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We stood outside, glad to be out o’ that fusty air inside the cave. Me and Iathouz had to wait a few minutes while Jon set about patchin’ up a hole in the side o’ his boot. Shortly before, while we was makin’ our way through the cave, a whole army o’ rats attacked us and one o’ them chewed a hole right through Jon’s boot and gnawed off two o’ his toes!

The four o’ us made quick work o’ the rats, than we stumbled across a body. It was a man and from the looks o’ him, he’d been attacked by them rats too . . . but I guess he ain’t done so well tryin’ to fend ‘em off ‘cause there wasn’t much left o’ his carcass.

I searched the corpse, takin’ care not wantin’ to get no blood or gore on me, hopin’ to find a few pieces o’ gol . . . uh, er . . . I mean lookin’ for papers what would tell us who he was, you know? Least ways then we’d be able to do a kindness and notify his kin the poor soul’d been ripped to shreds by rats and his body was lyin’ here in the cave, alone, dead as dirt and already beginnin’ to stink.

His relatives could come out here with a wheel barrow and a shovel; scoop up his remains and cart what was left o’ the lad off someplace to give him a proper burial! But . . . I ain’t found no papers or nothin’ else o’ any value on him, if you get my meanin’. So we let him be, sittin’ there peaceful like, in a pool o’ his own blood, thinkin’ the guards what patrols the cave would find him soon enough and go about cleanin’ up the mess themselves.

Jon finished up his patchin’ smilin’ all the while, tellin’ us he wouldn’t be missin’ those toes at all! He said he had seven toes on that foot anyways, and losin’ the extra two would give him better balance when swingin’ a weapon and make walkin’ a whole lot easier! He’d not have to be payin’ a fortune fer custom made boots no more, the left boot always havin’ to be a bit larger to make room fer those two extra toes! I ain’t lyin’! That’s what he told us!

We set off on the road goin’ east in the direction o’ Foothold with Iathoz takin’ the lead, wanderin’ out a good ways ahead o’ us, bein’ he’s a ranger and good at scoutin’ and able to tell if the way is safe fer travel. I ain’t sure, but I think his folks sent him off to the same school where those “Elite Goblins gets their trainin’. But like I said, I ain’t certain o’ that.

Anyways, it wasn’t too long before Iathouz rounded a bend in the road up ahead and me and Jon lost sight o’ him. Now, if you happen to be amblin’ along in Thrym’s pass, it ain’t such a good idea to loose sight o’ any o’ your friends what you might be amblin’ along with! Navigatin’ Thrym’s pass safely, requires a group effort and loosin’ sight o’ Iathouz was makin’ me and Jon more than a bit uneasy.

We quickened our pace, attemptin’ to catch up to him. We was still a good ways from the bend in the road when we heard two loud thuds . . . and Iathouz let out a piercing scream! The two o’ us broke into a run, headin’ fast as we could toward the bend in the road where we’d lost sight o’ him, and oh geez! What a horror we seen when me and Jon finally got there!

Poor Iathouz was stretched out flat on the trail, torn, bloody and moanin’ in agony! A colossal frost giant had waylaid the man and now stood towerin’ over him! The giant had one foot on the ranger’s head and was pushin’ down hard with his boot, grindin’ the man’s face into the icy road what lay below him! The damn giant was doin’ his best to pop the ranger’s skull as if it were a melon and squoosh the life outta the man!

Iathouz was gaspin’ gurglin’and spittin’ out blood and chunks o’ice from the road what had worked their way into his mouth! He was flailin’ ‘round, arms and legs goin’ every which way, attemptin’ to wiggle out from under the Frost giant’s boot! But at least he was still alive . . . at least that was somethin’.

Yup, the ranger was hangin’ tight onto a little spark o’ life what was still left in him! Mayhap there was still time to save him! Jon, his short sword poised and ready to strike, quickly darted to the left o’ the monster and I dashed to the right. The giant caught sight o’ the both of us and for a second he froze, befuddled, not knowin’ which one o’ us to set out after!

