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Chapter 61 (Rescue)

Palkaz notices the signs of the village, the sounds and smells and smoke trails, long before he comes within sight of it. It is a larger community than he had expected to find this far into the mountains of the frozen north. He wonders a bit about the hint of thunder he has heard since he first approached the village, and even more about the complete absence of people outside when he begins moving along the well trod paths between the cottages.

He attributes this last trait to it being evening albeit early evening, and assumes that the villagers are merely huddling together against the cold in their cottages. He is still pondering the approaching thunder in this cloudless dusk when he notices the glow of firelight from the village’s northeast corner. He hurries toward this with his curiosity piqued, noting that the thunder grows louder as he continues. He is nearing the last cottage when the thunder suddenly stops.

Rounding the cottage he sees the source of the light about two dozen feet away. A number of torches have been set atop stands barely shorter than Palkaz. There is space enough for a full grown man to lay down between each stand. These are arranged in a circle forty feet across. Only a couple of feet back from the center of this circle is a crude bed made of branches and animal hides, atop of which lies a young human maiden, unbound and clad in heavy furs. She sobs quietly and suppresses screams of terror while staring up at the figure standing in the center of the circle.

He is clad from neck to toes in furs as well, though he wears fewer layers and they are of a far more patchwork nature than the maiden’s. He is about eight times as tall as Palkaz and wears his white hair and beard much the same as the dwarf, though much more unkempt. He glowers down at the maiden with his cruel, ice blue eyes, and she can no longer suppress a cry of terror when he reaches down and picks her up.

As he stomps furiously toward the ring of fire, Palkaz bellows out, “D’ya enjoy terrorizin’ harmless lasses ya big oaf? Why don’t ye put her down an’ try treatin’ me like that? Or are ya too big a coward fer that?”

The giant’s laughter booms as he steps over the torches and replies, “No need for me to put her down. I can deal with a speck like you well enough with one hand.”

Palkaz swings his axe down from his shoulder, then pulls out the laces which hold the wraps on its large double head and spear points as he shouts back, “Enough of this waggin’ of our tongues then! Come on, let’s have at it!”

The giant obliges and after two bounding steps he kicks at Palkaz. The Thierdenvolgenlunder dodges this easily enough and swings his axe at his foe’s shin, but the giant leaps over this swing and back half a dozen feet. His landing shakes the ground nearby and throws Palkaz off balance. The giant quickly bends over and reaches out with his free hand to grab hold of his small opponent, but Palkaz sinks his axe into the middle of the giant’s approaching palm. He roars in pain and yanks his hand and body back up at this injury, with the axe staying firmly in place. Palkaz tightens his grip so as not to lose his weapon, and he is lifted into the air along with it as a result.

As the giant thrashes his hand about in an attempt to remove the axe, Palkaz is jerked about so violently that his shoulders are nearly wrenched from their sockets and his neck and belly cry out in protest before the axe finally flies free from his foe’s hand. He maintains his grip on the axe and is flung back first through the wall of the cottage he had so recently passed, shattering the cabinet resting against the wall before colliding painfully with the hard earthen floor.

Palkaz groans in pain as he stands and realizes by the difficulty he is having in drawing in and keeping breath that something must be terribly wrong inside of him. He ignores the frightened villagers who hurry out of the cottage’s nearby door as he staggers through the opening which he has so recently created, leaving his axe to rest against the inside wall as he does so. He removes two hand axes from their harness and holds them hidden along the undersides of his arms as he walks out to meet the giant.

The giant grimaces at the sight of the gash in his palm as he closes to within a dozen feet of Palkaz. He glowers down at the dwarf and snarls, “Are you ready admit who’s the better one here?”

“Aye, I... am... at that,” Palkaz struggles out in gasps.

The giant, wearing an equally sized grin, reaches down to grab the Thierdenvolgenlunder. Just before the hand is upon him, Palkaz flips his hand axes up and hurls them into the massive eyes looming behind the arm. The giant howls and squeezes his open hand shut, but Palkaz has already darted back through the opening, ignoring his body’s protest at this sudden movement. The giant flails about blindly, hoping to find Palkaz.

When he fails to find the dwarf he lashes out more violently until he finally punches through the cottage’s roof with the hand holding the maiden. Palkaz strikes immediately and his axe leaves a deep gash in his foe’s massive wrist. The giant drops the maiden as blood pours from the wound, drenching her unconscious form, and he yanks his hand out of the cottage while staggering backwards.

Palkaz grabs the unconscious maiden and drags her from the cottage with a speed requiring the roughness that he uses, and once outside he tosses her aside with this same absence of tenderness, holding his axe in one hand as he does this. Once the maiden is no longer burdening him, he grips his axe with both hands and runs between the giant’s legs. He swings with all of his might, splitting the tendon at the back of the giant’s right ankle before quickly doing the same with the left.

Losing effective use of his legs so unexpectedly, the giant topples forward and crushes the already heavily damaged cottage. Palkaz ignores the faintness he feels from his lack of air and pushes on, leaping onto the giant’s calf and running up to his buttocks before the monster can start to rise. The giant forces himself up to his hands and knees as Palkaz runs breathlessly across his back. He is nearing the shoulders when the giant starts pushing himself up, increasing the slope of the dwarf’s landscape drastically. Palkaz stabs the bottom spear point of his war axe into the giant’s back in order to give himself a hold and keep from sliding back and then with one hand he grabs hold of the

giant’s hair to pull himself atop the giant’s shoulder as his back becomes a cliff, tugging his axe free as he does.

Once safely on the shoulder he returns to a two handed grip on his axe and swings it, burying the axehead in the center of the giant’s neck, severing his foe’s spine before he can raise his massive arms more than halfway up. The giant goes limp below the neck and crashes forward again. Palkaz struggles to stay atop the giant as he collapses, but his diminished air supply combined with his exertions have robbed him of all his remaining strength. He slides down off of the falling giant’s shoulder and strikes the ground at the same time as his massive foe.

Palkaz rolls feebly to his side in order to look at the giant, noting the impotent rage contorting the giant’s face, and he grins at the axe still embedded deep in the back of the giant’s neck. With the last of his breath and consciousness Palkaz mocks, “I’m better than ya.”