Helanda brushed the dirt off her armor from where she had landed. There were drops of blood on it, but from what part of her body she couldn’t exactly say. She started to run toward the broken wall where they had first entered the abbey, then stopped as pain shot through her ankle. She bent over for a moment, took a deep breath, and then started running again, pain be damned. From above her she could hear the sounds of battle; there was the screeching of the vrocks, then quiet, then more shouting. What was that she heard Scratchy shouting? Medusa? That would be a terrible development, and all the more reason for her to get back quickly. Helanda scrambled over the rubble into the place where they had fought the awful tentacle-creatures. It still smelled of acid-burnt flesh, but there was no time to be disgusted. She sprinted down the hallway, past the arch where they had first encountered the redcaps, and then she stopped. This time, however, it wasn’t because of the pain in her leg; it was because of what she saw. Moving through the courtyard were maybe a half-dozen ettins and giants, with redcaps fanned out in front. They were inspecting the bodies the party had left there, and yapping to each other in a language Helanda couldn’t understand.
For a moment Helanda considered jumping back into the hallway to hide, but then one of the redcaps looked up and locked gazes with her, and she knew that there was only one course of action remaining. She turned and sprinted towards the stairs with renewed urgency, as the redcaps broke into pursuit. Gods, they were fast, Helanda thought to herself, but they didn’t seem to want to get too far ahead of the giants, and she managed to get to the stairs just before them. “Milacent!” she screamed, “Scratchy! Zelcor! Theodora! There are giants and redcaps coming up on you from behind!” Whether they heard her through the Message spell or directly through her screaming, she didn’t know and really didn’t care. She vaulted up the stairs as fast as one could when wearing heavy metal armor, and as she reached the top just barely avoided running straight into Milacent.
“Duck!” Milacent shouted, and she lashed out with her spine flail, knocking back a pursuing redcap. Helanda, now at the top of the stairs, turned around and began fighting the redcaps as well. In their haste to catch Helanda they had changed their mind about not leaving the giants, and were now well in front of their allies and vulnerable. Helanda felt a rush of hot, dry air, and looked to see a redcap with an enormous white beard waving a scythe at Milacent. That thing’s not gonna live much longer, Helanda thought to herself, then turned her attention back to the other redcaps. She swung at one near her, but her sword bit only air as it dodged out of the way and then leapt out the window. Helanda felt a twinge of frustration at not being able to finish off her former pursuer, but that feeling was quickly replaced by alarm as she felt the floor beneath her shake with the telltale rhythms of very large footfalls. The giants were coming up the stairs!
The stairway from the room downstairs began as one set of stairs, then split into two flights, north and south, leading up to two different rooms on the second floor. Milacent and Helanda were at the southern one, and they managed to push one giant back down the stairs, then stab it repeatedly until it was dead.
“What about the other stairway?” Helanda asked Milacent.
“Theodora and Zelcor are taking care of it. They have a plan.”
Indeed they did. Helanda heard the bellowing of the giants as they came clomping up the stairs, then more bellowing as they ran headlong into a Wall of Force that Zelcor had put up to block them. She heard Theodora intoning a Confusion spell, and saw the giants beat each other to death as a second Wall of Force sprang up behind them, trapping them.
As the last of the giants collapsed, Helanda nervously eyed the vrock that Theodora had charmed. It stared back at her menacingly, but didn’t attack, so she figured things were okay. Walking over to where Scratchy was, she asked if he had really been shouting the word “Medusa” before.
“Oh yes,” he answered, “but the magic guys slowed it down long enough for us to fight the giants, and now Milacent’s going to finish it off.”
Helanda looked over to the bridge where they had first met the vrocks. Luckily for her, a medusa’s petrifying gaze was only effective out to thirty feet, and the bridge was easily twice that length. At the far end of it, a woman in chainmail with snakes in place of her hair was walking forward. Behind her, in the room the bridge led to, a mass of writhing black tentacles was coming out of the floor, holding onto a petrified giant. As Theodora would explain later, the tentacles were the result of a spell Zelcor had used to hold both the medusa and her servant giant in place, followed by a Confusion spell that had led to the giant furiously attacking the tentacles and blocking the door. Now that the medusa had evidently turned its servant to stone, it was coming out to trap the party between her and the giants coming up the stairs. But it was too late; the giants were dead, and now Milacent was striding towards her with her eyes shut, her blindfighting skill protecting her completely from the medusa’s ability to turn people into stone.
Soon it was all over, and as the adrenaline drained out of her Helanda felt once again the pain shooting through her body. Limping over to Theodora, she half sat, half fell down beside her. She had a whole speech planned about the travails she had been through since being pushed out the window, but ultimately all she managed was, “Owww!”