In his confusion, he lifted his foot off o’ the ranger’s head. His pausin’ give the both o’ us just enough time to close in quick on him and probably saved Iathouz’s life.

Straight off, Jon began stabbin’ and slashin’ away at the giant’s left leg, leavin’ it with blood spurtin’ outta at least six different places! I judged the distance me and my falchion’d have to travel, shut my eyes tight — what I always does when I’m gettin’ set to whack somethin’ — and grippin’ the hilt o’ my weapon with both hands I lunged forward swingin’ with all my strength, aimin’ for the damn thing’s right limb and a spot just below where I thought its knee cap ought to be! Thruuuunk!! My falchion smashed into his leg with tremendous force, its keen edge slicin’ through armor, sinew and mayhap carvin’ a good sized chunk o’ bone outta his tibia!

The shock o’ the blow traveled up my arms and through my neck, jarrin’ my brains and rattlin my teeth.

He bellowed in anger and pain, the echo of it bouncin’ off the canyon walls and causin’ our ears to ring! Our quick action had hobbled the monster and we’d managed to draw him away from poor Iathouz, however he still was very dangerous! To prove the point, he lumbered at us in a terrible rage, whippin’ his hammer high above his head, his mind dead set on brainin’ the both o’ us!

Even though we’d crippled him it took a while fer the two o’ us to finish off the creature. Eventually, after what seemed like an hour battlin’ the brute, we toppled him. He fell like a tree, with a whhhump, mortally wounded, his body sprawlin’ crossways in the road.

Jon, finished him off by openin’ up his neck with his skinnin’ knife, finally sendin’ him off to Garm. We swiftly made our way over to the fallen ranger and found him sittin’ up, already dressin’ his wounds! I’ll tell ya, them rangers is able to recover fast from somethin’!

We helped him along with some healin’ kits and I give him a few o’ my toasted almonds and a bit o’ the sweet sausage I’d plucked off o’ Gromks skillet. Iathoz gobbled up the bit o’ food and nodded his thanks. Me and Jon helped the ranger to his feet, each o’ us grabbin’ tight on to his arms, attemptin’ steady him but the ranger shook us off, insistin’ he felt fine.

Iathoz beckoned us to follow him and the four o’ us sauntered off to a spot a bit farther down the path where the snow was still untouched, not disturbed from the battle we’d just fought. Then Iathoz halted and pointed to some depressions in the snow what lay at his feet.

Me and Jon edged closer, peerin’ down to have a look. Ohh geez! Dragon tracks!! Huge ones! Fresh ones! We could tell ‘cause they was still sharp and crisp. The sun ain’t had a chance to melt ‘em down and smooth out the edges! Even worse, them tracks was headin’ east!

The damn thing was not more than ten minutes ahead o’ us and on its way to Foothold! The four o’ us looked at each other and then out along the road goin’ east. I glanced back at the way we’d come, toward the dwarf city, and safety, thinkin’ ‘bout the fun we’d had shoppin’ in the bazaar what commander Zawa allows the merchants to keep open all night.

I shrugged. Ah, what the hel . . . It ain’t often one gets the chance to get fried to a crisp by a dragon what’s runnin’ loose in Thrym’s pass! Iathoz’d already set off, makin’ his way east and lookin’ for more tracks. I fell in behind the ranger, with Jon followin’ up the rear.

Jon had noticed me feedin’ the almonds and bit o’ sweet sausage to the ranger and he began goin’ on and on ‘bout how he was, “starvin’ Miss Keli” . . . and how I ought to “share with everyone Miss Keli ” . . .! While he was trudgin’ along behind me, he kept liftin’ up the back o’ me cloak with his short sword, hopin’ to get a look at where the hel I’d managed to stash all o’ my food!

I’ll tell ya! That boy’s a couple o’ dishes short o’ a complete set and the ones he’s got left is all chipped and cracked!!