lay among the charnel pit in the dungeons below, but whose head shouted an eternal scream of silent defiance. He pinched the nose of a proud dwarven lord, the look of shocked disbelief set forever on his face, and carefully fingered the razor's edge of an enchanted sword belonging to some forgotten knight.

    Why could he not set himself in motion? Some dread foreboding nagged at him, but the smallest distraction served to pause him in his course. With a shout he could raise his people from their slumber, but his pride stayed his voice. What would he have them do; Chase the night-phantoms away like a child in the creche crying in the dark? Nosnra banished such thoughts. He gathered his will and heeded the warning which called out from within him. Letting Ursoth lead, he would follow the bear's inclination, at least for the moment. They left through the western arch heading for the great hall. Ursoth no doubt would take them to the kitchens and the promise of a midnight snack. 

    ***

    The Great Hall was empty, though it had rung with peals of hearty laughter, choruses of song and the clash and clatter of good-natured rough-housing late into the night. Now an icy wind blew in from the wide ventilation slots in the roof above the central firepit; a massive circle of stone filled with bones and ash.

    Nosnra's footsteps echoed across the hall as he followed Ursoth's snuffling path. The bear padded slowly on all fours nosing among the sawdust liberally thrown over the floor to soak up spilt ale as well as spilt blood, and stopped from time to time to swallow some tidbit left by the now slumbering revelers. The pair made a slow, directionless journey, the bear at its own pace and following only its nose, Nosnra walking behind, uneasy but distracted by stray thoughts and half remembered dreams from his interrupted sleep.

    The hall appeared to him layered in memories of the past; His father, Tofig, sitting at the high table while he, a mere boy, carried forward the body of a centaur warrior and placed it before him; His father stepping down and proudly cutting the heart from the beast, placing it into his youthful hands then marking him with the centaur's lifeblood, placing on his brow the symbol of adulthood. Engulfen, his father's witan, a priest, wielder of magics and advisor combined, stood at his shoulder.

    Laying his hands upon the heart Engulfen summoned the power of the kindred, living, dead and yet to be. There was a burning that passed into Nosnra's outstretched hands then the heart began to beat. It pulsed with an eldritch life and burned at his mouth and tongue as he bit and chewed the tough flesh.

    "Now the beast's strength is yours!" Engulfen said to the crowded hall. "Now the strength of the kindred is yours!" he called out. "Now your strength is one with the kindred!" he shouted.

    Tofig stood before his son and held out a knife, its blade made of jagged rock, its hilt carved from the horn of some ancient beast. "Now you are a Warrior!" he called out, and his voice rang with the pride that was his renown. "Take this warrior's blade," he said to Nosnra, "as my father gave it to me, and his to him, as the first father gave it to his son in the dawn of days when the kindred were born."

    Nosnra reached out his blood-covered hands and took the blade reverently from his father. The dagger felt alive in his grasp, like an extension of his own self, and for a moment he felt the presence of each hand that had held it as he did now, a line disappearing into the distant past. Kneeling he severed the beast's tail then stood, feeling taller than any other within the hall and held it for all to see. The cheer that met him almost knocked him back; it roared till the rafters shook then faded into the grey mist of memory and times past.

     Nosnra stood alone amid the Great Hall, but for his bear Ursoth. The wind blew a bonechilling stream and moaned a sad wordless tale that he could not understand. 

    ***

    They passed the firepit. Ursoth quickened his pace, finding scant morsels not rendered tasteless by a covering of wood shavings, and was making a beeline for the large western doors that sat opposite the kitchen. He well remembered the larder and the many treats hand fed to him by his master. His paws were ringed with sawdust, as was his muzzle, and he gave a great sneeze, then stopped and sat. With both forepaws he wiped away the shavings from around his ticklish nose then gave a wide yawn. His jaws closed with a snap and he dropped back to all fours. As he did so an errant breeze trailed a beckoning finger of a scent before him. He rose, then stood high on his hind legs, his front paws dangling half-bent at his chest, his nose twitching as it sought the elusive spoor carried by the current of air. At first it played a game of there-then-not. Ursoth's head weaved a pattern back and forth as he tried to catch it, only to lose it many times.

