The next morning, the Greil Mercenaries began their ascension of the Gol mountains. The foot hills were bare and sandy, ascended gently for the first few hours and then rose steeply onto the base of the great mountains that Alban goliaths call home. It was at this point that the adventurers saw just how great a task was before them, for the mountains were not just tall, but immense, reaching upwards almost out of sight. Most were wrapped in patches of dark, thick woodland that gave their lower slopes an attractive, stripey appearance. All had barren sections, revealing a surprising number of underlying colours – some mountains were grey, many were varying shades of brown, others a sandy yellow. A few were even grass green, indicating great fertility in some places. Yet the vast majority had peaks of snow, particularly the tallest examples visible in the distance.
Such thoughts soon passed from the group’s minds, for the journey was difficult, taxing and dangerous. The Gols are largely composed of schists, particularly slate – a sharp, brittle rock that can be quite unpleasant to walk upon. In areas of rockfall the slate was loose and slippery. For six days they ascended, led by Tarkus’ memory and Greil’s keen natural eye. Euven’s advice proved invaluable in traversing the loose sections of slate and Grimlock offered his size and strength on numerous occasions, allowing his associates to climb his body onto higher ground in one instance and attempting to throw them upwards in another.
Tarkus became incredibly competitive, throwing himself at rock-climbing and mountaineering with reckless vigour. Eventually this resulted in a serious fall that dropped him off several cliffs, twisted his ankle and deposited his unconscious body in the den of a massive mother bear and her cubs. Thanks to Greil’s stealth abilities, the goliath was rescued without being mauled. And so, though Tarkus’ injury slowed the group considerably, Greil sensed civilisation in the heights above at noon on the sixth day. Exhausted from the ordeal of the climb, the Mercenaries’ spirits were surprisingly high; Carvahall had to be somewhere nearby – when a booming voice suddenly assailed them from within the thick forest on either side of the path.
The group all stopped, hastily casting their eyes in all directions for the source of the voice. Two hulking silhouettes emerged from the trees and strode into the road in front of them, the hilts of gigantic broadswords visible over their shoulders.
Each and every member of the team reached for their weapons as the thunderous voice interrupted them, “Hands where we can see them.”
The pair continued forward, strutting towards the mercenaries with an air of cockiness, still silhouetted, the low afternoon sun shining brightly behind them. The two were tall and extremely well built, though their dimensions still didn’t match up to Grimlock’s stature.
“Who are you?” Greil questioned with authority.
The sun behind the strangers vanished from view, obscured by a cloud, revealing a pair of hulking humanoids, both bald and beardless, with strikingly white skin covered in ornate, tribal tattoos. Goliaths.
“Where are you heading travellers?” one of them asked, the hand hanging by his side tensed, ready to grab his weapon in a moments notice.
Tarkus stepped forward and replied, “To Carvahall my brethren, we seek council and information.”
The eye’s of both goliaths widened as he spoke and a brief pause followed his declaration before one of them replied, a hint of surprise tickling his voice, “Is that…Little Tarkus?”
Tarkus stood stock still, his face unchanging, if this turn of events had affected him in anyway it did not show.
“You know brother, I think it is him.” The second goliath chimed in, “Look at his puny physique.”
“Aha! So true! Still a runt I see Tarkus?”
The mercenary did not reply.
“Well, this is good news” the other goliath continued, “I thought this patrol was going to be dull!”
“As did I brother!”
Without a moments pause, the two warriors whipped the giant swords from off of their backs and charged at the group, roaring loudly.
The group stood in stunned silence for several moments, unsure how to react to this turn of events. It was Grimlock who took the first action, stepping towards the goliath still hovering over Tarkus and swinging the broad flat of his axe into the laughing warrior’s thigh, letting out an odd, guttural sound as he did so. Greil stared at his lizard companion with a bemused look; he may have just heard Grimlock laugh.
Euven was the second to take action, having already nocked another arrow, he was not about to let it go to waste. It shot through the air and collided with the stomach of the same goliath, instantly halting his laughter. The penetrated warrior glared down at the offending object, then up at the equally offending elf, whom had emerged from the tree-line, not wanting to appear cowardly.
“Hey!” the goliath cried, “That hurt!”
Greil decided to get diplomatic before the situation escalated, not wanting to fight the two anymore if it could be avoided, “Sirs, was this all some sort of game for you?”
“Game?” the second goliath replied gruffly, “Give yourself some credit lad; this was at least a moderate challenge. Though you didn’t have to get so rough” he gestured to his pin-cushioned friend.
The wizard contemplated this for a moment before continuing, “Yes, well, I guess you win. And he deserved it.” Greil ended the discourse abruptly and hastened towards the still unconscious Tarkus along with the rest of the party, bar one.
For whatever reason, shock, surprise or confusion, Gregg remained rooted in place. The goliath nearest to him, the one who had just conversed with Greil, approached the invoker and offered his hand in greeting. Gregg stared for several seconds, dumbfounded, before returning the gesture and being treated to an extremely vigorous hand shake.
Now huddled around their comatose compatriot, Greil, Grimlock and Euven attempted to awaken him as the nearby goliath looked on, chuckling to himself and hurling good-natured insults at “Puny Tarkus”.
Greil rounded on him and began asking questions in an effort to aid the others’ work, “So who are you two?”
“The name’s Uran, and that one’s Rile” he replied, gesturing to the second goliath who was still forcefully pumping Gregg’s arm up and down, “We’re with a military force from Carvahall, stationed nearby. You’re welcome to return to camp with us of course; you hearty bastards have more than earned it!”
“Thanks” Greil attempted to hold back a smile, he couldn’t help but like the man, “I think you owe us all a drink.”
Uran let out a cheer and slapped the wizard on the back, “You’re damn straight we do!”
Grimlock wracked his brains for medical knowledge; he had gotten through many scrapes by the skin of his teeth and was convinced he’d be able to come up with something to help raise his fallen comrade. The expunged mental effort turned out to be a waste – The General raised one massive hand as high as he could, and brought it down with colossal force across Tarkus’ face. Several seconds elapsed with no result, before Euven nudged him aside.
The elf stood over the fallen goliath in silence, regarding the situation with intense contemplation. Suddenly and without warning, he lashed out with his armoured boot and struck Tarkus on the side of the head with similar force applied moments before by Grimlock’s hand. The goliath’s eyes shot open and he sat bolt upright.
Grimlock nodded his approval.