    The wind, flowing across the hill and over the roof and down through the hall shifted and the scent came once again. This time Ursoth caught it true and followed its course back toward the dimly lit entrance of the Great Hall. He breathed it in, drawing a deep lungful, and it set his fur to rise. A growl began, sonorous and low, then erupted in a harsh plangent roar. He smelled the scent of man and he voiced his displeasure.

    * * *

    Nosnra started at the sound. He had been lost in a fragment of his past, distracted once again. Ursoth cried out afresh and began a stiff-legged march toward the long entranceway.

    "Ursoth!" Nosnra called out in command. His voice stopped the bear in its tracks but its eyes still sought out the origin of the scent and its nose pointed compass-like down the hall. "What is it boy?" Nosnra called to his pet, "What do you see?"

    Ursoth replied with a growl, but he obeyed and moved no further.

    Nosnra, his wandering thoughts recalled and his memories shut back into the past, stepped forward, pushing aside a long bench that, lying askew, blocked his way. It screeched with the sound of wood on wood leaving a fresh gouge among the old, a crisscross pattern etched into the floor. Down the hall some form in motion disengaged itself from the shadows. A hill giant or so it appeared. Nosnra squinted but could not clearly discern its features; the dark still hid the giant partially from view.

    "Who's there!" he demanded.

    The figure raised a spectral arm and waved a greeting then turned and slowly began to walk back the way it had come.

    "Hold!" Nosnra shouted at the retreating figure. It heeded him not, only quickened its pace, though it did not yet run. The feeling of unease assailed him in a wave. This was no kindred, but an apparition of some sort. As the thought entered his mind, the figure wavered in form, became translucent with a small shadowy outline as its base, the larger shape projected outward. Then it solidified and was once again the retiring back belonging to one of his own kind. Nosnra raced in pursuit, upending a long table whose edge punched painfully into his hip and then the bench splintered beneath him as the stunning blow knocked him from his feet.

    Ursoth galloped behind, torn momentarily between his master's command and the desire to be at his side. His desire was greater than his obedience. The bear harkened to the call of loyalty within him, no command would hold him, he would set tooth and claw against his master's foe. 

     ***

    The retreating hill giant, or so the apparition appeared to be, stood facing the massive wooden doors, but as its hands reached out its fingers disappeared into the surface of the wood. It was a thing of no substance or solidity. Its form began to waver and the door began to move, creaking on rusty hinges and inching along wider and wider. As the door slowly opened Nosnra pushed himself to his feet, splinters of wood piercing his hand and arm sending a dozen trickles of blood dripping down to the floor.

    Ursoth ran to his fallen master, but Nosnra ignored the brush of the bear's furry side against his leg and took a stumbling sprint forward. Ahead, the semblance of a giant had slipped through the narrow crack between door and frame, its chest and shoulders passing through the hard-grained wood like steam through an iron grate.

    It took precious moments to cross the long passage from the hall proper to the double-doored entranceway. Nosnra swore vilely under his breath cursing the clutter of benches and tables which had slowed his pursuit and sent him tumbling to the ground. He reached out and grabbed the door by its edge and swung it open with great force, a hinge bolt shot from its anchor in the wooden frame and gave a dull thud against a nearby wall.

    Beyond the passage lay a vast entry hall lined with cloaks hanging from a forest of pegs set in the wall. Below the cloaks, piles of skin-wrapped bundles and scatterings of carryalls and packs littered the floor. A cold, damp draft blew from the outer doors. The great ironbound portals let in the breeze, left open when they should have been shut fast.

    "Eadnoth!" Nosnra shouted. The young warrior was nowhere to be seen.

    "Eadnoth!" he yelled out the name but expected no reply. Was that the phantom spirit he saw, deaf to his entreaties, in the great hall? With quick strides he crossed to the outer doors.

    The night was filled with noise, a constant patter of rain as its backdrop. Looking out into the starless dark he could see nothing, no sign of his errant guard.

    "Eadnoth!" he called once more into the rain, but there was no reply. A fire built within him. This was no uneasy dream which sent him away from his bed and well-earned sleep. Where was this guard? What was the silent form he had come chasing after? He had no answer. Now he would rouse his people and set the steading astir.

    The watchtower stairs were before him, he had but to cross the entry hall and follow them to the upper chamber. In his mind he could hear the clanging of the steel hammer on the iron bars, the alarm raised and the phantoms which plagued him chased into the night.

    * * *

    The wooden steps boomed beneath his feet, but they had been built with such punishing urgency in mind.

    "Huon, sound the alarm!" Nosnra called ahead of him but there was no reply. His watchman lay silent and still, his back propped against the tower wall. A monstrous flagon sat overturned beside him, a dark pool spilled out over the floor where he rested.

    "In your cups are you!" Nosnra swore and pounced upon the indolent form. His anger was great and he lashed out with a vicious kick. The blow landed with a dull thud and knocked the lifeless body over and about. Huon stared at his chieftain with eyes blinded by death, his head lolled at a careless angle, his throat opened from ear to ear.

    The iron bar, twisted into an awkward circular hoop, sent a jarring dissonant clangor out across the steading. It resonated through the very timbers of wall and floor and roof. Nosnra struck it again and again, bringing forth an explosion of sparks with each relentless blow. Suddenly he stopped, a sweat had broken out across his face, his chest, his arms, and he stood red-faced and puffing as he breathed. He recovered quickly, but as the last of the echoing cacophony faded from hearing, the sound of approaching feet drummed across the floor below him.

    Eadwig, bravest of his warriors, clambered up the watchtower steps and ran to answer the alarm. "Thegn!" he cried out, taken by surprise at the sight of his chieftain at the alarm. "What has happened? Where is Huon?"

    "Dead," Nosnra said flatly and pointed toward the upturned face of the watchman.

    Just beyond Eadwig, not daring to enter the room, a company of hill giants gathered. Sleep-lidded eyes and hair all astray, barefoot some, shirtless others, they lined the stairwell awaiting direction.

    "Some foulness has come within the walls," The hammer dropped from his hands with a clang. The alarm raised, it made a poor weapon; its use was past. Nosnra walked toward the stairs empty-handed. "Is Eadnoth among you?" he called to the assemblage.

    "Eadnoth!" The subchief cried out in much the way he had greeted his chief, both with surprise and alarm. "My brother! Thegn, what has happened here? Where is he?"

    "Evil things," Nosnra answered. "Eadnoth watched the door as Huon the tower." He looked sadly at Eadwig. "Go," he said quietly. "Search him out. Take some of those," he nodded toward the stair, "and I will be in my hall. Return there when you have some word."

    Eadwig did not delay, he lowered his head with a respectful bob then turned and called forth two of those gathered to follow him.

    "Thiodolf," Nosnra called to a scarred and ancient giant whose pate was bald, ears notched and nose flattened from a crushing blow dealt to him long years ago.

    "Yes, Thegn!" Thiodolf came forward without hesitation, he needed no further command. A tuneless whistle escaped from his lips as he eyed the body of Huon, but his attention snapped back in an instant, careful not to anger his chief by disregard. "Intruders are about," he stated the obvious.

    "Send for Engenulf. Have him come to my hall."

    "Yes, Thegn," Thiodolf dutifully replied.

    "Have Huon taken from here," Nosnra continued, "bring him to the Great Hall. Leave two here, let them see Huon, let them know I expect them to watch and not rest."

    "I'll make them understand Thegn." Thiodolf said. He ticked off each command on his fingers and held them stiff to make sure he did not forget.

    "Good," Nosnra had a faraway look in his eyes, "Good. Guard the door, summon the Keeper, scour the hill..." he mumbled.

    "Thegn," Thiodolf asked quietly, "should I summon the Keeper?"

    "What?" Nosnra shook his head. "No, no, set the guards then bring the rest out to the Great Hall. There will be much more that needs to be done. There will be no more rest this night." 

    ***

    Ursoth padded unhappily back and forth disregarded by the gathering company of giants. The odor of man lingered about the entrance hall, he snuffled it out from among cloaks and piles of skin, but the smell of blood, giant's blood, overwhelmed the human stink. He followed its trail, a scent like burnt copper mixed with fresh oerth, and pawed aside a bundle of hides damp with blood. He pushed and nosed till the bare floor was revealed. Beneath his paws he felt a lump of lifeless flesh cooling but not yet cold. He could not see it, though he smelled its presence.

    There was a stir among the ranks of giants filling the stairwell, a gap was made, some backing down, others flattening themselves to either side, and Eadwig, came rushing down. He summoned two burly warriors from the pack and set off across the hall, heading for the outer doors. Ursoth came bounding to him; the bear brushed against the giant's legs and gave a roar as Eadwig passed him by. The sub-chief had no time for his thegn's spoiled pet. His brother must be somewhere out in the night, wounded or more likely dead.

    It was Gosfrith who, stopping to pull a hide cloak over his shirtless chest, brushed a hand against the insistent bear. His fingers came away wet, and stained a dark red. He looked closer at the dumb beast and eyed the red-streaked muzzle and paws coated crimson.

    "Eadwig! Eadwig!" He called then chased after the pair who'd just disappeared out into the night.

    * * *

    "Make way! Back to the Hall!" Thiodolf yelled to the aimless crowd. "Curse you, make way!" he pushed those standing at the top of the stairwell back down. Most turned and forced their way through. Thiodolf prodded any stragglers and sent a youth tumbling, knocking giants down the stairs like ninepins. He would have laughed but his joyless chief followed close behind.

    * * *

    Gosfrith ran out into the night. A steady rain was turning the path to mud, the fields around were slick and sodden already. It was some time before dawn and the cloud-blanketed sky hid the stars from view. Eadwig had disappeared completely; he needed only to run a few score of feet ahead before he was swallowed in the utter pitch of the rain-streaked night. Gosfrith turned and stared out along the path, then right across the field away from the steading, and, seeing no sign, revolved and looked out along the long wooden wall of the steading itself.

    Nothing, yet he had been delayed only a moment and could be only a short way from the other two. He ran a bit further out along the muddy path then stopped again and called out "Eadwig!" in a loud frustrated shout.

    From out of the dark, somewhere to his right across the marshy field, away from the steading a voice called back in glad reply, "Eadnoth! Eadnoth! Is that you?"

    "Eadwig, it's me, Gosfrith. Where are you?"

    "Gosfrith!" the voice, Eadwig's, called back angrily. "What are you playing at, curse you."

    "Eadwig, come back to the hall. Where are you? Come back. Stop running around in the dark," Gosfrith shouted back.

    From out of the night two giant figures emerged jogging across the field. They had gone far, Eadwig running out ahead chasing after the image of his brother lying gravely wounded, fallen among the rain-soaked brush.

    * * *

    The entrance hall was lined with giants as Nosnra came down the stairs.

    Thiodolf stood talking in earnest with a pair of warriors, one turned and, at a quick pace crossed to a side door, departed on an unknown errand. Ursoth sat leaning against his leg while Thiodolf absentmindedly reached his hand down to brush the bear's head in a kindly gesture. He heard the sudden hush which first took hold behind him, then flowed across the room on a breath of silence. Thiodolf gave a dismissive nod toward the second of the giant pair who lingered for some final word, then turned to face his Thegn, bad news at the forefront of his thoughts. Ursoth turned around as well and, glad to see his master, rushed over to him in a joyful bound.

    "Ho there pet," Nosnra chided his bear as it playfully rolled round his feet, rose to a four legged stance then rubbed its soft and furry shoulder against its master's legs. Its antics brought a wistful smile to the grim Thegn's lips and he rubbed a loving hand along its back, thankful for the moment's distraction from this terrible night. But the moment passed quickly by, as moments do, and raising his head he looked toward Thiodolf then gestured for him to speak.

    Thiodolf blinked and cleared his throat then gave sad tidings to his chief. "Thegn, I think it is Eadnoth's body we have found."

    "You think. You do not know." Nosnra said, but at his heart, which dropped, weighed down with grief, he had expected such sorrowful news.

    ***

    Four sets of hands lifted the transparent body, its weight so ponderous in death, ungainly and slick with blood. Four shoulders set to bear the sad burden, four sets of legs to move it from its hiding place and bring it forth for all to see. The clan would feast round their dead, a table in their midst, the bodies laid out upon it. But this sightless corpse, now unseen, enchanted so by some cursed mage, would have no witness of sad-eyed kin to hold it within the grave.

    * * *

    "This is Eadnoth?" Nosnra reached out a reluctant hand and touched it to the corpse. The chilling flesh beneath was tacky with a coat of blood. He held a bony shoulder in his grip and brought his other hand to hold the lolling head.

    "Here," he said to the nearest bearer of the dead, "put an arm about his neck. He is your kin, not some slab of meat for the kitchen block!"

    He brushed the bearded face in passing and felt the gaping wound, a throat laid open wide by a coward's knife, and drew his hand away. From the outer doors a thunderous approach came pounding and Eadwig, soaked and dripping, ran with a manic speed to confront the mortal shell of his most hapless brother.

    * * *

    The Chief's private hall was crowded, filled with the base rumble of angry giants. Across the passage the Great Hall itself resounded with the noise and bustle of several dozen booming voices.

    "Close that Door!" Nosnra commanded from his padded chair within his hall and a warrior leapt to obey. The din inside the Great Hall surpassed that of the celebration the night before. Huon's wife had begun a keening wail at the sight of her dead husband. His son, only a few years short of a warrior's age, sat with his father's sword across his bony knees and Huon's two young daughters hid their faces, crying into their mother's skirt.

    Eadnoth's corpse lay upon the high table; Nosnra had the bearers set it there by his command. Eadwig sat nearby and held his brother's transparent bespelled hand between his own. He made no sound, no movement but the steady rise and fall of his vast chest. His head was bowed and his eyes were closed.

    A clatter rang from across the hall. The Chief's wife Estrith summoned the matron of the kitchen, an ancient giantess, but one still possessed of an indomitable spirit and wiry strength, and ordered her to begin a second feast; this one a celebration for the dead.

    Ingigerd the Old, such she had been called when Nosnra's father, Tofig, had been a babe. She had seen the sun rise upon this hilltop before the steading's first timber had been set. She was the eldest of the kindred here, and perhaps eldest of all the halls and manors, huts and hovels, eldest of all her kind that still breathed upon the Oerth.

    Estrith, proud as her husband's father Tofig, blinked her eyes beneath the stern gaze of the willful crone. Though she was mistress of the steading, second in power and will only to her husband, and some would say that it was he who was not her equal but second to her forceful will, here, among the pots and pans, among the firepits and scurrying slaves, here she was overawed and outmatched. Once, years ago, in a fit of temper, Estrith had struck Ingigerd, the insubordinate fossil, a cruel blow that might have felled a young warrior or a small tree, but Ingigerd simply endured and shrugged away the pain. Without a word she turned her back to the red-faced chieftainess and walked away. Estrith, in a silent rage, shamefaced, stood and suffered the humiliation of her ineffective wrath.

    The matron had won and Estrith proved the weaker of the two. Now her orders were accepted but not obeyed, as if they were mere suggestions and not commands. Ingigerd need only look to her underlings and they would rush to their duties. Her dictates needed no shouts, or threats of dire consequence, only a silent nod or gesture.

    Without awareness, Estrith sought to emulate Ingigerd's noble bearing, but her unruly nature escaped her attempt at quiet dominance time and again. The women of the steading left their places among the tables of the Great Hall. Some gathered the young and lead them to a far corner, others returned babes and toddlers to the relative safety of the creche where each member of the clan was raised, mothers taking such care in turn, and many followed the matron into the kitchen to prepare the feast that would last till the mourning was done. Estrith looked on in silence, arms folded across her ample bosom and watched with unconscious envy the deference paid to this decrepit churl, deference which rightly belonged to her alone. 

    ***

    The Chief's private hall was filled, hill giants for the most part, but a trio of grey-skinned stone giants stood against the outer wall, silent and still as their name implied. Most noticeable, though, was a round-headed, bull-necked ogre. He stood only shoulder high to his giant masters but no one would mistake the scarred and heavily muscled figure as a youth or question his right to stand among them.

    "All the elders of the kindred are present, my Thegn!" Thiodolf declared.

     "Where is Engenulf?" Nosnra demanded.

     "He is here!" A powerful voice replied.

     A cold wind swirled around him and a pair of monstrous dire wolves cavorted at his feet, puppy-like.

    "Well close the cursed door!" Nosnra shouted back.

    Thiodolf gestured and the youngest warrior among the gathering jumped from his seat and ran to shut the outside door.

    "What is this?" Engenulf questioned. "Holding a witenagemot without the witan!"

    "You're late is all," Nosnra yelled back. "We have serious business. Have you heard?"

    "I've heard some, and I sense some, but you tell me," Engenulf replied.

    "Huon's dead," Nosnra said abruptly as he had said it before in the watchtower,"and Eadnoth, but he is bespelled as well. His body is there but none can see it."

    "Ahh..." Engenulf intoned. "Yes, I know that spell; Easy enough to break."

    Nosnra felt a wave of relief. How could Eadnoth's spirit join with the kindred when it could not be seen by them.

    "Is there more?" Engenulf asked.

    "Isn't that enough... but yes, there is more," Nosnra replied. "Come," he stood and walked over to the witan. They were of an age, though Engulfen had been much older than Tofig, he had sired a son that was born within days of Nosnra. The two had been fast friends and boon companions, one destined to rule and the other to counsel. Now they buffeted each other verbally as they had pummeled each other physically in their youth. "Eadnoth needs to be cleansed of this vile enchantment and honored by the feast."

    He led Engenulf by the arm toward the long passage and the Great Hall. "Thiodolf," he called back, "Bring everyone but the outer guards to the Great Hall."

    "Yes, Thegn!" Thiodolf nodded respectfully and sent an unhappy young warrior on another errand.

    "What else has happened?" Engenulf asked quietly as they walked down the passage. The witan looked concerned. Something had greatly disturbed his friend, much more than the death of two warriors. Always unpleasant, but death and life intermixed. Giants did not often die old, especially the warriors of the kindred. He reached out and gripped the chief by his shoulder lending his own strength.

    "I felt this," Nosnra said, "as I lay asleep. I felt the wrongness come to the steading. I did not know then, but now... I felt the death of Huon and of Eadnoth. Why? Many of the clan have died, some by my own hand, most obeying my commands. I felt nothing like this before."

    "How many have died inside these walls, or even upon this hill?" Engenulf gestured, sweeping his arm out from under a long fur cloak. "Your father held this hall against the last of those who would challenge our clan. None have come against us since." He stopped Nosnra before the wide double doors that opened upon the northern edge of the Great Hall. "This steading, this hill, it is part of you, as you are a part of the kindred. But what else is there? I sense something more?"

    Nosnra paused then looked into his advisor's face. "I saw a phantom..." he began, "It appeared as a giant, one of our own kind, but insubstantial. It did not heed me when I called to it."


    "There are magics involved," Engenulf closed his eyes to see beyond the mortal veil. "I can feel them. If there is something more, some touch of the spirits upon our world, I do not feel such, but I will cast the bones and we shall see."

    ***

    The Great Hall blazed with light. At its center a fire burned high within the stone-lined pit, and along its walls and wooden pillars, dozens of torches smoked and sputtered. The double-doors at its northern side were opened and Engenulf walked through, Nosnra at his side. All eyes within the hall turned to watch the witan's entrance.

    Eadwig raised his head but held tight to his brother's inanimate hand. Ogiva, Huon's wife, held back her tears and with a stern command muffled her daughter's sobs and her own as well.

    Nearly all the giants were gathered in the hall while ogre servants and orcish slaves were scattered here and there. A hush fell over them as Engenulf made his way to the high table. He was an imposing sight, tall as a forest tree, thin but possessed of a wiry strength, and corded with muscle detailed beneath his skin. His hair was long, no razor-knife or shears had ever cut it, instead many braids had been woven, twined with polished rune-carved bone, feathers from a dozen winged beasts and dye-stained cord, some creature's hide, now colored red and green and a dark rich blue. About his waist a belt of bone, the ribs of man and monster strung together with lengths of centaur hair, the buckle carved from a dragon's tooth. He wore a cloak of deep, soft fur thrown back from off his chest, its clasp, a human skull, eyes now cuts of amber ages old. Between its teeth it clamped a silver tang, held firm by jaws that iron rods kept closed.

    "Friden, slafin-tif," Engenulf pronounced so softly the words almost went unheard. He stood upon the raised wooden floor, the high table at his side, and gently made the troubled Eadwig close his eyes and rest. From a fetish pouch he drew a careful measure of a grey-white ash, the harvest of a sacred pyre, and scattered them above the sub-chiefs head. "Friden, friden, friden..." he intoned and Eadwig gave a snore.

    From his brother's hand, Eadnoth's hand was taken and Engenulf held it in his own. Then, as if to warm the death-cold flesh, the witan chafed its palm between his rough hands and held it to his lips.

    "Sauber-ghen," he breathed the words upon the unseen skin, "Sauber-ghen, uss-ghen-ets!" he commanded. The translucent flesh obeyed, and in a wave that started with the hand within the witan's grasp, Eadnoth reappeared.

    The giant's corpse was grim indeed, now visible once again, with open eyes that held a startled look and a throat slashed from ear to ear.

    "Good that he sleeps," Nosnra said and looked sadly at Eadwig's recumbent form.

    "Death comes to us all," Engenulf replied and bent to search the gaping wound. "The kindred claim their own."

    "Death such as this," the chief pointed to his slaughtered guard, "should not have come at all."

    "This cut was from a very sharp blade," the witan lowered his head, and, with braided hair covering the sightless eyes, sniffed along the severed neck. "An ensorcelled blade; It smells of magic," he turned and spat upon the floor. "Bring me a cup of ale!" he called "I need to rinse this wizard stench away."

    He pulled a needle of splintered bone from a folded pouch of black, coarse cloth, and, with a length of resilient gut, sewed razored flesh together once again."
     
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    Re: The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga Part 1 (Score: 1)
    by SirXaris on Fri, April 24, 2020
    (User Info | Send a Message) http://https://www.facebook.com/SirXaris?ref=hl
    Jason, I found that a very interesting read.  :)

    You have given inherently evil creatures a personality that I haven't developed in my own campaign.  It almost makes me sad that adventurers would raid these peaceful giants and murder them.  :)

    SirXaris




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